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Renegade Rising

Chapter Text

Asia sat high above the city, on top of an apartment building, looking down. Taking her binoculars, she could see the most minuet details of the people below her. She could see the glasses, the badges they flashed as they entered the sky-rise building several blocks down. Sighing, she hefted her sniper rifle on to the bars of the railings which ran around the roof she sat on. Today was just another day, another mission, and another HYDRA agent who would be swiftly assassinated in broad daylight, and no one would be any the wiser.

If anyone had happened to be flying with a helicopter right over the top of that building, her identity would be unrecognizable. Agent Monroe had her long, wavy, brown hair pulled back in a tight ponytail and hidden by a heavy, face concealing hood. The collar of her all black jacket was high necked, but open, so if she wanted, she could burrow her head down and all which would be revealed would be her bright eyes. Of course, she wore her SHIELD issue skin-tight combat pants, and combat boots to match. Of course, they might be appalled by the fact she was looking down the sights of a sniper rifle that was probably as long as her body, but that's why they made sure no one would be flying in the vicinity, and that all cameras in the area had been temporarily disabled. Coulson liked to make sure her job was as painless as possible.

With a low exhalation, she shifted the weapon so she could see her target. He was a middle-aged man, glasses, partly balding on the back of his head. Daniel Webber. She had been reading his files for the last day, knew his patterns, knew he had to go. He was just one of many on the list who had killed students at SHIELD SciTech School when HYDRA came out from the shadows. He was just one of many she had been assigned to kill. She trained her sights on his head.

She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. When she closed her eyes, she was back in that school, visiting with Leo, and Jemma, and the rest of her team. She was touching the Wall of Valor, where her parents' names were sitting. She was fighting Ward again, and again, and again, calculating every move, trying to figure out where he had gotten the upper hand, how she could have saved things. She was watching Leo and Jemma get dropped into the bottom of the ocean. She was watching Leo Fitz in a hospital bed, trying to speak but not being able to make words, able to make coherent sentenced. She closed her eyes and she saw it all over again.

She opened her eyes and pulled the trigger. Her mentor, Natasha Romanoff, may have been working on wiping the red out of her ledger, but Asia Monroe intended to fill hers to the brim.

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Later that night, Asia moved among the streets, unseen, unnoticed, hood and hair down and locks blowing in the breeze. She had her hands in her pockets as she breezed down the sidewalk, only having one place in mind right now. A place she found herself a lot recently, a place where she felt like, if she was going to let herself speak, she would be able to.

The path she took there was unique every time. She didn't want anyone tracking her down. She didn't want anyone figuring out that in her checkered backpack there was actually a dissembled sniper rifle, among other things that would definitely turn heads. So she kept her hands stuffed in her pockets, face buried in the maroon covered scarf she had thrown on when exiting the building and making her way through the crowd. She had waited at a small coffee shop for most of the day, pretending to be a college student working on papers. She pretended to be concerned as an ambulance raced by, though she already knew where it was headed. It was easy to hide in plain sight, especially when no one expected her to be there. No one even knew she existed.

This time, she decided to take the busy path, walking down main streets under the soft street lights, sipping a coffee and watching the cars drive by. As she turned left into an alley, she glanced up at the fire escape. Sitting on the small landing of the 7th story was a tiny candle, flickering in the breeze. That was her signal. That was the sign that the cameras had been altered, so that they would lock in the same loop for the next few hours. HYDRA liked to monitor their agents after all, but they wouldn't be able to pick up this small hack. It would just play the same loops until she decided to leave.

Swiftly, she made her way up the ladder to the fire escape, with the agility of a cat, discretely as possible. She stopped on the 7th floor, then tapped on the glass of the window three times, before sliding the large glass open. Lazily, she propped herself up on the window sill, using the wooden frame almost like a hammock, laying down on it and resting her head on one side of the frame, her feet high up on the other. It felt good to recline, even within the hard wood frame.

"There you are," a woman's voice said from the kitchen. "I was beginning to think you weren't coming." Her British accent was as indescribably welcomed.

"Have you ever known me not to show up when planned?" Asia muttered back with a roll of her eyes, glancing over at Jemma. While the recent events had made her prone to frowning, she offered Jemma a small upward twitch of her lip, which the scientist took as a grin.

Jemma studied Asia with scrutiny. The last year had made her hardened, something Jemma understood. Agent Monroe had closed in on herself, rarely talking to anyone, taking on as many of these solo assassination missions as Coulson would allow her, shutting out her team. Last Jemma had heard, the girl was literally sleeping in one of the Base's large air vents, foregoing her own bed for the smaller space. Jemma knew Asia was blaming herself for all of it. For Skye getting shot, for her and Fitz getting dropped from a plane, for Fitz's slow recovery process. She knew Asia felt as if she broke everything she touched. But she noted that Asia looked mostly healthy, at least physically. The mental recovery from such a trauma was much harder. But they were working on it.

"No," Jemma said with a sigh, "I suppose you never have. Also, thank you for waiting till I was in the office this time before taking the shot," Jemma grimaced. Last time she had been personal witness to one of Asia's target. It was horrifying. Almost as horrifying as the scientist having to go undercover as a HYDRA scientist.

"Yea well," Asia muttered with a shrug. "I know it bothered you. So. I avoided it this time." It wasn't hard, especially since the target had a different schedule than Jemma did. Easy, even, one might say. But she couldn't exactly promise it every time. She couldn't help what someone's regular patterns were.

Jemma smiled and handed her a small cup of steaming tea, then set a file next to her. "Coulson brought the next target for me to gather intel on, if you want to look at her." She wanted to be as gentle as possible around this new version of Agent Monroe. She didn't talk to anyone anymore, but she talked to Jemma. The scientist couldn't quite pin down why, couldn't get a complete read on the situation. But, it was nice for the two each to have someone to speak to.

Asia picked up the tea in one hand and the file in another, looking lazily at the papers as she sipped her tea. The next target was a blonde, in her 40s. Probably some HYDRA agent who had masked herself as a SHIELD teacher at SciTech. "Alright. Just get Coulson the information on her schedule and I'll take care of it." She said, setting the papers back down and glancing at her watch which was beeping. "Looks like my ride has arrived."

"Is it..." Jemma started to say, but trailed off, not finishing the question Asia already knew the ending to.

"Is it Trip?" Asia asked with a flick of a glance towards Jemma. She noted the rosy blush on her pale, freckled cheeks. "It is. Want me to give him anything?" Asia had been a messenger between the two budding lovebirds while Jemma was undercover. She acted as if she couldn't possibly care less about the two of them being together, but deep down she did. She wanted to see them endlessly happy, as much as she hated to admit it. She'd never say it out loud. She never said much out loud any more.

Jemma disappeared for a moment, before returning with a wrinkled sweatshirt. "Can you give this to him, have him send another one with next time?" She extended the shirt to Asia, who took it cautiously.

"Yea, I'll pass that on." She put the shirt into her bag and climbed out of the window, blowing out the candle on the fire escape. "I'll see you around," she said, before starting to climb the ladder.

"Stay safe," Jemma called out, leaning out the window. "Stay safe, and try speaking with Fitz maybe a little, if you can. I really think it'll help."

Asia closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "I'll think about it," she said, before climbing the ladder two rungs at a time.

Chapter Text

When Trip picked her up in a small, rented out prop plane, the ride was silent. He let her have her space, and he let her talk when she wanted. It was easier than trying to push her into something that she wasn't ready for quite yet. Some of the agents at the base didn't understand that, didn't understand her, but Trip did. He knew Agent Monroe well enough to see she had put up walls not to protect herself, but to protect everyone else.

When they got close to where they needed to land, Trip called out to the back, where she sat strapped in. "Hey TicTac, we're almost here. We're going to drop this plane at the airport and go meet up with the others. Coulson wants us to monitor some of the new agents on a purchase deal, make sure nothing goes wrong."

Asia turned slowly and glanced over at Trip, and nodded at him before looking back at her feet, thinking. Slowly, she raised her hood to cover her face.

"Coulson said all you need to do is take a high perch somewhere in the warehouse, keep an eye on things. Minimal interaction. You'll be our break glass in case of emergency, ok?" Trip called out back to her again, but this time she didn't respond. Instead, she leaned over and double checked her backpack to make sure her gun was in position the way she liked it. When she reassembled things, recently she wanted them to be ready in the precise order. It made things quicker, easier. Then she leaned back in her chair, shutting her eyes. Trip could just make out the side of her face beneath that heavy hood. She hadn't said no, so he assumed it was a yes.

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It wasn't long before they landed, and caught a cab to a back alley and walked the rest of the way, till they met up with Agents May and Skye.

"Nice to see you on a team mission again, Monroe," May said, tilting her head to the side so she could look the girl in her eyes. Asia flicked her wide eyes to meet May's gaze and nodded, then looked away. Well, May thought, at least that was a reaction. It was something. Melinda May hated seeing Asia like this. It was like she was a shell of her former self. Now, she understood what it must have been like for her teammates, after Bahrain, when she too, became secluded. But Asia hadn't asked for a desk job yet, she hadn't asked for dismissal. Coulson thought there was still some part of her in there, and at some point, they would pull her back out. For now, she was just the kind of deadly weapon SHIELD really needed.

"I have to go get in position," Asia muttered, turning away to face a warehouse. Deftly, she scaled the side of the building, using boxes that were stacked near by, then SHIELD tech to help her up the smooth side, until she made it to an upper window. Opening the glass, she slipped inside and disappeared.

"That was seven words, wasn't it?" Skye asked, not able to take her gaze away from where Asia had disappeared. Her friend, one of her best friends, had changed on a dime, from the happy, open person she used to be, to someone who hardly spoke at all anymore. "Seven is good."

"I told you she's still in there," Trip said with a shrug. "You just have to be patient, give her a little more time to come out from hiding. This is just how she copes." He too looked up at the window, then pulled a tablet from his bag. "She should have a feed up and ready for us momentarily. It's fixed to her scope, we'll see everything she sees."

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As Asia entered the upper level of the warehouse, she pulled herself ontop of a wooden crate. The entire building was filled with haphazard stacks of them, with seemingly no specific order to their semblance, which made something in the back of Agent Monroe's brain twitch uncomfortably. There was such a neater, more methodical way to do this. Sighing, she quietly pulled out her gun and assembled the pieces, sliding her scope into place with the tiniest click. Laying down, she took position, flicking on a small toggle that ran the video feed. Her teammates outside would have eyes on what was going on and be able to move forward and into the building. Focusing in, she got vision of where the deal was about to occur.

A small, fold out table was in the center of the warehouse. A man and a woman in dark, but casual clothes, stood on oneside, another man, who she had better vision of, with a pale face and brown stubble that hadn't been shaved for a day or two growing on his chin and below his nose. He looked familiar, but she couldn't place where. His mouth was moving rapidly, then, he pulled out a folder, tossing it onto the table. The woman reached forward and flipped the folder open, revealing the grainy, black and white image, of a box. Quietly she adjusted the scope to get better focus of the picture. Painted evenly on the box were the numbers '084.'

Shifting her gaze up, Asia eyed the guards who stood behind him. There weren't many, they'd be easy to take down in necessary. She shifted the sights back down to the table where the conversation was happening. Out of nowhere, a large man rushes onto the scene, plowing through the two guards behind the seller, knocking them, dazed, to the ground. The well built man,wearing raggedy clothing, grabbed the seller and twisted his next, dropping his limp dead body to the ground, then he lunged across the table at the other two.

Without hesitation, Asia squeezed the trigger, but instead of seeing blood fill her vision, all she heard was a 'tink' similar to the sound of a rock bouncing off metal.

Asia looked up from the scope, astonished. Putting the safety on, Asia slung the sniper rifle over her back and flipped off of the boxes, landing on the hard floor of the warehouse below. What was that man? What was he here for? Most importantly, was he HYDRA? The man had grabbed the file folder and ran for the nearby window across the way.

Asia darted after him, running past the woman and man who had been with their backs to her, just as Skye, May, and Trip were running up. "What the bloody hell is she doing here?" she heard the man shout in a distinct British accent, before shouting about how they were interrupting the intel mission and ruining everything.

Ignoring the rest, Asia sprinted straight for the open window, fully preparing to launch herself out into the streets below. She pressed down with one leg and began to jump in the air when someone's strong arms grabbed her around the waist from behind and yanked her back down.

"He's gone, Renegade," the British spy, Lance Hunter, griped, as he released her, letting her fall to the ground. "No reason to suicide out the window, mate." Asia looked up at him, blinking, narrowing her eyes. But she didn't speak, she simply stood up and stomped off back towards the exit. She was done for the day.

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For the entirety of the SUV ride back to the base, Agent Monroe remained silent. Her mind was racing through what had happened in the warehouse. She had hit the mystery man. She was absolutely sure of it. The footage from her scope would prove it. But he hadn't been injured. He hadn't been downed. He was fit enough to run on out of there and disappear. The other agents talked angrily, arguing with one another about how Coulson sending Skye, May, Trip, and "The Renegade," as Hunter called her, often using air quotes, was detrimental to their mission.

"If he doesn't trust us, then what's the point?" Agent Hartley said, crossing her arms over her chest. Hartley had been a SHIELD agent for years. Asia knew who she was, but had never worked with her before now. Now, they were some of the few agents left. Agent Hartely pulled her short, brown hair back into a tight pony tail. "I'm a SHIELD agent for Christ's sake. He shouldn't be doubting me."

Trip parked the SUV and everyone piled out of the black vehicle, still arguing. Asia couldn't stand it, the constant bickering. It made her head feel like it was about to explode. She pushed in front of the rest, grabbing her lanyard and pressing it hard against a small scanner beside a set of thick, metal, reinforced double doors.

"Agent Monroe," a small robotic voice chirped from the scanner as the doors slid open.

"Where are you going?" Hunter called out as she walked through them. "We're not done talking about this mess, and you're a part of it. Just because you're some Renegade now doesn't mean you can't have a bloody conversation." But the doors were already shut and Agent Monroe was gone. "It doesn't mean that, does it?" He said, turning back to the other team members.

Skye looked at the closed doors where Asia had momentarily been. "For her it does."

Chapter Text

As Asia entered the garage of the new base, she gave Lola, the beautiful red corvette Coulson owned, a soft pat on the hood. A tall, well built man with soft mocha skin looked up from the wrench he was twisting on a bike nearby. Of course Mack was here. He was always here, working. As she started to quietly walk by, he straightened up. He was tall, at least half a foot taller than she was, and had arms like tree trunks. He could probably squish her head in his hand if he wanted. And Asia could tell he wasn't the biggest fan of her's.

"Welcome back, Agent Monroe. Or do you prefer I call you what the others do? The Renegade?" He said quietly and evenly, staring at her with his piercing, dark brown eyes. She knew he was friends with Fitz. Leo. Whichever. She tried to think of him only as Fitz now, to remove any attachment. He was the one helping Fitz try and use his words now, the words hypoxia had stolen away from him. The words that broke her apart.

Instantly, she was back in the hospital, she could see it all again so clearly. She could see herself sitting next to Leo's bed, holding his hand, his brows furrowed as he tried to speak. As he struggled to try and say he loved her, too, but all the words wouldn't quite form themselves in his brain. And it was all her fault. He was hurt and it was completely because of her. So she did what she had always done when things got too tough, too close. She ran. She had left that hospital and was too afraid to go back. She hid inside herself and put up walls and became the assassin that Coulson needed and made her vendetta to destroy every last living HYDRA member. It was easier that way. Her team could be safer that way. After all, everyone got hurt if they got close to her. If she stayed away, if she played Renegade for Coulson, no one could get hurt but herself.

She looked up at Mack and took a deep breath before speaking. "Is there something I can help you with?" she asked as softly as she could, trying to keep her voice from breaking.

Mack looked at her, this short, thin twig of a thing who had somehow been molded into a lethal killer, while he wiped oil off his hands with a once white rag. "I sure don't, but I can think of someone in the Lab who could sure use a helping hand," he replied pointedly, searching for some sort of recognition in her eyes.

Asia immediately broke their gaze, glancing off to the right, towards the doors which would lead her out to the rest of the base, towards freedom from the suffocation she was feeling right now. "There's plenty of SciTech agents in the Lab," she said slowly and evenly. "I'm an Ops agent, wouldn't bring any help to any one there. Just trouble." And with that she started walking as casually towards the set of doors as she could, even though every muscle in her body was tensed to run.

"You keep telling yourself that," Mack called out behind her, shaking his head in disappointment. Whatever had happened between Agent Fitz and Agent Monroe, he knew it was bad. He didn't know the details, but he knew that Fitz, or Turbo as Mack had coined him, was struggling with her disappearance. On top of the distance between those two, Jemma Simmons, Turbo's other best friend, had left the Lab. The whole thing left the poor, young agent in a tailspin and Mack didn't know how to make it end.

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When Asia exited the garage, she moved down the hall and entered a large room with vaulted ceilings. The team had turned it into a meeting room, a gathering space of sorts, and it was adjacent to the Lab. Asia moved as quickly as possible through the room, climbing the stairs that most people only used to get to Coulson's office. But she had other ideas.

When she reached the top step, she looked around to make sure no agents were watching. Standing on the railing, she grabbed onto a pipe that ran across the ceiling and swung herself forward, grabbint onto another pipe, and another, until she was in front of a large air vent opening. She had removed the cover long ago.

Shimmying herself inside, she found the nest she had made for herself. It reminded her of the one Clint had at Avengers HQ, high up above away from anything and anyone, and safe. She had brought her softest blankets into this airvent after making sure it was strong enough to support her. Here, she could sleep in a small, warm place that made her feel secure. She didn't have to worry about anyone getting near her. She could keep them all safe. And additionally, she could hear almost all of the conversations that took on down below without having to participate. It was perfect.

She lay down and wrapped herself up in her blankets, looking up at the ceiling of the vent, at the one photo taped there. It was her and Leo...her and Fitz she corrected herself. Sitting in the Lab, he sitting relaxed in a swivel chair, grin on his face, her sitting on a desk, leaning forward, mid laugh. Skye had snapped it, a while ago, back before everything had gone wrong.

This was the one thing she let herself keep. The one memory she kept without burying away. It wad her one good thing left.

The agent was lost in thought when her watch buzzed. She looked at the small message displaying across the screen. She was wanted in Coulson's office...which meant he was actually here. That was new.

Coulson had been so busy with his new position as the director of SHIELD, especially since their agency was now considered nonexistant. He was constantly circling the globe, looking for agents who were still true to the cause. They hardly ever saw him anymore. Which Asia sometimes figured was for the better. It was a lot easier to be told to go kill someone over the phone than it was in person.

Sighing, she sat back up, slipping off her black jacket and straightening out her black tanktop. She slid forward and peered out of the vent, only to find May was standing at the top of the stairs, waiting expectantly.

"I know that's where you stay now. Come on, its debrief time," she said, raising an eyebrow and daring Asia to challenge her.

With a sigh, Asia swung herself out of the vent, landing on the stairs beside May. "Lets go," she muttered, nodding to the other agent.

May turned and pushed open the door to Coulson's office. "After you," she said flatly, and Asia walked past her, into the large room.

Coulson was wrapping up a phone call as they entered. Asia moved through the room to stand next to the window, looking out at the city around them. It was probably a good thing it was one way glass. Only seeing out.

"Good to see both of you," Coulson said with a nod, as he stacked files on top of each other. "I'm only here for a short while, but I wanted to check in with you. I have to fly out again tonight, Texas this time."

"Get a good seat this time?" May quipped as she stood in front of his desk.

"Its economy class, there are no good seats," Coulson said dryly. "On that note, has there been any update on the cloaking technology?" As the question hit Asia's ears her jaw reflexively clenched. That's the project Fitz had been working on. Struggling with....for these past few weeks.

May glanced at Asia, then back at Coulson. "We haven't received an update recently," she replied as neutrally as possible.

"Alright then," Coulson said, disappointed. "Well, do you have better news about today's Intel mission?"

"Unfortunately not," May said, pulling out her tablet and tapping it, so the footage from Asia's scope appeared on the big screen behind them. "This guy came and stole the file, but thanks to Monroe we have good footage of what was inside. It was this picture."

"Interesting...." Coulson said, staring at the image. He knew it from somewhere. "Alright, well. What do you think of our newest agents?"

Asia couldn't help but scoff from her view at the window.

"Do you have something to say?" Coulson questioned, turning to face her.

Asia pressed her lips into a thin line for a moment. "Theyre adequate," she replied finally. "But pushy, and Lance Hunter acts like he's entitled to the world."

May couldn't helo but nod. "She's not wrong," she said. "Theyre good at what they do, but that doesn't change the fact that theyre mercenaries. Hired guns. I don't like it, but you already know that."

Coulson nodded. "Understood. Hartley brought them to us, and we have to trust her judgement. If there's further development, please tell me as soon as you know." He picked up a book from the corner of his desk. Where had he seen that damn photo before? Stopping on a page, he looked up suddenly. "Agent Monroe, you're dismissed. Thank you, as always, for your hard work."

Asia was about to ask him why he wanted her to leave, but she stopped herself. With a small nod, she walked out of the room, shutting the door quietly behind her. She was going to go back to her air vent, when a voice called out from below.

"Oh look. The Renegade has decided to grace us with her presence," the all too familiar gravelly British voice called out. Looking down the stairs, she saw Hunter standing in the small, connected kitchen, raising a beer in toast towards her.

"Leave her be," Hartley interjected, elbowing him in the ribs. "She can't help thats what they called her, any more that Agent May being called the Cavalry."

Asia slowly made her way down the stairs, staring at Hunter evenly. She stopped at the bottom of the stairs and narrowed her eyes at him, moving over to stand by Skye, who was leaning against the island in the kitchen.

Skye glanced over at her and gave her a small smile. Asia let her lips force into a tiny smile as well, leaning on the table beside her friend.

Moments later, May was coming down the stairs two at a time. "You three," May said, pointing at Idaho, Hartley, and Hunter. "The Director wants you in his office for debrief."

"Us, really?" Hunter said sarcastically. Agent May narrowed her eyes at him and practically had him darting for the stairs.

"Skye, did you bring the fragments we brought to the Lab?" May asked once the others were gone. "Coulson wants that to be our main focus now."

"Itd be nice if he could tell me that himself," Skye replied with a roll of her eyes. "But yes. They're being looked at right now." Skye hadn't seen Coulson in at least a month. It was getting a little ridiculous at this point.

"Good. How are things in there today?" May asked Skye, glancing at Monroe out of the corner of her eye.

"Same as usual, unfortunately," Skye said, then winced when she realized she had said unfortunately. Maybe that was too harsh, especially with Asia around.

"Alright then. Lets go check in on how its going then. An update would be good." May said decisively . "That includes you, Monroe," she added when she didn't see the other agent moving to follow her.

Asia felt her stomach drop. She did not want to go to the Lab. She did not want to be near the Lab. But she wasn't going to disobey May, that would be a mistake of epic proportions. Reluctantly, she trailed behind the other two agents.

They entered the Lab in front of her, Skye stopping to hold the door open for the othet agent. As Asia passed her, stopping just shortly inside the doorway, Skye gave her a comforting squeeze on the shoulder before walking in.

The lights in the Lab were lowered, almost calming. A few SciTech agents huddled around various desks, looking at beakers and other tech. But Asia didn't even see them. She didnt see anyone except the man standing on the opposite side of the Lab, looking back at her.

Chapter Text

Asia felt like her throat was constricting, like she couldn't breathe. If she had had something in her hand, surely she would have dropped it to the floor, shattering it everywhere. There he was, Leo Fitz, beautiful as always, wearing a large, grey, cable-nit sweater with sleeves so long they came down to his palms and a t-shirt underneath. He looked perfect, he always looked perfect, with those stormy eyes and his ever-curled hair cropped short. And he was looking back at her, mouth dropped just ever so slightly open. She needed to look away, she needed to break the gaze, but she couldn't.

Leo was in shock, that much was to say the least. Asia never came to the Lab anymore, much less came near to him, looked at him. They didn't acknowledge each other anymore, though Leo was still trying to figure out what had happened, what had went wrong. But now here she was, standing in front of him, clad in all black. She looked....there was something in her eyes, she looked so tired. Drained. Absentmindedly, he began to wring his hands, mouth dropping ever so slightly open.

Thankfully, May broke the silence. "Fitz," she began, "Is there any update on the material Skye brought you?"

Fitz tore his gaze from Asia to look at May, then down at the microscope where the sample sat. Tapping a few buttons on a tablet, he brought the image of the metal beneath the microscope onto the big screen. "Yes, yes m'am," he began. "Well...er...I guess there...there....no. No updates." He looked down at his hands, still ringing them together. "I just...I just...I can't quite figure out...out...erm, what it's made of. The material."

"Okay," May replied calmly, looking up at the screen, squinting at the image in front of them. It was just a small, jagged piece of what appeared to be metal scrap.

"So this is partly composed of, erm, the same lead as our bullets," Leo began, focusing incredibly hard on making his words form coherent sentences. He felt especially pressured when Asia was there. He wanted her to see he was doing well, he was doing ok. He was getting better. "But there's, uh, something...." he trailed off, looking up at the screen and squinting in disbelief. "Blood! There's blood" he pointed up at the screen, face growing pale. Please don't let this be my imagination, please don't, he thought to himself. He grimaced and looked away from the screen.

Asia's eyes widened as she saw the bit of metal turn to what looked like a scrap of flesh. How was that even possible? Though honestly, as far as her career in SHIELD had taken her, what wasn't possible at this point? She almost took a step closer, to look more intently at the transformation, but stopped herself. This was as far as she had stepped into the Lab in a while, and she wanted to keep it that way.

"Please, um, tell me you can see that," Leo said to May, flustered, holding the bridge of his nose between his finger and thumb and squeezing his eyes shut. Maybe if he closed them tight enough, the image would go away.

Gently, May placed a hand on Leo's shoulder reassuringly. "Yes, I see it. It looks like blood."

Leo let out an exhalation of relief, leaning forward on his knees for a moment before standing up straight. "Thank God, erm...I mean. Well, that's a new development. Weird."

"Can you figure out whose blood it is?" May asked the young scientist, feeling very motherly. This poor kid had been through so much, all because of HYDRA. And because of SHIELD too, if she really thought about it.

"Erm, yes," Leo said after a moment. "Yes I think I can handle that." He replied, looking up at the image once more.

"I'll stay and help out, that way I can be here when the results are finalized," May replied, glancing over at Asia, basically giving her an opening to say she would stay as well.

But the girl was already gone. She had slipped out of the room without anyone noticing. Which was just the way she liked it.

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Asia was up in her little nest when she heard Coulson talking to Skye, and she knew the moment they started speaking what he was asking her to do. See, Coulson had a little known secret. But Asia was learning all the secrets of this place. And she knew damn well he was keeping a monster in their basement.

So when the two ended their conversation and the Director had returned to his office, Asia slipped out of the vent and into the empty commonroom. She watched Skye quietly from the darkness, watching her follow Koenig down the hall. She got up and started to follow, but stopped at the door to the Lab. Even though it was late into the evening, there was still a light on in there. Peaking around the door, Asia saw him.

Leo was standing there, leaning over the desk, frustrated and talking to himself. Or what looked like himself. He was talking to some sort of made up Jemma Simmons in his head, and Asia knew it. For a while she resented it, but then not really. Jemma was his best friend, and she left too.

She stood there for a moment, watching him silently. He was working on the cloaking technology for the Bus. He needed to replicate the same tech that the quin jets used so they could fly under the radar. His hands were shaking as he tried to pick up a small tool and fine tune something. His hand fumbled and suddenly he stood up, throwing his tools to the ground and smacking the table. But Asia couldn't do anything but watch, she couldn't make her feet move and go to him. She was so angry. They had worked so hard, their team. Worked so hard to do so much good, and all because of that fucking traitor, Grant Ward, they were all broken. No one had healed fully. And Asia blamed herself, she always did. But now, she was angrier than usual.

She spun on her heel and marched down the hall, stopping at the door she knew Skye had entered. Pressing her ear to the cool metal, she could hear her friend speaking, and she could hear that son of a bitch replying. Her blood was practically boiling. Slipping past the door, she sat down on the top stairs, hiding in the shadows, looking at him.

Grant Ward was in a SHIELD prison, hiding in their basement. He wore a grey jumpsuit and his bear had grown out, scraggly and gross. And here he was, smiling at Skye. He got to feel happiness while she was struggling. Without thought or feeling, she pulled her pistol from her waistband and lined the sights up on Ward. She pulled the trigger once, twice, three times. She imagined him crumpling to the ground, falling, bleeding, dying to her hands. She imagined him never getting to feel happy again. Next thing she knew, she was moving down the stairs, still firing. She could feel something wet on her cheeks, but wasn't sure what. She just kept pulling that trigger until it was clicking, empty.

"It's your fault," she screamed at him, because he hadn't fallen, he hadn't died. The technology that kept him imprisoned in a tiny, rectangular room, also kept her bullets out. "You fucking coward, it's all your fault," she sobbed. And suddenly he was gone, there was just a white screen where he was standing. And Skye's arms were wrapped tightly around her, holding her in place.

"Asia," she said sternly. "Asia look at me."

But she wouldn't look, she wouldn't let her see her pain. She pulled out of her grasp and ran.

Chapter Text

Asia was tearing through the halls, she had to get away from that basement, that basement where her nightmares were locked. She could feel the tears on her cheeks and it made her flush red with embarrassment.

Trip popped his head out of the hall as she ran by, his brow creesing with concern. "TicTac, what are you runnin from?" He called out behind her, but she didnt stop to say anything. Moments later, Skye jogged past him in the same direction. "What the hell is going on?" He called after the other agent.

"Its nothing, I've got it handled," Skye called back.

Leo was still tinkering in the Lab when he heard the commotion outside. He looked up, squinting, as he saw Asia run past in the soft lighting of the hallway, and Skye running past her shortly thereafter. What was going on out there? He almost got up from his desk to find out, but he had just gotten all his things picked up from the floor and this cloaking really needed some work. So he stayed put.

Asia didn't stop moving until she had flung herself into the air vent. Here she was safe, here she was warm. No monsters in the basement could touch her here, they couldn't stain her thoughts. She wrapped herself tightly in her heavy blankets, letting the pressure and the warmth calm her down as she took deep breaths. She had lost control, that wasn't like her. She couldn't let that happen again, it wasn't like her. She wouldn't let it happen again, ever.

Skye ran into the living area, but didn't see where Agent Monroe had run off to. This was becoming such typical her, always running, never letting her friends get close. It pissed Skye off beyond belief. Without thought, she stormed up the stairs towards Coulson's office and banged loudly on the door. She wasn't going to stop knocking until he answered her. Something needed to be done.

When Coulson finally answered the door, Skye put her hands firmly on her hips and raised an eyebrow at him, taking a stance. "So this is how its going to be?" She asked, noting his annoyed gaze. "We can't even talk anymore?"

"Not when I'm in the middle of work," he replied calmly, but took note of her anger. "Come in," he said with a sigh, stepping backwards to make space for her to enter. Skye stomped into the room, slamming the door behind them. "What has you so upset?" He asked, leaning against his desk, crossing his arms over her chest.

"We need to talk about Asia, this is getting out of hand," Skye said in protest, gesturing wildly out towards the hall. "Were you watching that interrogation feed? She just tried to shoot Ward."

"Do you blame her?" Coulson said sarcastically, before sighing deeply. "I'll take care of it."

"We need to do more than take care of it, we need to bring her back," Skye said adamantly. "She's not okay. And these wild assassination missions aren't making her any better. She's hiding behind them."

"Well, frankly, it's not up to you on whether or not Agent Monroe takes those missions. She's a vital part of the team, doing good work for us," Coulson said flatly, looking over at the windows. "But yes, Agent Monroe has changed. Becoming the Renegade changed her. Watching Leo Fitz and Jemma Simmons be dropped into the ocean while her old partner, Agent Grant Ward, put a knife to her throat, changed her. Seeing Fitz almost dead, blaming herself, it changed her. Agent Monroe has changed. She is not the agent who came to us last year. I’ve watched her, she is afraid to touch anything. She thinks she breaks everything she touches. She is one of us, we need to teach her otherwise."

Skye smiled slightly, "I'm glad we're on the same page."

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It was the next day that the team captured General Talbot. Agent Monroe volunteered to be his interrogator while he was here, but Coulson declined the offer. "This one is personal," he replied simply. "I'll handle it."

So Asia stood in the small meeting room, with the others, watching the conversation between Talbot and Coulson on the big screen, as they all gathered around the holo-table. Skye, May, and Koenig were all present, although honestly she wasn't sure at this point which Koenig brother he was. There were so many brothers, always coming and going, never being specific of how many there were.

"There, look at that," Koenig said, pointing at the screen as he typed away at his computer screen. "He got him aggrivated, and now Talbot is clenching the arm rest. Giving us a near perfect print!" He said enthusiastically. "Now all we have left is to keep analyzing his voice biometrics and we'll be all set for the next mission."

They were planning to break into an Air Force facility. The man in the warehouse, the one who seemed to be bulletproof, Carl Creel, was there. He was a powered person, he could absorb whatever material he touched, and he was after something, for HYDRA, inside that base. They needed to get there before him, or get there in time to stop him. How exactly they were going to stop him was yet to be seen, but they would figure it out along the way. And after they got the object, the 084 Creel was after, Coulson wanted them to secure some other devices within the base.

Asia looked up at the screen, watching Coulson talk with Talbot. He had pulled her aside earlier to make sure she knew her role in the plan.

"Agent Monroe," he had said. "Above all else, no matter what happens, you secure a Quinjet. If you can get a jet and get back here with it, then our cloaking needs will be fulfilled. We can disappear, we can keep doing our good deeds. Do you understand?"

"Yes, sir," Asia had replied, fully grasping the importance of this mission. The 084 was important, but she had other orders she would need to follow.

And this is exactly what she was thinking of later that day as they approached the military base. Asia sat in a SUV with tinted windows, across from Skye and Hunter, watching Skye hack into the military systems. Soon, they would be driving through onto the base. With the information they had obtained from Talbot, they were not only able to hack the system, but also to have Coulson call in and pretend to be Talbot himself. It was easier than it should have been.

So when Idaho pulled them up to a warehouse on the base, Asia was one of the first out of the vehicle, pulling her hood up to cover her face.

Hartley was out as well, pressing her finger to a scanner. A small image appeared of General Talbot, and the door clicked, unlocking. "Worked like a charm," she grinned, and waved Idaho to drive the SUV into the warehouse. Asia followed, looking around the expanse. There were shelves upon shelves of boxes, containing who-knows-what. But they were only after one thing. The original 084.

"Idaho, stay and keep the car running. We want to be ready for a quick getaway," May ordered, before glancing at Skye, Trip, Hartley, Hunter, and Asia. "The rest of you, spread out. Be quick, be discrete, and let us all know the second you find anything." As the others spread out, May grabbed Skye and Asia, stopping them in their tracks. "We know what we're looking for, don't we?" She asked quietly. Both of the other agents nodded.

Asia pressed her lips into a thin line. Looks like she wasn't the only one with anterior missions on this trip. So they spread out, Asia looking through various boxes. There was so much confiscated SHIELD tech in here, so many things they were missing out on. Asia slid her backpack over her shoulder and unzipped it. She would take what she could, and hopefully the others could get useful items as well.

Moments later, Hartley's voice filled her ear. "I found the 084, repeat. I found it," she radioed. "Southwest side. Let's get this thing the hell out of here." Her voice crackled as Asia stood up, slinging her backpack back over both shoulders. Suddenly, a commotion came from the comms. "I've got company. Creel is here," Hartley shouted, and Asia could hear her both over the comms and a feel isles down. She began to run that direction.

Suddenly, Hartley's screams filled the room, rebounding off the high walls and open ceiling. Screams of absolute pain. Asia broke into a sprint, whipping down the rows of boxes and shelves.

Asia nearly collided with Skye and May, stopping in front of Hartley, who lay on the ground, writhing in agony. She clutched an item in her hand. It was dark silver, a cobalt colour of sorts, with all these weird symbols, circles and lines and circles, covering the entire thing. It was an odd sort of polygon shape, and whatever it was seemed to be the source of Hartley's pain. The hand she held the object in was turning grey, a grey sort of death climbing up her arm. And it smelled, smelled like death. The thing was eating her alive.

"Coulson," May barked through the comms. "Hartley is down. Repeat, an agent is down."

"I'm getting her the fuck out of here," Hunter said, pushing through them and slipping an arm around the fallen agent, helping her slowly stand. Her face was still clenched in utter agony.

As horrific as this scene was, Asia didn't let any fear, or any emotion really, play across her face. She just watched.

"Come on guys, we got to get her out of here," Hunter protested.

"We haven't recieved our orders yet," May objected, pressing her finger to her comms again. "Coulson. What do we do? Do we go dark?" She asked again, the words tumbling out of her mouth at rapid speeds.

Asia waited, muscles tensed, for whatever would come next. Hunter was already dragging Hartley back towards the SUV, but Asia, Skye, Trip, and May all stood, waiting not-so-patiently for Coulson's reply.

"Negative," his voice came sharply through the comms. "Do not go dark. Complete your mission."

Without second thought, Asia took off running back the way they had came. She could hear the others following closely behind. As they ran through the warehouse, soldiers began to flood through the doors, guns raised, shouting at them to put their hands up, drop their weapons. They must have heard Hsrtley's screams.

But the agents didn't stop moving. They ran out of the building, firing icer shots behind them as they did. Hiding behind an armored truck, Asia took a look at the airfield around her, eyes landing on a parked quinjet. Bingo. Looking at May, she nodded, then ran from cover towards that plane. She would complete Coulson's orders if it was the last thing she did. They needed this tech more than anything.

Sprinting up the ramp, she threw herself into the pilot's seat, Trip sliding into the seat beside her. In a few seconds, the had the engines fired up and lifted into the air. Looking out the windows, Asia saw May speeding away on a motorcycle, heading in the direction the SUV must have gone.

Glancing at Trip, Asia took a deep breath, then, surprisingly, smiled. With definition, she took her forefinger and pressed it evenly on the cloaking trigger. The soldiers down below watched the plane disappear into thin air.

Chapter Text

It was quick flight back to the Playground, but Asia enjoyed having her hands on the yoke of this jet again. It felt good to see a plane beside the Bus in the hangar again, a plane they could fly, undetected. A plane that would keep them safe. In the back of her mind, she couldn't help but think how hurt he would be that they had bypassed his progress on the cloaking devices. They just...they didn't have the time to wait any longer.

Landing, Asia and Trip shutdown the jet, and she got gracefully out of her seat, sighing and cracking her back. It was good to be home. Slinging her backpack over her shoulder again, she started to walk down the jet ramp, ready to deposit all the devices she had nabbed. Skye grabbed her arm as she walked past her.

"I still haven't been able to reach Hartley and the others on comms..." she whispered nervously. Her eyes darted back and forth, looking for some sort of recognition in her teammate's big eyes.

Asia couldn't fight the nerves bubbling in her chest. Something was very, very wrong. They never should have split up. Someone on their team was hurt and the entire group dissipated. Sure, they had completed their mission as planned, but at what cost? What if their team was down more members? Asia couldn't help but think about it now, as much as she wished she didn't have to. "It's just part of the plan," she murmured in response. "Radio silence is following protocol, especially if they were followed. They will reach out when they are ready." She was saying it as much to Skye as she was to herself. "Coulson has probably heard from them, anyways."

Skye nodded, "You're probably right." She hoped Asia was right, she needed her to be right. They all did. Their team was already so fractured, they couldn't lose more. She waved at Asia and Trip to follow her as she badged into the building, the two other agents doing the same.

"Did you get some good stuff?" Trip asked, nodding at Asia's bag as the moved down the halls in unison.

"I like to think so," she replied with a grin. "But we'll see what inventory thinks." She thought of Mack running inventory in the garage. He didn't care for anything she did, so odds were he wouldn't be impressed. He hated her and he hardly knew her, all he knew was the Fitz that Leo was now, and the Renegade Asia had become.

"I'm sure anything added to inventory will be considered good," Trip chuckled. "Also, when's the next time you head out on the town?" That was his secret way of asking when she was going to see Jemma again, when she was scheduled to assassinate another HYDRA agent. It made things less harsh, even though they knew reality was anything but. Not that Trip was concerned with the killing, he was concerned with Jemma. Making sure she was ok. Getting her that sweater she had requested.

"Two days," Asia replied quietly. She didn't like dwelling on her private missions. Though, now that they had a Quinjet, extraction would be much easier. No more dangling ropes from the open doors of Cessna caravans and hoping she caught it as Trip flew by. They could do things properly again. "You know, you could always just go out on the town yourself." She often suggested this, that Trip and Jemma just meet up without her being the messenger. But it was hard to get time. It was hard to keep her safe.

"C'mon girl, you know I would if I could," he elbowed Asia lightly in the ribs, still unsure of just how much physical contact the female agent was comfortable with now. She had basically said more words to him today than she had in a month, and he didn't want to be pushing his luck. But, surprisingly, she didn't recoil away from the contact. He could feel her tense, but she didn't run. It was just too dangerous for him to visit Jemma, when he thought about it. It was dangerous enough for Asia to be going, if he admitted it. The idea of HYDRA finding out she was a spy...it gave him nightmares.

"You'll see each other again soon," Asia said with a small smile, one that flashed so quickly you would miss it if you weren't explicitly watching for it. But Trip saw, and Daisy saw, and they both exchanged grins. Progress was progress.

From down the hall, they could hear Coulson's voice. Eagerly, the trio moved forward, hoping he would have heard from their teammates by now. Something, anything, to indicate they were okay. Rounding the corner, they saw Coulson, passing a clipboard over to another agent, one of the guys who ran intel. Clark, Asia thought his name might have been. She honestly wasn't certain.

"You managed to get the Quinjet, bravo," Coulson said with a pressed smile, his hands linked in front of him. "You completed the mission without question, I cannot thank you enough."

"Thank you, sir," the agents all said in response. The Quinjet was key to SHIELD regrowing as an organization.

"Sir, has there been any word from Hunter, Hartley, or Idaho?" Skye asked, her brow creasing with concern as she thought of how badly injured Hartley had been. That 084, whatever it was, was beyond dangerous. And it was out of their hands, once again. And her teammates were MIA. The whole situation smelled rotten.

"Not now," Coulson said in response. "We'll discuss the aftermath of the mission when everyone has returned to base." Everyone...that was a good sign, right? That meant there were still teammates who had to return, teammates who were alive.

Coulson turned to Trip and Asia. "You two, I want you to find Mack. He should be in the Lab, er, the Garage. Asia, whatever else you got, he'll want inventory of that. We also need him to start on reverse engineering the technology of the Quinjet right away. We need that cloaking tech ASAP."

"What about-" Asia started to say, but stopped herself. What about Fitz?" she finished the thought in her head, but didn't speak another word. She wasn't supposed to care, she wasn't supposed to feel. She was the Renegade now, well known for her ruthlessness, her assassinations she had been carrying out. And that was the life she had chosen now.

"Did you have a question, Agent Monroe?" Coulson asked, raising his eyebrows at her.

"No, sir," she said, looking at her feet. "We'll head to the garage. I'll meet you later for my brief on my next mission."

"Alright Agent Monroe," Coulson said, looking at her evenly. He had this sad look in his tired eyes, and it was unnerving. It made Asia feel as if she had disappointed him, and that was the last thing she wanted to do. Let down her teammates, again. She was always letting them down, hurting them, letting them get hurt. Her dark thoughts started to swirl dangerously around the front of her mind.

"Come on, Tic Tac," Trip said, breaking her out of her fog. "Let's get this done so we can go play some Call of Duty," he grinned at her, grabbing her by the elbow and steering her away. She glanced over her shoulder as they left, but Coulson and Skye were already walking away. The pit of her stomach felt like it was full of hot tar.

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Asia tentatively entered the area that used to be the Lab, scanning the garage for Mack. Of course, he was there, waiting, tinkering with his bike, sleeves of his plaid button down rolled up past his elbows, grease covering his large hands. Asia glanced over at Trip, raising her eyebrows at him and nodding towards Mack. She certainly wasn't going to be the one to announce their presence. That would only put a sour touch to their meeting, which was the last thing Asia wanted. She wanted to get in, get out, and go lie down.

"Hey man, what's up," Trip called out with a light laugh, walking into the room like he owned the place, smile bright enough they didn't even need the ceiling lights. Asia was so grateful for him. These two had each other's backs, thick and thin now. That's what tragedy did to people, it brought out true bonds.

Mack looked up and grinned, though his smile faded slightly when he saw Trip had brought the Renegade with him. "Back from the mission already? Are the others with you too?" Mack had joined when Hartley and the others had, they were close.

"Not yet, but I guess they've been on comms with Coulson. We'll all be meeting later," Trip explained. "But first, we've got some things for you. Asia?" He motioned for her to step forward.

Reluctantly, the brunette did so, holding out her backpack in front of her. "I brought some things back," She said quietly, looking over at the wall instead of Mack. The giant of a man stepped forward and grabbed her bag in his grease covered hands.

"Let's see what you've brought back," he mused, unzipping the SHIELD issue bag. Inside was a variety of SHIELD tech items, miniature EMPs, bullets, lots of them, prototypes that Jemma and Leo had designed at some point, guns. It wasn't the jackpot, but it was close enough. It would help them, if only a little. "Not bad," Mack admitted. "Anything else you guys have for me?"

"Actually," Trip said, grinning and leaning back against one of the SHIELD SUVs, "If you look into the hangar, you'll see we flew a bird back here. Cloaking technology is in tact, Coulson wants you to start working on it, figuring out how to build our own based off of the Quinjet's."

Mack clapped his hands together. "Hell yes, that's the kind of news I was hoping for. We can get started on that right away."

We? Asia thought to herself, but didn't say anything. She glanced up at Trip, willing him to be the one to object, but of course, he didn't.

"Give me ten minutes, fifteen,tops," Mack continued. "I'll have the hardware out and ready to go. Trust me, it's something you'll want to see." He tucked his wrench into the back pocket of his jeans and practically jogged out into the hanger. Someone was feeling enthusiastic.

Asia glanced at Trip again. Were they staying? If he stayed, she would have to stay. Well, she didn't have to, but it felt like she needed to. To keep some small semblance of a team. But that didn't make things any easier for her. When she was close to people, close to her team, inevitably they got hurt. Really hurt. Skye getting shot was her fault. Jemma and Fitz being dropped into the ocean was her fault. All of it, all of them getting hurt in some way or another, it was all her fault. Her head started to spin. She gripped tightly onto the table behind her to keep her balance, the cool metal spreading calm waves over her palms.

Thankfully, it really didn't take long for Mack to get back with the small, glowing box of technology. She let herself take a deep breath. It was okay. Mack set the box down on a small table near the wall of the garage. Asia walked over slowly, standing beside Trip.

"What's all this action?" Skye called out from the doorway, causing the hair on the back of Asia' neck to stand alert with surprise. She wasn't expecting Skye to be there, and she did not enjoy things she didn't expect, things she didn't plan for. Surprise was no longer in her vocabulary.

Skye meandered over and stood beside Asia on her other free side, fiddling with her fingers. "Looks promising." She mused, looking up at Mack. "What is it?"

"Our little cloaking device in all her gloary," Mack grinned, clapping his hands together. He was ready to get started, and he was ready for SHIELD not to have to fly economy class. He looked down at the shining box. "Ready to open our present?" He grinned, delicately pinching the tabs on the top of the box and opening it wide, revealing a series of glowing drives plugged into individual slots. It was a work of art, really.

Asia pressed her lips into a thin line. Fitz was going to be so upset. She knew it in her heart, it was going to kill him. He had been working so hard, for so long. And now here they were, bypassing whatever progress he had made. But it was also a sacrifice the team needed, if they wanted to keep living. The pained look must had shown on her face, because Skye spoke up.

"Fitz is going to be destroyed if he sees this..." she said, frowning. "He's been working so hard to complete the work on this cloaking...work is all he has right now." Skye hadn't meant it as an insult at Asia, hadn't meant to call out Asia for stepping back from all of them, but that was what it felt like to Agent Monroe. She had to fight back from physically wincing.

"Maybe we should just keep this between us..." Trip suggested, glancing at Asia out of the corner of his eyes. With Jemma leaving and Asia withdrawing on herself, Fitz was a shell of his former self. It was delicate territory.

Carefully, Mack extracted one of the disks with a tweezers, holding up the iridescent piece of technology for them to see. "This right here is the key to reverse engineering the cloaking. Coulson wants it fitted for the bus. He wants Fitz to help, says no one knows the avionics on that bird quite like he does."

It's true, Asia thought to herself, but didn't speak up. Couldn't speak up. Her throat felt like someone had dumped sawdust down it and forced her to swallow.

"But do you think he's up for it? Is he ready?" Trip asked, honestly concerned. This was their one shot at getting the cloaking right, but he also wanted to make sure Fitz was in the right place before he tried to work on it.

"Why don't you just ask him?" Mack said sarcastically, nodding towards the door. The three other agents turned to look. Asia blanched, inhaling deeply. There, standing forlornly, staring at the cloaking tech in front of them, was the man of the hour himself. Leo Fitz.

Chapter Text

Leo Fitz stood there, ringing his hands together, staring at the box in front of his teammates. He knew what it was, but he didn't want to say it. He knew they had bypassed him for the cloaking technology. They were giving up on him. Like Jemma had given up on him. Like Asia had. He looked up at Mack, at Skye, at Trip. How could they? After all this time, how could they still not believe in him?

Asia had stepped backwards just in time, hiding behind the safety of Trip's tall form and a large cabinet. There was no way he would have seen her. She let out a breath she hadn't known she had been holding in.

"Hey Fitz, how are you doing?" Skye asked overenthusiastically, trying to cover up the conversation they had just been having, sweeping it all under the rug. It was painfully obvious. Even though the intention was good, it came off sad and secretive.

But Fitz didnt even pay attention to her question. Instead, he tentatively moved forward, raising one shaky hand and pointing one finger at the glowing device. "T-t-that's the, ummm, the cloaking," he said hesitantly, trying to find the proper words before he actually spoke up. The simple sound of his voice made Asia's heart feel like shattering. It was her fault that he was stuck like this now, her fault he had been deprived of oxygen at the bottom of the ocean for so long. Her fault he had gotten hurt. Probably her fault that his therapy wasn't working too. The whole thing was her fault, all of it.

"Sure is," Mack grinned over at the smaller SHIELD agent, who was practically shaking inside of his large, grey sweater. It killed him to see Fitz this way, but it was also the only way he had ever known the man. And he knew that deep inside, there was still a brilliant scientist. It would just take time, but Leo Fitz was still an amazing SHIELD agent. Mack just wished the rest of them could see it, too. "Want to check it out?" He asked the scientist.

Fitz looked down at the device then up at Mack, blinking, unsure. He opened his mouth to say something but closed it without speaking a word. He couldn't make the words line up properly, didn't want to embarrass himself trying.

"I'm really looking forward to working on this thing with you," Mack continued, indicating down to the tech. "Honestly you weren't that far off from completing it. Not that I'm all that surprised. Check out the transmitter coil here," he pointed down at one small twig of metal. As Fitz stepped forward to look, Asia stepped backward, deeper into the shadows.

"Yea, erm, to, um, to negate....to negative the, the, resonant," Fitz said, slowly, peering down into the box. "No, um, not the resonant. T-That's...that's not what I meant, um..." he trailed off, biting at a piece of loose skin on his thumb.

"Take your time, Fitz," Skye said softly, looking at him with concern in her brown eyes.

Fitz glanced at her and turned around, running his hands through his hair with frustration. Words just didn't come so easily now. There was nothing he could do about it, but being constantly reminded never helped him, either. He wished they would just treat him a little bit more like normal.

"I think what he's trying to say," Mack spoke up, "And correct me if I'm wrong. Is that there's an audio component in here too, it inverts the sound waves to aid with the cloaking." He glanced at Fitz, who just nodded one time.

"Woah, so like noise canceling headphones?" Trip asked the two agents.

"Essentially, yes," Mack said with a nod, placing his hands on his hips. "To really keep an object completely cloaked, it can't have sound waves giving it away. It needs to be silent. Anyways, Fitz, any chance I can get your hand on this?"

"Erm, yes," Fitz replied, not so confidently. "I mean, w-with the circumstances, at, um, at hand. I...I think the big problem, erm, would, um, it would be the. It'd be in the. The materials," he furrowed his brow, still not entirely sure if that was right, if that was what he had meant to say. He glanced up at his teammates, who were all looking at him with concern and pity in their eyes. He hated the pity faces. "No, um, that's not quite what I meant. You'd...um, you'd have to alter them. You'd have to alter, the, uhhh..." He trailed off, letting his words float out into the open air, cheeks turning red with embarrassment.

"Fitz," Skye spoke up, "just take your time." She stepped forward to place a hand on his shoulder but he flinched back, flinging up his hand to stop her from getting any closer. "No! I, um, no. I can't help today. I...I just have to go!"

Skye took a step back, frowning. Trip placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. It was just going to take some time, that's all it was.

Without another word, Fitz backed out of the room and disappeared. Quietly, Asia stepped forward from the shadows, her heart feeling as if it were in her stomach, but she didn't say a word.

"It's like...sometimes he's our same Fitz," Skye said quietly, "And then other times he's just..." she trailed off, unable to finish her sentence.

"Not," Trip said, filling the silence, finishing it for her.

Mack looked coldly and evenly at Agent Monroe for a moment. "This is the only Fitz I know, so I'll just take your word for it." He had meant for the words to sting, and they did.

Asia flipped her hood up so the shadow covered her eyes, and she marched over to the door. Before she exited, she raised one hand into the air, middle finger extended, sending a giant 'fuck you' back towards Mack.

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It wasn't till a few hours later that Coulson summoned her, and sent her on another mission. Another assassination, this one slightly larger scale than the last. She might have to get her hands a little more dirty, the director had explained. Asia hadn't said anything, she hadn't objected, hadn't asked questions. She just accepted her orders as she was told. Trip had dropped her off in the Quinnjet, leaving her alone on the roof of a building, the night sky filled with stars above her. She furrowed her brow. She had been hoping for clouds.

The objective was simple enough. She was to break into the HYDRA lab, destroy as much as she could, and make sure the scientists were dead. At all costs. Coulson didn't care exactly how they died, what her chosen method was to be, as long as the kills were secured. It was a dirty part of the job, but it was necessary. Asia understood her job, she had agreed to it. She wouldn't have signed on to be the new SHIELD's personal assassin if she couldn't handle it. She wouldn't let people go around whispering about 'The Renegade' if she didn't fit her job well.

So she hacked into the security system beforehand. It was easy enough. If she could stop the security procedures, she'd be able to sneak into the vents easy enough. The lasers inside were disabled, just as she needed them. Hooking a rappel line outside of the main cooling vent, Agent Monroe dropped herself down into the vents as quiet as a cat.

When she made it to the center of the vent systems, she pulled on a gas mask, then pulled a small grenade from her waistband. Carefully, she unscrewed the lid to the vent above the Laboratory below her. Pulling the pin from the poison grenade with her teeth, she let it drop into the white lab below. The white of the tiles reminded her....reminded her of being tied up in a Lab. Gagged. That...that horrible man there. She shook her head, snapping away the memory. She wouldn't go back there.

Below her, she could hear the cries and wheezes of people inhaling the deadly gas. Asia waited, timing her watch for thirty minutes. By then, everyone should have succumbed to the poison. After that was taken care of, Asia dropped herself into the lab. It was time to blow all the computers. After the smoke had cleared, Asia lifted her mask off her face and looked around. Every scientist seemed down for the count. Pulling her gun from her belt, Agent Monroe went from computer to computer, shooting each tower with electrocuting bullets, of Jemma's design. She had made them before she left, and they were coming perfectly in handy.

As she made her rounds, she heard the small, yet distinctive sound of glass being crushed under foot. Whirling around, her body was shoved against the wall at the same time. Asia trust her arm into the arm, stopping the downward motion of her assailant's arm, wielding a scalpel. One of the scientists hadn't succumbed to the quick death like the others had. Must have had a gas mask. Asia pressed her lips into a thin line. How completely inconvenient this was. But Coulson had warned her it might get messy.

With a quick clench of her fist, the blade on her wristlets jutted out, and she pressed it quickly into the neck of the scientist. As she removed it, blood spurted out, a few droplets splashing across her face, dripped onto her hands. She let the body slowly fall to the floor, looking at the blood on her hands. There was so much of it these days.

Quietly, she finished her work, rappelled back out of the building, and disappeared down the streets as the black SUVs with cop lights flashing rolled up to the building. Another mission, completed. She waited for Trip on the roof of a nearby building, staring out at the city below her.

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It was late when they made it back to HQ. Trip hadn't said a word about the blood on Asia's face, but she knew he noticed it. All she wanted now was to get cleaned up. She needed disinfectant wipes and a good soak in a hot shower. She hoped that everyone would be asleep and she could make her way about the base in peace and quiet, not disturbing anyone, not being asked any questions.

As she moved quietly through the halls, minding to stick to the shadows as much as she could (she had quite taken to not having others notice her too) she caught sight of the Lab. One small desk lamp was on inside. Without even blinking, without thinking, Asia knew who it was. She could feel him.

Leo Fitz stood at his desk, mumbling to himself. She was surprised he was still up, it was so late. She was surprised she was still awake, honestly. Two missions in one day? That took a lot out of a girl. She paused in the doorway, watching him. She knew he was speaking with Jemma. She had left him behind too. Clearly he loved her the most of all, he saw her. His mind couldn’t handle her not being around so it created a new Jemma to be there with him.

Something about just watching him there, silently working, was calming to her ever rapidly beating heart. And after tonight, she needed some calming. Looking in at him, she took deep breaths. Everything was going to be ok eventually, especially now that she was staying away from everyone, keeping them all safe. Maybe she couldn’t be with him anymore, maybe she had to repress the words that bubbled at her lips, but it kept him safe. Kept them all safe. Even if it hurt.

And suddenly, Asia found her feet moving of their own accord and she was stepping into the dim light of the Lab, her footsteps tapping ever so slightly in the quiet, breaking the bubble of sound. Leo’s head jerked upward, spinning to look in her direction.

Asia’s breath caught in her throat as their eyes met. It had been so long since she looked him in the eyes. She couldn’t speak, even though she wanted to.

He was the one to speak first, standing up slowly from his chair, as if he might scare her away. “B-blood,” he said softly, cracking open the space between them.

Oh yes, the blood. She had almost forgotten the brown that splashed across her face and hands. “I came to get cleaned up,” she said finally. “Can you help me?” Her words were soft and tentative. She didn’t want to scare him either.

He looked at her for a moment, her words surprising him. They never talked anymore, and now here she was, in the dark. “Erm, of course,” he said suddenly, hurriedly moving to gather supplies, some gentle towels, some alcohol to really remove the blood , a little dish of water.

Asia moved further into the room, sitting on top of his desk like she used to, staring out into the darkness. She couldn’t believe she was doing this, breaking her own rule. But it was so late and she was so tired and he was so... so Leo, and she had missed him.

He came back over to her slowly, setting down the supplies. Squirting some of the alcohol solution onto the paper towel and folding it into a tiny square. Slowly, he reached a hand up and tucked a strand of her long hair back behind her ear. She was frozen in place by how close they were to be each other. She couldn’t even blink, much less breathe.

Carefully, he brushed the wipe against her cheek, methodically taking away every bit of blood. Then, he picked up her hands in his, rubbing them clean individually, being gentle with each small finger. “What happened?” He asked her softly.

“Just business as usual,” she whispered back, surprised at how brave her voice sounded. “Seems you always end up putting me back together after a job gets messy.” Or at least he used to, back before everything had been irreparably broken.

“I like helping you out, Asia, I miss it,” he admitted, his words coming out without fault, surprising even himself.

“Me too,” she replied, but shrugged. “This is just how it has to be.” She turned to look at him and their noses practically bumped together, her breath hot against his cheek. Her heart was practically beating out of her chest.

“Nothing has to be any way, erm, unless we want it to,” he said, acutely aware of how close they were to each other. Her breaths tickled against the stubble on his cheeks. Gently, he placed one hand to her cheek, rubbing his thumb over her soft skin. “We could just... just go back. To how it was before.”

She leaned against his palm, enjoying the warmth of his hand on her cheek. She wanted to say yes, but she couldn’t. She couldn’t because it wouldn’t be safe. She looked up at his wide eyes, hoping he could see her thoughts.

He looked down at her, their height so close to even with her sitting on this table. Suddenly, she was leaning up and she was pressing a phantom kiss to his lips. It was soft, quick, and painfully brief. It was been so long since he had felt that feeling. “Is...is this a dream?” He said softly.

Sliding off the table, she stopped to look back at him. “It has to be,” she said sadly, before leaving quickly the way she had come.

Chapter Text

Asia sat in Coulson’s office with Trip and May, picking at her fingernails as she leaned against the window, glancing at the storm clouds outside. It would rain tonight, she could feel it.

“So why was Creel in the bar?” Trip asked, breaking through Asia’s wall of thoughts.

She glanced back towards the others. Yes, that’s what they were doing here again. She had forgotten. She had started to zone out more than usual and she needed to catch herself on it. It was making her a weaker agent. It would inevitably lead to her teammates being in danger, by her hand. It was always by her hand, one way or the other.

"We're fairly certain he was meeting with someone. It didn't appear to be a drop sight, nothing was left behind," May explained. "The uncertainly lies in whether or not that person ever showed up before the mess went down."

Coulson's brow furrowed at the problem of the 'mess.' A woman, innocent, simply a waitress, was dead. She was covered in the same shit that Hartley had been producing from her hand after grabbing the Obelisk. "We need a solution to Creel's powers, ASAP. Can someone please give me an update on the Lab situation?"

Trip glanced over at Asia, who was picking at something on her finger. Hangnail, maybe. Most likely something imaginary to avoid the eyecontact of her teammates. "No update yet, sir," Trip said for her. Her time to speak would come, eventually.

Skye suddenly entered the room, holding her tablet in the air. "I've got some interesting news. As some might say, the plot thickens." She set the tablet down on Coulson's desk. "Remember how we were monitoring that encrypted HYDRA frequency that we shut down, just in case something popped up? Well. Something did."

Typing some buttons, Skye blew her screen up onto the big one along the wall so they could all see. A small number typed in white appeared on the black screen.

“A phone number?” Coulson questioned, raising an eyebrow. “Have we called it?”

“Not quite, but it’s queued up for whenever you’re ready,” Skye replied.

“Any clue who it is? Maybe Creel?” May suggested.

Trip couldn’t help but crack a grin. “Creep, nahhh. We’re not exactly pals with the guy, I doubt he wants to hang.”

“And no way is he lonely, that man is jacked” Skye grinned, wiggling her eyebrows suggestively.

“I’m going to stop you right there,” Creel said, cutting in. “Go ahead and call the number. Let’s see who is looking for a friend.”

Silence fell over the room as Skye typed a few buttons and the phone on Coulson’s desk flipped to speaker, ringing loudly as they all waited on baited breath to see who would answer their call. Suddenly, the ringing stopped and a soft, white noise fill the room. Someone had picked up.

“Hello?” A cool, smooth voice slid across the line. Asia quirked her head. The voice was familiar, very familiar. Just the sound of it reminded her of a snake.

“Who do I have the pleasure of speaking with?” Coulson quipped back, and they all stood on edge, waiting for the response. They knew that voice, without a doubt.

“Agent Coulson. I’m glad you got my message, but so, so hurt you don’t remember who I am,” the woman replied, letting her sentence float into the dead air.

Coulson paused for a moment, before speaking again. “It’s hard to forget the woman in the flower dress. But why this little rendezvous, Raina?” Of course. Raina, the woman in the flower dress, the one who had aided HYDRA.

Asia vaguely remembered the woman from the events this past year. In the fuzzy, locked parts of her day, she remembered seeing her walk about that Lab as Asia’s torture ensued. Her muscles reflexively tensed and she pressed herself against the cool, brick wall.

When Skye heard Raina’s name, she instinctively crossed the room, standing beside Asia. She knew the strain the memories of that time she spent captured placed upon her. She could see the physical effects happening right before her eyes. Softly, she let her hand dangle and bump against her teammate’s, showing that she was their for her, she would support her. Skye would have wanted the same, if roles were reversed.

Asia looked up at her. It was just a quick flash of the eyes, anyone not watching for it would have missed it entirely. But Skye saw. Asia looked up, met her eyes, and gave her the smallest nod of thanks.

Then, Skye began to mess with her tablet again, sourcing the location of the call as quickly as possible, while Coulson continued talking.

“I’m a bit busy for casual chats right now, Raina. What’s so urgent that you needed to drop us your personal line?”

“Oh I’m sure you are busy, I know all about your little manhunt going on. Carl Creel, stealing a very rare, very dangerous item. Such a pity you haven’t found him yet,” Raina replied over the line in that sultry tone of hers, egging Coulson on, waiting for him to bite.

“Wow, sounds like you’ve done your research,” Coulson replied dryly. “But that’s no news to us. You’re going to have to do better than that.”

“Well, I do also know HYDRA is about to get their hands on that very item,” Raina dropped her voice.

“Your team is making the steal, congratulations,” Coulson said, irritated. This time spent on the phone could be better spent doing literally anything else.

“Hold on now, Phil,” Raina cut him off, “Creel may be working for HYDRA, but I most certainly am not.”

“What a career change. Why the sudden cut off? Personality clashing?”

Asia couldn’t help but roll her eyes. There was no such thing, between Raina and HYDRA. She fit in perfectly with the rest of the snake pit.

“HYDRA and I...we have different life goals. They’re stuck in their prehistoric mindset of world domination, my desires are a tad more important,” Raina replied, voice slightly annoyed. “I don’t want them getting their hands on the Obelisk, an object important to my people, one that can be disastrous in underserving hands. John Garrett understood it’s power. I’m thinking you might, too.” Her voice was tight with anticipation.

“How did he come to understand?” Coulson asked slowly, a shadow growing across his face.

“When he was injected with that serum that saved his life, the same serum in you, Phil, he started to see visions of the truth,” Raina explained. “And then the carving started. Everyone thought he was mad, but the carvings were just the beginning.”

Suddenly, Coulson snatched up the phone, shutting the speaker off. “Make no mistake, Raina. Garrett was a mad man. People who thought that were right.”

The rest of the agents watched in silence, now only catching one side of the confusing, complicated conversation.

“That’s the only good news you’ve provided me all day,” Coulson spit into the phone, before hanging up shortly after, turning back to face them. “Raina has a tracker on Creel. She gave me the frequency. When it goes live with the location, we move.”

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Asia walked through the halls, two sniper rifles from the reserves downstairs slung over her back. The hall she was on merged with another ahead, where the team was standing, waiting.

“So what’s the plan if Creel loses it again?” Skye asked, concern creased into her brows. “The Lab still has no solution to his powers.”

Coulson nodded towards Trip. “Trip and Asia will be our backup plan if it looks like he will become a harm to civilians.”

Skye raised an eyebrow at Trip. “Backup plan?”

“The armor piercing kind,” Trip said, nodding towards Asia, who slid up beside him and offloaded one of the snipers from her shoulder, letting him take it. “We’ll be posted in different locations so one of us will have a shot, regardless of the situation.”

Hunter moseyed up to the group, toothpick hanging out of his mouth. “Where do you want me, sir?” He asked lazily, though it was abundantly clear he wanted to be a part of this mission.

“If you’re going to behave, I want you on the front line with us. If you can’t handle the situation, I’m more inclined to keep you hear, running the op for us,” Coulson eyed him carefully. “Can you handle it?”

“Aye, aye, sir, I’ll be your perfect agent in the field,” Hunter gave him a mock salute.

Coulson studied him for a moment, searching his eyes for any signs of deception. Finally, he said, “Then suit up.”

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Asia say perched on top of a small building, using a generator as a stabilizer as she scanned the crowd below. Moments ago, Skye had radioed everyone, affirming Creel was in the area.

“Eyes on the target,” Asia said quietly over coms, training her sniper to Creel’s shiny, bald head. “Ready if needed.” She hoped it wasn’t needed. She didn’t know if these bullets would even work, honestly. No one did. Though they had received word from Mack that apparently Fitz had a lead on something that would stop him. Hearing that had made her heart buzz with...what was it? Pride? She wasn’t certain.

"That makes two of us," Trip said over coms, his own scope trained on their slowly moving target. They followed his movements till he sat down on a small park bench in the center of the plaza they were in, setting a small, metal briefcase beside him. Within it could only be one thing, the one thing they had been searching for. The Obelisk.

A man dressed in a sharp, fashionable style with well combed hair slowly sauntered up to the bench, sitting down on the opposite end from Creel and lighting a cigarette, puffing on it lightly.

"Skye, run facial recognition on that man. That's our guy, this deal is about to go down," Coulson ordered over coms. "And let it happen, I want to see how this goes."

"On it, sir," Skye confirmed from back at the van.

Asia kept her eye trained on Creel, but glanced occasionally at the man beside him. He, too, looked oddly familiar. Had she seen him before? Had he been there, back in that laboratory? It was possible. So many pieces of her memory were locked away from that time, and she wouldn't let them out even if she did have the key.

From behind her, she heard a small crunch on the gravel. Whirling around, she caught sight of Hunter. Rolling her eyes, she muttered to him, "Aren't you supposed to be in the truck?"

Without word, he quickly raised his hand, and she caught sight of the ICER he held. Body tensing, she made a quick dive out of the way as he fired, but it was too late. The ICER bullet struck her, and everything went black.

Chapter Text

Asia woke with a groan, the cool cement pulsing against her head, Trip leaning over her, extending a hand, a glower on his face. "You too?" she asked him, grabbing his hand and allowing him to pull her up.

"Yea, that motherfucker-" Trip began, but Asia cut him off, interrupting with her own sentence.

"He'll get what's coming for him. There's no point. He was avenging his people," Asia said in a hurry, looking at her feet. She got it, she understood it. She sure as hell didn't agree with it. The bump on her head from smacking against the concrete of the building roof would smart for a bit. If they did any combat training later this week, she was going to make sure she returned the favour. "How are the others?"

"Hmm," Trip for a moment. "Let's put it this way, you wouldn't want to be on the other end of May's gaze right about now." He cracked a wide grin.

Asia brushed herself off and looked up at him. "He shot Agent May?" She almost couldn't believe it. "What a complete idiot." That poor man was going to have his balls in a vice before he knew it. Or with his head on a plate. Either way, it wasn't going to be pretty on Hunter's end of things.

"Let's go, I'm sure they're waiting for us back at the van," she continued, leaning down to pick up her discarded rifle and carefully disassembling it. She didn't want to make May any more irate than she already was. And she wanted to get back home. Take a shower. Relax. Try not to beat up Lance Hunter. Try not to think about what had happened in the Lab last night. She needed to curl up in her nest and just unwind.

The ride in the van back to their disguised Quinn Jet was uncomfortably quiet. Everyone stuffed in the tiny, windowless van was feeling some sort of anger or resentment, whether it was at themselves or another member of their team. There was a lot of blame to be placed, but as always, Asia somehow wound up placing it upon herself. It was going to be a long ride home with nothing but her thoughts to keep her company.

—————————————————————————————————

Later that evening, once they were back at the base, Asia was strolling through the halls when she stopped in front of a window to the Lab, watching a scene unfold before her. May and Skye had stopped beside her, thinking perhaps for a moment they could coax her to go in, to talk to him, but decided against it once they saw what she saw. Fitz and Mack were in the Lab together, laughing, joking, getting work done. Though he was still stammering with his sentences and occasionally having to think about words, he was making progress, without her. He didn't need her around, something Asia had known all along.

"Well, at least he's talking to someone," Skye said quietly, following her sentence with a low sigh. "Talking doesn't seem to be a thing a lot of us do anymore," she prompted at Asia, hoping her teammate would speak up.

Asia glanced over her, then back at the Lab. "I don't need to talk, I need to work. I'm just fine, Skye," she said in a flat voice, her words coming out hollow. It was a lie, an easily spotted one. She did need to talk, she just didn't know how. She needed another evening spent with Jemma, sharing poor beers and eating something gluten free. There, far away in Jemma's undercover apartment, she felt safe. Because she protected Jemma's job and position regularly. She took out a threatening target almost every other day. Here, she couldn't talk. Not in the halls of the Playground. That's where her weakness lay, her team, the people she had gotten hurt. She couldn't let them be in that position again.

"If you ever are, you know we're here for you, Agent Monroe," May said, surprisingly showing a hint of emotion. Even the Cavalry had been affected by Asia's sudden withdrawal.

Asia stared into the Lab, thinking about things, letting May's words rest upon her shoulder and take away a tiny bit of the stress and restraint she held in them, letting the tension out just slightly. She couldn't help but wish she was the one in there, in the Lab with Fitz. She wanted to hear him say her name again, hear him laugh. But things had only gotten worse with his words when she had tried to help with his recovery. He would get mad at her, yell, knock things off the tables. She didn't know how to help him besides staying away. And it had apparently worked. "I know," she said, turning back to look at her two teammates. "I promise, if I need help, I'll ask for it. I'm perfectly fine." She turned and walked down the hall without another glance over her shoulder. She needed her music and a punching bag.

-------------------------------------------------------------

The next morning, Asia found herself on a familiar rooftop once more, her scope trained on the HYDRA building. She watched carefully through a set of binoculars as Jemma made her way down the street, bagel in hand, red hair flowing in the breeze. Just another day of work for Jemma, and another day of work for her. She would wait till Jemma was inside, the all clear given when she would give a wave to the secretary, and then she would take out her next target. Quick. Easy. Clean. She would spend her day partaking in and plotting future assassinations, and then that evening she would find herself curled up in Jemma's open windowsill oncemore.

She took a deep breath, centering herself, as she stared out the scope.

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Back at HQ, May was watching Skye's firearms training. They had been working on pistols for a while now, but she was thinking it was about time Skye got used to something a bit bigger. A handgun wasn't the only weapon she would ever be using after all. Skye turned around,a grin on her tan face as the target slid forward for them to see. Perfect aim on every hit.

"I imagined every one was Ward," she said smoothly, unable to keep that grin off her face.

May had to fight not to roll her eyes. "Don't imagine they're anything besides target. This practice is the last thing you want to be getting cocky about." And she meant it, earnestly. "You need to be able to be in control of the situation at all times. In the field, the targets won't always just stand there while you fire at their chest. You have to be ready at a moments notice, and ready to take your shot whenever is best. How is your heart rate?"

Skye looked down at a fit watch on her wrist, then held it up for May to see. "61 beats per minute, nice and steady." Skye was proud of herself and rightly so.

"Good. Because next, I want you to start getting used to this," May said, hefting up a sniper rifle, the same one Skye had seen Agent Monroe walking around with.

The brunette's eyes widened, and a small, timid smile spread over her cheeks. "That's the same rifle Asia uses...isn't it?"

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Asia reached up and carefully adjusted her sights just a notch, making the image of her target clearer. He was still too far from the HYDRA building. Coulson wanted them all to fall in front of the building, so she would make it happen. She watched his movements from three blocks up, watched him order a coffee from the local store, flirt with the barista. Watched him cross a crosswalk far too close to the numbers being at zero. She watched him text while he walked and check his watch a few times. She watched him do all the things Fitz couldn't do anymore because of what had happened. She let the anger boil through her veins. Being angry made it far easier to do what she was about to do.

She knew the weight of taking a life. She understood it. She understood this guy might have a family back home, a wife, a husband, kids. She understood all of it. But she also understood she had a job. And she understood that all members of HYDRA were a bunch of Nazis. She had to do what she had to do, and bury the rest of it down. She took a steady breath and adjusted her grip on her sniper rifle.

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"It is the same, yes," May replied, offering Skye a small smile. "Don't let it go to your head. But there will come a time you're going to need to take someone out. It's my job to make sure you're ready."

"I'll be ready, scout's honour," Skye mock saluted her, shifting the weight of the rifle on her shoulder. It was heavier than she imagined. She couldn't believe what it must be like lugging that thing around all day. She would have knots in her shoulders for sure.

While they were talking, Hunter and Mack came sauntering through, pushing a cart full of supplies for inventory. "Woah, woah, woah, that's quite the gun you've got there," Hunter nodded towards her, smiling innocently, as if he hadn't just ICEd her the day before.

"Careful, or she'll use you for target practice," May told him flatly. He was about to interrupt their training, break the cool head Skye had on her shoulders right now.

Hunter rolled his eyes before replying, "Once again, I am very, very sorry," he muttered. And he was. Sorry of having to say sorry so many bloody times. He understood their annoyance but honestly. It was getting a little old.

May flicked him a glance before looking at Skye, then turning to go replace the pistol in the weapons room.

"So, we've got a bit of a bet going on," Mack said, leaning on the cart and looking Skye over. "Over whether or not you went to the Academy."

"You mean like, SHIELD Academy? SciTech and that?" Skye scoffed. "Yea that's a no. Sort of a study abroad thing. Except the abroad meant the Bus and study meant learning to kick ass instead of hack secure government facilities."

Mack turned to Hunter and grinned. "Told ya. Enjoy the rest of inventory by yourself." He stuffed his hands into his pockets and lazily shuffled out of the door they had entered, glancing over his shoulder as he did so to shoot a wink back at the other two agents in the hall.

Hunter turned back to look at Skye, eying her up at down. "I've got another bet going, with myself." He paused, rubbing her thumb over the stubble on his chin. "In this line of work, you have to do some dangerous, difficult things. The kind of things that you'd do with a gun like that." He nodded towards the rifle she had resting on her should.

Skye furrowed her brow. "What, you want to know if I've ever...taken someone out?" The words hung heavily in the air.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

After shifting her hold on the weapon, Asia checked the sights again. Everything was looking good for her to take the shot. She inhaled deeply and held onto her breath, waiting for the right moment. And there it was, his head lining up in the T of her vision, ready for her, waiting. She closed her eyes for a moment and let the thoughts rush at her. She could see Leo in that chest, falling out of the plane, down, down into the ocean. She could feel each drag of the bastard of a businessman working for HYDRA drawing his blade across her skin. She could hear Leo in that hospital room. "I-I-I-I I re-remember what y-you said. I...I w-wanted. I wanted to,erm." He had paused, his face in pain as he tried to make his words function, tried to make his brain compute. "I-I-I. I l-love, erm, love you, too, um," he had stammered out and broke her heart with his words. She remembered the tears streaming down her face as she crawled into that heating vent and shuddered against the metal, begging for the world to curse her instead of him, hurt her instead of him.

She opened her eyes and gazed down the sight. She squeezed her finger on the trigger and the gunfire echoed across her brain.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Not once?" Hunter stared at Skye in what appeared to be disbelief. "No one, ever? In all your time at SHIELD?"

Skye set the rifle down on a rack and crossed her arms uncomfortably. "No, I mean. Not that I know of. Not intentionally."

Hunter let out a low whistle. "Well, word for the wise," he said, grabbing his cart and pushing it down the hall, before calling out over his shoulder. "It doesn't get any easier."

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Asia stared down her sights at the red splash where her target's head had once been. A coffee spilled on the ground, glasses flung into the street. Jemma, safely out of view, inside, unaware. She would hear of it soon enough, Asia was sure. She stared at the body still for a moment, unmoving, scared to even breathe, thinking about his life, what it might have been. Then she closed her eyes, and remembered it all over again. She stood up.

She picked up her gun.

Dissembled it.

Looked over her shoulder one more time.

And ran.

Chapter Text

There was already a candle in the window when Asia arrived at Jemma’a apartment, which seemed odd. Jemma almost never left work early, and Asia had planned on beating her home today. Cautiously, she quietly climbed the fire escape, making sure not to make a sound. She had her ICER drawn when she peeled through the window, but was relieved to see Coulson sitting at Jemma’a dining room table, sketching on a notepad, bags of groceries surrounding him.

She tapped twice on the glass and waved once she got his attention. Last thing she wanted was to get shot by her director because she snuck up on him. Lifting up the glass, she climbed into the apartment.

“Agent Monroe. I’m surprised I beat you here,” Coulson greeted her as she made her way over to the table, grabbing a bag of groceries to put away. She knew where Jemma kept all her food, how she liked it organized alphabetically in her cupbords(by type of food, then brand).

“I took some time on my way, grabbed a coffee, did the whole ‘casual’ thing,” she explained with a shrug. The very last thing she needed was anyone to stop her and ask her what was in her backpack. She tried to seem as much like a college student as possible, even though she would never really know what that was like. Sometimes she still thought about it, but she knew it was never really in the cards.

“Makes sense,” Coulson said, closing his sketch book and standing up to help her. Quietly, they put away the food, Asia fixing his sorting mistakes silently, knowing Jemma would get incredibly stressed if she got home and her cupboards were out of order. Coulson noticed, watching his younger Agent quietly fix things without a word.

Once they were finished, Asia pulled open the fridge and grabbed two beers, handing one to Coulson and cracking one open herself, before walking over to the window and reclining inside the frame in her usual, relaxed position, feet propped up in the sill, sipping from the brown bottle lightly.

“So, I wanted to say, nice work today,” Coulson said, sipping from his beer and studying Agent Monroe carefully. “Quick, clean, efficient. And a damn good shot.”

“Thank you sir,” Asia replied, acknowledging his praise. “I try to be all those things in regards to work.” She said slowly, her words coming out flat. Coulson couldn’t hear the sense of emotion, passion, she used to speak with. It was as if her body was experiencing a drought and all her feelings had become dried up.

“I have to ask,” he continued on. “Only because I know this past year has been difficult, and I want to keep my team safe. Are you doing okay?” He watched her carefully, waiting for a response, for her body language to give her away. For anything to show she was still in there, somewhere, and not too far gone.

For a moment, Asia froze, except for the small movement of her index finger repeatedly tapping against her glass bottle. Her heart had dropped into her stomach, her stomach jumping into her throat. She felt all sorts of out of place. She shut her eyes for a moment, recalibrating her senses before speaking. “I’m okay,” she replied in confirmation of his question. “I just want to keep the team safe, too.”

“I know you do, especially after everything that happened last year. SHIELD has been forced to change, and you changed with it. You’re very adaptable,” he dropped the compliment before continuing on. “But that doesn’t mean you have to lose a part of yourself.” He took a sip from his beer, setting in on a coaster and getting up from the table once more, moving into the kitchen and starting food prep for dinner. He wasn’t sure about her, but he was starved.

“I know,” she replied quietly. And she did know, but part of her still felt the need to hold back. She was always the one getting people hurt. If she removed herself from the equation, the odds became incrementally smaller.

Suddenly, Jemma stepped around the corner of the kitchen, gun raised. “Goodness sir,” she exclaimed, lowering her weapon once she saw that it was just Coulson and Asia. “Leave a note next time, you nearly frightened the life out of me. I might have shot you!” Asia almost laughed into her beer at the thought.

“I’ll leave a note once you start stocking actual food in your fridge,” he gave her a knowing look as the pan he had on the stove sizzled. “I took the liberty of changing that. Picked up some food. Agent Monroe made sure your cupboards were perfect.” Asia nodded from her perch in the window, silently sipping her drink.

Jemma smiles at Asia, moving forward towards her. “I’m happy you’re back, it had been a few days, I was beginning to worry something bad had happened.”

Asia rolled her eyes, “we both know those guys you’re currently working for are idiots. They would never catch me, you have nothing to worry about,” she said, comforting her friend with her sarcasm. “Also, Trip,” She said in a lower tone, “sends his love. And this.” She reached into her backpack and pulled out a big, grey, crew neck sweater and handed it to Jemma.

A big smile crossed her face and she grabbed the shirt, pressing it to her face and inhaling deeply, breathing in Trip’s scent. She needed to go back to base soon, she missed him terribly. “Thank you,” she mouthed to Asia, slipping the sweater on over her work clothes, then moved to sit at her table, pulling some paperwork out of her bag. “Sir,” she said, grabbing Coulson’s attention. “Do you remember Donnie Gill from the SHIELD Academy?”

Coulson stopped his cooking for a moment, glancing over his shoulder at her, before turning back to the stove. “Of course I do. Why?”

“HYDRA has taken special interest in him,” Jemma explained to her two coworkers. “They say....well, they aren’t just saying anymore. Based on his DNA, Donnie has somehow contracted powers. They’re having me look into his DNA sequancing.” Even saying the words left a bitter taste on her tongue. Performing the tasks she had been assigned today were even worse.

Coulson removed the food he was cooking from ththe stove and began to dish it out onto plates for the three of them. “That’s...quite the development. I can’t honestly say I expected that one.”

“I believe it happened during that electrical storm,” Jemma continued on, thanking Coulson as he set down a plate in front of her, motizoning Asia to come join them at the table, which she did. “Combined with that sort of power surge, as well at the machine causing the storm... that’s my best guess until I do more research.”

“You’ve done a good job, Jemma,” Coulson nodded at her, as they ate in silence. Once finished, Coulson turned to Agent Monroe. “Can you to prep the jet? It’s on the roof. I want to speak with Agent Simmons alone.”

“Of course,” Asia nodded, grabbing her bag. Suddenly, Jemma jumped up from the table and pulled Asia into a quick hug. It took Asia off guard for a moment, but she wrapped her arms tightly around her friend and gave her a quick squeeze. Then, with a small wave, she was out the window and climbing for the roof in the night.

———————————————————————————————————

The next minute, Asia sat in the debrief room with May, Mack, Fitz, Hunter and Trip. Her skin felt like it was itching just being this near to Fitz. It was nerve racking. She couldn't look at him, in fact, she was looking at absolutely anywhere but him. And it was obvious.

"Alright team, we have to take this event incredibly seriously," Coulson began the brief, throwing a video of Donny Gill, in what looked like a prison getup, using his bare hands to freeze water in mid air. "Our belief is that HYDRA is out to obtain weapons, but in this case, the weapon is a person." They all stared at the video for a moment, of Donny, in the Sandbox, where he had been sent after that memorable trip to SciTech Academy.

All Asia could remember was Fitz grabbing her hand to pull her through the crowd, and feeling like the luckiest human being on the planet. She shook her head to make the image disappear. She couldn't let herself think back to that time.

"Looks like he came out a bit differently than he went into the Sandbox," May observed, nodding towards the video.

"Yes, we believe the electrical surge that occurred during the storm made Donny become...enhanced," Coulson explained to the team. "We have reliable sources providing us with information that Gill has found himself on HYDRA's most wanted list. We are aiming to prevent that."

"Sources?" Fitz pipped up. "Um, who, um, who are our sources?" He questioned, a finger raised at his lower lip, rubbing slowly across it.

Asia glanced up at a Coulson. She knew his source was Jemma, one of the people Fitz missed the most. She knew their Director would have to tread lightly, and she wanted to see his response.

“Fitz, as Director, I can’t give away all that information. It’s a source whom I trust, and that’s the most I can lay out,” Coulson replied evenly, his gaze flickering over to Asia momentarily. “What I can say, is that we need to bring Donny in before he gets captured or recruited by HYDRA. Fitz, you knew him, got the closest to him on our mission, do you have any intel you could provide us with?”

And suddenly all eyes were on the scientist, and all he could feel was their weight, their pressure. Pressure for him to do well, give the good answers. And he felt like the weight of the world was coming down on him. He reflexively looked to Asia, wanting to search for her help. She was the only one who couldn’t look him back in the eyes.

Chapter Text

Hi all! I just wanted to touch base with all of you avid readers and say thank you all, for your reads, your views, your comments. When I started writing this fic series, never in a million years did I ever think people would enjoy it as much as they do!

That being said, I’m thinking of starting a collection of Leia/FitzRoe (ship name is still tbd folks so get your votes in) pieces that you all can contribute to (if you want, of course). Let me know in the comments if you would be interested in reading and/or contributing!!

Love you all

Chapter Text

Asia sat in the Bus, looking out the window as the flew over the ocean. It would be a quick flight, she knew it, to their target. She looked at the rifle beside her. She had killed plenty, never in front of the team. Today, there was a high chance that would all change. She sighed, looking back out the window as they began their decent, cloaking still activated. HYDRA was probably here already, ahead of them, attempting to capture Donnie. And it was their job to stop them.

As they were landing, Agent Monroe kept her eyes out, watching in mild surprise as they flew low over a ship surrounded by ice, frozen into the bay. That didn't seem right, or normal. So they must be in the proper place. Ice was climbing up the sides of the ship, clinging to it angrily. Asia shifted uncomfortably in her seat. Something felt off. A queasy feeling in the pit of her stomach began to grow.

Suddenly, Coulson's voice interrupted her thoughts, cutting clear through her comms. "Agent Monroe, the others are waiting for you in the bay. It's jump time." Something about hearing those words brought her back to her center. It was time to jump out of this damn plane.

Asia had always liked skydiving. The rush of air, the feeling of free falling, of being almost out of control of the events which would happen. The science of it. It was beautiful, and exhilarating. The first couple times she ever jumped, she felt like she was on top of the entire world. Although, the time she went through a cloud was a tad lackluster. Very damp. Not the most ideal, and yet, still amazingly fun. She could feel her blood pumping, just thinking about it. She stepped into the cargo bay and grabbed a shute pack from the wall it was hanging on, looking at her team with a small hint of a grin on her face.

“Wow, look at that, the Renegade has graced us with her presence!” Hunter said sarcastically, but surprisingly shot her a wink. “And the Ice Queen even has a smile on her face. What have we done to earn this?”

Asia glanced over her shoulder, twisting to make sure her gun was secured enough to make the plunge. “We’re jumping today. I like jumping,” she replied flatly. But she couldn’t help but smile to each other as she faced away from her team. She would let herself have this small moment of happiness, but privately. Still, a feeling of dread was still pooling in her stomach, and she couldn’t quite put her finger on why.

As she glanced up, she caught Coulson’s eye. He had been watching her closely. The smile immediately shifted to her usual, flat lined facade. The moment was gone. It was time to jump.

“Remember,” Coulson announced loudly as the cargo door slowly opened. “Donnie Gill is a gifted now. He could be valuable for either side of this fight. Let’s make sure he sees the light, bring him home safe.” The crew nodded in understanding, then stepped near the edge.

Asia adjusted her straps one last time, waited till May had jumped and was in the clear, then dived over the edge.

The air hit her like a wall at first, then she slid into the flow of the fall like water dripping lazily down a wall. It was almost an art, to skydive like this. She was lucky she got to do this for work. She wished she could do it every day. The sky was bright blue and soft like a robin’s egg. The sun was dancing on the ocean waves. Everything was perfect, aside from the frozen boat.

Shaking away the nostalgia and enjoyment, Asia fixed herself on their landing point and did what she was supposed to do.

When they landed and made their way to the boat, it was clear HYDRA had beat them there. There was a chopper waiting nearby, black with that ugly logo painted in a deep green on the side. Asia glowered over at it as May radioed Coulson to advise him they weren’t alone in this ship. If it hadn’t been for the boat, they would have sensed it regardless. Everything was quiet, far too quiet.

May turned to Hunter, giving him a face. “You’re with me on this one,” she she turned to Skye and Asia, with a much more relaxed look on her face. “Be our eyes in the sky. Get up there,” she nodded towards a space above where the captain’s deck would be, “and watch the exit. Use lethal. If they get past us, make sure they don’t get past you.”

Asia and Skye nodded in understanding, then the team split. The two searched quietly for a ladder until they were finally able to make their way up.

“This is my first time using this rifle out of the shooting range,” Skye admitted, a slight hint of nerves in her voice. “I mean it’s fine, I’ve been fine in there. It’ll be fine out here, too.”

Asia glanced at her teammate as she carefully, methodically assembled her rifle. She could do it without looking at this point, but she liked to take her time. “You’re going to be fine, Skye.” She said pointedly. Her friend still looked worried, despite Asia’s words. Sighing, the brunette scooter over and carefully patted Skye’s shoulder twice, before shooting away. “You have nothing to worry about. I’m right here if anything goes wrong.” She finished assmebling her rifle and set up the stand so she was overlooking the exit door. It was time to wait.

—————————————————————————————————————————————

Asia was watching the doors quietly when she heard gunfire over coms. Her ears perked up and her body shifted ever so slightly into a more ready position. The action was about to happen.

“Agent May, Agent Hunter, what am I hearing?” Coulson barked over their coms, his voice echoing in her ears.

“Agent May shot me!” Hunter’s voice came through, pained and angry. Asia glanced over at Skye, brows raised. That was an interesting, odd development.

“Coulson,” May’s voice cut through, cutting off Hunter. “Agent Simmons is on site. I repeat, Simmons is on site. Do we maintain cover?”

Asia froze, time feeling like it was moving like a slow molasses drip. Jemma was here, in this place, with HYDRA. Immediately, Asia felt her protective nature heightening. She needed to make sure she was safe. Jemma, who hated seeing Asia’s “work,” hated seeing the carnage and death, was going to have to witness it. But Asia was damn sure she would see the scientist getting out without a scratch.

“Yes, maintain her cover,” Coulson replied, but Asia almost didn’t hear him. She was too focused on that door, waiting to see who would emerge first.

“What about Gill?” Hunter asked over coms, after the sound of brief gunfire as they endgames HYDRA inside the ship. “It appears he’s been swayed to the dark side, what do you want us to do?”

The line when quiet for a moment, before Coulson spoke with heavy words. “If you can’t take him in, you take him out. We can’t afford to let HYDRA use him as a weapon. Not if we can stop it.”

Asia glanced over at Skye, whose face was white at his words. She was fairly certain the other agent had never killed a person before. Quietly, letting her words carry to her teammate on the shallow breeze, she spoke. “Deep breaths, don’t worry about it. I’ll handle the kill shot if we need to take it. Just keep. Jemma. Safe.” She punctuated her last words very carefully, trying to express to Skye just how important this was to her.

Suddenly, the door opened, and Jemma was running outside with Donnie and another man in heavy HYDRA protective garb over a grey suit. Asia swiveled her gun to track them as they moved towards the railing. The man stopped, grabbing Donnie’s shoulder hard and yanking him to a stop, saying something slowly to the boy. Asia saw Jemma’s face blanch. Something very bad was about to happen. Asia kept her scope on Gill as he walked like a robot over to the railing of the boat, slamming his hands down on it. Ice began to ripple out, spreading down the ship, across the deck. Asia took a deep breath.

And her finger pulled tight on the trigger. Her bullet tore through ththe air, through Donnie’s skull. One moment he was there, the next his body flung over the railing like a rag doll. Asia stood up, staring at the spot where his body had just been, blood splattered on the ground, shining on the ice. Blood had splashed onto Jemma and the other man as well. They both whirled to look up at Asia, who was still standing in shock, staring out at the ocean.

She had just killed a kid. Well, he wasn’t really a kid, but it felt the same.

Beside her, Skye stayed true to her word and kept Jemma’s cover. Their eyes had met and Skye turned her scope to aim close to the other man, firing a shot that allowed Jemma to push him out of the way, to appear as if she was saving his life as the two ran towards their aircraft.

Skye turned to Asia, seeing the pained look on her face. “Asia, come on. Jemma is safe, let’s go. You did the right thing, now let’s go!” Her voice was urgent, but she knew even in her frozen state, Monroe would follow an order.

Asia quickly put her gun away and followed Skye down to the main deck of the ship, staying far away from the railing. She couldn’t help but think that this was what she had been dreading all day, what her body was trying to warn her about. It had been all leading up to that moment, where she took the kill shot. The moment where she took Donnie’s life. She couldn’t help but think something about that moment was going to drastically change the rest of her life as she knew it.

Chapter Text

Asia had felt completely off sense the extraction mission gone wrong. Coulson hadn't sent her out in the field, she hadn't seen Jemma since, she didn't know if she was okay. All she could think of was the bullet between Donnie Gill's eyes and the red blood splashing across Jemma's black HYDRA jacket, the look of utter astonishment and sadness in her eyes. She wanted to check on her friend, but the director wouldn't permit her to leave. Not until their next mission, which had nothing to do with checking on her friend and everything to do with jamming her onto the Bus and flying them off to a sunny, beachy local where some high and mighty rich guys were throwing a party. Granted, it was a valid party--there had been reports of an 084. Though Coulson was being very hush hush at just why this ancient, religious painting was considered an 084, aside from the fact it have carvings on it, but it was the first interesting find the team had had in a while. So while Asia missed the comforts of her little nest she had made for herself, she followed orders nonetheless and boarded the plane, dressed casually in extra soft sweatpants that were tight around the ankles and a loose hanging, blue tank top.

Only May and Coulson would be leaving the Bus for this one.

Hunter had done some recon to obtain details of the mission from a woman attending the party, which he wouldn't shut the hell up about since it involved sleeping with his target, which he was incredibly proud of. Every now and then he would walk by where Asia sat, nestled up in on one of the couches beside a briefing room, staring out the window as they flew south of the border, and shoot her a wink. She would roll her eyes at him, which she was all the interaction he was looking for. Believe it or not, he was starting to pull her back out of her shell, one annoying little phrase at a time.

"Asia, come join us!" Skye said from the briefing room where she stood in front of the holo-table, typing away at her laptop. Asia could just make her out between the fractions of bullet riddled glass. They still hadn't replaced it, they didn't really have the time or money, but for Asia it was a constant reminder of everything she had messed up, the time she hadn't saved her team. The time Leo....she couldn't even think about that. Fitz, she corrected herself mentally. She had to call him Fitz now, no more Leo, no more intimacy. Because this shattered glass was a sign, a reminder, of what happened when she let people get too close to her. She was volatile, she was a time bomb. Everything she touched shattered in the end.

But she stood up nonetheless, the joints in her knees cracking as she did so, making her feel old. She brushed her long hair back over her shoulder--she was do for a cut honestly--and stepped quietly into the room, standing next to Hunter, across the table from Skye and Trip. Mack was also in the room, aside to Hunter, giving her a look which she could only describe as 'distaste.' She didn't blame the man, she felt the same way about herself. He was close to Fitz, they were friends now. She understood that he would hate her for the one side of the story which he knew. She hated herself knowing both sides, and he hadn't even delved that deep.

"Mack just dropped off May and Coulson, tickets I picked up seemed to work perfectly, and they're in!" Skye explained to Asia, finishing tapping on her laptop, before touching her ear. "Sir, coms are up."

"Copy, Agent Skye," Coulson's voice echoed about the room. "We're inside the building and assessing the camera situation as we speak. How heavy is the security here?"

"Still getting a full scope on their coverage for tonight but it's going to be pretty well supplied," Skye replied, still tapping away. "I'll be sending a full brief of the coverage once I have obtained it. You know, I could still come join you guys...be your on location eyes and ears. I could get you access to every room in that house without breaking a sweat." Asia gave her a look. It was clear Skye was itching to get out in the field again.

"Your offer is appreciated, Agent Skye," Coulson replied over coms. "But we're keeping it to just the two agents. Easier to get in and out, less noise. Less chance of being caught." Skye frowned but was happy her director wasn't there to see it. "Now we have to get back to business. Finding this painting. It might be the link between the Obelisk and Garrett's writing."

Suddenly, over comms, an overly loud, overly obnoxious laugh could be heard. It crackled around the room so loudly that Asia's hands immediately flew to cover her ears. "What is that?" She asked, wincing. "It sounds like someone in physical pain."

"That's Agent May," Coulson replied, "And she probably is in very much pain, on the inside." Asia had never heard May make a sound even remotely close to that before. "Anyways, we're going to go radio silent for a bit. Maintain our cover. We'll be back on if we need anything or have anything to report." And with a fizzle, the line went dead. Asia looked up, meeting Skye's gaze. That was new.

"Did they really just do what I think they did?" Skye asked with a twinge of annoyance. "That's not exactly following protocol. Or being very safe."

"Well sweetness, hate to break it to you, but he is the director," Hunter pointed out. "He gets to make the rules, and we get to sit on the Bus until he tells us otherwise."

Asia turned and looked up at him, silently, cocking her head to the side. Lance Hunter giving a lecture on following rules? Not likely. He probably just wanted to get a dig in at Skye. See if he could rile her up some more. It made Asia want to elbow him in the gut. Maybe the old Asia would have, but not her.

"Interesting to hear someone go from talking about following rules one minute to describing the wildly unnecessary fling he had the next," Skye crossed her arms over her flannel covered chest.

"Oh geez, come on now, don't take it too harshly," Hunter frowned. "If I wanted someone to always take jabs at me, I'd still be married."

Mack let out a long sigh, rolling his eyes. "One way or another, this always comes back up. Can we just not with the marriage story today?" He asked his friend.

Asia raised her eyebrows once more, sliding over to stand next to Skye, leaning forward on the holo-table as Skye spoke the words she was thinking, "Oh no no, I think we very much can with this story today." Skye said eagerly.

Hunter sighed, staring wistfully off into the distance. Asia had never seen such a soft expression on his face. "I met her unexpectedly. On a spring night, on a pier. She was gazing out into the choppy waters, the moonlight shining onto her pale face. I literally thought I had met an angel. Literally." he punctuated the word, taking the time to look both of the girls in the eye. "But her innocent look, let me tell you, it was all just a cruel trick."

Suddenly, interrupting the story, the comms fizzled back to life, Coulson's voice cutting through the room. "Guys? We've got an interesting development on our end."

"Well, since you've decided to grace us with your presence once more, you might as well tell us what it is," Skye said dryly.

"Don't sound so glum. Talbot's decided to join the party," Coulson replied quickly.

"Talbot...like military man Talbot?" Asia asked, brow furrowing. That was an interesting development. One they definitely hadn't planned for.

"What the hell is that psycho doing at a fancy party?" Hunter asked, the same look of confusion mirrored on his face.

"That's what we're trying to figure out," Coulson replied. "But I've made a call. Our cover could easily be blown now, and while he seems alright currently, I know he can get a little trigger happy. We're not going to wait till later to get the painting. We're going in now. Have the Bus ready for our return."

Trip disappeared from the room momentarily, heading out to make sure everything was ready for a quick departure. Just in case things took a turn for the worse, it was always good to be ready. Asia watched him go, sadly. He made her feel less pressure being in a room with so many people.

Suddenly, Coulson's voice burst through the comms again. "Guys, there's no painting here. It's gone."

"Could it be a mistake?" May asked. "Maybe they relocated it to a different room, as a distraction?"

Skye began quickly typing away on her comuter, then slammed her hand down with a shout of frustration. "Fuck, no it's not a mistake," she replied. "Records were just updated. The picture was acquired this morning by...you guessed it. The United States Government, courtesy of one General Glenn Talbot." She leaned down on the table with a sigh.

"Something tells me we're going to need to have a private meeting with him," Coulson replied, clearly disappointed.

"Something tells me we need to get the hell out of here," May cut in with annoyance. "We're about to have at least ten guards on our asses."

"She's probably right," Coulson replied. "We'll radio in 15 minutes when we're in the clear. If you haven't heard from us by then, assume the worst. Follow protocol." And then the comms went dead again. The team could only assume they two agents were on their way out of the party, but who knew what was awaiting them? All they could do was wait. Wait and hope for good news.

"Well, I'm going to get researching then," Skye said, starting to type away once more, looking for something, anything that gave them a further clue as to what exactly was so important about this painting, how it may have wound up with possible alien writing on it.

"Such a go-getter. That's way too much work when we're not getting anything," Hunter said with a yawn. "I prefer being the lazy type." He leaned against the wall, pretending to take a nap.

Skye snorted, "'Lazy' isn't the word I was thinking of to describe you."

Asia rolled her eyes, "She's right," she replied with a dry, sarcastic tone, shooting a look at Hunter that, if he didn't know better, was more playful than it was annoyed. Surprised him so much he actually straitened up and grinned.

"Maybe all that laziness you think you have is what drove your wife away," Skye said with a hidden roll of her eyes.

Mack slapped his hands on his legs. "Skye, come on! You brought it back up. Now we have to hear him go on, and on, and on, again" he groaned goodnaturedly.

"Umm, no," Hunter said holding up one finger because he was damn ready to make a point. "That had nothing to do with it. Our relationship failed because it was inter-species. I am a perfectly normal human where as she is a demon from hell disguised in the body of a human. That is why it didn't work."

"If you couldn't tell, he doesn't like her," Mack pointed out. "'Hate' would be the most descriptive term. I've never seen someone feel like they hate someone so badly."

"Hey now! It is very valid, my feelings towards her," Hunter glared at his friend. "You don't understand, you never married her. You never got trapped in that." Mack didn't say anything, he just rolled his eyes. He had been through this talk with Hunter too many times to keep arguing about it with him. It always ended in the same way. Hunter thinking he was right.

Skye sighed, twisting a strand of hair around her finger. "At least you got away from your ex. My is like the monster under my bed. He's literally the bad guy in our basement." She shook her head, looking up at Hunter. "And that sucks some major dick. Especially when our boss wants me to interrogate him."

Hunter let out a low whistle. "Yea mate, that is rather unfortunate. Bloody bad luck there." Then he turned to face Asia. "And what about Miss Renegade here. Whose the ex who got you this bent out of shape?"

Asia's face immediately drained of colour and she looked down at her hands, hair falling in front of her face. Skye's face quickly turned red with anger. "Hunter, what sort of shit question is that? Leave her the hell alone, Jesus Christ. Why are you always so nosy?"

"Fuck mate, sorry," he glanced at Asia. "You don't have to leash your dog on me every time I say something you don't like."

Asia looked up and put a hand on Skye's shoulder, telling her to stand down. She could tell that her friend was about to say or do something even worse. "Skye, I'm fine. Hunter...I did this to myself, okay? And I'm fine so, I'm not even really sure what you mean." Denial, always a good method. She tried to put a smile on her face, but out of the corner of her eye, she could see Fitz standing in the doorway, watching them all. She couldn't get her heart to stop beating out of her chest. She took two deep breaths, and when she looked back up, he was gone.

Suddenly, comms buzzed to life once more. "I'm on my way to the Bus," Coulson said. "May will meet us momentarily. See you all soon."

After he arrived, Coulson asked to speak with Skye and Trip privately, which Asia had no objections with. She stayed tucked into a couch in the living space, sipping a cup of tea, watching Hunter and Mack. Suddenly, May came marching into the room, wearing a glittery silver dress, big earrings, and big heels.

"Where's Coulson?" She asked glancing at all three of them, but the glances were only fleeting. Asia sat up straighter in her seat, it felt like she was being scrutinized, a feeling she didn't much enjoy.

"They're in the brief room," Mack said, nodding down the hallway. "Is there anything we can do?"

May shook her head, "No, I just need to speak with Coulson. I'll see you later." And she was off, marching down the hall, sparkly heels clicking with each step she took.

Asia frowned. Something seemed very off. May seemed...nervous? And that was never a good sign. May was never nervous, not in all the years Asia had known her. Or at least, not to the extent that others could see it. A bubble of anxiety started to grow inside Asia's stomach as she squished back into the pocket of her seat. Mere minutes later, she could hear their footsteps coming, and she straightened up again. Coulson and May breezed by at a quickened pace, disappearing down the stairs and into the cargo bay. Then, Skye and Trip entered the command center, standing around the holo-table. Asia got up and moved to stand between them.

"What's going on?" She asked quietly. "They seemed...rushed." She bit her lower lip. She could just feel something not being right. She didn't like the air of nerves floating around the room.

"Ah, Tic Tac, calm down. It ain't no thing," Trip grinned down at her, trying to calm her clear agitation. "They're just doing a business meeting with Talbot. He's agreed to let them see the painting. Everything is fine." Asia swallowed, trying hard to believe him.

Suddenly, from above them, the lights flickered.

"What the..." Hunter began, trailing off as the lights returned. Then, the room dipped into blackness and a sound distinctly like a computer powering down echoed throughout the room. It was so black, Asia couldn't even see her hand in front of her face. Thankfully, the dim red lights of the emergency power began to glow around them, lighting up the room ever so slightly. Alarms started to go off.

Mack stood up, tapping the table a couple times. "Cargo ramp is closing, vents are shutting down, what the fuck is going on? Emergency doors are all sealed...this plane seems to think we just landed in the middle of the fucking ocean."

Hunter glanced out the window, "Well, hate to break it to you mate, but we're still very much on dry land. What the bloody hell is going on?"

From down the hall, they could hear rapid footsteps and suddenly Fitz appeared in the doorway. "We're, um, we're in trouble!" He said, out of breath.

"Fitz, do you know whats going on?" Skye asked, closing her laptop lid. "Did something malfunction?"

"Erm, no," he replied, running his hands through his hair. "I think that, um, somebody, somebody...we've, um, we've been..." he looked over at Mack, a panicked look in his face as he tried the words.

"Sabotaged," Mack finished for him. "You think someone sabotaged us?"

Fitz nodded, moving rapidly around the room until he stopped by a panel in the wall. Tapping it twice, it popped open. "Here! Right here!" he pointed in, stepping back so they could all see a glowing, circular device. It was embedded deeply inside their electronics, tentacles running into every open space, as it took over the systems of the Bus. "This is, um, this caused it. It's based off of...it's based. SHIELD tech. It's made from SHIELD tech. And if we don't fix it..." he pressed his palms against his head, grimacing. "We'll all explode. Boom." He moved his hands like an explosion for emphasis.

Asia felt like the air in her lungs was being ripped away. She couldn't breathe. What breaths she did have came shallow and quick, not giving her brain nearly enough oxygen to function. Trapped. Trapped on the Bus. She had been here before, trapped, kept prisoner, waiting to be tortured. Fitz brushed past her, hardly even noticing she was there, and began tapping at the table, pulling up an image of the Bus.

"This is...it spread through the plane like, like...like a sickness," he explained, pointing out the already compromised systems, how it had slowly spread from one to the next.

"So it's like a computer virus. The Bus got the Trojan," Skye said, trying mostly to explain it to herself. "What's going next?"

"The nav systems," Trip said, running back into the room. Asia hadn't even seen him leave, she had been so focused on breathing. "We can't take off, we're grounded."

"Wait, wait," Mack said, looking at the image of the Bus, "Nav systems, stabilizers, monitors, lights, avionics....next is....the wings. Where the fuel is..." a look of sheer dread slipped over his face as he looked worriedly out the window. "We've got to stop this, Turbo, and we've got to stop it now."

"Yea, yea, no. We can do it," Fitz said with a nod. "Erm, Skye, repair the monitor, um, and the, uh, get us an internet connection again. Trip, erm, work on the avionics and nav. Asia, Mack, stabilizers and try and get the cargo door open please. Um, Hunter, erm...come with me," Fitz said, quickly barking out orders to get the Bus fixed. Last thing he wanted was to be blown to bits. Every agent took off in opposite directions. Every agent except Agent Monroe. She was clutching the sides of her head, taking quick, shallow breaths. One of her hands was yanking on a thick chunk of hair, the pain of that releasing the tension racing across her head. She felt like her skin was squeezing her in tight. Trapped. They were all trapped. And she was living every moment of it over again. Every moment of the worst day of her life. Fitz and Jemma were dropped out of this plane. Ward captured her on this plane. Garrett stared at her for hours on this plane. She felt like she was in hell.

Fitz was leading Hunter out of the room when he turned and stopped, grabbing Hunter's arm. "She's, um, she's not fine," he said quietly. "She says she's fine but she's not. She, um, she needs someone to help her breathe and I-I-I can't do that for her. I can't. Help her, um, please." He said, nodding towards Asia.

Hunter looked at him, giving him an odd look, but when he glanced at Asia, all he could feel was sadness, maybe a small bit of pity. He had friends who had this sort of anxiety, brought on by PTSD. He stepped back into the room, walking carefully towards the other agent. "Hey, Monroe. It's me, Hunter, not here to hurt you, or make fun of you. I'm not really making fun of you, when I tease you. Just trying to get you to lighten up. Um, anyways. I'm going to hug you quick, okay? Please, dear God, don't punch me in the throat." He said quietly. Then he wrapped the shaking agent into a tight hug, using the pressure to help alleviate the stress she was feeling over her entire body. It took a moment, but slowly, her breath started to become deeper, more even. "See, there you go," Hunter said, stepping back, putting a hand on her shoulder and giving it a quick squeeze. "We're not going to die in here. Fitz has a plan and he's bloody brilliant. Now go patch something together, while I go help him. We'll be just fine."

And he was right. There were just fine, and Fitz was bloody brilliant. Because they had worked together as a team, it was fixed, and just in time for Coulson and May to arrive back, looking exhausted as ever, and a little worse for the ware.

"What happened to you?" Skye asked, almost laughing at how out of place May's hair was.

"That's another story for another day," Coulson said. "Let's just get back home, fast," he nodded towards Trip, who nodded in turn and headed off towards the cockpit. Asia joined him, sitting in the seat beside him as they flew through the night air. She didn't feel like flying tonight, just watching.

"We did a good thing today," She said quietly, when it was just the two of them. "We worked really well as a team. We saved ourselves."

"You're right, Tic Tac," Trip said, looking over at her and smiling. "Things aren't as bad here as you thought they were, now are they?"

"Maybe not," she mused. "I still want a little space, but maybe it's not that bad anymore. Maybe I can handle it all a little better." She thought long and hard about it. It was hard being so close to her team again, but she was starting to feel like maybe it would be okay. Maybe if she was just a little friendlier to a couple of them. Maybe if she let herself smile or laugh once a day.

"Maybe not bad enough that you can stop sleeping in an air vent?" Trip raised an eyebrow at her in question. "Because I know you think you're being sneaky, but you're not. I know you moved into there and made yourself a little nest, but I think it's time you fly home, Tic Tac."

Asia glanced out the window. Maybe, just maybe he was right.

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Back at the Playground, Asia was surprised to find herself bringing a duffle bag up to her nest with her. Trip's words had sunk in with her, they had hit her hard. She knew he was right, but she knew if she did this, it would mean change. It would mean she would have to let people back in again, even if it was just a little bit. She knew that would make Skye very happy, and perhaps that was part of the reason she felt she had to do it. She slowly packed up her things in the bag and made her way down the hall, moving slowly past the Lab.

From within, she could hear Hunter, Mack, and Leo. "Cheers mate," Hunter was saying. "You really saved the day. And that deserves a fucking drink."

"Amen to that," Mack said in reply and she could hear them both set beers down on the counter. It must be nice, to celebrate like that. To let your guard down, she mused. Maybe she could start to do it again, start to relax.

"Um yea so," She heard Fitz interject, as she slowly, quietly walked past the light that shone through the open door. "I wanted to talk about my, um, my ex, too. I guess she's not, uh, not really my ex. But she told me she loved me and then I was dropped to the bottom of the ocean. When I got better I told her I loved her too and she, um, I don't know. She thinks she breaks everything she touches and you call her the ice queen, and she murders people on a daily basis and won't even look at me so yea, I'd say things are pretty much over for us, she's pretty terrible, too, just like your ex," the words tumbled out of Fitz's mouth like a running river. Maybe she wasn't terrible, not really, but saying it made him feel like he fit in.

"Well, mate, she sounds like a fucking wanker," Hunter replied, raising his beer. "To moving on, as far and as fast as we can."

Fitz raised his as well, "Right, to moving on." Suddenly, there was a sound from the door to the room, and all three men looked up.

The bag had slipped out of Monroe's hand, dropping to the ground with a light thump. She hadn't even realized it until the three men were all staring at her, the look on Hunter's face clearly apparent that he had put two and two together, and he knew the ex that had made her this way, and saw what she had done to him in turn.

She blanched, looking at Fitz with such hurt in her eyes, before turning and running off down the hall towards her own room. Maybe she had left her nest, but she sure wasn't about to start letting people in again.

Chapter Text

Skye was nearly bowled over by Asia as the brunette agent sprinted down the hall, tears in her eyes. Those words she had hurt...they shattered her heart. She sure wasn't moving on from him, she loved that stupid, stupid scientist more than she let herself even think. Because if she let herself think about it, the feelings overwhelmed her, swarmed her, they ate her up. But now to hear him say that, to say she was terrible, to say he wanted nothing to do with her...all the feelings came back and they overloaded her senses, forcing tears out of her eyes. They fell down her cheeks like torrents, washing away any control she had left.

"Hey, hey, Asia!" Skye said, grabbing her shoulders and giving her a little shake, trying to get the other agent to look her in the eyes. But Asia wouldn't, she wouldn't meet her gaze, she couldn't even through the tears, she could hardly see anything at all. She knew it was Skye, though, simply by the sound of her voice. "Hey, take a deep breath, I'm right here," Skye continued, trying to get her friend to calm down. Asia took a shaky breath, as order, hiccuping slightly, as she looked up at her friend's warm, brown eyes that were laced with concern. "What the hell happened? What's wrong? Is everything okay?"

Asia could only shake her head, no, that it wasn't okay. Nothing was okay. "I'm, I'm..." she started to say, but couldn't finish her sentence. "You always ask if I'm fine and I'm, I'm not," she finally choked out. "I'm not fine, I'm not okay. I...I pulled away from everyone because you all got hurt because of me, because of my mistakes. I only wanted to keep you safe. And now...now Leo thinks. He thinks I'm terrible. I heard him, I heard him say it, to Hunter. He's moved on from me, he thinks I'm the same kind of terrible as Hunter's ex wife." the words suddenly started to tumble out of her mouth of their own accord, she was unable to stop them. "And that's all my fault too. Everything bad that's happened to him...to all of you, it's all stemmed from me."

Skye pulled the girl into a tight hug. "Asia, none of this is your fault, everything that happened. You know whose fault it is? HYDRAs. And Ward's. You didn't do any of this. The only thing your responsible for is what you've done to yourself, the pain you've caused yourself, okay? And you need to let that go. You need to come back to us. Cause keeping yourself so far away from everyone is hurting you. I can see it killing you every day."

When Skye released her from her hug, Asia looked up at her and nodded numbly. "I've lost him, haven't I? Ruined the whole thing? He can't even speak around me, if he knows I'm there...he leaves. He hates me."

"Asia, I don't think there's a bone in Leo Fitz's body that hates you," Skye sighed. "I think he's upset, and I think he's hurt. I think it's going to take time for the two of you to be friends again, much less anything more than that. But I don't think you've lost him, and I don't think you ever will." Skye meant every word she spoke, she wasn't just saying it to calm Asia down. She had seen the way those two used to look at each other, the way they still looked at each other, when the other wasn't watching. No, there was no doubt in her mind that Leo Fitz still loved Asia Monroe, even though things were a little messy right now. That didn't mean it wouldn't work out in the end. "Now what can I do to help you? Is there anything you need?" Skye said, wrapping an arm around her friend, leading her into her old bedroom and sitting her down on the bed, where Asia immediately drew her knees to her chest, resting her head atop them.

"I want Jemma," she replied softly. Jemma would know what to do, or at least know how to make her feel better. Jemma, far away in her HYDRA apartment, waiting to wake up and go back into that poisoned building. Jemma had been the one urging her to speak to Fitz again. She would know how to fix this, she had to.

"Okay, okay," Skye said with a nod, thinking about it. "I'll speak with Coulson, I'll see what I can do, okay? We'll figure out a way for you to see her. Will you be okay while I'm gone?" She asked her friend, kneeling down to look into her eyes.

Asia nodded one quick little nod. She would be fine, just fine. She was always fine, that didn't mean okay. But it was as close as she could get right now. When Skye left the room, Asia slid under her covers and shut her eyes, letting sleep take over her.

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Asia decided the next day, one way or another, she was going to see Jemma. Even if it meant breaking director orders. She wouldn't feel okay again until she got to speak with her friend.

Unfortunately for her, she wasn't about to get that luxury. Raina was reaching out to Coulson about some sort of meeting, and word on the street was she threatened one of their own. "Get dressed," Coulson had told her in the morning, eyeing her specifically, looking for any signs of the sorrow Skye had mentioned the night before. But he saw none, no tear tracks down her cheeks, no shaking, no frowns. Just a lack of spark in her eyes, but frankly, that had been missing for some time now. "We're organizing a meeting with Raina. I want you with Trip in the Quinnjet, just in case something goes wrong."

Like a good soldier, Asia nodded, and returned minutes later, dressed in black Kevlar, ready for whatever the night may have in store for them. The team loaded into the jet, May, Skye, Hunter, and Coulson sitting in the back, Trip and Asia piloting. The two agents dropped their squad off an hour prior to the set meeting time, so they could pay off the owner, prepare for the meeting, make sure everything was set and ready to go. Then, they landed the jet on a nearby rooftop, staying cloaked, and waited for their orders.

"You doing okay today, Monroe?" Trip said, turning to look at her as they turned down the comms low enough that they could just hear what was going on inside the restaurant. "You look like somethings up, talk to me."

“It’s nothing more than usual,” the agent replied, looking out the window at the night sky. The city lights shone brightly beyond them. “I’m just trying to figure out how to balance it all. How to stay close to everyone without putting you in harm. And there doesn’t seem to be a good answer.”

“Maybe there isn’t supposed to be a good answer,” Trip shook his head, flashing her a comforting smile. “But that’s life, Asia. We can’t have sunshine all the time, it’d get way too boring for people like us.” He glanced over at his teammate, hoping his words were comforting to her. “And also, I want you to know. I’m pretty damn qualified. So if I make a mistake, if I ever get hurt, that’s on me, that’s not on you. Okay?”

Asia sighed, rolling her eyes. “Yea, yea. Okay.” But she turned and smiled at him. “thanks Trip. You should have your own TED Talk.”

He let out a small laugh and was opening his mouth to drop a sick rebuttal, when Coulson’s voice cut through on comms. “Begin extraction as planned,” he barked out the order, and Trip was all business once more.

“Copy that, sir. Monroe and I are on the move,” he replied over the radio, starting up the engines for the jet.

“Extraction?” Asia asked as their plane took flight over the night sky. “What extraction? Why wasn’t I briefed?” She felt uncomfortable being placed on part of a mission with no information provided to her.

“Cmon, girl, relax,” Trip teased. “Don’t you trust me? And anyways, if we told you all the details, I wouldn’t get to see the look of surprise you’re about to have on your face in fifteen minutes.”

Chapter Text

As they sped through the air, Asia began to recognize where they were heading. “wait a minute...” she trailed off, looking at the building they were hovered beside, cloaked of course. “You don’t mean...?”

Trip turned at her and grinned, as suddenly something landed on their roof. No, wait, two something’s. “Tic Tac, I’m goin to need you to take flight controls for a second. I’ve got to go pull the woman I love off the roof of our plane.” He flashed her a wink as he slid out of his seat.

Asia watched him, wondering if she had ever seen him this happy before, anticipating seeing someone as badly as he was now. Maybe on graduation day, but even that didn’t seem to touch this enthusiasm. The small hatch on the roof popped open and two feet slid through, then legs, then Jemma fell through the hole, dropping into Trip’s waiting arms. It was like watching ballet, the way they moved together. It was clear, the feelings the two of them shared. When their lips brushed one another, Asia looked away.

“I’m afraid I won’t be able to get your sweater back,” Jemma said sheepishly, “It appears I’ve been compromised.” She glanced up at another pair of feet that appeared through the entrance and slipped easily into the bird. “Thankfully, Agent Morse here is incredibly capable and saved my life.”

Asia glanced back over her shoulder, giving a quick look at the other agent. The was y’all, very tall, with long, waist length brown hair. She was slim, but Asia could tel that beneath her red blazer was sheer muscle. Mockingbird. Asia had heard of her before, but it was something else to see her in person. Asia then rotated her gaze back to the sky as she began to pilot them easily away from that dreadful HYDRA skyscraper. If she could turn their turret guns back on it, she would. Burn the whole thing to the ground. Be done with them.

But people she cared about were in the aircraft with her. She couldn’t risk something like that. Suddenly, Trip slid into the seat beside her. “Alright Monroe, I’ve got flight controls. Your turn,” he nodded back towards where Jemma and Agent Morse were getting strapped in.

Asia didn’t need to be told twice. She slipped out of her harness and made her way to the back of the plane, sliding into a seat beside Jemma.

“Asia!” The agent gushed, turning and wrapping her arms around the other brunette. “My goodness, I’m glad to see you. How have you been? How is the base? How is...everyone?”

Asia could feel her face starting to crumple and she looked away, rapidly blinking away the tears. “It hasn’t been great,” she mumbled in reply, looking back at her friend. “I’m fairly certain Fitz hates me.” She sighed. She didn’t like thinking about that possibility, the inevitability of it being true.

“Fitz? No,” Jemma shook her head. “The Fitz I know doesn’t hate anyone. Except maybe Ward.” Jemma couldn’t imagine Fitz looking at Asia with anything but love in his eyes. The two had practically been inseparable until the Ward incident.

“Well, he’s not the Fitz you know,” she shrugged. “And I heard him telling one of the new recruits that he thinks I’m terrible. That he wants noting to do with me anymore.”

Jemma sighed, pulling Asia towards her so that the brunette’s head was resting on her shoulder. “I’ll talk to him. We will get it all sorted out.”

“I don’t think there is anything left to sort. He’s still struggling with his vocal rehabilitation from the hypoxia and having me around only makes it worse. He resents me for being around and he resents me for staying away. I think we’ve passed the point of no return.”

Jemma patted her head in a rather motherly fashion. “You need to trust me, Asia. He doesn’t hate you. I don’t think anyone who knows you, hates you. You’re an amazing person. And you’ve helped me make it through this never ending undercover mission. So I say I owe you a favour, at least.”

After that, the two rode in silence, leaning on each other, all the way back to the Playground. For a little bit, things almost felt normal.

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The next day was anything but normal, though. Thus was the life of a SHIELD agent. The team had woken up to the rude awakening that HYDRA, specifically a merc named Marcus Scarlotti, a guy who had almost killed Clint a couple years ago, had dressed up as SHIELD and attacked the UN. There were deaths, there were injuries, it was not great. The team spent the day working on various things, Bobbi, Hunter, and May off to meet with a man they believed had created the weapons used on the attack. Weapons that sheered into a person's skin and ate them alive, turning them to grey ash. It was horrifying to watch the footage of, of these odd, destructive devices. Jemma and Fitz were trying to get information of her old HYDRA hard drive. And that left Asia to do...what?

Revenge, according to Coulson. So she found herself, once again, perched up high on a building, taking out HYDRA agents with her rifle. She had to move buildings a few times, to keep herself hidden, but it was easy enough. Avenge the fallen, or whatever. She had her orders and she executed them, quite literally. It was a long, hard, hot days work, out there in the blistering sun. Being picked up by Trip in the fully air conditioned jet that evening was a blessing. She sunk into the seat, wiping her brow. "What a day," she muttered, glancing over at Trip. "Anything exciting happen at base?"

"Nothing really," Trip shrugged, "Other than the usual. Jemma is trying to get settled back into the lab. It's been...a bit more difficult than expected. Fitz didn't take her return very well." He frowned, brow furrowing at he stared out the night sky in front of him.

"He's...not?" She asked quietly. "I thought her being back would have made him...I don't know. Better?" She frowned. This wasn't going how it was supposed to at all. Jemma was supposed to come back and repair all the things she had broken, she had faith that bringing Fitz' best friend back would make him happy, he would be able to function better, his speech therapy would start getting better. How was it that no matter how much she tried, she couldn't seem to make amends for what she had done?

"Well, TicTac, it doesn't always work out that way," Trip said with a sigh. "I guess she tried talking to him about you, he didn't take it very well." Asia shut her eyes, pressing her fingertips against against her eyelids, applying pressure to try and alleviate the growing migraine forming in her skull. Trip took his eyes off the sky for a second, to glance over at his friend. "You gotta understand it's not all your fault, okay? If that's how Fitz wants to act, that's how he's going to act. You can't move all the pieces, you know? It's not chess. Mistakes are going to happen."

"But what can I do to start to fix things?" She asked, still pressing her eyes shut tightly. She needed water, and two ibuprofen, stat.

"You just have to start apologizing to people who got hurt," he said with a shrug, banking them to the left as they descended towards base. "You don't have to apologize for how you put yourself back together, because what heals you is what heals you. But you can apologize for those who were hurt on the way, because I'm sure you didn't intend for that to happen."

"Of course I didn't!" Asia said in protest. "You know I would never."

"Of course I do, but I've known you for years. Like I'm surprised we're not old and gray for how long it's felt like we've known each other," he laughed. "But that doesn't mean everyone else does. So maybe you can just start there, and work your way forward."

Asia thought over his words for a moment, thought about what the consequences might be if she didn't start speaking to those on her team she had hurt. She thought that by pulling herself away from them, excluding herself, she could save them. Make sure they didn't get hurt, and let herself feel all the pain instead. But Trip was right, as he often was. Asia straitened up as they landed at the Playground. It was time to start making her amends.

Chapter Text

Back at the base, Asia knew who she wanted to speak to first. The person who hated her the most for everything she had done, but never knew why. Mack. She knew right where he would be, too. In the cargo bay of the Bus, where his motorcycle was often stored, where he spent most of his time working on it, fine tuning it. It used to be the Lab on the Bus, before everything was changed and renovated for the purposes they needed it for. The Lab was no longer on the Bus, but in the Playground. They had learned from their mistakes of letting the scientists out into dangerous field ops. From Asia's mistakes.

Wringing her hands together, she stepped quietly into the soft lit room, knocking on the door as she did so. Mack looked up from his work, setting the wrench down on the ground. He picked up a dirty grey rag, which was once white but had since been covered in grease, and dried off his hands. "Well, well, well. If it isn't Agent Monroe, back from another killing spree. What can I do for you?"

Asia frowned, trying not to let his words bite at her, but they still did. She didn't choose to do these missions. She was a good agent, she followed her director's orders. And if his orders were to assassinate HYDRA soldiers, so be it. "Hey Mack....I was hoping we could talk..." she trailed off, trying to think of how she should go about this. It was difficult to try and speak to someone who disliked her so strongly, without truly knowing what her story was. So all she really could do was tell it.

“I guess that depends,” he sighed, “What did you want to talk about?” He looked up at this small thing in front of him. It was crazy to know that even though she was short, and looked like she belonged at a bar with her friends more so than she did wielding a gun, that she was a well trained assassin. Still, in her eyes, he could see this pit of sorrow. Like all the light that once shone through them had burnt out. He pitied her for it.

Asia took a deep breath and began to speak. “I wanted to say thank you, and I wanted to say I’m sorry. I wanted to thank you for the help you’ve been to Fitz....the friend you’ve been to him. And I’m sorry for all the problems I’ve caused for this whole team. I thought I was making things better, staying away from everyone. Really I was just making them worse.”

Mack sighed, studying his hands for a moment, before looking back up at her. “You know. I didn’t help Fitz at all, he didn’t need help. He just needed friends who didn’t judge him. And you know, that guy who you remember him as, who you want him to be. I never knew that kid. I only know this one, and yea, he’s a little on the odd side, but he’s funny. And he’s good. I like him, he’s a great teammate and a better friend.”

“I’m not sure what you mean...” she said softly. “I don’t want Fitz to be anything but himself. I know how amazing he is.”

Mack furrowed his brow, frowning down at he as he stood up so they could look each other in the eye. “You say that, but I’m not too sure you mean it. Because from everything I’ve heard, Fitz told you how he felt about you, and you bailed. Stopped talking to him, stopped acknowledging him.”

Ask squeezed her fists, pressing her nails into her palms, letting the pain of that take focus from the pain of this conversation. “That’s not what happened...you’ve only heard one side of the story.” She paused, unsure if she really wanted to bare her soul to this man, this man who hated her so indiscriminately. “I actually told him first. I told him I loved him, and then because of me, he and Jemma got dropped into the bottom of the ocean. Because I couldn’t keep them safe. They got hurt because of me. People always get hurt because of me. So when he finally woke up, and he told me. Tried to tell me. About his feelings, I saw all the damage I had done. The only thing I could think to do was disappear.” She looked down at her feet, cheeks flaming red.

Mack sighed. Maybe he had been a little harsh on this agent. “Look...I get where you’re coming from. But now here you are, participating in things again. People are pressuring him about you,” he explained, nodding towards the conversation Jemma had attempted to have with Fitz earlier that day. “But from everything I’ve seen, right now the only thing making him worse is you.”

“Didnt you hear what I just said?” Asia asked, frustrated. “I know that. I see that. Why do you think I’ve become what I have?” This whole conversation was a mistake. She should have known better. There was no way he would understand. “I...I have to go. Thanks for listening, I guess.” She spin on her heal and practically ran down the ramp and back into the halls of the Playground.

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Stalking through the halls of their base, fists still tightly clenched, Asia wound her way to the Lab. She knew Jemma and Skye would most likely be in there, and she needed to vent. She felt like people could literally see the steam blowing out of her ears.

When she hit the door of the Lab, she broke into a thankful smile at the sight of her two friends. The only thing that made her falter was Leo sitting at his desk, several feet away. He looked up as he saw her in the door, and she tried to give him a small, slight smile. He looked away.

Taking a deep breath, Asia pushed on into the room anyways, moving to sit beside her two friends. “Hey guys,” she said quietly, giving them both a small smile. “Doesn’t it feel good to have us all here again?”

“It would,” Skye began, “except they’re about to release Ward into his brother’s custody.” She furrowed her brow. A normal human handling Ward? They literally kept him prisoner in their basement. It didn’t seem right, or safe.

“You’re kidding,” Asia frowned. She could feel the hairs on the back of her neck start to rise. If she wasn’t upset before, she sure was now. She didn’t understand why Coulson would release him, use him as a bargaining piece. “You mean the senator brother?”

“That very one,” Jemma nodded, confirming their worst fears.

Asia couldn’t quite put words on her emotions at that moment. She felt like she was a swirling mess of nerves. It wasn’t okay that he would get out. She didn’t believe for a second that whatever “punishment” he would receive would be worse than their control over him here. And in the deepest corners of her brain, she didn’t think he would stay prisoner at all, outside of their custody. She didn’t want Ward to get that chance. No matter what he had tried to stop from happening to her when Garrett held her captive, he still dropped Fitz and Jemma into the ocean. It was unforgivable.

Suddenly, there was commotion in the hall. The three of them moved hesitantly to the door to catch a glimpse of what was happening. And there he was, wearing a grey prison uniform, hands cuffed in front of him, being escorted down the dimly lit brick hallways, surrounded by armed guards. Skye could hear the sharp inhalation of Asia’s breath when they caught sight of him.

Asia’s hands balled into fists again, but this time, for fighting. She wanted to destroy him, before he could destroy anyone else. Her legs shifted, ready to strike when he passed by, when she felt someone grab onto the sleeve of her blue sweater. She looked down, following the hand to a gray, knit sleeve. Her eyes traveled up the arm, to look at the troubled eyes of Leo Fitz. He was right there, practically touching her, so close she could see the speckles of soft brown mixed into his eyes.

“Don’t,” he said quietly, nodding at her balled fists. “Don’t do it. He’s not even worth it.” And then he dropped the bit of her sweater clutched in his hands and shuffled quietly back to his desk. It all happened so fast, Asia wasn’t really sure if she had imagined it or not.

Chapter Text

Director Coulson had a secret. A secret that was almost as dangerous as the act itself. He was carving. Carving the same symbols as Garrett had been carving when he went crazy. Carving the same symbols that were on the Obelisk, the 084 that had killed Hartley earlier that year, the same 084 HYDRA was using to develop weapons like the Splinter Bomb that had been used in the HYDRA attack on the U.N. It was a dark secret, and very few people on the base knew. Only May, who had in turn instructed Skye and Asia on the matter. They were in charge of watching him when she was gone.

As Asia had feared, Ward had escaped his brother’s custody. May, Trip, Hunter, and Bobbi were all out on a mission to capture him, leaving the rest of them at the base. And if things couldn’t possibly get any worse, they had stumbled upon a ritualistic killing using the same symbols Coulson was carving on the wall. Only this time, they had been carved into flesh. And apparently, she was a SHIELD agent, though all records stated she had died over five years ago, of terminal cancer. Nothing was lining up.

“Asia, can you assist with the autopsy?” Jemma asked calmly, nodding towards another lab coat and set of protective glasses hanging on the wall. “A second set of capable hands would be appreciated.”

“Of course,” Asia nodded, sliding past Fitz and Skye to grab the coat and glasses, putting them on over her current outfit and moving to stand beside Jemma. “Let’s get started then,” she said, looking down at the grey body in front of them. Poor girl. Carved like the wall upstairs. No one deserved that.

“Right, let’s,” Jemma said briskly. “If anyone is feeling squeamish, now would be the time to make your exit.” Her words were like magic. Their entire team had vanished. Sighing, Jemma turned to Asia. “Let’s make this quick.” And they did. It was grim work, but it was necessary. They took samples, analyzed them, and organized the results into charts and images.

“Alright,” Jemma said finally, “That should be sufficient.” The two removed the coats and washed their hands. Asia felt like she was scrubbing hers raw to make sure there was no trace of body left on her skin. It was tome to brief the others.

“The cuts were very deep, but very precise,” Jemma explained once Skye and Coulson had joined them in the Lab once more, indicating to a photo in front of them. “Something very common in this sort of ritualistic murder.”

Skye’s mouth dropped open, and she blinked a few times before speaking. “You think this was performed in a ritual?”

“Yes.” Jemma replied with a nod. “Given the data, I would say so. The killer continued to carve into her long after she was deceased, giving the idea that he or she had something to finish or complete. I don’t think this is his first time. Or his last. Also, these carvings. We’ve seen them before. They’re the same ones from the painting in the church fire, the same on the 084. The same ones Garrett was carving, correct?”

Coulson nodded, but didn’t speak. He looked at the data Jemma was handing them, his glance flicking over to Asia momentarily. He knew she knew.

“To make things worse, if that’s possible,” Jemma continued. “We collected tissue samples from underneath her fingernails. She fought back. When analyzed, we found a similarity between the two DNA samples. Both contained GH-325. The same formula both of you have previously been injected with.”

"They're all TAHITI patients," Coulson said softly, his brow furrowing. "That means these killings...they're my responsibility. And now it's ours. You three, follow me," he spun on his heels and exited the Lab, marching briskly down the hall with intense purpose. The three girls exchanged a look, Skye shrugging. Off they went, walking behind him, entirely unsure of where they were going. He led them around the Playground until they stopped in front of a seemingly blank wall. "I don't know how they're finding these patients. I don't know who it is. But I do know how we can find out." He looked at the three of them grimly.

"How so?" Jemma asked quizzically. She didn’t see any logical answer to magicing up the answers to their questions. Perhaps Coulson was hiding some secret here on the base, files buried from TAHITI that no one knew still existed. That could only be the answer.

Coulson sighed, and pulled a brick out of the wall, revealing a secret number pad. He typed in a number, the replaced the brick, as the wall slid away, revealing a small, tube chamber. They had seen it before. They had all seen it before. The memory machine. The torture chamber. Coulson looked grimly back at the three agents. “You’re going to strap me in. You’re going to have to torture it out of me.”

The three other agents in the hallway stared, in stunned silence, turning and looking at each other in horror.

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Asia leaned against the cool, contrite wall of one of the Lab’s treatment rooms. They had wheeled the chamber into their, so that Jemma could set up monitors to keep and eye on Coulson’s vitals. There was no way they were going to let him climb into that contraption without close, vigilant eyes on his systems.

“I still think this is a very bad idea,” Skye said, hooking up some wires to Coulson as he sat in the bed. “A very, very bad idea. If May were here—“

“May isn’t director,” Coulson cut her off. “I’m Director, this is my call. And, frankly, the bad idea was bringing dead agents back to life in the first place. Aside from the idea to eat brains, I’m essentially a zombie. And so are all the other TAHITI patients, who are now being hunted down. It’s my responsibility to stop this.”

Jemma sighed and flicked her gaze over to Asia. “Asia, can you go grab our other assistants please?”

The brunette nodded, pushing herself off the wall and exiting out the sliding glass door, stopping in front of Mack and Fitz, who were waiting just outside. “Mack,” she said flatly, “Can you please follow me? We need you in the room, just in case.”

“Just in case?” He asked her, raising one thick eyebrow. This whole thing sounded like a whole lot of bad news.

“Just in case he starts screaming and I can’t hold him down myself,” Asia explained, her gaze dancing momentarily over to Fitz. He was looking right back at her, finger tapping against his lips as if he were deep in thought, sweater sleeve pulled up high over his palm. She tried to convey with her gaze that she was Justin as worried about this as the rest of them. She just couldn’t let it show, not now. She looked back up at Mack, and turned on her heel, heading back into the room. The sound of his heavy steps behind her signaled his following. It was time to get this show on the road.

When she reentered, Coulson was now laying down, and Skye was walking him through the process. The agent who had been found murdered, she was going to be their focal point. They were going to figure out who’s the other patients were, and use process of elimination.

“Alright Jemma, we’re ready,” Skye said, looking up and giving her the smallest nod. Jemma nodded back, then took a deep breath, hitting a small, green button. Instantly, Coulson’s eyes flickered shut. Asia took a deep breath, holding it in tightly. This was the moment of truth.

And it seemed to be working. Skye walked Coulson through his memories, regardless of the pain his body seemed to be in. Still, it made Asia’s skin crawl. Something didn’t feel right. She clenched tightly onto her own arms, wishing she had a hand to tightly squeeze. Suddenly, when he started screaming, Asia bolted out of the room, finding the nearest trash can and throwing up the entire contents of her stomach. It was hard for her to witness stuff like this. This torture. It brought her back to what she had endured not all too long ago. The memories were still tender, still bleeding.

She took a shaky breath, arms wobbling as she propped herself up on the sides of the can. She would have to get through this, for the sake of the the team. But no one ever said it would be easy.

Chapter Text

They had a map. Asia tried to assure herself of that one, single, constant thing, as they rode in the black SUV back to base. Mack was driving, Coulson in the passenger seat, and herself and Skye in the back seat. They had just almost killed Coulson. And he had almost strangled a TAHITI patient, until they both saw what they needed to see. The map. They had the map. And it wasn’t entirely a map, but a blueprint. All they needed now, was a plan.

These were the things Asia kept reminding herself as she shifted a single bullet in her lithe fingers, flip, flip, flip. A bullet she had just almost blew into their Director’s head. This alien writing, this alien city, it had them all set a notch extra high on edge. But the first step to beating that was recognizing the problem. Assessing the stress instead of ignoring it. And Asia had definitely assessed it. All she had to do now was figure out her own attack plan.

The ride to the base was utterly, uncomfortably quiet, event for Agent Monroe, who had spent the past few months in utter, internal isolation, blocking out conversations more than ever hearing them. Now, she craved one of her teammates to speak, to crack open this iced over river of awkwardness. They all felt the weight of what had just happened.

When they drove down the ramp, into the Playground, Coulson turned so he could see all of them. “What just happened, that stays between us. I’ll brief Agent May on an update with the alien writing, but the details of this mission stay classified. Understood?”

Numbly, the three nodded, though Asia noted Mack hesitated just ever so slightly.

“Good,” Coulson continued. “Now return to your bunks. Rest. Because by this time tomorrow, I hope we’ll be neck deep in the next steps of uncovering this blueprint—finding out what it’s a blueprint of. I have a few hunches, and a few pieces of a plan. Give me the night to put it in motion. Until then, please, seriously. Try and take a chill pill.” It seemed Asia wasn’t the only one noticing how tense they all were.

While the others hesitated, Asia grabbed her bag and hopped out of the car and made a beeline for the door, badging herself in before anyone had even moved an inch. She was going to change out of her combat clothes and maybe watch a movie or something. Actually attempt to let some of the tension out of her shoulders. Maybe Jemma would want to join her, though admittedly she was probably with Trip if she wasn’t working in the Lab.

Hanging her jacket up in her closet, she tossed this days pair of combat pants into the hamper and pulled on a pair of dark grey capri sweats, and a mint green hoodie. Casual, she took a deep breath, she could be casual. She could let the guard down. Forcing what she thought might have resembled the inklings of a smile on her face, she headed back out into the halls and towards the lounge area, where a plush, leather couch and a tv would be waiting.

And, as expected, the TV was waiting, but it wasn't alone. Sitting, hunched over a video game control and muttering obscenities at the screen, was Lance Hunter. Asia sighed to herself, before moving forward and throwing herself onto the other end of the couch lazily, yawning for good measure. Hunter sat up straight, setting down the controller and looking over at her.

"You....what are you doing here?" He asked, confused. "You don't like me...you don't like people."

Asia rolled her eyes, muttering, "Never said I didn't like people." She looked over at him and the corner of her mouth twitched up in a small smirk, then she looked back at the TV screen, nodding her head towards it. "What are you playing?"

"Nothing much, just one of the throwback zombie slaying games," he glanced down at the controller in his hand, then back up at her. "You want to play? I can restart, we could do some duo rounds," he gave her a concerned, yet oddly hopeful look. He couldn't actually want her to hang around, could he? But when he didn't take away the offer, Asia nodded, leaning forward and grabbing a matching, black controller off of the center table.

"Let's do this," she said, actually sounding relatively excited. "But I'm going to warn you, I don't like losing."

"That honestly doesn't surprise me in the slightest," Hunter replied sarcastically. "You know, you like to think you keep up these walls but I like to think I can read you pretty well." He pressed start on the round and immediately the two leaned forward, squinting at the screen with scrutiny.

"Oh yea?" She said, with a roll of her eyes, barely taking her gaze off screen. "Then what am I thinking right now?" She jabbed down on one of the buttons, stabbing a zombie on screen in the face, grinning with satisfaction as they took down another wave of the stumbling, living dead.

"Well, other than being excited that we're about to kick some major undead ass, you want to punch me. But that's essentially a constant for most of my teammates, I think. At least that's what my ex likes to say," Hunter replied, running up a set of stairs into a different spawn location onscreen.

"Wow, maybe you're secretly a mind reader," she replied dryly. "So how is it? Having your ex wife working with you, I mean." She glanced over at him out of the corner of her eye for just a moment, watching him swallow, hard, at the mention of his ex. She knew that feeling, the feeling of pressure, discomfort, brought forward by just a thought of another person they had once been so close to.

Hunter shot a zombie then turned to look at her, tapping the controller against his leg for a second. "You know, about as hard as I'd imagine it was hearing Fitz say he thinks you're terrible, even if he didn't mean it." He watched her face closely for any sort of reaction. Perhaps there was a flicker of recognition in her eyes for a moment.

"Psh, I don't know what you're talking about," she said finally, gritting her teeth as she dodged a blow from a zombie and darted past a couple more. "Also, please pay attention, you're going to get us killed. We're only made it five rounds, that'd just be an embarrassment. We'd never be able to play together again." She nodded towards the screen where another row of the rotting zombies were walking towards them.

"Sure love, whatever you say," Hunter said, facing the TV in front of them once more and sticking his tongue out in concentration as they slayed one zombie after another. "But for the record, I still think you can patch things up between the two of you. Not like Bobbie and I. Our ship sank long, long ago."

"Noted," was all Asia could think to reply. "And I doubt it's the end for you two, if I get to put my vote in. She can't keep her eyes off of you." She grinned like a cat, almost happy to keep Hunter so on edge. The two were playing a game, almost, (aside from the literal video game). A game of cat and mouse, both taking their turns as each role, each taking small jabs at each other, in a kind way. She thought to herself that maybe, if things ever got normal again, they could even be friends. Maybe. The thought itself, made her smile.

"But really, Monroe," Hunter said, taking his turn to speak now. "You call yourself a spy and you couldn't even tell Leo Fitz was lying his ass off when he was talking about moving on from you. Kids freaking in love with you and you're over here pretending he hates your guts. It's a right laugh."

"Your face is a right laugh," she muttered back, now getting annoyed. "Let's just play the game, yea?" But she smiled a bit to herself at his words. Thinking back to that night, the emotions had hit her so quickly, so hard, that she didn't even have a moment to truly think about or hear what he was saying. But if she thought about it, Hunter was right. All the trace signs were there. The rapid speech of the words tumbling out of his mouth, the light shake in his voice, the way he couldn't look either of the guys he was with as he said it. Hunter was right. Skye was right. Jemma was right. Leo Fitz didn't hate her, not even a little bit.

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The next day, as expected, Coulson rallied the troops. Asia woke to her alarm buzzing, advising her she was needed in the briefing room. She brushed her hair out and put it into her traditional, high ponytail, and slipped into her jacket and pants. It was time for business, even if she didn't know what that business was. She slung her pack over her shoulder and headed out. When she stopped in the briefing room, it seemed everyone was already waiting for her.

“Late, Monroe,” Coulson chided, thinking to himself Some things never change. The agent ducked her head, embarrassed, before taking a seat between Skye and Trip. Coulson surveyed his agents, glancing at Trip, Asia, Skye, then Fitz individually. “I’ve selected you all for this mission for a purpose. We’re going to be gone for a couple days so make sure to pack bags for both undercover and stealth ops.”

“What sort of undercover?” Skye asked, raising her hand as if she was in school as she asked her question, then quickly lowered it.

“Casual clothing will be fine. It’ll be warm weather, so keep that in mind,” was all Coulson said. “This mission is going to be tight lipped until we’re done with it. We’re going to be breaking a few rules here, but one of the perks of being an agency that doesn’t technically exist is we don’t technically have any rules to follow.” He smirked at them. “Now go get your things. Be in the hangar in 10.”

No one had to be told twice. The entire crew had assembled inside the cargo bay of the Bus in under 10 minutes, waiting for their orders. But Coulson just shook his head and grinned. “Relax guys, we’ve got a long flight ahead of us.”

Asia casually followed Trip up to the flight deck, hoping to catch a glimpse of their flight path. If she could see just a little bit of info, she would know where they were headed. So after Trip entered in the data, Asia slinked back out to the lounge area, plopping down on a couch and raising an eyebrow at Coulson.

“What’s that look for, Monroe?” Coulson asked, adjusting the watch around his wrist. “You look like the Cheshire Cat.”

“Hawaii, we’re headed for Hawaii,” she replied, pretty pleased with herself. She didn’t say it as a question, but a statement of fact. She looked down at her nails, wishing she had time to get them polished. They could use some care. "I don't know why we're headed there, but I know that's where we're going."

Coulson chuckled to himself, not even surprised she had found out for herself. He wouldn't expect any less from one of his specialists. "You may be right, but that doesn't mean I'm giving out more details until we get there. It's a very precise plan."

"Aren't they all?" Asia replied sarcastically, not even glancing back up.

"You're sounding more and more like Romanoff every day," was Coulson's quick quip of a reply as he fixed his cuff links then grabbed some files off the table. It was time he head for his office.

"That's the goal," Asia called out after him, after he disappeared behind a solid, reinforced door =.

Chapter Text

"Alright guys, no need to bring the whole armory with you," Coulson strutted into the cargo hold after they touched down, waving away at their weapons. "Seriously, leave the guns. Even you, Monroe. This is a stop and drop mission, nothing more, nothing less." He sighed, holding out an item in each hand. "Skye, this watch is for you, take it to Cam, the owner of the Kahananui Repair Shop. You're going to need to have it engraved. “Dearest Darren, I count the seconds we’re apart. Love, your Island Flower," understood?"

"Roger that," Skye said, giving him a mock salute. "Anything else?"

"Not just a watch so...if it smells funny, smokes, leaks anything...just drop it and run," Coulson replied flatly, giving her an answer she wasn't entirely expecting. She gave the watch a second look, gripping it between her thumb and forefinger, concerned.

"Trip," Coulson continued, handing him a a small pile of coins, "This one is for you. Take it to the dry cleaners on Ka Pua dry cleaners on Makamoimo Street. They'll know exactly what to do with it. And while you're there, pick up an order for Bob Swanson, I'll need it once you return."

He turned to Asia and sighed. "No special delivery for you. Just grab the moped and take Skye wherever she needs to go. And enjoy the sun. Maybe take some photos, it'll make May jealous." He gave her a wink. He wasn't the only one to notice she was slowly coming out of her shell these past few weeks. If anywhere could get the agent to relax a little bit, it would be here, on the island. Where it was warm, and sunny, and practically everyone was happy. He pulled a small, modern Polaroid camera and slapped it into her hand. "About time you add some more pictures to your wall, after all." She said nothing, but nodded in return.

"Alright, but none of you take too long. We have to be wheels up in 40 if we want to make our date tonight," Coulson clapped his hands together, as the agents dispersed, then turned to face Fitz. Asia hung back in the doorway for a moment, watching silently. "I'm sure you're wondering why you're with on this mission. I know you've been wanting to get back into the field again, so I'm giving you a chance." He walked over to the wall and picked up a small, black suitcase, walking back towards Fitz and setting it on a table next to him, flipping open the locks, glancing at the scientist as he did so.

"That's...um, that's a transceiver, yes?" Fitz said hesitantly, putting his index finger to his lip and tapping the pad about his skin. He used to work with these all the time, back before...back before everything that had happened.

"Yes, good job," Coulson said with a small smile. "Now, I'm going to need you to install this, in the field. Possibly during a combat scenario, which we can never rule out. And you'll only have six minutes to complete it. Do you think this is something you can manage?"

"I...um," he began, biting his lower lip. "I only have one hand that works good, you know that right?" He furrowed his brow looking up at Coulson.

"I never said it was going to be easy. If you want back in, this is how," Coulson nodded. "You're going to have to practice over and over until you have it. Use your muscle memory, you've done this hundreds of times before. Once you start doing it again, your hands will recognize the pattern, the actions."

"Understood," Fitz said with a nod, placing his hands on his hips. He would just practice. He'd dedicate his time to this machine until they landed wherever they needed to be. He had to have faith in himself that he could manage by then.

"Good," Coulson replied, "Now I'll be in my office upstairs if you need me. Once everyone is back, you can all meet me up there." He straightened out his jacket and nodded at Fitz once more, before heading up the spiral stairs and disappearing from view. It was at this time that Asia stepped quietly into the room, arms crossed across her chest protectively, as if she were giving herself a hug.

"Hey," she said softly, causing Fitz to look up, startled. He hadn't seen her enter the room, hadn't expected anyone else to enter the room for at least the next ten minutes or so. Wasn't she supposed to be taking Skye out to wherever to drop off that watch? "Sorry, um, didn't mean to surprise you," she said nervously, tucking a strand of hair behind her ears, looking down at her feet and taking a deep breath. "I just wanted to say, I..." she paused for a moment, looking over at the suitcase and the tech inside. "I think you can do it. It'll be hard, but I believe in you." Then she turned around quickly and began to scramble out of the room.

"Hey, Asia," he called out after her, freezing her in her tracks. She stopped, glancing every so slightly over her shoulder, barely enough to make eye contact with him. "Thanks, um, for saying that," he said, scratching the back of his head, equally as nervous. They hadn't really spoken to each other in so, so long. There was so much he had wanted to say, so much he still wanted to say, and he just wasn't entirely sure how to say all of it, not then, and now. "And um," he continued, not wanting to end things just like that. "I'm sorry, for saying all those things. I, uh, I...I know you heard them," he said, pinching the bridge of his nose with finger and thumb. "I didn't mean them, I would never...You're not a terrible person," he finished, cheeks flushing red.

Asia took a deep breath, trying to slow her breathing, slow her heart rate. Quietly, she replied to him before dashing out of the room to find Skye. "I know."

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"Isn't it gorgeous here?" Skye asked, as the zoomed along on the mint green moped, down side streets as they opened up to a view of the ocean. "God I could just move here and be at peace probably forever. Aside from knowing that HDYRA is trying to destroy the planet. If we shut them down, then I can move here."

"Wouldn't be the worst life," Asia smiled to herself, looking out at the waves hitting the beach. She tried to think about what life would be without SHIELD, living a life where she didn't have to wake up sad. Where she didn't have to always worry about the safety of everyone around her. She could just picture it, living in a moderately large house beside the beach, with a nice, wrap around porch, with a swing on it and everything. She could see herself, sitting on that porch swing, watching a few kids running about, laughing and playing. She could practically feel his hands rest on her shoulders, see herself looking up into Leo's eyes....

She shook her head, snapping out of the day dream and focusing back on the road. Sure, it wouldn't be the worst life, but it wasn't hers, at least not right now. Maybe someday, it could be. But there was work to be done first. And, while she was thinking about it, it didn't really have to be Hawaii. It could be anywhere, and she would be just as content. She turned her gaze back on the street in front of them, pulling a sharp right and driving up a small hill, bringing them to the small airfield where the Bus was waiting.

Trip was standing, leaning on the cargo ramp, grinning at them. "What took ya so long? You even had wheels and I still beat your asses."

"Had to get those photos, Coulson's orders," Asia replied with a roll of her eyes as she patted the pocket of her black pants, where several photos were safely secured. One simply of the ocean view, another, a selfie of her and Skye, Asia with her tongue out, Skye pressing a kiss playfully to her cheek. The would end up on her wall eventually, they all did.

"Yea, yea. You get a nice, fun, relaxing mission while I have to carry around a button that could give me cancer or stop me from having kids or whatever." Trip grinned shaking his head. As much as he teased her, he loved seeing her so happy again. It was a refreshing change, knowing she was coming back to them. He never had a doubt in his mind, but it was comforting to see it happening.

"Oh yea?" Skye chimed in. "You and Jemma planning on starting a family already?" She teased playfully, elbowing him in the side, wiggling her eyebrows up and down as she did so. Anyone who wasn't blind could see how much Trip and Jemma were smitten for one another. It was adorable, how much they cared for one another. It gave everyone hope, even if the darkness, that good could come out of all of this.

"Hey, hey now," Trip threw his hands up in surrender. "Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves now. No kids, not yet. We're thinking about getting an apartment, though. We've looked at a couple places, maybe after all of this smooths out, after things get a little bit back to normal."

Asia and Skye exchanged pleased looks. Jemma hadn't told them about this development, and it was a good one.

"Well, as happy as we are to stay out and gossip about your love life all day," Asia said sarcastically, "We should get inside. Coulson wants us wheels up in..." she glanced down at her wristwatch. "Two minutes. Wouldn't want to get left behind." She hopped up onto the ramp, the metal beneath her clanging against her boots as she did so, air conditioning hitting her welcomingly in the face.

"Yea, I actually would!" Skye called out after her, as the brunette disappeared up the spiral railing, pausing only at the top to look over her shoulder and wink down at her friend. Skye shook her head but hopped up onto the ramp herself and followed Asia where she had gone. They had work to do, after all. HYDRA, like time, would wait for no mouse.

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Asia could hear Leo's frustration from down the hall, the sound of his groans, his hand banging against a table. She could practically see him running his hand through his curls in annoyance, even before he rounded the corner. Stopping in the doorway, she watched him grab a small clock and restart the timer on it, turning back to the transponder or whatever it was in front of him, leaning over it and squinting as he tried to get his bad hand to cooperate. She leaned against the frame of the door, watching his movements, far more jerky and forced than how he had behaved before in the Lab. If this was last year, he would have been just fine. If it wasn't for her.......She shook her head, trying to clear away the negative thoughts that wore her down. She was just starting to make a breakthrough. They had just almost had an actual conversation. One that had lead in a positive direction.

Suddenly, Skye brushed past her into the room. "Fitz, what's going on? Take a deep breath!" She walked up to the table beside him, grabbing one of his balled fists. "What are you working on? Whatever it is, it shouldn't get you this upset! It's not worth it." She looked down at the components in front of him, still partially in the suitcase.

"No, no, no, but it is," he protested pulling his hand from her grasp and stepping away from her and the table, "It is that important. Coulson is willing to bring me back in the field, I can't mess this up." He pressed fingers to his temple, attempting to alleviate some of the stress building up behind his eyes. "I think he's testing me. I think he wants to see if I can really do it, if I'm really ready." he looked back down at the table and balled up his hand anxiously, raising it and preparing to hit the table again in frustration.

Asia lurched forward, quick and silent as a cat, and grabbed his fist midair, stopping the arch of his swing. As quickly as it happened, she felt that jolt of electricity, all too familiar, through her body. As fast as she had grabbed his hand, she dropped it, almost as if she were burned. Skye and Trip stared at her in surprise. "She's right," Asia mumbled, taking a step back from him. "You know you can do this, it's just going to take some time. But you can do it." She stepped even further back, lining herself up with trip. Every single nerve in her body was on edge, ready to run. She hadn't felt that sensation jolt through her body in so long now, yet it was like yesterday, the last time they touched. She would know that sensation anywhere.

"I don't think Coulson would try and trick you or test you," Trip said in agreement. "You know we've all faced a shitshow this past year, you and me more than some. But he trusts us, all of us. He's always backed us, we need to back him. Plus, Asia and Skye are right. You know you have this in the bag, man. I've seen you put those together with, literally, your eyes closed." He flashed Fitz a toothy smile, one of those smiles that made you feel like you had to smile back. "And speaking of our fearless leader," he turned towards one of the hallways and straightened up. "Afternoon, Director," he greeted Coulson with a grin as he appeared in the doorway. "Deliveries have been made, as requested."

"Good," Coulson replied with a nod. "We have no time to waste. I need you up in the cockpit, asap, and get this bird airborne," He ordered to Trip.

"Where to, Sir?" Trip replied, hands on his hips. If they had little time to work with, he would need to know where they were headed so he could expedite their flight path.

"Australia, we're headed for the outback," Coulson explained. "We're about to hack into a satellite network, and we've got to time it just right. Otherwise everything we've done today was a loss."

"Roger that, Sir," Trip replied with a nod. "Catch the rest of you on the flipside," he said his goodbyes as he made his way for the front of the plane. They wouldn't be seeing him for a few hours now.

Coulson sighed, hands on his hips, looking over at Fitz, at the timer beside him. "Fitz, six minutes. I know you can do it, but we are running low on time."

"Understood, sir," Fitz replied, turning back to face the device in front of him once more, flexing his fingers. There was a look of determination in his eyes which Asia had never seen before. She admired it, this sense of need, this sense to prove himself. She understood it, she had felt it at many a time in her life. And she knew, just by seeing that look, that he would be just fine.

Chapter Text

The touchdown was light and gentle, not that Agent Monroe would expect anything less from Agent Triplet. Rough landings weren't really his style. They had even had competitions back in Ops about who could grease the most landings. Asia smiled to herself as she glanced out the window. Some things really never did change.

It was dark outside as the team suited up, putting on their bullet proof bests and black clothes. Now was the time for stealth, not combat. Skye would be staying behind, to work with a small team of techies on getting intel from the satellite once the base in Hawaii went down. Trip and Asia would provide backup, as Coulson would find the place for Leo to preform his task, which, as expected, he had down to a science. He could finish installing it in under six minutes, with ease. Asia had watched him, quietly, from her seat. And when he finally had achieved his goal, he had looked over at her and flashed her this grin that had made her heart practically beat right out of her chest. She had never thought he could look at her like that again.

But she didn't have time to think about that, as she adjusted the straps of her Velcro, and bent down to grab her wristlets. She slipped one over each arm, then began the arduous process of tying the tiny fasteners. Everything was more difficult with only one hand, after all. Suddenly, there was a small tap on her shoulder. Stopping, she looked behind her, and found Leo standing there, finger raised in the air still. "What's up?" she asked quietly, almost afraid to look him in the eye.

"Um, your hands," he muttered quietly, indicating to her wrist weapons. "Need help?" he asked, tentatively, afraid she might say no. He bit his lower lip, looking down at her wrist devices, then back up at her, hopeful. As difficult as things had been between them, he had never wanted her to disappear, never wanted her to leave him, never wanted to disappear in on herself. And yes, perhaps her attitude, her coldness, had mad his recovery harder. But he would much rather have her back with him, if it was his choice. He didn't like to admit it, but he did still love her. Maybe not the abrasive, dark, hiding version of her, but he tried to love that to. He had tried and tried, and she had left him out in the cold. Until today. Today, something had seemed to have changed.

She blinked up at him, stunned. She felt like an idiot, probably looked like a deer in headlights. Then, she slowly nodded, raising her hands up so he could tie the laces for her.

Delicately, he tied the small ties, personally garunteeing that each one was fastened tightly. “There you go,” he said, stepping back and scrutinizing his work. “Wouldn’t want those falling off in the field.” He managed to give her a small smile, before walking over to grab his suitcase with the matierals he needed inside.

“Alright team,” Coulson announced. “We’ve got a very limited time frame here when this satellite network goes down. Let’s roll out.” The Trojan Horse was in place, just as planned. The watch Skye and delivered, as well as the button Trip had dropped off. The two separate men would be wearing them today, and once they came in contact, an emp would short out the base in Hawaii, triggering the remote base in Australia to come on line.

“Fitz,” he continued. “How is the transponder coming along?” He stared at the scientist, hoping this really was the task Fitz had needed to get back into the field. If he was wrong...this whole mission needed to be scrapped.

“Oh yea, Um, got it down to 7 minutes and 22 seconds, sir,” Fitz replied, picking up the small suitcase. As he looked up, Coulson took a few steps closer to him.

“That’s not good enough,” Coulson said calmly, even though he could feel a small sweat forming on his palms.

“Oh yea, no,” Leo shook his head, glancing over his shoulder at Asia and grinning. “That’s just using my bad hand. If I use both I can do it. No problem.” He nodded at Coulson, before walk-in down the ramp to meet Trip.

When Coulson looked over at Agent Monroe, she had a small, cat-like smile on her lips. And he could see it in her eyes, too. Things were finally getting back to normal around here.

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It was dark out, but the half moon above them brought enough milky blue light for the agents to move about the brush, closing in on the concrete facility in front of them. Asia raised her semi auto, looking through the night-vision site to look for any potential issues. There were no guards, not that her trained eye could spot. Odd, for a secure facility. She swept over the area once more, before looking at Coulson and shrugging her shoulders. There was literally no one outside. Might as well move in.

Coulson waved his hand forward, signaling for the team to get on the move. Asia stayed low and crouched, gun raised just in case, as she lead the group of agents forward, still continuously sweeping the area, checking corners, searching for some sign that there were people even in this building. There were cars parked in the lot, all looking as if they had been empty for hours. No one out on a smoke break. Nothing. It made the hairs on the back of her neck stand on edge.

But they kept pressing forward, Fitz using a device to easily open the padlock on the entrance. The lights were all dimmed when they entered, which also put Agent Monroe on edge. Then again, maybe they just like to conserve energy. She tried to think of it as that, but couldn't shake the feeling in the back of her head that something was about to go very, very wrong.

"This seems off..." Coulson whispered, only confirming her thoughts, tapping on his comms.

"No signs that anything is off," Skye radioed them back. "But, in good news, our two men are about to shake hands and trigger the emp."

Couslon and the team continued moving forward. They knew they had to get close center of the building before the point went down, otherwise they'd never had enough time for Fitz to install the device. So they opened a door quietly, letting it fall into the darkness of the room. The only light coming forward was from the rows of black stacks of electronics. Computer components, monitors, wires running everywhere, but all neatly contained in black metal towers. Asia could practically feel the electrical current buzzing through the room. She couldn't even imagine the level of EMF this place was putting off.

And it was silent, aside from the whir of electronics.

"Kaena Point is down," they heard Skye radio, but her voice was coming through muffled and cracked. "Six minutes on the clock," they caught her words but just barely.

Suddenly, Trip was shouting. "Get down! They've got guns, get down!" And Asia jolted to the side of one of the tower, pressing herself against the warm metal, feeling the hum of the machine. Leaning forward, she grabbed Leo instinctively, pulling him to the tower with her, shielding him from the fray of bullets that rained down around them. She had known something was wrong.

This was all wrong. This was planned. This was an ambush.

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Glancing to her right, Coulson was also pressed to a tomorrow, occasionally leaning over an firing shots. "It's HYDRA!" He announced to his team, nodding towards Asia's other side. She looked over her other shoulder and saw the employees of this building, all bound and gagged, thrown into a corner. "Fitz, untie them!" He ordered.

Throwing herself around the corner, Asia let out a spray of covering fire for Leo as she slid over to the crew, making quick work on their restraints. After he was out of any potential line of fire, she ducked behind the trusty metal tower once more, trying to think of what else in their surroundings they could use. Their vision was impaired, thanks to the darkness, but their again, so was that of the HYDRA agents. They could try and use the blackness as a cover. Use it to heighten their other senses. But with so much gunfire, it would be hard to hear past that and find what she was really looking for.

So they were going to have to fight their way out, plane and simple. They didn't know how many of them there were, where they were, or what kind of weapons they had. And yet, Asia felt in her element. This is what she was born to do, what she had trained to do. She was going to make sure they completed their mission, no matter what.

Peeking around the corner, Asia fired off a round of bullets, hitting a HYDRA agent in his octavos covered chest, knocking him to the ground.

"We don't have a lot of time left!" Coulson shouted out. "Trip, Monroe, get Fitz into that room so he can get working. Provide cover. I'll handle the rest of the guys out here."

Nodding, Asia tucked down, somersaulting towards the door to the mainframe room and throwing it open, laying down cover with Agent Coulson as Trip entered, surveying the area, followed the Fitz. Asia entered last, nodding at Coulson to follow them when able. Then she ducked inside the warm room, which had hummed to life ever since the base had come online.

"Alright, I'm getting to work now," Fitz announced, finding the spot on the tower and pulling out a row of electronics. He flipped open the suitcase, flexed his fingers, and began to get to work.

Asia looked over at Trip and waved two of her fingers towards the back, indicating she was about to begin a sweep on the left side of the room, and would make her way back around to him, counterclockwise. She moved quietly, stopping to check every corner, making sure they were alone. Making sure they were safe.

Everything was looking good, honestly. As long as Coulson was taking good care of everything outside of the room, they should be in the clear. And then, she heard the two words that made her stomach.

"Fitz, down!" Trip shouted, then she heard the gunfire. Without even thinking, her feet turned towards the sound and she started running, gun raised and ready. She heard the sound of Trip cry out in pain and the sound of a body fall and could feel the sweat forming on her palms, hear her own heartbeat in her ears.

She jumped up, heaving herself on top of one of the rows of towers. She dashed along it, stopping when she saw Fitz. "Leo, stay down!" She shouted as she flipped off of the row, firing a rain of shots at the HYDRA agent behind him, dropping the son of a bitch to the ground, with no chance of him coming back. She whirled around, finding Trip, and stopping short when she saw the blood. "Coulson." she said, then she spoke again, this time shouting. "Coulson! We have a problem in here!!!"

Chapter Text

Asia was on the ground, hunched over Trip, hands pressed over his shoulder and arm, clearly coated in blood, when Coulson entered the room, gun raised. "Coulson," she choked out, tears running down the side of her face. "Trip needs help, we, we need to help him," she managed to say, her words catching in her throat. She knew this was bad, very very bad. Despite Trip's bulletproof vest, a bullet had caught him in the arm, and one right between his neck and shoulder. If they didn't get medical attention soon....oh God, she didn't want to think about it. One of her oldest friends, one of the truly good people on this planet, Jemma's love.....she couldn't let this happen.

"He's going to bleed out, Sir," Fitz said from where he had begun installing the transceiver. He couldn't move, watching Asia pressing frantically on Trip's wounds. And what was going on inside Asia's head was even worse.

Inside her head, she was back on the kitchen floor of her family home, blood all over her hands, her body, as she tried with no avail to put pressure on her parent's wounds, even though they were long beyond saving. And now, here she was again, pressing over the wounds of someone she loved, blood coating her hands, her fingers, latching onto her skin. She could see it all so clearly, the warm wooden floors, the cupboard she had crawled out of, the SHIELD agents storming in, guns raised, her parents’ lifeless eyes. It was all so real, as if this moment in time didn't really exist, it was just that moment forever, endlessly, breaking her heart over and over again. Her hands were shaking in front of her, covered in Trip's blood, her parent's blood...there was so much blood... "Monroe," one of the agents in her family's home shouted at her. "Monroe, snap out of it!"

Suddenly, she jolted away from Trip, Coulson's voice cutting through crystal clear. She wasn't stuck back there, in her past, she was in the building surrounded by her team and towers of electronics. But the blood was still all over her hands. She shoved her back against one of the towers, feeling the hum beneath her skin, trying to ground herself back to where she was, the here and now.

"We need to stop his bleeding," Coulson said, looking over at her. "You've done a good job so far Monroe, you put pressure on the wounds, that helped. But we need to find something else to stop this." He shrugged off his jacket, pressing the fabric over Trip's bullet wounds. The agent groaned, his breath coming out shaky.

Suddenly, one of the workers they had freed from HYDRA's captive stumbled into the room. "Um, excuse me," he said, quietly making his way over to the four of them. "I'm sorry to intrude, I heard the yelling. I, um, I'm a doctor. I can help," he announced, crouching down. "Just, um, give me a moment here," he dropped a satchel off his shoulder and pulled out a small medical kit.

Asia was still so stunned she could barely even take account of what was happening around her. All she could focus on was her breathing, keeping herself where she was, in the present, in this scene.

"Luckily," the man with the long, scraggly, lightly greasy hair began, "This first bullet in the arm is a through and through. Quick fix. This is other one, that's going to be a bit more difficult. But we can make it work. Hand me that scalpel please." he pointed at his bag. Coulson grabbed it and handed it quickly to him, assisting the doctor in work as best he could.

Fitz turned to Asia, brow furrowing. She looked so...lost. And she never looked like that. As long as he had known her, except for that moment when the Bus was shutting down, and now, she had always known exactly where she needed to be. She had a presence. He started to take a step towards her, but Coulson whirled to face him. "Fitz, our time is running out. Get that transceiver installed, now." As much as he wanted to stop, to help her, he had an order. He turned back to his task at hand, making quick work of the time he had left.

"Alright, we're nearly finished," the man said, "This bullet here," he pointed down at Trip's arm. "Is holding open the wound. We have to be quick, and careful. But we may still pull this off, Phil." And just like that, the room froze. Fitz looked over his shoulder. Asia looked up, surprised. Coulson had never said his name. All throughout the night, none of them had referred to him by his first name. So...how. "Oh wow, I'm sorry," the guy chuckled. "Should not have said your name, should I? I figured you wouldn't have recognized me from that photo I left for her. But now I've gone and messed that right up." He grinned down at Trip's arm as he spoke, almost as if he was afraid to look Coulson up in the eye.

Coulson slowly drew his pistol from his belt and aimed it at Skye's father's head. "Give me one good reason I should pull this trigger right now."

"Ah, wouldn't recommend that one," Skye's dad chuckled again. "This clamp right here is holding him together. I just sliced his brachial artery. If I let go, he will bleed out in under a minute. So, up to you if you want to lose this man to take down me." He finally looked Phil in the eye. "Is that a gamble you want to make?" He held out his free hand expectantly, waiting for Coulson to hand him the gun.

Slowly, Coulson placed it in his open hand, not breaking eye contact. Skye's dad smiled, then nodded back at Fitz and Monroe. "Them too, though I don't think she will be shooting anyone any time soon."

Coulson looked back at the two of them. "Fitz, Monroe, you heard him. We're not about to lose an agent today. Hand over your weapons." He looked at Asia, unsure if she had really heard him. Her eyes appeared glazed over. He knew her history, he knew what this must have reminded her of. And they would talk about it, later, when everyone was safe.

Fitz stepped away from the transceiver, which he had finished installing while they were all having their chat. As crazy as it was that this man had turned out to be Skye's father, he had a task at hand that he needed to finish. Now that he had, everything was fair game. He pulled the gun from his waistband and put it on the ground, sliding it over to Skye's father. Asia still hand't moved. She had one hand resting lightly on her rifle beside her, looking down at her hand intently. What exactly was she so focused on? Carefully, Fitz walked over to her, crouching down. "I'm going to take this, okay?" he asked her quietly. She gave him the tiniest of nods, but didn't look up at him. She didn't take her eyes off her hand. Gently, he grabbed the gun and pulled it away from her. Then, he got back up and brought it over to Coulson and Skye's dad, setting it on the floor.

"Skye wouldn't want Trip to die," he addressed Skye's father, quietly yet evenly. "They're very good friends, he wouldn't want that."

The man's gaze only flicked momentarily up to Fitz, before looking back at Coulson fervently. "She's not here, is she?"

"No, she's far from here," Coulson said evenly, not wanting to give him even a hint of where his daughter might be. This man was clearly out of his damn mind. He was using a human being as a bargain, a human begin his own daughter cared about intensely.

"Oh good, good. Wouldn't want her to see me like this, now would I?" he laughed to himself, adjusting his grip on the clamp on Trip's shoulder. "This is quite compromising, though, I suppose the end justifys the means. I don't want to be threatening you guys, I hope you understand." He shook his head, looking down. "It was just unfortunate that it appears we both had the same idea, of mapping the world to find the city. I'm very surprised you're here. Whitehall...well, he didn't even know that the city existed, until I told him about it. He thinks the Diviner is just a weapon. What a fool."

Coulson looked at him, brows raised. Surprised. "It's more than just a weapon?" he asked slowly. "What does it do?"

"Oh, I can't tell you that, Phil," the man grinned a toothy grin. "That'd give away half the fun. This whole thing is so exciting. Life, death, the race to the finish line. It's going to get messy, that's for sure. And my baby, ahhh," he sighed. "She's going to be right there in the thick of it. I'm so proud of her, I can't wait to see all she can do."

"I understand that you want to meet her," Coulson began, choosing his words carefully. This was a very delicate situation, after all. "She's been looking for her family for a long time. But I need you to understand, if you let this man here die, Skye will never--"

"That's not her name!" the man roared, a furious sense of rage forming in his eyes, pupils dilating as he screamed. Even Coulson almost jumped back. "You act like her father, but you're not. That is not her name. And I'm not that much of a monster. I won't let him die. I'm going to tell you exactly how to save him, and while you work on that, I'm going to make my getaway." He had clearly thought this whole thing through. He began to detail to Phil exactly what needed to be done to save Trip's life. With Coulson and Fitz working on him, they should be able to make quick work of it and get him back to the plane.

"Alright Phil, here we go," the man handed him a syringe and let go of Trip's arm. Immediately, Coulson was shooting the clotting agent into his agent. As he did so, Skye's father disappeared into the shadows, as if he had never been there, as if the entire conversation had never occurred.

"Alright, team, we're going to get Trip out of here. Fitz, hand me that bandage," Coulson ordered. Fitz grabbed the package from the ground, tearing it open and handing it to his leader. Phil quickly wrapped Trip up, sealing his wounds tightly. They were going to be alright, they were going to make it out of here. "Now, check on Agent Monroe, please. Make sure she is okay. We need her on her A game for us to get out of here safely."

Fitz didn't need to be told twice. He moved quickly to Asia's side. "Hey, umm, are you alright?" He asked her quietly, placing a soft hand on her shoulder, warm, protective. If she had looked up at him, she would have seen the pure caring and concern radiating from them. But she didn't look up.

Instead she flinched away from his touch, almost as if she were terrified of the contact. She pushed herself slowly up the wall, testing her legs to make sure they would support her if she stood. She was still trying to focus herself, ground herself. She was trying to shake off the ghosts of her past dragging her down. All she truly knew was that she hadn't been able to do anything the night her parents were murdered and her sister was stolen, and she wasn't able to do anything today to protect her team. All that progress she had made, all the amends she had made, it was all disappearing, the same way the blood was dripping off of her hands. "I'm fine," she said quietly, embarrassed. Natasha would be so ashamed. Clint would have...she wasn't sure what he would have done. He would have felt pity for her, probably. She was making a fool of her mentors. She stood up, brushed her long hair over her shoulders, and walked over to Coulson, helped him support Trip and lift him off the floor.

Fitz stared after her as the hobbled out of the room. It was almost as if everything that had happened between on their way here had been wiped away. Almost as if none of it had ever happened.

Chapter Text

When they finally arrived back at the base, Asia must have spent at least an hour in the scalding hot shower, trying to make sure every possible trace of blood was visibly off her. Of course, she knew, there would always be blood on her hands, even if she couldn’t see it. From the very beginning, this had always been true. How silly it was of her to think she could keep people safe.

But she didn’t have much time to herself. The team wanted to meet on the Bus for briefing shortly. Fitz was supposed to be setting up the holographic towers so they could do a sort of presentation. As much as Asia felt like she couldn’t face Trip, much less Jemma, at this time, she knew she didn’t have a choice. At least Trip was alive. Jemma had been waiting at the foot of the cargo ramp the second they landed, tears brimming in her eyes. Asia couldn’t bring herself to look at her. She couldn’t help but think if she had been quicker, smarter, better, none of this would have happened.

Yet, there was a job to focus on now. And when things got bad, Agent Monroe could always rely on work to keep her focused. Today was no different. She slipped back into a pair of slim, black pants and a black tank, shrugging on her jacket.

When she slipped into the Bus, the demonstration had already started. She had a bit of a leg up anyways, they had gone over all of this on the plane ride back. So missing the first couple minutes really wasn’t going to kill her. And there was a large crowd of people watching the presentation regardless. Quietly, she slid into place next to Hunter, who glanced down at her from his spot next to Bobbi. Clearly those two were getting along again. She made a note to herself to bring it up later, if she ever decided to talk with him again. Gently, he bumped her in the side, so she would know he noticed her arrive late. She flicked her gaze up at him out of the corner of her eye then returned her gaze to the front.

"Do we have any idea where the temple is?" Jemma asked Coulson and Skye, who stood at the front of the crowd, explaining how they might have finally had a leg up on HYDRA.

"Well, no," Coulson replied flatly, "But, what we do know is where the city is. And that's more information than HYDRA has." He nodded towards Fitz, who started up the holographic towers, the blue light shining from them displaying a SHIELD case file. Skye walked up to the file and tapped it with her hand, opening a bunch of smaller files. Clicking on one, the image of a globe displayed in front of them.

"When we were in Australia, we hacked a secure military satellite," Skye explained. "When we got in, we were able to run a multispectral topographic scan of the Earth, to search for anything that matched out blueprint of the city. Ancient rock formations and all of that fun secret stuff that only military satellites can get us into. Luckily, we found this," she tapped on the tablet in her hands and the map of the globe zoomed in on one specific location, in the Atlantic ocean off the coast of the US.

“Isn’t that in the Bermuda Triangle?” Trip joked, wincing slightly as he laughed. “That would make this crazy make way more sense.” He looked down at Jemma, smiling at her. She had been a mess since he got back, he wanted to cheer her up a bit.

“Firstly, we solved that mystery back in the 70s. Secondly, no. Try again, it’s Puerto Rico,” Coulson replied, nodding to Skye to continue.

Tapping at her tablet again, the map zoomed in further, to old San Juan, placing white dots over specific areas of the city. “These white markers are for vertical air shafts that give entrance to the city. Most of them, unfortunately, are at the bottom of the ocean. Not a whole lot we can do about those. But this one right here,” she pointed her index finger at the dot in question, “is still in Old San Juan.”

“We’re going to take a small team,” Coulson interjected. “A survey team to test the temple’s structural integrity once we find it.”

“Excuse me, Sir,” Bobbi cut in, raising her hand slightly as if she were asking a question in class. Then, she tried to casually play it off by brushing some of her blonde hair back over her shoulder. “What happens once we locate it?”

“After our agents are safely out of the area, we’re going to trigger a remote detonation and blow the hell out of it,” Coulson replied, as if this were the simplest thing in the world. The agents around them began to murmur to themselves, some agreeing with this plan, some thinking they was research to be missed by destroying the temple. “I’ve already sent corresponding orders to each of you if you would like to check your personal devices. We’re rolling out shortly.”

Asia glanced down at her watch, seeing the orders flash across the small screen. She shouldn’t have been surprised. As the agents started to disperse, Asia turned and left the way she had come. After all, she had bags to pack for Puerto Rico.

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After she had grabbed her things and made it back to the Bus, she knew she had work to do. The cargo hold was a mess of boxes they needed to organize and Coulson had given her a list of specific ones to set aside for their investigation of the tunnel. They were all going to depart on the Bus together, then the small team would separate from the Bus, taking the Quinnjet the rest of the way. They wouldn’t be meeting up again until much later, so having all of the supplies was essential. And it was her responsibility to find the Dwarfs, the small drones Fitz had modified to suit SHIELD needs.

Only problem was, there were tons of boxes down in the cargo bay. Tons. Asia slipped her duffel bag off of her shoulder and began to rummage around. Hopefully she would find them in the first few boxes and could be on her way.

Footsteps could be heard on the circular staircase and Asia looked up, brown hair cascading over her shoulders. It was Bobbi, probably coming back from prepping the jet. She, Mack, Jemma, and Fitz were all coming on the scouting mission to the temple.

“Quinnjet is prepped and ready,” Bobbi said when she got down the final stair, right on que. “Anything I can help you out with?”

“Oh no, I’m fine,” Asia replied quietly. “I just have to find the dwarf case and I’ll be all good to go.” As much as Asia didn’t truly know Bobbi, it was nice having her around. She reminded her a lot of Nat, which was welcoming. “It’s somewhere in these boxes, the game is just finding which one,” she stood up, placing her hands on her hips and surveying the remaining boxes.

“I’m sure Fitz knows where they are, you could always ask him,” Bobbi suggested casually, studying the younger agent as she did so. Of course, she knew the stories, she heard the rumors. “He’s just sitting in the Quinnjet, waiting for everyone to be ready.”

Asia didn’t take her eyes of the boxes, but pressed her lips into a thin line for a moment, before speaking. “No, that’s fine. I can find them on my own, no reason to bother anyone else.” She bent down again, digging into another box, feeling around for the familiar hard case that held the dwarfs. This entire conversation was pushing her past the point of discomfort. She could feel the weight of Bobbi's calculating eyes on her, not believing her answer to contain the whole truth. She knew the look well. Nat had one which practically mirrored it.

When Asia glanced back over her shoulder, Bobbi had a knowing smile on her large, pink lips. "So, you and Fitz....I'm sorry to pry, but I have to ask. How long were the two of you a thing?" She crossed her arms expectantly, as if she wasn't about to let Asia back herself out of this question. She could tell by the way the other agent tensed while hearing the question, the way her rummaging slowed for just a moment, that there was definitely something still going on between the two of them.

"He and I...we were never a thing," Asia replied finally, with a casual shrug, finally grabbing the dwarf case and taking it over to the counter, flipping it open to make sure everything was inside as it should be. They were never a ‘thing,’ because there was no way to label something so fluid, so effortless. And then, before they got the chance, it was too late to label anything. And it was done.

“You know, as good as an agent as you are, he’s your tell,” Bobbi replied cooly, pressing her lips into a smile. “You read like a book whenever someone mentions the name Leo Fitz.” She sighed, padding quietly over to the other agent, placing a hand on her shoulder in an almost motherly fashion. “That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, when it’s just the team around. You care about him. Don’t think of that as a weakness...” she trailed off for a moment before continuing. “Look, I know the story between the two of you. What Ward did, what happened to Fitz....his..recovery. That’s not your issue, is it?” She asked.

Asia quickly shook her head, pulling out of Bobbi’s grasp. “Of course not,” she said, ducking her head. The fact that Leo was changed...she would never fault him for that.

“Then what is it?” Bobbi pressed, “if you don’t mind me asking.”

Asia did. She did mind her asking. But additionally, the opportunity to unload all of the weight on her shoulders would feel so nice. “It’s more complicated than what everyone knows. Yes, Ward did drop Jemma and Leo out of the Bus. But it was my fault. We were running away, trying to get to the cargo bay where the parachutes were...and he cornered us. I thought I could take him myself. I’d done it before, all in....practice, though. I’d never tried to actually kill him before, and I wasn’t trying to kill him then, either. I...I kissed Leo, told him I was in love with him, and shoved him into that pod. And Ward beat me, because he didn’t care if I got hurt or not. And he made me watch as he dropped them into the ocean. I thought I’d never see either of them again. But....ugh, I’m sorry. There’s a lot of details most people don’t know. I dropped my failsafe tracker after them, knowing I’d be on my own from there. Thankfully, Fury found them, and Coulson found me. And I watched him, in that hospital bed, as he tried to say he loved me back but his brain couldn’t function right, he couldn’t speak...he couldn’t....” she stopped, taking a deep breath. “And that’s all on me. Him getting hurt, the both of them almost dying, that’s on me.” Her words came out shaky, scared. “He was my best friend,who I love, and the reason he got hurt was because of me. I can’t bare the thought of that happening again.”

“Have you told him any of that?” Bobbi asked after a moment of thinking. When the brunette shook her head, no, that she had not, the blonde sighed, sitting on top of the table next to her. “You know, Barton and I dated for a bit, back in the day, before he met Harper,” she paused, smiling over at the look of surprise on the other agent’s face.

“I didn’t know that,” Asia said cautiously, not wanting her to stop her story.

“Well, we did. Obviously, I’m happy he and Harper are together. Those two....they’ve got a special sort of something. The kind of something we’re all looking for. But I need you to hear why we didn’t work out....” Bobbi looked up at the ceiling for a moment, thinking about how she wanted to phrase it. “When we were out in the field, Clint took a bullet because I didn’t spot one of the counteragents. And I...I let that blame weigh heavily on me. It brought me to a dark place. And because I couldn’t let it go, we could never get back to the way we were. If I had known then, that it wasn’t my fault, we might have lasted longer. So what I want you to know, what the rest of us already know. That your team getting hurt is not on you.” she looked down at Asia, making sure her eyes met. She wanted to make sure she understood what she was saying, what she was trying to convey.

Asia took a deep breath, trying to let Bobbi’s words sink in. They reminded her so much of what Trip had told her last week, in the Quinnjet. She couldn’t believe everything was her fault. She looked up at Bobbi and nodded, a small, almost invisible nod. “Well, I should get the rest of this upstairs,” she grabbed the case and picked her duffle up from the floor. As she was halfway up the stairs, she stopped, looking over her should. “Thanks, though, Bobbi. For listening. I appreciate it.” And then she was gone.

Bobbi watched her leave, thinking to herself how the kid reminded her almost too much of herself.

Chapter Text

The conversation with Bobbi had left her rattled. Her heart was tugging her one way, her brain, the other. It was easy to say it wasn’t her fault when Bobbi wasn’t there to see what had happened. It sure felt an awful lot like her fault. Then again, that was the nature of this job. People got hurt, and you didn’t always have a choice in the matter. If she hadn’t been there at all, what happened to Leo and Jemma could have been much worse.

As she made her way to the Quinnjet, picking anxiously at a fray on her black sleeve, Skye rounded the corner, practically bumping into her. “Hey, I’m glad I found you,” she said, pulling her friend into a quick hug. “I won’t see you guys for a while, since we have to go fetch Raina from Canada,” the brunette rolled her eyes. Raina had been causing them problems for too long now, but if HYDRA was after her, it was sort of there responsibility to keep them from getting her. “Anyways,” Skye continued, “I just wanted to say...stay safe. I can’t shake this feeling in, like, the pit of my stomach...it feels like something bad is going to happen. So, just be careful, okay?” She yanked Asia into a tight hug.

After a beat, Asia squeezed Skye back. “You know me,” she replied jokingly. “You have nothing to worry about. I’ll make sure to watch my back, though, as always.” She let her friend go and gave her a small finger wave as she walked away. Skye always cared so deeply about her friends, it was heart warming every time. But in the back of her mind, Asia couldn't stop thinking about her words. That something bad was going to happen. She had that feeling ever since they first encountered the Obelisk. Having someone else on the team feel the same thing....it couldn't be a good sign. The brunette shook her head as she tried to clear her thoughts, climbing up the ladder to the Quinnjet where her team was waiting.

"Agent Monroe, late as always," Coulson chided, but in a more teasing way than actually being upset. Monroe was perpetually late. It was almost endearing at this point. Almost.

“You know me,” Asia quipped flatly, with a small roll of her eyes, carrying the dwarf case over to where they kept their cargo on the small jet, securing it into place. “I’m ready to go when you are, Sir,” she said, turning to face him. Bobbi and Mack were up in the pilots’ seats, which was fine by her (she planned on sleeping anyways) and Jemma and Leo were strapped into seats against the wall, sitting several away from each other, not speaking. Everything was as usual. Well, the new usual. Which meant it absolutely was not normal.

"Strap in then, Monroe, " Coulson replied. "We'll get this show on the road." He nodded towards on of the open seats against the wall, then tapped at his watch, indicating time was quickly slipping away. They had to get a move on, get to this temple, and destroy it before HYDRA even knew what hit them.

Asia quickly stored her duffle and took a seat across from Jemma and giving her a small wave. The scientist had her arms crossed over her chest and one leg crossed over the other, her heel tapping rapidly against the floor. She was clearly upset about something, her body gave her away, as did her face. Her lips were pressed into a thin line and her eyes were...tired, was the only appropriate word to describe them. She looked very tired. But she did offer a small smile once Asia waved. Good, at least that was something. They would talk later, she was sure of it. Jemma liked to pretend on the outside that she didn't enjoy sharing, didn't enjoy personal talk. She portrayed this look of calm, of a business like attitude. But secretly, the girl loved to gab. She loved to vent. And she loved to vent to Asia most of all.

But as Jemma looked across the plane at her friend, she felt guilty. She wasn't sure this would be something Asia would want to talk about. After all, it involved Fitz. And Asia wasn't really in the mood for talking to Fitz these days. Or ever. Even if the poor girl, silly as she was, was still so clearly in love with the other scientist, as much as she tried to deny it. And Jemma was fairly certain Asia wouldn't want to hear anything about how Fitz had just pulled her aside and told her he couldn't work in the Lab with her anymore. It had too many painful memories and was impeding on his therapy. He was going to work with Mack instead. Mack, who definitively hated Asia. No, perhaps this was one thing she should keep to herself. But she offered her friend a small smile, regardless. No need to worry her, after all.

After receiving a small smile in return, Asia settled back into her seat, enjoying the rushing feeling of takeoff. Once they were airborn, she undid the shoulder harness and laid out on the seat, stretching to a comfy position, then redid the harness over her prone body. Still safe if they suddenly banked right, yet still relaxed enough that she could catch a nap. As she drifted off to sleep, she couldn't help but think of Skye's words of warning. The inked into her mind, floating around, not letting her rest be peaceful. Her dreams were fitful, images of a hazy temple covered in cobwebs and echoing footsteps running everywhere filled her mind. She could hear whispers coming from every corner as she ran and ran, trying to escape.

Her only escape was the sudden thump as the bird touched down, jolting her awake. Yawning she rolled slowly and instantly felt Leo's gaze on her, her face turning red. She needed to talk to him, she really did. They were going into something dangerous, something that maybe they wouldn't come back from. She couldn't let words go unsaid. Not again. But she couldn't do it now, not in front of all these people. Her teammates wouldn't understand. She didn't want them hearing everything she had to say. It was too...personal. She wasn't really a feelings person, not before, and definitely not now. She'd have to wait for an appropriate moment.

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Coulson and Bobbi would be going to do recon first, before they made their way to the temple. The rest of the team was to wait, patiently, in a dreadfully awkward silence until they came back. Everyone was moving around one another, attempting to get things ready for transport, everyone giving each other a wide berth, no one actually speaking. Finally Mack had had enough. "Alright, I'm tired of this uncomfortable silence," he clapped his hands together. "I'm going outside to check on the landing gear. I'm not staying in here one more minute." The giant of a man stood up from where he was crouched in front of a device, and shook his head, walking off.

Suddenly, Jemma stood up, briskly walking in the direction Mack had gone. "I think he needs help. I'm going to go make sure everything is okay."

And then it was just the two of them. Leo and Asia, standing in a quiet cargo hold of the Quinnjet, nothing to keep them apart any longer. What was possibly left to lose? Aside from the whole world.

Leo Fitz took a large breath, rubbing one of his hands against his forehead. He could feel the anxiety building in his chest simply by the thought of the two of them being alone again. Alone. They were never alone, not anymore. They never talked, never laughed. Their entire friendship was a joke at this point. He didn't even really feel comfortable around her any more, not the way he used to. He had tried, he really had, back on the way to Australia. And in the same night, she had turned on a dime again and suddenly just wanted nothing to do with him. He couldn't take the flip flopping. No one could. "erm, well, let's just get finished up here and we can go," He said, breaking the silence. He looked up at Asia to find her eyes on him already.

"I....yes, let's finish," she replied, taking a deep breath and buzzing the air out through her pressed lips. "But do you mind if I talk while we do?" she bent down, grabbing her duffle and slinging it over her shoulder, then reaching for one of the cases to stack on top of another. He didn't say no, so she decidedly took that as him not minding. Or, at least, not minding enough to care. "I know I've been all sorts of...problematic lately, and I wanted to apologize," she began, still sorting through various crates, making sure they had all their devices where they needed to be. "I've made some...irreparable mistakes and I don't think I can ever make up for it." She bit her lower lip, her hair falling in front of her face. "I just don't want you to think I ran away because I didn't want to be with you. It's because I did." She dipped her head, long brown hair falling in front of her face. She didn't want anyone to see her cry about this, much less Leo. She cupped her hands to her face, covering her blush of embarrassment, pressing against her eyes, trying to seal in any sign of weakness. But she couldn't stop the shaking of her shoulders, it gave her away.

Suddenly, she felt his hot breath in her ear, his arms wrap around her trembling body, his warm, cinnamon scent covering her entire body. She couldn't breathe, couldn't move, couldn't even think. "Don't cry, Asia," he said softly into her ear, his lips as close as a kiss. She took slow, deep breaths, trying to force herself out of the impending anxiety attack. "I'm right here, there's nothing to be upset about." He ran his hand gently over her hair, smoothing it out, holding her tightly to him. It felt good, to feel her so close again. It felt right, even. "We, um, we all get scared sometimes. Scientifically speak, everyone has a fight or flight response. I just didn't, er, imagine yours to be flight. But there's nothing wrong with that, Asia." He held her until she stopped she shaking beneath him.

"Can we....can we try and go back to the way things were before?" She asked softly, looking up at his blue eyes, questioningly. She was absolutely terrified he would say no, but wasn't sure what would happen if he did say yes.

Of course, there was no realm in this universe (or any other, for that matter) where Leo Fitz would tell Asia Monroe 'no,' in response to that question in that moment. He wanted his best friend back, he wanted the woman he loved. Gently, he pressed his lips to her forehead, them whispered in her ear. "I thought you would never ask."

Chapter Text

They said this space was cursed. The entrance to the underground city. Rumour had it was people would go in, and never come back. And news of this had everyone abuzz with what they might find down there.

"This area was built primarily in the 18th century," Jemma explained, as they walked down the dimly lit halls of the fort. It was cool inside, far cooler than it was outside in the sun. The brick walls kept moisture and shadow in, as well as a cool temperature. Asia couldn't imagine how cold it got here at night. And hopefully they wouldn't have to find out. "Although, this particular tower," Jemma continued, as they entered the tower where the entrance was located, "Was built in the year 1634. It is well known for being incredibly haunted, TV shows have even filmed episodes here, to see if they can catch ghosts."

"And just think," Coulson pipped in, "They had something far more real and interesting beneath their feet, and didn't even know." They all stopped in a small, rectangular room and began to set up shop. The cavern was right below their feet now. Mack made quick work of setting up a high tech saw which would cut right through the floor, giving them entrance.

As he cut away, suddenly a large square chunk of the floor fell away, deep, deep into a pit of black. Asia stepped forward and looked down at...nothing. There was nothing to see. But...she couldn't look away. She felt as if she could hear...something? Maybe it was just the wind, but the brunette swore she could hear whispers coming from within the cave. She could literally hear them. Soft hushed tones calling out..something. What were they saying? Who were they calling to? Asia leaned closer, trying to get a better idea of what was coming from down there.

"Agent Monroe," Coulson snapped, trying to get her attention. The agent was staring down the tunnel like she had just seen God. And she was leaning in, closer, to the point where he thought she might tip forward and spill right in. "Agent Monroe!" He said again, this time louder, as he stepped forward and grabbed her arm, yanking him backwards. He of all people understood just how captivating this mystery could be. But he wasn't about to let one of his best agents fall headfirst into the cavern. Her eyes snapped up to him, wide, panicked. "What were you looking at?" He asked, slowly, calmly, as he let her straighten herself and back away from the hole.

"I...I wasn't looking," She replied, quietly, sliding to lean against the wall beside Leo and his dwarf case. "I was listening...I thought...it sounds stupid. I thought I heard something. It was probably just the wind." She shrugged sheepishly, not wanting to sound like she had completely lost her mind. She hadn't, she was sure she hadn't, but she was damn sure she had heard something down there. Leo gave her an odd look, hoping she was okay. He knew getting back to normal was difficult to her, and he wasn't about to judge for her hearing things that might not be there. They had all gone through their own traumas, and dealt with them in their own ways.

"So uh," Mack said, slightly nervous, "What was that story about the ghosts again?" Mack believed in them, he knew that much. And what with the electronics down here being funky and flickering, and now an agent hearing voices? He wasn't about to play around.

"Right, yes," Jemma said, opening up a small suitcase as she told the tale. "They say that several guards went missing at night while in this tower. We don't really know who 'they' are, but they say it an awful lot around here. And these guards, allegedly, were never seen or heard from again. It's all pretty funny, if you think about it. Now they think this tower is cursed."

"About as funny as an alien city underneath the earth," Mack muttered back sarcastically. He was not. a . fan. of this situation. The whole thing was giving him the heebie jeebies, not that he was about to let it show.

Leo grinned, "What Mack, em, you afraid of ghosts now?" He couldn't help but chuckle at the idea of that big hulk of a man being afraid of a ghost.

“No,” Mack replied defensively. “Doesn’t mean I want to run into one, though.” He said after a moment, glancing,concerned, at the hole in the center of the room. It was all they could seem to look at. It was ominous, threatening even. He didn't like it, not one bit.

"Alright well then," Coulson said, interrupting their banter. "Let's get the survey started. Fitz, if you would," he nodded at the scientist, indicating it was time he pilot the dwarfs down into the darkness. They wanted to get good imaging of what was up before they sent anyone down there. Last thing they wanted was an ambush. Leo nodded, grabbed his case and flipping open the latches, grabbing a tablet from within and booting it up.

"Alright, there we go," Leo mumbled, as the dwarfs came to life. He tapped some buttons on the tablet and the glowing devices floated into the air, before diving into the emptiness of the deep hole. On his tablet, they could all see the small video transmissions coming in, as well as the data the dwarfs were gathering.

"About how long can we expect this to take?" Coulson asked, not in an impatient manner, rather, focusing on the fact that they were low on time. Every minute more that they spent here was another chance for HYDRA to discover the temple and access its power before they were able to blow the place to pieces.

"Um, well," Leo began, running his index finger over his bottom lip. "I suppose that depends, um, on a few different factors. Such as the te...the tec..." the word stuck in his throat and his cheeks flushed, embarrassed. There was a panic that filled his soft blue eyes. He looked to Mack for help, but the man simply shrugged. He looked at Asia, who was biting her lower lip. She was entirely unsure of the word he was looking for, and didn't want to even pretend to try. But she rested a hand on his shoulder, tentatively, comfortingly, and gave him one small nod. Reluctantly, he looked behind him, at Jemma, and without saying a word, he asked for help. A help she had no reason to give after what he had told her earlier. But it was Jemma, of course she would help.

"Tectonic stress levels?" she offered after a moment, nodding encouragingly. As upset as she was with him, she knew his recovery was a long battle. Not helping him through that would be simply cruel. Something she couldn't handle.

"Yes, exactly!" Leo's eyes lit up in excitement. "The tectonic stress level and the um, the structural..." he trailed off again, once more looking at Simmons.

"The structural integrity of the tunnels," she prompted. "We need to find out just how damaged they are."

"Exactly right," Leo turned back to Coulson. "We also need to see, um, how deep they go. They haven't been touched, theoretically, uh, in years. So it may take a moment, sir, but we will have our answers shortly."

"And how will we know when we find the temple?" Coulson asked, trying to take note of everything going on. He checked his watch, looking at how much time had elapsed.

"We will have to rely on the data the dwarfs give us," Jemma answered this time. "But I am incredibly confident we will know once the data is received." She looked over at Fitz, a smile on her face, but faltered when she saw the look in his eyes.

Leo was looking down at his tablet, tapping his forefinger against it. Something was going very wrong. One by one, the cameras were fizzling out and going black. "Um, we may have a bit of a problem on the tech end," he said, glancing nervously at Asia, then up at Coulson. Suddenly, a loud beeping sound erupted from the pit, the sound of technology in distress.

"What's going on?" Coulson asked, looking up at his watch then over at the pit. Leo bent down and looked into the pit, then back at his tablet.

"Well, the tablet is, uh, it's still working. Something happened to the dwarfs," he explained, pointing down at the pit.

"Looks like they went out," Mack pressed his lips into a thin line. This could only mean one thing. They would have to go into the pit. And what with Fitz' hands on the fritz, it would almost guaranteed be Mack himself being sent down. He stood back up and looked over at Coulson. "Lets get this show on the road then."

Coulson nodded. "I'm glad we're on the same wavelength, Mack. Let's get you suited up. Harness and all. If we're doing this, it's going to be the right way. The safe way." He nodded at Jemma, who began rummaging through the boxes for what they would need.

"Wait, um, what are we going to do?" Leo asked, looking worriedly between Mack and Coulson. He didn't like the sound of it, whatever it was.

"Well, Turbo, someone's gotta go fix those things," Mack said with a shake of his head, taking the harness as Jemma handed it to him. "And with your hands still recovering, we aren't going to send you in there alone. So I'm going. I'm going to fix the drones and be right back up." He glanced at Bobbi, giving her a nod. Some sort of secret signal shared between the two.

"Be safe, please," Leo mumbled softly, scratching at his head. He wasn't really a fan of this idea. But there was nothing he could do as Mack attached his carabiner to the industrial strength rope dangling into the hole.

"Three pulls on this rope means you need help, got it?" Coulson said for what was probably the fifth time. He didn't like this plan, but there was nothing else to be done. They needed those drones up and running if they wanted the footage and data.

"Understood, sir," Mack said with a nod, looking over to Fitz. "Alright Turbo, go ahead and let me down."

Fitz nodded and pulled on the lever, slowly descending Mack into the pit. As the man began to disappear, he gave them all a salute, and a comforting grin. Everything would be just fine. This was just another day in SHIELD, after all. Investigating alien stuff, cleaning up the mess, that was their job. Who knew it was going to go so horribly wrong?

Chapter Text

The screaming was the first sign things had gone not quite as planned. Mack's voice reverberated off the walls of the chamber, up the tunnel, into the small room, echoing and bouncing until they couldn't hear anything aside from his screams. Asia's throat clenched, face going white. That was the sound of pain, or torture. She knew it too well. She had made similar screams, once upon a time.

She ran to the lip of the cavern, staring down into the blackness, looking for something. Anything. A sign of him. “Mack, can you hear us? We’re getting you out!” She shouted down the hole as Bobbi started the pulley that would bring him back out of the hole.

“Can we get him out any faster?” Coulson asked, looking over at Bobbi.

“I’m running this thing as fast as it’ll go,” she replied with urgency. “The last thing I want is for it to short out or over heat. Then we’re really screwed.” She glanced nervously at the rope. She was pushing the heat index as is, trying to get her teammate out so that could make sure he was okay.

The wait for his form to appear over the lip of the carved entrance was unbearable. But then, suddenly, there he was, body writhing in pain. Asia felt her skin grow clammy, pale. Something was very, very wrong. Her eyes immediately scoured his hulking body for blood, any sign of a wound, but she could see none. That didn't seem right. There had to be a wound, somewhere, that was causing this much pure agony.

"Mack!" Bobbi wailed, running over to him to help unhook his harness. "What's wrong? What happened?" Mack had been one of her closest friends since the fall of SHIELD. She wasn't about to lose him to this alleged haunted cavern.

"Mack!" Coulson also chorused, holding out his arms to keep the other agents back. "Fall back, something isn't right," he squinted at Mack's figure, and it appeared as if Mack were trying to speak, grunt, make a vocalized word.

"There's no signs of a wound!" Jemma screamed, chorusing Asia's thoughts exactly. "He's hurt but there's no sign of it."

"Could it be psychological?" Asia asked, when suddenly another roar tore from Mack's lips, echoing around the room, smashing against their ears. Asia pressed her palms to her ears for a moment, trying to block out the sound. She winced, looking up at Mack once more. "Something is very, very wrong," she whispered, mostly to herself.

Mack's body spasmed, twitching and writhing when suddenly, his head twisted up at them, his eyes filling with a pure black. Dark, demonic even. As if he had been possessed by the tunnels. The entire team stood, stunned, too afraid to move or breathe or speak. This....this was not Mack. Something had gone very, very wrong down in that chamber. His mouth open and he hissed out one word before shit hit the fan: "Run."

Then Mack began swinging. He used his body like a tank, shoving Bobbi up against the wall. Her breath shot out of her mouth like a blow dart, head getting dizzy. "Mack, stop!" She grunted, shoving against him, shoving her knee into his gut.

Mack stumbled back, swinging wildly at Coulson as he did so, whirling so face Jemma, stepping forward to lash out. Asia slid in front of her friend, fists raised. "I don't want to fight you, but I will," She said slowly, nodding at him, narrowing her grey eyes. The giant man looked at her, a guttural growl coming from his mouth, but he slowly turned, and took his attention over to Coulson once more. Asia blinked, frozen. What had happened? Why had he turned away from her, and only her, as he pursued the rest of her team? The pit of her stomach began to swirl distastefully, a bitter flavour forming in her mouth. But there wasn't time to think or question it. She wasn't sure if anyone on her team had even noticed.

But Mack was back at it, whipping his arms around. "Fitz, grab the ICER!" Coulson ordered, throwing a punch at Mack as he did so, trying to keep the berserker away from him. It wasn't the easiest task, till he saw Leo reaching into a bag, rummaging around, and Mack's attention turned on the scientist, a harrowing roar escaping his lips as he lumbered towards the man. Asia's heart froze. She was on the opposite side of the cavern, she couldn't get to him, she couldn't protect him. She felt like her stomach had lept out of her throat and jumped down the tunnel.

Leo raised a gun shakily in front of him. "Mack...Mack, please, don't make me do this," he fumbled with the safety, clicking it off and aiming down the line at Mack's broad chest, swallowing hard. He couldn't even imagine shooting him...one of his only friends, the one who had been there for him this entire time.

"Shoot him, Fitz!" Coulson ordered, not liking how close the man was getting to his agent. The ICER, hopefully, would have enough power to knock Mack out, until they could figure out exactly what was going on. But Fitz was hesitating. He hadn't pulled the trigger. Mack was still lumbering towards him.

"This isn't an ICER!" Leo protested, and Asia's stomach sunk even further. He wasn't going to do it, he wasn't going to pull the trigger. Asia knew it in her heart of hearts. He was too good, too purse. He would never kill his friend, even if his life depended on it. Asia didn't know if she could say the same. "These bullets are real, Sir!" His hands were shaking, fingers slipping on the grip of the gun.

"Fitz, damnit, just shoot!" Coulson shouted, now his voice echoing around the room. Fitz took a deep breath and closed his eyes, finger moving towards the trigger once more. But before he could fire, Bobbi sprung into action, jumping behind Mack and slamming her signature, electrified batons, against either side of Mack's neck.

The electricity ran through his body, zigg-zagging over his skin. They could see the electric blue scour over his black eyes. Then, his eyes rolled back in his head and his body slumped, hitting the floor before tipping, down, over the lip on the hole. His body disappeared completely into the darkness. Far, far below, there was a sickening, heavy thud. The sound of his body hitting the bottom.

"Seal the tunnel," Coulson ordered, nodding at Bobbi, who was still heaving, breath coming fast and deep, beside the lip of the hole.

"What?" She looked up, eyes wide like a rabid animal. "But...Mack! We can't just leave him down there!" She protested, sheathing her batons and standing up, challenging Coulson. That was her friend, their teammate. They couldn't abandon him. And she never thought that Coulson, of all people, would choose that.

Coulson looked evenly at her, then Jemma, Asia, and Leo. "Let's make one thing clear. That wasn't Mack."

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HYDRA had Skye and Mack was....Asia wasn't sure. He was gone, for now. Missing. Asia felt incredibly sick to her stomach. May and Coulson were hashing out a plan in his office. Jemma and Leo were in the interrogation chamber, trying to figure out a science side to what was going on in those tunnels, and how they could safely get down in them. Bobbi was upset, and taking it out on Asia's usual punching bag. And Lance, the only other person on this plane Asia felt comfortable going to outside of Jemma and Leo, was busy consoling his ex wife. So Asia sat, tucked in a chair, knees to her chest, staring out the window at the forest outside.

She knew something was wrong with her, but she didn't know what. All she could picture was the look of recognition, almost, in Mack's black pits of eyes, as she stared him down, challenging him to attack her. And he didn't attack her. He turned away. Whatever parasite was in him didn't want her, didn't want to hurt her. And then, there had been the whispers. The whispers she had heard floating out of the cavern and into her mind. She couldn't shake them couldn't get the thought out of her head. Something was dangerous, down there. Something wasn't right. She was going to need to watch herself, closely, if they were all going to make it out of this safely. Skye's words of warning echoed through her head once more. Something very bad was about to happen.

Asia didn't want to admit it, but she was starting to think so, too.

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Trip was the one to finally come and get her. “Come on, Tic Tac. Work to do,” he gave her a small grin. “Time to head back to the big, bad tunnel. And we get to make things go boom. It’ll be fun.” He could tell something had thrown her off. She seemed even more out of it than usual. On edge. Like someone tiptoeing around, knowing full well the glass they were walking on was about to break through. “Are you...upset about Mack?” He asked quietly.

“Well I’m not happy about it,” she replied, pressing her forehead down to her knees before sighing and looking back up at him. “You’re going to think I’m crazy, but, Trip, I swear to you. There was a moment, when he was going crazy, where he looked at me. Just me. And he let me be.” She shook her head, looking back out the window. If she let her mind drift, she could see it again. The recognition. The awareness. The fact that she knew he wouldn’t hurt her, no matter what she did.

Trip shook his head. “Maybe he just knew you’d destroy him if he laid a hand on you,” he tried to grin at her, shake off some of the nerves, but it was pretty apparent her nerves weren’t going to evaporate any time soon. “Well, lets just look on the bright side. We set up these bombs, we never have to think about that tunnel again. Quick and easy. Like a bandaid.” Oh, if only that were true.

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Yet, Trip had always had a way of smooth talking Agent Monroe into cooperation. And that was how she found herself back in that damn room, staring at the sealed hole,knowing they were about to pry the lid off and descend into the darkness. She didn’t want to think about what was under that lid. She had never been afraid of the dark, or of heights, but this. This made her terrified.

Everyone has a fight or flight response. It’s basic human instinct. Some believe you can train your response to tailor to your situation. Agent Monroe had always believed this. But perhaps she was just never put in a situation she had been truly terrified of until now. She had always been a fighter. Everything between that one moment of weakness as a child until now had been fighting. Never flight. But now, now she wanted to run and run far. She wanted to get herself and her people as far away from this cursed place as she could.

“Right, well, let’s get the suits on,” Jemma said, trying to hide her own nerves with work. She did truly believe science was on her side right now. The suits, theoretically speaking, should protect them from whatever had infected Mack. And while this was only theoretical, much of Jemma’s life was based on theory. What was one more thing? Nothing if they were right. Everything. Everything if they were wrong. But they didn’t have a choice now.

“I still think one of you should wait up here, just in case something goes wrong,” Trip said, looking at Jemma pointedly, as he stepped into his suit. The red head rolled her eyes.

“Darling,” she said, resting a hand on his cheek before pulling away and pulling up her own suit. “You know that’s not going to happen. We’ve already discussed it.”

“She’s right,” Leo pipped up, stepping beside Asia, trying to send comforting enegry her way. She was on edge in a way he had never seen before. “We will have no technology down there,” he continued. “Our probability of success gets much higher if we work as a complete team. And I think we’d all like to be successful, yea?” He looked around. All of them shook their heads in agreement. It was settled then. They were going down together, or not at all.

Asia stepped into her suit, slipping her arms into the squishy, white sleeves. The suit felt a tiny bit like armor, like maybe whatever was down there couldn’t get to her through it.

“Here,” Leo said, stepping towards her carefully and bending over to grab her helmet. “Let me secure this for you,” he said quietly, helping her make sure that she was completely, safely, tucked in. She smiled at him through the glass, bumping her head barely, gently against his in thanks. It was a small gesture, no one else even noticed. But Leo did. And he couldn’t help but smile behind his own protective window.

“Alright, I’ve got the timers on the detonators set. 30 minutes. So if we want to play it safe, we have 15 minutes to spend down there, 15 to get the hell out of Dodge,” Trip explained, placing a timer in each of their hands, along with the carefully rigged explosives. “This temple doesn’t seem very big, we should be able to finish with time to spare.”

“What’s our plan if Mack is down there?” Asia asked, trying to sound as casual as possible, even if the knots in her stomach were probably giving her an ulcer.

w

"You know what we do," Trip chided, giving her an even look. "If his body is down there waiting for us, we'll bring him up. Give him a proper SHIELD funeral. And if he's not....then we all know, whatever is down there is not Mack." At these words, he turned and looked at all of them. He wanted to make sure they were all on the same page. He knew how close Fitz was to the mechanic. They couldn't be taking personal friendships into this.

"Right, well, let's get this done quickly," Jemma pipped in, stepping forward to help attach Trip to the line leading into the tunnel. "Be safe, we'll be right behind you," she assured, pressing one small kiss to his cheek. Then, she started to lower him down the line, waiting until he gave two tugs from the bottom until she turned towards Asia. "You next, lets go," she urged.

As calmly as she could, Asia stepped up to the edge and allowed Jemma to hook her up to the harness. She smiled at Leo, trying to display a smile of confidence, even if inside her suit she was shaking. She could feel it, all the way down in her bones, that something about this place was bad. As she dipped into the inky black, she made herself a promise. A promise that she would get all of her friends out of here alive, no matter what. She closed her eyes, and tried to think positive thoughts, all the way until her feet bumped the ground and Trip helped her unclip. "Dark down here, isn't it?" She said, making conversation as she reached up and clicked on her head lamp, looking around the dusty, old tunnel system.

The tunnels stretched out in every direction, tall and sandy. Asia could practically smell the dust through her suit. Every now and then, a small gust would come through, causing dust to blow and cobwebs in the corners to shake. The cord behind her made a 'zing' sound as the next agent began their way down, echoing down the halls. Asia was pretty sure she could hear those whispers again, all at the edges of her mind. She thought if she stretched her senses, she'd hear them, but she was scared to try. Scared of what they were saying. Scared that she was actually just crazy. She didn't feel completely good again until Leo was down on the tunnel beside her. She turned to him, reached out on gloved hand, just to try and get some sort of connection. He could almost read her mind, tapping his gloved finger tips against hers for a moment. All of them knew that Mack, eerily, was no where to be seen.

"These tunnels predate the oldest manmade structures. It's fascinating, honestly. If HYDRA wasn't after whatever is in here, I'd say we preserve these ruins for study," Jemma began, sighing and looking up and down the halls. It may have been eerily, but it was beautiful to her analytic brain. She could spend hours down here, scouring, articulating. Learning. But they didn't have time for that. HYDRA was after whatever these tunnels held, after all. "Let's head on then," she said, leading her troup of agents down the hall. "If we head this way, we should make it to a point where the tunnels come to a T. Then we know we're in the right place and can start planting our devices."

They all trudged off down the halls, cautious of every sound they hear. More than once, they scared themselves shitless by tripping over their own feet. It would have been hilarious, if there wasn't so urgent of a task. Finally, after what seemed like it could have been days of walking (the tension in those dusty, dark halls was thick enough) they reached the fork in the road.

"Alright, erm, now what?" Leo asked, shifting closer to Asia. There was something about the look in her eyes. She was staring out into the emptiness of one of the halls, transfixed on...something? He wasn't sure what. He didn't like it. Not one bit.

Asia couldn't tear her eyes off of...something, down that hall. The whispers had gotten to her. Overwhelming, they were. They sounded like the hiss of a snake, the song of a siren. Soft, melodical. They were hypnotic, calling her forward into the depths. She stepped forward, squinting, trying to get a better gaze at just what was down there...

Suddenly, Jemma was grabbing her arm, snapping her out of whatever daze she had been in. She was yanked back to the team, Jemma looking through the glass visor at her, a motherly, worried look filling her large eyes. "Asia...is everything alright?" She asked, peering down at her friend. Asia was pretty sure everything was far from alright, but she wasn't about to say it.

"Yea, everything is fine," She replied quietly, pulling away from her friend. "I just want to get this taken care of and get the hell out of here," she looked down at her timer. "Maybe we should split up, get this taken care of faster. The sooner we blow it, the sooner we know HYDRA can't get their hands on whatever is inside." She glanced at her teammates, offering her idea to get the hell out of this godforsaken place as soon as possible.

Trip shook his head, "I think that's a bad idea. We're safer in a group."

"We won't be safer if we're dead," Asia countered, flicking her gaze up at Trip. "If we go two and two, we'll get this done, and still be as a team. We can rendezvous here, in ten minutes, and get out before HYDRA is any the wiser." She looked at Leo, then Jemma. "Do you guys agree?"

Leo stepped forward, "I do." He confirmed, giving Asia a small smile. "Um, if we split, we can, you know, get out. Get our job done and get out."

And it was settled. They split in two teams. To keep things less..couple-y, Jemma and Asia went one way, and Trip and Fitz went the other. It was quick, clean, and efficient. Jemma and Asia placed their explosives, making sure the timers were set, and headed back the way they had came, stopping when they reached the rope hanging in the empty hall. Trip and Fitz weren't there yet.

"You don't think....something bad happened, do you?" Jemma whispered nervously, glancing up and down the halls, trying to make the beam of her light extend further, but to no avail. She bit her lower lip, nervously. Maybe all of this splitting up wasn't so good afterall. Maybe they should have just stuck together as a team.

"No," Asia replied confidently. "I would know, if they were dead. I'd feel it." She rubbed at her wrist, fairly confident in her words. She was almost certain she would know if Leo wasn't alive anymore. Like they were linked, maybe. Something stupid and cheesy like that. It soudned stupid, but she needed to believe it. And as if on queue, Leo and Trip emerged, down at the end of the hall, from the shadows. A grin appeared on her face and she glanced over at Jemma. "See, right on time." They could finally get out, and blow this place to bits.

One by one, the agents made their way to their freedom. At the top of the hole, Asia practically ripped off her hazmat suit to breathe in the fresh, albeit musty, air around them. She pulled on her trusty leather jacket, a pair of fingerless leather gloves, and pull her long hair up into its traditional, high pony tail. She shook her arms and legs out, feeling so much more comfortable out of that tunnel.

"Wow, we made it with an extra five minutes to spare. That gives us twenty minutes to get back to the jet before this place goes boom," Trip grinned, clapping Asia on the shoulder. "You were right, Tic Tac, good call. Let's get this bitch sealed up." He stepped away from the tunnel to pull out his radio and let May and Coulson know. Before he could even speak, it cracked to life. The words coming through didn't sound right. They were being broken up by tunnel ruining their reception. "One second," Trip said, stepping closer to the entrance to the square room, trying to get a better signal for the walkie.

Suddenly May's voice cut through. "-repeat. Do you come in? This is Agent May. Agent Triplet, do you come in?" Her voice was faint, but crisp and clear. And urgent.

"Of course, May, this is Trip, I copy. We just got out of the tunnel, set to blow in the next..." he looked down at his watch. "15 minutes, just like planned. How are things on your end?"

"Not good, Coulson and Skye went into the tunnels! They're headed for the Temple." May's voice was pained.

The words hit Asia's ears like a wave, cold, sharp, forcing her into realization. Without a second thought, as the shouts of her teammates filled her ears, Asia lept forward, grabbing onto the rope and diving back down into the cavern.

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It was dark, so dark. Asia hadn't realized just how dark it would be without her headlamp from the hazmat suit. Her palms were still hot under her gloves from the decent down the rope, so she peeled off her gloves, tossing them to the floor. She grabbed her pistol from the holster at her hip and clicked on the tiny flashlight, illuminating the hallway in front of her. Carefully, she began to make her way back towards the Temple, thoughts of the explosives far from her mind.

After moving down the hall at a quick pace for a moment, she heard Skye's voice, heard her shouting Raina's name. Her words echoed off of the walls and Asia tried to pinpoint the exact location of the shout and move towards it.

"Skye!" She called out, listening to her own voice echo and bounce and change, disappearing into the darkness, swallowed whole. "Skye!" she called again, moving faster when she heard the sound of footsteps in the distance.

"Asia, is that you?" she heard Skye call out and her heart lept up into her throat. Her best friend, captured by HYDRA, now alive, and in these tunnels. They were down here, together. Almost like fate.

"Skye!" Asia called again, rounding the corner and practically running smack dab into her friend. The two brunettes gasped, hugging each other tightly, each not wanting to let the other go. "I can't believe you're okay," Asia breathed, her voice coming out as a whisper, but it still echoed down the halls.

"Fucking Ward, always trying to kidnap me," Skye rolled her eyes playfully. "He's the worst kind of stalker honestly, good thing I put three bullets in his gut."

"You didn't!" Asia exclaimed, eyebrows raising, and Skye nodded proudly in response. "Good for you," Asia replied. "It's about time someone did....now....how do we get out of here?" She asked, glancing back the way Skye had came from.

"We can't leave yet," Skye said, holding up the glowstick in her hand, shining it down a third tunnel. "Raina is down here...she brought the Obelisk. She's going to trigger whatever horror story HYDRA has in show. We have to stop her before she gets to the temple." She looked over at Asia, who nodded in affirmation. "Follow me," Skye said, leading the way down the hall.

As they rounded another corner, Skye ran straight into another body. A big, hulking shape of a man that she recognized without a doubt. "Mack?" Skye hissed out, grabbing at his arm.

"No, Skye, don't!" Asia tried to warn, but it was too late. Skye spun their teammate around, practically shrieking when she saw Mack's glazed over, black eyes. "Something in the tunnels did this to him..." Asia whispered. "He attacked Bobbi, Coulson, Jemma, and Leo but....he doesn't...he doesn't do it to us." Asia admitted, nervous about that revelation. It was true. He hadn't made a move to hurl Skye against a wall, that was for sure. He just stood, tall and silent, like a golem, guarding the Temple entrance.

"We'll come back for him," Skye nodded, pushing onward. There was a light coming from within the Temple. The two agents stepped inside, guns raised, to meet Raina. The curly haired girl, no longer in a flower dress, stood opposite of the agents, a small pilaster in between them. The Obelisk sat on it, a single beam of sunlight shining down onto it, illuminating the room, bouncing off of its metallic, silver edges.

"Oh Skye," Raina cooed, "I knew you'd come," she grinned like a Cheshire cat at Skye, not even bothering to flick her gaze at Asia. "Though your tagalong was unexpected. Nothing but a nuisance, to get in our way." She cocked her head at Skye, studying her, waiting for the brunette to make her next move.

"Get in the way of what?" Skye asked, raising her gun to align with Raina's chest.

"Oh darling, of destiny!" Raina exclaimed, eyes widening as the Obelisk started to glow. "Just watch, it's all starting now. There's no going back. Not even I can stop the transitioning." She laughed, almost manically, as the symbols on the Obelisk began to glow as red as lava.

"I'm getting really tired of this whole destiny bullshit," Skye spat out, glancing at Asia. "Asia, we need to stop it...I'm not sure how, but I do know we can't let this fucking....whatever is about to happen. We can't let it complete. It'll mean HYDRA wins."

"I don't know what to do," Asia admitted, lowering her gun and staring at the Obelisk, almost transfixed by the way the glowing symbols began to shift and move. It began to float off of the podium, rising slowly into the air and spinning in a slow circle, picking up pace with each rotation. "What the hell is going on...." Asia breathed.

Suddenly, the entrances to the Temple began to shift, rotating, closing the three women inside, locking them tight. This place was going to keep them as prisoner, and Asia was pretty sure that meant forever. Skye whirled, panic starting to settle in. She saw a flash of movement by one of the closing gaps, a form she recognized.

"Trip!" She called, reaching forward and grabbing his jacket sleeve, yanking the third SHIELD agent into the room, just in time for the giant rock doors to seal themselves completely. He was panting, as if he had just run three miles, and sweat clung to his face.

"What the fuck....?" He said, looking up at the Obelisk, then at Skye and Asia, still breathing heavily. "How do we stop that thing?" He asked, genuinely hoping one of them had the answer. The sinking feeling in his gut was telling him they didn't.

"We can't stop it," Asia said, defeated. "What on earth are you doing down here?" She asked, worriedly.

"I came to get you, obviously. You went jumping into that hole, all Indian Jones, and I couldn't let this temple blow in on three agents," he replied, as if it were the most apparent thing in the world. Suddenly, the Obelisk fell open, the sides falling away, revealing spires of crystals inside. The three agents stopped speaking, unable to focus on anything but the show in front of them. Finally, Trip was able to speak again. "What's....what's supposed to happen?" He asked in a hushed tone, though his was the only sound in the room.

"Something beautiful, darling," Raina purred, looking up at the Obelisk with stars in her eyes. This time, Asia was sure, she really had lost it. There was no coming back from this kind of crazy.

Without warning, a mist shot out of the crystals, bowling Asia over, slamming her into the wall, knocking the wind right out of her. She wobbled back to a standing position, blinking and rubbing her eyes. She was fine. Whatever had just happened, she was fine. Then, suddenly, she felt it. The freezing creeping coming up her feet and over her legs. She looked down and confirmed her worst fears.

The gray ash was climbing up her body, covering every inch of her. The weaponized form of the Obelisk, what happened when it touched people, it was eating her alive. She stared down at her hands in horror as in climbed over them, crawling up her chest, dripping into her mouth, bleeding into her eyes. Everything went black. The last thing she remembered was trying to scream.

Chapter Text

Leo Fitz looked down at the small, modest, gravestone, a frown slipping over his chiseled face. The grave was small and grey, and it was tucked beneath a large, leafy tree, so he always knew where to find it. Protected by the shade, it almost would have gone unnoticed. But he knew, and he noticed, and he always made sure to pull the weeds trying to spring up around it. While it only had a small name written on it, dates, and a loving quote below, he would always know the weight of what had happened down there in the Temple. This battle, it had left its mark on all of them. Scars would be marked on his team forever, even if they weren’t always visible.

The funeral had been brief, not many people were invited. SHIELD was still a secret organization, after all. Technically, wanted by the government. So they couldn't really just swarm the elementary, too many agents in one place was a liability. Maybe it would have been flooded with people if that hadn’t been the case. Leo liked to think so. Even though it was brief, it was still nice. The speaker had good things to say, motivational things. How just because someone was gone, that didn't mean they were forgotten. Leo knew that too well. His whole team had craters in their hearts. But as pleasant as it was, it was still difficult to be there, to see that casket lowered into the ground, buried in earth. There was no coming back from that. That was just how this job went, he supposed. Nothing was permanent. They had signed up for the life of an Agent of SHIELD, and this was the outcome.

But just in case, he kept coming back here, on his free days. Once a week, was his goal. He liked to make sure this little grave was well kept, that it wasn’t left alone. That would be too cruel, after all his team had been through. He knew a thing or two about being left alone, and he didn't want anyone else to feel that way. Not if he could do something about it.

Bending down, Leo looked at the item, in his palm, sighed, and set the small, inactivated EMP ring next to the grave and traced Trip’s name. The same one Trip had given him last year, the one he had used on Garret. “Hope everything is alright, buddy,” he mumbled, patting the gravestone with one hand as if he were patting someone gently on the shoulder, before standing up, glancing around the cemetery for anyone who might be watching him, and strolling discretely away. After all, the woman he loved was still in quarantine. He needed to make sure she was okay.

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Asia woke to the same thing she had been for the past week: shivering and sobbing. Sobbing because she had been dreaming of Trip, all the ways she could have saved him. She relived the moments of his death every time her eyes shut. And the shivering was because it was uncomfortably cold inside of the containment chamber. Every morning she remembered it all over again: Trip dying, the Temple collapsing, Skye and Asia barely making it out. Her body aching, not even being entirely sure how she had survived the ash that ate her body. Then there was the quarantine. It was mandatory, obviously. SHIELD protocol. Until they were able to run tests and confirm that both Skye and Asia remained unaffected by what the Obelisk had done. Asia didn't like to think about what the Obelisk had done....because she was fairly certain these were the sort of changes that could never be undone. She couldn't be fixed.

Every day, Asia woke up sobbing, trapped in that glass bubble, because she knew she could have saved Trip. She could have jumped in front of him, shoved him to the ground. She could have been his shield. The look on Jemma’s face when she found out....Asia would never forgive herself. She could still see his body crumbling in front of her eyes. Another victim of the Obelisk. Another victim of her own curse, the curse of hurting everyone around her.

The agent sighed, shifting under the blanket on her small, not entirely comfortable cot. If she rolled over, she knew she would see Skye on the other side of her containment wall. The two of them were kept in almost identical rooms, separated by only a thin wall of glass. Asia knew if she rolled, Skye would be awake, staring at...who knows what. Pacing, probably. She did a lot of pacing. Asia knew her friend felt like a caged animal in here. It was a feeling she knew well. She didn't like being caged up in here either, but Asia never let it show. If she did, then people would know something was wrong. And she didn't want them looking into what had happened down there any deeper than they already were. Asia knew something was wrong, something inside her had changed. She could feel it.

Asia pulled the sleeves of her chunky sweater down over her palms, trying to warm herself up. She was so damn cold, trapped in there. A cold that ran deep into her bones, waking her up from sleep in the middle of the night some times. A cold she couldn't shake no matter how many layers of clothes she donned. But there was nothing to make that go away, so she had might as well start her morning. She was about to roll over and greet Skye when she heard voices. Hushed tones, speaking quietly.

It was Coulson and Skye, she knew without even moving. They must have thought she was still sound asleep. She spent a lot of time in the glass cage sleeping. She felt so painfully tired lately, after the escape, she couldn't even help herself. Or maybe it was still early in the day, Asia wasn't too sure. She didn't have a clock in her small containment chamber, and the closest one was outside, in the Lab. Rolling over to check would give her completely away. So instead, she stayed silent, listening in on whatever they were talking about. Deep down, she was scared it might be about her. That Skye might admit what had happened to the two of them.

"I just..." Skye choked out. "I can't believe Trip is never coming back. He shouldn't have ever been down in those tunnels with us." Asia could tell Skye was on the verge of tears. They all were, whenever Trip was mentioned. His death was far too fresh of a wound. Just thinking about it made Asia's eyes well up a bit around the corners. She couldn't move to wipe her own tears, she just laid silent, not wanting to give herself away.

"The both of you...our team went down there for an important reason," Coulson replied with a sigh. "To prevent HYDRA from gaining another powerful weapon. To prevent them from destroying the world we know and love." Deep down, this was truly what Coulson believed. But he could tell by looking at Skye's tear stained cheeks, that it wasn't exactly what she was thinking.

"That's not true," Skye spat back, "The only reason Trip was down there at all is because of us. He tried to save us, and it got him killed." She choked out a sob, trying not to let it fill the whole room.

"He didn't just save you, he saved all of us," Coulson replied as evenly as possible. "He may have saved the entire world. He is a hero, always has been. The Obelisk triggered some wild natural event. The earth quake, the storm. Trip destroying it was the most admirable thing. I hate to think of what might had happened if he hadn't."

Skye sighed, leaning back against the table and tapping one of her heels against the ground, frustrated. It was hard not to believe him, but it was equally as hard not to imagine Trip's death as her fault. "How is the rest of the team doing?" She mumbled finally.

Coulson sighed and shook his head. "Everyone handles grief in their own way. We all know, as SHIELD agents, that this ending is always a possibility. We never know what we might run into or where we might run up. No one likes to lose one of their own. But when it's such a good man like Trip, it becomes especially difficult. And when a loss like this happens, over and over, it becomes harder to let people in. You saw Agent Monroe's reaction to last year. That's what the team is like now. Closed off. Trying to avoid the pain. Sometimes, the only thing that seems like it'll fix things is giving up and running away."

"Oh yea?" Skye asked. "Is that what you want to do? Just leave the team behind?" She may have come off snarky, but she didn't mean to. She was just angry, tired of being cooped up, tired of sleeping on an unbearably uncomfortable, lame excuse for a bed. She missed her own mattress, her soft sheets, her comforter. Plus, his answer hurt. She didn't like to think of Coulson leaving the team. She had only just met her actual father, and he wasn't exactly a shining example. Coulson was the closest thing to a father figure that she had ever experienced. And he held their team together. He was the Director, for God's sake. He couldn't just up and leave.

Coulson sighed, crossing his arms over his chest. "Sometimes. But that's the easy answer, and I never do. What about you?" He asked her back. Skye didn't look as if she were ready for a challenging question to be thrown back at her, much less one that seemed to question her loyalty to the team. She looked upset, deflated, annoyed that he said sometimes he wanted to run, even though, clearly, he hadn't. Coulson was the most loyal person anyone in SHIELD knew.

Skye rolled her eyes and gestured at the quarantine chamber around her. "Not exactly an option for me, clearly. Which is probably for the best, because all of this, the death, the loss. This is all because of me." She clenched her fists together, wishing she had a punching bag to tack a jab at. Just to let a little steam out, for once. But that wasn't typically a containment chamber attribute. "We failed. And this loss, it wasn't because of HYDRA, it was because of me." She began to spiral, continuing on, her mind dragging her deeper and deeper downward. "If I hadn't gone down there, Asia wouldn't have followed me. Trip wouldn't have defused the bombs. We could have completely blown the place. But I ruined everything. Somehow, I'm always the twisted core, stuck in the center of all of our problems. All of our bad roads lead to me. All of this death and destruction, it all leads to me." She let out a sob, opening her mouth to continue speaking.

Coulson slammed his fist against the glass, a loud bang, interrupting her tangent. The glass rattled, and Asia almost jolted in her bed. Her muscles her clenched, ready to bolt, and she had to slowly, quietly, release the tension. "Let me get one thing through your head, Agent Skye. We did not fail. Trip prevented a disaster of massive proportions. He saved our team, and the planet, and while we mourn his loss, we will not forget what he did. Whitehall is dead. HYDRA is left scrambling, and while they panic, I am going to obliterate them!" He was practically shouting at this point. Skye stared at him, mouth dropping slightly ajar. She had never seen Coulson this angry before. She blinked, trying to reply, but she couldn't find the words. Her mind had gone completely blank.

"I need to leave now," Coulson said quietly. "I have business to take to. Simmons should be returning tonight or tomorrow, and we can get your tests finalized, get the two of you out of here." Asia could hear the sound of his footsteps fading, hard, pointed taps against the tile. Anyone within earshot would be able to hear his frustration before they even saw the look on his face.

When he had finally disappeared, she let out a small sob, reaching up to wipe the tears off of her cold cheeks. When she brushed her creame sweater sleeve against her cheeks, she pulled her palm back to look at the contents. Her tears, crystallized and frozen, were small, icy drops on her sleeve. They didn't even have a chance to hit the cot beneath her before they had turned to ice. This was her new curse. The curse of the Obelisk. She had changed, inside the ash cocoon. She remembered being caged in the black, though she wasn't sure how long. Once her body was completely covered, the temperature around her plummeted.

She remembered feeling as if she were covered in water, or maybe silk, like something was flowing over her. As if she laid in an icy cold river and just let it carry her away. She could feel the ice all the way down to her veins. And then, just like that, it was gone, and light was pouring in. The cocoon was sliding off of her body like water, leaving her standing in the chamber as Skye stood beside her, panting, and the walls around them shook.

Ever since that moment, Asia could feel the change. She knew the cool air she constantly felt was being given off by her. The team felt as if there was a malfunction in the heating of the quarantine chamber, but Asia knew better. She was causing the cold. She was causing the ice that would cling to the pipes at night. The Obelisk had cursed her with a gift of ice, reminding her of all the ironic types Hunter had called her "Ice Queen." And most of all, she remembered Donnie Gill. The boy who could control ice. The boy she had murdered, shot straight in the head without a second thought.

Maybe this was her punishment, her karma. She had been cursed with the powers of the boy she had killed. She pulled her knees to her chest and sobbed, as the glass surrounding her fogged over with small crystals of ice.

Chapter Text

Asia sat across from Skye, both a mirror image of the other, legs folded criss-cross (Asia could always remember her mother saying that, 'Let's go sit criss-cross-applesauce, even though Asia hated applesauce, as a child, and now), a deck of cards in front of them both. Bobbi had brought them gifts, a survival kit of sorts. They were trying to figure out exactly how to play cards when they each had a unique deck. They had tried Go Fish, but it didn't exactly work with two separate decks. Blackjack worked, but was less fun, especially without anything to bet on. So they had settled on solitaire, and just seeing who could complete their game first. It wasn't riveting stuff, more often than not they got stuck and weren't sure who exactly one because they both had lost. But it was something to do.

"So," Skye glanced around the room, "Is the temperature in your room doing any better?" Asia knew exactly what she was hinting at, and shrugged under her large sweater. She glanced around, and didn't see any icicles hanging from anything. That had happened one night, while she was dreaming. Then Skye had panicked, and the icicles stood no chance against whatever crazy shaking her mind made. Asia had woke to her bed rattling and water and ice all around her.

Asia raised an eyebrow, cocking her head and grinning mischievously at her friend, "I don't know, I've been thinking too much about that earth quake in San Juan to notice it much," she countered. Both girls knew something about themselves had changed, and it had happened down in those tunnels. And they both had seen the aftereffects. Thankfully, no one else on the team had noticed so far. And Asia had come to notice her issues with the ice only seems to come when she was upset. So she spent a lot of time meditating. It's what Natasha would have told her to do, if she had been there. Meditate until you can control it. Meditate until you learn exactly what is happening, meditate until it only happens when you want it to. And so Asia did.

Skye rolled her eyes back at her friend. "Well, it's a good thing we're out of here in a few days. Things can get back to normal." Normal as long as no one found out about them. Which was debatable at this point. Jemma would be home today, she would be testing them. And both of the girls were pretty damn sure something would show up on the results. They could both feel the change inside them, their entire system felt different.

But a bit of normal would be nice. Of course, things might not really feel the same without Trip around...but Asia wouldn’t mind sleeping in her own bed, among her own things. She wouldn’t mind getting to talk to Leo about everything. He had been busy with work recently, and even though things were on the road to recovery between them, it had been a slow road recently. She wanted the chance to see him. To at least talk. But she was also scared about what he would do if he knew what had happened to her, down in those tunnels. She didn't want to tell him. She couldn't. She honestly couldn't tell a soul. The only person who could ever know was Skye, and that was only because they had both been forever changed by that alien temple under the earth.

Before Asia could respond, or even play another card, their entire team started to file into the Lab, minus Jemma, who had yet to make it back to base. Both brunettes looked up, startled, both hoping that no one had heard their previous conversation. But no one had perplexed or shocked looks on their faces, everyone was neutral. So, as far as the girls were aware, all was well.

"Alright," Coulson said, clapping his hands together as everyone formed in a general U shape around him. "I wanted to get everyone together to discuss our next move against HYDRA. And since two of our agents are stuck in here, this is the best place to meet. We currently have a big advantage. We have Bakshi in our cell, and we can use him as whatever sort of bartering chip necessary. The US government is very interested in him, and I have promised him to Talbot. But first, I want to beat HYDRA at their own game. We're going to trick him into thinking he's free. And that people in HYDRA tried to place a hit on him. We're going to get them to destroy themselves from the inside out."

"That seems like a risky play," Bobbi replied, glancing at Hunter, then back at Coulson. Asia noticed how closely the two were standing, and immediately gave Hunter a questioning look. Had something happened between the two of them while she was stuck in here? The body language was giving off all the right signs to seem so. And that was quite the interesting development, if she did say so herself. If she ever got out of this glass prison, she would make sure to ask him about it.

"High risk, high reward," Coulson replied back quickly, as if this response had been expected, as if he had planned for specifically that. "We only have a small window of opportunity to strike HYDRA while they don't have a leader. While it may be risky, it puts us in a position to destroy those responsible for Trip's death."

At his words, Asia bit her lip and looked down. She was partly responsible for Trip's death and she knew it. If she hadn't went into that tunnel after Skye, if she hadn't been lured by whatever was calling her down there, he would have never gone in. It was hard not to feel the immense weight of what she had done, and the ripple effects that spread like wildfire afterwords. She tried to push the thoughts out, take deep breaths. She knew what happened if she let her emotions get too out of control. And if anyone saw....she'd be done for. She squeezed her eyes shut and took a few deep breaths, concentrating on anything else, until she felt the weight of eyes on her. She looked up, and found Fitz, standing still with the others, staring at her, mouth open just the tiniest bit.

He cocked his head to the side, as if to ask her 'you okay?'. She gave him a small thumbs up, signaling everything was fine. When he didn't appear to believe her, she gave him a nod and a tiny smile. No reason to worry, afterall. Nothing was wrong with her, nothing at all.

Mack scoffed, muttering something under his breath that the others didn't quiet catch. But at the sound of his scoff, Coulson's brow immediately furrowed. "Did you have something to say, Mack?" He asked, turning and facing the agent directly, raising one eyebrow in question.

"Oh trust me, I've got plenty to say," the man replied with a roll of his eyes. "But I think it's better I keep it to myself right now." His words here abrasive, accusatory, possibly even...mean. Asia knew that side of him too well, but she had never seen it turned on any of their team members before. Quietly, she got to her feet, leaning on the glass between her and Skye, glancing at her friend nervously. This wasn't going to end well.

When she looked over at Skye, Asia got even more nervous. The girl looked as if she was barely holding it together. Her face was pale and she was sweating. She was wringing her hands together, and her fingers were nervously shaking. Asia tapped the glass with one finger to get her attention and gave her a look of concern. Skye shook her head and bit her lip, glancing back out at the fight brewing between their team.

"Ayyye now, let's not mind him," Hunter said, stepping forward and nudging Mack back ever so slightly. "He's just come down from the world's worst alien acid trip after all. It's going to take him a moment to get back into the swing of things. No one mind him." He was trying, and failing, to defuse the situation. Lance Hunter had diffused many a bomb in his time, but no amount of skill could diffuse the situation playing out in front of them now.

"Hey, um, hey now," Leo said, grabbing Hunter's arm, then letting it quickly go. "That wasn't very funny, or, um, nice to Mack." Leo Fitz was nothing but loyal, and Asia couldn't help but love him for it, but now was not the time to be interjecting. All it did was add fuel to the fire.

"Bugger, mate, I was only trying to lighten the mood," Hunter rolled his eyes. "Wake up on the wrong side of the bed, did ya?"

"No, I certainly didn't," Leo said, stepping forward, toe to toe with Hunter, "All I'm saying is that Mack never asked for what happened to him! He didn't know he was going to get taken over!" It was at the sound of Leo's raised voice that Asia felt the first, tiny, almost imperceptible shake. Her eyes shot to her right, seeking out Skye's. But her friend was staring intently at a can of Cactus Cooler in front of her, which was wobbling just ever so slightly.

"No one asked for any of this to happen, to any of us," May said, her calm voice coming through as a voice of reason, or at least trying. "HYDRA forced our hand in San Juan. Coulson is forcing theirs. He's right, it's the right time to retaliate. We need to strike while they are still weak, while they don't see it coming."

At this, Mack just about lost it. "Did they? Did HYDRA really force our hand? Or did we just hand them over detailed information on the alien city they sought out?"

"HYDRA took them when they took Skye," Coulson replied, shaking his head. "If you think we gave them to HYDRA freely, there's more wrong with you than a bit of alien possession." His words fired out of his mouth like bullets, hitting their target square on. "Are you saying we shouldn't have gone in to save her? That we should have left a teammate behind?"

"Firstly, I didn't see anyone jumping in to save me down there, you were planning to blow the fucking place," Mack shouted back, "And what I'm saying is they never would have gotten the plans in the first place if you and Skye hadn't been so fucking obsessed with the alien messages playing on repeat in your head."

Bobbi's eyes went wide and she stepped forward, putting a hand on Mack's chest, pushing him a step back. "Deep breaths everyone, let's just ca---" she tried to say before she was quickly cut off by one of the shouting men.

"You're just looking to play a blame game, and maybe you need to look elsewhere than your own team," Coulson fired back.

"Of course we wouldn't have left anyone down there," Leo tried to inerject over their shouting voices, but he was drowned out in the crowd.

Asia was too busy focusing on Skye now to give a flying fuck about their argument. Skye was losing control, and they couldn't have that. "Hey," she whispered, "hey, look at me. I'm right here." She put her hand up on the glass, and instantly it frosted over in the shape of her handprint. Skye tore her eyes away from the shaking can for a moment to meet her friend's eyes, panic laced in her own brown orbs.

"I shouldn't have to ask you to save one of your own," Coulson said, flatly, almost a bit deflated. Disappointed.

"Well that's the damn problem," Mack said, voice not lowering, "You never ask. All you do is give your damn orders, not giving a fuck about the consequences." His fists clenched and unclenched over and over again as he glared down at Coulson.

"You will do well to remember your rank and who you're speaking to," May stepped forward to Coulson's defense, her voice cold and even as she stared Mack down. Regardless of their dilemma, Coulson was the Director of SHIELD. There was no changing that.

"Rank? You're going to bring up rank right now?" Hunter objected, that single phrase getting him fired up.

"Hunter!" Bobbi snapped, glaring at him until he retreated like a scolded puppy.

Asia didn't take her eyes off Skye. "Don't listen to them. Just you and me right now, yea? Everything's going to be okay, but you need to breathe," she tried to keep her voice as even and calm as possible as she nodded encouragingly at her friend. Still, she could feel the small shaking rattling her bones. It looked like Skye's vitals were starting to spike, which made Asia's heart rate increase nervously. If at any moment the team stopped focusing on their stupid argument, they'd notice what was going on between Skye and Asia, and that what they were doing wasn't entirely normal. "I just need you to put your hand right here, okay? I'm right here with you," she nodded toward her hand, where the glass was still very much iced over.

"Coulson was only trying to stop HYDRA. That's our job," May said forcefully, glaring at both Hunter and Mack, hands on her hips. It wasn't often that May actually raised her voice, but this moment had brought it out of her.

"We didn't stop anything!" Mack proclaimed, throwing his hands up in the air in frustration. "We unleashed some sort of hell onto the planet! How are we any better than them?"

"Um," Leo interjected again, raising one finger in the air trying to gain attention, "Not entirely true, we don't have all the facts. We don't know what happened down there yet." But once again, his words went unnoticed, causing the young agent to furrow his brow in frustration.

"Trip averted a disaster, he is a hero, and frankly what you're saying makes it sound like you don't believe that," May said towards Mack, eyes narrowing.

"Mack, Skye, and Asia barely even made it out alive!" Hunter said in protest, "We should not have been down there!"

"Thank to Trip, they did! He sacrificed his life," May said pointedly, anger flaring in her eyes.

"No, he didn't sacrifice anything. He didn't get a choice," Mack said angrily, quietly, "He traded his life for theirs and then he was killed. And we don't even have a body to bring home. His grave is empty because all that was left was ash."

"That's enough!" Coulson shouted, his voice rising above all the others, causing everyone to fall into silence.

As he did so, Skye threw her hand forward, matching her print with Asia's, so it was almost as if they were touching. The instant their hands fell in the same space, they felt a pulse. Skye's body rocked with waves of cold, sending shivers down her spine that calmed her nerves. And a jolt of vibrations went scampering up Asia's arm, diffusing all of the panic that was building up in her friend. The two girls stared at each other, both breathing heavily. But the shaking had stopped, they had done it. When they pulled their hands away from the window, Asia quickly wiped her sleeve over the frost and turned back to face the team, who had finally stopped bickering. They were all too focused on Coulson now to say a word.

"If Trip was here right now," Coulson said, taking a deep breath and shaking his head. "He wouldn't be arguing. He wouldn't be bitching, He would be getting ready to do what needs to be done, for the good of this team and for the good of the world. Yes, we might be dealing with forces from outside this world. Forces we don't truly understand. But if it's one thing I do understand, it's HYDRA. They won't be stopped unless someone forces them." He looked evenly around his team, meeting each of their eyes in turn. "I want everyone up and ready to go and sunrise. That's the end of discussion." With that, Coulson pushed through the crowd and disappeared out of the Lab.

Asia was glad that everyone was leaving. She needed time to wrap her head around what had just happened. They had almost lost control. She turned over and looked at Skye.

"I....I don't know what to do," Skye mumbled, looking down at her hands, before sighing and sliding down the glass so her back was to Asia.

Asia stepped forward and sat behind her, on her own side of the glass. "Me neither," she replied, truthfully, looking out at the now empty Lab. Things had almost gone drastically wrong today. They both needed to figure out a way to get this under control. "I don't know what to do, but, I do know that we're going to do it together."

Chapter Text

Jemma was back. Asia paced her cell nervously, running her hands through her hair (which was in desperate need of a wash, just another reason she wanted to get out of this fucking containment. Soaking in a bath for five hours sounded like literal heaven). How was she going to face her, after what had happened to Trip? She was partly responsible for the death of her best friend's boyfriend. How fucked was that? She continued pacing, breathing deeply, trying to process it all out.

"Hey, can you stop that?" Skye said, tapping on the glass, "Being in here is stressful enough without watching you wear a hole in the floor. You're freaking me out."

Asia rolled her eyes and flopped down onto her cot, looking over at Skye. "You realize you paced for like. Literally the entire first two days we were in here, right?" She teased sarcastically. "Let me have my turn."

"Okay well if you keep doing your turn, this entire building is going to end up shaking," Skye snapped back, before shaking her head. "I'm sorry. I'm just. Tense, you know? We haven't seen Jemma since..." she trailed off, biting her lower lip and looking down at her palms.

"Since we got out of the tunnel. Since she found out Trip didn't make it. I know," Asia replied back with a nod, burrowing her chin into the collar of her sweater and letting out a long breath. "Do you think she holds it against us?" She asked quietly, almost scared of what Skye's answer might be.

"Jemma?" Skye asked, "No, no I think she understands this is a part of the job, a risk we face," Skye replied, trying to convince Asia and herself. "But I still think she's going to be heartbroken....and she's going to run the tests on us to get us out of here...."

"Right, the tests," Asia rolled to stare straight up at the ceiling. "Fuck. Well. I'm not really sure how we'll deal with that. Once they pull our blood, I'm assuming our cover is really going to be blown then." She puffed up her cheeks then slowly spurted out the air. "Yea, I don't know how we're going to fix that." The ceiling offered her no answers of comfort in return. It was nothing but a blank slate, staring back at her, leaving her to wonder what her future might hold. She rolled back on her side to face Skye, who was still looking over at her with concern in her eyes. "We'll figure something out. We always do," she tried to offer words of comfort. But honestly, words of comfort are hard to believe when the person speaking them is shaking with nerves.

Skye nodded a quick little nod from where she lay on her own cot, facing one of her best friends. "She'll be here soon, so we'll have to start figuring it out I guess," she whispered.

As if on queue, Jemma entered the room, tapping away at a tablet. Her hair was down, fluttering just at the edge of the shoulders of her flower print button up. Asia recognized it instantly. It was a shirt Trip had gotten her for Christmas the last year. A pang of sadness hit Asia's heart and she felt the air around her drop ever so slightly. Taking a deep breath, she pushed the cold away. She couldn't lose it, not now. With Jemma, she brought along a lab agent dressed in an all white hazmat suit, similar to the ones the wore down in the tunnels. She looked up from her tablet at her two friends and smiled. "Skye, Asia, I'm so happy to see you both," she said, earnestly. "Now, let's get you out of there." She nodded at the lab worker. "She's just going to pop in and run some tests, collect some blood. After that, we'll get the results run. I just want to make sure that whatever infected Raina hasn't done the same to the two of you." She turned to one of the computers in the Lab and began typing away. Skye and Asia met glances out of the corners of their eyes.

Asia moved back to a corner in her room as the suit covered individual entered her space through the sliding glass doors. Taking deep breaths, after the chamber was sealed, Asia went and sat on her cot, holding out her arm so her blood could be extracted. The lab agent smiled a nervous smile at her before taking out a needle and sticking it into Asia's arm. Not wanting to watch, Asia focused out on Jemma. "So, what has you so...shaken up?" She called out quietly. "You seem very on edge today. Like somethings got your nerves going." She tilted her head to the side so she could see Jemma better around the giant suit in her containment chamber.

"Oh, it's nothing," Jemma shook her head, pursing her lips. "Actually, it's better you know now, so you don't find out from someone else....I know I mentioned Raina when I came in, but I wanted to address what happened to her." She paused while the Lab agent moved to Skye's quarantine chamber and began to take her blood. “You wouldn’t have even recognized her...” Jemma trailed off, with a shake of her head. “That’s why we have to make sure neither of you were affected in any way.” She said her words forcefully, and Asia felt them down to her core. For the first time in her life, she was...scared? Of Jemma Simmons. She swallowed, hard, but didn’t speak.

“I’ll take these to be analyzed right away,” the agent in the suit said with a nod and a quick smile, walking briskly out of the Lab and leaving the three women to their conversation.

“I’m glad neither of you were affected,” Jemma continued on. “It was...honestly, quite horrific,” she explained. “Raina was...completely different. And not just on the outside. Here, let me show you,” she typed away at a keyboard, bringing up a large image of molecular data for them to see. There were two different strands of DNA on the screen, one blue and normal, and the other, dotted with red on places which had changed. “It’s quite interesting, scientifically speaking. Her DNA completely rearranged itself. But not only that, it now contains extra macromolecules. I can’t even begin to imagine how.” The scientist shook her head, sighing.

“I mean...that’s pretty amazing,” Skye began nonchalantly, glancing over at Asia. She stuck her hands in the pockets of her black sweatpants as she shuffled closer to the glass to look at the screen.

Jemma’s brow furrowed with concern. “No, it’s not. It’s horrific. We need to make sure the two of you weren’t infected in any way.”

Asia looked out at Jemma, a perplexed look on her face. “I mean...what would be the worst that could happen?” She asked. Honestly, whatever it was, it had isolated to those inside the chamber. Everything was fine, as long as Skye and Asia kept their cards close.

Jemma looked at her friends as if the two of them really were crazy. “An epidemic!” She exclaimed, setting her tablet down hard on the desk and crossing her arms over her chest, looking between her two friends.

“Wow, um, that’s a tad bit harsh, don’t you think?” Skye said, laughing lightly, trying to ease the mood. She felt like she and Asia were on the wrong end of a witch hunt.

“I don’t think so. But perhaps that’s because I am so greatly responsible,” when both of the women in containment open their mouths to object, Jemma held up one finger, silencing them. “I spent so much time trying to understand unearthly powers, trying to harness them, control them. I should have been working to terminate them. If I had, perhaps we could have stopped this long ago.”

“Jemma, SHIELD helps powered individuals all the time,” Asia objected. “That’s the world we live in now. Where would we be without some of the powered heroes on this planet?”

“Better off than we are now. This...this... infestation. It’s a plague that only ends in death,” Jemma protested, tears welling at the corners of her eyes as she looked at her two friends. “Think of all the death we’ve seen of powered individuals. Comparatively, the numbers are exponential.”

“You’re talking crazy,” Skye said quietly, crossing her arms over her chest, hugging herself tightly.

“Hell, half of the Avengers have powers. Even Nat is on the index! Wha-“ Asia began but Jemma raised her voice, cutting her off.

“The Avengers wouldn’t have even been necessary if we hadn’t been messing with Alien horrors! We pushed our luck and we have only been punished for it,” Jemma protested her point, her point of eliminating any powered people.

“That’s...no, there has to be another wa-“ Skye began, but again Jemma cut her off.

“Trip was in fragments!” She shouted, her words coming out as a sob, as she buried her face in her palms for a moment, hiding the tears. After taking a few deep breaths, she looked back up, wiping her stray tears away. “It ends with him. I need to protect the people I care about... I....I couldn’t save him, but that doesn’t mean I can’t save others.”

The two imprisoned agents could do nothing but nod, wishing they could hug their friend, take away a little bit of her heartache. “I need...” Jemma began, her words coming out shaky. “I need to go make sure those samples are being processed. I’ll be back soon enough to get you out of there.” She turned and spun on her heel, hands wiping fiercely at her tears once more.

Asia sighed and flopped down on her cot, turning on her side to look at Skye. “Well, if I didn’t feel like the worlds worst person, I definitely do now.” She sniffed, burrowing deeper into her chuncky turtleneck.

“You’re tied for first in that one,” Skye replied, leaning against her desk. “So what now?” She asked, crossing her arms over her chest and rubbing forlornly at her arm where the blood was drawn.

Asia didn’t know what to say. There was nothing they could do but wait.

————————————————————————————————————————

Asia woke later when she heard footsteps outside of her quarantine area. Glancing at the wall clock outside, it read 23:04. Who was up so late? Suddenly, Leo came into view, standing in front of the door to her chamber. A smile instantly slipped onto her face.

She slipped off her bed and padded over to the glass, giving him a small wave. He looked...tired, and concerned. And he didn’t smile back. Immediately, worry hit her like a truck. “Hey, Leo,” she greeted, rubbing her upper arm nervously. “Is everything alright?”

The scientist pulled at the long sleeves of his grey sweater, biting her his lower lip. He shuffled around a bit, before he looked up at her. “I’m not sure, Asia, why don’t you tell me?” He stared her in the eyes and in that instant, she knew that he knew. He knew all of it, about her, about Skye. About their devlish changes that they couldn’t quite control.

Her mouth fell open ever so slightly, closed, opened a bit once more, as she tried to figure out what to say. “I...what do you mean?” She stammered. In the glass bubble beside her, Skye began to stir, rubbing her eyes and looking over at Asia, eyes widening when she saw Leo standing in front of the glass.

Leo sighed, shifting something he held in his hand. It was small, black destroyed. “I wasn’t sure...wasn’t sure exactly what I was seeing at first. I’ve, um been watching your live feed sometimes. Just, you know, to make sure you’re safe,” he started to say, unable to meet her eyes at first. He let out a low breath again and looked up at her. “And I know there’s nothing wrong with the quarantine ventilation system. Our tech isn’t causing things to get so cold.” He looked at Skye now, who was standing up, mouth open. “But I wasn’t really completely sure until I put your watch back together, Skye.”

She stared at him, then looked at Asia, then back. Her breath was coming quickly and Asia could see she was starting to panic.

“No, you’ve got it wrong,” Asia tried to say. “It’s all me. She doesn’t know what you’re talking about, you’re scaring her.” She tried to get his eyes back on her, to protect her friend, but he was too busy study Skye as she began to lose control.

“I don’t think I’ve got anything wrong, for once,” he said, eyes flickering up to Asia. “Like I said, I’ve been watching your feed. Every single night, when you’re having night terrors, the room fills with ice. The temperature drops below 10 Celsius. And Skye, your watch. I was able to gather the information it was reading during the Temple collapse. Your heart rate was over 300 BPM.”

“No, no that’s not,” Slye tried to protest, hands clenching and unclenching. Asia knew what was coming next and tried desperately to try and get her friend’s attention. “That’s...that’s very fast,” Skye said, breathing quickly as if she were having an anxiety attack.

“No...” Leo shook his head, eyes flirting back and forth between the two of them. “That’s inhuman.”

Chapter Text

Leo had run once the lightbulb in Skye’s room had exploded from the exploded. He had explained he knew something was wrong with the two of them, Skye had lost control, and now Asia was crying small tears of ice, hiding them in the trash can as soon as they fell. As much as she wanted to say everything was fine, this was far, far from it.

He knew. Leo knew. And he hadn’t stayed to comfort her, make sure she was okay, he had run. She knew that no one could ever know, and now the one person who meant most to her had disappeared. She was proud of herself the only thing coming from her was the ice tears, but that was still too much. Her heart was shattering.

But that didn’t mean they could stop doing damage control. She looked over at her friend in the glass beside her. Thankfully the only thing destroyed was the lightbulb in her large, standing lamp. Skye, on the other hand, also looked pretty worse for the wear. She was sitting on the floor, knees hugged tightly to her chest, rocking just ever so slightly. Asia wanted nothing more than to be able to hug her, but that wasn’t in the cards for them. Quietly, she knelt down on the floor by the glass and tried something.

She closed her eyes and pictured a small, singular, line of ice crawling along the floor towards her friend, so small it would go unnoticed by anyone to walk in. She pictured the little river of ice sliding over the one hand of Skye’s that was resting on the floor, almost as if it were holding her. When she opened her eyes, Skye was looking over at her. Asia looked at the floor, and saw exactly what she had tried to imagine, albeit a tad more jagged than she had hoped for. But Skye was giving her the smallest, slightly shocked smile. “We’re in this together, no matter what,” Asia said to her, standing up from the floor. “Now let’s get that glass picked up.”

Skye nodded and stumbled back to her feet. "Yea, yea you're right,"she murmured. "Let me just find um, a rag or something." She began to rummage around her room. A part of Skye was slightly resentful. Asia, afterall, had just controlled that ice, somehow. How could she be so calm? Not letting this get to her. Skye hadn't noticed the icy tears, of course. She had been busy, trying to calm her own self down. She tried to push the thought out of her head. Now was not the time for jealousy, not when Fitz could be telling everyone their darkest secrets.

“What are you going to do about him?” Skye asked, as she bent down and began scraping at the glass, trying to get it into the hand cloth she held onto, scratching her palms as she did so, drawing a bit of blood. She looked up at Asia, who appeared lost in thought for a moment.

“I don’t know,” Asia admitted, finally, as she sat down on the edge of her cot, defeated. She clasped her hands in her lap, staring at them. “I really, really don’t. I’m sure he thinks....well. I don’t even want to think about it. I can’t imagine he thinks anything good about me now.” She sighed and looked up at Skye, when suddenly May and Jemma came strutting into the room. Skye quickly tucked her hand behind her back, hiding the glass and blood.

“Hey, just came by for a quick check in,” May said, a ghost of a smile on her thin lips as she stopped in front of their doors. As she studied the two girls, her smile fell. There was something....off. “Is...everything okay?” She asked calmly, looking them each in the eye in turn.

“Just a long day,” Asia cut in. “Everyone fighting, its hard...especially when you can’t do anything to stop it,” she shrugged, chewing on her lower lip. She wanted to take all of the attention off Skye, keep her friend as calm as possible. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the tiniest bit of frost appear on the lower corner of her glass.

But her distraction hadn’t worked. May was staring at something in Skye’s room. “Are you...bleeding?” She asked, the question falling heavily on Skye’s shoulders. "What the hell happened to you?"

The girl shakily held out her hand, exposing the bundle of cloth, shards of broken glass, and her own blood, for the others to see. She opened her mouth and tried to speak, but nothing came out. She looked over at Asia for help, the barest beginnings of a sentence stumbling out, "I...I...um, Fitz," she tried to protest, hands starting to tremble, dropping more bits of glass onto the floor.

"Fitz was a big klutz again," Asia heard his voice before she saw him, head whirling to search for his face. Leo Fitz walked quickly into the room, a tablet in his hands. "I was drawing samples in Skye's room, you know, in one of those big hazmat suits. And I just bumped right into the lamp and knocked it out. Skye was just trying to help clean up." The words tumbled out of his mouth like a river and Asia thought she might cry. But she couldn't lose her composure in front of May, or she would sense something was afoot. Asia smiled at him, stepping closer until she realized the glass was still blocking her. All she really wanted to do was throw her arms around him. "Anyways, um, I was anxious to get their results back," he explained, as he typed away at his tablet, pulling up a set of images. "Their DNA is an exact match to previous samples we had on file, for, for both of them." He held the tablet out towards Jemma for her to examine.

Jemma let out a happy sigh as she looked over the images, calm finally washing over her. Fitz was right. The DNA samples he had run were exact matches from the ones held on file. Her two friends were completely fine, and they could finally be let out of containment to be with the rest of the team. That was something the team truly needed right now, a sense of togetherness, it would chase away some of the anger, the frustration, the fear. "This is lovely news," She cheered, turning to look at Skye and Asia, handing the tablet back to Leo and clapping her hands together happily.

"Erm, yes, it's great news," Leo said, scratching back of his head nervously. "Uh, Skye, is your bunk made?" He asked suddenly, glancing over at Jemma.

"Oh, oh, of course!" Jemma tapped her forehead as if she had completely forgotten. "I'll take care of that! Make sure you have new, fresh sheets and everything. You should go get that cut wrapped and by the time you're finished, I'll be all done setting up your room. I'm sure the two of you could use some actual rest, in actual beds," she shook her head and smiled as she realized she was babbling. "Off I go then," she clapped her hands together and practically running out of the room, happiness over-boosting her adrenaline.

When she was gone, it was just the three of them. May had left to go tell Coulson the good news. Asia looked at Leo through the glass, his eyes locking onto hers as he shrugged sheepishly. "I guess we can get the two of you out of here then," he said, stepping forward and entering the keypad on both doors, the glass sliding open and a waft of fresh air hitting Asia square in the face. She sighed, happily, free from her glass prison at last.

"I'm, um, I'm going to get this taken care of," Skye said, holding up her hand, then pulling the sleeve of her grey jumper to cover her palm. "I'll see you later?" She turned to Asia, asking the question specifically to her friend, almost nervous of her response.

Asia nodded at her. "Of course. Dinner, or something," she replied, giving Skye a small smile. She understood her nerves, she felt them two. The two girls were linked now, by this incredible, wild, terrifying event they had both experienced. And in their togetherness, they were also alone. No one else would understand their change. She didn't want Skye to think she was being left alone. Skye nodded, understanding, and walked quickly out of the room, almost as if she didn't believe her freedom was real.

Asia turned and look at Leo, who stepped closer to her, brushing a strand of her brown hair out of her face. Her skin was chilled to the touch. Suddenly, she collapsed into his arm, wrapping him tightly in a hug, sobs racking her body. He held onto her, tightly, the two of them sinking to the floor as they embraced. "What did you do?" she asked, sniffling into his shoulder, pressing her head tight into the space where the soft skin of his neck met the lip of his sweater, hiding there.

"I....I deleted the footage from overnight. Anything that would have given you away is gone. I switched the blood samples out for your old ones," He explained, whispering as he ran a hand protectively up and down her back. "So you're safe. I wouldn't let anyone hurt you, Asia." His words helped stopped the tears, actual tears, from falling.

"So....the samples were different?" She asked quietly, still tucked tightly into his chest as he held onto her as if he were never going to let going. She pulled her face away from his chest and looked up at him, blinking, waiting for his answer.

He bit his lip as he looked down at her. For all the time he had known her, she had never looked so small, so frightened. He almost didn't want to tell her, for fear it could shatter her to pieces. "Very different," He said finally, nodding. "But until we can get everyone around here to calm down a little bit, I think we should keep it our secret. Especially from Jemma....the things she's been saying... I don't think you're safe around her right now."

Asia nodded, a tiny, small little nod. "She has been saying some crazy things....things like how we need to eradicate this disease Raina got in the temple...and whatever is in her, it's in me and Skye. I....I don't want anyone to know," she whispered, biting her lower lip. "I don't want her to know there's something wrong with me." Her voice started shaking at her last words, as if she were about to cry again.

Leo sighed and leaned down, pressing his lips briefly against her forehead before pulling her back into a tight hug. "Hush now. There's nothing wrong with you. You're just different now. Just different, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that." And he sat there, rocking her in his arms, until her tears stopped and her breath grew heavy. She had fallen asleep in his arms, and he didn't dare move to wake her.

Chapter Text

Later that evening, Asia sat in the living space on one of the big, leather couches, tucked in tightly beside Leo, his arm wrapped over her shoulder. She had barely left his side since she had been let out of quarantine. She felt safe, tucked up against him once more. She was almost...scared to do so, at first, leave him. Scared that if she left, someone would find out her secret. That she would slip up, cause an ice storm in the bathroom, or just something stupid. It was hard, living your life as a literal lie. Lying to your best friends, to everyone. Just thinking about it made her stomach churn. She reached towards the hand that rested on her shoulder and laced her fingers through it quickly, giving Leo a gentle squeeze.

He looked down at her and gave her a small smile, once again kissing her forehead gently, when the others weren't looking. He was glad their relationship had gotten back on track, even if it had taken some darker turns to get there. And he was going to make sure she was safe. They would figure this all out, together.

The team had gathered in the living area, now that they were all officially there, and were sharing a beer and stories about Trip. It was a little sad, but all of the stories were good. Filled to the brim with happy times and laughs. "Remember the time during the Burnside raid when he tossed me a mag and I missed it? Went right down the sewer drain," Hunter chimed in, taking a swig from his beer. "Never let me live that one down, kept calling me 'Soccer Hands' for weeks." The whole room let out a chuckle.

"Once back in Ops School," Asia piped up, sitting up a little, "He and I were doing this parachuting exercise. We were really fresh to the whole jumping out of a plane thing, and to make matters worse, something went wrong with my chute. So we're plummeting down through the air and he shouts 'Monroe, just grab onto me, we'll be fine!' So I like...swim towards him? And wrap my legs around his side and he yanks his chute. His, of course, comes out just fine. But the force of the updraft shoved me down his legs, pants with me. So we're drifting down, me holding onto his ankles, pants and all. The whole world can see his Iron Man boxers, not to mention our class, who was waiting at the target area for us to land." She let out a laugh, the happy sound catching in her throat ever so slightly as she thought back to the moment. It was such a good, pure time. He had saved her, literally. And they had a laugh while doing it. God, she was going to miss him. She looked over at Jemma, who was studying the label of her beer incredibly closely, but still smiling. She couldn't imagine how hard this was hitting her. She didn't want to think of what she would do if Leo died....she would probably go on some sort of rampage. She tucked herself closer to him, pushing the thoughts away.

"Did he ever tell you about the time," Jemma began, looking up at her teammates and smiling softly, "That his Grandfather took him up to Grandfather Mountain?" She looked down at her bottle of beer once more, rubbing her thumb against the side before looking back up. "They pulled up to the gate and there was a group of teens there, getting ready to go on a hike. Trip was probably around five or six at the time. Well, he saw this group and he marched right up to them, hands on his hips, and started asking if they got permission from his Grandfather to go on the mountain." She laughed, shaking her head. "Naturally, they said no, and Trip, he started making a big fuss over it. His Grandfather had to pull him aside and explain that anyone could go on this mountain, it wasn't just his. And he says 'I’m sorry, grandpa. I thought you owned the whole mountain.'" The whole team laughed along with her, until Jemma let out a low sigh. "He would be so upset with me that I told you guys that story."

Asia reached over at rested her hand on Jemma's shoulder. "Trip was never upset with you, not for a thing." Jemma looked over at her and smiled thankfully.

"We're going to laugh a lot less, that's fore sure..." Skye said quietly, putting to sound what they were all thinking. No one knew what else they could possibly say. There was no way to make this situation any better.

~

After the group had dispersed, Asia found herself walking with Leo back towards the bunk rooms. They stopped in front of her door and she sighed, looking up at him. “Guess this is me,” she said with a shrug, loosely tangling her fingers in his. “Thank you again, for everything. I don’t say this often...but you’re quite literally my hero.” She smiled sheepishly as a blush crept across his cheeks.

“Of course, Asia. I could never...never not try to help you, I hope you know that,” he said, squeezing her hand back.

“I do, and I feel that same,” she smiled back, standing on her tip toes and giving him a soft, gentle kiss on the lips. That too familiar spark raced over her body as their lips collided, fingers squeezing tightly on to one another. It was painful to break away, and when they did, both were staring at one another, until Leo glanced down at their hands.

“Um, you’re getting a little frosty,” he murmured, nodding down at their entiretwined fingers.

When Asia looked down at her hand, she quickly yanked her hand away and shoved it in her pocket. During their brief kiss, a Jack Frost-esque pattern of frost had danced up her finger tips to her wrist, blooming further with each movement their lips had made. Her cheeks flushed red with embarrassment. Was this going to happen every time she felt any sort of emotion now? It was impossible.

“Hey, it’s alright,” Leo said, brushing back her loose hair. “You don’t need to get embarrassed around me. I’m here for you,” he explained comfortingly. “Well, that and I’ve seen all this happen on your video recordings before I deleted them,” he added, chuckling softly at the thought. He sighed, glancing over at her door. “You know, I can stay. Um, I mean,” he brushed the back of his head nervously. “I mean, if you don’t want to be alone, that is.”

Asia smiled softly, scanning her badge and pushing open the door to her neglected room. “You’re always welcome with me, Leo,” she replied to him, padding into the dark room, walking over to her bedside table and twisting on the lamp. The room was illuminated with a soft yellow glow. Her bed, her lucious looking bed with its giant pile of pillows and blankets, was beckoning her forward. Her eyes suddenly felt incredibly heavy.

Leo looked around the room, unsurprised to find things pristinely neat. One of her walls was completely lined with bookshelves, the books organized alphabetically by author. Her pictures that she often kept were still hung against the wall, above her bed. He was surprised to find himself still in a few of them. They hadn’t been so close before San Juan. Before they had talked things out, aired their feelings. But it felt homey. He didn’t expected to see candles on all the open spaces, or for the room to smell like vanilla and pumpkin. “I’m, um, just going to go grab some pajamas pants,I’ll be right back.”

While he was gone, Asia slipped out of her dirty clothes and into one of her large sweaters with UCLA stamped on the front (from one of her undercover mission. Clint was there as a teacher, Nat as a cook. It had been fun), and a pair of fuzzy, grey sweats. She tucked herself into bed, letting the stress wash out of her as she sunk into the pillows and covers. As she stared up at the brick ceiling, a part of her was worried Leo wouldn’t come back. That he was just waiting for a moment he could bow out.

But eventually she heard his feet, clad in slippers, padding back up the hall. She looked up, smiling as he entered the room, turning the small lock behind him as the door shut. He had changed into a pair of blue, plaid pj bottoms and a plain white t-shirt. He smiled at her as he slipped off his moccasins and fell onto the bed beside her.

“Thanks, for staying,” she said quietly, as she turned off the bedside lamp. This situation felt so familiar, him right beside her in bed. It made her think of her first night on the Bus. He had come to her rescue then, too. Seemed like he was getting in the habit of that sort of thing, coming to her rescue. She wasn’t used to it, to being saved. It was actually a pretty nice feeling, if she admitted it to herself. The last time she had felt so protected was in the presence of Strike Team Delta.....

Shit. As her mind trailed to them, she thought about the last time she had sent them a report. It had been a while. She was slacking. And how exactly would she tell them about this latest....development? She wasn’t sure how to make it work. But she didn’t want to think about that now, didn’t want to get too stressed. She didn’t want to turn this room into an ice box.

Leo slid toward her, wrapping his arm over her waist, holding onto her tightly from behind, his breath warm on her neck. “You’re so cold, now,” he whispered quietly, taking note of just another part of her change. She always felt just ever so slightly colder than usual. Enough that it was noticeable, but not enough to bother him.

“You’ll just have to stay close them,” she teased, snuggling into his chest, feeling his warmth spread over her back. There was no place she would rather be than right here in this moment, with the man she loved. “If you can stand the chill.”

“For you, I think I can manage,” he whispered, pressing a kiss on the back of her neck, holding her tightly. He felt so comfortable beside her, as if this was the place he had meant to be all his life. Like all of the puzzle pieces were falling into place.

The two agents fell asleep like that, nestled into place between the plush blankets, one keeping the other warm, one keeping the other cooled. Like ying and yang, perfectly balancing one another in their slumber. Nothing could have disturbed their rest or their bliss and they slept together, finally without worry.

Chapter Text

But the life of an Agent of SHIELD is never truly without worry. When Asia woke up the next morning, she could feel the air noticeably cooler around her. Blinking, she felt relieved to feel Leo’s arm still protectively over her waist. But when she opened her eyes, she knew instantly something was wrong.

When she exhaled, spirals of her own breath we’re visible in the air. She could see frost creeping over the edges of her walls and the pipes that ran along the ceiling. Whatever was going on was clearly of her own cause. She just hoped that it wasn’t happening throughout the base. How would anyone explain that?

Leo must have felt her moving beside him because he let out of quiet yawn and rolled, arms stretching above his head. As his bare skin met the cold air he quickly yanked them back under the covers and out of the cold. "Did someone turn the thermostat down? " He asked sleepily, pressing his cold nose up against the warm skin of her back.

"Um, yea, it was me. Not intentionally," She murmured back, cheeks red with embarrassment. How could someone usually so adept at keeping their emotions in place be this bad at controlling whatever power was surging through her? She didn't understand it to save her life. She didn't even know where to begin to try. She wondered if Leo could feel the slight quiver in her hands as she nervously spoke. And the more she worried about it, the colder it became. She could feel the chills seeping out of her body and into the room around them. She pulled the blankets tighter around herself, trying to seal it all in, keep the cold simply to herself.

It was then that Leo wrapped his arms tightly around her, pulling her hands away from her face and kissing the back of her knuckles with his warm lips. "Hey, hey, I'm right here with you," he said calmly. "Just you and me, yea? Not a thing to worry about." She was still shaking, even with her small hands wrapped in his. He could tell she was spiraling into a panic attack, and with each breath, her skin, and the air around them, got colder and colder. He knew he needed to help calm her down before she froze everything around her, including himself. Gently, he rolled her over so she was facing him. "Asia, take deep breaths. Lets do them together." He inhaled loudly, holding it, the exhaling, watching her mimic his movements. "That's it," he smiled at her proudly. "See, you're just fine. Everything will be okay."

His kind words in that beautiful accent of his, and the slow methodical breathing, started to bring her heart rate down. She sighed in frustration, looking up at him. “I just don’t understand why this is happening. To me. Or to anyone. I feel like I’m cursed.” She frowned, the thought trying to settle in her chest and weigh her down.

Leo couldn’t help but think maybe they were cursed. Cursed to never live an easy life, cursed with things trying to get in their way. He had been thinking it for a while now. But he couldn’t say that out loud to her, especially not now, not when he was trying to help her get better. Well, not get better, per day, but cope. Help her understand her newfound abilities, even if she didn’t exactly want or ask for them.

She rolled so she was staring up at the ceiling, run a hand through her long, loose hair. “I just...I don’t feel like myself, you know?”

“Um yea, I, I do know,” he muttered, looking up at the ceiling with her, their upper arms pressing together. Lazily, Asia linked her pinky finger through his. “I do, erm, I get what it’s like. To feel different and know you are.”

“Of course you do...” Asia murmured, thinking of how she had isolated herself from him so she wouldnt get him hurt again, but all it really ended up doing was hurting him more. “I’m sorry, for how I treated you after. It was never because I didn’t like how you changed. I didn’t want to get you hurt again...and thank you, for not leaving me by myself.”

“You don’t have to apologize, I understand why you did what you did. You thought, um, you thought that it was your fault,” he whispered back. “You think that a lot, I’ve noticed. That people are going to get hurt by being around you. And they’re not. That’s just what happens in this job,” he explained, trying to help ease her thoughts. And he did really understand it. All this fallout and destruction and hurt happened all at once and she felt as if she were in the center of it. She wanted to keep everyone she loved safe, even if it meant hurting herself.

She rolled back on her side and looked over at him, this beautiful, brilliant, resilient man and wondered how she had gotten lucky enough to make it through the storm and still be standing beside him. Regardless of everything that had gone wrong, this ions old curse she had received, that alone made her feel lucky.

If only the two lovebirds knew that the storm was far from over. They were simply standing in the eye, marveling at how calm things had suddenly become.

—————————————————————————————————————————--------------------------------------

But the team went about their business as if nothing had changed. How could they not? Other than Leo, Asia, and Skye, no one was any the wiser that anything even was different. Asia went about her business as usual, training, hitting things, sitting with Leo and Jemma in the Lab, reclining in a swivel chair. And she meditated. She spent time using the techniques Natasha had taught her to center herself, so that she wouldn't have any more episodes. Or at least, that's what she hoped would come of it. If she practiced for long enough, because in the short term, it still wasn't working. Leo was still staying in her room, secretly, every evening, and in the mornings, they would wake to frosty breath and cold skin. And every morning, she would be a little more disappointed in herself.

It wasn't easy, keeping these things a secret. Skye and Asia would exchange knowing glances from time to time, stealing each other away from conversations that started to dip towards the more difficult, more stressful, in order to prevent the other from losing control in front of the team. They never expected it to go smoothly, but Leo was incredibly good at awkwardly interrupting and shouting that he needed something urgently grabbed from the Lab for him right now. The two girls complied, every time. They made a good team, the little trio, looking out for one another at all times. At night, they often lounged on one of the couches together, watching movies and tv shows. Leo, of course, always voted for Doctor Who. Asia had a penchant for bad, cheesy tv shows, such as The Bachelor, and all of its spinoffs. Skye would watch just about anything, but found NCIS and other crime shows just utterly thrilling. And they would take turns, picking what they would watch, then sprawl out as a tangle of arms and legs and laughter, letting this be their form of relaxation.

After the show or movie was over, Asia and Leo would sneak, quiet like mice, either back to his room or hers, and fall into bed together, snuggling up to one another and falling asleep without issue due to the comfort of one another's presence. Asia had never felt so happy in her life, aside from the whole utterly catastrophic powers situation. Nothing could replace being tucked into bed next to the man she loved, his hot kisses covering her bare skin.

But not everyone seemed to appreciate their rekindled connection. Surprisingly, Jemma would shoot her frowns and furrows of the brow whenever she slipped into the Lab carrying a cup of tea for Leo and a sandwhich for his lunch. She hadn't spoken up, not said one word, but Asia saw the looks, and her stomach dropped every time it happened. She didn't understand, wasn't this what Jemma had wanted earlier this year? For her to patch things up with their favourite scientist and have everything return to the way it was? Wasn't Jemma the one who had kept encouraging her to visit him in the Lab? To talk with him? She was. She had been. And between then and now, something had changed. And Asia couldn't even bring it up, for fear of losing it and turning the whole Playground into an icebox, complete with it's own set of icy stalagmites and stalactites. So she put it out of her mind. She would figure out how to bring it up, eventually. When she had more control, when she could safely hide what had happened to her. Especially from Jemma, Jemma was the one person she never wanted to find out. The scientist seemed to want to eradicate whatever had been released in that Temple, and now, Asia and Skye fell into that category.

But she did bring it up to Leo, one day, when he was monitoring her vitals as she ran on the treadmill (something he would do from time to time just to make sure she was doing okay, that whatever transition she had gone to wasn't killing her from the inside out). As her feet pounded against the rolling black rubber, she said between breaths, "Jemma is upset with me over something." It wasn't a question, there wasn't room for debate. It just was.

"Why do you think that?" He asked as he studied his tablet, watching the way her heart rate spiked as she spoke, showing she was clearly agitated. But as it didn't drop, he raised an eyebrow, cautiously looking up at her, watching her legs begin to pump faster and faster. He looked down, noting her speed, looked back up, but didn't speak a word.

"It's something about the way she looks at me lately," Asia explained, not even noticing she had begun to run after. She wasn't paying attention to anything except how annoyed she was. She had bottled up all these feelings for so long, and now they all came out at once, everything she had kept inside for the past year. "She just....she sneers whenever I'm around you, which I just don't understand. You think she would be happy for her friends." She frowned, slowing down and coming to a stop. It was enough running for one day, she was ready to shower and relax. Maybe put on her pajamas early and climb into bed. It had been a long, long week. She deserved bed, now that she thought about it.

She jumped off the treadmill, panting, and looked down at Leo, wiping her hair out of her face. "What?" She asked, "What is it?" He was looking down at her tablet then up at Asia, blinking rapidly. "What's happened?" She asked, instantly worried that someone was hurt, that something had gone wrong while they were talking. She sat down beside him, looking him in his concerned eyes. She could feel the temperature around her tip near freezing.
dww
"Deep breaths love, everything is fine," He reassured her, setting his tablet down and grabbing one of her hand in two of his and kissing the back of it gently, twice, before letting her go and grabbing the tablet. "I just need you to, um, need you to see this." He held the tablet up, showing her a set of various charts and graphs depicting her vitals. "Now, tell me what you see," he suggested, handing the tablet to her. He watched as her grey eyes raced over the charts, looking for something even more out of the ordinary than expected. She turned back and looked up at him, furrowing her brows.

"I'm sorry, Leo, this is more your area of expertise than mine," Asia frowned. "Can you show me what I'm looking for?" She handed the tablet back to him and nodded encouragingly.

"Here," he tapped on the screen a couple times, clearing away all the data except for one chart, so that it was easier to understand. "Alright, here. So this graph here is what your normal running speed is. The purple line is what you were just running at. It's not an insane speed, but it is definitely higher than the norm." He pointed at each space individually, showing her what she was looking for. Her eyebrows raised ever so slightly as she studied the charts, then looked back at him.

"So what you're telling me is whatever happened in those tunnels didn't just affect my...my DNA and all that, it's specifically changed how my body works?" She questioned, not entirely doubting it. It made since. Her molecular structure was entirely changed, it only made sense that it had affected her body's natural abilities in some way. "That's....wow. Okay. Very noted," she replied quietly, picking at a loose hangnail on her thumb. She couldn't even run normally anymore.

"It's not necessarily a bad thing. Based on your vitals, your body can handle the elevated functioning. You just need to be--" Leo began to say, before he was cut off.

"'Be careful,'" she quoted him, standing and grabbing her workout bag, slinging it over her shoulder. She was well aware she needed to be careful. It was the one thing she knew without a doubt.

Chapter Text

Asia stood in the shower, letting the hot water scorch her skin, feeling particularly shitty. She hadn't meant to snap at Leo, nor to storm off like that. The stress had just been building up, winding her tighter and tighter without any hope of release. Reaching up, she ran her fingers over the knots building in her shoulders and in her chest. The kneading on her muscles felt so good she almost let out a moan. The rippling release of tension over her body made her weak at the knees and she put a hand on the wall to keep herself up. Agents often went on for far too long without giving their bodies the releases they required to keep them healthy.

After a moment of relaxation, she stood back up, vowing she was going to find Leo after she was clean and in her comfortable clothes and apologize to him. He had been so good to her, so protective, he didn’t deserve that attitude from her, even if it wasn’t intentional. She would curl up beside him on the couch or in bed, head in his lap, and everything would be fine. She sighed, running her hands through her hair, dipping her face into the warmth of the water that cascaded upon her.

Suddenly, the glass door of her shower stall slid open. Throwing her hands over her bare breasts, she whirled to face the most unwelcome intruder, and was shocked to find Leo there, standing just as naked as she, warm mist swirling about him and his eyes containing a heat she had never seen from him before. His eyes trailed slowly down her body, then back to meet her gaze. She could feel every movement they made over her bare skin, and she blushed a shade of crimson as he took in her scars. She moved one of her hands to cover up some of the worst ones, the ones that made her feel like a patchwork quilt. Like she had been taken apart and put back together too many times to be a real person any more.

The first scar she had ever received, she was proud of. She thought it meant she was brave, that she was bold. And it reminded her she wasn't quite as invincible as she had once thought. But the more scars she collected, the less she liked them. It got to the point where she didn't ever really enjoy looking at her bare skin. It reminded her of darker times, of mistakes she had made. Of times her teammates had gotten hurt because of mistakes she had made, tasks she hadn't been able to accomplish. It reminded her of the times she had failed. She stepped backwards until she was pressed against the white tile walls of the shower, trying to hide herself in the steam, hide away her imperfections. Yes, they had spent nearly every moment together over the past few days, but that didn't mean he had seen her like this. Seen her so vulnerable, so bare. And Asia Monroe had always feared vulnerability, almost above all else.

Leo Fitz stepped forward into the shower, pulling the glass door shut behind him, thinking of the last time he had seen her in the shower. She had been covered in blood and wounds, barely conscious of where she was. He remembered washing her back gently, trying to make sure there was still a piece of her left, buried away under everything. Here she was again, hiding herself away, caused by her own personal torture now, not from that of another man. All he wanted to do was show her nothing between them had changed, that no matter what happened, he still cared deeply for her. No magic temple, or being dropped to the bottom of the ocean, or upset teammates was going to change that, ever.

And regardless of her scars, the way she clearly tried to hide them, he thought she was beautiful. Endlessly beautiful. The things she saw as flaws, as imperfections, he saw as the opposite. He saw her as perfect, imperfections and all. He stepped closer towards her again, softly pulling her hands away from her body, away from the scars she was trying to hide, and he kissed her fingertips softly, looking her in the eyes as he did so.

Asia’s heart was practically beating out of her chest, the fluttering, buzzing nerves making her powers go haywire, a frozen mist starting to fill the air of the small bathroom, mingling with the steam of the shower and melting. The way he was looking at her, full of heat, and passion, and most importantly, full of love (a word the two still hadn't shared again), and his gaze made her feel warm and light. And it stirred something inside her she had never felt before. She tried to think of what it was, and as she pondered it came to her. Safe. She felt safe.

So when he pulled her close to him and pressed his lips to hers, she didn’t hesitate. She kissed him back, wrapping her arms around him, running her hands over his bare back, feeling every piece of him, the ripple of his back muscles often hidden beneath large sweaters, the soft bumps of his spine, the goosebumps that chased over the pale flesh where her cold fingers danced. She wanted to know every part of him, recognize him simply by touch. She wanted the emotional connection she felt towards him to be just as strong in the physical realm.

Their kiss was hungry, like neither of them had felt this connection or comfort in years, if ever. If Asia thought about it, she would have supposed she hadn’t. If she thought about it, she had loved many people, but never been in love until she met the clumsy scientist with a passion for good, and a passion for good food, who cared so deeply about his teammates he would lie to protect them, even from themselves. And she was, in love. Even if she was too afraid to say it again, she knew it was true. So when he turned the water off and scooped her up in his arms, carrying her to the bed, she didn’t stop him.

————————————————————————————————————

Making love to Leo Fitz was everything she ever could have imagined. Of course, especially because of her field, Asia had slept with men before. Whether it was during her school years or for a mission, it had happened. She had plenty of sex, even if it had been a while. But with Leo, god, it was so different. It was so cliche, and she hated to think it, but it was as if they fit together like two puzzle pieces. She sighed, rolling on her side to look at him as he slept, softly, every now and then licking his lips in his sleep.

One of the biggest things for her was he had seen every one of her scars and didn’t shy away from them. Boyfriends she had in her past liked to pretend they didn’t exist. But not Leo. He wasn’t afraid of her scars, of her darker past. He kissed every scar on her skin as if they were dotted lines of constellations, beautiful, linking her body together. She smiled to herself, shutting her own eyes and letting sleep take her over. The last thing she thought to herself before she passed out was that, perhaps, together they really could get through this.

Chapter Text

As Asia slung her fist, hard, at the punching bag in front of her, her watch beeped loudly. Brushing back loose strands of hair, she looked down at the device on her wrist. She was requested at the Bus, mission time.

Grabbing her duffle bag, she slung it over her shoulder and jogged off to her room to grab her things. When she slipped into her room, Leo was already there, packing a bag of his own, grabbing a few jumpers he had left in her room. Without looking up as she entered, he lifted up his right arm towards her, holding her leather jacket out in her direction, already knowing she would be looking for it.

She grabbed it thankfully, and slipped her arms into the sleeves, zipping it up thankfully. The jacket reminded her she needed to try and get in contact with Nat and Clint again. Both had gone incognito following the fall of SHIELD and as famous as they were, the two agents new damn well how to make sure no one would find them. Wherever they were headed on this mission, Asia would make sure she spent the flight scrolling through their traditional radio frequencies, see if she could pick up any hint of her mentors. They had to be in touch somehow.

Grabbing some of her clothes, she quickly packed them into her bag and zipped it shut. “Shall we?” She turned and smiled at Leo, pushing the thought that this was her first mission after...the change...to the back of her mind. Everything would be fine. It always was. She wondered if far off, in her own room, Skye was trying to convince herself of the same exact thing. She was fairly certain she was, but she also couldn't feel any small rumblings in the building which was a damn good sign. After her bag was packed, she sighed and turned to look at Leo, smiling softly. "Shall we?"

Leo pulled her too him, kissing her forehead gently, and tucking her head under his, breathing in the soft vanilla scent of her hair. He was only the slightest bit worried about Asia going out on a mission. Only slightly. He wanted to make sure she stayed safe, and all the stress they were about to face probably wouldn't be the worlds best situation, but he also knew Asia would not be coddled. She would not sit there and let anyone hold her back from doing her job, from helping others. It was stitched into her DNA, and he couldn't help but love her for it. "I'm ready if you are," was all he could muster, and it was true enough. When she looked up at him and smiled, it pushed whatever worry he had aside. She was happy. Happy to be getting out, to be doing something.

"Let's go then," she said, giving him a quick kiss on the lips and turning away to head for the door, but he grabbed her waist and spun her back to him, pressing his lips against hers once more, this time with more fierceness, with a hunger, a passion that lit up a fire inside of her. She giggled into his kiss, pulling away. "Leopold Fitz, we are going to be late if you keep that up," she said in a breathy tone, cheeks flushed red.

Cheekily, he put one more tender kiss on her lips then pulled away. "Right, right, best get out there then." He walked over and held the door open for her. As he opened the door, they were greeted by Skye, hand raised into a fist, ready to knock.

"Wow," Asia grinned, "That timing, huh?" she pulled her duffel bag over her shoulder and stepped up beside Leo, focusing on Skye. "How are you doing today?" she asked nonchalantly, in case any other team members were lingering in the halls. Of course, what she really meant, was had Skye had any episodes. Or near episodes. Any instances where she felt as if she was going to lose control. Asia knew the feeling all too well, but she had been forcing it off recently, until she was far alone, like when she was in the shower, when she could let all that every explode out of her and freeze the water droplets as they fell out of the shower head. Once on accident, she froze the entire pipe line. But with all the 'issues' going on recently, no one seemed to bat an eye at the occurrence. They were fixed within the day.

Skye rung her hands together and glanced up and down the hall. "Um, not today. Ready for the mission?" she asked, grimacing slightly, looking down at her hands and then back up at her two friends once more. "Cause, uh, I think I am. But I'm a bit...nervous, I guess?" She said timidly, sounding very un-Skye-like. Skye never really like to...showcase her weakness, but that didn't mean that it didn't exist, underneath all the baggage.

"Me too," Asia said quietly. "But it'll be fine. We have each other's backs, right?" She put on a smile, for her friend's sake. Agent Monroe felt as if she needed to always put up that front, always put the feelings of others first, make sure that they were okay. She felt some sort of...urgent need, always, to do that, above all else. So she did it now, even though the same nerves gnawed at her stomach, even though she walked around digging her fingernails into her palms to keep herself under control, she wouldn't show weakness if others couldn't handle it. And today, she knew Skye couldn't handle it. She she grinned and bore it, as she did, and would figure out how to make it through the day later.

"Yea, we do," Skye replied, a small smile slipping over her lips. "I'm probably just...getting worried over nothing." She clapped her hands together. "Shall we go then? To the Bus?"

"Yea, let's, um, let's do that," Leo said, his hand resting warmly on Asia's lower back, urging her forward. "They're probably all expecting us anyways. Best not be late." He adjusted the handle of his own bag in his hand, and then the three of them made their way down the hall, a unit, unified in their difference, in their understanding. Ready to take on whatever was about to come forth.

 

"So, where are we headed?" Asia asked Coulson as they climbed in the ramp onto the Bus, shrugging off her bag onto one of the shelves attached to the wall, glancing over her shoulder as she asked the question.

"Peru," Coulson replied with a small nod, "Also Agent Monroe, I've become adjusted to your late tendencies, but please, don't let them rub off on your fellow teammates," he glanced over at Leo and Skye as he said this, raising his eyebrows in a gentle accusation.

"Of course not, Sir," Asia replied, giving him a small salute. "I'll make sure to round up the troupes with time to spare next go around." She glanced over at Leo and Skye, giving them each a small smile. She would have liked to have stepped forward, wrapped her hand in Leo's, feel that comforting physical connection, but she didn't. Thought the entire Bus knew they were close again, no one knew about their...relationship. Aside from Skye. And for now, until they sorted everything out. Figured out this whole 'powers' mess. Asia didn't mind, she liked living her life in private anyways. Keeping a clear cut between work and personal life. It was easier that way, except when you lived in the same compound as the people you worked with, people you considered friends. Still, they kept the PDA to a minimum, until they were in private.

"Alright well, go get strapped in. We've got a long ride ahead of us," Coulson gave each of his agents a nod, before climbing up the circular staircase leading out of the cargo bay.

They watched him go, standing in an awkward silence. Asia's eyes drifted down to the Lab, where Jemma was watching them, holding a small beaker of something, protective goggles over her eyes. But even with the goggles, Asia could still see her eyes as they met, then as the scientist quickly looked away. Something hollow in the pit of Asia's stomach throbbed. That used to be all of them, in there, working, laughing. Now, they would all go their separate ways. Skye would probably wind up napping. Leo would work with Mack. Asia would spend her day tucked beside a window, using her tablet to tap into specific radio frequencies, searching for....something. Anything. A sign that Clint and Tasha were looking for her, too.

Chapter Text

Asia looked out the window, headphones in, as the frequencies on her tablet rotated over and over, as she searched for something. Anything. It could be an actual voice to a pattern in the static, Strike Team had used many methods of discrete communications in the past, so anything could be hidden within the white noise. She had been listening to the frequencies on her tablet for a few hours now, as they flew across the ocean towards Peru. She was about to give up hope when she heard a tiny, small, almost unnoticeable blip come through. Pausing the rotation of stations, Asia froze, listening intently for another sound, because she was absolutely certain she had heard something.

Yes, yes, there it was. It was mores code, but there were several minutes in between letters beeped out, but it was there. Waiting for her, this entire time. It took almost an hour for the entire thing to be decoded, but it was a phone number. Presumably, for her to call. She jotted those numbers down at tucked the scrap of paper into her back pocket. As soon as this mission was over, she would reach out to her old teammates. They were out there. She wasn't foolish. They had been searching for her. There was a sense of warmth in her heart that she hadn't felt for a while now. A sense of family, of belonging. Like everything actually was going to be alright. She stuck her forefinger into her back pocket, brushing it up against the paper once more, reminding herself this was real. This was no dream.

She looked out the window at the open sky, a smile from ear to ear.

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Later, when the Bus touched down, and after May and Coulson made a little trip out to visit their contact inside the Peruvian authorities, it became apparent why they were called here. Lady Sif, of Asgard, was back on Earth again, for an unknown reason, and she seemed to have lost her memory. Asia felt sad, looking at her. It wasn’t pity, that wasn’t the right feeling, but she was sad. Sad that someone so great had lost so much.

When Asia had entered the briefing room on the Bus, Sif was standing there, staring at a screen image of her and Coulson, brows furrowed as she tried so hard to remember the memory which had been wiped from her brain.

"Agent Monroe," Coulson instructed after they finished watching the viral footage of a fight between Sif and a large man, who, surprisingly, was holding his own against the Asgardian. "You will go with Agents Skye and Morse to speak with the witnesses, see if we can get any further information on who this guy is, or where he went. Fitz, Hunter, Mack, the three of you will go collect whatever forensics you can find on that pier." The pier had been the setting of the fight. Based off of the footage, it had appeared the Sif had cut the man, possibly. They needed to get to the bottom of who he was, how Sif's memory was missing, and why this man could hold his own against her to begin with. Asia wasn't upset with the assignment. Interviews would be easy enough to keep her cool during, no pun intended.

As Asia and Leo were leaving the briefing area, side by side, they froze, when Jemma approached agent Coulson. "Sir, the Science Division has loaded the team with a set of heavier suppression artillery for this mission. " She held her hands, crossed, in front of her waist, smiling proudly. Asia turned to Leo, a look of terror and concern in her eyes. Jemma was at it again. She wanted to destroy what had come out of that Tower. Little did she know, what had come out was two of her friends, changed, for better or for worse. Leo grabbed her hand and gave it a quick squeeze, before dropping it and stepping forward.

"Um, w-what is all that for, exactly?" He asked quickly, looking back and forth between Coulson and Jemma.

"Well, based on everything we have experienced with Raina's....transformation, and the mystery man who captured her, I think it's best that we capture first, ask questions later. To keep everyone safe." Leo's brow furrowed, and Coulson cocked his head to the side, as if asking for further information. "New ICERS are still in development," Jemma finished with a quick nod.

"New ICERS? But they function just fine, thank you," Leo crossed his arms over his chest defensively. He had designed the specs for that gun exactly right, he knew it. It had worked sufficiently so far, as far as he was aware. And if they hadn't been, why had no one informed him? That was just downright rude.

"Oh, no, no" Jemma assured hurriedly. "The mechanical designs remains adequate, as it always has been. In the Lab, we've been working on developing a more....concentrated form of the dendrotoxin."

"Wouldn't that be dangerous?" Asia asked quietly, studying the woman she once considered a friend. Up until Ward, she had never considered the possibility of one's teammate becoming her enemy. Now, the idea was all too prevalent in her mind. Jemma want to erase whatever she was, whatever she had become. She knew now, more than ever, that the team could never, ever know.

"Well, yes. It could potentially be dangerous, unless we ice them, then administer a specific countermeasure. Which will be fairly easy, since they'll be right knocked out," Jemma explained. "It will be incredibly effective, and given the recent developments and things we have faced in the field, I honestly do not believe we can afford for it to be anything else." Her face was solemn, and Asia wasn't sure she could take another minute of this.

She grabbed Leo by a tiny corner on the leave of his sweater, right by the wrist, and tugged him backwards. She needed out of there, immediately, or she was going to freeze the whole space. When he didn't move, Asia turned and rushed out of the room, hands shoved deep into the pockets of her jacket. She could feel the ice formed over her knuckles even as she strode quickly away. She needed to hide, she needed to breathe. She needed Leo and Skye. But they weren't with her presently, and she was well and on her own.

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Later that same day, Bobbi, Skye, and Asia made their way to a medical facility, where they were going to attempt to speak with anyone who may have been hurt during the attack on the pier.

"Monroe, how's your Portuguese?" Bobbi asked her, nodding her head towards the front desk.

w

Asia frowned and shook her head, replying, "Está enferrujado na melhor das hipóteses." It had never been her best language, yet she had learned it all the same. Languages were always a part of the gig. She had always had a knack for learning them, from back when she was young till when she started working with Nat and Clint. Russian and French were her best, but she was well versed in several others. It had been years since she had practiced Portuguese, though.

Bobbi sighed and shook her head. "I can't say mine has had much more use." She looked around the room before her eyes finally landed on a janitor, probably around his late fifties, and approached him. The other two agents watched as Bobbi attempted to negotiate her way through a conversation. As much as Bobbi had said her tongue was rusty, she handled herself just fine. He directs her towards the desk, nodding that the women there will be able to help them. Bobbi turned back to her partners and nodded towards the front desk, indicating they should all make their way in that direction.

Skye and Asia exchanged a small glance with one another, reassuring that everything would continue to be fine, then they proceeded forward. The desk was behind a small front wall, keeping the women behind it protected. Inside the front desk area was the front desk itself, several file cabinets, and a book shelf. A nurse sat at the front desk, busying herself with paperwork, signing off on several sheets. As the three women approached, she looked up, sliding her paperwork to the side. "May I help you?" she asked them politely, folding her hands in front of her.

"Good afternoon," Bobbi greeted with a pleasant smile, holding up a tablet with an image of the man from the pier on it, his face clenched with anger. "We were actually looking for this man. He may have been injured during an incident at the pier, we believe he may have come here for medical attention."

The woman barely glanced at the image before shaking her head, “No, I have never seen that man before.” She replied, flatly. Asia thought she glimpsed a bit of uncertainty in her eyes. “I can ask around and see if any other staff members have, but it may take a moment. The nurse on staff here earlier today had to leave sick.” She paused for a moment, unsure if she should have given away that much information.

Suddenly, a woman stumbled into the back room, hands pressed to her ears. She dropped down into a chair by a desk on the back wall, looking up hopelessly at a nurse who had followed her in, speaking in rapid Portuguese, sounding full of distress.

“Is she alright?” Asia asked the nurse at the front desk, nodding her head in the woman’s direction. It was very apparent she was not fine, at all.

The woman behind the desk open her mouth then shut it again, glancing over her shoulder. Then, she gave a tiny shake of her head. No, her coworker was not alright.

The three agents stepped away from the desk in a huddle. "He's still here," Asia murmured to her colleagues, glancing around the open concept entry way, as if the man from the pier were to appear at a moments notice. "We have to find him, while we have him in our sites."

"I'll call it in, then we move," Bobbi said, pulling a small stat phone from her pocket. Stepping into a corner of the room, she quickly and quietly phoned Coulson. The call was over in less than a minute, and the ginger spy returned. "Coulson says they have new intel--he needs nitrogen as a fuel source, of sorts. So if we find a room in this hospital that stores their nitrogen, we'll find our man."

"Basement?" Asia suggested, glancing towards a stairwell behind them.

"A good a start as any," Skye nodded in agreement, reaching around her waistband to where her pistol was concealed. She had a feeling they were about to need it.

She certainly wasn't wrong.

Chapter Text

Asia winced as Jemma dabbed a swab of alcohol over a wound on her head. The liquid burned against her scratched flesh, but she knew it was worth the pain over infection. Finding the man had not gone overly well. Oh, yea, and he was freaking blue. So definitely not a human, very much an alien. And the way he had looked at her...as if she was a lamb for the slaughter, had scared her so much the windows in the room froze over and all the water in the building chilled to a point of nearly freezing. Skye hadn't held up much better. She had knocked a row of shelves right over, a can of hospital food on one smashing right into a side of Asia's head, knocking her out cold. The man had escaped some short time after her entire world had gone black.

Jemma smoothed a small patch of bandage over her friend's forehead, patting it softly. "There you go. All better now. I have to go take care of Bobbi, but come find me if you feel something isn't right." Jemma peeled the used gloves off of her hands and searched for another, as Asia slid off the small table in the Lab, spotting Leo at the door, leaning against the frame, holding a jumper in one hand, and the other hand, a finger pressed to his lips, studying her, concern and worry laced in his eyes.

She stepped forward, a sheepish smile on her pink lips. She shrugged at him, lacing her own hands together to keep from touching him right there, in front of everyone. Of course, people knew they were friends again, but they still hadn't let anyone know about the....intimacy, or permanency, of their relationship. The only person who knew they were sharing a room every night was Skye. As far as they were aware, and hoped, everyone else was in the dark. All they possibly knew was their friendship was rekindled. It was easier that way, and safer for everyone. Some day, maybe, when things calmed down and they were less...on the run. They would let everyone know.

"You look worried," Asia murmured, slipping on the tan sweater he had so kindly brought her and fastening a few of the buttons, enjoying the feeling of warmth wrap around her. Granted, she would have preferred his arms wrapping around her, but there would be time for that later. Finally, they had what truly felt like all the time in the world, and much to make up for.

"Of course I am," he replied, biting his lower lip for a moment, thinking about how to proceed. His emotions were boiling over like a pot left on the stove for too long. "Every time you go out there, Asia, you come back bloody beat up. I don't like it, not one bit." Reflexively, he reached for her hand, but stopped himself. "I always get worried that one of these times, you won't come back at all." He frowned down at her, wondering how so much strength fit into that tiny body of hers. She hid it well.

"Leo, you know that'll never happen," she whispered back. "I'll always come back to you, no matter what. Plus, going out there and getting into fights now and then is very literally my job. We're Agents of Shield, remember?" she shook her head, hair falling around her shoulders as she did so. "Do I like it when you work with hazardous materials? Definitely not. But I trust you, and know you know what you're doing. Think of it in the same way."

"I'll try to do that," Leo sighed, shaking his head. He didn't want to sound so...whiny? Overbearing? Worried? He just....he loved her, so very much, and they had just become...whatever it was they were. He wasn't ready to lose that, wasn't ready to even think about losing that. "Well, how did the rest of it go? Besides the, erm, the cut?" he raised a finger to his own head, tapping where the bandage gash was, on hers.

Asia glanced around them, before grabbing his wrist and dragging him away from the Bus' Lab. It was too crowded in there. Too many ears, too many agents. She didn't want anyone overhearing what she had to say...

She dragged him all the way to a deserted storage area on the Bus, standing between netted boxes, in mostly darkness. She still held her hand on his wrist, but her fingers were trembling. "Leo I..." she started, then shook her head, letting go of his wrist so she could press her palms against her eyes for a moment, taking the pressure that was building up behind them away. "I don't know if I can do this. If I can hide this." She gestured at her body, then held up a finger, staring at it, until a small prism of ice was floating a centimeter above her index finger. "I just....back there, when we were attacked, I couldn't keep it under wraps. The whole room temperature dropped. I froze things. The pipes. The windows. It was awful." She lowered her hand and shoved both of her fists into the pockets of her sweater.

"Oh no..." Leo muttered, trailing off. "Did Bobbi...?"

"No," Asia shook her head, "She didn't see. She was too busy fighting that...alien....to notice." Thankfully. Not that she wanted to be thankful her friend had been slammed into a wall or anything. That was the opposite of true. But she was glad she hadn't noticed, nonetheless. “I just don’t want anyone getting hurt. Not because of me.”

“Asia, listen to me,” Leo grabbed her hands in his, running his thumbs in small circles on the triangular space where her thumb and fingers connected, trying to calm her down. “You know I’m working on blood diagnostics. As soon as I have that figured out, we should be able to work out a solution. You won’t have to hide forever. But for now, with the way everyone is, I think it’s best.” He leaned forward, pressing his forehead against hers, searching her grey eyes. “I don’t want you getting hurt. So we have to stay secret. Promise me?”

Asia sighed, “Alright. For a little longer. I promise.” She smiled up at him, squeezing his hands tightly.

Leo glanced around him, then pulled her closely to him, kissing her passionately. His lips pressed hungrily against hers, his hands cupping either side of her face. For a moment, she was shocked, then she wrapped her fingers into his curls, kissing back. There was a hunger there, in the way they kissed, but also a gentle tenderness, as if both would be perfectly content to do nothing but kiss the other for as long as they both lived.

They were so wrapped up in one another, they didn’t even hear the sound of the approaching footsteps until Hunter’s voice cut through the air. “Bloooooody Hell, I am. Sorry. Sorry. So sorry, did not mean to interrupt, whatever ‘this’ is,” he pointed back and forth between the two agents as they sprang apart from one another. “Just wanted to check out the new guns the Lab developed.”

“Oh, well I, erm, best leave you to that then. Got lots to do today. Lots to do,” Leo said hastily, face bright red as he pushed past Hunter, stopping behind him to give one glance back at Asia.

“I should get back to Skye. Help research where we’re headed next,” Asia mumbled, when Lance held up a fist in front of her.

Reluctantly, she raised her own fist and bumped his. The agent exploded his hand back like a bomb. “Bamb, get it girl! I am so proud of you little love birds.” He grinned cheekily, leaning against a netted crate. "Care to share the juicy details of how that whole bit came about?"

“Lance Hunter I swear to everything unholy. You breathe a word of this and I’ll kill you in your sleep,” she hissed up at him, but there was a glint of playfulness in her eyes. The she sauntered away, leaving him to check out the tech alone. There was still a smile on her face as she walked away, and her lips were buzzing. She pressed her finger tips to them, relishing in the feeling. How good it was, to love someone the way she loved Leo. How sweet it could be.

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"Ahh, Agent Monroe. Just in time," Coulson greeted, as the leatherjacket-clad agent strolled into the briefing area. "We believe we've just discovered the next location where the Big Blue Dude is headed." He had a thin lipped smile on his face as he watched her. He was always so good at watching. "It's an old dig site, per Whitehall's file it's where the original Obelisk was found."

"Um sir," Skye interjected, shooting a quick look towards Asia. "I think I'd like to sit this one out." she looked down at her hands, picking at a hangnail, avoiding eye contact.

Coulson took a small step in Skye's direction, trying to get her to look up, but the brunette agent didn't budge. "Everything alright Skye?" he asked, that fatherly tone coming out.

"I can stay here with her!" Asia interjected, stepping forward and placing a hand on Skye's shoulder. "Both of us kind of got knocked around pretty badly last go, it would be nice for a day to recuperate before we're back at it," she smiled as casually as she possibly could.

Coulson narrowed his eyes at them, but finally stepped away. "Alright, that's reasonable. I'll have Agent Simmons give both of you an additional checkup while we're gone. Just to make sure you're both recovering as expected. " he gave them both an even look, before turning and walking away, with May following closely behind him.

"That was close," Skye murmured, looking over at her friend. "Thanks, really. You didn't have to offer to stay."

Asia shrugged, "Yea I did. Plus, I didn't want to go." As the words left her mouth, she came to the sad realization that they were true. Never before had she not wanted to be in the field, in the thick of it. Now, that had changed. She realized for one of the first, few times in her life that she was afraid. She was really, honestly afraid. Not only of those she loved getting hurt, but of what she could do now. The chaos she could create, if she wasn't able to reign it in. It was a sickening feeling, to be afraid of oneself.

She would have to work to fix it. She would meditate, she would practice, while everyone was gone. She would teach herself a careful understanding of her new abilities, teach herself to mitigate the outcome. Because if she didn't, she knew she would perish.

Chapter Text

Asia knew the rest of the team wasn't going to be gone for long, and Skye, Asia, Jemma, and Leo were left on Bus duty. Aka, watching the Bus while the others set a trap for this Kree guy. Once they had him secured, they would bring him back to the large aircraft, and then Sif and Coulson would interrogate him, figure out his purpose for being here.

But since the others were gone, Asia decided to take a moment to herself and call the number she had found when searching for a message from Nat and Clint. Grabbing one of the SAT phones from the lab, Asia made her way to her bunk room on the Bus.

As she shut the door behind her, she tucked herself up on the bed, thinking of her first night here, and how far the team had come. Of course, that lead her towards the path of thinking about Ward, something she didn’t exactly want to be doing. But now that her thoughts had trickled there, she couldn’t stop them.

There was little time in her life where she couldn't remember Ward in it. Her early childhood, and that was it. They met at the Academy as teenagers, and had been close ever since then. Incredibly close. He had been her first partner, and her first competitor. They vied for the top spot in class and kept each other pushing to their limits. Kept them on their toes, working their hardest. She had trusted him, and he had trusted her. At least, she thought he had. He couldn't have trusted her all that much because he never told her about Garret. He hadn't shared with her his dark secrets, the fact that he needed help.

Maybe she could have gotten him out. That’s where her guilt resided. Obviously, there were other things she resented. She would never, ever forgive him for what he had done. But maybe. Maybe. She could have gotten him out. If he had come to her, told her who Garret was...

She lashed out suddenly, punching the wall, hard, a sob choking out of her mouth in a gasp. Maybe things could have been different.

Because Ward had been there for her. That time some dude roofied her (he had fucking obliterated the guy’s ass), on every single anniversary of her parents’ death, when she went down rabbit holes searching for her sister. He was there, for all of it. He had seen her in her ugliest of times and hadn’t run. And she couldn’t have saved him. She wanted so badly to have been able to save him, but she couldn’t.

So the only thing left, really, was to destroy him.

She resided herself to that revelation, then sat back up, pulling out the SAT phone, quickly punching in the numbers, waiting, breath held tightly. If they didn’t answer...she didn’t know what she would do.

The phone rang and rang and rang and then finally. It connected. A muffled voice came on the phone.

“Monroe, I swear to god if you ever use your failsafe for someone other than yourself again, I’ll kick your ass,” Clint’s familiar drawl came through. As she heard his voice, a single tear trailed down her cheeks as she smiled happily. She thought she might crumple with the happiness that brimmed over the edges of her heart.

“Clint, I am so happy to hear your voice!” She said, voice shaking. “Is Nat with you? Did you guys make it out okay? And how’s Harper?” The questions tumbled out of her mouth like a flood as she waited for good answers.

“We’re all okay, Tasha is here waiting for me to hand over the phone, rather impatiently I might add,” Clint chuckled. “Things are a little...difficult here, with the HYDRA takeover, but we’ve been in on and off in communications with Coulson, when we can. Also, on a brighter note, Harper is pregnant, so my wife and I are expecting a little baby avenger next year,” Asia could hear the happiness ring through in Clint’s voice when he said the words out loud.

“That’s..that’s amazing! I’m so happy. Congratulations!” Harper cheered.

Suddenly, Nat’s voice exited the receiver. “Asia, I’m glad you’re doing okay,” she said, admitting the most emotion that the assassin ever did. “How is everything on your end?”

“Things are...complicated, but we’re working through them,” Asia admitted. “It was a terrible few months. But, thank you for the jacket. I love it.”

“Thought you would, I picked that one out,” she could practically hear Nat’s smirk through the phone. “Heard you’ve been making quite the reputation for yourself, little Renegade.” The words were teasing, but they still hit Asia like a punch.

“I’ve just been doing my job,” she replied quickly. “Helping Coulson stop HYDRA in whatever way was necessary. Keeping my people safe.”

“I’d expect nothing less,” Nat replied, sounding supportive, motherly. “Any other important news for us? Anything...significant?”

“I do have intel to share, but it isn’t safe enough over a line. Would prefer in person,” Asia replied quickly, clenching her fists. She couldn’t really tell her mentors her enter DNA had transformed over the phone. That wasn’t a phone conversation. “We will have to arrange a time.”

“We’re planning a meeting with Coulson hopefully in the next coming month,” Clint’s voice returned. “Maybe we can all grab dinner after? Chat away from wandering ears?”

“I would love that,” Asia replied earnestly, already working out in her head what she would have to tell her former teammates. The things she needed to deliver. She still had that vial, tucked away in her underwear drawer, from the underground bunker. That would definitely have to be passed along.

The three agents said their goodbyes, and as Asia hung up the call, her watch buzzed. Skye and Leo were looking for her. Sighing, Asia set the SAT phone on her bunk, and stood up over it. She held out her right hand, aiming it down at the device, breathing deeply, and watching the ice form and seap out of every crack and screw, until the entire thing shattered to pieces. No one would track her calls this way.

She looked down at the ice shards in front of her, picking one up and rolling it in her hands. This was the first time she had commanded whatever powers were flowing in her. This was the first time they had done what she wanted.

And it felt good. Really good

Chapter Text

“Hey,” Asia called out, taking the spiral staircase down towards the Lab, where Jemma, Leo, and Skye were waiting. “What’s up? Any news?” she landed on the cargo floor with a small thump, hands on her hips.

All of her friends turned to face her, Leo spinning in a rolling chair, Jemma looking up from some samples she was studying, and Skye sitting on a desk, legs swinging back and forth. Skye was the first to speak.

“They’re on the way back, they got him,” she explained. There was a familiar nervousness in her eyes that Asia recognized.

Asia smiled, “Oh great, then we can get out of here and head home,” she stepped forward, leaning on one of the metal tables, looking over at her friends. “I think we could all use a good rest.”

“Definitely,” Leo pipped up. “I have to go prep the cell they’re putting the Kree soldier in, but I’ll be back in a bit. Or just find me upstairs. Whatever works,” he shrugged, brushing past Asia, the contact sending electricity tingling up her spine.

“Same with me,” Skye shrugged, “Gotta make sure our tech is ready to go, that the containment chamber is prepped just in case and whatever, want to come with?” She asked her friend, tapping on a tablet in her hands. “It won’t take long but it’ll pass the time.”

“Yea, I can do that,” Asia affirmed, smiling comfortingly at Skye. The two of them would get through this together. Everything would be fine.

As the two girls turned to leave, Jemma stood up and called out. “Um, Asia, may I borrow you for a moment?” The scientist called out, setting down the test tube she had been studying moments ago.

Asia nodded at Skye for her friend to go on ahead, and turned back to face Jemma, a small smile still on her lips. There had been so much...odd tension between the two recently, and Asia still had no idea why. It probably had something to do with Trip, and the loss she still felt for him. Asia understood that...if Leo died....she didn’t even want to think about it. She could feel her body temperature starting to drop at just the idea, and she took a deep breath, pushing the thoughts away.

“What can I do for you?” She asked Jemma, leaning back against the metal table, feeling the cool contact against her palms.

“I just wanted to talk to you, explain myself,” Jemma sighed, rubbing one of her hands on her wrist, avoiding eye contact with the brunette. “Everything has been so hectic lately and I know I’ve been...less than welcoming.”

The smile slowly fell from Asia’s face as her friend spoke. She could feel the hairs on the back of her neck start to rise, her fight or flight senses kicking in. Something seemed wrong. She didn’t like this, and she didn’t know where it was heading. “Oh it’s fine,” she attempted to say as casually as possible. “We’ve all been healing in our own ways. I don’t fault you for it.”

“Healing...yes,” Jemma trailed off, her eyes glazing over momentarily, as if lost in a memory. “I don’t know if I’ll ever get over the loss of Trip. He was so important to me. I...I loved him. I really did. I never even got to tell him.” Her head dropped and her shoulders were shaking, and Asia thought for a moment that Jemma might have been crying.

But then the redhead raised her eyes and looked at Asia. “That’s why I needed to talk to you. I know you and Fitz...you’ve gotten close again. And I’m glad your friendship has mended. But that’s why I need to say this. I know you care for him, I know you do. But I love him.”

Her words hung heavily in the air. Asia felt as if she might puke for a moment, and then she laughed nervously. “Of course you do. You’re best friends. We all love each other.” She said, tugging at the sleeves of her sweater.

“No,” Jemma shook her head. “You don’t understand. Losing Trip...it made me realize. Life is far too short to not act upon ones feelingns. I love him. Not simply as friends, Asia. And I needed you to know, because I know you care for him too. And I don’t want this to tear our friendship apart.” She stared at Asia evenly, as if she couldn’t even see the panic in Asia’s eyes.

Asia could feel her temperature drop, and as she looked down at her hands on the table, Frost was starting to form. She yanked her hands from the metal. She could hear her heart pounding in her chest. It felt as if she had just spent her entire night drinking and didn't get a minute of rest to let herself recover. She could feel her lunch threatening to leap out of her throat. Everything was getting cold, colder, colder. She couldn’t stay here, in this box. She had to run. Run!

She turned and bolted, leaving Jemma standing there, mouth open, watching her friend disappear.

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The ride back to base was painfully long. Asia spent the entire time avoiding her friends and team whenever possible. She knew the secret places, the corridors, the vents, the underpasses, of this plane, where she could stay safely hidden. She needed to stay away from everyone, so that she didn’t freeze the entire Bus. Her head was still racing from what Jemma had told her. It had to be a joke. A lie. It had to be. Just when things between Leo and her were turning out well...and as much as she loved him, trusted him..there was still that gnawing fear in her stomach that he would turn to Jemma if he found out.

She would never get in the way of his happiness. But it wouldn’t stop her heart from breaking.

When they finally landed, Asia met Coulson, Skye, Bobbi, and Mack on the ramp, the four of them walking together into base as Bobbi explained what she had found from studying the Kree soldiers tool. He called it a truncheon, and it was shaped very similar to a hammer.

“I think it’s triggered by DNA,” Bobbi explained, as she indicated at the device Coulson carried. “It wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen that.”

“Unfortunately not,” Coulson replied. “FitzSimmons will study the case we found with him. It’s undetermined exactly what’s inside but they will be proceeding with caution the entire time. We’re going to see what Vin-Tak has to say, what he has to say to all of us.”

The team continued forward, and as Asia glanced over her shoulder, she saw May leading the large man off the Bus, gun at the ready. Nerves tingled up her spine. Apprehension. Something big was about to happen, and she didn't like it. Just looking at the guy made the bruises from the shelves falling ache with familiarity.

As Coulson, Skye, Asia, and Sif met in the living area of the Playground, surrounded by brick, windows, and comfortable couches, the watched as May escorted the Kree soldier in, pushing him into the center of their semi circle. "Good," Coulson nodded at May, as they all stood around the alien man. "Let's get this started then."

"Tell us how your truncheon works, Kree," Sif said angrily, as she strolled around the kneeling alien, eyes narrowed. The Kree looked terrified, even for him, and Asia wasn't surprised. Sif could be menacing, if she wanted. Asia wouldn't exactly have wanted to wind up on her bad side, for whatever reason. Her superhuman strength, a natural gift of Asguardians, as well as her wit, made her a formidable opponent.

"The Kree has a name," the alien replied, spitting at her feet angrily. Asia watched him carefully, studying his movements. His fight or flight was also, quite clearly, coming into affect. Finally, the alien sighed. "It only works when it is in my hands. It needs my touch to be activated. It has a dial on the bottom, when switched, it becomes activated," he pointed at the small metal hammer, which Coulson still held in his hands. Coulson flipped the device over, looking at the small dial.

That tiny moment was all it took. One second of their gaze focused elsewhere, and Vin-Tak, the alien, was up, and knocked the truncheon out of Coulson's hands. He grabbed it, flipped over the table, flicked the dial, and hit Sif hard in the chest, sending her flying backward. Asia drew her gun, pointing it at the alien, holding herself steady. May and Skye did the same.

Vin-Tak dropped the weapon to the ground and kneeled once more, raising his hands in surrender. "I...I simply wanted to show you that I was here to help. Her memories, they have been restored. A sign of my good faith."

Asia glanced over at Sif, as Sif stood herself back up, shaking a little at first. She brushed her legs off and looked up at the team, wide eyed. "The Kree speaks the truth," she said softly. "My memories have returned to me. My name is Lady Sif of Asguard, and I have always been a friend to SHIELD." She smiled for a moment, proudly, quite pleased her mind was her own once more.

"Asguardian?" Vin-Tak said from his place on the floor. "That explains so much. Why you hunted me like prey. Because that is how your kind has always seen me," he sounded bitter, a frown creasing his eyebrows, causing a deep V shape to cut across his forehead.

"It is true our people have not always seen eye to eye," Sif admitted with a nod. "I was sent here, once it was discovered a Kree had landed on Midguard, Odin dispatched me immediately. For the protection of the planet," she explained, as the words and thoughts came back to her one at a time. "Odin is wise, as he always has been. We knew enough to be concerned by your presence, even if we did not know your intent."

Vin-Tak thought over this for a moment, nodding his head side to side, as if he were weighing Sif's words. "I understand. And if you know so much about my people, I am sure you have heard the ancient tales of Terrigenesis?" He asked, though he knew the answer was yes.

Asia looked over at Skye, taking a step closer to her friend. Something was wrong. Something was really, really wrong. She took a deep breath, trying to center her thoughts, to focus, as she had been practicing every morning now. If she could keep her thoughts at bay, she could keep the ice away.

"Well, of course," Sif scoffed, as if this unfamiliar word were the most obvious thing on the planet. "The stories of Ancient Kree descending on planets and altering the inhabitants to make soldiers in their own wars, they have been told for centuries."

Vin-Tak nodded, hoping they were starting to put together the pieces he was so nicely laying before them. "Yes, and Earth was one such planet," he explained to the crowd around him.

Asia looked over at Skye worriedly. "Blue angels who fell from the sky," her friend whispered, quoting Raina's words. She looked over at Asia, a familiar, mirrored worry filling her own gaze.

"It was eons ago," Vin-Tak began once more. "The Kree had been waged in war for years. The casualties were severe, on both sides of the battle. The Kree were afraid of what the loss would mean. They were in need of more soldiers. It sounds...terrible. And that is because it was. We needed killers. The ultimate weapon. One faction of Kree, known for their viciousness as well as their intelligence, began experimenting with genetic manipulation. These modifications could be made by utilizing Terrigen crystals, from which the process got its name. While for years, their experiments failed, on Earth, they bloomed. The faction was able to build a city, in which they planned to begin mass transformation of humans, using the Diviners. Thankfully, their plan was put to an end by the better people of my kind."

"Until now...." Asia trailed off, looking up at Coulson, her team, at Vin-Tak, realizing the weight of her words. The truth that was behind them. Until they had gone down to that temple, up until that moment, everything was fine. Now, things had been changed. The future had been changed.

Vin-Tak nodded. "The girl is right. Once I saw the ancient signal, I knew it must have been the activation of a Diviner in one of our ancient Temples. If the Kree empire now knew that these experiments were a success...." he trailed off, a frown slipping over his lips. "If they knew now, they would likely restart the program and continue with the manipulation of humans. I needed to prevent that....these transformed beings, they are not the humans they once were. They are abominations. I needed to find the remaining Diviners hear on Earth and destroy them, before another mistake could be made. That was what I was searching for, before your team captured me and brought me here."

"Just how many Diviners are supposed to be in that crate?" May asked, thinking of Jemma and Leo down in the Lab, preparing to open the box and examine the contents. She knew they would be wise enough to wear hazmat suits, but still, there was that egging worry in the back of her mind.

"Enough to create an army," Vin-Tak said flatly. "Inside each Diviner is numerous crystals. Each crystal can be used to change multiple people. The outcome would be catastrophic."

"Sir!" Jemma's voice cut over the intercom sharply, startling the entire group out of their thoughts. "I am sorry to report, the crate we found was empty." The team looked at one another, mixed emotions of confusion and fear crossing between all of them. This, obviously, was not the outcome which had been expected.

Vin-Tak rose from the floor, turning to face Coulson. "This is exactly what I feared when I arrived on your planet. We must act quickly. We need to locate the remaining Diviners, as well as any people who may have been transformed. We must put a stop to this."

"Let's calm down for a moment," Coulson suggested, offering a small, casual smile, trying to keep everyone relaxed. "We already flooded the temple where the Diviners were activated, so that is a plus. A win for team SHIELD. And we know who was transformed in the message that brought you here."

"So....someone did go through the Terrigenesis process?" Sif questioned, crossing her strong arms over her chest. "A Kree War slave created? Have you put it down yet?" The word it slammed hard against Asia's ears. The entire speech had. Vin-Tak, unknowingly, had been calling her a monster. This wasn't some beautiful, magical moment, as Raina had described it. This was torture. She was being turned into a beast for war, not an Avenger. Not someone who could help others. A tool. She took a step back, nervously, putting more space between her and the others. "Can you tell me more of what happened?" Sif continued.

"Well, Agents Skye and Monroe witnessed the event, though neither saw much. Thankfully, both came out unscathed," he nodded towards the two brunette agents. Sif turned to look at them, her eyes narrowing in thought. Asia could practically see the wheels turning behind her eyes, putting together the pieces, figuring out was Asia already knew. That the two had not come out unscathed. That they had been changed, along with Raina.

"What did you see?" Sif barked out the question, her words being a call to order, demanding a response.

"We...we didn't," Skye started to stammer. "Nothing. There was so much destruction, and light, nothing." she explained quickly.

"Were there others with you?" Vin-Tak asked the two girls. Immediately, Asia's mind flew to memories of Trip. His death, trying to protect them. And they had become monsters anyways. "Their changes...they are not always visible on the surface."

Asia shook her head a small, tiny 'no,' unable to make any words come out of her mouth. Her eyes were on a vase of flowers on the table behind Coulson. The water was starting to freeze, patterns of frost dancing up and down the glass, the flowers wilting as their life source froze beneath them. She let out a shaky breathe, and it swirled with moisture in front of her. The temperature was dropping, she was losing her self. She looked frantically at Skye, who was clenching her fists tightly, biting her lower lip. It was then that Asia felt the shaking.

"You need to understand," Vin-Tak continued, trying to explain his plight. "These creatures....even if they do not know, do not understand. They are monsters. They must be put down." The rumbling began to intensify, a pan falling off of a kitchen shelf. Asia put a hand to her forehead as she felt a drop of water land there. Looking up, she found rows upon rows of icicles growing along the pipes above them, ice spreading over the entire ceiling. The temperature was dropping even further, moment by moment. The team began to look around, frantically, trying to find the source of the ice and the earthquake.

Asia took another step back, and felt Skye grab her hand. The two girls stepped away, further, further from the man who was calling them a monster, trying to be discrete, trying to get this whole thing under control before they were found out. Before they were being the ones put down.

It was May who noticed first, as it always was. Her eyes narrowed, she stepped forward, towards the two agents. "Skye...Asia..." she said softly, looking between the two of them for answers that neither could put to words. "Lets just take a deep breath and talk about this," she said, trying to sound comforting. Asia was past the point of comfort now. Literal flakes of snow were starting to fall from the air.

Coulson, noticing the conversation, stepped forward, looking at the girls carefully. "Guys, you want to tell me what's doing this?" he asked as calmly as possible, trying not to convey the turmoil of feelings racing through his own mind.

Skye clutched Asia's hands tighter, looking up at Coulson with wide, guilty eyes. "We....we are," she said numbly, letting the truth ring through the air.

Suddenly, Sif lunged forward, grabbing at Skye's arm. The two girls lept back, still clutching onto one another. Skye let go of Asia, stumbling, her hands to her head as all of the feelings boiled over. Asia stood in front of her, hands out, semicircle of sharp ice jutting out from around her feet, produced simply by fear, not by thought, separating the others from them. Asia looked from her hands, to the daggers of ice, then back, shaking her head, muttering, "No, no, no," over and over. Suddenly the enter pane of windows behind her shattered with the force of Skye's powers, fragments of glass raining to the ground.

Coulson and May immediately swiveled, guns drawn, facing Sif and Vin-Tak, who also held their weapons up. "Stand down," Coulson said coolly. "Trust me, you need to leave our agents alone. Let us handle this." The room was still shaking violently, chunks of ice raining from the ceiling as they were shaken loose.

“If you let me bring her to Asguard, she will be safe!” Sif protested, sword still drawn, not exactly giving Asia any sort of ‘safe’ vibes.

A chunk of ice hit Vin-Tak in the head, leaving a small gash. He grimaced, then glared at Skye and Asia. “These weapons...they have already been activated. We must eliminate them before anyone gets hurt.” He crouched, holding out his small metal hammer, ready to strike.

Asia could feel frozen tear drops clinging to her cheeks. She held on tightly to her friend, the two of them backed against the wall. She saw movement to her right, and looking up she saw Leo’s head poke around the corner, a worried look on his face.

“My agents are not weapons,” Coulson said pointedly, not standing down. He wasn’t going to let either of the two get hurt. No one was leaving SHIELD today.

Sif sighed, shaking her head. “You must think logically, son of Coul. They did not choose this path, but nonetheless, they are dangerous. If you let them come with me, I can bring them somewhere safe for everyone.” When neither Coulson nor May wavered, she turned and looked towards Asia and Skye. “Imagine, for a moment, if your powers grow. Skye, you could topple buildings, break the earth apart. Asia, you could bring the next ice age to your home.”

“No,” Asia shook her head. “We can handle it. We aren’t monsters, we would never do that.” As she said the words, they felt true, they eased her worry, if only slightly.

“You were not designed to handle it,” Vin-Tak scoffed. “You and your kind were designed only with the purpose to destroy. Which is why you both must be put down.”

Leo stepped into the room, standing in front of the two girls. “Yea well,” he interjected. “That’s sounds an awful lot like killing to me. And we will never let you hurt them.” Asia felt her heart swell with pride as he stood before her, as more tears of ice clung to her cheeks.

Suddenly, May whirled around, grabbing Asia and Skye by their wrists, tugging them towards the door. “Let’s go,” she ordered, running the two out of sight of the aliens.

Coulson moves to guard the exit. “Fitz, we need Bambino!” He ordered, and the scientist nodded, darting out of the room. “If you want them, you go through me.” Was the last thing Asia heard as they disappeared around the corner.

Leo caught up to them quickly, his hand resting on the small of Asia’s back as he ushered her down the hall. The building was still shaking around them, lights flickering, snow falling everywhere. It was almost as if they were running across a frozen tundra.

As they passed the Lab, Jemma’s head poked out, creased with worry. “Skye, Asia?” She called out, strain in her voice as she watched them dart by.

“I am so, so sorry,” Asia called over her shoulder, looking Jemma in the eyes. She knew the scientist knew now, that the two of them were causing this. Even with what Jemma had told her before, Asia was still sorry. What she had become had killed Trip. She had been a part in his death. She could see the shock, then understand, cross Jemma’s face, as tears filled her eyes.

“Fitz?” She called out after him, even more shocked he was following along. He slowed for a moment, urging Asia on ahead. He would only stop for a moment. “You..you knew.” She said flatly, numb.

“I’m sorry, Jemma,” he said between quick breaths. “I’m sorry, but I had to, I love her,” he shrugged, then continued running down the hall.

Ahead of him, Asia, still running, had heard his words. Heard what he had said. As terrified as she felt in this moment, those words brought her comfort. She smiled, even if only for the briefest moment.

Chapter Text

Asia’s heart was still racing as May lead them down the stairs to the basement, two at a time, towards the prison chamber where Ward had once been kept, before his escape, before he murdered his own brother. The older agent grabbed the tablet on a stand, pulling up the barrier behind them, sealing the three women inside. The two powered girls sat down on the bed that was flush against the wall, holding onto each other's hands. Both were crying, shaking. The space around them still shook, still cold as if it were a winter tundra. They weren't under control, as much as both wished to be, they weren't.

"Asia..."Skye said, her voice shaking, as she looked up into her friend's grey eyes, an unasked question hanging empty between them, heavy on the cool air, almost forming in the frost that pooled from her breath.

Asia shook her head rappidly side to side, "It's fine, it's fine, it's going to be fine," she said quickly, the words tumbling like a waterfall out of her open lips. She looked up at May, like a child looking for her mother's answers, for her mother to fix her problems. But she had no mother, not anymore. HYDRA changed that a long time ago.

"Both of you, eyes on me," May ordered. "We're going to get through of this, but I need both of you to breathe." She said the last half of the sentence incredibly slowly. She needed to get them calm. Needed them to see reason, and then get control of whatever power they now possessed. There was no other option, no other safe option.

As the building shook around her and tears of ice still clung to her cheeks, Asia couldn't help but feel as empty as she had earlier this year. She, once again, was the cause of her friends', her teams', danger and pain. No matter what, those around her always got hurt. And how foolish she was, to think she could control something so much bigger than her. The trauma from the past year, and the trauma from the present, collided, swirling together into one giant mess. A mess that she couldn't seem to swim through, couldn't see the end of. There was no light in her tunnel. It was nothing but pain and darkness, and now, now it was cold too. The kind of cold which chilled her to the bone.

"I...I can't," Skye choked out, cutting through Asia's thoughts. "There's so much danger. We could hurt...we could hurt everyone," she sobbed, squeezing tighter on Asia's hands.

"You both need to focus. Look at me," May tried to command. "Look at me and breathe." Suddenly, Lady Sif's sword shoved through the material that was keeping them hidden, keeping them safe.

The wall fought back against the Asguardian weapon, glowing a golden red color as the digital mesh tried to keep the silver sword at bay. It would only do so for so long, and May was well aware of this fact. She turned towards the wall, still shouting encouraging words about being calm towards Asia and Skye, as she attempted to reason with Lady Siff.

“Asia,” Skye said shakily, turning to face her friend. “I...I don’t think I can stop this.” Her lips turned to a frown as she searched her friend’s eyes for an answer.

“I know. I know. I. I can’t stop it either,” Asia admitted with defeat, “and Sif. She’s going to get in,” the words broke in Asia’s throat, a fear like she hadn’t felt in a long time filling her to the brim. They had no where to run. No extraction plan. The two girls looked over at May and the wall, and it was as if they had the same idea at the same time.

The older agent had an Icer strapped to each hip, practically begging to be grabbed. “Count of three?” Skye asked quietly. Asia nodded incomfortmation. Skye then counted down, each number ticking painfully by as Siff’s sword threatened to breach their location, their safe space.

“One.” Skye breathed.

The two girls lunged forward, as the wall keeping them safe shattered to Sif’s weapon, each grabbing one of the Icers. The two girls linked their arms around at the elbow, each pressing the barrel of the gun into their own shoulder. With a quick nod, they both simultaneously pulled the triggers, bullets sinking into them.

As the cold fluid of the Icer flowers over her body, tinting her skin a shade of light blue, Asia thought to herself that this might be the last time that she saw the base. That she saw Skye or May or Leo or any of them. And she thought to herself that, if she woke up on an alien planet because her enemies had succeeded in taking her away, she would know, at least, that Leo loved her. And that would be enough to get her through anything.

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Asia woke in her own bed, hot and clammy. Leo was not there. Skye was not there. Her heart clenched in her chest. But, she was home. She was on Earth. This was a good step forward.

There were bigger problems in need of addressing, though. She felt...dangerous. Asia’s whole body had always been a wedding, but this was a whole new level. She couldn’t control this, not the way she hoped. She needed time. Space. She needed to nest and meditate and practice until she was a threat to no one, unless it was good and intentional.

She sighed at sat up. There was no one around her. Everything was utterly silent. She wondered where her friends were (if they even considered her a friend still, now that the secret was out) and where Leo was. But she didn’t have time to just go searching. She needed to put herself away. Somewhere safe. The cells on the Bus. She would lock herself in, where she couldn’t hurt anyone.

She grabbed her duffel bag from under the bed, throwing it on top of the mattress. Then, she proceeded to grab various forms of comfortable clothes. Leggings. Sweats. Long sleeved shirts. A sweater Leo had left on her floor. She picked up the large grey cloth and held it to her, breathing in his warm, familiar scent. Calm washed over her, as she folded the sweater and tucked it inside. A silent resolution. She would solve this. Get it under control.

Working with Nat and Clint has taught her all about control. This would simply be another exercise she needed to master. With determination, she zipped the bag shut and slung it over her shoulder. No time to waste.

As she quietly shut her door, she noticed the halls were desolate. She tiptoed over to Skye’s room and quietly knocked on the door, three short raps.

A moment later, it was opened just a crack as Skye looked out at who it was. Once she saw Asia, she opened the door completely, embracing her tightly. “They didn’t take us away,” she whispered, squeezing Asia tightly.

Asia hugged her back, nodding as she did so. When Skye released her, she looked down at Asia’s bag. “What’s that for?” Her voice shook as she spoke.

“I’m taking myself away,” Asia muttered. “To the Bus. Where I can keep everyone safe, from me.” She tried to sound convinced this would work, but she simply ended up sounding deflated.

Skye looked at her friend for a moment, stoney resolution covering her face. “I’ll come with you.” Asia started to protest, not wanting to bring her friend into her selfmade isolation, but Skye held up a single finger. “We’re in this mess together. For better or for worse. I’m coming with you.” It only took moments. Her bag was packed.

The two girls walked together towards the commons, in solitude. Soon, they would be on the path out to the Bus, safe. As they were walking, they heard the sound of raised voices. An argument, echoing from the common area. Their team. The pit in Asia’s stomach felt as if it were going to swallow her whole.

“The point is,” the could hear Mack’s deep voice rebound towards them, “is that, uh, secrets don’t help anyone. Skye and Asia should have come clean. We’re a team. They should have just come clean.”

“What, so you could, um lock them up, experiment omg them or whatever else? No. Never,” Asia’s heart swelled as she heard Leo’s voice. “I would never let Asia do that,” he said, more softly.

“Of course you wouldn’t,” Jemma scoffed, venomously, making Asia flashback to the moment with just the two of them in the Lab.

“Fitz, you have to know it wasn’t fair to the team,” Bobbi’s voice cut through, trying to keep reason in the discussion. “We all had a right to know. We could have helped.”

Skye and Asia looked at one another, creeping forward and peering into the commons. Their whole time, aside from Coulson and May, stood in a circle, anger and frustration creasing their brows.

“A right to know?” Leo protested, as if this were the most preposterous thing. “You would have done exactly what Sif and the Kree wanted to.” He crossed his arms over his chest.

“You can’t pretend you know what we would have done,” Jemma replied, trying to keep her voice as even as possible, yet a crack slipped out about half way through her sentence.

“Y-yes I do!” Leo exclaimed, throwing his arms up. “You’d try to control her. You would, you would...both of them. You’d try to “handle” them. Mack just said it. Like Asia...like they’re both something that should be locked away in a cage. We should be protecting them.” His hands fell to his sides, defeated, as he looked around the group for anyone who agreed with him.

“No, Fitz!” Mack shouted suddenly, causing both Asia and Skye to jump back, startled. “We are the ones who need protection from them.” His words hung heavy in the air, surprising even him. Regret filled his gaze. He looked up, suddenly, his eyes locking on to Asia and Skye.

Asia had always known Mack disliked her but...this...this cut her to the core, as she was certain it showed on her face. She blinked, trying to hide the tears brimming in her eyes, but it was no use. Her eyes landed on Leo and he held her gaze, the only warmth in the room. The only rock.

Skye grabbed Asia’s hand in her own and yanked her past the doorway. “Screw them,” she muttered hastily under her breath. “They don’t know what they’re talking about.” The two girls hurried down the hall, the brick walls feeling as if they were closing in on them.

From behind, Asia’s name was called out by a familiar voice. Asia stopped, releasing Skye’s hand, looking over her shoulder and seeing Leo standing there, looking at her, then the bag slung over her shoulder, and back to meet her gaze. He looked confused, sad. Asia sighed and turned back to Skye. “Go, I’ll be right there,” she said quietly, before turning and walking back towards the man she loved.

She had hardly taken two steps forward when his arms met her, burying her in a deep hug, cradling her in his arms. There was no amount of cold that could block out the warmth flowing from him. His hands ran through her hair, brushing it softly, gently unwinding the smallest of tangles.

“You’re not leaving, are you?” He asked, still holding her tightly to his chest. It almost sounded as if he was afraid of what her answer might be.

“No,” she said quietly, holding tightly onto him, “I would never just leave you.” And she had meant it. She had been down that path before. “I’m not leaving you, I’m not leaving SHIELD. I’m just going to the Bus. To keep everyone safe from...” she trailed off, the word ‘myself’ hanging unspoken in the air.

A sigh released from Leo, his body slacking around her. He was so relieved she wasn’t about to disappear. “Is there anything I can do?” He asked, pulling back and looking her in the eye.

“No,” she replied, shaking her head sadly, looking back the way she was headed. There was nothing anyone could do for her. Only things she could do for herself.

Chapter Text

Asia sat, legs crossed, on the bed of the small containment chamber, aka personal prison, aboard the Bus. Her eyes were closed as she quietly meditated, focusing her intent on the cold powers which surged through her. When she opened her eyes, a small line of stalagmites were ringing around the bed, exactly as she had hoped and planned.

She held her palm out in front of her, facing down, fingers flexed far apart. Taking in a deep, slow breath, she squeezed her palm into a tight fist, the pillars of ice shattering to pieces in front of her. A pleased smile slipped over her lips. Progress.

Asia’s days went like this, now. Leo would come in every morning, at 0800 exactly, and draw her blood, check her vitals, kiss her tenderly on the forehead, then leave. She would meditate from 0800 to 1200, when Coulson would arrive to bring her lunch. At 1300 he would leave, and Jemma would appear, taking in her stats and reporting any noticeable changes. After 1400, her time was hers to do as she pleased. Which meant reading, sleeping, or more training. She spent a lot of her time training herself, learning to control it.

She looked at the small wristwatch that was monitoring her pulse and other outputs. It was 1130. She had half an hour till Coulson’s daily report. Sighing, she stood off the bed, planting her bare feet flat on the cool floor.

She closed her eyes, feeling all of the air and moisture around her, feeling the water that composed herself and everything around her. She could feel all of it. What she was working on now was the extent of what she could do.

She raised both arms in front of her, forming her fingers into the shape of a gun on each hand. She lined them up with two specific points on the wall and took a deep breath, squeezing her thumb down.

Two very small, very fast, bullets of ice shot from her body, forming and shifting in the air before shattering against the wall, tiny blades and fragments falling to the ground. She had gotten quiet good at that one.

The other movements Asia practiced reminded her quite a bit of the Tai Chi movements she had learned while on a month long mission overseas. And, silly enough, reminded her a bit of some of the movements from the show Avatar the Last Airbender. Maybe it was that visualization that helped with her control, perhaps it didn’t. But it helped her see what she wanted to do.

She recoiled her leg, pitching herself forward, moving her arms with fluidity as she did so, a trail of ice floating through the air behind her fingers. With each upward thrust of her hands, pillars rose from the ground. With each slash of her foot, a jagged row of icicles lashed out around her in an arch. It wasn’t graceful, yet. But yet was the word that kept Asia practicing daily. She was becoming more fluid and controlled. Rarely now did she wake up surrounded by a winter wonderland. For the most part, it was starting to working.

She continued to practice like this, inhale, exhale, retract, extend, create, diffuse, until there was a series of knocks on her door. The knocks were simply a formality. Coulson was coming in to bring her food whether she wanted him to or not. Looking at the icy landscape currently covering her small rectangular room, Asia sighed before shouting, “come in!”

Her boss entered, carrying a tray of hot food. Steaming soup, bread, some grilled vegetables. The savory smells made her mouth water. Setting the tray down on a small table beside her bed, he glanced around her room at the ice structures. “I see you’ve been practicing,” he said with a nod. She couldn’t tell if he was pleased or impressed, or if it was for show.

“I try,” she replied with a tight lipped smile. Turning to face the ice in front of them, she clapped her hands together, then trust them upwards and apart. The ice shattered and evaporated in front of them, hissing away into the air. “Whats on the menu today?” She asked, folding herself onto bed and tucking her legs beneath her.

“Homemade broccoli cheese soup and toast,” Coulson replied, nodding at the tray in front of her, and Asia picked up some bread, nibbling at it. “So, how has the testing been going?” He asked her quietly. “I know it’s not the most comfortable situation, but we have to do it.”

Asia shrugged. “SHIELD has always been my life, I know how this works. And they aren’t bad, honestly.” She sipped some of the soup, then raised her eyes back to Coulson. “So, I’m assuming I’m on the Index by now?” She asked, referencing the large database used to label powered people.

“Yes, you have been placed on the Index,” Coulson replied with a small nod, studying for reaction, waiting for the small temperature gauge on his wrist to buzz and alert him the room temp had dropped significantly. But no buzz came.

Asia nodded for a moment, before slurping from her soup once more, licking her lips. “Would be silly not to,” she shrugged. “I do fit all the criteria. But on the upside, clearly my control is becoming much more noticeable. I haven’t had any outbursts recently. Everything is good.” She looked up at him, meeting his gaze.

“Agent Monroe,” Coulson began slowly, trying to figure out exactly what to say. “We do need to have you evaluated. By a doctor.”

Asia leaned back against her wall for a moment, watching him. “Phil.” She began, using his first name now to address him. “You know I don’t need that. I know how this works. I don’t need a desk chair to tell me what I can or can’t do.”

“Actually, you do,” Coulson replied calmly. “It’s protocol. Skye is doing the same exact thing. Afterwords, we’ll move on from there.”

“Alright,” Asia accepted after a moment. “I’ll do the full psych eval. But make sure it’s someone good. Someone who gets it,” she gave Coulson a small grin. “And then, after he tells you I’ve got it all under control, we can talk about getting me out of this cell.”

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That evening, nightmares plagued Asia’s mind. Twisted dreams of being exiled from SHIELD. Of Jemma and also, together, in love, now that she had been removed from the equation. Of Leo, not even remembering her. Of finding the small polaroids of them and burning them, ash to ash dust to dust. Her sleep was fitful, tossing and turning the entire time, but never once receiving the blessing of waking from her nightmares.

Not until the morning. The nightmare reached its peak. She woke, the last image in her mind being Jemma, a gun to her head, whispering the words, “you must be eradicated.” She heard the trigger pull, and jolted awake.

Pulling her sheets close around her shoulders, she shivered. Looking at her room, it was covered in ice. Hanging from the walls, clinging to the floor. Arched around the door. Little bits of hail blew and fluttered around the room. Asia pulled her knees to her chest, burying her head in them and letting out a sob.

She had lost control, again.

Chapter Text

The next day, Asia sat with her legs folded, meditating. In her lap, floated a small prismatic crystal of ice, rotating slowly in a circle, bobbing up and down just slightly. She was so focused on her meditation, eyes closed, brow furrowed, keeping that ice spinning in front of her, that she didn’t even notice someone enter the room.

That is, until he cleared his voice. Asia slowly opened her eyes, keeping the crystal floating in front of her, bobbing just ever so slightly. The man in front of her wore a grey suit with no tie. He had closely cropped curls of black hair and skin the colour of coffee beans. He had his fingers loosely crossed in the shape of a triangle, pressed to his lips, watching her calmly, not speaking a word.

"Can I help you?" she asked finally, flicking her wrist and causing the crystal of ice to disappear. He nodded once, a small impressed grin flashing over his face for only a moment.

"So you're the one everyone used to hale as the Mini-Romanoff," he said finally. "Pleasure to finally meet you. My name is Andrew Garner." he held out a hand for her to shake. She studied him for a moment, narrowing her eyes, then finally shook his hand firmly.

"A pleasure as well," she replied. "I'm guessing you're the one who is here to check if I'm still sane? And if I can control this icy mess." she waved a hand over herself, indicating she was the one everyone considered a mess recently. "Well, I've got great news. The control is not so much of an issue any more."

"I can see that. What methods have you been using to train yourself so appropriately?" He asked calmly, taking mental notes on her responses, the sarcasm, the way she sat. Every detail was important when it came to observations like these, and if Dr. Garner was the one deciding whether or not she would remain with SHIELD, he wanted to make sure he was doing his job damn well.

"Meditation, mostly," She replied with a shrug, leaning forward and propping her head up in her hand. "Nothing fancy, breathing exercises, mental cleansing, all of the usual stuff. Things Nat taught me, back in the day."

"You say 'back in the day' like you're eighty years old," Dr. Garner grinned at the girl, and she rolled her eyes in response.

"Sometimes with everything we do, it feels like I could be. Lived a lot of lives here, ya know?" She replied casually. "Wouldn't trade it for the world, though. We do good, every day. We help people." She smiled over at the doctor, before adding, "And I'm not just saying that because this is a psych eval. I love what we do here. I love my team. I love the help we provide."

"Alright, I hear you. And I believe it. I know you know well enough that lying right now isn't going to help anything, or either one of us," he nodded back at her once more. "But there are answers I need to know. Firstly, why did you shoot yourself the other evening?" Starting with the heavy ones.

Asia let out a sigh, looking up at the ceiling for a moment, trying to get all of her thoughts in order. There was no real easy way to answer. "I mean, it wasn't....I knew the gun was an Icer. I wasn't trying to kill myself, I would never do that. But I knew that...that if I didn't get the situation under control, my team could come into harm. So I eliminated the threat, this time it just happened to be me." She shrugged. "My training, everything we do here at SHIELD, has taught me to protect my team. That's all I was doing. Is that a good enough answer?"

"There is no right or wrong answer, Agent Monroe, as long as you're answering truthfully," Dr. Garner replied again, with a small smile. "So, how did you feel when you couldn't control it?" He asked, tilting his head to the side ever so slightly, watching her intently as she answered.

"Honestly, it was terrible, and terrifying. The idea that...that I could hurt my team, even when I was trying so hard to get it under control, it is one of the worst feelings I've ever experienced." She shook her head, looking down at her hands for a moment, picking at a loose hangnail. "That's why I've been training myself so intensely. I don't want to ever put them in danger like that, again." She sighed, shaking out her shoulders, as if voicing the words released physical weight off of her back.

"That's very...understandable," Dr. Garner said after a moment of thinking. "I think your response to the incident was...interesting, but I can't argue that it wasn't effective. Next question, why did you hide your transformation from the team?"

Of course it came back to that. It always came back to that. Everyone was upset about the three of them, Skye, Asia, and Leo, being in cahoots. Like she hadn't done it to protect herself. She sighed again, pushing back her hair for a moment and looking up at the ceiling, this time to try and keep the tears at bay. If she had never gone near that tunnel....If only. "I didn't want to keep it from them, but it felt as if I didn't have a choice. Jemma....Agent Simmons," Asia took a deep breath, getting control of her emotions before fixing her gaze on Andrew. "She was going off about how 'monsters' like Raina needed to be exterminated. And guess what? Turns out I was one of them. No one was disagreeing with what she was saying, and honestly I thought if I kept it at bay long enough, we would find a cure. I was hoping no one would ever need to know." She looked up at him, trying to see if he was understanding exactly what she was trying to express. She was worried...honestly, earnestly worried that she was going to be...hurt, or turned out, or something worse.

“I see,” he replied with another nod of acknowledgement. But Asia wasn’t entirely sure that he did. That he saw, that he understood. Part of her was afraid that he never would.

The questions went on like this, until it was lunch time. Andrew left, Coulson came, and the rest of her day went on without any event. But still, in the back of her mind, was the needling feeling that today had been make or break.

—————————————————————————————————————————--------------------------------------------------

Later that evening, Asia was jolted from a nap to feel the entire Bus shaking. Vibrating. Rattling. Her mind flew to Skye and she was on her feet, reaching for a door handle that wasn’t there. Panicking, she ran to their adjoining wall, banging her palms again it, hoping her friend would hear her. She knew it was of no use, that the walls were completely sound proof, but she tried anyways, desperately banging away at the black, honeycomb walls. "Skye!" She shouted, "It's me, it's okay. You can stop it!" she called out useless words of encouragement which simply drifted off into the void.

She sat back on her bed, staring at that wall between them. Was there a way she could send her ice over there? Was it possible, if she couldn't see what she was aiming for? Back in containment, she had sent Skye that little rivulet of ice, held her hand using it, but that was because she was what she was looking for, she saw her goal. This time, she would be flying blind.

But she had to try, she had to do something. Her friend was in danger, her friend was hurting, and she couldn't hear or see her. But she tried it anyways. Raising one finger into the air, she sent a little wave of ice up towards the ceiling, feeling for any cracks, searching, it didn't have to be big. The molecules of ice could fit through just about anything. And then, as if by miracle, there it was. A tiny, little crack. Her ice slipped through and she lost sight of it, but she kept her focus on Skye.

That was when shit really got weird. Even if her eyes open, it was as if she could see an overlay, see her small bullet of ice sliding along, dropping into Skye's room. Leo, Jemma, May, and Dr. Garner were all there, waking Skye from sleep. Jemma was shouting something angrily and Leo was trying to stop her. Skye was clenching her fists, focusing, trying her best to stop the shaking. Asia focused, her ice sliding over Skye's thigh, crawling up her jacket until it wrapped itself around her friend's pinky finger, like a tiny ring. She saw Skye look down, eyes wide, then saw a determination light in her eyes. When Asia blinked, the entire vision was gone, as if it had never happened. But something determined in her, some proud little piece, knew it had. Knew she had done all of that.

She hadn't lost control once. Not for one moment. She was learning, and she was growing stronger.

And the shaking stopped. Skye had gotten control. Asia let out a sigh of relief. She was proud, too, of her friend, for handling that as well as she had. She knew it, she knew Skye could get control. The two of them would be just fine, after all. It was such a relief, knowing that they were both going to be okay. She sat back on her bed, leaning against the wall, letting all the tension release. She looked at the door, waiting. Leo would come check on her, she was sure of it. So she waited. Waited and watched.

But that damn door, it never did open.

—————————————————————————————————————————--------------------------------------------------

It couldn't have been more than half an hour later when the plane started shaking again. Asia looked up from her lap, where she had been staring, lost in thought. But this...this felt different. This rumbling was not the same as before, this wasn't Skye. Moments later, the door to her cell opened up, and there her friend was, motioning for her to follow. Without hesitation, Asia leapt to her feet. And then the two girls were hugging, squeezing each other so tight Asia thought her lungs might burst. It had been over a week since she had seen anyone outside of her normal routine. It felt good.

"Thank you, for earlier," Skye whispered softly into her ear. "It helped, really helped. I don't know if I could have gotten it under control so quickly without you." Skye gave her friend a squeeze before releasing.

Asia shrugged, "I've said it before, we're in this together. Now, what's going on exactly?" She asked, looking around as the plane shuddered beneath them. "Are we...flying?" She asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Yea, Dr. Garner went to go see what's going on," Skye explained, "Pretty sure we should follow up. Figure out a plan."

So it was agreed upon. The two girls would go find Dr. Garner and, presumably, May, and figure out where they were headed and why. The crept down the halls, until they heard raised voices coming from the Command Center.

"Civilians are in danger. I made a call." They heard May proclaim, and Asia could practically see the woman with her brow furrowed, lips pursed, before they even rounded the corner. The two adults were so intent on arguing they didn't even notice the other agents approach. Apparently, they were each others' blind spot.

"And what do you expect me to do with the other agents?" Dr. Garner asked, arms flying out as he gesticulated angrily. Asia had never seen him like this before. Every time he had sat before her, he was calm, articulate, easy to speak with. This man was an entirely different person than the one she had known. She barely recognized him in this state. Something about the two being near each other was making two of the calmest people she knew so volatile. She looked at Skye, confused.

"They used to be married," her friend whispered so as they would not be noticed. "Used to being the key words there." Asia nodded, not allowing the shock to display on her face.

"Same as if we were still back at base," May scoffed, crossing her arms over her chest. "You'll keep the two of them here. I'll handle the situation."

Surprising even herself, Asia stepped into the room. "Excuse me, but no. That's not how this is going to happen."

Chapter Text

Skye’s father was the problem. He had always seemed on the offensive against Coulson, as well as S.H.I.E.L.D. as a whole, but this was taking things to a whole new level. He had hacked into the Index and gathered a handful of dastardly powered people to use for his own devices. It was going to be tricky, and it was going to be dangerous, and that was exactly the reason they needed to help out May.

Asia wanted to prove she could handle this, handle being an agent and having her powers. She needed to. If she wanted to stay on her team, she had to show everyone that her powers were completely under control. (Which, Asia would argue, they were. She hadn't had a slip up in days. Her practice was going perfectly. She had everything under control). So they were going to Milwaukee. Land of the Cheese heads. Coulson's childhood home.

It had taken some major convincing to May and Dr. Garner. Major convincing. But, for better or for worse, they were a team and they needed to save one of their own. Both Skye and Asia had their shit under control, and they were going to be fine in the field. Asia even bartered. If she couldn't handle it, she would take a leave of absence, she would do whatever May and Dr. Garner decided was necessary, until otherwise noted. They had agreed.

When they touched down in Wisconsin, it was dark. The stars were out, but as Asia looked up, she could barely see them from the light pollution. There was a pang of...sadness, when she looked up. The stars were a comfort. The stars were something beautiful, something familiar. A light in the darkness. Here, that light was only faint. She sighed, adjusting the ties on her wristlets. Another day, another mission.

"Alright," May said, from where they hid in the shadows by the football field. "Follow my lead. Skye, you want to be used as a bartering chip? Then we'll use you." She pulled her gun from its holster and grabbed Skye, pinning her arm behind her back. "Just follow my lead." And she started marching out onto the well lit field, where Coulson and Cal, Skye's father, stood, bathed in florescent light.

Before Asia could even follow, she could hear May shouting at Cal, pressing the gun tight to his daughter's temple. Asia watched, her nerves on end. Was that a real gun, or an Icer? Did Cal know the difference? But then again, this was May. She would never intentionally put her team in danger, would she? No. Asia was pretty damn confident that she would never.

So Asia turned and looked at Dr. Garner, pressing a pistol into one of his open hands. "Stay with me, I'll keep you safe. But if anything happens...if I go down, keep this with you. Stay safe." She looked up at him and as she did so, he gave her a small smile, to which she rolled her eyes in response. Still, deep down, she did like Dr. Garner. While he was a shrink, he never tried to hold his college degrees above her life experience. And he seemed to actually care. Two pretty important points, or at least, important to her. Not that she was worried either, they would handle this situation, just like they did with every other situation.

So Asia walked out onto the field, hands out at her sides, feeling the moisture in the air around her, readying herself to bring down the ice. She stood back, by the goalpost, watching the interaction between May and Cal, the stalemate held frostily on the field. Cal held out a microphone to one of his enhanced cronies, the one who could paralyze with a whisper of his voice. Asia had read the file. It would be bad, bad news. She was about to lurch forward, when suddenly an Orb of blue electricity surrounded Cal, knocking the voice guy aside, the microphone falling to the ground. And there was a second man, inside the Orb, who grabbed Cal, and in a flash...

They were both gone.

Skye stumbled backward, away from May, and Asia rushed towards her, supporting her friend, helping her walk away. She could tell it was getting overwhelming for her. May was fighting another enhanced man, Francis, and Bobbi was across the field fighting a woman Cal had brought along. "Come on, let's go," Asia said, pulling Skye backwards. She noticed Skye's breathing started to breathe heavily.

Suddenly, the ground around the two girls started to shake, the lights around the stadium flickering with Skye's power. Everyone stopped, turning to look at her.

"Breathe, Skye," Asia said, looking her friend in the eyes. "You've got this. We're in this together. Just. Breathe." She inhaled deeply, then exhaled, and Skye mimicked her.

Her brunette friend then turned her face, squeezing her eyes tightly, stopping the shaking. Then, she looked down at her bare arms, bruises blossoming over her pale skin. She looked up at Asia, eyes wide. "Asia I...I don't feel so good," she whispered, her eyes fluttering as Skye fainted, falling slowly forward.

Asia grabbed her friend, supporting her as she fell, sinking to the ground with her. Instinctively, Asia fanned out one arm in an arc, a circle of deadly spikes of ice sprouting from the ground around them. She held Skye tightly, looking down at her friend, brushing her long hair out of her face. "Skye? Can you hear me?" She asked softly, but her friend was out like a light. When she looked up, her team was looking down at her. Well, more specifically at the ice that was surrounding her.

From the looks on their faces, Asia couldn't tell if that was a good or a bad thing. She twisted her wrist quickly and the ice disappeared, leaving nothing inhuman surrounding them, nothing left but two agents, hugging the ground.

Chapter Text

"Radio base!" Asia shouted, as she carried Skye's body as best she could onto the Bus, not wanting to drop her, or allow her to get more hurt than she already was. More bruises had bloomed over her friend's skin like roses, covering every inch of her bare arms. “We need Jemma on the phone, Skye is hurt!” The panic was clear and painful in her voice as May rushed to the comms, quickly tuning into the correct frequency and radioing the Playground.

Skye was still out like a light, and Asia was worried as hell. She could feel the space closing in around them, tightening like a fist. Her lungs felt tight, like she couldn't get enough oxygen. Oxygen. She knew it was probably from Skye's body coping with whatever pain she was in, but being passed out for too long could be detrimental to ones health.

They had laid Skye down on one of the long couches and Asia had put a damp cloth on her forehead. While the flight was fast, it seemed like it had lasted forever. Asia had spent every moment sitting by her best friend’s side, watching her, tracking her vitals, recording every change so she could provide Jemma with as much information as needed.

So she could make sure her friend made it out of this okay. So she could make sure her friend didn’t get locked in a vault somewhere, never to see the light of day again. She felt partially responsible for what had happened. It was like Skye getting shot all over again.

When the plane finally, a wave of relief washed over the Agent. When the ramp slowly lowered and Leo was standing there, waiting with Jemma, Asia practically barreled into him, her arms wrapping tightly around him in the fiercest of hugs. And he held her back, rocking her just slightly. He knew she was remembering Ian Quinn. He knew it was all coming back. Because he knew her, he knew how she worked, almost too well. And he knew right now she needed him, more than she had in a few weeks.

“Are you alright?” He asked her quietly, whispering just to her as he rubbed gently on her back.

“Skye. Skye is-“ she began, but he cut her off, pulling back and looking at her grey eyes.

“I didn’t ask how Skye was, I’m asking about you,” he said calmly, watching her closely. He could practically see her walls falling behind her eyes.

“I’m okay,” she replied. “Really. I’m just worried. But my powers are under control, so that’s a big relief,” she nodded. “And I’m not going back in that cell, not if I have a choice. Not now.”

“With the progress you’ve made, I’m hoping the same thing,” he admitted. “We’ve been watching. Erm. Obviously, you already know that,” he ran a hand anxiously for his short curls. “And everyone has seen your improvement. So, if Coulson agrees, I think it’s time.” He held her shaking hands gently in his own, and once everyone was out of line of sight, he pressing her finger tips ever so softly to his lips.

She smiled up at him. Of course Leo was able to make her feel safe, even in the worst of times. He was a constant, in their ever wavering world. And she was so damn thankful, so thankful she didn’t have words. They would talk with Coulson later, after Skye was awake and everything was okay again. And she would be sleeping in her own bed again tonight, she was sure if it.

"There's that smile," he grinned at her, "Been missing seeing that around," he pulled her close and pressed his lips to her forehead, heat radiating throughout her body as she was overwhelmed by him. By Leo, her Leo. "Now, let's go check on Simmons, see if she needs any help with Skye." He knew she would want to help, she knew that it would help her take some of the blame off of herself.

So the two made their way to the Lab, watching as Jemma worked carefully inside, reading over the notes Asia had scrawled on the plane, eyeing Skye's vitals. She jotted something down on a pad of paper, then nodded at another doctor as they handed her a splint, one which had been sized precisely to fit Skye's arm. Asia watched from behind a pane of glass, every moment lasting as long as an eternity for her. She thought the time would never end, and the only anchor pulling her through was the weight of Leo's hand wresting on her waist.

And then Skye was moved back to her cell on the Bus, and the team waited, watching her rest and breathe, waiting for the moment when she would awake once again. No one could move hardly, until Skye finally began to stir, her eyes slowly blinking open as she let out a groan. She raised her arms to rub at her eyes and as she did so, the pain registered in her gaze, the pressure of the splints hit her system and she let out a groan, eyes rolling upward.

Asia was instantly crouching by her side, brushing Skye's bangs away from her brown eyes. "Hey, hey, are you alright? Do you feel okay?" She asked, the words tumbling out of her mouth like a flash flood, hardly even in her own control. She searched Skye's eyes, trying to keep the worry and fear out of her face. If Skye had gotten hurt, it was her own fault. She was right there, she should have done something to help.

Skye slowly lifted herself into a sitting position, rubbing at her head. “What’s going on?” She asked, her voice coming out hoarse and cracked. She still looked dazed and confused by her surroundings. Asia bit her lower lip, glancing back up at Jemma.

“You’re probably still feeling a little groggy,” Jemma nodded. “We gave you a bit of a sedative to help with the pain.” She looked down the clipboard in her hands. “It should wear off soon.”

Skye frowned, “what..?” The words were still sinking in on her, but they weren’t making sense. She looked down at her arms, the purple and brown skin beneath them, the splints. “Where..what are these bruises from?” She asked, looking from Asia, to May, to Jemma, searching their eyes for answers.

“Well,” Jemma began, flipped a sheet on her notepad. “I ran some diognostic tests while you were out to try and find a solution. The bruising itself was caused by capillary ruptured in your arms. There were also 76 hairlines fractures discovered from your clavicle to your fingers, spreading everywhere. It was good we caught this when we did.”

“What? No? That doesn’t make sense.” Skye shook her head, brow furrowing. “I haven’t done anything that would cause that. I’ve been in a cell for the past week. How would that be possible?”

Dr. Garner stepped forward now, kneeling down beside Asia so he was eyelevel with Skye. “Because, Skye, you weren’t stopping your powers. Every single time an uncontrolled event occurred, you directed it inward. You were hurting yourself to protect everyone else.” As his words echoed around the room for a moment, Asia couldn’t help but think back to their first session, to his question about the Icer.

Skye sighed, blinking a few times as she looked down at her palms, unsure of what to say. Asia reached out and tested a hand on her friend’s knee, sending a jolt of cold towards her, to let her know she was by her still. They were still in this together. They always would be.

Finally, Skye took a deep breath, looking back up at her team around her, meeting their gaze individually, before she spoke. “Okay. So what do we do now?”

—————————————————————————————————————————

Later that day, Asia sat on the couch in the commons area inside the Playground, throwing a tennis ball at the wall and catching it, alternating hands, practicing her coordination. She hadn’t been ushered back to her little cell on the Bus just yet, so that seemed to be a good sign, for now. She wasn’t about to get her hopes too high, regardless of what Leo had said.

She glanced at the Lab behind her, where Leo and Jemma were working side by side. As she continued to toss the ball and catch it, a tiny bit of ice formed around the fuzzy green orb. She wondered if Jemma had told him what she had told her. That she thought she was in love with him. The thought of it made bile lace her tongue.

Jemma and Leo had known each other for so long. So much longer than Asia had. She knew so many more things about him, had experienced more with him than Asia ever possibly could. Why wouldn’t he want to be with her? Why wouldn’t he want to choose Jemma? She bit her lower lip, whipping the ball at the wall, and it slammed right back at her, causing her palm to sting from the impact.

She hated jealousy, that stupid green monster that gnawed silently at the depths of her brain, telling her she was wrong, so deathly wrong, that Leo would want to be with her over Jemma. Telling her that her body was imperfect, that no one could love a human doll stitched together with bloody strings, leaving scars for years to come. Her jealousy monster was the anxiety that crushed her stomach, making her taste vomit in the back of her throat, made her head spin, made her lose herself in the endless spiral.

It was fickle. It was silly. Strike Team would tell her to get a grip. Natasha would tell her to punch it out. Clint would take her to the mountains, up in the trees, hidden, to the edge of a cliff where she would scream until she had no sound let. They would tell her to expel it. To not keep it condensed and bottled up.

But she had never been good at that. What spy let others see their weakness? What assassin showcased the hand they were delt? A poor one. And Asia was damn good at her job. So she kept it all tightly wound inside, sharing her feelings with only the tennis ball and the wall, not letting her feelings expel into the air around her, not allowing ice to crawl up the walls and cling to the ceiling. She had it all under control, now.

“Agent Monroe,” Coulson’s voice cut through her deep thoughts, causing her to miss the ball as it whirled back at her. The Director’s hand shot up, catching it with ease. He eyed the ball, then looked back at her. “Quite the throw. Would hate to be on the wrong side of your arm,” he nodded, watching her carefully. “Everything alright?”

Asia shrugged, tugging on the strings of her hoodie. “Just tired of being a zoo animal, I guess,” she muttered, eyes flickering over to the Lab once more. Leo was holding a test tube in her hands, but his eyes were on her, watching the interaction through the glass.

“Well, you’ll like the news I’ve had then. Dr. Garner wants you to have a copy of his review as well,” Coulson handed her a Manila folder about a centimeter thick of papers. All on her. Apparently. She looked down at the folder then back up at Coulson.

“Good news, Monroe, you can drop the scared animal look,” Coulson gave her a thin lipped smile. “You are released to your quarters, starting immediately. Dr. Garner still wants you to continue sessions while he is here reviewing Skye, but you are released back to the team. Next mission we go on, you should be ready to suit up.”

“Yes, Sir,” Asia gave him a small salute, holding the folder tightly to her chest with her other hand. As soon as he was gone, she was planning on dipping back to her room to read just exactly what Dr. Garner thought of her.

Her room. That felt good to say. Her room, with her photos and candles and books. Leo’s sweaters in her hamper. Her extra pillows. Her heart felt like a butterfly as she kept her face as composed as possible. After Coulson left, her eyes found Leo through the glass. He was still looking back at her. Quickly, almost imperceptibly, she gave him the smallest of nods.

Chapter Text

Agent Asia Penelope Monroe

Code name: The Renegade

Status: Active/Pending Assessment

Affiliations: S.H.I.E.L.D. ; Strike Team Delta ; Fortification Project (pending assessment outcome)

Classified Files : Eyes Only. Case Files duplication is hereby not permitted. Anyone found to be copying these files will be suspended.

Assessment Leader: Doctor Andrew Garner

Assessment Process: Daily sessions regarding mental health and status of power control. Monitoring of vitals accepted by Agent. Monitoring of daily practices accepted by Agent.

Assessment Goal: Determine continuation of employment with S.H.I.E.L.D., determine if Agent is cleared to return to active duty. Failure to return will result in a successful TAHITI Program and life restructure.

 

Agent Dossier: Agent Monroe has been with S.H.I.E.L.D. for redacated years, following the events of redacted , resulting in the death of both parents as disappearance of younger sister. Kept in care of Agent redacted until age of redacted and entrance to the Operations Program at the Academy. Trained alongside Agent Grant Ward ( redacted redacted redacted redacted redacted redacted).

Immediately following graduation from the Academy, Agent Monroe was appointed to work under Agents Barton and Romanov, as a third member of Strike Team Delta (see Fortification Project ). Following redacted Years, Agent Monroe was transfered to a team under Agent Phillip Coulson (see Director). Has been with team through The Fall. Was with team during incident in San Juan. redacted redacted redacted redacted redacted redacted. Occurrences have resulted in change to Agent Monroe’s molecular DNA. Results include the ability to manipulate and produce ice (research subject to change following further assessment).

Agent has been conducting self practice in regards to control. Observations included medication, muscle control, mental studies and practice. Can conclude Agent has displayed adequate mental and physical status in regards to control and power manipulation. Agent has displayed growth in sessions. It is my personal opinion that, with further time and observation, Agent Monroe will be fully released to active duty and all holds removed. I will continue to monitor her for the remainder of the coming week to assure accurate assessment - A. Gardner.

Sessions Question and Answer:

Session One;

Q: What methods have you been using to train yourself so appropriately?

A: Meditation, mostly. Nothing fancy, breathing exercises, mental cleansing, all of the usual stuff. Things Nat taught me, back in the day.

Q: Why did you shoot yourself the other evening?

A: I mean, it wasn't....I knew the gun was an Icer. I wasn't trying to kill myself, I would never do that. But I knew that...that if I didn't get the situation under control, my team could come into harm. So I eliminated the threat, this time it just happened to be me. My training, everything we do here at SHIELD, has taught me to protect my team. That's all I was doing. Is that a good enough answer?

Q: How did you feel when you couldn't control it?

A: Honestly, it was terrible, and terrifying. The idea that...that I could hurt my team, even when I was trying so hard to get it under control, it is one of the worst feelings I've ever experienced. That's why I've been training myself so intensely. I don't want to ever put them in danger like that, again.

Q: Why did you hide your transformation from the team?

A: I didn't want to keep it from them, but it felt as if I didn't have a choice. Jemma....Agent Simmons...She was going off about how 'monsters' like Raina needed to be exterminated. And guess what? Turns out I was one of them. No one was disagreeing with what she was saying, and honestly I thought if I kept it at bay long enough, we would find a cure. I was hoping no one would ever need to know.

End Session One

Session Two;

Q: How are you doing today, Agent Monroe?

A: You can call me Asia, I don’t mind. No need to be formal. And I’m good, aside from the fact that we’ve been stolen away to Wisconsin. Probably getting pretty near to landing now, yea? Anyways. I’m ready for it. To show you guys what I can do. To show you it’s under control. I’m no less of an agent than I was two months ago.

Q: Lets review the past for a moment. It was a very difficult year for your team. Hydra, discovering Agent Ward’s deception. Let’s take a moment to look back over it. You and Agent Ward were close, yes?

A: Yes.

Q: Do you care to embellish on that?

A: No. But I have a feeling I’m not about to get a choice on that. Agent Ward and I knew each other ever since the Academy. We were paired together on Mission redacted. After you go through that type of a thing with a person, you stick close. Plus we were top of our class. Pushed each other to new limits. Yea, we were friends. Obviously, not so much anymore.

Q: I’ve read the files. Noticed you never seem to mention what exactly happened after you and Agents Fitz and Simmons were captured and held on the Bus. Now, they’ve provided minimal details regarding the fight between you and Ward, resulting in their pod dropping into the ocean. Can you tell me what happened following this?

A: I can. Will I? Debatable...*lengthy sigh* They held me captive at orders of Garrett. They tortured me. The cut me, bled me out, paraded my pain in front of Government Officials of the world. Honestly, it sucked. A lot. Ian Quinn....he did things to me that I would never wish on another. And I hope that I get the day to put his body in the ground for what he did. And some day I will. But even after everything I went through, I would still do it again. Because my actions saved Agents Fitz and Simmons.

-notes; did not push Agent in regards to what Quinn did. Visible queues inferred possible sexual assault and resulting trauma. Clear signs of physical torture endured. There is clear PTSD resulting from events. Agent seems open to discussing events, encouraging the steps towards recovery. Will be focusing on moving forward and healing.

Q: I am proud of you, for talking about it. That takes a lot, after everything you’ve been through. Can you tell me why you used your one failsafe to save them?

A: Because that’s what team members do. I knew that if I had enough time, I could save myself. I needed to give them the best chance possible of making it out alive. They were already going to be at the bottom of the ocean. Might as well have a rescue team waiting when they got to the surface.

Q: How did you know someone would come?

A: Because I know Nat and Clint. I just knew. They would never not send anyone. They would never leave me behind. So. Yea. I just knew.

End Session Two

Session Three

-notes; agent responds best to direct questions where she does not get the option to decide whether or not she replies. Has been opening up. Is handling stress well in regards to control.

Q: Let’s take about today. Why were you so upset after the events of the football field?

A: Because Skye...one of my teammates got hurt on my watch. That’s my fault. If my team...when you have the power to help people, and they get hurt while you’re there, that’s your fault, you know? My team getting hurt when I know I could prevent it, that’s on me. So yea, I was upset. I should have seen it. There must have been a sign that I missed.

Q: You seem to take a lot of weight on your shoulders. Why is it your fault, any more than any one else’s?

A: Because...because I need to hold myself accountable to that. I know that I’m better than that. Better than getting caught. Better than letting my team get dropped into the ocean. Better than letting Ward beat me. Better than.... *Agent looks visibly distraught. Does not keep eye contact. Seems to be holding back emotion rather than displaying.* look. I get it. We all have training. We all should be able to handle ourselves. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be able to help my team when they’re in trouble. Maybe I hold too much against myself. But I don’t want anyone else getting hurt on my account. Also, I want to note what temperature it is in here. Room. I’ve got this.

Q: I understand that. I want to talk about what happened after the events of Hydra taking over. You had this...second persona. The Renegade. What happened there?

A: I didn’t “have” anything. That name was given to me. I’m sure you know about that, considering who your Ex-Wife is. But. Coulson needed an agent who could make the hard calls. He needed a trained assassin, while Barton and Romanoff were busy. Disappeared. Whatever. I filled that box. I did what he needed to do. Maybe that makes my hands red, but it doesn’t make his any less so.

Q: Okay, okay. I get it. You were doing your job, I think everyone respects that. Now, one other thing I want to talk about today. Agent Fitz. The two of you were...close, before the events of last year. What happened?

A: *lets out a long sigh. Avoids eye contact* Yes. We were close. He was a very...good friend. He helped me adjust to life on this new team when I first joined. He got dropped into the ocean because I couldn’t beat Ward. And if I had beat Ward, he wouldn’t have suffered from the brain damage due to lack of oxygen. So, for a while it felt an awful lot like having people near me caused them to get hurt. Some days it still feels like that. But I’m working through it. Some days are easier than others, but I’m working through.

Q: Yes, that’s good. The two of you seemed to have patched things up, yes?

A: Yes. I apologized for being a distant, cold, asshole for a few months this year. He forgave me. Bridges built or whatever.

Q: You care about him?

A: Yes. He’s my best friend. There’s nothing I need to disclose further at this time. Nothing that would compromise my dedication to the team.

Q: Understood. I appreciate your candidness today, Asia. Is there anything else you would like to share, whether it’s about the events of today, or anything over the past year?

A: well, I want to make a note that I think I handled today well. Nothing I did in regards to my powers was something I didn’t have under control the entire time. I hope you see that. I hope everyone does.

End of Session Three

Chapter Text

“So Hunter is really gone?” Asia asked Coulson over a breakfast of bacon and eggs. “Bobbi and Mack said he couldn’t handle a breakup and ran with his tail between his legs? And we’re believing that?” Her words came out as nothing louder than a whisper. Finding out Hunter had disappeared while she was in her personal prison was like a stab to the heart. But she refused to believe he’d just up and run without even a goodbye. He could be a little on the annoying side, but he would never just up and leave, she knew that.

Coulson bit into a piece of bacon, contemplating her question. “Not necessarily. But right now I’m taking their word for it. We’ll have to wait and see.”

She nodded with a sigh. “Well. I still don’t believe it. But I will do my best to not accuse my teammates of secretly killing one of our other teammates and hiding the body.” She gave Coulson a small smile as she casually stole a piece of bacon off of his plate; all of her own had been gone for several minutes.

Coulson noticed her casual robbery, but didn’t say anything. “You have your final review session with Dr. Garner today, correct?” He asked, the humor slowly draining from his face.

“Yea...” she muttered, squinting her eyes at the Director, trying to get a read on him. “Why? What’s up? You sound like you’re about to tell me my cat died or something. Bad vibes, Coulson, bad vibes.” She brushed back her hair, partially out of habit, and partially because she needed something to hide her nerves without being overly obvious.

“I want to tell you what’s going to happen with Skye today. And it may give you something to vent about during your session.” He sighed, shaking his head. “We’re sending her off to a safe space. A retreat. To help her get more adjusted to her new life, while we figure out exactly what our game plan is going to be.” He could see Asia’s face start to turn sour as he spoke, so he continued on, wanting to give a full explanation. “Garner wanted to dismiss her completely from S.H.I.E.L.D. I vetoed that idea. This is just temporary. She will be back.”

“I’m going to hold you to that,” she replied, grabbing an apple off the counter and heading down the hall. Damn right she would have something to talk about today in her session. Damn freaking right.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A few days later, and Skye was gone. Just like Coulson had said. He had her pack a bag, climb into Lola, and flew her away, to somewhere where she could relax and get control of her powers, where she wouldn’t be a threat to herself or others.

She hadn’t even been gone for a day, and Asia already felt a little more empty than she had the day before. Like a little piece of her was missing, now.

And there was still no sign of Hunter, either. She tried turning the Xbox on to see if he had been online recently, but his Gamertag had been inactive for over a week. A pit couldn’t help but open itself up in her stomach, threatening to swallow her whole. Something was wrong. Something about this whole thing felt incredibly wrong.

Asia tried to focus on meditating. Tried not to focus on her worry, her worry that she was losing people. That everything was starting to slip away. It was hard, not to lose control. But she was no longer waking up to ice covered walls. She was no longer freezing the pipes.

And Leo still slept beside her nearly every night, though every now and then he took to his own bed. She didn’t need his comfort anymore, he said, she had a control on her powers now. She understood it, but it still didn’t feel quite as good waking up without his arm wrapped snuggly around her waist, holding her body against his chest, his sleepy breath caressing her ear. But..like she had told Dr. Garner, there was nothing to disclose. They weren’t a couple. They just...they just were.

Asia went to find him in the Lab, after Skye was gone, when she saw the gloves. Jemma was studying them closely. They were made of a dark blue mesh, small snowflake symbols etched into the back.

Leo had come to meet her at the door when he saw the look on her face. Discomfort. Concern flooded his system as he linked his pinky finger around hers. “What’s wrong?” He asked quietly. “Is it your powers? Is everything okay?”

“What are those?” She managed to whisper, nodding at the gloves Jemma held closely. The other scientist hadn’t even noticed her staring, hadn’t felt the weight of her gaze on her shoulders. She knew. She knew without anyone having to say that those gloves were made for her. She knew what they were supposed to do.

They were supposed to cut off her powers. Remove her flight risk. She didn’t understand. Had Coulson ordered these to be made? She was doing so well. She had everything under control.

From the anger that clouded over Leo’s face, he hadn’t known about their creation either. “What are those?” He called out, storming towards Jemma’s desk and snatching one up. He examined the glove, turning the vile thing in his hands. He could tell too, what the gloves were meant for. But he wanted to hear her say it, hear Jemma admit she had made something to destroy the powers Asia had been given. Hear her say she wanted to hurt one of the people who meant the most to him in the world.

Jemma sighed, glancing at the gloves. “Oh Fitz...” she let out a long, low breath, her eyes flickering to Asia for a moment, then back to her lab partner. “They’re for our own protection. You can never be too safe these days.” She grabbed the glove back from him, setting it beside it’s pair. “I am only doing what’s best for the team!”

“What’s best for the team?” Leo presses his fists against his head. “Asia is a part of the team! She isn’t some, some, some lab experiment you can test your toys out on! She is working bloody hard to have control over her powers, why would you do something like this??”

Jemma simply shook her head, tucking the gloves into a drawer at her desk and locking it. He wasn’t going to understand. Someday, she hoped, he would. He would see she was doing what needed to be done. And Asia...she would be handled, if she needed to be. Or she would get out of the way.

Asia could feel the rift between the two women growing and growing. It was threatening to grow so large it would swallow the both of them right up, without a second thought. Asia knew she had to find some way to repair what was broken between them, but she didn’t know how to make Jemma see she wasn’t a monster. Show her she was the same person. And she didn’t know how to fix the fact Jemma thought she loved the same man as her. She didn’t know how to tell Jemma she would never give up on Leo, that the love she felt she couldn’t even put to words. She would have to figure out a way.

Then suddenly, Leo was grabbing her hand and pulling her out of the Lab, stomping down the hall. “Hey,” she said, squeezing his palm. “Everything is fine, okay? Those gloves won’t be on my hands any time soon. Jemma will...she’ll get everything sorted out.” But he wasn’t listening. He was pulling her into the large storage elevator and punching the buttons for the roof.

So she let him lead her up there, hands still tightly held together, fingers linked like puzzle pieces. The elevator doors slid open, revealing the roof and the clouds and the cool air. He pulled her outside, rounding the small square structure that housed the elevator. Behind the cement structure was a green bench, with a view of the whole city in front of them. He sat down, pulling her beside him. The bench felt cold beneath her legs, she could feel each bolt pressing into the fabric of her black pants.

“I started coming up here, um, a lot,” he explained, foot tapping rapidly on the ground, as he looked back and forth between the skyline, and her face. “After the whole,” he tapped at his head a couple times, “the whole thing. It just, uh, helped me think. Clear my head. Right now my head is really messy.”

Asia looked up at him, studying his hardened face. She had never seen him so frustrated. “What can I do to help?” She asked quietly, afraid there wouldn’t be a thing she could do to make this better for them.

Leo looked out at the sky, then down at his hands, massaging his palm with his thumb. “Um, well, I can. Can think of one thing that will help,” he turned to her, grabbing both of her hands in his, kissing her finger tips softly.

“What’s that?” She asked him, proceeding with caution. He was upset. Whatever he was about to say could be a decision made out of anger, not out of actual want. She wanted to help him, she did, but he also needed to help himself.

“We could quit all this silly back and forth and, uh, pretending, and you could just be my girlfriend already,” the words flew out of his mouth and then they were out there, hanging heavily in the moist air around them. He looked up at her, his eyes searching hers, preparing himself for the worst.

But instead, she shook her head up and down, once, twice, three four five times, a small grin starting to spread over her lips. “You mean it?” She whispered, her words mingling in the air with his own. “I’m not...not exactly the prime example of the shining girlfriend of the year award. I’m complicated. And my hands are...really bloody. I'm not nice, I've got all these sharp edges. I get into dangerous situations every day and—“

He cut her off, pressing his lips to her, shutting off any words she could possibly continue to say. He didn’t care. He didn’t care about her past, or the dangers of her job, or anything else. He just cared about her, about keeping her safe, about the two of them staying together, keeping one another safe until they could grow old together. And he cared about kissing her. About kissing her and showing her that she was the most important thing to him.

His lips were hot on hers, his warmth erupting over her skin, causing fireworks to dance down her spine. She kissed him back, lips clashing together, tongues melding in the space between. His lips tasted sweet, like cherry chapstick, and his fingers spreading out beneath her shirt were warm, like little embers dancing over her back, up her spine, softly playing with the clasp of her black bra as he pulled her into his lap so that she was straddling him.

For a moment, she pulled back, breathing in deeply, trying to catch the breath he had stolen from her. “Leo,” she said softly, searching his eyes and finding nothing but love. She leaned back down, her lips finding his once more, like two magnets sticking tightly together. All she could feel anymore was him, his body, his warmth. The cold air around them had disappeared, the sounds of the city, gone. Nothing left but Leo, Leo, Leo.

And she couldn’t get enough.

————————————————————————————————————————————

“So we’ll tell Coulson when he gets back?” She murmured to Leo quietly from the crook of his neck, where she lay nestled in bed beside him. The two had just woken from a nap together, a tangled moment of arms and legs and happiness.

“Definitely,” Leo agreed, pressing a kiss to the crown of her head. “No more sneaking or hiding. I don’t care if the whole base knows.” He grinned at her, his girlfriend, finally, after these two difficult years.

“You’re cute,” She whispered back, trying to conceal her yawn, but failed. “I wish we could just stay here, though. Telling Coulson means paperwork. Staying right here in bed means....” she looked up at him and bit her lower lip, eyes flashing mischievously.

“Means what, love?” He leaned down, kissing her cheeks each, then her nose, then lips.

“It means whatever you want it to mean,” she replied back, unable to keep her giggles down as she pulled him back towards her, burying her head into his chest. She hadn’t felt this good, this elated in...wow, she wasn’t even sure how long.

“Well, he isn’t back yet,” Leo agreed. “So we might as well just stay here for a moment, explore all of the outcomes to that possibility. For science.”

“For science,” Asia agreed, landing a peck on his nose. She was sure Coulson was on the way back now...back from picking up Skye. He was probably upset. Maybe today wasn’t the best of day. “Let’s just forget about Coulson for a moment,” she suggested. “Right now, nothing but you and me.” Leo couldn’t say he objected to that notion. He held her face in his hands before kissing her again. He couldn't get enough of her, enough of her mind, her soul, her body. He would spend every minute of every day in this moment together, if he were allowed to do so. And for this brief moment in time, they were allowed.

Chapter Text

Unfortunately, time waits for no mouse. And the same applies to Agents of Shield. Asia and Leo had been lucky enough to indulge in that one evening of peace, one evening of doing nothing but staying wrapped in one another’s arms.

The next day, Asia was set on telling Coulson. She and Leo together would approach him, and they would sign whatever they needed to sign. Disclose whatever they needed to disclose. Leo had even said he would take leave, if that’s what it had come down to.

But first, they were stopping in the Lab. Jemma was supposed to do a video call with Skye that morning, and Asia wasn’t going to miss a moment of seeing her friend. She needed to see for herself that she was okay. That she wasn’t in a prison. That she wasn’t hurt. Even if it meant bracing the awkwardness of Jemma and their situation.

And Jemma didn’t even know the news yet. She was about to find out Leo Fitz was off the market. Asia wasn’t entirely sure on how well that news would take. She wasn’t planning on staying around to find out. Talk to Skye. Go tell Coulson. Easy breezy.

Too bad that was not what reality had in store.

As the two walked down the brick halls, Leo’s watch beeped. “Erm, Coulson wants me to research something, ASAP,” he frowned, looking over at Asia, who was reading a message on her Shield Issue phone.

“Yea...” she trailed off, reading the message she had just received from the Director. Guard the Lab. Keep it on lockdown. Keep everyone inside safe. “I’ve got something, too. Let’s just get to the Lab quick so you can get to work, yea?” She plastered a grin on her face, best not to let anyone worry after all.

But in the back of her mind, she was already trying to put together the pieces. She had a feeling whatever Leo was about to look into would give her the final hint. The final clue. She would know exactly what they were up against. The apprehension made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up.

When they entered the Lab, Asia saw Skye’s face lighting up Jemma’s computer and she practically raced over, peering over Jemma’s shoulder, a big smile on her face. “Skye!” She exhaled in relief when she saw her friend was in a quaint little cabin, sitting on a plaid couch in a sweater and leggings.

“Asia!” Skye’s face lit up when she saw her. “You look so good! How are you? How is everything?” She gushed out questions, wanting to reach through the screen and hug her. The two young women had been through so much together. Their bond was forged in fire and unbreakable.

“I’m good! Things are good! There’s so much I want to tell you, when you’re back,” Asia replied, her body visibly relaxing at the sound of her friend’s voice. Even Jemma couldn’t help but smile at the bond between the two. It was cute.

“I don’t know when that’ll be, but I’m looking forward to it,” Skye replied, her smile faltering a little. Coulson hadn’t told her how long she would be staying. How long she would be kept out there, in the middle of nowhere.

Asia pressed her hand to the screen, and Skye did the same. Even though they were thousands of miles apart, Asia could swear she actually felt their palms touch. “Soon,” she nodded convincingly. “I’ll let you and Jemma get back to it, though,” she looked down at the red haired scientist and smiled. “Thanks for letting me commandeer your call.” She meant it. She was trying to repair the rift. Baby steps.

She stepped back, giving Skye a tiny wave, walking backwards till she was at Leo’s desk. Now that she had finished her conversation with Skye, had seen she was okay, it was work time. The fun was gone, and Asia was back to business. She perched herself in the side of Leo’s desk, crossing her legs and pulling out each of her guns, inspecting each, making sure it was clean, properly loaded, ready to go if needed. Then she clicked out the knives on her wristlets, checking each blade, verifying everything was in perfect shape.

“Oh, this...this is not good,” Leo muttered from behind her. She looked over her shoulder and saw what he was inspecting. The little model car that Mack had built for Coulson. She blinked slowly, and as her eyes were shut, the pieces all fell into place.

Just as she had thought they would.

In an instant, Asia slid off the desk and moved around the room, checking each door, locking it from the inside, checking the windows for signs of movement. There was a fox. A fox in the henhouse. And they were about to become prey.

When she heard footsteps, her gaze whipped up to see May powerwalking by, hands clenched into fists. The two women met gazes and Asia gave her a sharp, quick nod.

“Asia, what are you doing?” Jemma asked, looking up from her desk, concerned. Almost...afraid.

Asia shook her head. “Stay calm, everything is under control.” She nodded towards the doors. “There’s just a bit of a situation, but Coulson has it under control. This is just a failsafe.” She looked over at Leo, who’s was rapidly typing away at his computer, sending information to Coulson as they spoke. “I’ve got this, you guys keep doing your thing,” she smiled nonchalantly, slowly making her way around the room, rechecking all of the work she had done.

When she was almost around the room, she heard the sound of shattering glass. Whirling around, she saw a broken beaker on the floor, Jemma’s mouth agape as Leo stood beside her. The scientist looked back and forth between Asia and Leo, and in that moment, Asia knew he had told her.

Before she could say a word, the room fell into shadow.

Only seconds later, the lights turned back on, illuminating the Lab and the halls. Asia looked around for signs of anything amiss, but didn’t notice any. But something, something was wrong. She could feel it, her intuition kicking into high gear.

“We have to get to Coulson,” Asia said to Leo, looking at Jemma to see if she was going to follow.

“I’ll stay hear and hold down the fort,” Jemma glanced around nervously. “If there’s a breach or something I need to make sure our things are safe.”

Asia nodded, and slid a gun out of its holster on her belt, handing it towards the girl. “Here. Lock the door behind you. Don’t trust anyone. Stay safe,” She placed a hand on Jemma’s shoulder, looking her in the eye. She meant it. She couldn’t let anyone else get hurt. Jemma nodded, taking the gun and setting it on the desk beside her.

As the two exited the Lab, Asia waited until Jemma had locked the doors before she led the way down the hall, checking each corner carefully before moving forward. They were moving so quickly, they nearly ran right into May, gun raised, as she pushed her way out of one of the training rooms.

“May,” Asia sighed, lowering her gun and brushing back her hair, not realizing the breath she had been holding in so tightly until this moment. “Are you alright? What’s going on?” She asked, glancing around to make sure there was no one but the three of them nearby.

May sighed, “Its Bobbi and Mack. They took Fury’s toolbox, they’re trying to smuggle it off base.” Her eyes narrowed, and Asia could see the anger building behind them. “Come on, we’ve got to get you two to Coulson.”

Asia’s mouth dropped open, as she spoke. “Hunter...?” She asked quietly, her unspoken question hanging heavily around them.

“We don’t know yet,” May said with a shake of her head and a frown. “But we’ll find out. Now let’s move.”

Together, the three of them moved towards the hangar entrance, until the heard footsteps. May held up a fist, signaling them to stop, as she checked the corner.

Thankfully, it was Coulson himself, along with several other agents. He had a look of disappointment creasing the lines of his face when he saw them. “Mack got away, when the lights went out,” he explained.

May shook her head. “It was Bobbi. She set off an EMP when she was fighting me. They couldn’t have gotten far, it’s only been minutes and we have agents at the exits. We just need to flush them out.”

Leo had his hands on his hips, looking down at the floor, then he sighed and looked up at Coulson. “I checked out the car. Mack embedded a tracker which locked into Vibranium. It lead Bobbi right to the Toolbox.”

“They have the Toolbox?” Coulson’s eyes widening, a new look of concern covering his face, which Asia didn’t even think was possible at this point. “Shit. That is...so much worse than I thought. We need to catch them before they find a way out of here.”

Leo nodded, starting to walk backwards, “I’ll get to the server room, start a manual lockdown. No one will get in or out.” He nodded, running his hand through his curls.

“Asia, go with,” Coulson ordered. “Stop anyone who tries to stop you. Then get back here safe.”

Asia nodded, giving him a serious salute, before spinning on her heel and jogging off towards Leo. She cracked her knuckles, feeling the ice thrumbing beneath her skin. Yea, she was ready for this.

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The server room was a mess of black towers of electronics, little blinking green lights, and blue backlighting. Asia wouldn’t have been able to navigate the room with the lights on, much less in the dark, but Leo knew exactly where to go. She stood beside him, scanning the dark closely, fists clenched tightly.

She couldn’t help but notice the temperature in the room had dropped, but right now she didn’t mind. She could see her breath curl in the air in front of her, and she smirked. Sometimes, what she could do really was beautiful. Sometimes. But she knew for damn sure she would impale someone with a stab of ice if they tried to hurt them.

“Alright, alright, I’m almost done, promise,” Leo said, and Asia couldn’t tell if he was speaking to her, or to himself, as his fingers nimbly moved around cords, swapping outlets and pressing tiny buttons.

“Fuck!” He cursed suddenly, slapping his palm against the tower of electronics. “This should be working.” He thought for a moment before dashing off and taking a left, turning down a different row. “This way, this way. I’ll try something else.” Asia followed closely behind, keeping an eye on their backs just in case.

“Alright, Let’s see what’s going on in here,” he mused, sliding open a small drawer. Asia saw his face furrow in confusion as he stared inside. “What the hell...” he muttered, tracing his finger over some silver device inside the drawer he had opened. Asia peered over his shoulder, trying to get a look at whatever it was.

“Fitz, don’t,” a deep voice bounced through the darkness, and the two agents whirled around, looking down back towards the entrance, where Mack’s looming figure stood. He was holding a hand out almost in warning.

Asia pushed Leo behind her, using her body to block his. “Stay back,” she called out, raising up her hands, palms up. She knew Mack understood what she could do, if he wanted.

But he wasn’t even looking at her. He was making eye contact with Leo only, trying to get through to him. “You know I’d never hurt you, buddy,” he said gently, taking another step towards the two of them, causing Asia to move them a step backwards, closer to the wall. “I need you to trust me,” Mack tried again.

“Don’t!” Leo called out as Mack took another step closer. “She’ll do it, Mack. Asia will Ice you, and it’ll be a lot different than the gun.” He tried to scare him off, even though he could see Asia’s fingers shaking just ever so slightly. She was scared, she didn’t want to do it. Didn’t want to hurt someone.

“Okay, okay, but I need the two of you to get away from that wall, right now,” Mack said warningly, glancing up at the vent above them, before looking back at the two. “Please, trust me,” but the two didn’t move.

“You need to get away from us,” Asia warned again, not lowering her hands. “Stop all this ‘trust me’ bullshit and get out of the way.” If he left, she wouldn’t have to hurt him.

Suddenly, there was a rumbling sound behind them. Leo looked over his shoulder, his hand linking through Asia’s and squeezing. “Something is wrong,” he whispered.

Then Mack was charging at them, shouting Leo’s name, and the rumbling was growing louder. Leo pulled Asia towards him and she threw her hands in the air as Mack leapt at them, two beams of ice shooting out of her palms, blazing blue, crashing into Mack, his skin frosting over as he barreled into them, at the same time that the wall behind them exploded, rubble crumbling down as Asia’s world went black for the second time today.

Chapter Text

Asia's eyes slowly blinked open, the bright light above her blinding. She was sitting down in a hard, cool, metal chair, in a dimly lit, tiny room. Where was she? What had happened? Was she still on base? She squeezed her eyes shut, trying to remember the last thing which had happened. Mack. The Server room. Leo. The explosion. Asia shooting Mack full of ice, albeit not entirely on purpose.

She opened her eyes once more, looking at the man who sat across from her, arms crossed. He was bald, with a stern gaze, and wore a black suit with a skinny tie. If she didn't know better, she would say he was SHIELD. But he wasn't someone she recognized, or knew, so she knew that he had to be on the outside. She furrowed her gaze, and looked down at her hands. Handcuffed at the wrists, no surprise there, and those gloves....the dark blue gloves of Jemma's design, they were attached tightly around her wrists.

"Weaver," the man called out over his shoulder, not taking his gaze off of Agent Monroe. "This one is awake." From the doorway covered in shadow, stepped another figure, one in heals and a sharp navy suit, her black hair slicked back into a tight bun. Someone Asia recognized. Someone Asia hadn't even known was still alive. It had been so long since she had last seen Agent Weaver at the academy. It felt like an entirely different lifetime.

But here, in this situation, with her hands bound and a man clearly ready for an interrogation in front of her, the trust and respect she had once felt for the woman faltered. Asia closed her eyes and took a deep breath, concentrating, trying to put the pieces together. And as she did, she noticed something. She could still feel a vein of cold running through her body. It curved and ebbed away from her hands now, but she could still feel it. Her hands may have been inhibited, but the river running through her simply found a different path. Jemma hadn't invented a way to shut down her powers, after all. She hid a grin, but inside she was singing. She had the upper hand now, and they didn't even know it.

"Agent Monroe," Agent Weaver greeted coldly. The warm welcome once received at SciTech was long gone, replaced with this harsh, stony woman. Asia flinched as if she had been hit. "I'm glad you're awake. Now for Agent Mackenzie, he hasn't been so lucky yet. You hit him with quite the blast. That's why we forced Agent Simmons to hand over the gloves of her design." She nodded down at Asia's hands. "Don't want anyone else getting hurt now, do we?" She asked, narrowing her eyes, trying to get a read on the young agent.

"I didn't..." Asia began, trailing off. She was going to say she didn't intend to hurt him, but she had. He had charged her. She was just protecting Leo. Leo...where was he? Was he okay? Weaver hadn't mentioned him yet...was he hurt from the blast? Where was the rest of her team? She said Jemma was forced, was Jemma okay? The questions raced through Asia's mind at a mile a minute. She could hardly focus she was overwhelmed with the cacophony of thoughts and she had to blink several times to clear them away, file them back into her mind's cabinet.

"Mm, we're sure," Weaver replied, turning on her heel and heading back out of the room. "Agent Calderon, Director Gonzales wants to see her in the office, five minutes." Weaver called out over her shoulder one last moment before she disappeared entirely. She hadn't noticed, but Asia took note of the name. Little things. Gathering data, making the puzzle pieces all fit together. She still wasn't entirely sure what was going on here, but she knew she did not like it. She knew Bobbi and Mack were somehow behind it. And she was worried for her team.

"Alright, lets get moving," the other agent nodded at her, standing up and pulling a gun from his belt. His gaze was more of a sneer than a look, like she was a rabid animal chained in front of him. Reluctantly, she did so, letting him force her out of the room and out into one of the bricked walls of the Playground. So they were still here. Good. She would have a better homefield advantage.

She didn’t like the feeling of the gun barrel pressed ever so close to her back, but she didn’t protest. She would have to wait for the right moment, and then she would strike. Her mind was already moving, formulating plans, thinking ten steps in the future.

As Calderon lead her through the halls, they slowly passed by the Lab, and when Asia looked in, it was as if time had slowed down and she was moving through syrup. Jemma and Leo were standing inside the glass, Weaver speaking to them. Calderon noticed her steps slowing down as they walked past and he moved to her side, grabbing the crook of her elbow and tugging her forward, moving his gun to hold it under her chin.

Before she could even stop herself, she cried out his name. “Leo!” She called out, so relieved to see he was okay. He had a small scrape on his forehead, from the blast, but apart from that he looked fine, standing there, hand up to his mouth, wearing that soft grey cardigan of his, thinking.

But when he heard her voice speak he name, he spun around, moving towards the door before he had even officially laid eyes on her. As if he hardly even noticed Calderon or the gun, he stepped between the two of them, brushing Asia’s hair back from her face, studying her, assessing the torn parts of her skin, ripped by the rubble, looking down at her hands and eyes widdening.

“What did they do to you?” He asked, hands running up her arms, over her face, touching every bare piece of her, making sure she was really there, really okay. “The gloves...they took the gloves. Jemma didn’t...she didn’t have a choice.”

“I know, I’m okay,” Asia nodded, not letting the tears spill down her cheeks. He was alive. He was okay. And as long as he was okay, she would be too. She looked down at her hands, then over at Weaver, then back to him. “They think I’m an animal,” she whispered, eyes narrowing and flicking towards Calderon. “Trying to cage me up, thinking they know just what I can do.”

“I’ll get you out, I promise, Asia,” Leo vowed, squeezing her gloved hands, pressing a kiss to her lips before Weaver was pulling him backwards, away from her, as if she were a monster, as if she would ever hurt him. And then the gun was back and they were moving back down the hall, towards the stairs which would inevitably lead to Coulson’s office.

Asia reluctantly took the stairs upwards, allowing, momentarily, for Agent Calderon, whoever the hell he was, it escort her up them. When they walked down the hall, Asia's eyes fell on two guards dressed in full combat and defensive body gear already standing outside the office. What the hell was going on? Calderon nodded at the guards, who stepped aside, giving them entrance.

"Sir," Calderon greeted, standing at attention towards one of the men who stood inside. The man he was looking towards was old, leaning on a nicely made cane with a metal handle. He had a white mustache and white hair, and wore thin rimmed glasses. He was tan and looked weathered, like he had been through hell this past year. Well, they all had. So Asia wasn't going to allow that to earn him any points.

"Thank you, Agent Calderon," The man nodded, "You may leave now." With that, the man with the gun was gone, leaving Asia standing with this mystery man, and, to her relief, with Coulson. She gave her director a quick nod. His eyes flicked down to her hands, looking at the gloves, his lips pressing to a thin line.

"Agent Monroe," the older man spoke her name, tearing her thoughts away. She turned to look at him, eyes narrowed and expression blank. "It's a pleasure to meet you, I have to say. I wish it were under better circumstances. My name is Robert Gonzales." He gave her a thin lipped smile, and it seemed forced.

Asia tilted her head to the side, licking her lower lip, wondering how to proceed for a moment. She studied him, head to toe, before speaking. "I wish I could say the same. Unfortunately for you, I'd prefer we never had met at all," she replied, yanking suddenly at her handcuffs. The man jolted backwards slightly and Asia grinned a small grin, to herself. He was afraid of her. He thought her to be a monster as well.

And if he thought she was a monster because of her powers, he had no idea.

"You know, if I felt it necessary, I could have Agents Barton and Romanoff in here in a matter of minutes," she said casually, leaning against Coulson's desk. "We could see how fun that would be." she tilted her head, watching him. The man's eyes narrowed as he studied her silently. She wondered what he saw, when he looked at her.

But he chose to ignore her taunts, and picked up a small black box from Coulson's desk, strolling slowly over to the door and leaning out, handing it to a guard, whispering something to him. The man nodded, and disappeared down the hall. "It will take some time, but I have faith that Agents Fitz and Simmons will get into Fury's little toybox that he left behind."

"Do you really think they'll help you?" Coulson asked, almost letting out a laugh. He knew his agents better than anyone. They would never turn over the team. They had all been through too much together for that to even be an option.

Gonzales scoffed, shaking his head in what seemed to be pity. Of course a man like Coulson would think his subordinates were more legal to him than they were to the cause. "Well, I think Agent Fitz will do just about anything as long as we're holding his little girlfriend captive," he nodded at Asia, smirking. Coulson gave Asia an odd look. She shrugged, as Gonzales continued. "They're Agents of Shield, Phil. Let's let them make their own decisions."

Suddenly, from outside there was the muffled sound of a gunshot. The door burst open and May raised her Icer, firing two shots directly at Gonzales, the man falling swiftly to the ground as patches of blue shot over his skin from the bullets. "If we're talking about decisions, I've already made mine," she said coolly, sticking her gun back in its holster. Asia grinned over at her, never having been so thankful in her life to see her. She could have cried, if she was the type of person who felt comfortable showing emotions to other people.

May held out a small metal case towards Coulson, before turning to Asia and pulling a pick from her pocket, making quick work of the handcuffs. "That should last the two of you a few days," she nodded at the case in Coulson's hand. "You two need to get out of here." She tugged the gloves one by one off of her small hands. "And we'll burn these," she said with a grimace. "Did they hurt? Are you feeling alright?" she asked Asia quietly.

Asia shook her head, though not upset the gloves were gone. "I think they believed my powers only stem from my hands. They were wrong." She flexed her fingers, cracking them at the knuckles. She flicked her gaze at the door and a small sheet of ice appeared over it. "Super wrong," she looked back at May and shrugged. But May was already moving.

She was alongside the wall, shoving down on what appeared to be an electric socket. Turns out, it was a secret lever. An elevator slid open and the older agent practically shoved Coulson and Asia inside.

"What about..the others?" Asia asked quietly, her mind going back to Leo. The worry must have been clear and apparent on her face.

May pressed her lips into a thin line. "I'll take care of him Asia. They know about Skye. You two need to get to her." Coulson and Asia exchanged looks, as the elevator door slid shut and they disappeared into the darkness.

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Asia strolled across the beach, wearing a lavender bikini and a white sarong with yellow flowers dotted over it. The warm breeze wafted through her hair, wavy from the saltwater. The sand was warm beneath her toes, as she moved slowly between people, acting as if there were no rush. Acting casual was the best answer right now, seeing she had just lifted five grand in cash from a guy's penthouse suite. He was nonethewiser, passed the fuck out from the shots he had been doing all morning. I mean, seriously dude. It was only 11 am.

She was making her way back to the tiki bar, smiling pleasantly at the bartender as she slid into place beside Coulson. On his other side, sat Lance Hunter. She refused to act surprised.

"There's my favourite customer," the bartender grinned, sliding a mixed drink her way. She took a sip of the margarita and gave him a thumbs up. Perfect, as always, blended and sweet with a little kick at the end.

"Well, Asia, we've got good news," Coulson said, as she set her drink back on the bar. "Hunter has officially signed his contract. Here, take a look," he slid a napkin her way, and scrawled on it in black pen was Hunter's signature. Asia ran her finger over the indents before sliding it back to Coulson.

"Good," she mused. "Cause we've got some work to do."

Chapter Text

The car job was supposed to be easy. Key word being "supposed." Asia knew the second they entered the car lot they wouldn't be able to buy any car worth the money they had on this property. Nothing that would get them out into the mountains where Skye was. Nothing that would get them out there in one piece, at least. They were at one of those skeevy kind of places that always tried to scam people out of money. But Asia did not express her distaste. So she left Coulson to do the haggling, and proceeded to move through the used cars with Hunter, looking over each one for something that would work.

"So," she began casually, as they slipped between rows, moving behind the brick building that housed the offices. "Want to talk about what happened?" She asked him, hands in the pants of her hammerstyle grey sweaters, popping a bubble of her mint gum, eyes flicking over in Hunter's direction, watching his uncomfortable reaction.

“Whatever do you mean, love?” He asked, looking down at the ground as he kicked the tire of a rusty old Volkswagen van, the car wheezing as he did so, as if it were crying out in pain.

“Oh, you know,” Asia replied with a shrug, moving over to the next car, leaning over and peeking into the cracked driver’s side window. “Best friend and ex knock you out and kidnap you, steal you to a remote location, then you find out they’ve double crossed your team and you’re also in the middle of the ocean.” She ticked the things off on her fingers before flicking her gaze over towards him again. “Seriously, Hunter, all joking aside. If you want to vent, vent.” She, of all people, knew how debilitating it could be to keep all of that bottled in. First hand.

Hunter shrugged, frowning as he inspected the car she was looking at. “It bloody sucked if that’s what ya mean,” he rolled his eyes. “Could have done without it, that’s for sure. But now we just have to focus on saving Skye and getting our base back. And maybe getting a car that isn’t a fucking bucket of bolts.”

Asia looked up and followed his gaze over to a Jeep Wrangler, black, parked behind the building. Sure didn’t look like something they were actually selling. She cocked her head to the side, looking over at her friend.

“Alright, mate, there’s two schools of thought here,” Hunter clapped his hands together then rubbed them back and forth. When he turned back to look at Asia, she was already on the ground with a screwdriver, unscrewing the license plates on one of the older cars in the lot. She glanced back up and him and grinned wryly.

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License plates tucked snugly inside her jacket, Asia and Hunter made their way over to the Jeep, after Hunter had taken a moment to sneak the keys from inside the office. It would be quite the nice grab and go, if Coulson wasn't still busy chatting with the man in charge of the property. Asia had tried waving discretely, jumping up and down, just about everything besides actually shouting out the mans name. She turned back at Hunter and shrugged. "Guess we're going to have to go for the less subtle route."

"Well, love, subtly never really was my strong suit," Hunter grinned as he climbed into the front seat and adjusted it to fit his height. "You want shotgun or sleeper first?" he rolled down the window and asked, as he revved the engine. The car purred beneath his foot, ready to race off.

"Back is fine," Asia said with a shrug, opening the door and sliding in. "I'll have to take care of the license plates after we get rollin, ya know?" she laid casually over the leather seats, feet resting up against the frame of the glass window on the opposite end. She looked up at the ceiling a popped another bubble of blue gum.

"So, do you want to talk about it?" Hunter asked her quietly, looking back over the arm of his seat, glancing down at her, watching the bubble pop in her face as her gaze flicked up towards him, their eyes meeting.

"Talk about what?" She asked casually, as if her skin weren't crawling at that very moment. As if she didn't feel like jumping out of the window and running away at the very proposition of such a question.

"You know bloody well what," he rolled his eyes with a sigh, before looking back down at her. "The base being run over by so called agents, being taking captive, your team being ripped out from under you. The whole lot of it." He squinted his eyes at her, almost as if he were trying to intimidate her into talking.

Asia sighed and propped herself up. "Nah, don't really need to," she shrugged. "It's not really bothering me. I know we'll get the base back. I know our team will be okay." She looked out the window for a moment, thinking, then looked back towards Hunter. "Because I don't know what we'll do if we don't." They held the heavy gaze for a moment, before Asia's lips quirked up into a grin, "I do have some cool news though...." she trailed off, before speaking once more. "Leo and I are official. Like official official, dating or whatever." The grin on her face lit up all the way to her eyes.

Hunter smiled back, earnestly for once. "Good, you kids need each other." Then, he turned to face the steering wheel once more, glancing over at Coulson who was still negotiating with the car salesman. "And you know what, I spot a man who needs us." He revved the engine again and switched into first gear.

Chapter Text

Coulson had ended up having to Ice the car guy, which was unfortunate, but overall not too bad. They got away with the Jeep after all. A functioning car that would get them to where they needed to go. It would get them to Skye. Asia, admittedly, would have done a hell of a lot worse to get to her friend. They had limited time, limited resources, and were about to face people who could, truly, pack a punch.

After they had stopped on the side of the road for Coulson to take over driving, Asia glanced at Hunter, who was now in shotgun. "Alright so. I'm going to do a thing. It's going to seem unorthodox. You're probably going to freak out. I'm going to ask you to just make sure I don't fall." She looked at him evenly, knowing full well she had already looped the seatbelt around her ankle in a series of intricate, weaving knots. He opened his mouth to ask her what she was meaning, but by that time she was already hanging over the back seat, popping open the trunk of the vehicle and hanging backwards out of the car, screwdriver and replacement license plates in hand.

She could hear the two men shouting from within the car and tuned them right out. No time for that nonsense. Surely, the police would be on the lookout for a Jeep with specific plates. She'd be doing them a favor. A favor that listed their car in an entirely different state. Clean fix. She'd launch the other ones into the woods, never to be seen again. She sighed, leaning backwards and looking at the pavement that raced only a foot from her face, black and weathered. The entire world seemed to move slower, except for that pavement. That, definitely, moved much faster than Asia had expected. She needed to get this done quickly and get back inside.

Carefully, she undid the screws then held the screwdriver between her lips as she carefully withdrew the old plate and placed the new one in its spot, slowly screwing the four screws in by hand. She then finished tightening them with the screwdriver. She took a deep breath as she would up her arm, then yeeted that license plate off into the woods, laughing to herself.

Doing a sit up, her abs crunched as she pulled herself back up and into the car, smile on her face and sweat on her brow, greeted by Hunter's shocked face. She gave him a thumbs up, then wiped her forehead off, leaning over to until her left ankle from the mess she had hooked it into, all the while as he sat with his mouth dropped open. She knew she had done well, but she had never been one to really, truly gloat. She had always been a big believer of 'those who can, should.' And she had.

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Driving through the mountains, in itself, was actually pretty relaxing. The trees were this golden colour they only ever started to turn at the very beginning of fall, and the air, with the windows rolled down, smelled sharp and crisp. Asia thought she might not mind living up here, in a place like this, surrounded by nature and beauty. She rested her arms on the window, leaning her head on them, watching the trees speed by as Coulson took the roads quickly, covering as much ground as possible.

Honestly, Asia was pretty sure that Gonzales and his team had made it there already. How could they not? It had been a couple days, they had Quinnjets, and they had the locale on a map.

They had an immeasurable amount of resources compared to what May had provided them in the case. Yet, Asia had a tiny bit of hope that they’d find her when they got to the Retreat. Hiding. Somewhere. Anywhere. It was dangerous to hold onto that fragment of lost hope, she knew that. Hope was always a dangerous thing to have, but particularly in her career field. But she was also scared to let it go.

Only time would tell. Asia closed her eyes and silently willed for Coulson to drive faster. For the distance to become shorter. For anything, anything to bring her team back together again. She set those good intentions out into the universe, and then let the drive lull her to sleep.

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Sleep didn't last long. Hunter shook her awake when they were twenty miles out, giving her that knowing gaze and nodded at the gun at her waistband. "Might want to get ready, love," he suggested, straightening back up in his seat. Asia sat up straighter and ran her hands through her long brown hair, trying to make it look as normal as possible. She crackled her knuckles, and leaned back in her seat, looking out the window again. They were deeper into the wilderness of the northern American mountains. The anticipation twitched beneath her skin; the anticipation to find Skye, the anticipation to fight.

Coulson pulled them off road when they got closer, taking the Jeep through the woods and pulling them up along a portion of the perimeter, stopping and parking. Asia undid her seat belt and slid quickly out of the car, her mouth falling open as she took in the aftermath around them. There was an entire arch of blown out trees, fragmented and splintered. The ground was worn free of all grass, nothing left but flat earth. She knelt down, pressing her open palm to the soil, feeling the power that had surged through it not all that long ago.

She closed her eyes, letting the wave of power flow over her. When she opened her eyes once more and looked up, Coulson was looking down at her expectantly. "Skye did this," she confirmed his thoughts with the quick sentence. "She was here." The only question now was, where had she gone?

Hunter walked around the perimeter of the arch, stopping and picking something up from the ground, studying it, then holding it out for them to see. It was a large, sharp spear of would, old and worn, with dark red blood covering the tip. It had clearly punctured something, or someone, and drawn a lot of blood. A potentially fatal amount. "Do you reckon they did this to her? Or she did this to them?" Hunter asked, glancing around the area again, making sure there were no eyes on them.

Coulson sighed, picking up the wood and studying it closely. "There's only one way to find out," he replied finally. "Let's break into the cabin." He tossed the wood to the ground lightly, and began strolling through the remains of the forest, as if this were a casual vacation trip. Hunter and Asia exchanged glances, before raising their handguns and following their Director.

The cabin was really cute, honestly. Had the whole woodsy getaway aesthetic going on, with tiny green shutters on the windows and a softly slopping roof, the tiny porch complete with a little bench swing. There was a large lake out back, the mountains framing the entire thing for an even more picturesque view. Asia wouldn't have minded vacationing there, on different circumstances of course. But overall, the Retreat was everything the title had made her expect. A little hidden oasis of safety.

Coulson knew the code to enter the fortress of a cabin, obviously. It was as if the numbers were etched into his brain, he didn't have to check his phone or anything for the password. Simply stepped forward and dialed in an intricate set of numbers and letters into a key pad, and the vault of a door sprang wide open for them.

As they entered the large, one room cabin, a part of Asia was still hoping deep down that they would see Skye, sitting on the plaid couch, legs crossed, watching TV or typing away at her laptop. But alas, the room was dark and empty. Upon entering, Coulson sat down at the swivel chair in front of the fancy computer, typing in his credentials and logging into the Retreats security cam system.

"Alright, what we're about to see, it might not be great," Coulson explained as he rewound the footage until small, grainy figures started to appear in black and white on the screen. The clearing where they had just been was once covered in trees, trees that coverage the footage of the screen.

They watched as Skye fought hand to hand with an Agent, taking him down easily, but not fatally. Then, they saw Bobbi and Calderon, the agent who had held a gun to Asia's head only days ago, appear on screen. Calderon raised his gun and fired and they watched Skye raise her hands up in defense, the air around her rippling as the trees shattered and everything near her blew away. Asia watched in both horror and awe as the large splinter of wood shot right into Calderon's heart. She could feel the eyes of her teammates on her as they saw the footage and she knew what they were wondering.

They were wondering if she could bring that sort of destruction, too.

Chapter Text

The tape had only gotten weirder after that moment. The same man who had appeared in the electric blue orb on the football field and grabbed Skye’s father had appeared and in a blink, Skye was gone.

“So,” Asia began, pacing the room, hands on her hips, as Hunter poured out shots of whiskey and set them out on the small card table. “What exactly is the game plan here? We don’t know who that guy is, just that he has appeared and grabbed Raina, Skye’s father, and now Skye. We have no way to track him, no idea why he comes or where he goes...” she trailed off to look at the two men who were watching her as she paced. She raised an eyebrow at them, crossing her arms over her chest.

“S.H.I.E.L.D. and Skye, both gone, just like that,” Coulson sighed, walking over to look out one of the windows. “There are no good game plans here, Agent Monroe. I’m not even sure which game plan gets us out alive at this point.”

“Well,” Hunter began, pausing a moment to knock back his shot of amber liquid. “Maybe it’s time to start rolling with the bad game plans, then.”

Asia watched him for a moment, then looked back up at Coulson. Maybe, for once, he had a point.

But before they could think on it more, Asia spoke suddenly. “I’m going down to the lake for a bit, unless anyone objects. Want to get some practice in.” Not much to her surprise, neither of the men objected. She shoved her hands into the pockets of her black Shield issue jacket and trudged back on outside.

The air around her was crisp and cool, breezing through her locks of brown hair. Fall. She liked it. It had always been her favorite season, when she allowed herself to have favorite things. The mist in early mornings, the crunch of leaves beneath boots. Cool, but not too cold. Warm but not too hot. A perfect balance, a secret that she kept wrapped up in her heart.

But a nature walk wasn’t the intent of this outing. She wanted to practice. Thus far, she hadn’t spent a day without doing some sort of practice, and she didn’t intend to start. Not until she had this whole powers thing mastered. She stood at the edge of the lake, boots just far enough away to stay dry, watching the dark blue, boardering on grey, waters lap at the sand and rocks. If she closed her eyes, she could feel the power rippingly beneath the surface. It called to her, whispered sweet things in her ears.

So she began to practice, running through her usual routines. While she was always able to produce the ice, it was so much easier with an abundance of water around her. So much source to pull from. She practiced like that for an hour, before she decided to try something new.

Slowly, she reached over and unzipped her black leather boots, then rolled her socks off, shoving them into her shoes and setting them back and away from the water. then she rolled up the bottoms of her leggings a few times to keep them dry. She wasn’t entirely sure her plan would work.

Taking a deep breath, she lifted one foot and stepped out, slowly lowering her foot towards the water. Like a fan, the water near her foot started to freeze, expanding outward, giving her enough space to stand. Carefully, she rested her foot on the cool surface, placing all her weight on the ice, then lifting her other foot and doing the same. She held her breath, looking down at the two circles of ice below her, supporting herself, kissing her feet with cool white.

She let out a laugh, surprisingly even herself with the sound which escaped her lips. She looked up the sky, raised her arms, and cheered. She had done it. She had controlled this thing, this ebbing and flowing power growing inside of her. She was literally walking on water. She almost wished the others were outside to see this with her.

Suddenly, the sound of a low flying engine crashed through her thoughts, catching her by surprise and breaking her concentration. The ice below her feet shattered, dropping her feet into the couple inches of cold, murky water below her. She almost fell backwards, but caught her balance. Her eyes tore over the clouded sky until she caught sight of the Quinnjets approaching. Without a second thought, she grabbed her boots and ran for the cabin.

“They’re here,” she shouted as she shoved her way through the door, pulling her boots on one by one as she did so. “Gonzales’ team. They found us.”

Coulson look surprisingly calm, while Hunter looked as panicked as she felt. “Why are you so calm?” She asked, gesticulating her arms wildly. “We’re surrounded! It’s not like we can cruise out of here in the Jeep.”

“I called them in,” Coulson explained. “You’re right about the Jeep, that’s not going to cut it. If we want to find Skye and reclaim Shield, we need one of those Quinnjets.” He peered our of the window, before closing the blinds again.

“How exactly are we going to do that?” Hunter asked, already digging into a black duffle and prepping one of his assault rifles. He didn’t look entirely confident with the plan, and Asia didn’t blame him.

“I’ve got reinforcements on the way,” Coulson replied as he fixed the cuff links on his suit jacket. “Also, no lethal weapons. Those are Shield agents out there, still.”

“I doubt they share the same sentiments,” Hunter rolled his eyes, but folded the gun back into the bag. “What, pray tell, do we do when they race in guns blazing?” He asked sarcastically.

“They won’t,” Coulson said. “This place was built to survive a literal Hulk-sized force. They won’t be able to get in, which will buy us enough time for backup to arrive. Unless...” he trailed off, when suddenly a large slam hit the door, shaking the entire building. Asia braced herself against the couch, half expecting the beams on the ceiling to give in. Coulson let out a sigh. “I was going to say ‘unless they brought a battering ram,’ but I think we all know the answer to that.” He checked his watch. “So we’ve only got about an hour.”

And that bloody hour ran down much faster than any of them could have expected. The ram pounded resiliantly against the door, like the ticking of a clock, the sound exploding through Asia’s head over and over. And the reinforcements still hadn’t shown.

“So is your backup coming any time soon?” Hunter asked, the nerves slipping into his sentence as he eyed the door warily. “We all know how precious our time is getting right now.”

“I’m aware,” Coulson said, bending over and pulling something small out of his case. “But we’ll be fine.”

“What is that?” Asia asked, squinting to try and get a better look at what he had pulled out, shooting another shot of ice at the door, trying to help build its strength up. It didn’t do much. Every time the ram hit, her ice shattered to bits.

“21st Century Howling Cammandos kit,” Coulson explained, looking up at her. “Trip and Fitz built it for me.” He could see the sorrow that filled her eyes at the mention of both of the men.

Trip. Thoughts of her lost friend filled her mind, threatening to shove unexpected tears out of her eyes. She still couldn’t believe he was gone. She had never had a moment to even stop and just...grieve. There was never the time. She brought her hand to her mouth, covering her lips and turning away for a second.

“So,” Coulson said casually, causing Asia to turn around. He was holding a small deck in his hands. “You guys like to play cards?”

The cards were clever little things, honestly. The cards would film a small segment of a person’s time, then create a hologram of said recording. It played in color, it looked incredibly real, it could even move. The only thing they couldn’t do was make sound.

The three quickly recorded short images of themselves playing cards, then set up the deck so their mirror images displayed, sitting around the small wooden card table.

Coulson looked down at his watch. “One minute left. Let’s get in position.” Position, as it was, was hiding behind the door and waiting, hoping the agents would be too distracted by their images to check. Sure, wasn’t the best hiding spot in the world, but they had limited resources so it’d had to do for now.

The three of them stood side by side, Coulson and Hunter with their Icers at the ready, Asia with her hands raised, frost already forming around her fingertips. She was going to freeze the agents in place, then Coulson and Hunter would knock them out. After that, they would strip them of their combat gear, dress up like the agents, and, hopefully, be convincing enough to sneak onto one of the planes.

The whole thing actually went surprisingly as planned, all the way up to when they tried to board the actual Quinnjet. As they had entered the clearing, waving at their unknowing fellow agents, who waved back, a loud voice projected from one of the jets.

“Drop your weapons and put your hands up, we have you surrounded!” The voice boomed, the agents who had previously waved now raising their decidedly leathal weapons at the three of them.

“Want me to freeze them?” Asia asked hesitantly, as more soldiers appeared from behind trees. Obviously the gig had been up for a bit now. She balled her hands into fists, readying for the fight.

“No, no need to use our biggest weapon just yet,” Coulson said, slowly raising his hands in the air. “Though not sure how they want you to drop yourself, that could be an interesting one.”

Asia rolled her eyes, but reluctantly put her hands up in the air. She could have done it, if he had asked. Froze every single one of them in place. Well, she was pretty sure she could have. Maybe it was good they didn’t take that risk just yet.

Cuffs were placed back on them, and those stupid, stupid gloves were placed back over Asia’s hands. Ignorant of them, really, to honestly think they worked. Not that she was going to clue them in on that just yet. The three were quickly lead onto a Quinnjet and strapped into seats along the wall.

“Honestly, Sir, was there ever even any backup?” Hunter asked, exasperated. If this had seriously been the whole plan, he was about to be truly miffed. This wasn’t a plan, it was a funeral procession.

But Coulson didn’t reply. He simply sighed and shook his head. Asia closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She could ground this plane, if they asked her to. She just needed to be ready. Was she ready? God she hoped so.

The ramp to the jet started to close, when suddenly there was a jerk and a tearing sound, as if the gears were being forced the other way. Asia opened her eyes and looked over at the door. A pair of hands were wrapped around the ramp, and it was, in fact, being forced back down.

The other shield agents watched in shock in horror, though Asia observed the whole thing with a look of glee, as Mike Peterson’s image appeared. Once the ramp was shoved back down, he climbed aboard. The agents attempted to fire shots, but they simply bounced off of his metal chest. He smirked, then threw the first punch.

The fight was quick. It helped that Asia nodded her head and ice emerged, wrapping the other agents’ feet in ice, stopping their movement. Mike knocked them right out and rolled them out of the ramp. Then, he turned and fired two rockets at the engine of a jet attempting to make an escape. It fell sadly to the ground, defeated.

He turned to them, grinning. “Coulson, Monroe, long time no see. Glad I could get here in time. Couldn’t have them flying away with you, could we?”

“Took ya long enough,” Asia teased, as Mike snapped her handcuffs. She ripped the gloves off, tossing them into the trash. He smirked at her, as she smirked back.

“So who is this?!?” Hunter asked, bewildered, as Mike destroyed his cuffs as well. He looked at Coulson expectantly.

“Agent Hunter, meet Agent Peterson,” Coulson explained, fixing the cuffs on his jacket once more. “Agent Peterson, this is Agent Hunter.”

“You can call me Mike,” the man replied, holding out his silver hand for Hunter to shake, which he did so enthusiastically. Asia rolled her eyes and stifled a laugh. Hunter caught her look regardless, and furrowed his brow at her.

After the introductions were over, Mike and Asia got themselves strapped into the cockpit and began the quick process of readying the Quinnjet. "Alright boys," Asia announced over the intercom, "Let's blow this Popsicle stand."

Chapter Text

Once they were airborne, Asia climbed out of the cockpit and went to sit beside Hunter. it was time to talk a gameplan. Even though they had a Quinnjet now, it wasn't as if they could simply zoom in, plans unthought. And, fuel was also going to be an issue. So after they were at cruising altitude, with no particular destination set, the team decided to convene.

"So," Asia clapped her palms on her knees. "Where are we headed?" She glanced around the circle of mismatched agents, wondering who would speak first. Shocker of all shockers, it was Hunter.

"I still think Mexico should be kept on the table," he suggested, raising one finger as he did so. Asia slapped his hand, giving him a fake-serious frown. He rolled his eyes and placed his hand back into the pocket of his sweatshirt. "Well, I don't hear any other brilliant ideas, mate, and you are the one who asked," he muttered under his breath.

"I'll fill you in later," Coulson replied towards Asia, ignoring Hunter's comment altogether. "We have bigger things to address. Agent Peterson," he nodded at Mike who had also come to join them. "Has been doing some overseas work for the last couple months. Do you remember List?"

"As in the one guy at Hydra you didn't have me assassinate?" Asia asked, raising an eyebrow. Her words came out deadpan and for a moment, Coulson couldn't tell if she as being sarcastic or not. He chose to go with sarcasm, fingers crossed.

"The one and only," Coulson replied back, glancing up at Mike again. "Mike's been tailing him. Keeping an eye out. Digging up very important dirt. Mike, why don't you do the honors of telling them what you've found."

Mike sighed, shaking his head. "Well, it's not good. Not that anyone should be surprised, it's Hydra after all." He sighed again, and looked over at Asia as he spoke. "Last week, I was able to intercept some coded transmission between List and another member of Hydra. It took a minute to figure out the code, but it was clearly in regards to powered people. List has interest in them," he shook his head, frowning. "He's hunting them down, capturing them, and experimenting on them the way Daniel Whitehall was before his demise."

Asia kept her face as even as possible, not wanting anyone to feel the serious wave of dread which had just washed over her. "Well," she said finally. "We always knew he was a serious bastard, so. In the grand scheme of things, not all that surprised."

Coulson thought for a moment then nodded. "True. The bigger problem is, I think they know about Skye, and the group of powered people her father has a connection to. I only know of one man who has connections to both sides of this equation. Only problem is, we're going to go to hell and back to find him."

"And who might that be?" Hunter asked, pulling a toothpick out of his pocket and placing it into the corner of his mouth to chew on. Nervous tic. He couldn't help it. Gave him something to do when his hands were supposed to remain idle.

Coulson looked over at Hunter, "Well, you gave me the idea, Hunter. He's our bad option." Coulson stood up, tapping on his watch to pull up an all too familiar face on a holoscreen in front of them. Asia stared up at the grainy image, mouth dropping open this time, in utter astonishment. No, he couldn't mean it. Could he? She looked up at Coulson, as the hairs on the back of her neck stood on edge. Coulson sighed, swiping the image away and surveying his ragtag team. "We're going after Grant Ward."

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Eventually, the Quinnjet touched down at an undisclosed location, in an undisclosed city, with an undisclosed hotel that they could stay at for a while. The suite Coulson had managed to finagle them into was honestly one of the nicer rooms Asia had ever stuck out in. It was like an entire apartment. Two bedrooms, with two beds each, two bathrooms, both with showers and Jacuzzis, a kitchenette, and window with a view of said undisclosed city. It was a safe space, for now. A place they could relax and breathe, for a minute.

Asia dumped her black duffle on top one of the beds, and padded barefoot over to the large window, looking out at the city below. It was only midday. Much to do, much to do. They had to start pulling strings to track down Ward. Asia was still trying to figure out exactly how she felt about that plan. The things he had done.....they were unacceptable. Sure, she had done bad things herself, but she would never, ever betray her team. She would never have hurt Leo and Jemma the way he had, or hurt Skye or....she thought back to Quinn, and everything he had done to her, and shuttered. Sure, Ward hadn't wanted Quinn near her, but he didn't do anything to stop it.

She steeled herself, and turned around to face Hunter, who was streaming a football game on his laptop as he fiddled with a handgun. "I'm going to shower quick, yea? Then we can start our digging."

"Sure, mate," Hunter said, all focus clearly directed at the game on the screen in front of him.

Asia rolled her eyes and proceeded into the bathroom, looking the door behind her and quickly filling the room with steam, surrounding herself with water, letting the feeling overwhelm her senses and take away whatever worry she had been feeling before. Something about the water made her feel at peace, like everything was okay.

She stripped off her clothes, which were much in need of a wash at this point, and stepped into the bare white tile of the shower, letting the water cascade over her bare skin. Rejuvenating. It felt like she had spent the entire week at a spa, like her whole soul was cleansed. She could have stayed underneath that water forever. It was peaceful, it cleared her mind. She started thinking about their plans, what they were going to do to get their base back, get Skye back.

Asia didn't like to dwell on their base....Leo was still there. For all she knew, they were holding him prisoner, torturing him for information on where she might have gone, and he literally knew nothing about what had happened. It made her stomach tighten, painfully so. She could feel her pulse pick up, practically hear it thumping in her ears. She pressed her hand against the wall, balancing herself. That wasn't what was happening. She had to believe that wasn't what was happening. If she let herself sink into those thoughts, she would never, ever get out.

She stood one last minute in the water and then turned the faucet off. She stepped onto the fuzzy bathmat and dried herself off, slipping on one of the fluffy white robes that was hanging from the door of the bathroom. The material was fluffy and gentle, like down. She was just tying the knot on the rob when she heard it.

His voice.

Her eyes opened wide and she shoved her way out of the bathroom door, racing towards Hunter. "Leo?" she whispered, seeing his face on the tablet Hunter was holding, his own eyes wide with bewilderment. Hunter handed the small device to her, her eyes widening as she saw it was him, really him. Leo, wearing a suit and tie, and his glasses, looking completely unharmed. And much like he was in a bathroom of some gas station.

"Is that really you?" she asked, not sure she was ready to believe it. He looked good, looked like he hadn't been hurt once because of her, albeit a little nervous. "You're okay?"

"Yes it's me. Are you doing alright? And I am okay," he said, fidgeting with his glasses, as Coulson and Hunter came to stand behind her, looking over her shoulder. There was a banging sound, like someone knocking on a door, and Leo's glance shot away to the distance for a moment. "Although, erm, I could use a spot of help right this moment. "Any chance you guys could teach me how to shake a tail, starting, well, now?" he asked nervously, glancing over his shoulder once more.

"You're in a bathroom, right?" Asia asked, surveying what little of his surroundings she could actually see. "Is there an electric hand drier in there? Those white ones with the metal funnel?"

Leo tugged at his tie and nodded, "Yea, there's one," he tilted the screen so they could see it beside them.

Asia turned to Hunter and grinned, before smiling back at Leo.

Hunter took the screen from Asia's hands, cheeky grin still on his face, "You're going to be just fine mate."

Chapter Text

The flight to San Francisco didn't take too long, but to Asia it felt like it was never ending. She sat in the back of the Quinnjet, wringing her hands, focusing quite hard on not accidentally freezing the engines of the plane. Cause that would cause a whole world of other problems, if that were to happen. It was everything she could do to not think about the fact that Leo was probably being hunted down right this minute and she wanted to be there to protect him.

"Golden Gate, straight ahead," Mike called back to them, and Asia straightened her back, staring straight ahead. The plan was simple enough, land on a specific roof of a specific building, and Leo would meet them there. As long as he could outrun whoever was on his tail. And if he couldn't, Asia was going to obliterate them. She hadn't really....told anyone that portion of the plan. But she would do it. There was no part of Asia's plan that day where they weren't walking away with Leo by their side. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes, trying to rest as the plane touched down on the tall brick building.

They uncloaked, letting the ramp down, and Asia stood just inside the entrance, waiting, waiting, wondering what could be taking so long. The only seemingly logical option was he was caught. Caught and being interrogated at this very moment. She tried to not let herself think about it, but that in itself took a lot of energy. Now, if he got hurt, it truly was her fault. Completely her fault, because she let him in. He was her weakness, and she was his.

So when she saw his suited figure come sprinting out of the stairwell and onto the roof, racing towards their ship, Asia let out a sigh, tears threatening to shove out of her eyes. He ran across the flat space towards them, sprinting up the ramp and practically divining into her, his arms wrapping tightly around her, the two of them falling with the momentum to the ground. She hugged him back, tightly, afraid that if she were to open her tightly shut eyes, he would no longer be there with her.

After a moment, Hunter coughed awkwardly, and Asia finally opened her eyes, seeing her team staring down at the two of them. Leo stood, and extended a hand to her, which she graciously took, lacing her fingers through his and allowing him to effortlessly heave her up to stand beside him. She stand there beside him, feel his presence right next to her, feel his heart beat, she didn't want for anything else. The darker thoughts, the ideas of Coulson recruiting Ward, it all went away with Leo here now. She could finally breathe again. The clenching around her heart finally went away.

She just couldn't help feeling relieved. Relaxed. Someone wasn't in harms way specifically because of her any longer. And there was a secret part of her, deep in her recesses of her mind, that was a little sad. Natasha had taught her, over and over again, that romance can, and almost always in, compromising. She had never seen that first hand until now. But, when she looked at Leo out of the corner of her eye, any thoughts of what Natasha had told her about complicated relationships dissipated. She had no doubts when it came to Leo. She knew that he was absolutely worth the risk, and always would be. Instead, she chose to focus on one of the other life lessons her two mentors had left her with:

"Do not dwell on the monsters which hide in the dark. Focus instead, on the light which lies ahead."

A little mantra, which she had once tattooed on her outer right rib (hurt like a bitch, by the way. Clint held her hand the entire time). She forgot it was there, sometimes, until she would see herself and that little black ink. But it was an important thing to remember. She thought of it now, thought of looking for the light. They had saved Leo. She watched as Leo handed Coulson his tiny black box, Fury's Toolbox, the thing Bobbi had tried so hard to steal. And she smiled.

"Mike?" Leo asked, as they strapped into the seats on the side of the plane, a confused look crossing his face. Asia watched his eyes behind his glaces, smirking. Mike must have come across as a surprise to the Agent. If only he knew the surprise she and Hunter had experienced when Agent Peterson had arrived to save them.

"Hey, Fitz," Mike grinned over at the other agent, setting the jet into cruise and unbuckling, climbing out of his seat up front to come back and shake Leo's hand. "Long time no see. Glad you're doing alright."

"You and me both," Leo agreed with a nod. "Thanks, um, everyone. For the tips out there, you know? I haven't, um, been in the field solo since..." he paused for a moment, then tapped two fingers to his temple. "Since the accident." Asia put a hand reassuringly on his upper arm, offering a small smile.

"Well, looks like you held up alright," Hunter gave him a clap on the shoulder before standing up and stretching, as if they had been flying for ages instead of mere minutes.

"Yup, made out quite well, actually," Leo grinned proudly. "Looks like you lot did as well."

"We manged," Coulson said, pressing his thumb to the Toolbox, the device scanning his signature multiple ways before activating, glowing ever so slightly, before a holographic screen appeared in front of them all, which many different files one could select. "Alright, Fitz. Lets get you up to speed. We need to find Skye. The only problem is, the same man who to Raina took her." He pulled up the video feed from the cabin, showing the image of the man, the blue bubble surrounding him and Skye in the woods, before moments later, they blinked away, vanishing into thin air.

"Ah yes, the one who seems to travel through space," Leo mused, studying the footage. "Do we have any leads yet?" He asked looking around at the team. Asia couldn't bare to make eye contact at that exact moment. Instead she looked up at Coulson. If anyone was going to tell Leo that they were going into the belly of the beast, it would have to be him. So she stared at Coulson, gaze even, raising one thin brow, challenging him to speak the words she so greatly dreaded.

"Nothing official, but we have some ideas," Coulson replied. "We believe Hydra's new heads, Strucker and List, are researching powered people. They've become even more obsessive than Whitehall was. We need to know what they know. We need to get on the inside."

Leo nodded for a moment, thinking to himself, before replying. "Count me in."

Coulson's lips formed a thin line as he watched them, eyes flickering over to Asia for just a moment, before returning his gaze to Leo. "I'm glad to hear you say that," he sighed. "Because we're going to make a deal with Ward."

Asia could feel Leo's body go tense beside her, out of the corner of her eye she saw his hands form fists, clenching and unclenching. "We're....we're what?" he asked finally, and Asia was finally able to steal a glance over him. The way she felt on the inside, gutted and concerned, was displayed all over his face. Coulson was taking them back to the man who had hurt them all the most. She placed one of her hands over one of his, wrapping it around his fist, letting him feel a cool pulse of her against him, letting him know she was right there with him, feeling all of the same things.

"It's an unfortunate evil," Coulson replied, swiping at the screen again, pulling up an image of Agent 33. Kara Palamas. The one who had previously been brainwashed by Hydra. "Word on the street is these two are living together now. To get to him, we're going to go through her."

Asia stared up at the image in front of them, of the woman with long, straight black hair and piercing eyes. She recognized her, vaguely, from Ops Academy. She wondered, subconsciously, if Ward had also remembered her, if that’s how their connection had began. She frowned, then, wondered if Kara knew everything Ward had done. She supposed, unfortunately, she would have the opportunity to find out.

Do not dwell on the dark, she thought to herself, squeezing her palms tightly shut, pressing her nails hard against her flesh, the pain pulling her back to the present. And in the present, they had work to do.

————————————————————————————————————----------------------------------------------

Asia’s task in the whole matter was simple enough. She was going to post herself up on the roof of a building, sniper rifle in hand, with a very purposefully pointed laser beam which would shine directly on Ward’s chest after she heard a very specific verbal que. It was at her insistence that Leo would be on the roof with her. She felt like she could keep him safer there, even though she did trust Hunter completely. She just trusted herself more.

So Mike dropped the two of them off, after Coulson had, quite easily, found out Kara’s location (her mother clearly hadn’t been aware of her recent job change, handed her location right over to them). Coulson was going to wait in a (Shield covered) empty resturaunt until Ward arrived, with Mike standing guard over Kara. He would clear Ward if weapons, and Coulson would have a very convincing discussion with him. And if it didn’t go well, Asia would pull the trigger.

She set herself up on the edge of the building, gun propped up on a air conditioning unit, the surface carefully tested for balance. She eyed a flag on a nearby building, gauging the wind direction and speed. Thankfully, not high, though if it was she would still handle it.

“So...you do this a lot?” Leo asked her quietly, looking over the gun, her crouched and braced position as she eyed up her line of sight. While he knew very well she was a trained assassin, he had never actually seen her...well...do her job like this.

“Was doing it every day for a while,” she replied quietly, thinking back to earlier that year. Coulson has been sending her out every day. She had taken out so many people at the Hydra facility Jemma had infiltrated. And she hadn’t cared. It was just a part of the gig. She had known what she was getting into when she signed up. Anything which came after was on her.

She glanced back up at him as he studied her, raising an eyebrow. “You have any questions?” She asked, releasing her grip from the gun. Everything was set up. She just needed to be in place whenever their comms crackled to life. Until then, they could relax. She sat against the ventilation unit, patting the cement space beside her, beckoning him to come sit.

He did, sit that is. And have questions. He sat beside her, their shoulders brushing, sending electricity jolting up and down her spine. Somehow, every time, even though she was used to his touch at this point, contact still felt like magic. That lifechanging, crazy amazing, lucky she found it, magic.

"So, um, how many people have you killed?" He asked her quietly, studying his hands, almost as if he was afraid to look up at her, and she noticed.

So she stared straight ahead, eyes on a pigeon pecking the ground on the other side of the flat, cold roof top. She sighed, tugging at a loose hangnail. "I am not entirely sure," she answered finally, which was mostly true. She knew it was a lot. Definitely more than she could count on two hands, but she didn't like to talk about it. "None of them have been in cold blood, if that makes it any better," she shrugged, looking down at her thumb where a tiny patch of red had appeared. She tucked her thumb into the sleeve of her turtleneck, pressing it into the fabric to absorb the blood.

"It's your job," Leo replied. "I guess I always knew that. I don't know why it feels so different now," he placed his hand over her right thigh, his thumb rubbing in small, gentle circles. She couldn't focus when he was doing that, rubbing her leg like that, over the soft fabric of her black pants. It made her head dizzy.

"It's because you're here in person," she managed to reply, breath hitching in her throat. "It's a lot different when you actually have to see it. Me, the gun, my workspace...it's not your typical 9 to 5, but neither is your job," she explained, leaning over and resting her head on his shoulder, letting that electricity completely take control over her body. She could stay like this, bodies notched together just right, forever. And they did have a little time together still. Coulson hadn't sprung the comms to life just yet. "And I knew if you were here with me, I could keep you safe." She said, looking up at him through her long lashes. "And I needed that."

He looked down at her, as she bared her soul to him. Gently, he brushed a strand of her long, brown hair away from her face, cupping her cheek in the palm of his hand. He understood exactly what he was feeling. "They told us you had escaped, but part of me worried that was just a cover for keeping you locked in a basement somewhere. When I saw you...finally saw that you weren't, that you were okay, it was like I could finally breathe again."

She pressed her cheek softly into his hand, closing her eyes and taking in the feeling. Then she looked back up at him and smiled. "We need to stop splitting up. We do so well when we're together," she whispered back teasingly, softly, and it took her with quite surprise when he pressed his lips to hers with such a force that she nearly fell over backwards onto the rooftop.

She shifted onto her knees, giving herself more balance, pulling him closer to her by the collar of his blue, button up shirt, her chest flush to his own as his hands wrapped around her lower back, slipping into the back pockets of her jeans, pulling her closer and closer, trying to create nothing but mere atoms between them. It was unacceptable, to be anything but completely together, a combination of hands and lips and tongues and gentleness. And up here, on the roof, there was not a soul who could see them. It felt almost as private as her room back at the base. Maybe more so. Who knew what sort of bugs Shield had. Up here, there was nothing but the pigeon and the two of them.

Of course, they weren't about to have sex on that roof. But kissing? Kissing someone you loved who you thought had been taken away from you forever? There was nothing wrong with a little bit of that. It wasn't long before Leo was lying flat on the ground, no doubt getting dirt on the back of his nice shirt, Asia straddled atop his waist, her hands running up and down his chest, his through her hair, one slipping under the lip of her shirt to feel her cold skin.

Suddenly, the comms in their ears crackled to life and they broke apart, Asia sitting upright. "Alright people, it's showtime," Coulson's voice confirmed the thoughts going through her head. "He should be here in T minues two minutes." Asia nodded, though her boss wasn't around to see it.

She slid off of Leo's lap, ready to crawl right over to her gun, when Leo grabbed her hand, pulling him back towards him for one last kiss. Then he whispered heavily into her ear, "We'll be finishing this later," sending shivers down her spine.

She smiled and kissed him on the cheek lovingly. "There's plenty of time for that," she said, now that they were together again. Never to be separated. Then she turned back to her sniper, taking her stance and grip. She looked back over her shoulder at him and winked, "Now, we've got work to do."

Chapter Text

Asia looked down the sites of her rifle, lining it up with the seat she knew Ward would be taking, across from Coulson, and waited. She didn't flick the switch to light up her laser site just yet. No need for him to see that little red dot until she wanted him to. She wanted him to know she had every ability to fuck his entire life. Ruin all his plans. The only thing stopping her, was Coulson. She would take a lot of satisfaction in that.

Ward had entered the building moments ago, and according to their comms units, was currently getting pat down my Mike, removing all of his weapons that he no doubt had hidden on his body. Asia knew all of his tactics, knew all of his secrets (well, no all), and she knew how he thought. She knew he would have a razor hidden somewhere. Probably a knife in his boots. At least two guns. She knew Ward, and if he cared for Kara, as gross as that was, he wouldn't be coming to play.

She could practically picture it, and it made her heart clench, filled with confusing, contradicting emotions. Anger. Sadness. Confusion. She took a deep breath and exhaled them all. This was nothing but work. And Asia Monroe was always damn good at her work. No distractions.

And then suddenly there he was, right in plain view. And for just a moment, she wavered. He looked...okay. A little gritty. The stubble on his chin had grown out a bit, but his coal black hair was still cut in the same, comb-over style she had always known him with. He was wearing a grey jacket, and black pants, his clothing overall looking worse for wear than what she was used to. She looked at him, and she still saw her friend. Then she took a deep breath, and vanished her friend away in smoke. The memories she had with him were nothing but that, memories. She listened to the comms. She held the grip of her gun, finger at the ready. She waited.

"Ward," She heard Coulson greet over comms, watching her Director nod in her sites.

"I'm flattered. You brought the robot along just for a sitdown with me," Ward sighed, hands placed on the table that was between the two.

Coulson sighed and shook his head. "Don't be," he looked up at him, and Asia waited, finger ready to do what she knew she had to do. "We both know you're that good," Coulson continued. "Plus, Agent Peterson isn't the only one who came to the party." She saw Coulson's grin and heard his words, her signal. Her finger twitched on the laser trigger, flicking the little red dot on, letting it glow on Ward's chest, directly over his heart.

She saw his eyes flick her direction, and even though he couldn't see her, a look of recognition flashed across his face. "So you brought the Renegade, too. What a surprise. She's the big guns now, isn't she?"

Coulson shrugged, thinking about it. "We have a lot of big guns. But speaking over, we're after bigger things now. Strucker. List. Heads of Hydra."

She watched Ward sigh and shake his head, eyes still flicking down to the red dot on his chest every now and then. "Well you got the wrong guy. I can't help you there. I'm not in Hydra any more." Asia rolled her eyes. That didn't change who he was. What he had done. To her, Ward would always be Hydra now. He had to be.

Because if she stopped seeing him as Hydra, she would start seeing him as her old friend again. And then it would be much, much harder to kill him.

"Your cut ties don't matter here. You were in Hydra. And you're Grant Ward. You must have some sort of connection," Coulson continued on, playing towards his ego, which they all knew too well that he had. Asia smirked through her lens. Bait, meet hook. She knew Ward wouldn't be able to resist, just as well as she knew the back of her hand. Training beside someone for years didn't leave you without an impression.

"I never met them," Ward shook her head insistently, but there was a gleam in his eye. He didn't know them personally, but he definitely knew someone who did. Asia recognized that look, she knew that look. She had seen it many times before, back in school. Just the slightest hint of recognition.

"We both know you know better than that," Coulson shook his head, and then he sat silently, waiting.

"You know," Ward began, sighing and leaning back, settling into the chair. "The last time I suggested we get the team back together, you called me...what was it? A deluded son of a bitch, I believe."

Coulson mulled that over more a moment. "Things change," he replied finally, linking his fingers on the table in front of them. "I tried the stick last time, this time around I'm offering a carrot," he let the sentence hang in the air, studying Ward's furrowed brow, as he, too, stared back in silence. "You get me into Hydra. Then you go free. I'll put you through the TAHITI program, wipe the old Ward away, and you're free."

"I happen to like who I am," Ward shook his head. "Doesn't sound all that much like a carrot to me, wiping my memories." He narrowed his eyes, leaning forward on the table.

"It should," Coulson studied him, head tilted just ever so slightly to the side, before he nodded in the direction of Asia, sniper on high. "You're a traitor, and a murderer, so if you don't agree to my terms, then you won't be leaving here at all, frankly." Asia adjusted her grip one more time on the rifle and prepared herself. One wrong move from the man she saw in front of her, and she would pull the trigger without a second thought.

Asia did half expect Ward to try and bolt. She anticipated. But in a great turn of events, he didn't. He sat there, arms crossed over his chest. He kept his gaze leveled on Coulson, waiting for the other shoe to drop. There had to be a catch. There was no way this went down this easily.

So Coulson continued to speak. "I'm taking a huge chance on you, but you're taking just as big of a chance. You could have run away. Left Kara here to fend for herself. You could have turned your back, again, but you didn't. And I like to think that means there could still be some good in there, somewhere. That Garrett, and Hydra, and your family, that they didn't squash all of the good in you. The Tahiti program, it would erase all that bad, and leave you with the good. You would be free to be the man you've always wanted to be. Live the peaceful life you want to live."

Ward leaned back in his seat, thinking for a moment, thumb brushing over his lip. Then he leaned forward, arms on the table, a grin cracking over his lips. "I might know a guy."

Chapter Text

Hunter and Asia shared a glance as Leo slammed a suitcase onto a stack of other supplies, running a hand through his shortly cropped hair. Asia could see the skin on his neck starting to turn red and he grew more and more frustrated. She looked back at Hunter and shook her head, sighing. She knew how this must feel for Leo. But that didn't change the position they were in. And she knew on some level, that Leo knew that as well. She also knew he needed to get his frustration out, rather than keep it bottled up again. But the interior of the Quinnjet could only take so much anger.

As he slammed another metal case down, she couldn't take it anymore, and she stepped forward, placing a hand gently on his shoulder, sending a wave of cool spreading out from her fingertips. He stopped, looking down at her pale hand, then up at her wide eyes. "It sucks, I know," she said softly. "I don't like it either. But breaking our equipment also isn't the answer." She squeezed his shoulder gently, biting her lower lip, hoping that he would see her reason and not let the emotion overwhelm him.

He looked back and forth between her and Hunter. "You guys can't think this is a good idea, can you? W...we all want to find Skye but...we're...we're...." he trailed off, fumbling for words as the stress overcame him.

"Teaming up with the literal devil?" Hunter suggested an end to the sentence, to which Leo nodded vehemently. "Well, mate, it's shitty, there's no doubt there. But it is an unfortunate part of our job from time to time," Hunter shook his head, taking a seat on one of the chairs on the wall of the Quinnjet.

"Would you team up with Bobbi again?" Leo asked in response, raising his eyebrows in question, daring Hunter to say yes. All three parties in the room knew he wouldn't. He had been back to referring to her as a Hellbeast ever since their little band had gotten together.

Hunter sighed, running his hands over his knees, looking off to the side, frustrated. "Okay, point made. No, I would not ever do that again...." he trailed off, looking at Asia for help.

The brunette sighed, flopping into one of the seats as well, patting the one next to her for Leo to sit on. He did, and she leaned over, wresting her head on his shoulder. "We don't have a lot of options at the moment. We need to get into Hydra. They, unfortunately, are going to be our key to finding Skye. And, once we have an in, it'll be a lot easier to take them out." As she said the words, she believed them. If they were able to infiltrate Hydra, they could pull them apart from the inside.

"He might be a psychopath, but for the time being, he's our psychopath, as unfortunate as that is," Hunter said dryly, crossing his arms over his chest, picking at something on his nails. Leo didn't like either of their answers, but, for the time being, they seemed to suffice. For now, they had work to do. They had to prep for that evening, when they would be meeting with the devil himself.

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Asia stood at the foot of the ramp to the Quinnjet, the cool night breeze brushing her hair around her shoulders. Her hands were clasped behind her back as she stared out into the night, waiting for the figures to emerge from the blackness, as she knew they would. Coulson, Mike, leading Ward, Kara, and....Sunil Bakshi? Asia stepped forward, blocking the entrance.

"Sir," she greeted Coulson with a nod, not bothering to look at the three not-so-welcome members of the party. "I was only expecting two people to join us. Not sure we'll have space for everyone." She kept her tone neutral, her gaze flat.

"That's perfectly fine," Coulson replied with a nod. "Agent Peterson will be escorting Mr. Bakshi to a meeting he arranged with some Hydra members. The rest of us will remain in the Quinnjet and watch through Mike's camera." Mike grinned and tapped at the side of his head with a small shake of his head.

"Understood," Asia replied with a nod. "I'll ready the jet to get us airborne," her eyes flicked to Ward for only a moment, and he was staring right back at her. She gave him a look of utter pity, before turning on the heel of her black combat boots and stalking off back towards the plane. She did actually have to get them ready to go, if Mike wasn't going to be joining.

Hunter and Leo looked at her expectantly as she climbed up the ramp, fists balled up to avoid her from accidentally icing the entire area. "Brace for impact," she murmured as she passed by, sliding into the Captain's chair and flicking a couple switches to get the bird warmed up and ready to go. Moments later, Leo was sliding into the First Officer's seat beside her.

"Hey," she said, giving him a small smile, before resuming her preflight checklist of getting the Quinnjet up and running.

"Hey," he replied, watching her fingers move quickly over switches and buttons, flipping and toggling different ones, as she muttered something memorized beneath her breath. Always in her element, out here in the field, whereas he felt as if he were at the bottom of the ocean all over again. He could hear the others start to board the jet and he sunk lower in his seat.

Her finger paused over a switch and her head swiveled to look at him, concern laced in her eyes. "Everything alright?" She whispered, then thought for a moment. "Besides the obvious," she gave a sharp nod towards the back of the plane.

"Yea, just feels safer up here, you know?" He muttered back. "Not that I can't defend myself. I know damn well I can, but Asia, you're amazing, and I know you'd blow him to bits if he tried anything on me again," he smirked at her, his hand reaching over and resting on her thigh. "But I'd do the same thing, if he tried to go at you, you know?"

Asia smiled, her cheeks turning just ever so pink. "Yea, I know," she said, flicking the last switch and completing the checklist. They were ready to take off, once Coulson said the word.

And it didn't take long for him to do so. Once everyone in back had their belts on, Asia had the plane in the air and zooming through the night sky. She felt a bit more at comfort, up here at the yoke, with Leo by her side. She could fly them anywhere in the world right now, if she wanted. No one would be any the wiser. But she had orders, so she would follow them.

Once they were at cruising altitude, high up above the clouds, the night sky wrapped around the plane like a blanket and the stars were splayed out before them. Asia leaned back in her seat, looking out the window, momentarily content. "It's beautiful, isn't it?" She said, nodding towards the cosmos in front of it.

"Yea," Leo said, looking only at her in that moment, in their bubble of safety. "Beautiful doesn't do justice." He reached over and wrapped his large hand around her smaller one and gave it a quick squeeze. He could see the stars reflecting, little orbs of silver, in her eyes as she smiled out at the black blanket. "How long do you think we have before Coulson wants us back there with the rest?" He asked her quietly, thumb rubbing small circles around the back of her hand. He would want to brief everyone on the plan, surely. And Mike would be in place soon, ready for them to watch the meeting go down (hopefully, with success).

"Not long, I'm sure," Asia replied with a frown, a sad sigh escaping her lips, as she glanced over at Leo, her boyfriend, the man she loved. "Let's stay up here, just for a while longer, though," she suggested, turning back to look at the stars. Leo had no objections to that.

Chapter Text

Their moment of peace didn't last long, before Coulson's voice called out to both of them, summoning them to the back of the aircraft. Asia made sure the autopilot was set for the correct course, before they climbed out of their seats and slid into a different set, in the back of the aircraft. As they sat down, it was very clear that lines had been drawn. Ward and Kara sat on one side of the aircraft, Coulson, Hunter, Leo, and Asia on the other. Leo's leg pressed flush against her own, and she could feel his shaking just ever so slightly. She pressed her own leg back against his, closing her eyes for a moment and feeling the soothing cold that radiated outwards from her and into him.

"So," Coulson said, glancing down at his watch. "I believe our mole should be in place by now. And yet. Mike's eye hasn't given us an inside view." He looked over at Ward, neutrally. "Why do you think that is?"

Ward sighed, shaking his head. "I thought there was supposed to be trust here?" He asked. "Bakshi set up a meeting with some of the higherups in Hydra. He is making sure that everything is in place so they don't suspect a thing." He looked at them as if this were the most obvious thing. Asia saw Leo's fists clench out of the corner of her eyes. "Bakshi has clear instructions. He is going to act just as he used to...before." Ward finished.

"Before he was brainwashed?" Hunter scoffed. "Oh yea, that's awful comforting," he rolled his eyes, sharing a glance with Asia who pressed her lips into a thin line, with a subtle shake of her head. He looked back at Ward, eyes narrowed. "Very, very comforting."

Coulson held up a hand, silencing the banter. "Any questions?" he addressed the group. No one spoke up, no one uttered a word. Better that way, honestly. They couldn't survive long without fighting, if they were speaking, Asia knew that much. She wasn't about to push their luck with a snarky remark.

So they all leaned back, sitting in silence. And then, as it always does, the storm broke. Or, putting it truly in perspective, Ward broke it wide open. Surprise, surprise.

"So, Fitz..." Ward said, trailing off, a grin sliding over his thin lips. Asia's eyes narrowed as she stared at him. If looks could kill, he'd be flayed alive. Leo looked up at their old teammate, silent. The smirk still on his face, Ward continued, "How have you been lately?"

Asia's body tensed in place, legs uncrossing, feet planted flat on the floor. She'd kill him. She'd kill him right now. She wanted to feel the pulse disappear beneath her hands. But she couldn't move, she didn't want to leave the man beside her, the one in so much pain. Leo looked down at his lap, squeezing his hands open and shut, holding his eyes tightly shut, trying to keep it out, trying to not let the emotions get to him. But it was no good.

He bolted up out of his chair, lunging forward at Ward, fists balled tightly, ready to swing. Asia and Hunter were up in a split second, both wrapping their arms around Leo, holding him back, while Coulson shouted for all of them to all calm down, to just remain calm. Leo's arms were still trying to swing as Asia pulled him to her, holding his face in her hands, forehead to forehead, looking him in the eyes. She took a deep breath in, nodding, not breaking eye contact. Everything else around them just seemed to fade away, until it was just the two of them, no sounds, no violence, just the two of them, foreheads touching, cold pulses moving through their bodies.

Then she shook her head, just ever so slightly. "It's not worth it," she whispered. "He's not worth it." Leo blinked, then met her eyes again, and nodded. The two broke apart and Asia turned to face Ward again, eyes narrowing once more. Sure, it wasn't worth Leo getting hurt. But for her to get her knuckles a little bloody? Yea, that'd be worth it.

"Agent Monroe," Coulson's words cut through her thoughts. "Agent Fitz, Agent Hunter. Sit down, now. That's an order."

Asia blinked, and then her face melted into a flat line. She blinked, looked up at Ward, then turned and sat back down, Leo sitting beside her, Hunter on his other side. Asia was quiet, but Leo needed to make sure that Coulson understood what they were thinking, what this was putting them through.

"Bakshi, sir?" Leo shook his head, frowning. "He's....he is..he is. He's just like Ward. He will...um...he'll double cross us." He pointed right at Ward and shook his head, then pulled his arm back to him, crossing his arms over his chest. "The second he's back with Hydra, he'll double cross us all over again." Asia tried to ignore the frown of hurt on Ward's face.

Coulson looked over at Leo with an even gaze. "Of course, Agent Fitz. That is a possibility, and not one which was far from my mind. That's exactly why Agent Peterson is joining him on this interview, posing as his bodyguard. And that's exactly why we will be able to see and hear the entire thing go down." He kept his composure, his gaze even. He looked over at Agent Monroe for a moment, studying her. She was looking back up at him, no signs of her powers slipping through. The temperature in the space was still the same, the ice still climbed the walls. He couldn't see his own breath. He wondered what it was that kept her so composed. Kept her from slipping. Was her desire to not let Ward see her weak, that strong?

Suddenly, the screen in front of them lit up, Mike's line of vision coming through brightly for all of them to see. He was climbing up the steps to a private aircraft, the side of which had Echidna painted on it. A cover company, how smart, Asia thought with a roll of her eyes. There was a guard at the top of the stairs, and then a second inside, in front of another smooth, wooden door, wearing a black suit and sunglasses, even though he was inside. When the guard saw Bakshi, he nodded and stepped aside, pressing the door open inwards, allowing them entrance. Mike followed Bakshi into the room, looking around to give them a wide view of what he was seeing.

The interior was plush, a creame color, with honey brown wooden accents. Large, plush, business style chairs lay out in front of them, providing plenty of spacious legroom. Currently, two older men and one woman, all dressed in suits, sat inside, looking over papers. They all stopped and looked up when the two entered. One of the men, with white hair and a sharp widows peak, stood up, stepping forward to shake Bakshi's hand. So it was beginning.

The six people in the back of the Quinnjet all moved towards the front of the plane to get a better view of the screen and what exactly was going on.

"Let's see how your man holds up under questioning," Coulson said, directing the statement towards Ward and Kara.

Kara crossed her arms defensively over her chest. "He's held up to worse than this, he'll hold," she said with a sharp nod, looking Coulson directly in the eyes. Asia was nearly certain now that the raven haired woman had a hand in Bakshi's brainwashing. Interesting choice, for someone who had been through the same exact thing.

"I know Strucker has been experimenting on powered individuals," Bakshi's words cut through any thoughts Asia might have previously had, her eyes training on the screen with ferocity. They were finally about to get some good intel. "I believe with a compliance upgrade, Mr. Peterson here, well, he could be of use to him," Bakshi grinned like a cat at the old man whose mouth was open in a mix of surprise and intrigue.

"You want to....to give him to me?" List, the old man, asked in surprise.

And there was that grin from Bakshi again. "Consider it a sign of my good faith," he purred, pleased by List's reaction.

"This wasn't a part of the plan," Coulson said angrily, his heated gaze turning on Ward, who had his hands raised in mock-surrender. "What is he doing?"

"It's fine, it's fine, he's getting us to Strucker. Isn't that what you wanted?" Ward asked, a look of incredibly fake confusion crossing his face.

"Bastard sold us out!" Hunter exclaimed, eyes wide, looking back and forth between Coulson and Ward. "Once a bloody traitor, always a traitor."

The events which occurred next happened in a matter of seconds. Ward leaned forward and grabbed a gun out of the holster on Leo's side, pointing it at Hunter. Hunter drew his own and pointed it at Ward. Coulson drew his and pointed it at Kara. Kara drew a knife and held it to Leo's throat, Asia squeezed her palms, the knives of her wristlets unsheathing, pressing the blade of one flush to Kara's jugular, pulling out a pistol with her left and and aiming at Ward.

She made eye contact with Leo and gave him a look of reassurance. Then she turned her gaze on Kara. "Put the knife down," she hissed. "Or I will drain the life from your body, and trust me, you don't want to find out how." She didn't let the ice flow from her body just yet. No need to play her trump card just yet. Kara looked over to Ward, in question of what she should do.

"Put the gun down," Coulson said evenly to Ward. "You're both outnumbered. You really want to fight this fight?"

"This is the only way," Ward said, nodding towards the screen. "You wanted an in, I'm getting you an in."

"Put the gun down, now, Ward, don't make me tell you again," Coulson repeated.

"Do you want to get to Strucker or not?" Ward tried to plead one more time.

"Fitz, you alright?" Hunter asked, his gaze flickering towards the scientist for one moment, gun not leaving its aim at Ward's chest.

"Just peachy," Leo replied in a sarcastic tone, eyes looking down at the knife then back to Asia.

"Don't worry," Asia replied, trying to sound as confident as possible. "If she moves a muscle, she's dead," she said the words to Leo, but she meant them for Kara. She wanted the woman to know she would do it. There would be no hesitation. Not when his life was at stake. She would kil her without a second thought if it became necessary.

"Strucker wants powered people," Ward continued, voice tight. "Bakshi alone won't get you to him. He's far too paranoid for that. But Deathlok? He's an easy in, and I think we're all aware that he can handle himself. You need to trust me." He looked at Coulson as he spoke, keeping his eyes trained on Hunter.

"'Trust you'? Coulson scoffed. "I should shoot you just for saying that."

Meanwhile, Leo's eyes had become trained at the screen which was now making a beeping noise that no one else seemed to notice. "Um, sir?" he tried to speak up, but both Coulson and Ward were paying too much attention to each other to notice his soft voice. The screen was showing Mike's targeting system come online, red circles glowing around List and the other two people in the plane. His weapons systems were ready to go.

"Sir!" Leo said more insistently. "Deathlok's targeting systems are..." He pointed a shaky finger at the screen, trying his best not to move and cause Kara's knife to press against his skin.

"Is that Deathlok's targeting system?" Hunter asked, his gun lowering just ever so slightly as his gaze drifted over to the screen as well, looking at the red dots appearing one by one. Asia didn't dare take her eyes off of Kara to look. She trusted that what her team was seeing was correct. She knew they were telling the truth, but for whatever reason it was, Mike was getting ready to obliterate anyone in that airplane.

"Um, yes, yes," Leo stuttered out. "His targeting system is live and he's, um, he's about to kill everyone on there!" he pointed carefully at the screen, getting nearly everyone's attention now. They all looked over, away from their weapons, and at the screen. All except Asia, who kept her eyes glued on the knife to Leo's throat.

"Doesn't seem like the worst idea on the planet, actually," Hunter pointed out with a small nod of his head, lower lip jutting out just ever so slightly as he mulled the idea over.

"No, we need them alive!" Coulson interjected. "Fitz, get him to stand down, now," he ordered, nodding at the screen.

Leo tried to move out of Kara's grip, but she certainly wasn't budging, not until Ward was going to give her the word. He glanced over at her, then over at Asia, then back to Coulson. "Um, yea, no, that's not going to happen," he said, flicking his gaze towards the blade at his throat.

"Let him go, Agent 33. That's an order," Coulson said calmly, though Asia could tell the stress was rising. It was for all of them. If Mike pulled the trigger, launched those rockets, it would be bad for all of them.

"My name is Kara," she spit out, not removing the blade. "And I don't work for you anymore," her gaze flickered from Coulson to land on Ward, waiting for his instruction.

"Sir," Leo interjected, "Weapons are hot, he's preparing to fire." Asia could see the sweat forming along the line of his forehead.

"Okay, okay, on the count of three," Ward said, addressing all of them, "We put our weapons down." He actually seemed to have a voice of reason, which frankly surprised the hell out of Asia. But if it would get Kara's blade away from Leo's neck, she would listen.

"Alright," Coulson agreed, "Three!" He announced, skipping one and two completely. Every agent lowered their weapons, Asia letting out a breath she hadn't entirely known she was holding as Leo turned to the keyboard below the screen, typing rapidly a message to Mike's live feed. Play along, the message read for all of them to see, and slowly, Mike lowered his weapons, turning the system offline. Leo let out a sigh, leaning against the seat in front of them. Asia pushed back her hair, taking a few deep breaths. That had almost ended much, much worse than it could have.

"Try anything like that again," Coulson turned to face Ward menacingly, "And I'll throw both of your asses of this Quinnjet at 40000 feet." Asia could hear the seriousness in his tone, and a chill ran down her spine. He wasn't playing around, not this time.

With a sigh, Asia walked back to one of the seats along the wall and strapped herself in, letting her head fall back against the wall as she stared up at the ceiling, exhaustion hitting her. She didn't realize how much energy she had spent just trying to keep her composure, to keep herself from unleashing an icy hell on their airplane.

She could hear the others talking from the front of the plane, discussing tailing List's aircraft as it took flight, Ward programming the GPS. Hunter and Leo sat up in the cockpit, and Asia just couldn't seem to make herself move.

And of course, to make matters worse, as she sat there, trying her hardest to not think about a damn thing, to let herself relax, let her energy return, Ward came and sat down, right beside her.

Chapter Text

Asia closed her eyes and took a deep breath, letting her face form a neutral look; with a slight hint of displeasure, before reopening them and turning to look at the man who had sat down beside her. She looked at him with disdain but didn't allow it to show. Why the hell, of all places, had he sat beside her? His girlfriend was sitting awkwardly across from them, looking around like a scared, caged animal, eyes all wide, hands fidgeting, as if she were about to bolt. Not that she could bolt anywhere. They were high above the clouds still, headed to who knows where.

"What do you want?" she asked his coldly, gaze flickering over towards the front of the plane again, then back at Ward with a narrow of her eyes. He couldn't be trusted, she wouldn't make that mistake again.

"Just a friendly conversation, Monroe. Something wrong with that?" He asked her casually, leaning back in his seat, not grinning for once. He seemed to actually be studying her, which was surprising. Looking for weaknesses, probably, she mused. Though, and she knew Ward knew this as well, her biggest weakness was sitting up in the cockpit of the plane. So what really had brought him here? Did he just want to get under her skin? Was he just playing games? Probably, knowing him as well as she did. He had always been good at manipulation. Always.

So yea, there was something wrong with that. There was a lot of things wrong with it. Though he looked the exact same, this was not the Ward she had once known. This was not the same man who matched her toe to toe in school. This was not the person she could trust with anything. This was not the one she could call up, in any city, at any time, and he would be there within the day. Even if he looked exactly like him.

Asia had to admit it was difficult, not to fall in her old way of behavior around him. Even for someone as adept in her field as she was, it was still very difficult when she had spent so much of her life with this man sitting beside her. He was still using the same aftershave he always had been since he was young, she could smell it on him.

"Nothing friendly about any conversation you and I will ever have," She muttered back, linking her hands in front of her, gazing over at him, just barely, through her heavy black lashes. He was looking back at her, trying to gauge her reaction, just as she had been with him. "Any friendship we had left when you joined Hydra."

"I feel like I've said this a million times, but," he said with a sigh, "I wasn't loyal to Hydra. I was loyal to Garrett. There's a big difference, Monroe. And I thought you, of all people, would understand something like that." Asia wasn't entirely sure what that meant, and she didn't really feel like unpacking it right there. She knew he would try and trick her, twist her words and her thoughts, spin her to see him in a positive light again. She wouldn't allow it to happen.

She turned and looked him full on for a moment, face still flat, emotionless. There would be no expression for him to read. She would be just as cold as the ice that dripped through her veins now. "Fine. Have that your way, I'm not going to argue. Any friendship we had left when you dropped our teammates out of a plane. It left when your father-figure told me he had my sister kept captive for years and that he killed my parents. It left when you left me alone with --" His name caught in her throat. Ian Quinn. He was still the monster under her bed. The thing she hid so deeply inside of her. She realized anger was getting the best of her. She turned to face forward again, staring at the wall directly in front of her, taking imperceptible breaths in and out through her nose. There he was. He had almost done it. He had almost gotten to her, gotten under her skin. She had almost let him in.

But then again, telling Ward things meant nothing to her. As long as she didn't care what he thought (which she didn't), and as long as he knew that whatever information he got from her could never be held above her, then who the hell cared? She didn't have anything he could use against her that he didn't already know. Anything she told him, he would know couldn't be used as ammunition. So she turned and smiled at him. "It ended when you left me with Ian Quinn," she said flatly, staring him in the eyes. She didn't let the tears behind her eyes push through for him to see as the memories she had been suppressing came forward once she said his name.

Ward watched her for a moment, his brows creasing as he looked at her, gaze switching in between her eyes, looking for a tell that she was feeding him a line of bullshit. But, as well as he knew her, as well as he knew about the little shake her left eye did whenever she lied, he saw no signs. Whatever she had said, she had meant.

She stared up at him with glassy eyes as her mind took her back to that place. The Lab, clean, white, pristine, as he had stood over her, that terrible, glinting grin on his cracked lips. She swallowed, closing her eyes and shooing the memories of hands grabbing, clothes tearing, unwanted touching, far, far to the deep, buried recesses of her mind. She had locked it back there for a reason, and Grant Ward wasn't going to be the one that made her relive the worst day of her entire life all over again .

"What did he do to you?" Ward asked quietly, as if he were afraid his voice would crack if he spoke louder that a whisper. He looked at her and she thought he looked....mad. And a little bit sad. Regretful, maybe. Emotions she recognized, but hadn't seen on his face in a long, long time. Like he actually cared about the answer. Internally, she rolled her eyes.

So she let the words out, as she stood up and brushed past him. "He raped me, Ward," the words fell heavy on his ears, and then she was gone. Asia marched up to the cockpit and booted Hunter out of her seat, tucking herself into the scoop chair, reaching over and linking her fingers through Leo's. There it was. She had told someone. She had told someone, and it hadn't completely destroyed her. She wouldn't allow something that someone else did destroy her.

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So it wasn't long before they made the discovery that List had found a way to track the Teleporter. But because of that, Ward also knew they were after Skye. Asia didn't really want him getting anywhere close to her. Granted, it didn't look like Kara was all too stoked about the idea either.

"Why would Hydra want Skye?" Kara asked, arms crossed over her chest as her gaze flicked around the room, going from face to face, searching for an answer.

Asia cut in before anything could accidentally be given away. "No idea. Wouldn't your boyfriend know a little more about that?" She quipped, raising an eyebrow in question, smirking at the sour look that slipped over Kara's face for a moment.

"Well, best we follow them, yea?" Hunter suggested quickly, nodding at Coulson as Leo typed away at the keys by the screen displaying Mike's vision. It appeared they were heading into an old, brick office building. It was dusty on the inside, as if it hadn't actually be utilized as a workspace for years now.

"That is the plan," Coulson said with a nod. "Either way, we get to someone we want, whether its Hydra, or the Teleporter who has been taking people." Asia nodded, climbing back into the Captain's seat and taking them down into the city, finding a nearby building to park the Quinnjet on, where they could leave it before they went in.

"Sir, Skye's here!" Leo said excitedly as Asia rushed to his side, looking at the feed in front of her, adjusting the straps on her bulletproof vest as she did.

And there she was. Skye. Her best friend, long brown hair flowing around her, wearing a leather jacket, standing beside her father, looking at Mike with shock written all over her face. Asia felt like she could almost feel her, hear her. Like they had their own Quantum Entanglement that everyone was talking about now. She needed to get in there. Her fingers were twitching, heart racing.

"Where is she?" Coulson asked, loading his gun. No Icers on this mission folks, only the real deal. Asia slipped two into her holsters, adjusting the ties on her wristlets.

"10th floor, sir," Leo replied after tapping the keys a couple times.

"Is that the same Skye who shot you three times?" Kara asked Ward in what she certainly thought was a quiet tone, but everyone on the plane absolutely definitely heard her.

"Four," Ward muttered back, cocking his gun and testing the sites. Asia cocked her head at him, giving him a warning gaze.

"Don't," Coulson said, pointing at him warningly, verbally expressing everything Asia had just given him in a look. "Don't even think about it. Your job is to keep Hydra off of us. I'll find Skye, Asia you keep point on me," Coulson instructed. Asia nodded quickly at him, adjusting her vest one last time, pulling her hair up into a high ponytail. She was ready to go, for sure. "Alright, everyone let's move out," he instructed, and one by one they filed out of the plane, leaving Leo behind to monitor them from Mike's live feed.

Asia looked around the hallway, gun raised, as they entered. Dusty boot prints covered the floor, leading forward into the dimly lit hallway. But if Hydra or Skye was here, they had moved out already. Coulson made the sign for them to keep proceeding forward, so they did so. As they made it up several flights of stairs, Leo's voice crackled to life over their intercoms.

"Um, Deathlok's feed is down," he said, slightly nervously, tapping at the keys, trying to bring the stream back to life. As the rest of the team rounded the corner, they saw Mike's body lying on the ground, unmoving. Coulson and Asia moved forward, with Ward flanking behind, making their way towards his body. "Um, I think someone is trying to hack in," Leo continued as he typed away. Asia could hear each keystroke and she moved along with his rapidity.

She heard footsteps and on a dime, whirled, firing two shots into the upper chest of a Hydra agent, downing him with a wet thud. Asia turned to look back at Coulson and saw another agent behind him. Suddenly, the agent dressed in all black fell to the ground. Asia whirled around to face Ward, standing there, gun raised, smoke still drifting from the tip. She looked at him for a moment, unblinking, then nodded.

Mike let out a groan as they approached, and Asia noticed another body lying nearby as well. A man with sandy blonde hair, eyes shut, looking as if he had just been hit and hit hard. "I think he's protecting Skye," Mike nodded towards the other guy. "Packs a mean spark, if you catch my drift," he looked specifically at Asia as he spoke the words. Another powered person. Electricity. There was a moment where Asia couldn't look away from him. She was wondering who he was, how he became how he was. If he could teach her more.

But there was no time to stop and think, they had to continue on. "We're going to keep moving forward. Radio if you need help?" Coulson asked Mike after they had made sure he was just fine. Mike agreed, and so, onward they continued, up another flight of stairs and an even higher level. Talk about cardio.

As they made it into another hallway, they found themselves faced with more Hydra soldiers. Honestly, with the three of them there, the fight was like a cakewalk. Asia took out two quickly, using the momentum of her body as she swung off one to collide his head with that of the other, knocking them both out cold. She double tapped each quickly, just to be safe. She and Ward tag-teamed another man, Ward crouching down as she ran off his back like a ramp, launching herself at another agent and snapping his neck efficiently. It reminded her, just ever so slightly, of old times.

When the three of them looked up, Skye was standing in the hall, mouth wide open, staring at them in shock. "Skye!" Asia called out, rushing forward to pull her friend into a tight hug. Skye started to rush towards her, too, when suddenly the Teleporter appeared between them, grabbing Skye and yanking her close. In a blink, before Asia even had the chance to form a plan, Skye was gone again. No trace left behind.

She turned to face Coulson, a look of sorrow and concern on her face that was matched equally in his. They had almost had her. "We were so close," she said quietly, glancing back at where Skye had disappeared from.

Suddenly, the elevator door dinged open. All three agents raised their guns, but lowered them, as Kara and Hunter limped out. Hunter's arm was wrapped over Kara's shoulder and there was a huge splotch of blood on his left side. He looked hurt, bad.

"What happened?" Asia asked, rushing forward and helping take the weight off of Kara, studying his body, carefully moving the shirt but not so much that it would hurt him worse.

"Ahh, you know. Nothing but a flesh wound," Hunter joked, then wheezed as the laugh caught in his throat, pain racing up and down his spine.

"It's a bad one," Kara said, looking at Asia, eyes flashing with concern as she shook her head ever so slightly.

"Yea, we need to get him out of here," Asia looked over her shoulder at Coulson, sneakily sliding a hand under Hunter's shirt and letting a trail of ice run over the wound, temporarily sealing enough to stop the blood flow. He winced and she quickly withdrew her hand, looking at the ruby red blood on her fingertips. "If we don't get Hunter some care soon, there won't be any Hunter left to care for." He frowned at her, rolling his eyes, and she fought the urge to elbow him.

Ward sighed, turning to look at Coulson. "Deathlok is down and Hydra is storming the building. Right now, we're out manned, out gunned, and Fitz is our only backup. But it's your call, sir."

Coulson looked over at Asia, thinking about Ward's term of "out gunned," thinking that he wasn't all too correct. Coulson knew the cards he held in his hand. If he asked, he had a feeling Asia could take out the remaining Hydra members for them. Freeze them all. But, he needed to keep his cards close, and enemies closer. And get Hunter out. It was time to make a tactical play.

Chapter Text

Coulson had decided he would be the one to stay behind. Who could really argue with the literal director? Hydra had taken Mike and the man who was with him captive. The rest of them were sent to the retreat of the Quinnjet to wait until they heard the good word from their boss. The good word being Gonzales and his "Shield" to welcome them into their own base for a discussion. Asia had faith that Coulson could play his cards right. She had never seen, nor heard, of him fail before. So why start now?

Asia had gotten the bird in the air, waiting after Bobbi and Mike had taken Coulson as a captive, bringing him to the Bus. She had them cloaked and trailing the bigger airplane. If everything went well, she would uncloak and dock to the Bus. It was a bit of a stressful situation, but nothing more than what they usually faced.

Especially if it meant getting Skye back. She stared out at the sky, thinking of how close they had been. If she closed her eyes, she could almost feel a tug on the line that connected the two girls. And if there was a line, right now they were worlds away from one another.

"Don't beat yourself up," Leo said, catching the look on her face. She felt as though this were somehow her fault. That the failure was on her. He sat in the seat beside her, and reached over, resting a hand on her knee fondly, steadily rubbing his thumb back and forth. She looked over at him, thankfully. Some days, she didn't know what she would do without him.

Suddenly, there was a tap on her shoulder. She looked up, and unfortunately, was met with the gaze of Grant Ward. "Want me to take over? That was you guys can watch over Hunter?"

Asia looked back at Leo and shrugged. "Yea, sure. The wheel's all yours. But don't think I won't notice if we change our coordinates." She slid out of the seat, Leo climbing with her. She stood between him and Ward the entire time, not allowing him to even think of making another shitty remark. After they made their way to the back of the plane where Hunter was, Kara walked up to the front and took the seat beside Ward. Asia rolled her eyes. Someday she would see, he wasn't this man he was pretending to be.

"How are you feeling?" Leo asked Hunter as they stood in front of him. Asia leaned over, looking at his side, face scrunched up in disgust as she playfully swatted in front of her nose, pretending Hunter was starting to smell.

"Oy! I'm not dead yet," Hunter swatted her away, causing the girl to laugh for the first time in a few days. It was nice, to hear that sound emerge from her once more. Hunter cracked a grin of his own as he looked at her, then Fitz. "So, this whole thing between the two of yous going pretty well, ain't it?" He flashed a cheeky look.

Leo looked over at Asia and smiled as she rolled her eyes. "Could be worse," she said finally, looking back at Leo and smiling slightly. "Something good had to come out of this whole mess, yea?" Leo grabbed her hand and pulled her closer, squeezing her hand tightly. She shook her head, smiling at him with a grin that she couldn't keep from spreading ear to ear. Then she turned back to Hunter, look turning serious. "Alright, but you didn't answer the question. How are you feeling?" She nodded down at his wound.

"Ehh, a bit nauseous," Hunter admitted with a shrug. "Definitely been better."

"Oh, erm, want me to get..." Leo trailed off, pointing at the trashcan in the corner of the airplane, concerned and also a tiny bit grossed out. Vomit was not in the list of things he was a fan of.

"No, no, not because of this," Hunter pointed down at his bloody shirt. He lowered his voice leaning forward, and nodding ever so slightly towards the front of the plane. "Because of that." The three of them looked forward towards the head of the plane where Kara and Ward were bent over the middle console, whispering to one another and smiling sweetly. Asia stuck her tongue out in disgust.

"Let's just, uh, not look a that," Leo responded, turning his back to the front, hands on his him. "Just, uh, just focus on your wound till we get out of this unfortunate situation."

Suddenly, the phone in Hunter's pocket started to chime. Hunter hastily pulled it out, flipping it open and answering Coulson's call. "Sir?" he spoke into the phone, eyes going wide. He slapped the phone shut and yelled up to the front. "We've got the green light! Go!" Without another word Ward uncloaked the plane started flying towards the Bus. It was time to go home.

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The ride back to the Playground after they had docked was an awkward one, the drawn out experience making the flight seem longer than it actually was. Every Shield agent on board from Gonzales' team watched her with a wary eye, scared she would destroy them at a moments notice (even though that was far from the case).

If she moved too suddenly, they were all guns drawn, as if they thought she was about to put an icicle through their hearts. And, she noticed with a sickening disgust, that they did the same thing whenever Ward moved or did something they didn’t expect. He noticed, too.

“Damn, Monroe, I know you built a pretty deadly reputation, but this is a level I didn’t expect,” he said, almost sounding impressed. She turned to look at him from her seat by the bar. She was about to speak when Leo was up out of his chair, jabbing his finger in Ward’s direction.

“You don’t get to talk to her like that,” he shouted. “You don’t get to talk to her at all. You lost that right. So you just, you just shut up.” His face was red and flustered as Asia grabbed the sleeve of his slim, blue button up, pulling him back towards her.

“If we were alone right now, the things I’d do to you,” she whispered with a smile, leaning forward and kissing him on the cheek. “Don’t worry about Ward, I can fight my own battles...but. That was pretty hot,” she teased him as he sat back down beside her, not even bothering to answer Ward’s question, much less give him the dignity of his gaze. No, she saved all of that for the beautiful man beside her. "That was brave of you, really, Leo," she said, looking him in the eyes. She wanted him to know she wasn't joking. Standing up to Ward, the man who had ruined his life, all of their lives, it was no small fete. She recognized that, she wanted him to know she understood.

"Yea, well," Leo scratched at the back of his head, looking over at the bar. "He doesn't get to talk to you like that, after everything he did, he just...he doesn't." he took her hand in his and pressed a quick kiss to the back of her palm, as if it were the most natural, casual thing someone could do in this situation. As if he didn't know that a simple touch from him made lightning zing up and down her spine as he lit up her entire world.

She smiled at him, for a moment unable to even speak. To even form the sort of happiness he brought her into actual words, actual sentences, it was unfathomable. It was nice to just sit here, with him, for a moment. She knew once they got back to the Playground, things would be different. They wouldn't have a lot of time left before they played their hand and either went on a mission, or had to break the fuck out of there. Asia was ready for it. She knew her portion of the plan. Freeze the entire place, every person, right in their steps. And then they would just walk out, as long as she was able to hold it. She had never tried something of that magnitude before. She didn't know if it would work or fail. There was a lot relying on her, if that is how the situation went down. If Coulson said the codeword to her signaling things weren't going their way. So for now, to just sit here with the man she loved, that was enough. It would always be enough.

Chapter Text

The touchdown at Base couldn't come soon enough. Coulson marched off the plane, his little merry band of agents following quickly behind, Asia bracing Hunter so he could walk with minimal pain. The blood on his shirt was still ever apparent.

"Let's get you to the med bay before shit really hits the fan," She said to Hunter as they hobbled along. "At least then we can get you patched up before things go down. Don't want you bleeding out on me."

"Yea I'm a big fan of that idea," Hunter affirmed, "Especially if it means getting as far away from Bobbi as possible," he nodded back towards the Bus where Mack and Bobbi were walking down the ramp, chatting in low tones to one another. "I tell ya, Asia, that's the last time I make that mistake. She's done from my life. I'm on to bigger and better birds. Brighter horizons. Say, I hear you got a sister, mind hooking a brother up?"

Asia rolled her eyes. "If you hadn't just been shot I'd be elbowing you in the ribs right now," she muttered to him. "Also my sister is missing. So if you find her, you better let me know." Yea, America was a touchy subject for her, but she knew she could trust Hunter with talking about it. Of course, he didn't know she had lost her baby sister the way she had, he couldn't know how personal it was to her.

As she and Hunter hobled down the halls of their own home, Asia never felt so out of place. People shot looks her way, as if she didn’t belong, and without actually turning around to look, she was fairly certain they were being tailed. She wouldn’t be surprised. She could tell Gonzales was still afraid of her. Still thought she would bring the whole place down in perverbial flames (ironically the opposite of what she could actually do).

When they reached the med bay, Asia sat with Hunter, watching as a team of doctors worked on stitching him up, making sure his blood levels were still appropriate. She liked the routine of the process. Something about medical procedures also calmed her, even when they were being done to her. It was an art, really, as much as it was a vocation.

“You know, you don’t have to stay here with me,” Hunter said, glancing down at her as she rested her arms on the cool metal of the table in which he sat. “I’m sure you’d rather go spend your time with your little lover.”

“I don’t mind staying here with you until you’re patched up,” Asia sighed, looking up at him. “Besides, things may be a little weird in the Lab right now if I go...” she trailed off, looking over at a row of medical devices hanging on the wall. “Almost forgot about it with all this mess going on.”

“Forgot about what, love?” Hunter asked, his face growing concerned as he watched her. Her face had shifted from content to suddenly glum.

“Mmm yea...guess I didn’t fill you in on that one. You’re not the only one with complicated relationships around here,” she took in a deep breath. “Jemma confronted me the other week. Told me she thinks she has feelings for Leo. Was a really peachy conversation.” Her face grew darker as she thought back on the conversation. It wasn’t a memory she considered fond, or an experience she wanted to live over again.

“Wait wait wait now, she did wha??” Hunter looked down at her, his mouth following into a perfect O shape as he stared at her in disbelief. “That’s some bloody low blows, mate, I’m sorry. And angry. That’s real real dumb. She and Bobbi deserve each other, don’t they?”

Asia laughed, shaking her head. “Maybe they should couple up instead, solve both of our problems.” She gazed off, imagining it. She didn’t want to fight with Jemma. She didn’t want to fight with any of her friends. Especially not about something like this. “But, yea, that’s why I’m waiting in here right now. Prolonging the inevitable I suppose.” She let out another sigh. “Though I guess hiding from this won’t fix the problem.”

“Well, if you need me to fight someone for ya, just say the word, Ice Queen. You know I’ve got your back,” Hunter said supportively, giving her a look of solidarity. She smiled up at him greatfully.

“I’ll stay, till you’re done,” Asia affirmed one last time. “And then I’ll go.” She wouldn’t leave him behind. He had taken a bullet for the cause, that was no laughing matter. And so she did, she waited till he was all stitched up and good to go, and until his eyes closed as he fell into a deep nap. Then she left, to go confront her nightmares.

As she was walking down the hall towards the Lab, her watched beeped. She closed her eyes for a moment, taking a deep breath, stealing herself for whatever this message might say. There were only two possible outcomes, and only one of which was preferable. After a beat, she opened her eyes once more and looked down at her watch. To her very pleasant surprise, their team mission was a go. She needed to head to the Bus immediately. Facing Jemma would have to wait until later.

As she waited in the Hangar area, munching on a bagel, when Coulson appeared, everyone else in tow, sans Hunter and, surprisingly enough, Jemma was also with them, carrying a metal suitcase. "Looks like our small team has grown slightly larger," she commented to Coulson as he passed, falling in step behind him, finishing the rest of the pastry food in one quick bite.

"Simmons is coming with to handle medical on site. We aren't entirely sure what we're walking in to, but to have someone there who understands Agent Peterson's specs is going to come in handy," Coulson explained as the climbed in the ramp into the Bus, Asia nodding with understanding After everyone was on board, Coulson pressed a button, closing the aircraft, leaving the six of them standing, facing one another.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, was a whooshing sound, loud, filling all of their ears, and coming from an unknown direction. Instantly, Asia slid so that she was standing defensively in front of Leo, arms out, wristlets clicked so the knives were shining in the light. May instinctively drew her gun, pointing it directly at Ward. There was no sign of where the sound had come from, but if she had to bet, it was the black haired man who had slunk his was back into their team. "On your knees, now," She ordered at him, as he slowly raised his hands, confused look over his rugged face.

"May, whatever that was, it wasn't me," he said slowly, as his backpack slipped off of his shoulder and onto the floor of the plane with a thump. May shook her head once, not lowering the weapon a centimeter.

"Then what was it?" Coulson asked, and as if on queue, there was movement from the banister above. Coulson whirled, drawing his gun as he did so, only to meet Skye at the end of his sites, eyes wide open, staring down at all of them.

Skye. It was Skye, really, truly, this time. In an instant, without a second thought, she sheathed her knives and bolted up the stairs, wrapping her arms tightly around her friend. She was back. She was really back.

Chapter Text

She was back. Skye was really, actually back. Asia, Leo, Jemma, and Skye found themselves in the Command Room on the Bus, chatting, catching up, filling each other all in on everything everyone had missed while they had all been split apart. And Asia couldn't help but admit she was curious once Skye started describing the place she had been, a place for people like them. A safe space where they all lived together and learned together. For once, Asia felt the slight hope of not being alone in this world, this strange new thing that she was. There was a glimmering light at the end of a long and confusing tunnel.

"Did they really teach you to...to control your powers?" Asia asked her cautiously. Hope was a dangerous thing after all. While the brunette thought she had a decent handle on things, she still knew she could be better, that she could be more than deep concentration and hoping she wouldn't freeze the engines on their plane. Plus, focusing that intently all the time was draining. She wanted to be in complete control, get herself to a point where her powers only leaped to life when she wanted them to.

"Yea, yea, they did," Skye grinned, as she whispered her response, before glancing around the ship. "And believe me, I'll tell you guys everything you want to know. Just...not here. Not now." She glanced over at Ward and Asia nodded in understanding. Of course, Ward would always be listening. He was always trying to listen in, Asia knew him well enough to know that was true. They all knew that far too well by now.

Jemma sighed, also glancing towards Ward, "Yes, I suppose that is the safest route," she mused, placing her hands gently on the edge of the holotable in front of them.

Ward glanced over, as if he felt the weight of the four agents' gaze on him, heavy, the dead weight of his sins. "What? Something on my face?" he asked, brushing at his cheek with an open palm. The four agents stared at him, unwavering, looks of disgust and indifference playing over their various faces.

Interrupting the visual standoff, Coulson entered the Command Room, setting a tablet down on the holotable in front of them. "Alright, let's review the mission." Reluctantly, Asia stepped up beside the table as well, placing her fingertips lightly on the edges of the cool metal, readying herself to move if need be. She glared over the table, daring Ward to make the wrong move. Her body was itching for him to prove her right.

Coulson glances around at his agents once more. “Okay, well, I really hate to say this but...Ward, give us an update on Bakshi’s whereabouts.” He nodded over at the raven haired man, allowing him to speak freely, if only for the moment.

Ward nodded, hitting a button on the table as if he had been doing this all his life, much of which he had. The table began to glow, and a TV screen up on the wall displayed a map of an arctic island, beside it, Bakshi’s face.

“Alright, Bakshi’s been communicating to us via old text channels. It’s been difficult work, but yes, he has managed to provide decent details of the location. And they do seem to have one powered person on site, aside from the two we’re aware of. This one is not being used as an experiment, but a body guard.” Ward stopped, looking around the room at the people staring back at him. "Much of it is...um..." he paused, trailing off to look at the others once more, almost as if a frog were caught in his throat. He looked down at the table, then up at everyone again.

"Okay, well, is everyone alright if I address the elephant on the plane?" he asked finally, clearing his throat uncomfortably. "I know this is weird. For all of us. Super weird. Mistakes were made."

"By you," Leo muttered, hands folded over his chest as he looked down at his fingernails. Asia tilted her body ever so slightly, bumping him with her elbow, letting him know she was still right there. He looked up at her slightly, their eyes meeting and he gave her a tiny nod. He knew. Of course he knew. She would always be right there.

Ward sighed, continuing, "And yes, people got hurt..."

"By you," Leo interjected again, this time more pointedly, looking up and meeting Ward's gaze.

Ward looked at him for a moment, before shaking his head as if clearing away thoughts, and continued, "We could stand here all damn day and explain again how my parents and brother left me vulnerable, again, but-"

May stepped forward, slicing her hand through the open air, silencing him, "That's enough. We all had our traumas. They didn't turn us into psychopaths." The words spat out of her mouth like venom, so hard Asia was surprised the table in front of them didn't burn away into nothingness.

Ward smirked, "Well, we all, uh, have our own ways of coping, don't we? For example, I was yours."

"Watch it, Ward," Coulson interjected, stepping forward, motioning for everyone to step back, take a breath.

"Look, look," Ward tried again, after a beat. "I'm just saying that we've all made mistakes. Coulson handed me over to my abuser, thanks a lot for that, by the way, Asia tried to kill me, multiple times," her brow furrowed with disgust, "And Skye shot me-"

Skye cut him off with a scoff, "After you hurt how many people?" She stared at him as if she expected an answer, one she would never get.

"Yea," Leo piped up. "You hurt people. You hurt us. We were a team, we were a family and you betrayed us," he pulled a sweater covered sleeve up towards his mouth, biting at the cuticle of his thumb.

Ward looked for a moment almost as if he had actual sorrow in his eyes. He looked around at all of them, his cocky facade falling. "I know," he said, his words echoing throughout the room. "I know. I know the weight of what I've done. And that's what I regret the most. Not the lying, not the agents I put down, not even, and I mean this in the best way possible," he turned and looked at Leo and Jemma, "Not even dropping the two of you into the ocean. It's this. That my actions directly destroyed this. And I'll regret that forever. Cause we had good times. Right? We were a good team, for a while there. We had a really good thing going, didn't we?" The way he was speaking, Asia almost believed him for a second. Almost.

But then the moments in that foreign Lab came back, the too-white paint on the walls, the way the white floors were polished so brightly she could see all of their reflections in them. The way he let Quinn in with her. And a sour taste filled her mouth. She was going to puke, literally. Wordlessly, she turned and walked out of the room.

As Asia made her way from the Control Room, down the halls, she pushed her hair out and away from her face, finding an air vent and standing beneath it, letting the cold air blow on her. She was sweating, even though it was barely 65 degrees on board. Her gut was clenching tightly, threatening her with the loss of lunch. She heard footsteps behind her and whirled around, fists clenched, readied to swing, only to meet Leo's gaze as he stood behind her, frown on his lips.

"You alright?" He asked after a moment of silence. "I, um, I don't know why I asked that. You're not alright, you're upset. What can I, uh, what can I do to make it better?" He asked her, searching her eyes for the answers.

She looked away from him for a moment. Speaking her weaknesses was always so difficult, even to Leo. It felt like it made her...lesser. Like it made her weak, to feel anything at all. To be anything but impenetrable. But she had to let him in. To keep pushing him away would only hurt the both of them further, even though it felt physically painful to do so. So for now, she simply nodded, and that was enough for him to pull her into a tight hug. She let her head rest against his chest, listening to the beat of his heart. After a moment, she spoke softly. "He wants us to feel like it's okay that he's back. And it's not."

"I know," he said as he stroked her hair softly. "I know, and it'll never be okay, what he did to us. He doesn't get to just ask for forgiveness and expect us to give it." He understood what she was feeling right now, that overwhelming surge of discomfort. He felt it too. What Ward had done to them, it would never be okay. And if he ever got the chance, he would make the man pay for the way he had hurt her.

Chapter Text

An hour or so later, after Leo and Asia had finished their moment of comfort in the hall and had returned to the living space with the others, it was time to get ready. The plan was a good one. A really good one. The Quinnjet was still safely secured to the roof of the Bus. They were going to move all their important things into the jet, then once targets locked onto the Bus, they would detach just before the missiles hit, and Coulson would allow the plane to be blown to bits for the purpose of this mission. Because this mission would bring them one step closer to eradicating Hydra. May would pilot the Quinnjet as if it were falling debris, so they'd have to be strapped in pretty tightly. Then just before hitting the ground, she would stop their near free fall, touching them lightly onto the snowy base of the arctic island. Ideally, they'd get everything loose strapped up in the jet prior to this occurring, so that nothing would slosh around in the plane. Couldn't rightly have someone getting taken out by a suitcase before the mission even began.

And that's exactly how it did go down. Chunks of burning metal and crushed bits rained down around them as they tumbled through the frigid air, coming just short of becoming pancakes against the snowy landscape below. The wind whipped around the outside of the plane harshly, causing a whistling sound that stung at Asia's ears. She could feel the ice and snow all around them, and could feel the power that coursed through her with the intensity of it. Usually, it was as if her body produced its own H2O used for the ice and snow. But here, it was as if the source had been laid out in front of her, like a birthday present. And she couldn't even use it.

Not with Ward around. Not when she could use it later without him ever knowing. Ward knew too much already. She wouldn't let him know that part of her.

After they landed, Asia pulled off her buckle, looking over at Leo and letting a grin crack over her face. They had done it. They have infiltrated Hydra's airspace and made it through, alive. He looked back at her and smiled, too. They had really, really done it. That, Asia was pretty sure, was going to be the hardest part. Hydra agents? They could handle that. She was confident they could handle that. They kicked Hydra ass all the time, and with Skye and Asia there, powered and ready, this would be a walk in the park.

As Asia slipped on her heavy Shield issue jacket, flipping the fur lined hood over her head, Leo stepped in front of her, grabbing the zipper and pulling it upwards, sealing her tightly inside. She smiled over at him, leaning in and giving him a tiny peck on the cheek, before returning the favor and zipping him into his warm jacket, patting his chest lightly. "Ready to do this?" she asked him.

"Of course," he replied confidently. "Are you?" he held her hands in his, kissing her fingertips lightly, glancing at the window for a moment, eyeing the snowy wasteland that awaited them. He looked back to her after a moment. "Will you be okay, with all of that?"

"Never felt better, actually," she admitted, "I feel like...a supercharged battery? I'm not sure if that's a good way to explain it." She whispered as she shrugged sheepishly, feeling a twinge of heat on her cheeks. She didn't know how to describe what she was feeling, what she was going through. This was all entirely new territory for her. Though she was sure he didn't expect her to have a full scientific description.

"That's very interesting," Leo mused, thinking about what this might mean for her, from a scientist's point of view. Her powers seemed to hold the ability to control the compounds of water, though only in a much colder state, yet she also was seeming to react to larger quantities around her. It was all very curious. He wanted to take out a notebook and jot his thoughts, but decided against it. He could do that later. Plus, he wasn't entirely sure how keen she would be on his study of her abilities. It was all to help her, it was always to help her, but he didn't know if she would see it that way.

"Yea, it's something..." she trailed off for a moment, looking out at the snow. "Well, we should probably get a move on. Not a lot of time available here." She looked over at him, a seriousness in her eyes. "You know what happens if this goes down poorly. I'll make sure you get out."

"Asia," Leo frowned, shaking his head once, "You're not sacrificing yourself for me." He held her cold fingers between his hands, rubbing them together to create friction, heat. He didn't want to even consider the thought of her giving her life for him, though he was well aware of the fact that she was prepared to do so, for any member of their team. That was just who she was, putting the mission ahead of her own safety. It was who she had trained to be.

"Alright team," Coulson interrupted their conversation, the two agents looking up. "We have limited time, and a lot of ground to cover. Let's get a move on." As he spoke, the ramp lowered, gusts of wind blowing into the aircraft, bringing frost and snow with it. Asia held a hand up, trying to block the wind from her face, as the gusts tried to tear her hood from her head.

Coulson was right. Their team was running low on time, low on patience, and low of warmth. So the band of agents trudged out into the snow, leaving the Quinnjet behind them to be buried in the snow, still blowing just as intensely. The one positive note to the blistering winds and gusts of snow was that they were imperceptible in the night as they crossed the open space between them and the towering fortress that was the secret scientific base of Hydra. As everyone else shivered against the bitter cold, Asia trudged ahead, the cold not bothering her, not a shiver coursing over her skin. This was like a walk in the park for her.

She kept her eyes straight ahead as she pushed forward, focusing her breathes and mind and making sure she wasn't losing control. It was difficult, all of this swirling and whirling snow around her, everyone silent as they moved on. Asia focused on her steps, pressing each foot deliberately into the ground, through the snow and ice. She didn't even notice the figure walking beside her until he spoke.

"So, does Fitz know?" Ward's voice cut into her ears over the howl of the wind as he fell in step beside her, holding the straps of his bulletproof vest underneath his winter jacket, keeping his face down so frost bite didn't nip at his cheeks. Asia stared down, trudging forward, not speaking. Of course Leo didn't know that dark secret, the part of her that hid beneath her deepest terrors, the part of her that felt uncomfortable when strangers looked her way, when sudden touch hit her shoulders. He didn't know what had been done to her, and she didn't want him to ever know. She didn't want him to bear that burden. No one should have to bare that burden, lest of all the one she loved.

"Know what?" Leo asked, falling in step of her left side, glancing over at Ward as he walked through the snow. Asia bit her tongue, giving the tiniest, most unacceptable shake of her head, hoping Ward would see it, hoping he still held enough understanding of who she was and not to say a word of what she had told him. And there she was, suddenly, finding herself relying again in him. In Grant Ward, the man who had put her into this position, in so many ways. She had no trust in him, and yet she was being forced to rely on him now. She had no other choice. That was the danger of getting secrets off one's chest. They then had the power to destroy you completely, if they chose. What Ward would choose was never clear.

"Just asking about an old mission Monroe ran once," Ward replied evenly, without even skipping a beat. He lied regularly, so Asia wasn't entirely sure why this surprised her. Perhaps it was more the fact that he had lied for her, when he didn't need to, when he had no grounds to, but he had done it all the same. There was a part of Asia that was thankful for what he had said, truthfully. But part of her resented it, because now, now she owed him a favor. And Grant Ward, he was never a man anyone wanted to hold a debt towards.

Chapter Text

When they finally reached the outer wall of the building, Leo got to work at getting them inside, pulling out some tools and doing something (Asia wasn't entirely sure what) to a panel on the side of the building by the door. All she really knew is he was breaking them in and he was damn good at it. While the others stood huddled against the wind, Asia let her hood drop, the cool breeze blowing against her, making her feel...refreshed. Like she was ready to take whoever they might encounter inside. Like she was turbocharged and she could take out anything. THe fresh, cold air that bit at the others made her feel like she could sense every molecule of water near by. And she loved it. But soon the door was open and the team was filing in. Allegedly, Bakshi was supposed to meet them nearby.

After Leo finished overriding the code to the door, the team slipped quietly inside, shutting the door behind them with as little sound as possible, much as the wind tried to push it closed with a bang. "That was some fancy work back there," Asia said, nudging Leo in the shoulder with her own teasingly. "Made pretty quick work of it," she looked over at him, and he could see her smile even in the dim lighting.

"Yea well, I'm good with my hands," he quipped back, causing her to muffle a laugh with the sleeve of her heavy jacket. "Though, you already know that," he continued the light teasing, bumping her upper arm with his own shoulder. She looked back up at him and grinned, pressing her body back against his.The two would have been content to keep throwing teasing lines back and forth all night if they weren't trying to be sneaky. So after that, they let the lines drop as they progressed further down the hallway into more darkness. The black of the hall was so deep Asia felt like she was being swallowed alive. But they kept going, focusing on sound and touch, not wanting to risk the attention a flashlight would bring.

The team moved through a large, hot boiler room where they ditched their jackets, then continued on. Asia unzipped the top of her longsleeve just ever so slightly, letting air in. Whenever it got too hot, she started feeling sick, and feeling sick wasn't going to help anyone today. They continued down the hall until suddenly they heard the sound of a body dropping heavily to the ground. Asia drew her pistol immediately, aiming it down the hall and pushing forward until...Bakshi came into the light. In front of him, the crumpled body of a Hydra agent.

Immediately, Ward stepped forward, holding up his hands slowly as he approached Bakshi. "Calm your mind, Bakshi," he said slowly, looking the man over, making sure he wasn't about to shoot them, too. Cautiously, he placed a hand on Bakshi's shoulder and looked him in the eye. "Your compliance will be rewarded."

"I am happy to comply, sir," Bakshi said with a smile and a quick nod. "I am glad to see you fared well on your journey here. Where is Kara?"

"She's right where she needs to be," Ward said with a sigh, thinking back on the woman he had left behind at the Shield base. "Is List still here?" He asked as almost an afterthought, as if he had just remembered the entire point of their mission.

"Yes, sir, he is," Bakshi replied with a quick nod. "He is still in the lab with the prisoners. He also has a...gifted individual with him. She is one to watch out for. I am unsure as to where she has come from, but she is kept close to the heads of Hydra."

Ward studied him for a moment, thinking to himself. He was fairly certain who the woman was. He turned around and looked at Asia, who met his gaze evenly. He gave her a small nod of acknowledgement. The other Monroe girl, stolen, brainwashed, enhanced. And now, closer than Asia had been to her in years.

Asia felt her heart thudding out of her chest when she met Ward’s gaze. No one else in their group seemed to notice the interaction they shared. America was here. Her little sister. And she was gifted, just like Asia was. Oh god, what had they done to her. She felt her breath clutch in her throat and the temperature around them dropped several degrees rapidly.

“Wow, it sure is, um, drafty in here, isn’t it?” She coughed, looking at Coulson with a shrug, playing it off as if she hadn’t just lost control for a second. She looked at Skye and shook her head. No one was any the wiser, and she wanted it to remain that way.

Because her sister was here. Her sister who she hadn't seen in years. Could be anywhere in this building. And Asia would have given anything to find her, right then and there. But they had a job to do. She looked back over at Ward and the two exchanged a glance. She knew, without a doubt, that if Ward found her first, he wouldn't hurt her. She could read it on his face. She knew all of his tells. She had spent years studying him. She didn't want to trust him. In fact, she didn't really trust him. She just understood, at some odd level, that he would do this for her. Maybe it was his attempt at a poor apology for his past, but if it meant securing her sister, it was a gamble she was willing to make.

"Alright Bakshi, where is the mainframe room we were discussing?" Ward continued on with his questioning as if nothing had happened.

"Down the hall and to the left," Bakshi pointed behind him down a dimly lit hall.

"Alright team, remember, Ward, Skye, and Jemma, you're on rescue. Fitz, Monroe, May, you're with me," Coulson instructed. "Is everyone clear on the objective?"

Asia nodded, accepting her orders as she always did. She always had been the perfect soldier. But this. This was one of the first times in her life where she truly wanted to say fuck the orders and tear off down the hall in the opposite direction as she was supposed to be headed. She wanted to get to where Mer was. She wanted to bring her home safe.

But her body simply wouldn't let her. As the two bands started to part ways, she fell in step behind Leo. As Ward brushed past on her right, she looked up and met his eyes once more. That dark, dark, chocolaty brown that she used to think was so warm. The eyes that she looked forward to seeing after a long mission. The eyes of a friend. Now, they just reminded her of the colour of dirt. But she met his gaze nonetheless, and gave him a sharp nod. He acknowledged her nod with the smallest return of his own. Good. They were on the same page. America gets out of here alive, end of story.

Leo looked back at her, offering her the kindest of smiles. She smiled back, and for a moment, felt guilty. She was putting the most minuscule amount of trust in the man who had hurt Leo so badly. It was like a suckerpunch to her gut. But she couldn't dwell on it now. They had a mainframe to get into.

As May opened the door into the Mainframe room, Asia quickly stepped in, hands raised up. Only one man was inside the room, sitting at his desk, watching some video on his computer, clearly not actually working. At the sound of the door, he stood up, whirling around with his pistol out ready to fire. His finger squeezed the trigger, but nothing happened.

The Hydra agent looked down at his gun in confusion and astonishment, only to find the barrel completely engulfed with growing ice. When he looked back up, it was too late. Asia delivered a swift roundhouse kick to the side of his skull, and the man fell to the floor with a heavy thud. Without a second thought, she drew her own pistol and fired twice into his chest. Always double tap. She then grabbed his body and dragged it to the side, far out of the way of the work which needed to be done.

Leo quickly entered the room, sitting down at the swivel chair and cracking his knuckles before his fingers began to fly rapidly over the silent keys of the black board, lighting up the computer screen. Asia stood just several feet away, hands up at her waist level, a soft, cold, blue light emanating from her palms. She knew full well if anyone came through the door she would have them in a chunk of ice before they could get anywhere close to her boyfriend. She would take the bullets if she had to. He was doing important work. Disarming the missile defenses which surrounded the base. May and Coulson kept pushing forward, entering a room further in.

"Nearly done," he muttered, mostly to himself but also to the team, as he continued to type quickly. Suddenly, he clapped his hands together and gave a small cheer. "Bam! They're down! Suck that, biatch!" he turned to Asia and held up his open hand. She dispelled the blue from her palm and slapped her hand quickly against his, with a sharp clap.

"So proud," she teased, holding her hand out and pulling him to stand up, wide grin on her face. As soon as he was standing in front of her, he grasped each side of her face and kissed her, hard. For a moment she was taken aback, surprised by his sudden moment of affection. But then, as quick as he had kissed her, he released her once more, still holding her face in his two hands, looking down at her intently.

"You're the best thing in my life, Asia. Do you understand that?" He whispered, his thumb brushing over her right cheek. She placed her hand outside of his, leaning into his palm with her cheek, turning ever so slightly to brush her lips against the soft skin, before looking back up at him and nodding.

"And you're the best thing in mine," she whispered back, smiling. "We should find May and Coulson, though," she glanced back at the door. "We all need to get out of here before they blow the base."

Suddenly, the door opened and two soldiers filed in. Before either of the Hydra Agents could react, both Asia and Leo had raised their pistols and fired, each body dropping quickly to the ground in perfect synchronization. From behind them, May and Coulson entered the room, surveying the additional set of dead men.

“Let’s move,” May said, her tone icy and gaze hard. She was upset. Asia’s gaze flickered to Coulson and he gaze her a discrete nod. The job they had come here for was done. Now, they just needed to get the hell out.

The trek across the wide exspanse of snow and ice was even more difficult for most of their teammates. Asia, while she felt fine, kept glancing over her shoulder, looking for signs of Ward and Mer. She didn’t see them, and they didn’t appear when the team all piled back into the Quinnjet, two rescues in tow, taking off and exiting Hydra airspace.

The brunette watched out one of the small windows as rockets were launched at the Hydra base, the red and orange flames on collision lighting up the sky like fireworks. The whole place, completely decimated.

Quietly, Asia tucked herself into the lavatory onboard, locking the door behind her and bracing herself against the sink, sobbing silently. She cried and cried, mourning the loss of her sister finally, truthfully. She even cried for Ward, a bit. For the friend she had once had, the person she knew understood the importance of getting America out of there. She wiped her nose on the back of her hand, using water to carefully splash away any signs of tears from her face.

And then she went back outside to the team, joining them, engaging in conversation, tucking herself beside Leo, letting him wrap his arm around her shoulder, her head resting in the crook of his neck. No one was any the wiser, and that was just the way she wanted things to be.

Chapter Text

Skye was following closely behind the medical bed on which Lincoln was being wheeled into the Lab on, Jemma beside her, Leo and Asia closely behind. The blonde man had yet to wake up and Asia could see the weight baring down on her shoulders, the pained look rippling over her face. Clearly, this guy was pretty important to her. Asia hadn’t see Skye with this outward display of concern since Ward was on the team, when he got hurt. Quietly, she slipped her hand into Leo’s, threading their fingers together and giving a gentle squeeze. She hoped they would never be in the same position as their friend was now. She never wanted to see Leo lying on a bed like that.

“Agent Monroe,” Coulson called out from behind them and Asia stopped, turning and dropping Leo’s hand as she did. Her Director was standing there, holding a small phone in his hand. “You’ve got a phone call,” he said flatly, offering the phone out to her. As her face scrunched in confusion, he included, “You don’t have to take it. I can say you’re not available.”

But curiosity got the best of her. Holding out her hand, he passed her the phone, and she placed it to her ear, walking over to a quiet corner of the Lab.

“Hello?” She said into the abyss of white noise, wondering who on earth could be on the other end. The only people who ever called her were Nat or Clint, and usually they didn’t call someone else first.

“Hey Monroe, it’s me,” a deep voice responsed, and the hairs on the back of her neck stood up. She knew that voice anywhere.

“Ward...” she replied carefully, trying to put the pieces together. “You made it out...How?” Though asking how seemed like a silly question after the fact. He was Grant Ward. He had made it out of far worse before.

“You know me, never go down without a fight,” he replied back casually. “Speaking of, I saw your sister. She is doing great.”

“Is?” She asked quietly, not wanting to get her hopes up. But he had said it. Is. Present tense. As if she hadn’t been in the Hydra facility when it exploded. As if maybe, maybe she had gotten out.

“Yea, she’s doing great. I’m not with her now, but I was. Too important to Hydra to leave behind. They put her on a jet out of there as soon as they figured out they were compromised. But she’s alive, Monroe. Figured that was something you needed to hear,” his voice had gotten quieter, softer, taking the same tone it had the first time he figured out her parents’ names were on the Wall of Valor. “So it’s not over. She’s still out there.”

“Thank you,” she replied quietly, unsure of what else to say. And she meant it. Without his call, she never would have known. She wouldn’t have even kept looking. And her sister was still out there somewhere, alone, and Asia knew she needed to bring her home. “But don’t think this means I forgive you,” she added at the end, to make sure he knew they weren’t on good terms. This didn’t fix everything he had broken.

“Didn’t expect it to. Why do you think I left on my own?” He replied. “Anyways, I should probably end this call before someone traces it. Take care, Monroe.” He waited for her response, but all he got was the phone making a small click, signifying the end of the call. He looked down at the phone and shook his head, shoving it back into his jacket pocket and walking off into the bright city lights.

Asia walked back to Coulson and handed him the phone. “Might want to get a new number,” she suggested as she turned to walk back to her friends.

“Did he want anything important?” Coulson questioned before she could walk away. Not unsurprising, she admitted. Not knowing what they talked about could have been dangerous.

“Nothing special,” she replied without hesitation. “Just the usual Grant Ward gloating bullshit. Wanted to make sure I knew he was still alive, out there, somewhere.” Not entirely a lie. Even if it had been, she had learned to lie from the best. Even Natasha couldn’t always break her poker face.

“That sounds like him,” Coulson replied with a sigh. “I’m sorry he bothered you. Hopefully, this is the last time he bothers any of us.” Asia couldnt help but agree. If they never saw him again, she wouldn’t be any worse for the wear.

“It’s okay,” she shrugged. “He doesn’t get under my skin anymore. Just another asshole in a world full of them, ya know? Doesn’t make him any more special that any of the others.” She glanced over her shoulder where her friends stood, watching Jemma draw blood from Lincoln’s pale arm. “I’m going to go back over to them,” she nodded towards the others. “Skye could use a friend right now.”

Coulson nodded, giving her a small smile, studying the agent as she walked away, joining the others, resting her head on Skye’s shoulder, the two girls linking hands. Even though circumstances were not the best, seeing his team back together made him feel better than he had in days.

————————————————————————————————————

Asia and Skye sat side by side in a small, glass room, Lincoln in front of them, lying in a hospital bed, various monitors hooked up and monitoring his vitals closely. He had yet to show any signs of change since they had arrived. Yet, Asia felt very confident that Jemma knew what she was doing. Lincoln would be okay. He had to be, Asia wasn’t sure Skye would make it if he wasn’t.

“So you met him at the place you went?” Asia asked quietly, head still resting on Skye’s shoulder. She knew the answer already, but figured Skye talking about a good, happy time might make her feel better.

“In Afterlife, yea,” Skye nodded. “He was kind of like...a teacher. He helped me completely transition. Helped me really understand what I can do. And he was a friend.” She sighed, staring at the bed. “If he doesn’t get better, it’s going to be my fault.”

“Skye...” Asia day up, looking her friend in the eyes. “We both know that’s not true. And I’m the queen of taking blame for everything. You don’t need this on your shoulders. Also, he’s going to be fine. You know Jemma is the best of the best.” She looked over at the blonde man, wishing her words to take reality.

It had been a few days since they had made it back to the Playground. And they had been difficult days. The Avengers were out, fighting Hydra and a robotic monstrosity called Ultron. Asia had spent most days in constant periods of stress, hoping she wouldn’t hear word of Nat or Clint being taken down. Clint had already been hurt in a battle earlier that week, leaving Asia a disheveled mess when Nat sent her the message. He had been fine, of course. The team saw to that. But it scared her nonetheless.

And the tensions around the base were constantly rising. Asia knew they were being watched almost constantly by Gonzalez and his men. She was pretty damn sure they were afraid of her, though it felt odd that they didn’t mind her before she had powers. Her ability to hurt others hadn’t been affected, just changed in how she could do it. It wasn’t like she hadn’t been a trained assassin these past few years and suddenly now was. She had always be someone you shouldn’t mess with.

She didn’t like their constant watching. Clearly, she and Skye weren’t trusted. It didn’t help that things with Jemma were still weird either. At least Hunter was getting better now. Little victories, that was what she kept her thoughts on.

“Was Afterlife nice?” She asked Skye after a moment of comfortable silence. “I want to hear all about it. About the other...Inhumans who were there.” It was weird having a label for it now. What she was. Who she had become.

“It was great, Asia, really,” Skye replied with a slight smile. “There’s so many more of us than I could have imagined. And the leader of them....she’s my mom.” She looked over at Asia, a grin quirking up the corner of her lips.

“You’re joking!” Asia smiled back, squeezing her friend’s hand. “Skye, that’s amazing. Your mom. Wow...you know, stuff like this makes it feel like going in that tunnel was really a twist of fate. Even though it still feels like a curse some times.” She sighed, shaking her head. “Every time I feel like I have my powers under control, something happens to remind me that I don’t.”

“You should come with, next time. When I go back,” Skye suggested immediately. “They could teach you. How to have complete control. And you wouldn’t have to stay forever, just for a while. It’s not a prison or anything. Gordon, the teleporter, could bring you back here any time.”

Asia thought about it for a moment. The chance to understand who she really was right at her fingertips. The opportunity to really, truly learn. It would be foolish to turn down such an opportunity, to throw away the chance to understand herself once again. “Okay,” she said finally, after a brief moment of thinking. “I’ll do it.”

Chapter Text

The world still stands, shaken by the events of Sokovia. As this small country begins the long journey to return their home to its natural state, how will the world react? The woman on TV finished her newscast with the somber question.

Asia stood silently, watching the TV from inside the Lab, the world around her disappearing as she focused on nothing but screen, finger pressed to her lips as she bit nervously at a loose cuticle.

Outside the Lab, Gonzalez and his men passed by, heading towards Coulson’s office. Asia could feel their eyes on her. They had been watching her closely, but more so ever since the incident in Sokovia. Powered people had been involved, and that didn’t make them trust her any more. If anything, now, rather than distrust, they seemed afraid. Afraid that she might pull their base up at its roots (even though that was more Skye's domain that Asia's). She refused to give them the dignity of glancing back their way. She refused to let them have that power over her.

Suddenly, Leo came up beside her, wresting his hand on her shoulder. She reached her own hand up, threading her fingers through his, leaning her cheek against him. "Doing okay?" He asked her softly, looking up at the screen. "Can't be easy. I know...your old team was there." He was fairly certain she hadn't heard anything about where Clint and Natasha might be. He was also incredibly certain that, while she looked great on the outside, that this had her in stitches inwardly. Frankly, he was proud the whole place wasn't thirty below zero right now. It showed how much work she truly had been putting into this, the practicing thing.

"I'll be alright, once I know they're alright," she said with a shake of her head. She was certain they would reach out to her soon enough. They were probably still recovering, themselves. Clint had almost gotten killed, reports had said. A kid, someone probably her own age or maybe younger, had sacrificed himself to keep Clint alive. People had gotten hurt. People had died. The events that had happened in Sokovia...not only did they put Shield back on the radar, but they were also bound to change the way the world treated powered individuals forever.

"If there's anything I can do, anything at all," he started to reply, when the lights above them began to flicker on and off rapidly. Turning around, Asia looked into the room where Lincoln was lying in his cot. Skye was beside him, holding onto his hand, and he looked...awake. Actually awake. And a little pissed, a little scared. But awake. "Look," she said to Leo, nodding towards the glass room. "He's awake," her voice came out almost as a whisper, catching in her throat. Subconsciously, she started walking towards the room, standing in the doorway, looking in at her friend and the blonde.

Seeing her shadow, Skye looked up, a smile on her lips for the first time in days. "Asia, come in, come in. Lincoln, this is Asia, she's the one I told you about. She went through the transition with me." Lincoln was looking up at her with piercing blue eyes, studying her closely, almost as if he didn't believe it, that a Shield agent could be like him.

Cautiously, Asia stepped away from Leo and into the room, holding out her hand to shake as he propped himself up in the bed. As he took her hand, a shock of electrical current raced up her arm and back, surprising her for a moment. In response, she sent want she hoped felt like a pulse of cold back his way. He looked down at her hand and then back up, the tiniest grin on his face.

"So she wasn't kidding about the ice powers," he said, shaking her hand finally, firmly, with much more strength than it looked like he had. "Wonder if there's more to it than that."

"Word on the street is you're the one to talk to about that," she grinned back in response. Skye has told her a bit about how he had aided in her transition. Admittedly, a part of her was hoping he could do the same for her. How was one supposed to casually ask that? Hey, you seem cool please help me learn to control me freaky powers? It made her feel all kinds of awkward.

“Well, I can probably help you out, once I know more about you. If you want,” he offered with a grin, letting out a small cough. “If you help me get the hell out of here that is. No offense, but Shield doesn’t have the best track record with our people.”

“So I’ve heard,” Asia replied with a nod. “Skye, um, invited me to come with you guys for a while, as long as everyone is cool with that.” She shrugged sheepishly.

“We welcome all of our kind there,” Lincoln replied. “We want to help everyone learn and understand. Plus, it’s nice having people my age around.”

And that, apparently, was that. She was going to go with, whenever Lincoln was well enough to leave, to move on his own again. And whenever the indexing was done. She didn’t say it, but wondered if he knew, if he was thinking the same thing. If he even knew and understood what The Index was.

And then there was the whole matter of telling everyone else. Of telling Leo. And there was that annoying little devil in the back of her head, jealousy and anxiety, worrying of what might happen between him and Jemma if she left. As far as she knew, Jemma hadn’t mentioned anything along the lines of what she had said to Asia. But maybe Leo wouldn’t even tell her if she did. The whole thing was just one giant mess.

So she set about it that she had to tell him. Of course she did. She couldn't just up and leave, not again. She had gone that route before, and as easy as it was, she knew it wasn't right. She knew that it was the cowards way out, hiding and keeping secrets, not assessing her emotions. It wasn't fair to him, and it wasn't fair to her either. They both deserved better than that.

She didn't want to wait too long, but she also wanted to do it alone. Just the two of them, together, sharing a moment. So she waited until they got into bed together, when she climbed beneath the sheets after discarding her pants and pulling on his soft grey jumper, wrapping the blankets over her shoulders and pulling her knees up to her chest, looking over at him as he set his alarm clock, brushing a hand through his sandy hair.

When he looked back over at her, he cocked his head, surprised. "Do I have something on my face?" He asked, immediately his hands raising up to wipe at his chin self-consciously. Why else would she be staring so intensely?

"No," She smirked, almost sadly, looking down at her hands and then back up at him. "I need to talk to you about something," she lead casually. His heart instantly sunk. That wasn't good. That was never good. Those were words that ended relationships. It had happened to him before. And that had just been a college relationship. With Asia...Asia was different. He could lose her, not again.

"What, uh, what is it?" He asked in a shaky voice, trying to keep himself as calm as possible. Seeing the way his nerves instantly rose made Asia want to quell her thoughts and words, shove them back down her throat and never speak of anything that might hurt his feelings ever, ever again. She took his hand in hers, pressing her lips delicately to his fingertips, hoping she radiated nothing but love.

"It's nothing bad," she said, pulling her lips away from the pad of his forefinger. "I promise," she kept her grip on his hand, though, threading her fingers through his, looking down at the way their hands fit so perfectly. Like puzzle pieces, meant to stick together. She couldn't imagine her hands fitting with someone else's half as nicely. "I just wanted to tell you, before I do it. I'm going to Afterlife, with Skye and Lincoln. Not for good. Just to see it....to see the people I came from. To maybe learn a little bit more about my powers..." she trailed off, wincing. Unsure of what else to say, how to make it sound less bad.

He was staring at her, just staring. She could see the slight glint to his eyes. "I'm coming back, I promise. You won't even realize I'm gone, it'll be that quick," she smiled softly, squeezing his hand. "I'll never be gone forever, Leo."

He looked back at her, his lower lip shaking just ever so slightly. "But...what if you don't?" He asked, so quiet he wasn't entirely sure if he spoke the words, or simply thought them.

"Leo, I'll always come back to you," she took his hand, pressing it to her cheek, leaning into the warmth of his open palm. "Always." She looked him in the eyes, begging him without words for him to understand she meant this. She needed to go, needed to learn more about who she was, where she came from. How she wound up where she was today. And she needed to go to Afterlife to complete that.

"How do I know?" He whispered, his voice still shaking. He wasn't going to cry, not now. He wouldn't let himself do that, not now. He didn't want to seem weak.

She took a deep breath, grabbing onto his wrist, pulling him closer to her until they were only millimeters away. She took a deep breath then whispered, "Let me show you."

Chapter Text

"Let me show you," she had whispered, and those were the last coherent words she remembered speaking before their lips were on each other, hot and soft and begging to never be parted. She felt like her skin was so cold that it burned, as his hand grabbed at her thigh, pulling her into his lap, practically tearing the sweater she was wearing over her head, revealing her bare chest, goosebumps rippling over her skin, her nipples hard both from the cold, and from her arousal. His eyes locked on hers and she nodded, leaning forward, her forehead pressing against his. She no longer felt embarrassed by the scars on her skin, not in front of Leo. He never once looked at her with anything but love and lust.

Right now, both were burning in his eyes as his left hand gripped tightly on her thigh, pulling her hips closer to his own, where she could feel the hard length of his erection pressing against her panties, begging for entrance between her thighs. She let out a small moan as the tip of his length brushed against the fabric covering her clit, the sensation rippling through her like a wave.

Leo leaned down, his lips finding her neck, teeth grazing her skin ever so lightly, his free hand that wasn't supporting her finding its way up to her breast, cupping it, squeezing, his thumb brushing over the nipple, causing her body to wriggle with surprise at the sudden contact, and she could feel his smile against the crook of her neck as his tongue drew intertwined circles over her bare skin, kissing down her clavicle as she threw her head back, fingers twisting through his curls as his lips captured her hard nipple, tongue twirling around the small, pink mountain. Her hips ground against his, begging him for more. More touch, more taste, more of him.

He looked up from where his head lay, nestled in her breasts, a ravenous look in his eyes as his hand trailed down lower, lower still, his thumb brushing over the front of her black, lace panties, a grin spreading over his lips. "You're so wet for me, Asia, so wet already," he gently leaned her backwards, sliding her off of his hips and onto the bed below, resting her head against their pillows. Then, his fingers hooked over the waistband of the lace, tugging her panties down, slowly curving them around the edge of her ankles and tossing them to the floor. "Much better," he whispered, his fingertips glazing up her inner thigh, causing her to shiver with anticipation.

He slowly climbed over her body, his hand running up her side as he did so, until he was holding her cheek. Looking down at her, he smiled softly, before leaning in, their lips colliding once more, hungrily, needingly. She bit at his lower lip, pulling him closer towards her, tongue slipping into his mouth, bringing cool air with it. As she did so, one of her hands wound its way down his chest, slipping over his bare skin, over his abs, down to the edge of his boxers, running her hand over his hard cock, slowly massaging him over the thin layer of clothing, causing him to groan out against her lips. Slowly, she slipped her hand beneath the waistband, skin on skin, causing him to inhale sharply.

But two could play at that game, and Leo really was quite good with his hands. He danced his own fingertips down her bare torso, drawing patterns as he went, until his reached the warm space between her thighs. He could feel her breath catch in her throat as his thumb grazed just ever so slightly over her clit. He pulled away from the kiss, licking his lips and looking down at her, squirming under his touch, begging him for more without saying the words; her eyes said enough for her. "Ahhh, right there feels good, doesn't it, love?" He whispered, as he ran two fingers over her sweet spot once more, causing her back to arch, hips lifting towards him, begging him for more, more, more.

He pushed her hips back down, shaking his head. "No, there will be none of that. I'm in control now, aren't I?" She nodded up at him, eyes wide, biting her lower lip. God, when she gave him that look....it was his undoing every time. "Let me take care of you, darling," he leaned down, whispering in her ear, his teeth lightly clamping down on her earlobe at the same time that he gently inserted two fingers into her, causing her to cry out in pleasure and surprise. He loved the way she enjoyed it, enjoyed him. If he could spend every minute of his day making her feel this good, he would do it.

She looked up at him, with this begging, pleading look in her eyes. "Please," she barely managed to whisper, the word getting caught halfway in her throat. And that word was his undoing. He balanced himself over her, unable to resist, unable to not give her what she wanted. What they both wanted. He wanted nothing more than to be as close to her as possible. Gently, slowly, his inserted his cock into her, letting himself fall closer towards her, his lips meeting hers again as he thrust gently, deeply into her, filling her completely, her nails drawing over his back in ecstasy.

Their bodies moved as one together, senses becoming heightened, the pace of Leo's thrusting matching the bucking of her hips upwards as they couldn't get close enough to each other, their speed increasing as both got closer and closer to climax. Asia pulled him closer to her, as close as possible. For some, maybe, sex was just a thing. Something human bodies were made to do and keep doing. But for Asia, it was so much more. It was letting someone in, letting someone understand her completely, allowing complete and total vulnerability.

They reached their peak together, both falling endlessly through the ecstasy they experienced in complete synchronization. It was perfect, gentle, and completely full of love, endless endless amounts of love. Leo looked down at her, brushing back a curl of her brown hair, kissing her forehead, her nose, her lips. "I love you, Asia Monroe," he whispered, thumb rushing over her cheek. "More than anything or anyone I've ever known. Don't be gone for long," he smiled softly at her. He knew she wouldn't be, he knew, really, behind all the nerves and worry, that she never would leave him. She would always come back to where they could be right next to one another.

After a moment of softness, gentle kisses and soft caresses, the two took a shower together, laughing and splashing one another with water, before putting on their warm, fuzzy pajamas and climbing back into the bed they shared. Leo wrapped his arm around her waist, pulling her securely to his side. She felt safest, curled up with him like this. Like nothing could ever touch the two of them, safely hidden away, in their little cocoon of blankets.