Three months ago
The room was dark, grainy, with a little bit of sunlight filtering in, barely making an impression through the amount of dust, filtering and dancing through the air. Asia Monroe, Agent of Shield, lay on the thin cot beneath her for a moment, unmoving, simply taking in her surroundings. She didn't want anyone to know she was awake yet, not until she figured out where she was and why she was here. And why the fuck her head hurt so badly. She closed her eyes for a moment, taking in the pain, and the musty scents of dust, and trying to feel for anything at all, anything familiar. She stretched her senses out, feeling for any bit of water, the water that composed a human body, that she could.
Before she even got the chance to do so, a door creaked slowly open. Asia forced herself to take slow, measured breaths, not wanting to give away that she had woken up quite yet. Not that she would even get the chance. "So, you're awake," a familiar, deep voice spoke, a weight touching the edge of the bed as a man sat down. "How's your head? They had you pretty messed up in there."
The brunette slowly opened her eyes, the jig was up anyways, to see Clint Barton, wearing all black, sitting at the foot of her bed. "Clint? What are you doing..here? Where is here, by the way?" She asked all at once, trying to prop herself up, but a blazing pain raced through her head before she could do so.
"Ehh, you probably shouldn't try and do that just yet. You're going to be pretty out of it for a bit. What do you remember?" Clint asked her, brow furrowing as he looked down at her.
Asia tried to think about it, tried to remember where she was, what she had been doing. Why was she out with Clint? Where was Nat? Where was the rest of her usual team? Thoughts, inklings of them, started to slowly drift into her mind. They had been on a mission for....something? Whenever she tried to think about that it was like someone had cut the footage, there was nothing but empty black. "Mmm....Coulson sent us...you and me and Natasha out here, for, uh, for something?" She said, trying once more to sit up, rubbing at her left eye with the heel of her palm. "We're in Eastern Europe, I think? I guess it's hard to tell from in here but I'm....pretty sure that's where we were. Where are we?"
"A little place called Hell. And, you've got that much right," Clint grinned, adjusting the curtain to let a little more light in for her, "Looks like the Red Room didn't fuck with your mind too badly. Shame, now I'll still have to deal with your annoying jokes," his words were teasing, but there was still that intense look of studying her, making sure she was okay.
"The Red Room?" Asia asked groggily, the words causing her brain to ache when she tried to think about it. "What...what was I doing there? What were we doing?"
"Deep undercover, Monroe. You were pretending to be their latest initiate. Was going great, till they clearly caught wind of what we were doing," Clint sighed, shaking his head. "I should have done something more. Something...." he looked like he wanted to punch something. "They had started a basic mind-wipe on you. Thankfully, I got there in time. You should, hopefully, be back in tip top shape shortly."
"What about Nat? Where is she? Is she okay?" Asia asked, finally managing to sit all of the way upright. If she was hurt, Nat should be here. She always was.
"Calm down, kiddo, she's fine," Clint said, standing up and placing a pillow behind Asia's back. "She's just doing a little bit of...clean up. Eliminating the rest of the Room's operatives who were there, getting the kids out safely. She'll be back soon, I'm sure. Until then...want some soup or something?"
On queue, her stomach growled. "Yes, please," Asia muttered, her head still pounding. What else had she forgotten? She didn't like the idea of being unmade. Hazily, she reached for the phone on the wooden table beside her cot, looking at the time. 17:39. The man on the background of her screen, she knew him instantly. Leo Fitz. At least she hadn't forgotten the people who mattered. At least it was just the details of this mission.
But, unfortunately, she did remember the familiar ache of her screen, empty of all messages. He hadn't reached out to her, not once, not to make sure she was okay, to make sure he was alive. He had been far too busy as of late, too busy for her, too busy for anyone. He spent all day, every day, in the Lab, in the basement, in the Library, trying to find any sort of hint as to what happened to Jemma Simmons. And his leads were starting to run dry, just like their relationship was starting to run dry.
It felt like he hardly paid her time of day anymore. They hadn't had sex in weeks, and he barely kissed her ever. She got it, he was busy, dedicated, wanting to make sure that their teammate got home alive. But she couldn't shake the feeling it had something to do with the grand confession of her emotions that Jemma had made to Leo literally days before her disappearance.
And she understood it, she did, she really really did. The desire to save a friend. She got that. She felt it too. Of course, she wanted Jemma back. But did she have to lose him along with it? That hurt more than her fucking head did right now. She looked over at Clint, her friend, her partner, her mentor. He seemed to have a fine relationship with Harper, even when he was gone for a long time. How could he make it so easy?
The shirtless man, the assassin turned Avenger turned part-time Avenger turned dad, gave her one last grin, before disappearing out the door he had come through, presumably off to make the soup. God, she wanted food. And she wanted to sleep, more. Her body begged for it. She let the phone drop back to the table, pretty damn sure she wouldn't be getting any messages on it any time soon.
She would sleep, she would eat, and then they could fly back to base and give a debrief to Coulson, if he was around and not too busy. And she was sure Daisy would want to see her. They had been up to their ears in work lately, with the Terrigen getting out into the ecosystem, causing an influx of people to turn Inhuman. They were pretty sure it had to do with the crystals dropped into the ocean, and somehow being consumed by fish. Most of the people who had turned had been taking Fish Oil pills, so it seemed like a likely answer. Too bad their best scientists were otherwise occupied.
As she leaned back down to let herself sleep, she found that the desire to rest was gone. Of course. Her mind was moving far too much now. Slowly, she swung her legs one by one over the edge of the bed. She wanted her ice bath. Back at HQ, she had started using an ice bath to absorb and heal her wounds. It also made her feel stronger, much stronger. She had found that, just as her body was able to control water, it was also able to make a space underneath the water for her to breath, separate the water from the oxygen. Sometimes, she even slept in there. She looked down at her arms, covered in green sleeves, and slowly rolled them up, revealing the bruises beneath. Yea, she could use an ice bath right about now.
Cautiously, she stumbled out of the makeshift bedroom and into the equally dimly lit hall of whatever shack they had rented for this mission. The cement floor was cool and clammy against her bare feet. She could hear the sound of water boiling on a stove just a door away, feel it bubbling if she tried hard enough, smell the soup in the pot, smell tea that Clint was making. She pushed into the kitchen, wincing at the bright light coming from the bulb above.
"God, whatever the hell they did feels like a hangover times a thousand," she groaned, dropping herself into one of the wooden kitchen chairs, feeling it groan beneath her weight. "Soup almost ready? I could kill for food right now."
"Funny part is, I'm pretty sure you would kill for food," Clint joked. "About two more minutes, so just hold your horses. Nat will be back soon, and then we can all fly home."
The two minutes went by quickly, and, in silence, the two Shield agents slurped their meal, waiting for their third member to arrive back safely.
And she did, safely and silently, which was quite a Natasha thing to do. They hadn't even heard her enter until she spoke. "What, ate all the good food without me while I'm out there cleaning up after you two?" Her tone was teasing, lighthearted. The redhead was still wearing her black suit when she walked into the kitchen, hugging Asia tightly from behind. "I'm glad they didn't hurt you too badly. Next time, I won't let them lay a finger on you." She said seriously, and Asia believed it. There were few people Natasha hated more in the world than the Red Room and their operatives.
"It's okay, it was worth it," Asia shrugged in reply. "If we were able to shut down one of their locations, then it was all worth it. Did you get the kids out?"
"Yea, to a Shield monitored orphanage," Natasha replied, setting her guns down onto the counter and pouring herself her own bowl of soup. "It may not be the best life, for now, but it's a hell of a lot better than what would have happened to them there. Plus, I talked to Tony and he's going to make a donation, help spruce things up a bit." She shoveled the soup into her mouth, and Asia took this as a sign that she didn't really want to talk about it anymore. The brunette nodded, going back to eating her own food.
"Well, now that we're all here and the jobs done, what do you guys say? Shall we blow this lame excuse for a Popsicle stand?" Clint asked, putting his bowl in the sink and rinsing it for a moment.
Nat and Asia looked at each other, before looking back at Clint and both nodding enthusiastically.
"That's what I thought," Clint grinned. "Plus, I'm sure Monroe here is excited to see that boy whose waiting for her back at base," Clint winked at her, causing Asia to roll her eyes and plaster a smile to her face. As good as spies as the two were, Asia had gotten pretty good at lying to both of them, at least when it came to her feelings. Yea, she was excited to sleep in her own bed. But she was pretty sure no one was there waiting for her.
"We've got another, Asia, time to wake up," The speakers inside her tub blasted Daisy's voice around her, as her friend knocked on the tank above her. Asia opened her eyes from beneath the watery surface, chunks of ice floating around her, keeping the water cold and her body colder.There was a slight twinge of annoyance she felt at first, being woken from slumber, but she also knew she had work to do. Sighing, bubbles bursting out around her beneath the surface, she rolled to the right, tapping twice on a small green button on the side of the large, white, submersible tub. With a hiss and a waft of steam, the lid of the tub retracted, allowing Asia to sit up, keeping most of her body beneath water while Daisy handed her a robe, turning away and allowing Asia to climb out of the water and wrap her bare body in the plush, white robe, drying herself off.
"Good morning, sunshine," Daisy greeted with an eyeroll, tucking a strand of her short, cropped hair behind her ear. The cut had happened sometime after her father had left, while Asia was out with Strike Team Delta. It looked good on her. "How was your bath?"
"Good, as always," Asia rolled her eyes, padding over to a closet on the side of the Zephyr, the replacement for the Bus. She pulled it open, revealing several copies of Asia's standard uniform, a black, tight jumpsuit, almost like Natasha's, with veins of blue light blue running over it, providing a constant flow over water over her body. With Daisy's head still turned, Asia dropped the robe and pulled on her underwear, then the specially designed suit. "What's on the table today?"
"Well, it's been all over the news, so that's why we were called in. Some guy causing a disruption downtown, though it doesn't look like its intentional," Daisy explained, clicking on a TV screen for her to see. Downtown Seattle, or so she thought, with helicopters searching the roads. There was smoke rising out of the streets. “Hope you’re feeling juiced up,” Daisy nodded at the screen. “We’re about to touch down. Mack and Hunter will join us.”
Asia stretched her arms above her head, then reached down and touched her toes, before straightening to look up at Daisy. “You know I’m always ready to save another one of us, especially a newbie.” She remembered what it was like to be in that position, and she often thought about how nice it would have been to have someone there who knew how to get through it.
“Good,” Daisy looked over at her friend, at that slightly lost look in her eyes. She wasn’t sure if it was something about the baths that made her so tired, or if it was the whole Leo/Jemma situation (though she had a feeling it was the latter of the two).
“I’m gonna go check on Hunter,” Asia said with a sigh, heading towards the cockpit where she knew the other agent would be, bringing them down for a light landing before swapping out with another agent to take over flying.As she had expected, Hunter was sitting there, staring out at the city in front of them as their cloaking kicked in. There was an absentminded look on his face.
"What's got you bothered today?" Asia asked, flopping herself down on the co-pilot's seat beside her friend, gazing over at him. She had spent enough time with Hunter these past few months that she could read him without issue. 'Like a book,' Natasha would say.
"Nothing more than the usual, love," Hunter replied, his gaze flicking over to her suit for a moment. By the usual, he meant what always seemed to be bothering him, being an adult in his low thirties living the single life, flying another plane on another day to go help another person. He meant the monotony of his life, a thing she understood. And, he meant the loneliness. "What about you, Ice Queen? Noticed you've been soaking in your ice bucket an awful lot recently." He was right, she had been.
She sighed, shaking her head, looking out the side window for a moment. "You noticed that, didn't you? How very spy-like," she quipped right back, flashing him a small smile. "Just the usual for me too, love" she teased, using his own words back to him. He looked at her, nodding, fully understanding everything she was thinking and feeling.
"Well, your soapbox time is running short, Monroe, we're about to touch down," Hunter teased right back, slowly lowering them down towards their touchdown spot.
"I'm not on a soapbox," Asia rolled her eyes, climbing out of the seat, but giving Hunter a quick hug around the shoulders from behind. "I was here to check on you, obviously."
"Yea, yea, yea," Hunter rolled his eyes as she started to wake away. "Oi, love!" he called out back over his shoulder before she completely disappeared. "I know how shit this can all be. If you ever need someone to scratch that itch, you come find me." He flashed her a wink, laughing. Asia shook her head and walked off, back to find Daisy and get strapped in. It was work time.
"Think that Black Ops team is here again, already?" Asia asked as they stepped out of the Quinnjet that had detached from , Hunter and Mack strapping into their bullet proof vests.
"They've gotten the jump on us every other time," Daisy sighed, shaking her hair out, looking off down the street. "Don't see why this time would be any different." The frustration that laced her voice was apparent, straining behind her words. The difficulty of their task was starting to wear on her, unsurprisingly so.
"As long as we get there first, that's all that matters," Asia looked at her friend, reaching out and grabbing her hand to squeeze it. The two women smiled at each other, then dropped hands, marching down the street, past the stopped cars and the police lines.
"They're cornering him down that alley!" Hunter shouted, pointing up the street towards a group of men in all black, heavily clad in protective gear and carrying assault rifles. They were slowly stepping towards an alley, guns raised.
Asia and Daisy looked at each other, and without a second thought, they ran forward, hands up. As Asia shoved her palms out and forward, a huge wave of water gushed out from her, powering down the roadway, filling up the entire width of the road, from building to building. The wave took out two of the men at the waist. Daisy shot out individual shots of quakes towards the other two, sending them flying backwards. Teamwork at it's finest, they easily eliminated the threat in the situation. That was the one nice thing about facing these Black Ops guys, whoever they were. No powers, nothing but men with guns who always underestimated two women with no guns at all. It always worked in their favor, and they kept making the same mistake over and over again.
Looking at one another once more, they jogged towards the alley way, Mack and Hunter following closely. Mack stopped at the entrance to the alley, setting down a silver tube that immediately began to produce smoke out both ends, concealing them behind a wall of white and grey. Hunter jogged past all of them, even past the new Inhuman man, who was cowering behind some wooden pallets, scared, staring at Asia and Daisy in both fear and awe. As Hunter moved past, he set a small disk with a red button in the center on the ground, pressing the button. "You're gonna want to step out of the way mate," he said to the man.
"Hey, hey, what's your name?" Daisy asked calmly, holding up a hand to show they came peacefully, trying to urge the man out from behind the pallets.
"It's, uh, Joey. Joey Gutierrez," The man managed to stutter out, looking back and forth between the two women, unsure of how to proceed. Who were these people? What was happening to him? Could these people helped him? They sure seemed like the better option over the guys with the guns who had been screaming at him.
"Joey, it's great to meet you," Asia offered him a smooth smile, "We're from Shield, and we're here to help," she explained, trying to make it make as much sense as possible.
"We're here for your protection," Daisy continued on, nodding along with what they were saying.
Suddenly, Mack backed into the alley, pistol raised. "There's more coming, guys. First unit is down, you two got the message across pretty quick. But that won't stop them for long."
The panic in Joey's eyes flooded back, as he looked at Mack, then back over his shoulders at Hunter, then back towards Daisy and Asia, his breath starting to come rapidly.
"Hey, Joey, Joey," Daisy said, trying to gain the man's complete attention back. "Stay with me. I know you're scared, I know there's a lot going on right now, but we're here to help. We're the only ones who can help you, but you have to let us help you." She had gotten rather good at the speech, she used it pretty often in these situations.
"We've been through this, both of us," Asia nodded, smiling over at Daisy for a moment before maintaining eye contact with Joey. "It might seem like your entire world has turned upside down, and it will. It makes sense that it does. But we got through this, and you will, too." She tried to use her most calm and even voice possible, keeping a steady, what she hoped was comforting gaze.
"You two...you..you were the ones, the ones who made, made the car and those...those men!" Joey pointed out at the street, putting the pieces together. These women were strong, scary strong. The kind of strong that could force him to do whatever they wanted him to.
Suddenly, before anyone else could speak, a small, square, white room shot down out of the sky, from the Zephyr waiting high above. The small room was specially designed by Shield scientists for each Inhuman, able to tailor towards their unique powers until they were able to learn and control them. It rocketed down, then slowed when it neared the ground, touching down as the doors hissed open.
"Alright, Joey, time to go," Asia said, placing a hand on his back and leading him towards the white box. She could feel his apprehension over the whole thing and her gaze flicked back to Daisy for a moment. She was ready to force him in, if she had to, though that usually made things more difficult for the two of them later.
"Alright Joey, I know this is a lot, but right now you have little time and even fewer options," Daisy said, coming to Asia's other side to help escort Joey along. "Please, just go with it," she said as they gave him a bit of a push into the cube, the doors sliding shut.
"We'll be right there with you," Hunter nodded at the man through the glass, flashing that classic Hunter grin. As soon as he finished speaking, the rockets beneath the cube lit up, propelling the box, with Joey inside, back up into the sky.
After it was out of sight, the four agents ducked out of the alley through the smoke, back over to their camouflaged Quinnjet, all piling inside. Once the ramp was sealed and Hunter and Asia were up in the front, they took flight, cruising along beside the box, using comms to let Joey know they were still there for him, still around. It felt good to say that. It felt good to have won.
The flight back to the base went quickly when Asia spent all her time buried under a sheet of icy water. It was nice, meditative. A good way to prep her for the inevitable return to base. The inevitable sadness that would fill her up to the brim when she entered her room and found it absolutely devoid of the man who was supposed to be her partner.
It wasn't a rare sight for Asia to wake up alone these days. Whether Leo just didn't sleep, or if he fell asleep in the Lab studying something, or if he wasn't even at base, her certainly wasn't in their bed. She went to bed cold, woke up colder. It was frustrating, draining. She didn't even really known if they were still together or not. There was no clarification, no hints. She didn't really know how to interpret this whole thing. She had never been in a situation like this one before (and presumably, most people hadn't, so she had no one to talk to, either).
It made her want to lay inside her tub forever until maybe he noticed that she, too, was struggling. She didn't want him to give up the cause, no, because she understood the importance of bringing Jemma home. But she also wanted him to realize she needed something from him, whether or not it was love or it was a definitive answer. That was all she wanted. An answer. Did he still love her? Were they still a they? Or did he realize that what Jemma had said to him before she was swallowed up, that she had feelings for him, did he realize he felt the same? Those were the questions that pounded around inside her skull incessantly.
But that didn't mean she could just stop working. When they arrived back to the base, she climbed out of her tub, dried herself off, and put on a green tank top and tight, form fitting black pants. She slipped into a pair of high-heeled sneakers and combed her hair into a wavy ponytail. She had to go meet Daisy and Mack, and together they would all go interview Joey. Help break the news. This was always the hardest part, telling someone there old life was gone.
Asia understood that feeling quite well, even if her life was ripped away from her at a much younger age. She understood having to completely rebuild, even as you rebuilt through the pain. She understood what it felt like most of all, to shove all that pain away, bury it back in the depths of your brain. So she got it, she understood the looks in the eyes of the new Inhumans when they were told they couldn't go back. Perhaps she wasn't the best at displaying her empathy, but she was trying. It was hard, so hard for her to be empathetic when, if she were to let her walls down, all of the sadness and hurt building up inside would come pouring out.
So she blocked it in, just as she always did, walking briskly down the halls towards the elevator, glancing into the Lab as she passed by. No Leo Fitz in sight, just a bunch of Lab Techs, and Bobbi, wearing a long, white lab coat and glasses. The woman glanced up as Asia passed, her lips pressing into a thing line. Asia gave her a nod, like she always did, letting Bobbi know that she knew. She knew that the other agent was covering up for Leo's mysterious disappearances, coming up with an excuse here for there for why he wasn't here, why he wasn't home. And Bobbi knew that Asia disliked her for it.
But Asia didn't have time for anything more than a simple nod. After all, she did actually have work to do. She hopped into the elevator and pressed the button for the lower basement levels, where they had constructed the containment rooms. Each room, white as bleach, was designed to be adapted to an individual Inhuman's powers, and keep them contained within the room. The room weren't all that bad, honestly. Sure, they were pretty bland, but they had TVs, a pretty spacious, comfortable bed, a wall that would turn into an image of somewhere else so you could pretend you were on a nice, little retreat. All in all, much better than where those other guys, the black ops elite folks, would probably put you. So overall, where Joey was being kept? Could be a lot worse.
When the doors to the basement slid open, Mack and Daisy were already waiting there, Mack holding a clipboard, Daisy changed out of her suit and into a black tanktop and black skinny jeans. Daisy offered her a smile, to which Asia nodded back.
"Come on, Frosty, put on a smile for the guy," Mack coaxed, using one of the many ice-themed nicknames he had given her (though Frosty seemed to be his favourite, followed closely behind by Elsa). Mack saw how hard she was taking the latest absence of the man Asia loved. He used to resent her for it, the way she had retreated from him, tried to allow him to be his own person. But after the year they had all spent together, he understood her better. The fear that she held clutched so tightly, the worry that everyone she cared for would inevitably leave or die. He could see the way it wore on her. He only wished there was something he could do to ease up the pain.
Asia sighed, looking down at the floor for a moment. When her head turned back up to face them, a freakishly-believable smile was plastered to her cheeks. "Alright guys, lets go make sure he feels welcome!" she quipped, before dropping the smile and her lips falling to a flat line. "Is that good enough for going through the door?"
Mack just stared at her for a moment, unsure of what to say.
"Yea, that's good enough," Daisy piped up, shaking her head, making the mental note that maybe Doctor Garner should pay an extra visit to her next time, make sure that she was doing okay. She knew her friend, and Asia was seriously being hit hard by the emotions recently. If she wouldn't talk about it with her, maybe therapy would have to do.
So it was time to do what they did. Mack hit a few buttons on the keypad outside the white door, and it slid open with a small his. Inside, Joey was sitting at the foot of the bed, staring down at his shoes. His head whirled up to look at them, eyes widening as a look of relief washed over his face for a moment. "You're here! I thought you had left...." he stood up, awkwardly taking a couple steps towards them.
"Hey Joey," Daisy smiled, strutting a little bit closer to him, nodding at Asia to move along side her. "Mind if we come in?" She elbowed Asia secretly, and the brunette smiled over at Joey as well. Nice and welcoming, that was the two of them.
"Well, you're in already," Joey shrugged, but a small hint of a smile crept across his lips.
Daisy smirked, "Yea, you're not wrong...Well, this is our partner, Mack," She gestured to the big man behind the two of them. Being around Mack honestly made Asia and Daisy look so tiny. "We just wanted to talk with you. Check in, see how you're doing."
"What, you're the muscle and they're the pretty welcoming party?" Joey asked Mack, raising an eyebrow at him in question, not entirely sure he believed how this situation was going.
"Trust me," Mack chuckled, shaking his head, "They're the muscle, much more than I could ever bring." He glanced over at Daisy and Asia with appreciation, causing an actual smile to slip over Asia's lips for a moment.
"So, how are you feeling?" Asia asked Joey, continuing the conversation forward, truly wanting to know the answer. He looked okay, right now, but he had also just been sitting in solitude for an hour or so. If that doesn't get someone calm, she wasn't sure what was. If Asia had been left in this room she'd probably have been meditating the entire time.
Joey sighed, clenching and unclenching his hands for a moment before looking up at Asia. "You want the real answer?" Asia nodded at him encouragingly. "Well, it feels a hell of a lot like I'm a stranger in my own body, who I hate. But I guess thanks for asking?" He shook his head. "It sucks."
"Well," Daisy sighed, "Like I got to briefly touch on before, this phenomenon is mostly -"
Joey cut her off, shaking his head, "Just lay it on me. I don't want any of this sugar coated stuff. The hard truth, I'm ready for it." He clasped his hands together, nodding at Daisy, then at Asia.
Asia and Daisy looked at each other, raising eyebrows. That usually wasn't how this conversation went down. Asia nodded at Daisy to continue on then. No way out other than through.
"Alright then, umm...There exists a small percentage of the global population with a dormant alien gene that has been mixed into their DNA for generations," Daisy explained very calmly, yet quickly.
"There is a chemical compound that activates this gene when the body is exposed to it," Asia continued off of her partner. "This compound, called Terrigen, was recently released into the ecosystem. It's completely harmless to those without the dormant gene, but to those with it, it gives them inhuman abilities."
Daisy nodded along with Asia, glad she was still able to share her portion of this speech, even though she was clearly feeling off. "And you, Joey, you are one of the first people with this gene, to come in contact with the Terrigen that has been released. That is what happened to you today."
"So...you're saying I'm an alien?" Joey asked, looking a little skeptical, not that either of them blamed him. It was a lot to take on, all at once.
"Well, part alien," Asia shrugged, "But yes, there is a part of you with alien genes. But you're not alone...." She took a deep breath, looking over at Daisy and smiling. Daisy reached over and squeezed her arm comfortingly. Asia turned back to Joey with a small grin, "We call ourselves Inhumans."
Joey didn't take that super well, but most people didn't. He burst into cackles of laughter, bending over at the knees. He had to sit on the edge of the bed again to keep himself from falling over. "Wow, you really had me going there for a second. Shit!" He laughed again, clapping his hands together. "That'll be a great drinking story, once I get back home. My friends are going to die over that one."
Mack sighed, stepping forward to try and make a voice of reason and get the man calm once more. "That's going to have to wait a little while longer."
"What does that mean?" Joey asked, looking back and forth between the three of them, eyebrows raising slowly, a shade of worry rather than calm slipping over his pallor.
"Well, we can't let you leave until we know you have your new powers completely under control," Daisy explained. "And even then...you have to get doctors clearance. We have to confirm that we agree your stability has prepared you for the real world."
"We have to know you won't be using them for fun, or by accident. Only when it's absolutely necessary," Mack explained, gesturing with the hand that held the clipboard of Joey's information on it. He had been taking notes before, but stopped.
Asia bit her lower lip, then said one of the most difficult things for the newest Inhumans to hear. "And even then, we can't let you go back to your life, Joey," She shook her head, giving him a sympathetic gaze, one that she truly felt. "It's not safe for you, or for those you care about. It's terrible, it is, but to keep others safe, you won't be able to go back."
"Wait, wait, wait," Joey shook his head, "What do you mean? What do you mean I can't go back? Ever? That's my life out there," He gesticulated wildly, standing back up. "And I can't go back?"
"Not any time soon, but maybe some day," Mack said, trying to soften the blow a little bit for him, knowing his words probably wouldn't change things wildly.
"The first step in the right direction is control," Daisy explained calmly, trying to be that tower of a calming presence, not let Joey's frustrations sneak through. "And then Shield will build you a new identity and we can get you back out there, just...not the old you."
"No!" Joey shouted, "I'm sorry, but no! I don't want that. I like...I like my old life! It has taken me so long to get to a place where I actually like myself, like who I am and what I do, to get to a life where I'm comfortable with who I am. I'm not about to let you just rip that away from me!" He was spiraling downward, rapidly. Asia's nerves were turning up to eleven, but she didn't try and let him see it. That certainly wouldn't help anything moving forward. Suddenly, Joey reached down and grabbed his tan jacket off the bed. "Honestly, you know what? I want to leave, right now. I want to get out of here, get back to what I was doing." He tried to step towards the door and Asia sidestepped, sliding to block the clear path to the entrance.
Mack reached over and hit a remote on the wall, turning on the TV behind them, turning up the volume so they could all hear the news playing in the background, talking about Joey, not naming him specifically. As Mack rotated through the channels, Joey froze, turning back to look at the footage, utter sadness falling over his face, utter defeat, as the various newscasters called him a terrorist, advised a manhunt was going on.
"The world has been a little...on edge, since Sokovia fell out of the sky, especially so when it comes to enhanced individuals," Daisy explained to him. "Right now, they're out there, looking through your apartment, talking to your family. We're the only place that's truly safe for you right now, and this is the path that will keep your family safe, too. And everyone around you, until you get your powers under control."
"No, no let me out of here," Joey continued to protest.
"Joey, you need to calm down," Asia shook her head, holding a hand out calmingly, to no effect.
"No, I want to get the hell out!" Joey shouted again, stepping towards Daisy, continuing to say "let me out," repeatedly.
"Joey, listen to me," Daisy tried again. "You're going to lose control if you don't calm down. You need to breathe."
Asia heard Mack wince in the background, whirling to see the metal clipboard in Mack's hand start to melt with heat. She shot her hand towards him, a bubble of water surrounding the clipboard and his hand, cooling the metal, preventing the burn on his palm from starting.
As she turned back around, Joey stepped towards Daisy, placing his hands on her shoulders, trying to get her to listen to him. "Let go of me!" Daisy shouted, forcefully shoving him off of her and then firing her arm out towards his chest, a jolt of vibrations rocketing him against the wall. Asia shot out her hand as well, a burst of water appearing behind his head to keep the blow from really fucking him up. His body slammed to the wall with a thud and fell to the ground, daggers of ice appearing around the floor, pointing at him menacingly. A form of protection, her automatic response to anyone hurting Daisy. Stop the threat, make her friends safe.
The three agents looked at one another for a moment, then down at the man who was unconscious on the floor. Maybe that hadn't gone exactly as they had planned.
Asia hit the mat with a hard thud, Hunter panting over her as he swept her knees out from beneath her. "Come on, Ice Queen, where's that fire today?" Hunter said, almost frustrated as he made a face from above her, rolling over to lay flat on the mat beside her. "Your heads not in the game." He was right, it wasn't. He was rarely, if ever, able to knock her out flat, much less in three minutes. Their battles were usually long and winding, lasting up to ten minutes a spar before either got the upper hand. Not today, today he had the upper hand the whole time. Today, Asia had been taking it hits that a rookie wouldn't collide with.
"You know me too well, Hunter," Asia replied with a sigh, staring up at the light bulb ran bolted into the brick ceiling above her. "I'm just not in it today. Leo is gone...who fucking knows where. Oh wait, your ex does but she's hiding everything from me. And our debrief with the new Inhuman went horribly."
She could feel Hunter looking at her for a moment, just staring, before he spoke. "We can go again and I'll let you punch me in the face a few times if it'll help."
Asia rolled her eyes, fighting a smile, before her watch beeped twice, pulling her out of her deep thoughts. Looking down, she read the message and hopped up to her feet. "As much fun as the sounds," she said, walking towards the door, "I've been called up to debrief alongside Daisy, so I gotta jet. Next time?"
"Any time you need, love," Hunter replied with a mock salute. She flashed him the rare hint of a smile and then she was gone, off down the hall to meet up with her team and speak with Coulson.
"There you are," Daisy greeted Asia, pulling her into a quick hug, which she did almost any time she saw the brunette. If anyone could use a hug these days, she figured it was Asia. "Coulson wants to know how the debrief with Joey went."
"Well, let's hope he didn't get his hopes up," Asia replied dryly, as she took her place on one side of the silver table beside Mack, leaving the other open for Coulson, Daisy standing at the head.
As if on cue, Coulson walked in from one of the various hallways that led to the debriefing space below his office, directly below the vent Asia used to sleep in almost nightly. "Well, looks like the gangs all here," he clapped his hands together, the one he was wearing on his left arm today was a dull, grey plastic. Distinctly not human in appearance, but it didn't look like he was trying to hide it. "Let's get this started."
Mack tapped a few buttons on his tablet, and one of the various tv screens mounted on the wall switched from a weather channel to a view of Joey's room, where the man was pacing back and forth, hands on his hips.
"He's going stircrazy down there," Daisy said with a sigh. "What he's going through, we all know the effects it manifests physically. But it's a whole other thing emotionally. Asia and I were lucky we had the support system we did at the time. He doesn't trust us, not yet. Definitely not after how I blew it during the meeting earlier."
"You didn't blow it," Asia sighed, brushing a strand of her long, brown hair over her shoulder. "We can't expect everyone to take the news smoothly. He could have attacked you. He melted a clipboard in Mack's hand. You did what you had to do."
Daisy looked up at the ceiling for a moment before looking over at Mack and Asia, "I'm just saying, maybe we could all work on being a little more welcoming. Mack, you're not exactly giving off teddy bear vides, Asia, you come in pulling your cloud of doom and gloom with you..."
"I prefer to think of it as 'realism,'" Asia rolled her eyes at Daisy, crossing her arms over her chest. She paused for a moment, before sighing. "But you're right. I think we need help. Someone who's done all of this before."
Daisy nodded at Asia, giving her a small, apologetic smile, for the doom and gloom comment. "Right. And there's someone who's better at that than any of us. Better at that than anyone."
"Lincoln Campbell?" Coulson asked, sipping from a coffee cup, raising an eyebrow at Daisy. They had gone down this path before. Lincoln was not exactly interested in being a full-fledged member of Team Shield. Coulson started to move away from the table and down the hall, nodding at them to follow along. "Are you sure about that?"
"Yes," Daisy replied quickly, as all three of the agents followed their Director, Asia and Mack hanging back slightly, allowing Daisy to walk beside him as they argued their case. "He understands how this work better than any of us. He's an actual doctor, so he understands the physical treatments needed after transition, where we're just shooting in the dark about what might help."
"Last time you tried this recruitment tactic, he wasn't exactly thrilled," Coulson pointed out, turning down the hall as his little train of agents followed closely behind.
"Well, I'd like the chance to try again. Now we have proof we need him, he might be a little more flexible," Daisy responded.
Coulson slowed, stopping in the middle of the hall, turning to face all of them. "Mack, Asia, what do you guys think? If you're functioning as a team, I want you all to be on the same page."
Asia thought for a moment, not about what her friend might feel romantically towards the blonde who had disappeared, but about how he had made her feel in Afterlife. Welcomed, safe, not alone anymore. She thought of that freeing feeling he had provided her when he helped her understand the full extent of her powers. "I think Daisy is right," she responded, but that was all the detail she gave.
Mack looked at the two women, then over at Coulson. "I've already voiced my opinions on letting Lincoln use his 'get out of jail free' card. I'd happily drag him right back to base, but if Daisy thinks she can talk him into safely returning, to functioning in a place where we know he won't hurt anyone, I think we should let her try it.
"Sounds like it's settled then," Coulson replied with a nod, taking another sip of his coffee. "I want all of you to go. Requisition a flight team and a Quinnjet, go find him. I hope to see four of you coming back to base rather than three." He nodded at Daisy, giving her a look of understanding. He knew this was also a personal matter for her, even if he wasn't going to say it.
The trio looked at one another, nodding. "Thank you, sir," Asia replied to Coulson, as they all turned and headed back the way they had come from, towards the hanger. It was getting late in the day. They would have to get moving.
There was a Quinnjet practically waiting for them to take when they got to the hanger, a flight team available too, a good option for some rookie fly-along flight training. It would do, the three decided. As much as Asia loved flying, she wanted to be able to focus on the mission in front of them. And she wouldn't have her ice bath on this flight. She only had that in the Lab, and on the Zephyr. So she really needed to focus, get herself mentally ready. She felt like she was growing to dependent on that isolation tank anyways. It was nice, it helped her think, helped her also not have to think about anything but herself and the cold water, but she used to be able to do that all so easily without aid. It was time she got back to that.
As they strapped in, she pulled out her phone and typed a quick message over to Nat, nothing lengthy, just more of a 'hey, miss you, coffee soon,' and sent. It was nice, now that Shield was really back in the swing of things, knowing she could reach out to her old team whenever she needed to. The phone buzzed back almost instantly.
In Brazil, running an Op. Can't talk now. How next week, coffee then. -N Asia read the text and smirked to herself. Natasha was always answering her texts with her sign off, even though Asia knew who it was. Of course she did, she had her contact saved in her phone. It was just one of those silly Natasha-isms, and Asia appreciated it every time.
She tucked her phone away and leaned back in her seat. It wouldn't be a long flight, not to where they were headed. Some central-state located hospital where Lincoln was working now. Even with a rookie learning the ropes up front, they would still be flying much faster than most of the other birds in the sky. The team entertained casual conversation the entire flight there, steering clear of the subjects they all knew they couldn't handle. For example, no one mentioned Leo Fitz, no one mentioned Daisy's other reason for seeking out Lincoln. No one talked about how Mack's two best friends, Hunter and Bobbi, weren't talking anymore. They knew each other well, knew the boundaries. So they focused on other things, like the mystery ops team they were always going up again, the sudden rise in the meals provided at HQ. General things, things that were easy, things that they could talk about without losing too much focus on what would be happening ahead.
And shortly later, about an hour and a half, the Quinnjet touched down, rather nicely for a newbie, on the roof of the hospital in question. The trio looked at one another, not speaking, just standing up, stretching. No need for bullet proof vests on this one. Only words and calm emotions. "Alright guys, let's get this show on the road," Daisy said, trying to sound lighthearted.
That was the problem with being such close friends with your teammates. They could read you like a book, they could read the nerves, and they could read the lies.
It was easy enough to get Lincoln into a room alone with them. Pose as a patient, draw up some fake papers, have Daisy wait on a bed behind a drawn curtain, Mack and Asia stand in the shadows to shut the door after the doctor entered, dressed in blue scrubs and a white lab coat. And that's exactly what they did. By the looks of things, Lincoln wasn't super pleased about the whole thing. He looked over at Mack first, as he shut the door tightly, a look of anger flashing in his gaze. When his eyes fell on Asia...disappointment. Like he couldn't believe that Asia Monroe, of all people, was here to interrogate him.
The weight of the disappointment was like a slap to the face for Asia, and she looked away, down at her feet, ashamed. She didn't like the idea of making Lincoln disappointed. She liked the guy, she really did. This was just the job. And frankly, if he had made himself a little easier to contact, they probably wouldn't be here right now. At least, that's what she told herself, that made his shameful gaze a little more bearable.
So she stood back, leaning against the wall, watching as Daisy tried to get him to understand how dire their situation really was. Asia nodded along as her friend explained how amazing Lincoln was at helping new Inhumans transition, helping them understand their complete potential and realize that what happened to them was a gift, not a curse. "She's right," Asia said, after Daisy said something about how he had made her feel like she still had a life. "You helped me, too. You can help others." The two locked eyes for a moment, and she stared until he looked away. She didn't want him thinking she wasn't being honest.
"That's bullshit and you both know it," Lincoln said, defeatedly. "You both know I was just regurgitating a lie, one that had been shoved down my throat since I was born. What we are, what we do. It's a curse." Daisy's eyes widened a little in shock, but Asia noted she kept almost all of the emotion off of her face. "You, Daisy, of all people should understand that."
Asia bowed her head, holding onto one of her arms uncomfortably as Daisy tried to win him back. She knew this was hurting her friend in more ways than one. She almost felt...invasive...hearing this conversation go on.
Suddenly, Mack had his hand on Lincoln's upper arm and Lincoln was shoving him away. Asia took a step forward, defensively, her feet sliding into a strong stance, ready to freeze anyone's feet in place if she had to. The air in room had grown palpably tense, and she wasn't sure if it was from the encounter or from Lincoln's powers. Either way, the hairs along her arms were standing on edge.
"You know what I'm capable of," Lincoln said, taking a step towards Mack so the two men were practically toe to toe, nose to nose. "You've seen what I can do."
"I'm not afraid of you," Mack replied evenly. Asia didn't like the idea of where this was going. It sounded bad. The kind of bad where not everyone made it out of this room completely uninjured.
"Maybe you should be," Lincoln said, the words coming out as a suggestion but more heavily tainted as a threat. Suddenly, the room went black for a moment, before the lights above them started to flicker rapidly, on and off and on again.
Daisy looked over to Asia and the two women locked eyes for a moment. "Woah, woah, Lincoln," Daisy started to say, as Asia took another step closer to the two men.
"You need to cool down," Asia said calmly, trying to get Lincoln to look at her. All ice jokes aside, he needed to stop whatever he was doing. His anger was affecting the entire hospital, which meant it was affecting all of the patients as well.
Lincoln glanced back at Daisy, then over at Asia, shaking his head as the lights continued to flicker, until the room fell completely into an eerie darkness. "This...this isn't me," he pushed past Mack, heading towards the door. Asia turned quickly, following him out.
The lights out in the halls were flickering as well, screens of computers blinking in and out. Doctors were running about, nurses trying to get the computers to work once more. There was a loud, ear-piercing scream that echoed from one of the hallways, bouncing off the tiled floors and windowed walls.
Lincoln stopped at the "T" of a hall, as the lights fell to black, staring down the length of the hall. Asia stopped beside him, Daisy and Mack shortly behind. At the end of the hallway, they could see a security guard frantically reaching for his gun, hand shaking with nerves, as he called for an unseen entity to stay where they were, to not come a step closer. The hairs on the back of Asia's neck were standing up. Her intuition was screaming at her, telling her this was a bad plan, that whatever here was so, so incredibly dangerous.
Suddenly, a thick, gnarled arm reached out, slamming a pulse of blue energy into the guards chest, his chest forming a convex arch towards the palm of the hand that was hurting him, his eyes rolling back in his head and he let out an unearthly scream. His feet lifted from the ground as his entire body was lifted into the air, strands of the blue energy wrapping around his body like tentacles.
They could hear the voice of whatever was creating the blue light, even though all they could see was his large, trunk of an arm. It sounded like nails on a chalk board, like every demonic voice in every horror movie. The simple uttering of words that came from his mouth sent quakes of an natural fear down her spine, a fear that felt like it was woven into her DNA. An ultimate fight or flight reaction.
"Now," The voice cackled out, echoing down the halls as he tortured the guard in front of him. "Tell me where I can find the Inhuman." The guard tried to speak, but couldn't. Suddenly, the blue pulse yanked away from his chest, leaving a bleeding, burnt crater in its wake. Daisy turned to look at Asia in horror.
Suddenly, with two heavy steps, the figure who had wielded the blue energy stepped forward into the dim lit hall. He had grey skin and a hideous face. His hair was jet black, almost blue, and seemed to sprout from roots in his forehead, falling in spikes over his shoulders. He was at least seven feet tall, and had hulking muscles. His hand looked like it could palm Asia's entire head. He bared his teeth, almost grinning, or maybe hissing, at towards them, his canines pronounced and sharp.
As soon as he turned and laid eyes on the team, he started to sprint towards them. Lincoln instinctively ran forward, electricity crackling over his palms. When he got about five feet away, he shot a bolt directly at the creatures chest. It seemed to deter him for only a moment, before he reached Lincoln, thick hand grabbing Lincoln's wrist and thrusting upwards, the lightning arching towards the ceiling.
Instantly, Asia and Daisy jolted forward, Asia sending blade after blade of ice towards the beast, slicing against his grey skin, trickles of blood running down. Daisy sent a quake of vibrations towards the thing, knocking him back and away from Lincoln. Mack stepped forward, taking out his pistol, firing lethal shots at the thing's chest. But it didn't fall. It grunted in frustration, clutching at one of the bullet wounds and looking down at the blood that pooled in its palm.
Suddenly, it turned with a yell, drawing a circle with a claw on the wall, the same ethereal blue energy tracing his fingernail. Following the blue magic a tunnel in the wall was ripped open, giving him a door into the next hall over. Just as quickly as it had happened, the creature jumped through the wall, disappearing.
Asia leaned over, extending a hand to Lincoln and helping him up from the ground. He gave her hand a quick squeeze as she did so, and Asia gave him a small smile.
"We're going to have to hit this thing with everything we've got," Daisy advised. "We're barely tickling him right now. No holding back."
"And apparently I need a bigger gun...or my ax," Mack mused, as he reloaded his pistol. "Maybe...maybe some shotgun-ax combination. That would do the trick I bet." Daisy didn't even appear to listen, she just grabbed Asia by the wrist, pulling her through the hole in the wall. They had work to do after all, and a big bady to catch. Even if every molecule in their bodies were telling them to run far away from this thing.
The hole brought them into a separate hallway, where the lights still flickered on and off, mostly staying in the off stage. It was quiet, far too quiet for how the hospital should be at this moment in time, at least that was Asia's opinion on the matter. She expected more screaming, more running. But, maybe everyone had gotten to safety already, which really was the best outcome in this moment.
As they passed by a doorway, Mack nodded towards something brushed at an edge on the wall. A smear of blood, as if someone had propped themselves up here while moving quickly. Maybe the big monster, whatever he had been, really was hurting. As he nodded for them to keep moving forward, he slowly opened the door, gun raised, just to make sure they were clear on the inside.
As Asia checked a corner to make sure they were clear ahead, she heard a tearing sound from behind them. Whirling around, she saw the creature pushing through another hole in the wall, slamming a punch into Mack's chest, sending him flying into the room he had just been checking. As she turned, Asia extended out her right hand, palm open, a glowing blueish-white blast of ice that funneled directly into the creatures chest, at the same time that Daisy sent a wave of her own towards it and Lincoln sent two twin spirals of electricity outwards.
The massive waves of energy being through at him seemed to surprise the thing, catch him off guard. The combination of all three powers hitting against him began pushing the creature backwards, the boots on his feet squeaking against the tile floor as the force pushed him back, knocking him to his knees. Daisy grinned as Asia stepped up beside her, thrusting another hand forward so an additional shock of ice was hitting the creature they were battling.
But suddenly, it was as if the thing was getting a second wind, standing up against the force pushing it backwards. Things were beginning to look less in the favor of the three Inhumans as it stepped forward towards them, pushing back against the combination of all three of their powers.
In one quick move, Daisy shift her palms towards the floor, the linoleum crumbling against the force of her quakes, shattering beneath his stance, sending the giant brute falling away from them to the floor below. Asia leaned over on her knees, breathing heavily as if she had just sprinted a mile. That combined attack had taken a lot of effort from all of them, and it still hadn't been enough. Mack stepped out of the room he had been tossed into, looking at the hole in the floor, then up at the three of them.
"Come on," He said, "Stairs are that way. Let's try and get this thing before it gets away." He was right. They didn't want something like that, whatever it was, getting out among people. It had the potential to hurt so many.
Standing back to her feet, Asia brushed her hair back and nodded, looking at Lincoln and Daisy to make sure they were okay. "He's right. Let's finish this," she said, her tone cold and calculating, in an air that she hadn't been carrying when she first entered the hospital that day. Daisy recognized this side of Asia, almost welcomed it, in comparison to the slightly sad, quiet version they had been getting lately. Asia turned from her team, jogging towards the stairs. They had to get a move on, before he got away.
As the quartet made it downstairs, a clearly carved hole was in the wall, much like the one the beast had climbed out of to begin with. Even though they were over two stories up, it appeared he had jumped out to safety below. As they approached the hole in the wall to look outside, dark vehicles with tinted windows were pulling up, members of that all-too-familiar black ops squad piling out, shouting orders about lethal force and bringing in Inhumans.
"We've got to go," Asia muttered to the others. "I can't see them waiting much longer before coming in here, and I don't think we want to be here when they do." Daisy looked at her friend, nodding. She was right.
"Lincoln, you should come with us," Daisy tried one last time, her voice coming across a little pleading. "We can keep you safe, from them, from whatever we just fought. Your life is in danger now..." She bit her lower lip, looking up at the blonde, hoping he would agree, hoping he would come with, hoping she could have him in her life again.
"My life...my life is in ruins," Lincoln replied quickly, shoving past her and running off down the destroyed hospital hallway. The events that had occurred that day really had ruined everything. His job was gone now, everyone he had been working with knew his secret. He would have to rebuild, again, like he had so many different times. He was tired, so tired, of always running.
Daisy tried to dart after him, but Mack grabbed her arm. "Hey, no, he's on his own," he said calmly. "We've got to get out of here, too. They're hunting you and Asia. They won't stop if they know you two are here." Daisy faltered for a moment, knowing his words were true. For all of their safeties, they had to go.
As they ran down the hall towards the stairs again, which would lead them towards the roof where they had parked their plane, Daisy looked over at Asia with sadness, a look that Asia could see was driven deep down into her heart. A look of loss, and anger, and emptiness. A look that carried feelings Asia knew all too well.
Back at the base, Asia headed for the locker room to deposit her "go-bag," maybe take a shower afterwords. It had been a long day, and she couldn't take the hurt to her heart of walking into the room she so often used to share with Leo and having it be empty. Was he home? She had no idea. Was he even alive? She was pretty sure of that at least, she felt like she would feel it if he wasn't.
As she was about to enter, Bobbi came shoving her way out, the two nearly colliding. "Oh, sorry. God head, go on in. Your best friend is in there anyways, I'm sure he would much rather talk to you than me." Her tone was clearly annoyed.
Asia frowned at her, eyebrows drawing down into a glower. "Bold, coming from you," she muttered back, crossing her arms over her chest. Clearly, Hunter was behind the door to the locker room. And also clearly, Bobbi had just tried talking to him, to no avail. "You spend all day working with Leo...talking with Leo...knowing where he is, if he's okay. I don't know anything, he barely speaks to me anymore. So don't you think you're being a little hypocritical?"
The anger that had been coloring Bobbi's face shifted to embarrassment as the fight in her fell away, realizing the truth in Asia's words. "I'm...sorry," She said, shaking her head. "Fitz is taking everything hard right now. You know Jemma is one of his best friends. But I know this can't be easy on you...either. I can...I can try and say something to him when he's back, make him remember not everyone is gone."
Asia looked away for a moment, down the hall, before turning back to Bobbi. "I'd like that. I know Jemma being gone is hard...for everyone. I can...talk to Hunter about at least being cordial. If that helps at all."
"I would like that," Bobbi said, giving Asia a tiny smile, placing a hand on her shoulder as she brushed past. "And you're right. We all miss Jemma." Her cheeks turned slightly red at this comment, before she continued off down the hall, as if she had never even been there at all.
Asia shook her head, trying to get over how weird that interaction had been. Quietly, she pushed through the door, into the locker room, where Hunter was in the middle of changing out of a dirty, sweaty grey shirt, a bit of a bruise forming on one of his bare ribs.
"What's that from?" Asia asked, setting her bag down on a bench, seeing the look of clear frustration on his face. That must have been from the interaction he had just had with his ex wife.
"Oh you know, our surprise mission to get the jump on the bird whose running those black ops blokes, they go by the ATCU, by the way, well it didn't go quite as planned," he nodded down on the bruise. "Seems she wasn't as predictable as we thought." He sighed, leaning against the locker and crossing his arms over his chest, careful to avoid the purple bruise. "What about you? You've been gone all night, love. Thought you might not be coming back," he shot her a playful wink, causing the brunette to roll her eyes.
"We went after Lincoln," Asia explained, opening her locker code and sliding the bag inside. "Didn't go as planned either, though my ribs are all perfectly in place." She patted her sides for emphasis, a hint of a smile coming across her lips.
Hunter sighed, standing up and taking a step towards her, "I know that can't be easy, for you or for Daisy. You were both quite close."
Asia frowned, looking down at the ground, kicking it twice with her toe. "Yea...it wasn't great. Hearing him say he didn't want us around? That what we are is a disease? Brought back all these thoughts and feelings from when I first turned." She shook her head, chuckling a little to herself. "It's a little silly honestly, but it reminded me of what it felt like....what it felt like to think I was a monster."
"You've never been a monster, love," Hunter said, stopping to lean on the locker directly beside hers, looking her down in the eye. For the first time, ever, Asia felt...not necessarily uncomfortable, but a friction from the closer space between them. A space that made her usually cold skin feel...almost warm. Made her stomach flip flop. No one had been this close to her...in a way that made her feel this way...than the last time Leo slept in her bed. That had been over a month. She swallowed, hard, looking up at him. "Look at you, even Inhuman, you've never been anything but a badass. Never been anything but a force to be reckoned with. You're beautiful, love."
She shook her head, smirking up at Hunter. "And you're quite the talker, Hunter," she replied. "But I do appreciate it. It's been a rough...rough few months." She didn't like the idea of her feelings getting to her, of being sad in front of others, but here she was, tearing up.
Without another thought, Hunter stretched his arms out, pulling her into a hug, rubbing his hand up and down the small of her back gently, protectively. "There, there. No need to be sad, little Ice Queen. You're friends are always here for you. I'm always here for you." The way he said the words, she knew he meant it. She buried her face into the crook of his neck, hugging Hunter back, tightly.
The two of them stood like that for a moment, Hunter soaking in the cool touch of her skin, her soaking in the warmth of his. It felt different...but not necessarily bad, than what the both of them were used to.
After a moment, Hunter pulled back a little, letting his arms loosen. Asia did the same, looking up at him, almost...nervous of what was happening. This wasn't...it wasn't right, but it wasn't wrong either. She needed comfort, company, and so did he. He was looking back at her, licking his lower lip, and his gaze drifting from her eyes, to her lips, then back up again, almost unsure himself of what was to happen next.
But Asia didn't pull away, she started to lean forward, shutting her eyes, their noses bumping together ever so slightly, when she heard someone running by, shouting.
"Fitz broke into Containment!" The words cut through her like a lethal blade. She wasn't even thinking, didn't even remember the moment, how it happened, but she was out into the hall, sprinting faster than she had ever moved before, arms pumping to propel herself forward, as she ran towards the Containment room, where the Monolith was. She had to get there, had to get there, she had to, before he disappeared too.
She passed Bobbi, passed Daisy, passed Mack. Her feet moved at an unnatural speed, an Inhuman speed, as she hauled herself through the halls, rounding the corner to the length of space that held the doors to the Containment Chamber, her palm skidding against the brick wall as she used it to help herself turn, flesh tearing a little bit as she did so. There was a terror racing through her body like she had never before experienced. Leo had broken through the locks on the Monolith somehow, and now he was in there, with it. He could get swallowed up. He could die. He could be gone forever. She could feel tears starting to trickle down her cheeks, freezing as they did so. All the walls started to slick over with ice as she ran.
She shoved through the doors and saw him, punching at the stupid grey rock, glass door to its containment opened, the lock shot out with a shotgun that lay at his feet. Leo Fitz. White shirt, covered in dust, with the sleeves rolled up a quarter of the way up his arms, grey pants, his face red with exertion and anger as he slammed his fists, knuckles bloody, against the Monolith, screaming and crying out with each hit.
She darted towards him, grabbing him around the waist and pulling him backwards, towards the wall. They fell to the ground together, Leo struggling to get away from her. She held tightly to him with one arm, the other arm thrusting out, a bolt of ice slamming the glass door shut, and she held the ray of ice against it, closing her eyes at hoping she wouldn't let it fall. She looked at Leo, her eyes wide with fear and confusion, as the others stormed into the room, running towards the Monolith to help her hold the door shut. As Mack, Bobbi, and Hunter slammed their bodies against the glass, she let the ice fall, panting deeply, as Leo gave up fighting against her.
Suddenly, the Monolith shifted, melting and dripping, the grey liquefied version splashing against the sides of the glass box which held it. Asia stared at it in horror. If she had been later....Leo could have still been in there. He could have been swallowed whole by that thing. She quickened her grip on him, pulling him towards her, holding him tightly as they watching the Monolith reform. Then, she dropped her hold, panting heavily, her body drained, her emotions frying her beyond belief.
She looked over at Leo, breathing deeply, staring at him unblinking. How could he have done that? Was he really willing to....willing to die for Jemma? "What were you doing?" She breathed out, barely able to speak.
Suddenly, Coulson came striding in, strapping his mechanical hand to his forearm, a grim look on his face. “God damnit, Fitz!” He cursed. “What the hell were you thinking?” Coulson's face was coated in anger, but also another look. Fear.
"I had to know," Leo replied, shaking his head, pointing a finger towards the Monolith, trying to sit up out of Asia's grasp.
Coulson looked at the grey rock, then down at the agent in front of him. "We could have lost another good agent today. One of my best is gone, we can't afford to lose you too."
Asia sat up, letting Leo breath for a moment, as Hunter leaned down to look at him. "Were you trying to get yourself bloody killed?" He asked, a hint of fear in the man's voice as well. Leo and Hunter had always been mates, ever since last year.
"I know, I know, I'm sorry," Leo pressed a hand to his forehead, grimacing in frustration. "I can't give up. I won't, I won't do it."
There was an utter sense of sadness hitting Asia directly in the heart. There was a defeat in Leo's posture, one which hadn't been there before. And he didn't even seem to care that he had almost died. She looked up at Daisy, and Bobbi, and Hunter, Coulson, all of her people surrounding them, and she didn't know what to say or do. She felt like he was slipping away from right in front of her. She didn't know how to fix this, fix any of it. She opened her mouth as if she were about to speak but couldn't find anything to say.
"None of us want to give up, Fitz," Daisy said, crossing her arms over her chest. "But it's not that simple."
Bobbi sighed, kneeling down in front of him so he was forced to look her in the eyes. "Fitz, you tried. No one can say you didn't. We all know it, we can all see it. You tried." He was leaning back now, arms propped on the concrete behind him, and this was when Bobbi noticed a smudge on his face. A tear, maybe dirt. She wasn't sure. She leaned forward, rubbing her thumb over the flex, something coming off onto the pad of her thumb. The blonde agent looked down at it, and Leo did too, reaching forward and pressing his finger against her thumb, swiping the dirt onto his own finger, rubbing it between his pads.
He looked down at the sharp shards, sand, between his fingertips. This hadn't been there before this experiment. This was new, this was something completely different. He breathed in and out deeply, glancing over his shoulder at Asia, then back at his fingertips, then up at Bobbi.
"Fitz, what is that?" Bobbi asked slowly, leaning forward to get a better look at whatever he had in front of her.
He blinked, once, twice, rubbing his fingers together again for a moment, still staring in awe. "This is proof," he replied, hefting himself off of the floor and running down the hallway, as if the entire ordeal that had just been laid out in front of them had never actually occurred.
Asia stared out the doorway which he had run out of, shaking her head. What was even happening? What was she supposed to do? She felt like she was absolutely losing her mind.
"Agent Monroe..." Coulson began to speak slowly. "Do you know..?"
Asia shook her head. No, she had no clue what had just happened in front of them. Absolutely none. She didn't take her eyes off of the hall. She didn't want her teammates to see the shine in her eyes as she watched him run away.
It wasn't long, an hour maybe, a the most, before Leo was calling them all into one of the briefing rooms, the screens already geared up and ready to go for his demonstration. Daisy, Mack, Hunter, Bobbi, and Coulson all gathered in the room, sitting around the large table between him and the rest of the team. Asia dragged one of her nails over a crescent shape that was imprinted in the brown wood. She was nervous. And Asia Monroe never looked nervous. Daisy watched her out of the corner of her eye, trying to not be mega-obvious she was checking on her friend. But whatever Asia was thinking about, it had her far too distracted to even notice.
"Sand," Leo said, pacing back and forth and pointing at the screens in front of them, then wringing his hands back and forth. "Sand, from the Monolith. Not just any sand, but impossible sand."
"The room the Monolith is held in...it is kept completely clean," Mack said with a nod, hands on his hips. "I oversee half of that cleaning myself. There's nothing in there but that damn rock."
Leo pointed out at Mack, nodding. "Exactly. That's exactly it."
"Yea, but," Hunter said with a nod, looking over at Leo, then towards Mack. "When you run in guns blazing and blast the damn lock open with a shotgun, things might get a tad contaminated."
"Okay, okay I get it," Leo said, hands pressing to his temples for a moment as the stress took over. Asia wanted to get up, to go to him, to comfort him, but she didn't budge. "The sand itself isn't what is so unusual. I've analyzed it and this sand is compiled of primarily silicone-dioxide particles, much like sand from here on Earth." He pointed at one of the screens behind him that had the list of materials making up the particles, the list scrolling through the percentages of each variety on an infinite loop.
"I'm guessing you are implying the sand is not from Earth?" Coulson asked, keeping himself even and composed as he so often did. It was impressive. On the inside, he was just as curious what the answer to his question was as everyone else in the room. It seemed, for the first time in a long time, that they actually had a lead on Agent Simmons.
"Sir, the carbon dating from the samples shows-" Bobbi began to say, before Leo stepped up again and cut her off.
"Sir, it predates the Earth by over a billion years," Leo's sentence hit the others like a slap to the face. Even Asia's eyes widened for a moment.
"So..." Daisy said, brow furrowing as she was trying to completely understand the situation, stepping closer to the table and propping herself against it. "You think the rock is a portal?"
"No, no," Leo said, shaking his head, almost appearing frustrated that his team wasn't understanding what he was saying, wasn't "science-y" enough. "I'm proving to you that it's a portal. A portal between here and another planet, yea? A very old planet, much older than Earth. This portal took Simmons from here, sent here there, and brought the sand back...." Leo looked up at the screens, then out at his team again, zoning in on Coulson, needing his leader to understand what he was trying to say. "Which means...."
"It means she's out there," Coulson said evenly, with a nod. He had seen Fitz stumble down so many rabbit holes trying to find some sort of clue as to what happened to Jemma Simmons. And now, finally, after all of these months, it seemed like they had finally found something. Something hidden, in a small grain of sand. Before they got too far into this, Coulson needed to know what Leo's plan was. "But it's been months..."
"Well, yea," Leo replied with a shrug, trying to not let the defeat show on his face. Was Coulson really about to slash his findings right in front of his face? Tell him it was no use? No, no he couldn't do that. They could finally find Simmons, they could finally bring her home.
"She could be long gone by now, far from wherever the Monolith dropped her," Coulson continued, moving around the table, stepping closer and closer to Leo with every word until they were standing face to face, Leo nodding and acknowledging every point Coulson made. "She could be dead," Coulson said, nodding solemnly.
"Yes, yes she could be," Leo replied, exasperated, throwing his hands up for a moment before letting them fall to his sides, deflated. Asia clenched her fists, standing up slowly, ready to intervene if she had to.
"But," Coulson said, his word floating in the air in anticipation for a moment. "We're going to find out. Aren't we?" Asia's fists unclenched, pleasantly surprised. Leo's eyes widened and she could see the tears that were hiding in them.
"Yea," Asia said in affirmation, the word echoed by every other agent in the room, all standing in solidarity.
For a moment, they all seemed together, like a team. For a moment.
"Okay Fitz, what do you need?" Coulson asked the scientist in front of him.
Leo seemed to not expect the question, stuttering for a moment. "Um, well, well I need some additional historical data. It's out there. People have been studying this rock for centuries. I need...uhhh. An expert on quantum mechanics. String theory. And the Einstein-Rosen Bridge theory." He listed them each on his fingers then paused for a moment, spinning slowly and looking around the room until his eyes landed on eyes. "And, um, a sandwich would be nice."
The room got quiet. So quiet you could hear a pin drop. Asia froze for a moment, fists clenching ever so slightly as she stared at him. Did he...did he really just ask her that? She didn't speak, she didn't blink, she could hardly breath. Without another word, Asia spun on her heel and stalked out of the room, a trail of dropping temperature behind her.
"Fitz...what the fuck?" Daisy said, looking at him and shaking her head, as she walked quickly out of the room after her friend. Someone had to calm Asia Monroe down before she froze the entire city.
Asia’s actual assignment, not making a sandwich, was joining Coulson and Bobbi and Leo on a flight over seas. Asia was going to let Bobbi fly. The spy hadn't gotten a lot of time out of base recently, still recovering from her injury courtesy of Ward. Daisy had managed to calm her down beforehand, as all good friends do. It took a moment, that was for sure. Daisy was pretty sure every few minutes that she herself was about to get frozen (which never happened).
Coulson had a source from them, an alien from Asgard, who had been living on the planet for centuries. If the Monolith had been around for as long as they believed it had, might as well find a man who had been around just as long. Asia wasn't surprised one bit that Coulson knew just who that was.
Standing at the ramp to the plane, Hunter walked out, bag slung over his shoulder, heading towards one of the motorcycles. He glanced over his shoulder towards Coulson, Bobbi, and Asia, stopping for a moment when his eyes landed on the brunette. Asia gave him a small shake of her head. No, not now. Not ever, preferably, if it meant acknowledging the almost-moment in the locker room. There were some things that were just best left buried. Plus, Hunter was going after Ward. No need to ruin his focus.
If the others noticed the interaction between the two, they didn't acknowledge it. Good, Asia thought to herself as she climbed the ramp into the jet, setting her bag below her chair that was alongside the wall. It was time for a nice nap. Time to not think for a little bit. Time to not dwell on the incredibly rude thing Leo had said to her. She didn't even know if he recognized how wrong it had been to say it to her. She didn't know if he saw anything outside of getting Jemma back. Did he even see her anymore? Did he look for her in a room? Feel her when she entered? (Well, probably didn't feel her, not in the way she felt him. She could feel his water signature now, recognize him in a crowd. It was a weird part of her powers, and she didn't quite understand it. All she knew is she could feel him, always him).
When they touched down, Asia turned to Coulson who was sitting two seats over from her. "Who exactly are we here to get?" She had glanced out the window, and it appeared like they were at a prison. She checked over her shoulder once more. Yea, definitely a prison.
"A friend," Coulson replied with a slim smile, keeping the air of mystery about him. Asia rolled her eyes, but Coulson saw a hint of a smile on her lips. Good. He didn't want the frosty air to carry over to the meeting they were about to have. "But let's get this show on the road. We've got limited time and a lot of convincing to do."
Asia stood up, stretching and letting her joints pop after the long flight. She didn't love the sound of having to convince someone, but maybe that was why she was brought along. She cracked her knuckles, glancing back at Coulson in question.
"We're going to try and talk it out first," He said with a shrug, "But we'll do what we have to do. Frankly, I think I can be pretty convincing."
"You got me all the way here, didn't you?" She asked sarcastically, causing her Director to grin. She smirked to herself, walking quickly down the ramp and greeting the guard who was waiting for them, presenting her Shield ID. They had work to do, he was right about that. And it all started with getting inside.
The corridors were long and cement, cool to the touch. The small heels on Asia's combat boots clicked as they walked down the hall as a unit, looking for one cell in particular. Coulson had gotten directions from a guard after they had passed through security, then he took the lead from there. The took a left turn, went up a set of stairs, before they finally came to a stop, Coulson rapping on the bars twice.
A man looked up from a book he was reading, a man, older, probably late forties, early fifties in appearance, with tight, curly hair and some weathered wrinkles, a man who Asia recognized from three years ago. Doctor Elliot Randolph. And he didn't look a day older than when he had helped the Shield team last. And here he was, instead of teaching at a University, in a prison.
"Elliot Randolph," Coulson said in greeting, giving him a curt nod. The man behind the bars looked at Coulson with his lips pressed into a thin line. Asia could already pick up on the vibe that this guy wasn't exactly in the mood to come willingly. Maybe Coulson had known this going in as well, and maybe that was why he had brought her along.
“Phil Coulson,” Elliot replied, setting his book on a desk and standing up to look at them all. “What brings you to my neck of the woods?” He gestured around his cell sarcastically. It was...odd, to find him here, of all places. The last they had seen him, he had been a pretty esteemed professor. "What can I do for you? Because I don't think you would be here if you didn't need something."
"You're a smart man, always have been," Coulson replied calmly. "We're here because we need your help. We are looking for the key to an ancient portal, and we think you might know where to find it."
Before Coulson could even get out the words on why they needed help, what they were here for, Elliot was speaking again. "I'm sorry Phil, but I really can't help you. And before you ask if I can't, or if I won't, aren't they really just the same thing from different perspectives?"
"Alright, then why won't you?" Coulson asked, never taking his eyes from the alien in front of them.
Elliot scoffed, rolling his eyes with strong emphasis, before they made it all the way around to look back at Coulson. "There's not a list long enough for me to write down all the reasons but I can name a few. The nightly news, the current political climate, the war on aliens, cities flying into the atmosphere, Asgardians coming here to potentially bring me back to that hell planet every damn day." He ticked off each reason on his weathered fingers. "The public wasn't a fan of aliens before, but they're especially paranoid now. Pretty shitty time to be on earth, if you're not a local, so I'm taking a breather, staying hidden," Elliot then chuckled, glancing around his room. "And then, there's these bars. Certainly can't get past them."
Bobbi already knew his arrest reasons. "Public intoxication, destruction of public and private property," she listed off, staring the alien in his grey eyes questioningly, wanting to hear his reasoning for imprisonment.
Elliot couldn't help but laugh once more. "Yes, well, it's a bit of a long story. Asgardians can usually hold their liquor. One night I just tried to hold all of it. In the bar. And now, here I am."
"Certainly you could just use your alien strength to break out of here," Coulson replied evenly, not wanting the man to get off topic. They needed him, needed his brain, his knowledge, the wealth of it which he had accumulated over the years.
"I'm sure I could, but why try? These Norwegian prison systems, they're quite nice. Top tier, some might say. The food is good, the bed is nice, it's never cold, and I always have a good book to read. Best part is no one pays attention to the middle-aged man stuck in here for drinking just a bit too much," Elliot replied with a small grin, tapping his hardcover book against the curve of his shoulder. "Maybe in a few months of being pent up, I'll be in the mood to help."
"We don't have a few months," Leo stepped forward from behind the three agents, looking at Elliot for a moment, then at the ground, fidgeting with his finger nervously. Asia had almost forgotten he was there, he had been so quiet up until this moment.
"That's alright Agent Fitz, neither does our friend here," Coulson patted Leo on the shoulder, letting the scientist step back to the shadows. "You see, Elliot, you owe me. I saved your life. I've never tried to cash in on that favor once, but I will now. And if you're not comfortable with that, there's plenty of blacklisted agencies who would be happy to have a real live Asgardian to dissect in their labs." He stared Elliot down, begging him to challenge him again.
"Why Coulson...is that a threat I hear?" Elliot almost laughed, surprised at the hand Coulson was playing. Who was this man before him now, never before known to play the card of violence and torture. That was much more Fury's style, but here they were, in this moment.
"Well, yea, yea it is," Coulson mocked as if a lightbulb had just gone off in his mind.
"You've changed," Elliot said, standing up and leaning against the bars, looking Coulson in the eyes, searching for...something. After a moment, he sighed, resting against the blue bars which caged him. "You know...you'll have to cover my release. And. If there is a portal, which I still don't believe is true, I need you to understand the gravity of this situation. We're moving into a very dangerous place with this. But..." he trailed off, looking between the four agents in front of him. "Not like you're giving me much of a choice."
Suddenly, the man grabbed onto the bars, hefting the blue metal in front of him out of the wall with a groan and the sound of metal on stone. The instant the cell door was removed, alarms started blaring. Asia glanced up at Coulson, eyeing the door behind them. "You're going to have some explaining to do."
Elliot Raldoph sat beside Asia on the flight back, he sitting with his book in his hand, Asia sitting with her arms crossed over her chest, silent.
"You know, I remember you, from a few years ago," the professor said after the plane had been in motion for a while. "You needed my help then, too, though at the time it was really just for feedback."
Asia nodded, before replying quietly, "I remember," she didn't look at him, didn't take her eyes off the spot on her boot she had been staring at for the past half an hour. It was easy to focus in on one spot and meditate, even with her eyes open, just let everything else melt away.
"You were like this cyclone of energy, each new thing, each new challenge, you seemed all over it," Elliot continued, turning to study her, his eyes narrowing. "You were like a teenager who finally got their driver's license, out in the world and on their own, seeing everything as new and shiny." He paused for a moment, almost as if he were giving her a chance to respond, but she didn't.
"You're different now," he continued, still without response. "What happened?"
Asia didn't know what to say, didn't know what to make of this assessment of herself. It was blunt, but not necessarily untrue. She looked up for the first time the whole flight, to see Leo, sitting on the opposite side of the plane, looking back at her. He didn't smile, he didn't offer a look of comfort, didn't pat the seat beside him like he used to, he just looked.
"People change," Asia replied, standing up abruptly and heading towards the cockpit. Sitting next to Bobbi would be better than any more of this.
When they finally made it back to the base, the crew headed straight for the basement room where the grey rock with deep square holes sat quietly and contently in its cage, unmoving.
"Well," Elliot sighed, walking around the rock, which didn't move under his request, "I hate to be the bearer of bad news but-" just as the words left his mouth, the Monolith began to melt, dripping and tumbling over itself, puddling in the bottom of the glass box, making the odd sound it always made, like a chalkboard mixed with ground rocks.
Elliot froze, staring at the glass box, mouth open ever so slightly in stunned surprise, unsure of what to say. "Oh....well. That. That changes things," Elliot muttered to himself, before turning to face the group. "How..how often does it melt like that?"
"It's random," Leo replied sadly, arms crossed over his chest. "We've been unable to determine any pattern or trigger. We've checked relation to the sun, moon phases, the tide. Nothing matches."
"Nothing matches..on this planet," Elliot pointed his finger at the ground, jabbing twice. "But it matches something, probably wherever this portal drops you off, but you have no way of knowing, and therefore no way of controlling it," the words fell into place, completing a perfect puzzle. "So, why come to me? I don't have those answers, I'm no expert at space travel." Elliot shrugged, looking at them all expectantly.
"Easy, you're scared of portals," Coulson replied, "You're scared of getting dragged home through one, so odds are, you've soaked up every single bit of information on them over the many, many years you've been on this planet. You know every dangerous story about a portal on Earth there is to know."
"And, you've been eyeing all of the exits since you laid eyes on that thing," Bobbi noted, nodding towards the door behind her. "You've glanced at my knee brace a few times too, probably wondering how fast I am, if you could get past me without an issue." She was right, Asia had noted his gaze, too. The way he had started to sweat ever so slightly when he saw the Monolith.
"You just wanted to know it was really here," Asia pointed out, staring Elliot in the eyes as his gaze drifted over to her, surprised she had spoken to him.
"And destroy it," he muttered, stuffing his hands into his pockets, "I wanted to do that too."
"You'll have to go through me," Leo said, stepping forward, closer to Elliot, looking him in the eyes and not looking away as he had in the jail.
Elliot stepped towards Leo, a small grin on his face. "You don't realize that I literally could, with ease," he said with a small shrug. "So what's stopping me?"
Suddenly, Asia slid between them, head cocked slightly to the side, "Pretty sure that's me," she said quietly, flicking her wrist ever so slightly. Elliot's eyes broke her gaze to look at the space around her head. A semi circle of icicles floated around her, spinning, each point facing directly at Elliot the entire time.
He looked at each sharp, clear point of ice before looking her back in the eyes. "So, that's what changed," he muttered.
Leo reached out from behind her, his fingertips resting on the crook of her arm, telling her it was okay, that she could drop the defense mechanism. She was surprised by his touch, so sudden and unfamiliar, but she didn't flinch. Flinching would be a sign of weakness. Instead, she closed her eyes and let the icicles melt, liquefy, and fall onto her skin, absorbing into her. She glanced over her shoulder at Leo and met his gaze. He gave her a small nod, and she nodded back.
She stepped back, falling to stand beside him, arms touching. His hand reached down and linked fingers with his own, giving her hand a tight squeeze. "Thank you," he whispered to her, causing the hair on the back of her neck to stand on end. He hadn't been this close, this gentle, in so long. Was he finally seeing her again? She wasn't sure, oh she wasn't sure, but right now, being sure didn't really feel like it mattered.
Elliot had recognized the Monolith, as well as the old scroll of paper with a single symbol that Leo had managed to find on one of his many expeditions Asia had known nothing about and been no part of. Nevertheless, this was how they would us on a plane out to Gloucestershire, England, following the lead Elliot had for them.
The castle was beautiful, if decrepit. Grey stone walls with vines crawling up and down, in and out of every window. Towering high above the treeline which surrounded it, many of the pillars and towers were crumbling to the ground, but the structure itself still stood. Asia glanced back at Leo as they climbed down the stairs, noting his must be nervous, because he appeared to be sweating in his grey knit suit even though the temperature was cool, moist with a breeze.
Bobbi, Coulson, Elliot, Asia, and Leo made their way into the castle between a hole where the wall had partially caved in, pulling out flashlights as they did so, trying to get some light into the space, besides the light which filtered in through some unplanned openings in the ceiling. The place felt...creepy. Something about this space made Asia feel so uncomfortable.
Leo shined his light up onto the wall, illuminating the same word in Hebrew, "Death" carved into a brick in the wall. "We're in the right place," he said solemnly, nodding at the word, "'Death.'"
"Maveth," Elliot said, looking at everyone else, "It actually has multiple translations to English, one being 'Death by punishment,' which is less than ideal for those of us who want to remain alive."
"So it's a No Trespassing sign?" Coulson asked, looking up at the carving, a pit beginning to form in his stomach. "Asia...can you do a water scan?"
Asia nodded, shutting her eyes for a moment, and stretching her mind out, searching for any signs of water, even if it was the water that built up another lifeform's body. She opened her eyes after a moment, shaking her head, "Nothing but plants. We're alone in here."
"Good, let's keep it that way please," he nodded back towards the entrance they had climbed through. Asia flicked her eyes over, a wall of ice willing in the gaping space. Coulson gave her a small smile and a nod, a sign of a good job. She gave him a grim smile back, turning to follow Leo who was walking around the room, looking for something.
Before they could get very far through the room, there was a grinding sound, rock on rock. Asia turned back around to see where the sound was coming from, only to see Coulson pressing his hand against a specific brick in the wall. She looked at him, one eyebrow raised.
"What can I say?" The Director grinned, "Hidden doors are sort of my thing."
As the entered the room at the very end of the dusty, old tunnel, a sense of apprehension hit Asia full force. The hairs on the back of her neck stood up as she surveyed the room before them, not stepping beyond the doorway. There was running water in here, somewhere, she could feel that instantly. But it didn't make her feel any better.
The room was a large, oval shape, and reminded her of the temple beneath San Juan. The ground was cement, and in the center of the room had a little circle drawn in the floor. There were levers and pulleys and chains everywhere, and a station with some sort of box with different buttons and switches to toggle. Containers that must have held gas of some sort to power whatever was happening in here lined the walls.
"This is an odd shape for architecture of this period..." Elliot mused, "And I never got to see this room last time. This was built after I was here. But why?" You could practically see the cogs turning in his mind as he tried to determine why, and for what purpose.
Leo was immediately moving around the room, studying the mechanics of the devices. "Looks like late 1800's tech," he mused, not to anyone in particular, as he grabbed a red switch and pushed it upwards. As soon as he did so, electricity crackled through the room, the old bulbs above them flickering to life.
"Asia, do you feel that?" Bobbi asked, turning to the brunette, "I hear running water."
Asia could feel it, moving from whatever release had just shifted. It was like a dam had been lowered and now the water was rushing below them. She didn't like it, didn't like the function of it. She looked at Bobbi and nodded, "The switch released it...I don't know why."
The feeling of anxiety in her stomach grew as Elliot and Leo began flipping additional switches. There was a grinding sound - that terrible rock on rock again, and Asia's heartbeat skyrocketed as the circle in the center of the room started to disappear. She stepped back, stumbling into the hallway, the others so distracted by what was happening they didn't even notice. She double over, puking into the gravel. She puked until her stomach was completely empty, then she stumbled back into the room just in time to hear Leo speaking.
"This was built to control the Monolith. To open the portal at will."
Coulson radioed the Base shortly after and asked the remainder of the team to load up the Monolith and bring it to them. It took a little of convincing to get Mack to actually do it, but he wasn't going to ignore a direct order from their Director. So the plan was set, as Asia knew it would be the moment that those words had left Leo's mouth. Of course they would, if it meant bringing Jemma home. Which obviously, Asia wanted to happen as well. But she couldn't shake the feeling of anxiety that this room brought her. She didn't know what it was that made her feel so....off, but there was something here.
So Asia watched by, arms crossed over her shoulders, as Elliot and Leo ran around the room, figuring out what switches and toggles would help them get their job done. As Mack and Daisy entered, Asia turned around, smiling at Daisy, still visibly uncomfortable. Daisy had a similar look of unease on her face and Asia gave her a small nod.
"Everything alright?" The brunette asked her friend.
"Yea...just frustrated with the results of Joey's latest observation. Andrew Garner recommends three more months of time away, time being looked at beneath a microscope," Daisy sighed, shaking her head, still glancing nervously around the room. "It's frustrating as hell, how are we ever supposed to build a team this way? Also, where are we? It gives me the heeby jeebies."
"Same..." Asia replied, "Whatever is going on here, I don't like it...And it's not just because that thing is in here now," She nodded towards the pit in the center of the room where the Monolith now sat, unmoving.
"Mack, hey, Mack," Leo snapped his finger at their teammate, then pointed towards the wall, "Can you flip that white switch? Not the one already up. The one that's down. Please and thank you."
Mack nodded and reached for the switch, giving it some effort to push the lever upwards. It was rusty, and groaned as Mack put his weight into it, but it gave eventually. After it clicked into place, the room shuddered ever so slightly, and then a mechanical whirring sound began to emanate throughout the room. The gears along the wall started to turn and pullies started to move up and down.
The entire room started to rumble and shake and suddenly, in the pit, the Monolith melted into liquid, sloshing around inside the circular hole, until it filled the pit like a little pond, weird hexadecimal shapes appearing and disappearing on the surface. Leo stepped forward, taking out a flashlight and shining it down into the pit.
"It's staying open!" He called out, looking up at all of them. "I need more light. More light!" Mack sprang into action, grabbing a larger flashlight and bringing it over.
Suddenly, an ear piercing sound started to fill Asia's ears, like nails on a chalkboard mixed with metal on metal, flooding her system. It was migraine inducing, painful, and full volume. She placed a hand on Daisy's shoulder, nearly doubling over, only to notice her friend was experiencing the exact same pain. Asia was in such pain that she didn't even see Coulson tossing Fitz a flair, nor Fitz shooting it into the pool. She didn't hear Mack shouting that there was a problem.
"H-help," Daisy muttered out, pressing her hand to her forehead, while still trying to help support Asia up. Asia couldn't see straight, everyone had doubles and her vision was foggy at the edges. Asia put her hands to her ears, trying to block out the sound, when she felt something wet on her face, her hands. She pulled her hands from her ears and saw blood in her palms. She wiped one shaky finger at her cheek and found blood dripping from her eyes as well. She staggered, even with the support of Daisy beside her. What was happening?
It was overwhelming, the sound, the pricing noise at her ears, and she fell to the ground, eyes rolling back for a moment. She didn't even realize she had passed out until she was sitting back up, the sound gone, the gears no longer moving, Daisy in the dirt beside her.
Coulson had rushed over to his two collapsed agents, shaking their shoulders gently until each returned to the land of the living. "Are you alright?" He asked, "What happened?"
"Didn't you hear that sound?" Asia asked, wiping her sleeve against her face to try and get the blood all off. "It was...disorienting."
"That's an understatement," Daisy groaned, propping herself up against Asia's shoulder. "That sound was killing me. Whatever the machine was doing...that sound was the audio version of the pits of Hell." Asia nodded in agreement.
"What sound are you talking about?" Coulson asked, confusion displayed plainly on his face. Asia and Daisy looked at each other, brows furrowed. They had both heard the sound, they weren't crazy. Whatever they had heard hurt them so badly that they had become incapacitated.
"You must have heard it," Asia shook her head, "It was...it was everywhere."
"I couldn't hear anything else, couldn't focus on anything else," Daisy explained further, but Coulson still seemed completely oblivious. "But it's not happening now...because the machine isn't running."
"The machine is broken," Coulson explained, nodding towards a giant metal wheel laying on the ground the Mack and Leo were working on lifting back up. "Seems it's been too many years since it was in use yet, and certainly wasn't ready to be used again so quickly, for so long. We're looking at fix options right now."
Asia looked over at Leo, who was clearly frantic to find a solution to the fix. It made her heart ache. And it hurt her that he didn't even seem to notice her there, lying on the floor, in pain. She looked away, not wanting to think about that, not wanting the others to see her think about that.
Daisy looked over at Asia, then at Leo, then back to her friend. "Coulson, can we just have a minute?" She asked, resting her hand on top of Asia's.
"Of course, anything you need. If you're feeling faint again, please call one of us over," He nodded, standing up and moving to go chat with Bobbi.
"This has been really hard on you," Daisy said quietly, "I know that it has. But I'm here for you. We take care of each other, right?" She squeezed Asia's hand softly, trying to get her friend to look her in the eyes.
Asia looked up, and gave her a small, but sad smile. But she squeezed Daisy's hand back. "We're in this together," She whispered back. "Whatever it takes."
"We'll get Jemma back soon enough, and then things will all go back to normal," Daisy replied, leaning back against the metal container behind them. She meant her words, she truly did. But just because she meant them, didn't mean she knew if they were true or not. Things could get worse, situationally, than they were now. She looked at her friend, who seemed so much smaller than she used to be, and closed her eyes, sending a hope out into the universe, a hope that she was right.
"Vibrations! That's it!" Leo shouted suddenly, startling both of the girls who sat on the ground, still leaning on one another. "We don't need to fix it! It doesn't matter, really, we just need to..." The man trailed off, turning to look at Daisy, his eyes widening.
Daisy stared back at him for a moment, before the realization clicked. "You don't need to fix it, because I can operate the portal." She stood shakily to her feet, stretching her shoulders, cracking her knuckles, then reaching down to help Asia up.
"Precisely!" Leo said encouragingly. "This entire room was made to resonate at a specific frequency..." he spun around, turning to face Daisy again, his gaze barely flickering to Asia ever so slightly, taking in a small bit of dried blood by the corner of her eye. He wanted to stop and ask what happened but right now there was no time."Daisy, can you do it?" He asked her.
"Yea, I can," she said, glancing over at Asia. "This will probably hurt like hell again," she said to the brunette, shaking her head ever so slightly.
"Probably," Asia admitted in response, brushing off her black pants. "But I'll be with you every step of the way." She gave Daisy a nod in return.
Leo let out a sigh of relief, turning back to Coulson. "Alright, we need to set up, um, set up a few things. We should probably, er, bring in some stabilizers to make sure things don't..things don't collapse. Um.."
"I'm on it," Coulson nodded, surveying the room. Luckily, they had the supplies needed on the Bus, at least...they should.
Mack had finished drilling the last bolt into a pulley system, standing up and clapping his hands on his legs in success. Asia surveyed the rest of the room, moving to stand beside Daisy. Coulson joined the two Inhumans, sighing as he stepped beside them.
"So you think you can do this? You remember the frequency?" He asked Daisy, looking down at the Monolith, then over at his agent.
"I remember it more than I wish I did," Daisy shook her head, recalling the ear-piercing sound. "I don't know how long I can hold it, but I'll try to keep it up as long as possible."
"It could kill you," Coulson replied, very mater-of-factly. There wasn't any concern in his tone, but both of the women could tell that he was. It was his job to worry, his job to be concerned about the wellbeing of his agents. And he worried about all of them, but especially his Bus-kids. The ones who had been with him from the very beginning and would be till the very end. "If it is too much, you pull back, ok?" He said, nodding at Daisy.
"I'll be with her," Asia nodded, "I'll make sure nothing bad happens." She placed a hand on Daisy's shoulder, giving it a small squeeze. Daisy looked over at her reassuringly, with a nod and a small smile.
"Alright," Coulson nodded after a moment. "I trust you two to have each other's backs. If it's too much, pull out." And then he walked over towards Leo and Mack, overwatching what they were doing, Leo typing away on a tablet.
"You sure you're up for this?" Asia asked, letting the concern show on her face once their Director was gone. That frequency last time...it had hurt the two of them badly, and no one else had been able to tell. Starting the portal back up would affect them similarly, or at least they thought.
"Yea, I got this," Daisy affirmed. "If I start to stagger..hold me up?" She asked her friend, her partner in crime.
"Of course," Asia agreed, with a quick nod. She wouldn't let Daisy down, not with all this weight at stake. If they managed this, then they had managed a way to bring Jemma home. And whatever that meant, whatever it meant for her, whatever it meant for Leo, they had to bring her home.
The two girls watched as Bobbi hooked up a glass sphere to a long cable, a camera suspended inside. They were going to drop it in once the portal was open, get a visual on what exactly they were dealing with, get prepared. Be ready to save their teammate, come hell or high water. Bobbi looked at Coulson, who looked at Daisy, giving her a nod.
Daisy and Asia exchanged a glance before Daisy slowly held her arms up, hands outstretched, vibrations beginning to ricochet off the walls. As Daisy tuned into the exact sound, the vibrating frequency they had both head so painfully earlier, a lightbulb exploded. Daisy shook her head, a finger twitching, as the sound started to erupt from her. She thrust her hands down, towards the pit, bouncing the vibrations off of the Monolith. Instantly, the Monolith melted as the entire room shook with her power.
"Hold it open as long as you can," Leo said suddenly, over the sound of the shaking. And suddenly, he jumped, the cable meant for the camera hooked onto his belt. Asia lurched forward, trying to grab him, as she heard Coulson shouting. But it was too late, he had disappeared into the morphing pit of a portal.
Asia was half tempted to jump herself, but the painful, earsplitting sound hit her ears, causing her to wobble back a step. She turned, looking at Daisy, whose face was twisted in pain as she held the vibrations, the room around them still shaking, the support beams starting to wobble back and forth.
"Don't let it close," Asia whispered, as she stepped up under Daisy's arms, using her shoulders to completely support her friend, taking the weight off of her.
Mack grabbed onto one of the support beams, "Hey Frosty, a little help here," he shouted to her, looking at the metal he was trying to hold down. Asia nodded, shooting her hand out, a blast of ice enveloping the beam, keeping it in place. She looked at the other side of the room, extending her other arm, freezing the other beam in place. As the shaking continued, her ice started to crack, so she kept sending the beams of ice, one from each arm, straining against the sound hitting her brain and holding her friend up. But she had to keep it up. She couldn't let that portal close.
Not when the man she loved had just jumped inside of it.
"Asia," Daisy whispered shakily. Asia knew what her whisper meant. She could she her friend's arms starting to shake with the tension, knew the sound was getting to her too.
"Lean on me, put it all on me," Asia whispered back, gritting her teeth as she struggled to keep her powers flowing. "Just don't close it," she said. Please she thought, sending the hope out into the universe. Please don't let me lose him.
She felt something wet on her shoulder a glanced back, seeing blood dripping once more from Daisy's nose and onto her. She was sure her own face looked similar, but didn't dwell on it. She couldn't think of anything besides keeping this portal open.
Coulson took one look at the two Inhumans, barely able to stay standing, fueled by nothing but sure will, and let out a string of expletives. "Get him back here, right now!" He ordered to Mack, who sprang immediately into action, running to the pulley that held the rope, cranking back on a lever.
Immediately, the rope started to churn in reverse, pulling itself out of the hole. Hopefully, bringing Leo with it.
"Asia..." Daisy muttered again, her voice weaker this time.
"Please..." Asia whispered back, the pleading emotion staining her voice, her heart aching at the thought of losing him to that portal. Even though things were off right now, even though she wasn't sure that they were even still together, it was undeniable that Asia Monroe loved Leopold Fitz and always would. She didn't know how to go existing on the plane without him.
"I can't hold it," Daisy cried out, squeezing her eyes shut and straining against the sound that slammed against her skull.
Coulson was shouting, but Asia couldn't hear the words he was saying. She couldn't even hear herself saying over and over, "Don't let it close." The screeching sound was too intense, it was all she could hear. She and Daisy locked eyes as Daisy's hands quivered and she faltered, falling to the ground, Asia falling beside her.
The Monolith exploded, bits of gravel and dust filling the air around them.
"No," Asia mumbled, scrambling to her hands and knees, tears starting to spill over her eyes, mingling with the blood that was still dripping down her cheeks. "No, no, no," she scrambled towards the lip of the hole, staring in at the shattered bits of the Monolith below. Her heart felt shattered along with them, as small as the gravel below her. Two of her tears dripped off of her cheeks, falling into the pit. It couldn't be true. He couldn't be gone, gone forever.
Suddenly, the gravel shifted. Asia looked up, her eyes fixing on the spot. She saw a form push its way out from beneath the rubble, curly hair, a fair but toned forearm. Leo. Leo was in there. He was alive. He hadn't been trapped. The gravel shifted further, a second body, red hair, frail, tiny, curled beside him. Jemma Simmons was down in that hole, too.
Asia fell back onto the bricks behind her, legs shaking, the world still feeling black and fuzzy around her. Suddenly, she felt Mack's supportive arms scooping her up from the floor. "You're alright, Elsa, I got you," he said, using one of the many nicknames he coined for her. As he picked her up, folding her into his chest, Asia let out a sob, the tears completely letting loose.
So they had done it. They had saved Jemma. Everyone was back safely. Everything was back to normal.
Except it wasn't. Asia still slept alone. She wasn't sure where Leo was sleeping. His old room, maybe? Alone, under his quilt he brought that his mother had given him long ago, instead of beside his girlfriend, who slept in an old tattered sweater of his, the spice of his aftershave long gone from the fabric.
It wasn't that she wasn't happy over Jemma's return. She was overjoyed, really. She had never expected their journey to that crumbling castle would bear this much fruit. They had saved her. And Asia was thrilled. It was just that things were so different now. Bobbi and Leo spent most of their time helping Jemma re-acclimate to her home. Hunter was gone. Daisy was mostly focusing on their Inhuman project, though she made sure to check in from time to time. Asia was alone, mostly.
And she was alone in one of the training rooms, hammering away at a punching bag, when Daisy came to find her. Asia looked up at the sound of footsteps, a few loose strands of hair hanging over her face which had escaped from her ponytail in her punching frenzy.
"I need you," was all Daisy said, "Let's go." Without question, Asia headed for the door, towards her friend. Whatever it was seemed urgent, and Asia would follow Daisy to the ends of Earth if needed.
As they walked down the halls together, Asia redid her ponytail, catching all the stray strands back into their proper places. "So, what's going on?" She asked. She recognized that way Daisy's chin jutted out just a bit, the grit in her teeth. Inside, the brunette was seething, but Asia couldn't guess as to why.
"It's Lincoln," Daisy replied with a frown, "The ATCU, that stupid 'alien task force' the government thinks is necessary, put a hit out on him. He's basically America's Most Wanted right now." She shuddered a little bit, thinking of the blonde being hunted, never resting to sleep completely, always feeling on edge, feeling watched. She didn't want that for anyone, but especially not for him.
"For real?" Asia asked, astonished. What did Lincoln do to get all this attention on him? Lincoln had been pretty good at laying low, even when that incident occurred at the hospital. "How did you find out?"
"One of the tech guys, who monitor all the different TV stations, reported it," Daisy sighed, "It's all over the news." She pressed her lips into a thin line.
"Are we going to find him?" Asia asked, cracking her knuckles as they rounded a corner, heading towards the Lab. She already knew the answer, but she asked anyways.
"We're going to try," Daisy replied, stealing herself for the conversation she was about to have. She knew she didn't have to convince Asia to go. They just needed to convince their director.
Inside the Lab stood Bobbi, Mack, Coulson, and Leo. Asia's eyes locked in on Leo the second she saw him. He was wearing grey slacks, and a pale blue button up, sleeves rolled up to his forearms. He looked good, stressed, but good. The kind of good that made her want to pull him in close and just hold onto him for a moment. She wrapped her hands tightly over her chest to stop herself.
He looked back at her as she entered with Daisy, his eyes locking onto her with a steal focus. She had working out again, all alone down in the basement. He wondered why she didn't come up to the Lab anymore. Had he done something to make her feel unwelcome there? That used to be the space where they all gathered, but these days it seemed like it was just him. Never Daisy, never Asia, even with Jemma back, just him. But now here she was, standing mere feet from him. He fought the urge to walk right up to her and kiss her forehead...but he didn't.
When Coulson saw them enter, he nodded to the others, then turned and headed towards the two girls. It didn't take a psychic to see something was up. "What's wrong?" he asked, as soon as he got to them.
"Lincoln is in trouble," Daisy said quickly, her tone enough to make Coulson worried.
"Let's walk," Coulson said, nodding towards the hall. He, Mack, Asia, and Daisy, all made their way into the hall, Daisy and Coulson taking the lead, Asia and Mack falling in step behind them.
"The ATCU put out a nationwide bulletin on him," Daisy explained, gesticulating with her hands. "The entire US population is looking for him, not to mention the FBI, CIA, excrete. It's bad, Coulson. They put his face out there."
"Risky play...sounds like someone's getting desperate," Coulson replied as they power walked down the halls.
"Well, what do you think they'll do when they find him?" Daisy protested, handing him a tablet with the bulletin displayed on it. They turned into the break room, stopping by the metal island in the center. As he looked at it, she kept speaking. "We can't just leave him out there. What if it was me? He needs help."
"Haven't we tried that already?" Mack asked with a slight frown on his lips. He didn't want to see Daisy disappointed, again. "We've tried to help him before, he wasn't what I would call receptive."
"This time will be different. They're hunting him like an animal. We need to give him a way out," Daisy tried again to convince them. They couldn't just leave him out there. She looked to Asia pleadingly, wanting her to help make their case.
"She has a point," Asia sighed. "If it were one of us, you would come." She looked from Mack to Coulson to Daisy. "You wouldn't hesitate. You would come." The two men looked at each other, then looked down. She was right. Of course they would.
"You're right, both of you," Coulson agreed, nodding. "We need to bring him in. Now."
"Well, it'll be a little harder than that," Daisy sighed. "I have no idea where he is. Any of our old methods of conversation are all radio silent. I've tried all day, nothing."
Mack and Coulson shared a look, causing Asia to raise an eyebrow. She looked at them, then at Daisy, then back to the two men. They knew something. Something they weren't sharing. Daisy looked at her, eyes widening. "You might as well tell us whatever your secret is," Asia said with a tilt of her head. "Hiding things from spies usually doesn't turn out super well."
"We know how to find Lincoln," Coulson said, surprisingly nonchalantly.
"What do you mean you know how to find him?" Daisy asked, throwing her arms out. "Is he responding to you? Because that'd be a first."
Mack sighed, shaking his head. "She's not going to like this," he directed his sentence towards Coulson with a shake of his head.
"She doesn't have to like it," Coulson shrugged, "I made a call, and clearly it was a good one. The tracker is coming in handy now." He turned to Daisy, "Mack put a tracker on Lincoln. We can give you his exact location. Think that'll help you track him down?"
Asia could see Daisy was about to shout, so she put her hand on her friend's shoulder, sending a jolt of cold shivering through the woman's body. "It's not worth it right now," she said with a nod of her head, "That can come later. Right now, we have tracking to do."