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Soulmate Shorts AKA The Crackship Armada

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So, I’ve become somewhat addicted to amusewithaview’s Soul Mates AU. And, because I am trying to challenge myself to get a bit less long-winded and carried away by the plot fairies every time I write, each pairing chapter (possibly the odd triad) in this fic is intended to be no more than 1,000 words (some may be a lot less).

If you don’t already know, the premise of this AU is that the first words soulmates say to each other appear somewhere on the skin of each partner, in the handwriting of the other. The younger partner is born with the words, the older receives the words the moment the younger one is born. Asgardians are a bit different (in my AU) – their soulmarks are triggered by touch.

Amusewithaview has already written an amazing chapter fic about Darcy Lewis and her possible soulmates called Write Love On My Skin. This is intended to be my version, but mixing and matching members of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. cast with various Avengers, X-Men and other MCU characters.

I've also included entertainingly badly Photoshopped images of each pairing by me, in the hope that they might help you to visualise the characters together... hope they don't offend too much! I've also added my own cheesy hair rock (mostly) soundtrack for which I am entirely blaming Peter Quill. Each pairing has a theme song advised in the beginning notes - for maximum feels cue up the song and listen while you read!

These are the first meetings of soulmates, so sexual contact is implied in the future, but won’t be written in, although there’s a few kisses – okay, Tony Stark broke that plan, but it’s not explicit. This is still rated T. (Some of the sequels aren’t – be careful if you don’t want to read smut).

I’ve created a poll for you to vote in, for which pairings you’d like me to write first. You get up to TEN votes in the current version. They are written STRICTLY in order of most votes to least. If you want to see other pairings than those on the Poll you can ask, but bear in mind that I won’t write those that are contradicted in MCU canon – so generally it’s restricted to people who haven’t ‘met’ onscreen.

Now that there are 50+ of these written, it’s been pointed out to me that an index would be useful, particularly for those reading on their phones where full chapter titles don’t appear. Therefore, here’s an index which I will endeavour to update every few fics… and include details of sequels.

Soulmate Shorts Index by chapter number:

  1. Introduction/Index

  2. Jemma/Clint

  3. Skye/Johnny Storm

  4. Hunter/Darcy Lewis

  5. May/Tony

  6. Skye/Bucky                                               sequel The B.ER.S.E.R.K.E.R. Stratagem by AiyanaS

  7. Skye/Peter Parker

  8. Skye/Tony                                                 sequel So You're The One

  9. Jemma/Bruce/Hulk

  10. Skye/Deadpool                                        fits into the Jemma/Gambit major sequel,The Gambler

  11. Jemma/Bucky                                          sequel currently being plotted by me

  12. Jemma/Steve                                           sequel A Very Eloquent Speech

  13. Jemma/Johnny Storm

  14. Skye/Steve                                                sequel Trust Cap by jennaloohoo

  15. May/Wolverine

  16. Darcy/Trip

  17. Skye/Darcy

  18. Skye/Clint                                               sequel I Can Jump...No! by AlekWalker

  19. Jemma/Tony                                            sequel Prior Consent COMPLETE

  20. Steve/Bucky/Skye                                   sequel I’m So Scared, Please Help Me by LadyWinterlight

  21. Steve/Bucky/Jemma

  22. Skye/Thor

  23. Skye/Loki                                               sequel It Is You by VulpeculaNight

  24. Skye/Wolverine

  25. Clint/Bucky/Skye                                     sequel Are You Two…? (total porn without plot) by me COMPLETE

  26. Jemma/Loki                                              sequel What Right Have You?

  27. Jemma/Wolverine

  28. Jemma/Sam Wilson

  29. Jemma/Gambit                                        sequel The Gambler by me COMPLETE

  30. Skye/Sam Wilson

  31. Clint/Bucky/Jemma

  32. Fitz/Tony (platonic)                                  follows on from no. 28, Jemma/Sam

  33. Skye/Peter Quill                                        reserved for Lady Winterlight

  34. Clint/Natasha/Jemma

  35. Skye/Gambit

  36. Jemma/Peter Quill

  37. Skye/Quicksilver

  38. May/Bruce

  39. Jemma/Quicksilver

  40. May/Natasha

  41. Jemma/Brock Rumlow                             sequel You Need To Trust Me by me COMPLETE

  42. Clint/Natasha/Skye

  43. Jemma/Deadpool

  44. Fitz/Darcy

  45. Jemma/Peter Parker                                 follows on from no. 44, Fitz/Darcy

  46. Natasha/Skye                                           sequel TBC reserved for catandmouse10

  47. Clint/Natasha/May

  48. Skye/Brock Rumlow

  49. Skye/Fandral                                            fits into the Jemma/Loki sequel What Right Have You?

  50. Skye/Pyro

  51. Skye/Rhodey

  52. Steve/Bucky/Sif

  53. Skye/Colossus                                          follows on from no. 15, May/Wolverine

  54. Skye/Angel                                              sequel If I Had A Dollar... by me

  55. Natasha/Jemma

  56. Jemma/Colossus

  57. Fitz/Natasha

  58. Jemma/Fandral

  59. Skye/Victor von Doom                             sequel Let Go Of Me  by storieaddict

  60. Skye/Iceman

  61. Hunter/Bobbi

  62. Skye/Wanda (Scarlet Witch)                     follows on from no. 39, Jemma/Quicksilver

  63. Skye/Bruce Banner

  64. Jemma/Iceman

  65. Melinda May/Drax the Destroyer             follows on from no. 36, Jemma/Peter Quill

  66. Bucky Barnes/Sif

  67. Jemma/Angel                                          follows on from no. 15, May/Wolverine, and no. 53, Skye/Colossus

  68. Bucky Barnes/Pepper Potts                      sequel In Extremis Veritas  by zathara001

  69. Skye/Hogun

  70. Grant Ward/Natasha Romanoff

  71. Steve/Sif

  72. Jemma/Jane Foster Platonic                     fits into the Jemma/Loki sequel What Right Have You?

  73. Jemma/Pyro                                            follows on from no. 60, Skye/Iceman

  74. Thor/Storm

  75. Loki/Rogue                                             follows on from no. 74, Thor/Storm

  76. Phil Coulson/Pepper Potts

  77. Fitz/Darcy/Jane Foster

  78. Darcy/Deathlok

  79. Clint/Bobbi/Natasha/Hunter

  80. Fitz/Rogue part 1

  81. Fitz/Rogue part 2

  82. May/Rhodey

  83. Phil Coulson/Wolverine

  84. Bucky/Wanda                                            sequel My Mission by me

  85. Phil Coulson/Melinda May

  86. Grant Ward/Rogue

  87. Fitz/Sif

  88. Mack/Darcy

  89. Skye/Heimdall

  90. May/Clint

  91. Steve/Wanda

  92. Darcy/Deadpool                                         sequel One Too Many Shocks by pretzel-logic

  93. Steve/Pepper

  94. Bucky/Bobbi

  95. Hunter/Bobbi/Clint

  96. Phil/Gamora                                               follows on from no. 36, Jemma/Peter Quill, and no 65, May/Drax

  97. Jemma/Rhodey

  98. Peggy Carter/Wolverine 

  99. May/Loki

  100. Clint/Sif

  101. May/Sam Wilson

  102. Fitz/Wanda

  103. Clint/Bobbi Morse                                      sequel You Can Come Out Now by AlekWalker

  104. May/Heimdall                                             fits into the Jemma/Loki sequel What Right Have You?

  105. Clint/Wanda

  106. Darcy/Angel                                               sequel Broken Wings In The City That Never Sleeps by BirdofFire

  107. Clint/Hunter

  108. Clint/Brock Rumlow

  109. Sif/Tony Stark

  110. Fitz/Kitty Pryde

  111. Clint/Jane

  112. Clint/Pepper

  113. Natasha/Sif

  114. Brock Rumlow/Wanda Maximoff

  115. Clint Barton/ Pietro Maximoff                      companion fic to 114, Brock Rumlow/Wanda

  116. Jemma/Thor

  117. Jemma/Pyro/Iceman                                    reserved for Ellabee15

  118. Skye/Jean Grey/Scott Summers                   companion fic to 117, Jemma/Pyro/Iceman, reserved for Ellabee15

  119. Natasha/Heimdall

  120. Brock Rumlow/Lance Hunter

  121. Skye/Deadpool/Wolverine                           reserved for BirdofFire

  122. Darcy/Gambit

  123. Skye/Sam/Angel

  124. Fitz/Bucky

  125. Skye/Sunil Bakshi                                        reserved for Dubstep Wombat

  126. Jemma/Sunil Bakshi

  127. Darcy/Colossus

  128. Bruce Banner/Beth The Waitress

  129. Brock Rumlow/Beth The Waitress

  130. Bucky Barnes/Beth The Waitress                  now with sequel The Light In The Darkness by MelyndaR

  131. May/Deadpool

  132. Quicksilver/Deadpool

  133. Johnny Storm/Angel

  134. Jemma/Lincoln

  135. Fitz/Sam Wilson

  136. Brock Rumlow/Bucky Barnes

  137. Clint Barton/Beth the Waitress

  138. Jemma/Matt Murdock

  139. Pyro/Iceman/Skye

  140. Jemma/Hogun

  141. Darcy Lewis/Grant Ward

  142. Pietro Maximoff/Bucky Barnes

  143. Tony Stark/Wanda Maximoff

  144. Skye/Jack Rollins

  145. Skye/Scott Summers (Cyclops)

  146. STRIKE Team Uncles (not a pairing)

  147. Steve/Melinda May

  148. Darcy Lewis/Lincoln Campbell

  149. Phil Coulson/Helen Cho

  150. Melinda May/Odin

 

Not sequels but also inspired by this fic…

Until The Last Falling Star

Fate’s Arrow

Avengers Soulmates Snipets

Those Lovely Marks

What Pepper Said

Soulmarked

Fate Has A Twisted Sense Of Humour

I Wasn't Expecting This Today

If YOU are inspired by one of these and want to write a sequel – first of all, please check the Index to see if someone already did. One sequel per Short, please. Second, please get in touch and ASK me, because a few I want to keep for myself – I’d like to see a plot and beta-read at least the first chapter of your continuance. I also politely request that you credit me and then I’ll link to your story from both this Index and the appropriate chapter in the story.

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Another day, another HYDRA facility to blow up. Clint sighed as he fitted another arrow to his bowstring and shot the guard at the gate who was currently trying to shoot Captain America in the back.

“We’re done here,” he called it in on the com about twenty minutes later, watching Steve, Sam and Natasha coming out of the building. “Resistance eliminated.”

“All right,” Coulson responded in his ear. “Stand by, Hawkeye. I have May escorting in my biosciences expert to take a look around before we blow the place sky-high. And if she gets taken out by any stray resistance I’m gonna be very pissed with you.”

“Ugh,” Clint muttered, dropping down out of the tree he’d selected for his sniper perch. “Isn’t Bruce coming in? I would have thought this would be his bag. And then we wouldn’t have to worry about your civilian expert getting shot.”

“Doctor Simmons is not a civilian, Clint, she’s an agent, and a very competent one,” Phil responded dryly. “Just keep an eye on her. Like a lot of the science geeks she can get a bit lost in the tech.”

“Happy, happy day,” he said sarcastically, watching the black SUV approach. It drew to a stop just outside the shattered gate and two women got out. “May,” he nodded to the senior agent cordially, and she nodded back.

“Barton. This is Doctor Jemma Simmons.”

“This way, please,” he gestured politely towards the gate as he met the eyes of the younger woman. She was quite pretty, he noted distantly, shoulder length brown hair and soft brown eyes.

“Happy, happy day,” she said back to him, and he winced, realising that she’d heard his sarcastic remark on the coms. He said that a lot. It was the words that had been printed neatly on his right pectoral muscle since he was eleven years old. Wait. His eyes widened.

“I don’t suppose you were born with the words this way, please, scribbled somewhere on your body in very scruffy handwriting?”

The brown eyes went very wide. “How do you know that?”

Clint pulled off his tactical vest and T-shirt. Doctor Simmons took a step back, but didn’t seem to be able to stop staring at his chest. He tapped his fingers on the three tiny, neatly printed words.

“Hello, soulmate.”

She stepped closer, peering at his chest. And then her eyes tilted up to his and she gave him a shy little smile. “Hello.”

 

Chapter Text

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“It’s very disappointing,” Skye sat down on Coulson’s desk, swinging her legs and crunching potato chips. He gave her his exasperated face and she rolled her eyes and slumped into a chair instead.

“Thank you,” Coulson muttered, looking back at his computer screen. She crunched again loudly, and he sighed, giving up. “So what exactly do you find disappointing?”

“Superheroes.” Skye smirked when he looked surprised. “Seriously? Captain America is an uptight prick. Barton is standoffish to the point of rudeness. Banner is so silent he might as well be not present, except for when he unexpectedly loses his temper and turns into a giant rage monster.”

Coulson actually cracked a smile, leaned back in his chair and opened his hand, inviting her to continue. Skye started ticking them off on her fingers.

“Thor is an ass who thinks humanity is still on an evolutionary level with chimpanzees. Romanoff can’t have a conversation with anybody without threatening them with grievous bodily harm.”

“Stark?” Coulson asked when she paused to crunch again.

“Oh puh-leeze. Stark’s the biggest asshole of the lot. Although Wolverine comes a close second.” Skye viciously crunched another chip, thinking about that. “They both patted my ass and called me girlie!”

“Only once,” Coulson pointed out.

“Only because Romanoff was in the room!”

“That is possibly true,” he acknowledged. “Well – yes, I agree they do have their foibles.”

Foibles. Huh,” Skye snorted. “And that’s just the ones who have control over their powers! Don’t get me started on that weirdo Cyclops.”

“It’s hardly his fault you tripped and knocked his sunglasses off,” Phil objected.

“He could have closed his eyes! He blew up my laptop!”

Phil winced. Skye had not made a good impression during that incident. While the X-Men weren’t actively working against what remained of S.H.I.E.L.D., they had declined to commit to co-operate either. He couldn’t blame that on Skye – but he didn’t think she’d helped. “Well, there’s one more group we’re meeting this afternoon. Please try to refrain from being…” he almost said ‘from being Skye’ but stopped himself. “Antagonistic.”

“So who’re this crew?” Skye asked, rooting around the bottom of her chip bag and scowling when she came up empty-handed.

“The Fantastic Four.”

“Oh, the bendy dude and his invisible wife?”

Phil closed his eyes and counted to ten. “That’s Mr Fantastic and The Invisible Woman, Reed Richards and Susan Storm-Richards, Skye. Plus their cohorts, Ben Grimm – the Thing – and Susan’s brother John Storm, the Human Torch.”

“Has anyone pointed out that he looks a lot like Steve Rogers?”

Yes, Skye, and no, they’re not related.”

 “Huh.” Skye grinned. “Well, if he’s less uptight than Captain Tightpants, that’s gotta be a good thing, right?” She bounced to her feet and trotted out, waving the empty packet at Coulson. “Later, AC!”

Phil put his head down on the desk and groaned.

 

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The Baxter Building, later that day

“Fancy elevator,” Skye commented, “kinda slow?”

“Shh,” came back at her from all corners. Since Reed and his wife were scientists, Coulson had brought Fitz and Jemma along too.

“Why, no one’s here but us,” she grumped, rolling her eyes when Jemma glared at her.

The elevator doors slid open – finally, the building wasn’t that tall! – and they stepped out into a weird-ass lab full of machines Skye didn’t even recognise. An obnoxiously beautiful woman came up, smiling.

“Director Coulson, thank you for coming. I’m Sue.”

Coulson and Fitz were both reduced to stuttering wrecks in Susan Storm-Richards’ presence, and Jemma was struck to wide-eyed silence due to the woman’s brilliant reputation as a bio-scientist. Skye stepped in and completed the introductions, liking Sue at once as she saw the twinkle in the other woman’s eye. Okay. So maybe not all superheroes are assholes.

Reed Richards was an asshole, though, Skye decided a few minutes later. Typical brilliant-scientist asshole. No respect for anyone he considered his intellectual lesser.

Ben Grimm was quite nice, though. Pleasant and polite, and Skye found herself feeling rather sorry for him. Had to be tough if you were stuck looking like that all the time.

“Where’s John?” Phil asked then.

“Late as usual,” Reed muttered, glancing at Sue, who sighed.

“I’m sure he’ll be here any minute, Director.”

“Please call me Phil.” They were smiling and being nice at each other when Skye noticed the rapidly approaching fireball through the window.

“ARGH!” she screamed, pointing.

“What?” Sue turned invisible – which looked deeply weird, since she was wearing regular clothes, and they didn’t disappear – and everyone whipped around to face the window.

“Oh,” Ben chuckled, like an earthquake. “No need to worry, girlie. That’s just Johnny.”

Well, at least he didn’t pat my ass. Skye downrated Ben for the girlie, though.

“The star is here, you can start the show!” Johnny Storm came striding in through the open balcony doors. That skintight blue suit did quite a job for him, emphasising every delicious, leanly muscled inch. Skye couldn’t help but stare. Spotting her, Johnny stopped mid-stride and let out a low wolf-whistle.

“Wow. If I’d known about you, I’d’ve been on time,” he said to her directly.

Skye blinked. Twice. She heard Jemma suck in a breath beside her. Jemma had seen the words scrawled in a loopy spiral around Skye’s belly button. She knew.

“Let me know when you’re ready to start making little fireworks, huh?” Skye said finally.

Johnny’s eyes went a good deal wider. “Wanna blow this popsicle stand, girlie?”

“As long as you promise never to call me girlie again.”

“I reckon I can do that.” He folded her hand in his, grinning, and they headed for the balcony together.

“What just happened?” Skye grinned as she heard Coulson’s plaintive voice behind her.

“Promise I’ll make him bring me home by midnight!” she yelled over her shoulder.

Johnny laughed in her ear. “You’ll be lucky.”

Skye grinned up at him. Oh well, so this superhero was an asshole too.

At least this one was her asshole.

 

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Growing up with Get down! printed on her ankle, Darcy had expected to meet her soulmate probably playing some childish game. It wasn’t until she was older and less likely to get hit in the head with a flying softball that she realised exactly why her mother was so bothered by the words.

Hanging around with Asgardian Gods and physicists without the sense to screw in a light bulb – or ability to warm a PopTart without blowing up the kitchen – she started getting the feeling that her soulmate was just around the corner again. But Mr. (or Ms.) Get down! didn’t show up in Puente Antiguo to defend her from the huge mechanical monster. Or in London when there were freaky dark elves trying to break the space-time continuum.

So Darcy shrugged, shagged Ian, farewelled him cheerfully enough when he headed back to Cambridge to finish his thesis and carried on trying to coax Jane into eating regular meals. It was actually much easier with Thor around, since the big guy didn’t like missing meals at all, and wasn’t keen on spending time without Jane either. Darcy would just send him into the lab and he would come out with a (briefly) annoyed Jane over his shoulder, and they’d go get lunch.

They were eating lunch one day at an all-you-can-eat Chinese place not far from the lab (they’d nearly been banned when the manager realised how much Thor could eat, but then he saw how little Jane ate and decided to call it a wash) when gunfire sounded outside.

Thor shoved Jane under the table and was out the door in a second. Darcy, unfortunately, had developed an instinct for running towards the bad things instead of away, and went belting after him. What she thought she could do other than get in the way she had no idea, but she never got a chance, because one step outside and she felt a bullet whiz past her ear. Actually felt the heat of it pass, probably singing her hair as it went. She froze.

“Get down!” a voice bellowed, and someone crashed into her, knocking her into the pavement, sending her glasses flying, and then a gun was going off right over her head as her attacker (saviour?) lay on her back.

Darcy screamed and covered her ears. The shooting seemed to go on forever, and then the heavy bastard on her back finally climbed off. “Are you all right?” he asked, in an English accent.

“No, I think you broke my boobs!” Darcy groaned, climbing to her feet, pressing her hand to the crushed girls – ow that was gonna bruise – and squinting around for her glasses. “And I can’t see.”

The tall-ish – tall but not Thor-sized – blurry figure in front of her paused. “I always wondered what would happen to make a girl say those words to me,” he said conversationally.

“What?” Darcy blinked owlishly. A moment later her glasses were pressed back into her hand. Thank goodness for shatterproof lenses. She pushed them up her nose and took a good look at the guy.

Oooh. Well. Maybe she didn’t mind being crushed all that much. He had kind of, probably, saved her life, too, when he shoved her and shouted…

He shouted get down!

“Oh,” Darcy said in astonishment, “are you my soulmate?”

“Seems that way,” he was looking her over comprehensively, so she returned the favour. About five foot ten, dark hair cut military short, a rather sexy goatee beard and moustache. He was very attractive, all cheekbones and intense dark eyes, wearing a leather jacket and jeans which in no way hid that he was extremely buff. “What’s your name, gorgeous?”

“Darcy,” she said, still a bit stunned. “Darcy Lewis. You?”

“Hunter, Lance Hunter. A genuine pleasure.” He picked up her hand and kissed it with a gallant flourish. “Unfortunately, duty calls.” He raised a hand to the earpiece she’d only just spotted he was wearing. “I’ll find you later, Darcy.” He grinned, and then ran off down the street in an easy lope, towards where Darcy could still see lightning flashing in the distance.

Jane dragged Darcy back into the restaurant as soon as he was gone, demanding to know what the hell she was playing at and who was that? It took half a bottle of wine before Darcy could think clearly enough to explain.

Darcy had no idea how Hunter was going to find her again. She really hadn’t expected to come back from a grocery run that evening to find him sitting at the table in the flat with Jane, Thor and the formerly-dead Agent-iPod-Thief Coulson.

“What are you doing here?” Darcy and Hunter both said at the same moment, she dropping her shopping bags on her toes, he leaping to his feet.

“This is Darcy, my lab assistant,” Jane introduced with a grin, having recognised Hunter from the incident earlier. “And the reason why Thor and I accepted your offer of an alliance with your team so readily, Director Coulson. I really couldn’t do without Darcy. And I can’t ask her to be on opposing sides to her soulmate.”

They all had the privilege then of seeing Coulson look surprised, (“A very rare treat,” Hunter commented to Darcy later) before he rather kindly told them to get out.

Darcy took Hunter out to the little rooftop terrace. “So you’re one of the jackbooted thugs?” she asked.

“Eh,” he shrugged. “I’m not career S.H.I.E.L.D. if that’s what you mean.” He stepped closer, traced a roughened fingertip gently down her cheek. He smelt of gun oil and leather; it made Darcy’s head spin.

“Can we worry about our respective ideologies and career tracks later?” she asked hopefully, moving in closer and lifting her hand to place it lightly on his chest. Mmm, muscles. “Because I’d really much rather you kissed me right now instead.”

“Sweetheart,” he grinned, “I thought you’d never ask.”

 

Chapter Text

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“I still don’t get how you expected to keep us in the dark forever,” Tony followed Coulson up the stairs at the rear of the plane. “I don’t even get why you wanted to. Sure, Fury perpetrated the ruse to tie the team together, I get that…”

“It wasn’t a ruse, I was dead,” Coulson cut him off. “I was brought back by a dangerous experimental drug and I really don’t recommend the experience.”

“Yes, well, you’re not the only one saved by dangerous experimental procedures,” Tony tapped his chest, the former arc reactor site, with his eyebrows arched. They were walking through the lounge now, heading for the spiral stairs to Coulson’s office. There was a woman there, her back to them, black hair flowing as she moved smoothly through tai chi poses. She was wearing tight black pants and a strappy bra top, and she moved like water flowing.

Tony couldn’t help but stop to appreciate the sight. He’d been basically celibate for a while now – ever since he finally figured out why Bruce had been avoiding meeting Pepper. The sharp-eyed Barton spotted the words on Bruce’s thigh after a Hulk transformation. Hi, I’m Pepper wasn’t exactly likely to be anyone else, after all. Tony had briefly considered being selfish, and then gave up and arranged an introduction. He was happy for them both, really. Just – kind of lonely now.

Sure, the groupies were still around. But after the first one he took to bed post-Pepper turned out to be HYDRA and tried to stab him in his sleep, it kind of ruined the mood when he had to have them thoroughly vetted before sleeping with them.

So this slender, flexible woman was a sight for sore eyes. Tony stood and stared, not even noticing how far Coulson was ahead until Agent called to him.

“Come on, Stark, my office is this way!”

The black-haired woman didn’t miss a beat, flowing into the next pose, not even glancing back though she had to know he was behind her. Piqued at being ignored, Tony decided to see if he could prod a reaction out of her.

“Wow, she’s flexible, Coulson. Very bendy,” he called to the Director, before addressing the woman. “Hello, bendy lady. Can you put your ankles behind your neck? Better yet, behind my neck?” He walked around her as he was speaking, wanting to see her face. Hoo boy, the view was even better from the front. She had one of those beautiful, inscrutable, Asian faces, delicately boned, with magnificent dark eyes. Hot hot hot. And she hadn’t so much as twitched at his offensive remark. Tony sighed and headed for Coulson’s office.

Melinda May waited until the office door clicked shut before dropping out of her pose, sitting down and putting her head in her hands. She’d always known her soulmate had the potential to be an ass. When your words started with Hello, bendy lady, and ended with a sexual request, it was a pretty high probability. But Tony Stark?

May sighed. Well, she’d been considering possible responses to those obnoxious words her whole life. She’d actually thought she might have spoken first – Hello was a possibility. But considering the circumstances – and the man – she made her decision quickly. She went to fetch her favourite kickass leather jacket and boots.

Coulson invited Tony to come and meet the rest of the team once their meeting had finished. “And please don’t be offensive to Agent May again, Stark. She’s my second-in-command and a very capable agent who could kick your ass seven ways to Sunday.”

“I’d probably like that if she did it,” Tony leered shamelessly as he sat down on the couch Coulson directed him to in the lounge. The beautiful flexible woman – Agent May, he presumed – was gone, sadly. And then he was somehow flat on his back on the floor with her booted foot on his throat. Coulson discreetly fled the scene.

“You ever speak to me with such disrespect again,” May told him icily, “I’ll cut off your dick and feed it to you.”

Tony’s eyes shot wider as he choked under the pressure of her boot. Satisfied that he’d recognised both the words and the legitimacy of her threat, May lifted her foot. Although she was tempted to put it back down again when she noticed how tight his jeans had gotten as she spoke. His next words would determine everything.

“I am a very lucky man,” Tony said, once he could breathe again. He grinned at her surprised look. “Oh come on, I always knew that I was going to be an obnoxious bastard to my soulmate. Consider the words. I’m just lucky that I was complimenting instead of insulting you.”

That – was true. May cocked her head at him as he scrambled to his feet.

“I’ll give you one chance to convince me that I should waste any of my time with you,” she said, catching his wrist and pulling on it.

“No problem. Let’s get my jet and fly to my place in Bermuda…” Tony trailed off as she led him to her sleeping cubicle. “Here?” he looked around with vague distaste.

“What, can’t perform without your five-thousand-thread-count sheets, Stark?” she taunted.

He never could resist a challenge. “You want a performance, I’ll give you the performance of your life,” he promised.

Afterwards, when they both lay sweating and sated, Tony let out a laugh. “I don’t even know your first name! Or is your first name May?”

“No,” she rolled over and grinned at him. “It’s Melinda. Abbreviate it in any way and I’ll kill you.”

“I totally believe you.” He leaned in to kiss her again. “Melinda.”

“And don’t you forget it.” She smiled, lying back and closing her eyes as he set to work again with that talented mouth. So Stark was trainable after all. He just needed a firm hand. Hers.

 

Chapter Text

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“This place is supposed to be abandoned,” May’s voice crackled in her ear. “Trip, do you have visual?”

“Negative. Location, Skye?”

“Upper level,” Skye peered through the scope, scanning carefully. It was a recently abandoned HYDRA safe house: Coulson had received an email from Tony Stark telling them that the Black Widow had found the place and the Avengers had trashed it, but there might be some information or artefacts of interest remaining. Coulson sent May, Trip and Skye to investigate. “I don’t see them now. But it was definitely a person.”

“Proceed with caution,” May decided eventually. “ICERs ready.”

“Affirmative.”

Skye knelt on the back seat of the SUV, her rifle braced on the open window-frame, watching, waiting.

A thud on the roof made Skye jump, and suddenly a metal hand came in through the window and grabbed her, dragging her out of the car with preternatural speed. And then she was lying on the roof, gagging and clawing at the fingers clenched around her throat, staring up into icy blue eyes. Black hair hung jaggedly around a stubbled jawline, but all she could really focus on was those eyes.

“A dangerous pastime for little girls,” a harsh voice rumbled, and Skye’s eyes flew wide. She tried to speak, but couldn’t. “Stay away from HYDRA business, little girl.” He let go, leaped down and yanked the rifle out the window. As he strode away, Skye managed to get a gulp of air back into her lungs and called hoarsely;

“My name is Skye!”

He froze mid-stride. And then he whirled and came back towards her swiftly. Skye had a couple of seconds to think that she might just have made the biggest – and last – mistake of her life, and then he was in front of her. He made no attempt to grab her, just stared into her eyes.

“Do you spell that with an E at the end?”

“Yes,” she whispered.

He kept staring at her, troubled. And finally he held out his metal hand in a clear signal that he intended to help her down. Skye hesitated; but her earpiece had come out when he yanked her out of the car and by now May and Trip would be trying to check in. She needed to speak with them, tell them not to come in guns blazing and shoot her soulmate. Even if he was the assassin who tried to kill Fury and nearly took out Captain America. She wasn’t stupid. She knew what that metal hand meant, even though the rest of the arm was concealed under his jacket sleeve.

Slowly, she put her hand into that cool metal one, and he helped her down.

“I need to speak to my team,” she gestured at the earpiece, fallen on the ground beside the SUV. “Or they’ll be coming looking for me.”

The Winter Soldier nodded, watching as she picked the com up.

“Skye here. May, stand down. Trip, everything’s fine.” She obviously listened for a moment. “Yes, I know who was in there.” She looked up at the Soldier. Steve Rogers had told Coulson that the assassin was actually a brainwashed Bucky Barnes, and that his conditioning might be breaking down. Indeed, there had been a recent spate of anti-HYDRA attacks that could be attributed to this man. “Please give me five minutes before coming in.” She took the com out again once May and Trip acknowledged.

“You work for S.H.I.E.L.D?” he asked.

“Yes. And you? Who do you work for?”

He shrugged. “Myself.”

“Are you really Bucky Barnes?” Skye couldn’t help but ask in a kind of awe. If Captain America was the First Avenger, Bucky Barnes was the second.

“I was, I think. Maybe one day again.” He shrugged, and then abruptly held the rifle out, butt first. “This is yours.”

“Thanks,” she accepted it, turning to put it back inside the vehicle. “You were in there?” she gestured at the house.

“Yes. There is nothing here of interest.”

“My team leader will have to be the judge of that.”

He nodded. Stood silently watching her.

“What should I call you?” Skye asked shyly.

“James,” he said finally. “It is my name, too, I believe.”

“Yes,” Skye agreed. She tentatively held out her hand to him. “Will you come with us? There’s a place for you. Your old friend Steve will want to see you, and we can put you in contact with him. And if you want to fight against HYDRA, well,” she smiled as he took her hand, holding it gently, as though afraid of crushing it, “you’ll be with the right people.”

“Good.” James stared at her for a moment. “May I see my words?”

Skye didn’t hesitate. She turned around, pulling her shirt up to reveal the old-fashioned cursive across the small of her back. He traced them with a cool metal finger, making her shiver. “Where are mine on you?” she asked, turning back around.

He pulled up one leg of his jeans to reveal her loopy script around his ankle. It was surrounded by shiny white burn tissue. “They kept trying to burn you away,” he said softly, “but you always came back. No matter what, you were always with me. Twenty-six years ago, the words appeared, and since then – I’ve slowly been regaining who I am. You gave me the strength to want to be me again.”

“I’ll always come back,” Skye promised, knowing this was one promise she’d have no trouble keeping. “I’ll always be with you, James. You don’t ever have to be alone again.”

He smiled, the ice in those wintry eyes thawing just a little. Well, she’d make it her personal mission to warm him through. No more winter for her soldier. Skye held on to his hand. She didn’t intend to ever let him go.

 

Chapter Text

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 This beautiful fanvid made by martinnas and embedded here with permission.

She was going to die. She was going to die, right here, today, falling to her death because she was too damn stupid to remember that when you were shot in a bulletproof vest, the bullet’s momentum transferred into your body moving backwards, and she’d been standing way too close to the edge of the roof.

Well, at least she had the satisfaction of knowing she’d killed the HYDRA sniper she’d been sent to take down. Unfortunately, the bastard had been quick enough to whip out his sidearm and get a round off when he saw her. Skye had seen his head explode in a puff of red a fraction of a second before the impact to her ribs had overbalanced her, back off the edge of the roof she’d just climbed over. She’d grabbed frantically for the fire escape, but missed.

Everything seemed to have slowed down. Shouldn’t her life be flashing before her eyes? It wasn’t that tall a building, only eight stories – shouldn’t she have hit the ground by now?

Skye suddenly registered that the wind which had been whistling past her face, was travelling in a different direction. Which seemed very wrong, so she chanced opening her eyes, and discovered that she was now travelling sideways to the building in front of her eyes.

“Did someone break gravity?” she muttered, light-headed from the relief of not actually being dead.

“I’m not that good at physics,” a low, warm voice said behind her ear. And now Skye registered that the pain in her ribs was not merely from the bullet that had plowed into her vest, but also from the tight grip of a strong arm around her middle.

“Oh,” she said, still a bit stunned, but now for a different reason. “Apparently you’re my soulmate, though.”

“Apparently,” the voice replied. “What’s a nice girl like you doing getting shot and falling off a roof anyway?”

They were proceeding in a weird, lurching motion, sort of swinging through arcs. And then she saw another roof coming closer and closer.

“I’m not really a nice girl,” Skye said.

“Figures.” They landed, and Skye was surprised when he didn’t actually let her feet touch the ground, just ran lightly across the roof and dropped them down through an open trapdoor. Finally they stopped moving and she was set on her feet gently, the powerful grip around her middle relaxing.

Skye whirled, grabbing for the gun that should be holstered on her thigh – she’d dropped the other one when she fell off the roof – only to find it missing. And then she spotted it, dangling by the trigger guard from the forefinger of…

Spider-Man?” she said incredulously. “Spider-Man is my soulmate?”

“Who did you think I was, sweetheart?” he lounged comfortably back against the wall, slapping the gun against the wall and covering it with white webbing. “Considering the method of saving your life, which, by the way, you can express your maidenly gratitude for at any moment of your choosing…”

Maidenly gratitude?” Skye said incredulously. “To what, exactly, that weird-ass mask?”

“Oh,” he hesitated, and then, slowly, yanked the mask off, revealing a shock of reddish hair, blue eyes and a face that was painfully young. Skye knew he’d be younger than her. Her words hadn’t appeared until she was four, which meant her soulmate was only twenty-one now. But he looked younger than that. Hot, though. Really hot.

“Oh, God, I’m snatching the cradle,” she groaned.

“Hey, I’m not complaining, snatch away, I’m so glad you’re not a cougar.”

“A cougar? Seriously?” Skye was diverted.

“I was born with your words on my ass, how was I supposed to know you’d be only a little bit older than me and seriously beautiful?”

Skye couldn’t help but grin. He apparently suffered from runaway mouth disease, just like her. Maybe they really were a match made in heaven. And he seemed shy; he’d stayed where he was, propping up that wall. She moved towards him slowly.

“I’m Skye,” she said, “no last name. And you?”

“Spider-Man,” he grinned, but he was looking suddenly nervous as she got close enough to touch. She had to tip her head back to look him in the eyes, he must be close to six foot.

“That’s a shame,” Skye purred, reaching up to touch his chest. He was very firm, well-muscled under that skin-tight red and blue suit. “Because I have an absolute rule that I never kiss a guy unless I know at least his first name.”

He swallowed a little nervously, Adam’s apple bobbing. “Peter. My name’s Peter.”

Skye slid her hand up and around to the back of his neck, pulling his head down towards hers. Telling herself all the while that she really shouldn’t be doing this. But the adrenaline was still flowing through her veins, and the devil on her shoulder was egging her on.

“Well, Peter,” she murmured, “I really am very glad you saved my life.”

“So am I,” he said thickly, just before their lips met.

 

Chapter Text

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“Third office on the right down the hall, Stark, and stop bothering me! Yes, you can go find my hacker and quiz her about that worm she dumped on HYDRA. She’ll rip you a new one herself if you give her any grief, so just get out of my office!”

“Cheers, Agent,” Tony gave a little wave of his fingers and departed, laughing inwardly at Coulson’s glare. He headed down the hall, taking the opportunity to peek through every door. Interesting little secret base Fury had set up here. Third door – must be this one. He looked through the open door and blinked. Couldn’t be. The room’s only occupant was a pretty young thing with a laptop. She looked about eighteen, nibbling on a strand of long dark hair as she typed rapidly, humming to herself. But then Coulson had said his hacker was a she.

 

                              ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

“So you’re the one.”

Skye spun around, her eyes huge. She said nothing, though, just stared at the man in the doorway.

“You’re younger than I expected,” Tony Stark commented, moving forward and edging her out of the way with his hip to look at her computer screen. “Who trained you, the Russians? The Chinese? Or are you Israeli?”

Skye shook her head in response to each rapid-fire question. Stark eyed her thoughtfully.

“Coulson didn’t say you were the quiet type, he told me you could hold your own, wouldn’t have let me in here if you couldn’t. Cat got your tongue?”

She took a deep breath. “No, but I do have your words.”

He froze, fingers suspended over the keyboard. Slowly turned his head to look at her. She found herself staring into dark, dark eyes from very close range.

“Show me.”

Skye blushed, but this was Tony Stark. She reached up to the neck of her T-shirt and pulled it down, glad it was stretchy and she wouldn’t have to remove it. There, on the upper curve of her left breast, a barely legible scribble said So you’re the one.

“Please tell me it is your writing and I didn’t just flash a billionaire for no purpose?” she begged.

“Oh, there’s always a purpose for pretty girls showing me their breasts,” Tony murmured, his eyes coming back up to hers. “But yes. That’s my writing. Not that I ever actually write anything, these days.”

“Me either,” Skye smiled a bit sheepishly. He was awfully attractive, even though he was only a few inches taller than her. She could quite see why he’d won Bachelor of the Year so many times. Those dark eyes were magnetic, drawing her in closer. Even if the facial hair was a bit iffy.

Tony sighed, leaning back against her desk. “So what’s your name, jailbait?”

“Skye, and I’m not that young, I’m twenty-six!”

“Really?” Tony blinked again. “Wow, that’s a relief, because you look about seventeen and I had the feeling it was gonna be a very long few years. I was drunk through pretty much my whole teens and twenties and couldn’t remember when the words appeared.”

She couldn’t help but giggle, though she felt a little regret. If he’d known when her words appeared, she could at least find out her true birthdate. “Where are my words on you?”

He grinned wickedly. “Well, since you are legal after all, I could show you.” His hands went to his belt and he slipped the buckle free.

“Whoa, no, it can wait!” Skye freaked out. “Not here!”

He laughed. “It’s all right. You could possibly see them even with the belt fastened.” He pulled up the hem of his Black Sabbath T-shirt and edged his jeans down slightly over his left hip. And there indeed was her writing. No, but I do have your words.

Skye reached out to touch, but realised what she was doing and snatched her hand away before making contact with his skin, her face flaming. “I’m sorry!”

“Don’t be,” he smiled at her again, warmly. “You’re my soulmate. I’ve been looking for you for a very long time.”

“I thought Miss Potts…”

“Not my soulmate,” his smile twisted wryly. “Obviously. A good friend, my best friend, but she found her soulmate recently. Captain America’s buddy, the Falcon. I couldn’t stand in the way of that. Hadn’t honestly thought I’d find anyone else who would put up with my shit.”

“I won’t,” Skye told him flatly. “I’ve been lied to, led on and hurt too many times. I won’t put up with that shit any more.”

Tony looked deep into her eyes for a moment, seeing a girl who’d seen too much, suffered too much in her short life. Gently he lifted a hand to her cheek, feeling the softness of her skin, letting his fingers brush against her silky dark hair.

“I can’t promise I won’t be an asshole and you won’t want to kill me sometimes,” he said honestly, “but I promise you this. I’ll never cheat on you. I’ll never lie to you. And if anyone ever even thinks about hurting you, I will destroy them.”

A small smile curled Skye’s lips, and she lifted her own hand, placing it over his where it rested on her cheek. “I couldn’t ask for more than that.”

“Well you should,” in the face of such deep emotion, Tony reverted to snark. “I am a billionaire, after all. Anything you want, it’s yours.”

Skye couldn’t help but laugh. “I’ll email you a shopping list.”

“You do that.” He let go reluctantly, stepping back, but she was very young and there was a great deal he needed to tell her before she made any deep commitment to him. “And put a date in your calendar.”

“Oh?” she arched an eyebrow.

“Yeah, tonight. I’m taking you out to dinner. Be ready at eight.” He scooped her hand in his, kissed it flamboyantly, and departed. “I’ll just let Coulson know I’m stealing you!” his voice floated back.

 

Chapter Text

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She’d been born with one soulmark. Obviously she spoke first, and said something nice, because the words, in precise script her orderly mind appreciated said Thank you, you’re very kind. It was an adult thing to say, and Jemma developed a reputation for babbling nervous compliments on meeting new people. But no one responded with those exact words, and eventually she stopped worrying about it. Her soulmate would turn up eventually.

She was in the Academy when the second words appeared, a burning sensation on her collarbones sending her running to the bathroom to look in the mirror. NOT HURT MY CLEVER LADY was etched there in crude, rough capitals, in – was that dark green? Jemma stared incredulously into the mirror, and finally ran to get a camera, taking close ups so she could see better. Afterwards, she researched soulmarks, but never found so much as a single scrap of anecdotal evidence that the marks were ever in any colour other than black, fading to grey if one soulmate died.

Jemma covered the mark up. Wore high collars and conservative clothes. The last thing she needed was anyone asking questions about the strange words in that weird colour. She avoided sexual contact, not that she’d ever had much anyway. And figured she’d deal with her first soulmate seeing the words when she found them. Her second soulmate (and that was pretty rare too) was just a child anyway.

When Coulson told her he was bringing the near-legendary Dr Bruce Banner in to consult on a gamma radiation question with the Peruvian 0-8-4, she almost fainted in a paroxysm of fangirling, snapping herself out of it eventually at Fitz’s scornful remarks. She’d pulled herself together just in time to fall apart again when Coulson entered the lab and Dr Banner turned out to be distinguishedly handsome, a few threads of grey just starting to speckle his fluffy black hair.

“Doctor Banner, Leo Fitz and Jemma Simmons,” Coulson introduced.

“Sir,” Fitz muttered, shaking hands and then backing off, looking a little bit fanboy-ish himself.

“It’s such an honour to meet you, I’ve read all your papers,” Jemma babbled, grabbing his hand a bit too firmly. He held on when she tried to let go, though, staring at her intently from weary, chocolate-brown eyes.

“Thank you. You’re very kind.”

Jemma’s mouth fell open, and Dr Banner smiled at her. It was a surprised smile, but not unwelcoming. “Hello. I’d just about given up on finding you.”

“I – I’ve been waiting for you,” she stuttered back.

“Huh?” Fitz said densely, looking from one to the other of them in bemusement.

“I think we might just witnessed a meeting of soulmates,” Coulson murmured, grabbing Fitz’s arm and ushering him out. “Come on, Fitz. I think we’re surplus to requirements here right now.”

“Doctor Banner is my soulmate,” Jemma said wonderingly, staring up into those lovely chocolate eyes. “Wow.”

“Don’t you think you could call me Bruce?” he lifted the hand he was still holding and pressed a gentle kiss against her knuckles. “I hope we’ll be seeing a lot of each other, after all.”

Jemma blushed, even though she could tell he hadn’t meant it in a sexual way. But the thought of his seeing her, made her realise there was something she should tell him. “I have a second soulmark. Do you?” Nine times out of ten, those with two soulmarks were part of a soulmate ‘triad’ where all parties were doubly marked. The one in ten – well, that was a frequent plot device in horror movies.

“No,” Bruce’s eyebrows shot up, and then something seemed to occur to him. He frowned deeply. “May I see the second mark? And – mine, if you wouldn’t mind showing me?”

“Yours is here,” she took off her watch and showed him the small lettering on the inside of her left wrist. It had always been easy to conceal. He smiled and rolled up his sleeve to reveal her handwriting circling a nicely muscled bicep.

“The other?” he asked gently when she hesitated. “You don’t have to show me if it’s somewhere intimate.”

“It’s not.” Coming to a decision – maybe he’d have heard something about coloured soulmarks – she unbuttoned the first couple of buttons on her blouse. It was quite gratifying to see his eyes widen and his Adam’s apple bob as he swallowed, but she wasn’t going to flash him her cleavage. Not yet, anyway, whispered that part of her she’d been repressing ever since the green words appeared. She opened her collar and revealed the blocky capitals across her collarbones.

“Oh,” Bruce said softly. “I – think I might know who that is. You’d better sit down.”

It was a good thing he made her sit down before he told her, because Jemma fainted for the first time in her life. She came to in Bruce’s arms, his fingers threading gently through her hair. “I’m sorry,” he was murmuring. “I’m so sorry.”

“Not your fault,” she mumbled dazedly, still trying to come to terms with the fact that the Hulk was her second soulmate. The. HULK.

“I’ll leave you alone. Not see you. I don’t want to put you at risk.”

“You know that’s not how it works.” She sat up, realised he’d gathered her into his lap, blushed and then bit her lip determinedly. She put a hand on his cheek, making him meet her eyes. “The words are a guarantee. Hulk and I are going to meet sooner or later, and you can’t prevent that. I’m not going to live my life without you because you’re frightened he might hurt me. This,” she put her hand to her collarbone, “seems to indicate quite the opposite anyway, doesn’t it?”

“It’s not just the Other Guy I’m concerned about,” Bruce murmured, but there was definitely relief dawning in his expression. “I’ve got enemies.”

“So do I. Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., remember? I’ve got a great big HYDRA target painted on my back, especially after infiltrating their labs. It makes me feel quite safe to think I have an Avenger looking out for me, actually.” Wanting to remove the residual anxiety from his expression, Jemma wound her arms around his neck. “Is there an Avenger girlfriends club? Do I get automatic membership for being your soulmate?”

A smile curved Bruce’s mouth. “There’s only Pepper. And Jane Foster, but she’s still in London. Romanoff would kill us all if we tried to designate her as an ‘Avenger girlfriend’ because of Barton.”

That made Jemma giggle. She looked at him a bit shyly under her lashes, but it was an open invitation, and Bruce wasn’t about to turn her down. Damn, he was a lucky man: he knew all about Doctor Jemma Simmons and her brilliant mind, and she was beautiful enough to make any man take notice. He leaned in, closing the gap between them, watching as her eyelids fluttered closed. Their lips met softly, and then with greater intensity. Bruce’s arms tightened around Jemma as she kissed him back.

I’m not letting you go. I’ll keep you safe. Even from HIM, he vowed silently. Not knowing that almost identical thoughts were running through Jemma’s head.

 

 

“I could really do with that rescue right about now,” Jemma whimpered into the darkness. Every single part of her body hurt. She couldn’t believe she’d been stupid enough to fall for that call to do a ‘special consultation’ with the Army at Fort Meade. With Coulson, May and the rest of the ‘kickass squad’ as Skye called them, out of the country, there’d been no one to point out to her just how dim she was being. She’d flatly refused the order from General Ross to look into the video camera and ask Bruce to come for her, though.

A severe beating later, Ross had grabbed her hair and held her battered face up to the camera. “I don’t need you to speak. This will speak for you,” he hissed, and then addressed the camera himself. “Banner, turn yourself in. You have two hours to secure yourself in the cage we’ve placed for you at this address.” He recited it, and then smiled nastily, running his finger across Jemma’s swollen cheek. “Any attempt to retrieve your soulmate and I’ll blow her head off. And if you’re late getting to the cage? I’ll give her to my men until I get word you’re in it. She’s pretty enough, even bruised up.”

Jemma shuddered in fear, and the man operating the camera smiled to see it. He clicked the camera off and nodded to Ross.

They left her alone, tied to a chair, lights off so she had nothing to do but sit in the darkness and get more and more frightened. The only hope she had was the subdermal tracker that had been implanted in all S.H.I.E.L.D. agents after Coulson was taken and they couldn’t find him. The trackers were a Stark creation, and Stark would be able to track them. The Avengers know where she was the second they knew she’d been taken.

Oh God, how long had it been? Was it two hours yet? She was shivering, shock, she thought. She had at least two fractured ribs and she suspected her cheekbone was cracked, plus there was a slow trickle of blood from her right eyebrow that had long since glued that eye shut. She desperately wanted a rescue. But at the same time, she couldn’t bear the thought of Bruce in captivity with that brutal bastard Ross. Jemma cried quietly, tears leaking from her one good eye.

Don’t hand yourself in, Bruce, she thought. I’d rather die than see you suffer. Don’t give in because of me. You’re an Avenger; the world needs you.

“I’m not important,” she said aloud, steeling herself for the ordeal to come.

“Yes, you are, sweetheart,” a soft voice said, and a warm hand clapped over her mouth before she could scream. “Sshh now. Don’t want to let them know we’re here just yet.” A tiny light began to glow, and she stared disbelievingly from her one working eye at two faces she’d only ever seen on TV.

“Damn, they messed you up. Bruce is gonna be pissed,” Hawkeye muttered, surveying her face.

“Shut up and let’s get her out of here.” The Black Widow slashed the ropes holding Jemma to the chair and she toppled forward, stiff and aching after being bound for so long. Barton caught her and picked her up easily.

Jemma wanted to walk, sure Barton would need his hands free, but her legs didn’t work when she tried, so he picked her up again as Romanoff picked the lock to open the door and they slipped quietly out. Once outside the room, Jemma could hear the noise. Roaring and smashing.

“Is that…?” she looked up at Barton.

“Hulk smash? Yeah. Stark intercepted the video and we flew out here, got in position before we let Bruce see it.”

“WHERE MY CLEVER LADY?” the nearby roar shook the building.

“You’d better put me down,” Jemma said, “or he might mistake you for the enemy.”

“Clever lady indeed,” Barton propped her hastily against the wall and he and Romanoff backed away as something immense and green rounded the corner.

“Hi, big guy,” Jemma managed a small wave.

“Oh, shit!” a shout from Barton made her glance the other way just in time to see a wave of soldiers come down the corridor.

“NOT HURT MY CLEVER LADY!” Hulk boomed, towering over Jemma. She smiled wearily up at him.

“I’m really glad you’re here.”

“Get Simmons, she’s our hostage…” she recognised General Ross’s voice.

“YOU HURT MY CLEVER LADY HULK SMASH YOU!”

Wow, Hulk was really loud when he got going. Jemma closed her good eye and sagged towards the floor.

She came to cradled in giant arms. Hi, big guy was printed neatly across an enormous green shoulder. Jemma smiled and snuggled closer. Safe at last.

 

Chapter Text

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“Coulson! Why have I not been invited to join your Fun Squad? I’m bored!”

“Oh, no,” Coulson groaned as the loud voice echoed through the Playground. He got up from his desk and hurried to the door. “Please tell me that’s not who I think it is…”

Trip and Hunter came rushing around the corner, both with guns out. “Who the fuck is that? Who’s in here?” Hunter snapped. Skye came out of her office and he reached to push her back in, but she ducked under his arm, showing the ICER gun in her hand.

“What’s the word, AC?” she asked.

“I’m fairly sure I know who that is and he is trouble with a capital T. Mr Wilson! Show yourself!” Coulson said loudly.

Sam Wilson, the Falcon?” Trip asked.

“Definitely not…”

A man dropped from the ceiling. Costumed in a dark red and black skinsuit, he matched Trip in height and muscle. His hands were empty, but the hilts of two long swords stuck up over his shoulders.

“Stand down!” Coulson yelled. Trip and Hunter managed to steady themselves, but Skye, younger and jumpier than the two more experienced agents, pulled the trigger.

Oh well, it’s only an ICER… she didn’t even have time to complete the thought when there was a blur of steel, and blue liquid splattered against the wall.

“What. The. Fuck,” Hunter spoke into the silence as they stared at the masked stranger, who now held a katana in one gloved hand.

And who had apparently drawn the sword and sliced the ICER round in half in mid-air.

“That wasn’t very nice, if you weren’t so beautiful I might not be inclined to forgive you,” the stranger told Skye cheerfully.

Skye was so shocked she pulled the trigger again.

“Well, really!” Another flash of steel, another splatter of blue on the wall.

“Skye!” Coulson wrested the gun from her grip. “Stop trying to shoot him! Trip, Hunter, Skye, this is Wade Wilson.”

“Call me Deadpool,” he sheathed the katana with a flourish. “Lovely to meet you. I hear you’ve been having fun, Coulson, and hiring mercs,” a gloved hand pointed at Hunter, “why wasn’t I invited?”

“Because you’re a pain in the ass,” Coulson responded blithely.

“Well obviously but I know for a fact, because I know lots of shit I’m not supposed to, that you’ve been going up against, let’s call them, oh, super-villains. Because that’s fun. And since your whole crew appear to be straight humans, even the Cavalry, despite what some people say about her, you need someone like me on your side.”

Skye tugged urgently at Coulson’s sleeve. “I need to speak to you right the fuck now,” she hissed.

“One moment. Don’t break anything or hurt anyone.” Coulson pointed a warning finger at Deadpool. Who held his hands up innocently and started whistling Patience by Guns ‘n’ Roses.

“What?” Coulson demanded as Skye shut his office door behind them. She was trembling.

“Soulmate,” was all she could get out. “Words. His words. On my ass.”

“Oh, no.”

Really?” said a startled voice outside the door.

“Super-hearing?” Skye winced.

“Apparently.”

Shit.”

“Say it!” Deadpool opened the door and stared down at Skye, practically bouncing on his toes. “Say it, say the thing!”

“I really didn’t want a superhero for a soulmate!” was all she could think of.

“AWESOME!” he snatched her off her feet and spun her round merrily. “Because I’m not one! And you’re really hot. I’m ever so grateful,” he added, turning to address apparently no-one on the other side of Coulson’s desk. “Thanks!”

“You’re certainly built,” Skye struggled to escape his extremely muscular arms, “but would you mind very much showing me what you actually look like?”

“I’ll just, uh, leave you two to get acquainted,” Coulson fled. Where’s my Scotch? He needed to get very, very drunk. Skye and Deadpool. Dear God.

“Sure!” Deadpool set Skye down, reached up and peeled off his red and black mask.

“Oh.”

She’d always thought that the guys who fully masked their face probably did so because they were horribly scarred or something. This guy – was not scarred. He was extremely good-looking, with cropped blond hair, a straight nose, hazel eyes with intriguing glints of gold in them, and straight white teeth in a wide grin.

“Am I cute enough for you? Because really, you are seriously beautiful. Amazingly exotic eyes and I love your hair.” One gloved finger raised to touch a lock which was dangling over her shoulder, and then moved away almost shyly.

“Do you always talk this much?” Skye couldn’t help but grin.

“Often more! But you’re so pretty you drive all the words right out of my head.”

“Apparently not!”

“Sorry, I’ll shut up. Are my words really on your ass?”

He’d shut up for all of three seconds before blurting out the question.

“Yes they are, and no, I’m not going to show you!”

“That’s a shame, I’d planned to offer to reciprocate.”

“My words are on your ass too?”

“Oh, no,” his grin was absolutely wicked. “They’re somewhere a lot more intimate.” He placed a hand over his groin. Drawing Skye’s eyes down to the more-than-generous bulge there.

“No,” she blushed. “They’re not..?”

“Like I said, show me yours and I’ll show you mine…”

 

 

She held him off for two whole weeks before showing him the loopy spiral of words on her left ass cheek. As promised, he reciprocated.

“You’re why I became a merc,” he told her cheerfully, lying on his back with his hands behind his head. “Since you didn’t want a superhero for a soulmate and I didn’t want to be a supervillain. Figured I’d play both sides until you made your mind up.”

Her words were only completely visible once he was fully aroused. As he was now. Skye looked up at him, her eyes wide.

“Well – I believe I’m on the side of the good guys.”

“Superhero it is, then!”

 

Chapter Text

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“Yes, Agent May?”

“Pack a bag. You’re needed for a consult.”

“On what, or whom? For how long?”

May frowned, an unusual expression for her. “I can’t tell you. Transport’s waiting.” She relented slightly at Jemma’s anxious look. “Neuroscience, maybe, and drug withdrawal.”

She had ten minutes to grab her things. Then May showed her to a waiting car, driven by a beautiful red-haired woman who was very familiar even though Jemma had never met her.

Agent Romanoff?”

“Get in.”

Romanoff didn’t speak again. Just drove them into the hills and eventually down a rather bumpy dirt track to what Jemma had assumed would be a rustic cabin but actually turned out to be an large, expensive-looking house.

“Stark’s,” Romanoff said when Jemma stared. “It’s occasionally useful having rich friends.”

“I can imagine.” Jemma followed Romanoff into the house and into a beautifully appointed bedroom where two men were sitting, one on either side of a bed, a third man lying on it. “My patient?” Jemma moved forward, ignoring the seated men. The man on the bed looked pale and ill and oh dear God it was the Winter Soldier. There couldn’t possibly be another man with a prosthetic left arm like that.

Jemma froze for a moment in fright, but then the Winter Soldier moved, letting out a moan, and she realised he was sick. He thrashed about slightly, and the other two men, who she now recognised as Steve Rogers – Captain America – and Sam Wilson, the Falcon, leaned in and grasped his arms to hold him down. Rogers had the metal arm and appeared to be using every ounce of his super-strength to hold onto it.

“What’s the matter with him, how long has he been like this?” Jemma asked Romanoff as she forgot her fear and hurried towards the bed.

“We think his handlers kept him hopped up on drugs. He appears to be going through withdrawal,” it was Wilson who answered. “He’s been out of their hands for about three weeks: we found him the day before yesterday.”

The Soldier’s small convulsion had ended, and Rogers let go of the metal arm and stroked tangled black hair back from the pale, sweating face. “It’s all right, Buck,” he said quietly. “We’ve got help, we have a doctor for you.”

“No doctors!” the Soldier almost sobbed. “No doctors, Stevie, please…”

“He’s Bucky Barnes,” Romanoff said softly.

Jemma’s hand flew to her mouth in shocked horror. “The Bucky Barnes?”

“Yes. We believe he’s been repeatedly cryogenically frozen and thawed.”

Jemma wanted to say it wasn’t possible, but considering the presence of Captain America – not to mention some of the things she’d seen over the last year – she didn’t. Instead she approached the bed very slowly.

“Hey, Bucky,” she said softly. “You don’t need to be afraid. I’m here to help you.”

She didn’t understand why everyone in the room reacted so strongly. Rogers, Wilson and Romanoff all whipped around and stared at her open-mouthed. Barnes – and yes, she could see that famous face in the carved cheekbones and ice-blue eyes – catapulted off the bed too fast for the others, in their shocked state, to intercept, and then Jemma choked as that metal hand closed on her throat and he pinned her against the wall, glaring into her eyes. She was only vaguely aware of the men shouting, and Romanoff making them back down for fear Barnes would crush her throat before they could pull him off.

He said nothing. Just stared at her. Slowly let his grip slacken, very slightly, until her toes touched the floor and she was able to take her weight, just slightly, and get a breath.

“Please don’t kill me,” Jemma finally was able to gasp out. “Please. I’m here to help. I’m not HYDRA, I’m S.H.I.E.L.D.”

Only after she’d spoken did she think that might possibly not have been wise, since Bucky Barnes had obviously been brainwashed by HYDRA. And S.H.I.E.L.D. was HYDRA’s enemy. But that brutal grip loosened further and finally he let go.

“How did you know the words?” he rasped out.

Jemma blinked rapidly, several times. And then she realised there was only one answer she could possibly make. Slowly, she reached up and gathered her hair in one hand. The hair she always wore long, covering the nape of her neck. She lifted her hair and turned around. Showing him the six words written on the back of her neck, just under her hairline. How did you know the words?

Cold metal traced over her skin, making her shiver. She’d never understood why the words faded in and out periodically. Until now.

“Mine,” Barnes said softly into her ear, “you’re mine.”

She turned and found he was caging her against the wall with his arms. He was too big for her to look over his shoulder and see the other men, but from the corner of her eye she could see Romanoff, hands hovering over her guns.

“It’s all right,” Jemma said, mainly to reassure the other woman. “He won’t hurt me. Will  you, Bucky?” she reached up and touched his stubbled cheek gently.

“Never,” he said fervently. “Mine.”

 

It wasn’t until later – much later – that Rogers told Jemma that HYDRA used to have everyone meeting Barnes for the first time speak his soulmark words. When they couldn’t show him corresponding words in his own writing, he generally tried to kill them.

“They wanted to find his soulmate so they could control him completely,” Rogers said quietly. “I think the only reason he didn’t kill you before he even spoke back is because you told him you were S.H.I.E.L.D.”

Jemma wanted to weep for her soulmate, for every agony and indignity inflicted on him over the years. Instead she stroked his dark hair gently back from his sleeping face. “I’ll take care of him,” she promised Captain America. “Always.”

“See that you do.”

 

Chapter Text

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“Erskine’s research was groundbreaking and it’s a tragedy that he was so secretive, that his work has never been replicated.”

“I disagree,” Jemma said flatly.

The head researcher of the military research laboratory turned and gave her a condescending look. “And you would be..?”

“Jemma Simmons, S.H.I.E.L.D.,” she said calmly, meeting his eyes fearlessly, despite hearing the sudden whispers around her. It was a small, select group that had received the invitation to examine the remains of the Centipede laboratory equipment. Jemma was only on the invite list because of the examinations and tests she’d done on Mike Peterson.

“Obviously the Centipede program was yet another flawed attempt,” the researcher said, “but would you care to explain, Ms. Simmons…”

Doctor Simmons,” she corrected politely. “And yes, certainly, I’ll tell you why I believe it’s a good thing Erskine’s serum has never been replicated. Erskine said it himself. It makes the good, better, and the bad, worse. Despite his physical limitations – or perhaps because of them – Steve Rogers was inherently a good person. The process that led to his being chosen was exhaustive, and a lot of people at the time disagreed with Erskine’s ultimate choice.”

Everyone was listening intently to Jemma’s words. A tall man close by, wearing a baseball cap pulled down to shade his face, was staring hard at her. She ignored him and continued.

“But what if the wrong man had been chosen? Steve Rogers was willing to sacrifice himself to stop the Valkyrie bombings. How many other men would be – and how could anyone be sure? We saw the results with Centipede, and that was effectively a cheap knockoff version of the serum. Could we really take the risk of having multiple versions of Captain America running around without his moral code, his beliefs of right and wrong?” Jemma fell silent for a moment, and then shrugged. “It worked once, and frankly, we got lucky with the result. I for one am glad that we aren’t rolling the dice, taking the risk of creating super-humans who can’t be matched or stopped, because no one can know the deepest corners of someone else’s heart.”

It was very quiet for a moment, and then the tall man applauded. The lab head had seemed about to say something, but instead he looked away with a sniff and gestured the group to follow him. Jemma was about to trail after them when the tall man put a hand on her arm to stay her.

“That was a very eloquent speech, ma’am.”

Jemma stared in surprise for a moment. She’d been seeing those exact words all her life, written in an elegant, old-fashioned script along the inside of her left arm. Well. How lovely. It seemed her soulmate was a fellow scientist, otherwise he wouldn’t be here. He even shared her taste in conservative clothing, looking at his chinos, white T-shirt and smart navy sport coat. Rather gorgeous, too – she couldn’t see the colour of his hair under his cap but he had a very handsome face and broad shoulders, tapering to a waist barely bigger than her own.

Lucky me, Jemma thought, and then realised she hadn’t spoken back. She smiled rather shyly. “Thank you very much. You have an interest in the subject?”

He blinked stupidly long lashes over lovely blue eyes. “You might say that. Uh… are you… is this your writing?” He stepped forward and pulled up his white T-shirt to reveal a ridiculously well-muscled stomach, Jemma’s neat handwriting printed across his six-pack.

“Yes,” she smiled nervously. “Um – Jemma Simmons.”

Steve smiled down at her, thinking he’d definitely lucked out in the soulmate department. Doctor Simmons was very pretty, very clever – and she had that English accent that did strange things to his insides. He’d always been a sucker for pretty, decisive English chicks, he thought derisively. He’d never had a soulmate mark in the old days, but her words had been etched into his stomach when he woke from his long sleep.

“Yes, I heard that.” He smiled, let his shirt drop – shame, it had been quite a view – and held out his hand. “I’m Steve Rogers.”

 

Chapter Text

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“Fascinating!” Jemma peered into the microscope eyepieces, adjusting the focus minutely. “The leukocytes appear perfectly normal, but the moment any foreign biological material is introduced, they literally heat the invading bacteria or virus to destruction. Utterly fascinating, I’ve never seen anything like it – even Captain America’s blood samples don’t do this – who did you say the samples were from, again?”

“John Storm,” Phil said, smiling slightly at Jemma’s enthusiasm. “The Human Torch, from the Fantastic Four.”

“It’s amazing, absolutely amazing, the implications if this could be reproduced – do you think he might be persuaded to provide a larger blood sample? I didn’t have enough to try all the viral samples – I’d love to do this in the Hot Zone labs, see if it works on AIDS and Ebola – just think of it, Phil!” Jemma’s eyes were shining, and Phil smiled wider.

“I’ll see if I can arrange an introduction. You can put your case to him personally.”

Jemma didn’t watch much television – it was all so dull, except Doctor Who, and Sherlock – and certainly she never wasted her time with gossip magazines. She’d heard Skye mention Johnny Storm and say that he looked a good deal like Steve Rogers, though she doubted it.

So when the tall, square-jawed, buff guy walked into her lab one day she assumed he was a field agent she hadn’t met before, gave him one quick glance and bent back to her work.

Johnny Storm was not used to that reaction from girls. There’d been a distinct expression of you’re not worth my time. The scientist was young, pretty, and apparently brilliant in her field. He was bored of the beautiful vapid girls who constantly threw themselves at him; while he appreciated beauty as much as any man, he was coming to realise that he liked a challenge. That dismissive glance was as challenging as it got.

“So,” he moved up behind Jemma, leaned in close and murmured in her ear, “you’re the vampire?”

Her reaction was a little extreme; she whirled around and stared up at him, her eyes wide with shock.

“Kidding,” Johnny said with a laugh, “well, kinda. Doctor Jemma Simmons? I’m Johnny Storm, I understand you wanted some more blood samples?”

She was still staring up at him, full pink lips slightly parted. He couldn’t help but wonder how her mouth would taste. She licked her lips and he was right on the verge of leaning in for a kiss when she spoke and nearly knocked him sideways with the impact of her words.

“Whatever you’re willing to give me,” she said, her accent precisely English, her voice soft.

His fist clenched: those words had appeared on his palm the day before his sixth birthday. Slowly he opened his hand and showed her.

Jemma looked at the broad hand he held up. Her neat, precise script tracing right along the ‘heart line’. And then she began to giggle, a little bit hysterically, her hands coming up to cover her mouth.

“Oh my God. I thought you were a LARPer!”

Vampire. Of course. Johnny grinned, his hands coming up to catch her elbows as she shook with laughter. “Don’t tell me you’ve been looking for me in LARP groups all these years?”

Her laughter was infectious, and he found himself joining in, thinking of her dressed up as a vampire, perhaps wearing fake fangs, a cape and a sexy black corset – his body reacted immediately to that image and he couldn’t help but ask;

“Did you have a sexy vamp costume?”

Still giggling, Jemma nodded, and then saw the look he was giving her. “Oh,” she sobered immediately.

“I’d very much like to see that sometime,” he admitted, stroking lightly up her arms, cupping her shoulders in his hands.

“Play your cards right and maybe I’ll show you,” she sassed him.

“Yeah?” his hands slipped further around, one sliding down her back to press between her shoulder blades, pulling her closer, the other onto the back of her neck, stroking slightly. “I’ll just have to use my imagination until then.”

Jemma didn’t resist, even though it was obvious what he was doing. It was kind of traditional for soulmates to kiss on first meeting, at least if they didn’t hate each other on sight. She was very far from objecting; Johnny was much better-looking than she’d ever hoped her soulmate might be. Her eyelids fluttered shut as his mouth came slowly down on hers.

She was soft and sweet, everything he could have wished for, her lips parting under the gentle pressure he applied, kissing him back eagerly, her slender hands settling on his chest. A low, needy rumble built in Johnny’s chest and finally he had to set her away from him, lifting his head and looking down at her. Which nearly made him kiss her again because a just-kissed Jemma was a sight to behold, her eyes soft and dreamy, her lips plump, wet and red.

“My angel,” Johnny murmured, awed and grateful.

Jemma smiled up at him dreamily. “If I’m Angel, can I call you Buffy?”

 

Chapter Text

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Trust Cap, the sign on the desk read. Steve grinned wryly, looking down at it. Thinking that Coulson must have infected his whole team with his Captain America fanboy-itis. Or whatever it was called. He reached down to pick it up. There was an ominous click behind him that his brain instantly registered as gun.

“Step away from the sign.”

Well, that’s an interesting development. Steve had woken from his decades-long sleep with those exact words on the sole of his left foot. He hadn’t even known until one of the S.H.I.E.L.D. medics pointed it out. Did Coulson know? Was this some sort of Coulson-fucking-with-his-head prank? The possibilities raced through his brain. Well, I need to say something distinctive so the lady pointing the gun at me realises I’m her soulmate and doesn’t shoot me in the back. He considered ‘But I am Captain America!’ and immediately decided against it.

“I didn’t intend to invade your privacy, ma’am.”

A gasp behind him told him that it wasn’t a Coulson prank, and he turned around slowly, hands up, to find a petite brunette lowering a gun, a startled look on her face. And hoo boy, was that ever a pretty face. Bucky would have been all over the dame like a rash.

It still hurt, thinking of Bucky, but Steve suppressed the wince. “I could give you a sample of my handwriting, if you wish,” he offered politely. It had been considered very rude, back in his day, to ask to see your soulmate’s words on first meeting. “Or I could take my boot off and show you my foot.”

“Is that where my words are on you?” she holstered the gun at the small of her back and came forward, dark eyes never wavering from his face. “And am I hallucinating, or are you really Steve Rogers?”

“The sole of my left foot, and yes. Pleased to meet you…?” He gave her an inquiring look, holding out his hand. She placed hers in it, a small hand, fine-boned, with long slender fingers. She had an exotic tilt to her dark eyes that made him think she might be mixed-race, but it was a mixture that had produced an astoundingly beautiful result.

“Skye. Just – just Skye.” She gasped a little, but didn’t try to run away when he lifted her hand gallantly to brush a light kiss over her knuckles.

 

 

He was bigger than she’d expected. Not taller – he was six foot two, everyone knew that, plus all Captain America’s other vital statistics. But he had a presence that made him seem to fill the room, even dressed in chinos and a plaid shirt over a white T-shirt. He towered over Skye, made her feel small and delicate in a way no one else ever had, not even W…

She wasn’t even going to think that name in Steve Rogers’ presence. He, the other, had no soulmark. Possibly no soul, considering what he’d done. And in the bright, healing light that was Steve’s presence, the knowledge that the universe had found her worthy to be Captain America’s soulmate – that dark memory burned up and blew away like ashes in the breeze.

“So, just Skye,” he smiled, his stunning blue eyes crinkling at the corners, “can I buy you a cup of coffee and you can tell me all about my soulmate?”

He wouldn’t push her too fast. He’d never ask for more than she was willing to give, Skye was sure, and the frozen ice in her heart melted just a little, thinking about it. She’d spent too long being afraid, running from her demons. The idea of having such a shield against the world – oh yes, the Fates knew what they were doing. If there was one man in the world with whom she could trust her heart, her secrets, her everything, it was this one.

“I’d love a cup of coffee, Steve,” she tightened her hold on his hand. “And while my story isn’t quite as dramatic as yours, it’s pretty crazy.”

Steve shrugged. “I share quarters with Tony Stark, the Asgardian God of War, a part-time giant green rage monster and two assassins with serious trust issues. I think I’ve heard enough crazy childhood stories that one more won’t shock me.”

Skye’s smile was crooked. “You might be surprised. And weirdly enough, my story coincides with yours a bit, when back in ’45 a Nazi scientist came across my mother, and an SSR commander named Peggy Carter saved her life…”

 

Chapter Text

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“I’m getting really sick of these guys,” May snapped as she took down another one of the Centipede-enhanced soldiers with a strategically-placed kick behind the ear followed by an ICER round to the back of the head. She wasn’t even sure who she was talking to; no one, probably, as Trip, Hunter and Bobbi were fighting their way to the control room so Skye could hack the Centipede eye-controllers. May had volunteered to hold the corridor leading to the control room.

Well, not so much volunteered as realised she was the best person for the job and ordered the others to go on. Finding out that Cybertek had another Centipede lab, Coulson had decided they needed to shut the place down immediately.

So here they were, another fun adventure in Canada – why did she keep ending up ass-deep in snow? May hated snow – fighting off more bloody super-soldiers.

“It was more fun when I only had to fight straight humans,” she told the next soldier, who apparently took her remark the wrong way.

“I’m not gay!”

“Don’t even think about trying to prove it,” May shot him between the eyes with her last ICER. “Damn.” She reached to get a replacement magazine, realised she wasn’t going to get it loaded before the next soldier got to her, and scowled. Fine, back to hand-to-hand it was. She set herself, preparing for pain. These guys were bigger, faster and stronger than she was. Didn’t mean she was going down easy.

“You’re real gutsy for a little chick,” a rumbling voice said behind her, and then a hulking figure blurred past her and plowed into the soldiers.

Melinda May had thought there wasn’t much left in the world that could shock her. The man in front of her did on three counts. Firstly because he had what appeared to be foot-long, brutally sharp metal claws coming out of his hands. Secondly, because he moved faster than anyone she’d ever seen. And thirdly – because he was apparently her soulmate. He’d spoken the words that had been twined around her left calf since the day of her birth.

She took a moment to load a fresh cartridge of ICERs, but other than that she could just stand there, because the clawed man was tearing through the enhanced soldiers like a hot knife through butter. Finally they were all down and he turned and came back towards her, claws dripping with blood, red smearing his white wife-beater. May raised the ICER gun and pointed it at him.

“Not a step closer until I know what you are.”

He raised bushy dark eyebrows and held his hands up. The claws retracted with a snicking sound, and May saw to her horror that the skin between his knuckles healed instantly. Instantly. Nobody healed like that.

“My name’s Logan.” He had a really deep, raspy voice that sounded as if it came from down around his boots.

“I didn’t say who. I said what.”

“Which is interesting phrasing, don’t you think? Soulmate.” He reached up and casually ripped his shirt in half down the middle, revealing a spectacularly sculpted hairy chest and perfect abs. Her slanted scrawl traced right across his stomach, just under his navel.

May didn’t lower the gun. “What. Are. You.”

“Your backup.” He faced her, apparently unfazed by his soulmate holding him at gunpoint. “Soon as you radioed in to Coulson that you thought you might be outmatched, he called my boss, who called me, knowing I was in the area. My boss, by the way, being Charles Xavier. You can call me Wolverine if you want. I’m one of the X-Men.”

Ah. Born, not made. Well, if he was one of Xavier’s… May lowered the gun.

Logan – Wolverine – smiled. It was a rather nice smile, despite the craggy, battered roughness of his face, with its thick sideburns and stubble. “Don’t know about you, but I reckon the Fates knew what they were doing. You look like my kind of gal. Gorgeous and absolutely kickass. I know a real seedy bar ‘bout twenty miles from here. You wanna go get smashed on bourbon with me?”

“I’m not falling for that. You can’t even get drunk, can you?”

“No, but it’d be fun to watch you get hit on by burly bikers and then beat the shit out of them.”

May licked her lips, tempted. He was, after all, rather delicious. “Who beats the shit out of them, you or me?”

“I’d love to watch you do it, but never let it be said I can’t take care of my gal.” He gestured theatrically around at the pile of fallen bodies. One of the men May had ICERed earlier – the one who’d misinterpreted her ‘straight humans’ comment – started to twitch. Logan kicked him hard behind the ear.

“May, we’re in – oh, hello, Logan,” it was Bobbi, running up behind her. “What are you doing here?”

“Finding my soulmate,” Logan gestured at May, “and going to get drunk with her. Going to get her drunk, anyway. She’s so kickass I’m in love already. Is that your name, May?”

The slight smile that very few people ever saw began to curve May’s lips. “Melinda May,” she said. “Just call me May.”

“No nickname or code name?”

May sensed rather than saw Bobbi open her mouth, and took a smooth step sideways to land on the taller woman’s foot. “Not that anyone dares to use.”

“Maybe you’ll tell me after enough bourbon.” He wiggled those bushy eyebrows at her. “You got it under control here, Birdy?” he addressed Bobbi.

“Yeah,” Bobbi watched in amazement as Logan stepped over the body at his feet and offered his arm to May. And May took it, curling her hand into the crook of his elbow and feeling his muscular bicep with that enigmatic little smile of hers.

“Y’know, I don’t much like bourbon. Does this bar have vodka?”

“If not, sugar, we’ll go find one that does.”

 

Chapter Text

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(I freaking LOVE the look Trip is giving her in this one)

 

“Trip, take these down to Coulson for me, would you please?”

“Sure, Koenig,” Trip had long since given up trying to figure out which of them was Billy and which was Sam. He accepted the two lanyards. “Who’re they for?”

“Doctor Jane Foster – Thor’s gorgeous brainy squeeze – and her assistant Ms. Lewis.” It was definitely Sam, Trip decided, as the next thing he did was mime extremely large bosoms with his pudgy hands in front of his chest. “Or Ms. Look-At-Those-Bazongas, as Sam calls her.” No, dammit, it was Billy. Trip sighed.

“Tell Sam to keep his mind out of the gutter and show some respect.” He vowed that the first thing he’d do on meeting Ms. Lewis would not be to look at her breasts.

Holy shit, look at those bazongas…

“Gettin’ a good view there, tall dark and studly?” the pretty and extremely stacked brunette arched her eyebrows at him.

“Oh, you did not just say that,” Trip said, shocked.

“Of course I did, I have no brain to mouth filter and bosoms like canteloupes, you think I haven’t come up with a series of snappy catchphrases to embarrass guys who I catch staring at my boobs?”

Darcy’s brain caught up with her mouth then, and she blinked. “Wait. You’re not just another guy who’s shocked by my runaway mouth, are you?”

“I think I might be your soulmate.”

“Well,” she took a third look. She’d already had a second after he walked into the room, because one hadn’t been nearly enough to do him justice. He was about six foot tall and built like a brick wall. “Clearly the universe likes me after all. Jane! Jane, come look, I’ve got a studly soulmate! I’m totes gonna climb you like a tree later,” she told Trip, who hadn’t been able to close his mouth for a good couple of minutes.

Dr. Foster came over, gave Trip an assessing and quite appreciative look, listened to Darcy’s babbled explanation and then very kindly, if unsubtly, ushered everyone else out of the room, leaving Trip alone with her, though not before Coulson gave him an amused look and Skye started laughing her ass off.

“So what’s your name, hot stuff?” Darcy hoisted herself up to sit on a table, swinging her legs. “I mean, I can keep calling you hot stuff, but it’d be nice to know your name and you already know mine…”

“It’s Antoine,” he admitted, “Antoine Triplett, but please call me Trip. Only my grandmother calls me Antoine.”

“Yeah?” Darcy gave him another slow once-over, and he felt his body respond. Because she might have a mouth like a runaway train, but damn, she was one hell of a fine-looking woman. A slow smile curved his lips as her eyes lingered in open appreciation on the breadth of his shoulders.

“Wanna see my soulmark?” he offered, slipping off his jacket and gathering the hem of his shirt in his hands.

Darcy licked her lips. “Sure,” she said. Was it hot in here? It was definitely hot in here. Even hotter as he pulled his shirt slowly off over his head to reveal a beautifully sculpted chest. Oh. Wow. That is – that is one hell of a view. Am I drooling? I think I’m drooling. She stared helplessly at his chest, not even bothering to look for the soulmark.

“And you accused me of ogling your chest,” Trip teased, finally seeing her lost for words. Moving closer, he leaned over her, planting his hands on either side of her on the table. “Cat got your tongue at last, Darcy? Or have I just found the only way to shut you up?”

“Do you taste as good as you look?” her dark blue eyes slid up to his, very wide, her voice soft and breathy.

“Wanna find out?” he leaned in closer again, watching as her eyelids fluttered closed and her full, red-painted lips parted slightly. She was irresistible, and boy was she ever gonna be a handful. Two handfuls, technically – Trip pushed the filthy thought to the back of his mind and kissed Darcy.

She was certainly not a passive participant, not that he’d have wanted that. In under a minute she had her legs around his waist and her arms round his neck, her fingers running over his shaved head, scratching erotically at his scalp. And in under two minutes he’d lost any inhibitions he might once have had and let her pull him down on top of her, his face in that magnificent cleavage, exploring her breasts with his mouth as erotic little moans spilled from her kiss-swollen lips.

“Trip, can you give me a hand with – never mind.” Mack’s voice behind him, followed by the closing door, brought Trip back to his senses. Slowly, reluctantly, he lifted his head, pulling back and meeting Darcy’s eyes.

“You’re gonna be trouble, aren’t you?”

She grinned up at him, not remotely concerned that they’d just been caught making out on a table. “You wouldn’t want me any other way.”

“Pretty sure I’ll want you any way I can get you,” he admitted, unable to take his eyes from her gaping, unbuttoned blouse.

“Very glad to hear it. Button me up, stud.”

“That’s just cruel!”

Outside the door, Mack heard them laughing and shook his head with a grin. Well, Trip deserved to be happy. But Mack was gonna make him disinfect that damn table before they all had to eat dinner off it.

 

Chapter Text

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Skye’s finger hovered over the DELETE key as she looked at the email. Anything from Miles titled ‘Help!’ could only be bad news. In the end she sighed and opened the message. A minute later she was on her feet shouting for Coulson.

“Explain this to me again,” May said as she deftly piloted the quinjet towards their destination.

“HYDRA have taken Dr Foster and her assistant Miss Lewis,” Skye said patiently, “and because they are smart people who don’t want to die, Foster and Lewis have co-operated like good little scientists. Thor’s off-world right now, and they daren’t try to make contact with any Avengers or S.H.I.E.L.D. in case they’re caught. But apparently Darcy – Miss Lewis – also fell for Miles’ dubious charms at one time. She’s done a bit of Rising Tide work here and there and she figured if she sent him a coded message it wouldn’t raise suspicions because they’re not exactly legit. Miles passed it on to me.”

“Clever,” May acknowledged. “You know her?”

“We haven’t met, but I know of her. She’s a fairly decent hacker. Not in my league but then I believe she actually intended to live a primarily straight life. That plan went to hell in New Mexico when an Asgardian fell out of the sky, and she’s been playing in the deeper waters ever since, trying mainly to keep Dr Foster out of trouble.”

May said nothing more, and Skye concentrated on preparing their weapons. Coulson had sent Trip with them, and Fitz to operate the DWARF drones, but he could only spare the four of them for a few hours. They had strict orders to take Dr Foster and Miss Lewis to Avengers Tower afterwards. The retrieval shouldn’t be too much trouble: the women were being held at a small astronomical observatory in Newfoundland, their captors relying on the inhospitable, remote location to keep the women from trying to escape. Skye had remotely hacked the facility’s security cameras and detected only eight guards.

“These guys must be dumber than a bag of hammers,” Trip looked at the feed on the DWARF control tablet over Fitz’s shoulder. “Who the hell kidnaps Thor’s girlfriend and expects to survive the experience?”

“I got the impression that they’ve threatened to kill Lewis if Foster steps out of line,” Skye answered him.

“Assholes!”

“Typical HYDRA tactics. You ready? And bear in mind that the goons probably won’t shoot Foster but they won’t hesitate to use Lewis’s life as a bargaining chip,” May said.

Skye and Trip nodded crisply and ran after her. Three small explosions later and they were storming in through three brand new holes in the observatory’s walls, racing towards the laboratory where security cameras showed Lewis and Foster were currently alone.

Skye got to the lab doors first and stood with her back to them, determined to hold the doors against any assault. Gun raised, she sighted down the approach corridor. She could hear shouting and gunfire in the distance, but both May and Trip sounded calm and collected on the comms.

“It’s all gone quiet, is everything all right?” a small voice asked behind Skye. She couldn’t help a scream of fright, though she managed to keep from pulling the trigger. “Oh God, sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you, only you’re obviously not HYDRA…”

Skye turned to see a young woman, obviously about her own age, staring at her from wide blue eyes. She was quite beautiful, with dark curly hair, porcelain-pale skin and full, plush lips.

“Everything’s going to be fine,” Skye said, smiling widely, unable to help herself. “Just fine.”

“Oh!” the blue eyes went even wider, and then Darcy smiled. “Hello.”

“Hello, yourself.”

Two slender hands moved together, clasped for a brief moment. And then Skye had to turn away as she heard May calling her name.

“I’m here, May! Miss Lewis is here, she’s safe – where’s Dr Foster?” Skye glanced over her shoulder at Darcy, who had crept closer and now pressed lightly against her back, one arm sliding gently around Skye’s waist.

“I stuffed her in the supply cupboard as soon as I heard the gunshots,” Darcy shrugged. “We could probably let her out.” She was maybe an inch taller than Skye, if that, her breath warm and sweet on Skye’s cheek. Skye wanted quite desperately to kiss her soulmate, but May would literally kill her if she pulled something that stupid in the middle of a mission. Instead she leant her cheek against Darcy’s for a moment.

“Later,” she promised. “Gotta deal with bad guys now. You and me, later.”

“Later,” Darcy acknowledged, giving her waist a gentle squeeze. “I’ll get Jane. I take it we’re leaving?”

“Well I’m not leaving you here and I don’t think they’ll be throwing a welcome party,” Skye quipped, and was rewarded with Darcy’s wide smile again.

“BRB, soulmate!”

Jane Foster turned out to be tiny, beautiful, and very, VERY angry. On finding out that Darcy and Skye had just discovered they were soulmates, she turned to Skye as they climbed into the quinjet, Trip gallantly helping Jane through the deep snow.

“Best of luck, Agent Skye. You’ll need it.”

“I think I already found it,” Skye said, feeling Darcy’s hand steal softly into hers again. She squeezed, her eyes shining. I don’t have to be alone any more.

 

Chapter Text

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“Coulson, I’m trapped!” Skye shouted.

“Where are you, Skye?”

“Still in my sniper perch on the top level, but the Hulk smashed the ladder on his way past and now I can’t get down!”

This mission had been a total crapshoot. Skye silently cursed Coulson under her breath; why hadn’t he checked in with Maria Hill, their Avengers liaison, before coming out here? Now they and the Avengers were on the same mission at the same damn time with two totally different plans, and the whole thing had gone straight to hell.

“I don’t suppose I could beg a lift off Iron Man?” Skye whimpered a bit hopefully. The whole structure of the catwalk she’d been perched on – taking out HYDRA agents with her sniper rifle very handily until the explosions started going off – was starting to shake in a very unnerving way. The only flaw in her plan was that Iron Man had zoomed out five minutes ago and not returned.

“I see her, Coulson, I’ll take care of it,” a low, calm voice said over the com.

Who the hell was that? Skye felt the catwalk begin to shake even harder – the Hulk was smashing stanchions down below – and retreated, grabbing onto a beam that looked more stable than most.

She was just in time. The catwalk dropped from beneath Skye’s feet, and she clutched frantically at the beam, suddenly dangling by her arms, unable to keep from letting out a panicked scream.

“Here!”

She turned her head to see a man coming at her, swinging from a steel cable, one arm outstretched to grab her. She twisted towards him and reached out a frantic hand as he got close. He landed lightly against the wall, bracing on the soles of his feet, and slipped his arm around her waist.

“I got you, sugar,” that low voice said in her ear. “Just hang on tight.”

Skye flung her arms around him as he pushed off again. He had black tactical gear on and she grabbed onto a strap across his lower back. She didn’t speak; if she did she might shock him into letting go, and frankly her own hands were shaking too much to trust her grip just now. Instead she clung on tightly, putting her head against his chest and shutting her eyes as they dropped.

“I’ve run out of cable; we’ve got to drop,” he shouted then, “just hang on to me, I’ve got you.”

“I can jump…” she opened her eyes and saw they were still at least twenty feet up. “No!” but it was too late, they were falling, and he was twisting in mid-air to make sure he landed underneath her…

“HAWK STUPID!”

They never hit the ground, and Skye opened the eyes she’d shut in horror, thinking that her soulmate was just about to sacrifice his life for her without even knowing that she was his soulmate.

Hulk’s giant hand deposited them safely on the ground together. And Skye looked up into Clint Barton’s startled blue-grey eyes. Coulson was shouting in her ear, asking if she was all right, but she couldn’t hear anything except the pounding of her heart.

 

 

His arm still locked tightly around her waist, he raised his free hand and traced a gentle finger across her cheek. His hand was trembling slightly, Clint was a little horrified to notice. But then, he’d just come damn close to sacrificing himself for a girl he didn’t even know. All he knew was that Coulson valued her, and therefore she must be important. How important, he could never have imagined.

His soulmate. This young, beautiful girl with her dark eyes and tumbling dark hair, skin as soft as a ripe peach, was his soulmate. I can jump… No! had appeared on his inner arm on the night of his very first performance in the circus as The Amazing Hawkeye. He’d been twelve, and the burning sensation on his bow arm had almost – but not quite – thrown off his aim. He’d wondered, back then in his long-lost youth, if she would be a trapeze performer or something like that.

“You’re Hawkeye,” her stunned whisper startled him from his trance.

“And you’re my soulmate,” he replied, “but right now we really need to get the hell out of here.”

She followed him blindly, trustingly, as he raced through a maze of fallen girders and burning equipment, twice stopping and turning to boost her over obstacles she’d have struggled to climb on her own. And then at last they were bursting out into the open air, taking in great gulps to fill smoke-ravaged lungs.

“Skye! Skye, report!” Coulson sounded near-hysterical over the com. Clint thumbed his own on.

“She’s all right, Coulson, I got her. Smoke inhalation, but we’ll both be fine. We’re outside the southwest corner of the building.”

“Thank God,” he heard Coulson’s sigh of relief. “Take care of her, Barton, we’ll be there shortly with medical assistance.”

“Always,” he said softly, “she’s my soulmate.” He didn’t bother to listen to whatever creative curse Coulson would come up with in response to that bombshell. Just pulled his com from his ear and moved closer to his soulmate. Skye. Her name was Skye. She looked up at him from her soot-smudged face and smiled.

“May I kiss you?” he asked, and her smile widened.

“Considering your reputation for doing whatever the hell you like, Agent Barton, I’m surprised you bothered to ask.”

“I don’t care what other people think of me,” he shrugged. “Only what you think.”

“I think I’ll be very disappointed if you haven’t kissed me before my team get here.”

“I shouldn’t care to disappoint a lady,” he murmured, before slipping his arm around her again, dipping his head. She reached up to close the distance between their lips eagerly.

They were kissing so passionately when Jemma found them that she had to cough loudly twice and then shout Skye’s name to get her attention.

 

Chapter Text

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This could not be happening. Everyone knew that sex pollen was a myth, a story used to haze rookie agents. There was no documented evidence of its existence. And Form 7A WF 83429 was a stupid joke. Jemma couldn’t even remember what she’d scribbled in the box that said ‘In the event of your exposure to such chemicals, who do you nominate as your preferred sexual partner?’ Because everyone knew sex pollen didn’t exist.

Which was obviously why she was now restrained to the bed in the medical bay of the Bus, zip-ties securing her wrists and ankles, thrashing and begging in a high-pitched voice for someone, ANYONE, to fuck her.

Thank God for Agent May, she would think later, who had taken one look at her as she staggered out of the small laboratory they’d just raided and dragged her straight to med bay.

“What happened?”

“Booby trap. Aerosol – went off – don’t know what…”

They evacuated before anyone else was affected, boarded the Bus and headed home. Of course, it would normally be Jemma’s job to take blood samples for analysis, but since she was the affected party Bobbi took over. She took the samples and left her alone with May, who looked thoughtfully at the way Jemma was shifting uncomfortably around in her clothes, examined her dilated pupils and promptly zip-tied her to the bed.

“It’s sex pollen,” was all she said. “I’ll go check your form.”

“It’s not sex pollen, that doesn’t exist,” Jemma said plaintively. “Would you mind fucking me before you go?”

May gave her a wry smile. “I’m locking you in so no one can get to you and you can’t get out. Don’t want any serious mistakes made we’ll all regret later.”

Who did I put on the form? Oh please, God, don’t let it have been Fitz. Their friendship was on shaky enough ground. It had been so long ago, and she remembered snorting over the form and writing something flippant.

The look on Coulson’s face when he came to the door with May told her it had been a flippant answer. Oh no. Please tell me I didn’t write Micky Mouse or something…

“Jemma, we’ve been able to contact your preferred partner. He’ll be joining us in about twenty minutes or so. I didn’t know you knew – well. Won’t be too long, anyway.”

“Too long, can’t you fuck me until he gets here?” Jemma said desperately.

Coulson fled.

May grinned, came in and shut the door behind her. “Jemma Simmons, I never thought you had it in you.” She had a syringe with her, which she connected to the IV Bobbi had put in her arm. A mild cooling sensation washed over Jemma, temporarily reducing the intense, frantic need she felt. “There; that should help for a little while. Tide you over until he gets here.”

Who? What did I write down, I can’t remember!” she yelped.

May’s smile disappeared. “Are you serious?”

“I thought the form was a fucking joke, I wrote something flippant!”

“Oh, shit,” May frowned. “Jemma, you’re no longer capable of giving consent…”

“Just tell me who!”

“Jemma, you wrote Iron Man. Who is Tony Stark, of course.”

Jemma’s eyes went very wide. “Oh my God.” She remembered now. It had been just after Iron Man’s first appearances. She, like so many others, had been fascinated with the anonymous hero.

“If you don’t want to…”

“No. I mean, yes. Look, he’s really attractive and I’ve been crushing on him for years, as you well know.”

“Mm-hm.” May was biting her lips, clearly trying not to laugh.

“He actually consented?” Jemma couldn’t believe it.

“We sent him a picture of you,” May failed to suppress a snort of laughter then. “I think he might be lonely now that Potts married Banner. He was suited up and out the door in about fifteen seconds.”

That, at least, was a little gratifying. Jemma thought about it while May left her alone. Tony Stark, Iron Man, had dropped everything, jumped into his suit and was zooming even now to her rescue. It might even be sort of romantic if the rescue didn’t need to involve having sex. May had told her bluntly that she’d seen this particular chemical before, and while it should wear off in about twenty-four hours, she would become dangerously ill unless she had sex.

 

 

“She’s beautiful,” Tony Stark, divested of his armour, stood outside the medical bay and stared at the young woman inside. She wasn’t aware of him yet, writhing and twisting in the restraints. “You’re sure about this? I mean, I’m far from unwilling, but…”

“She identified you on the form,” May told him. “And now she’s in an altered mental state, anybody else touching her would be non-consensual. It needs to be you.”

“Well,” Tony shrugged. “Can I take the restraints off her? Not that it might not be fun, another time…”

“Yes, you can, Stark, just get to it. And don’t worry. You won’t be disturbed.”

“All righty then.” Tony took a deep breath and slid the door open. The pretty young woman on the bed snapped her head around to look at him.

“I hear you might need some help?”

Golden-brown eyes blinked surprisedly. “That’s not at all what I expected you to say,” she said in a precise English accent.

Tony’s mouth fell open. “But you were expecting someone to say that to you eventually, weren’t you?” he moved closer. Reached down to stroke her hair back from her face.

Jemma nodded, staring at him unabashedly. He was even more handsome in person than the countless glossy magazine images she’d pored over in the last few years.

And he was her soulmate.

“Well,” Tony shrugged. “It might not be ideal to have to do this within a few minutes of first meeting, but hey, it might eliminate some awkward dancing around, hmm?”

“Shut up and fuck me now,” Jemma demanded.

“As you wish…”

 

Chapter Text

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Steve

He’d never had a soulmark, back in the old days. So when S.H.I.E.L.D. retrieved him from the ice and thawed him out, he was a little horrified to find that he had two. And one of them featured a name that would haunt him forever.

Who the hell is Bucky?

The world would not forget Bucky Barnes – and the other Howling Commandoes – if Steve had a say in it. So he helped set up the exhibit at the Smithsonian, grieved for his friend – and yes, occasional lover, though that had been very much a secret – and mentioned Bucky every time he was interviewed.

Of course, he hadn’t anticipated the fact that one of his soulmates would turn out to be Bucky. A very lost, broken Bucky. It took six weeks for Steve and Natasha – using all of Stark’s vast resources – to track him down after Washington, and another six months of therapy and hypnosis for Bucky to return to something like his old self.

Bruce had a theory on how Bucky and Steve didn’t used to be soulmates, but were now.

“You needed your third to be born. There’s documented cases of people who knew each other already, whose words spontaneously appeared when their third was born. In all those cases, it’s been the next words the soulmates spoke to each other, not the first.”

“What do we do about her? We assume it’s a her.” Steve gestured to the second mark on his forearm. Bucky had a second mark too, in the same, distinctly feminine handwriting.

“Well, I understand you both like girls as well as guys,” Bruce gave them one of his weary smiles. “Certainly from the stories Peggy Carter used to tell about you, Steve. And if Bucky was even a tenth as good with the girls as his character has always been portrayed on screen…”

“I meant what do we do about her.” Steve bit his lip and looked at the words on his arm. I’m so scared, the words said. The words on Bucky’s calf were even more frightening. Please help me. “It seems like she may be in some kind of trouble when we find her.”

“We take care of her and we deal with whatever, or whoever, is frightening her,” Bucky rumbled. He was still, at the core, the same Bucky that Steve had known – and loved – since they were children. “HYDRA told me, when the words appeared – and no, Steve, I still haven’t figured out exactly when, I just know both sets were on me when they defrosted me one time – that I had to kill whoever said them to me.”

“I take it you’ve decided not to follow that order now?” Bruce raised his eyebrows.

“Definitely not,” Bucky glanced sideways at Steve. “Punk’s still alive, ain’t he?”

“Shut up, you jerk, you certainly gave it a go.”

“That was when I was still Зимний Солдат, you ass!”

“Fuck you.”

“Fuck you too!”

“Just go fuck, both of you. That poor girl,” Bruce murmured, turning back to his lab bench. “How she’s going to put up with the pair of you, I can’t begin to imagine.”

Steve grinned at Bucky, pulling on his wrist. “Come on, jerk.”

“If people only knew what Captain America was really like.” Bucky followed Steve. “Bruce is right, though. The poor girl’s got no idea what she’s in for.”

“She needs us,” Steve said quietly, later. Much later. “That’s why we’re her soulmates. She’s in enough trouble that she needs us.”

Bucky, on the edge of sleep, rolled over and looked at him. “Then we get her out of it. You and me, Stevie. Ain’t nuthin’ we can’t pull our girl out of.”

“Sure hope you’re right, Buck,” Steve’s hand still rested on Bucky’s hip. “Because I love you, but I do miss girls.”

“Me too,” Bucky murmured quietly. The corner of his lip twitched up in a grin. “Hope she’s pretty.”

“She’ll be beautiful to us,” Steve said confidently.

“She’ll prob’ly like you best anyway.”

“That’s not how it works, Buck,” Steve told him softly. “She’s our soulmate. Both of us. I’d never let anyone come between us anyway, you big jerk.”

Bucky chuckled. “You sure about that?”

“You have a filthy mind.” Steve jabbed him in the ribs.

“You love it.”

“Jerk.”

“Punk.”

 

Bucky

They found her in the last place they’d ever have expected. In the Avengers’ Mission Room, a whole floor of Tony Stark’s tower dedicated to planning and the storage of their equipment. Tony had received a surprise call from someone named Coulson – surprising largely because apparently the guy was supposed to be dead – saying there was someone he needed help with. They all gathered in the Mission Room.

The other Avengers greeted Coulson warily, and he gestured to the small, slim woman standing beside him. She had long brown hair and frightened eyes.

“This is Agent Skye. She recently had a somewhat – otherworldly experience in Puerto Rico. I – honestly think she might be better with you guys. The Avengers.”

“Better how, exactly?” Tony demanded.

“Skye’s developed, um, a certain power. The earth shakes at her command.”

“Ah, that explains the sudden unexplained seismic activity down in Virginia,” Natasha murmured, crossing her arms and giving the young woman an appraising look.

“What the hell are you doing bringing her here, Coulson?” Tony gabbled out, backing away from Skye. “You want to level New York? Christ, at least we’re not in LA, you could have split the San Andreas right open!”

“I’ve got it under control!” Skye said sharply, the first time she’d spoken. She glared at Tony. “I just – my team treat me differently now. I’m not one of them any more.” She turned to Steve, eyes beseeching. “I’m so scared.”

Steve sucked in a sharp breath and glanced at Bucky. He willed himself not to react, but he couldn’t help moving towards Skye.

“What do you need from us, doll?”

“Please help me,” she stared up at him, tears welling in those dark, dark eyes.

“Of course,” he said softly.

“I don’t want to be alone any more. I’ve spent my whole life being alone.”

“No more,” Steve came to them. “You don’t have to be alone any more.” He placed a gentle hand on Bucky’s waist and another on Skye’s shoulder. “You’ve got us now.”

“Um, what the fuck, I thought we had to vote in any new members of the Avengers?” Tony said sharply. “Since when did you two get to pick and choose?”

“Since we found our soulmate,” Bucky answered, since Steve seemed to be lost staring into the depths of Skye’s eyes.

There was a chorus of “What? What the fuck?” and “Holy shit” from around the room, and a grateful gasp of “Oh thank God,” from Agent Coulson. Skye turned to him, and he put his arms around her in a paternal hug.

“You’ll be fine, Skye. They’ll take care of you. I couldn’t ask for anyone better.”

 

Skye

They left her alone with her soulmates. Barton and Romanoff had told Tony flatly that they wouldn’t be party to any attempt to separate soulmates – Skye noticed that their hands were clasped tightly together – and that therefore as far as they were concerned, Skye was in. Outvoted even before Banner and Wilson spoke up, Tony conceded with reasonable grace and invited Coulson – or ‘Agent’ as he called him, up to his bar for a drink.

They were both huge men, towering over her, and Skye peered up at them a bit shyly. Steve – Captain America, although he looked very normal, if a bit ungodly handsome, in regular clothes – was smiling brightly at her. Barnes looked more serious, but there was still joy in his deep blue eyes.

“I’d say I’m sorry for what happened to you,” Bucky said, “but honestly, I’m not, because it brought you to us.” He turned his arm and showed her the words on the back of his forearm.

Steve took a clean handkerchief from his pocket and offered it to Skye. She accepted it with a grateful sniff and wiped her face. “I’m sorry, I’m not making much of a first impression!”

“Quite the contrary,” Steve said gallantly. “I don’t know about Buck, but I’m so glad we’re not having to rescue you from a hostage situation or something with bullets flying all around!”

She blinked, read the words on his arm as he pulled up his sleeve, and smiled slightly. “Oh. Yes, I can see how that would seem likely.” Skye hesitated, and then turned around, pulling up the tight black T-shirt she was wearing. Their words were written in the small of her back, two lines of tight text almost on top of each other. “I guessed you two would already be together. I – if you want a platonic bond, I’d be okay with that…”

“No!” Steve and Bucky said in horrified unison.

“Not unless you really don’t want to be with both of us,” Steve qualified. “But – we’ve been waiting for you. Hoping you’d be – okay with us both.”

A small smile curved Skye’s mouth. “Captain America and the Winter Soldier? What girl would turn that down? But – I wouldn’t want to get in the middle…”

“Really?” Bucky said with a salacious grin. “Because that’s exactly where I’d want you.”

“Bucky!” Steve blushed bright red and rammed an elbow into his ribs. “You jerk!”

Skye covered her mouth with her hand and started to giggle, suddenly realising the double entendre she’d just made. She could feel herself blushing just thinking about it. And – also getting very hot and bothered. Because there was no denying how gorgeous they both were.

Bucky, pushing his luck, moved in closer and reached to put two gentle fingers – his human hand – under Skye’s chin, tipping her face up. “Since Punk here got to hear his words first,” he murmured, “may I even the score by getting the first kiss?”

“No fair!” Steve muttered, but he made no real attempt to intervene, indeed moved slightly to the side to get a better view.

Skye smiled. “I’m not having you two boys keeping score over me,” she said sternly. Recognising that she needed to put herself on an equal footing with them now, or they’d probably walk all over her.

Bucky inclined his head, accepting her terms. That, of course, brought his lips a good deal closer, and she couldn’t help but focus on them. They were plush, pink and soft, incongruous in his chiselled, hard face. Skye licked her own lips, wondering how he’d taste. And then he kissed her.

Steve couldn’t believe how turned on he was watching Bucky kiss Skye. She slipped slender arms around his neck, standing on tiptoe – she was pretty tiny, maybe five foot four, Steve reckoned – but she looked just right there in Bucky’s arms. His fingers itched for pencil and paper, to capture that image. And then Bucky lifted his head, his eyes glazed, breath coming a little fast.

“Come here, punk,” he held out his metal arm.

Steve approached slowly, looking at Skye a little shyly. He’d only ever kissed one girl before, and that was Peggy Carter, a long time ago by any measure. Skye looked beautiful, gazing up at him with her eyes shining, removing one of her arms from around Bucky’s neck and holding it out.

“Come on, Steve. We’re not leaving you out.”

He joined them, feeling Bucky’s arm slide around his waist, Skye’s small hand on the back of his neck. She pulled encouragingly, and he put one arm around each of them and stooped to press his lips to hers.

It was a soft, gentle kiss, full of promise for the future, an acknowledgement that she wasn’t ready yet. But when she was, they would both be waiting. Skye stood in the circle of their arms, both her soulmates holding her close, and let out a sigh of relief.

I’ll never be alone again.

 

 

 

 Зимний Солдат = Winter Soldier

Chapter Text

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Jemma had always been reasonably sure she’d meet her two soulmates at the same time. The soulmarks curved under her breasts like bra underwires. One, in a strong masculine hand, said Don’t touch him! The second, spiky and jagged, said It’s all right, любовь моя. So she was pretty sure that they were already together. Which would be awkward, trying to insert herself into what was probably a fairly stable, established relationship. Between what she suspected was two men. One of them possibly Russian.

She hadn’t anticipated quite how long the relationship would turn out to have been established for, though.

 

 

The first inkling she had that something was wrong was when Coulson came belting into the lab shouting her name. Phil never normally ran unless things were about to start exploding, so Jemma immediately started looking for something substantial to hide under. And then he grabbed her arm – well really! – and started tugging her towards the door.

“Come now,” he blathered incoherently. “He’s here. Needs help. Oh God.”

Who is here, and let go, you’re wrinkling my lab coat!” Jemma jerked her arm free and frowned at him.

“Captain America,” Phil said reverently.

“Oh,” well, that certainly explained Phil’s temporary lapse of reason.

“Captain America needs my help? For what?”

“He found him. The Winter Soldier. Steve Rogers found him, and he’s injured, and for obvious reasons he can’t just take him to a hospital…”

“I see.” Jemma certainly did see. They wanted her to treat some unknown condition on a super-strong, brainwashed, possibly psychotic HYDRA assassin. For some reason a line from a Monty Python film popped into her mind. “Run away bravely!” she muttered under her breath, collecting her medical bag and following after Phil.

“Say what?”

“Nothing, Director, just a stray thought! So where – oh, I see.”

They were at Vault D. Sunil Bakshi had long since been removed, handed over to the military – Coulson trusted General Talbot to handle that one properly – and obviously it was the only safe place they really had to put the Winter Soldier.

“Is he really Bucky Barnes?” Jemma asked quietly as they walked down the stairs.

“Yes – or he was. HYDRA did some pretty terrible things to him, Jemma.”

She pursed her lips and shook her head. Agent 33 and Donnie Gill were just the two people she’d known personally who were brainwashed into following HYDRA’s leaders. But to think that they’d had Bucky Barnes, the legendary Howling Commando, Captain America’s best friend, all these years – well, it was sick. She looked with great sympathy as they approached the transparent barrier.

“I need to stay out here,” Phil told her, “to let you out when you’re done. Barnes appears to be docile as long as Rogers is with him, so you should be in no danger.”

Jemma was barely listening, instead staring at the two men in the vault. Barnes lay on the bed, his metal arm across his chest, his human arm dangling towards the floor. His shirt was little more than rags across his chest, his hair a tangled, filthy mess, his beard thick. He looked like a hobo.“What’s wrong with him?” she put out a hand and stayed Coulson from opening the barrier. Neither Rogers, who was sitting on the end of the bed with Barnes’ legs across his lap, nor Barnes had looked up, so she guessed the screen was opaqued from their side.

“Not sure exactly. The Captain thinks that HYDRA may have kept him hopped up on a cocktail of drugs. Plus apparently they had some sort of machine – like the reverse of the memory machine we had – it wipes out memories. They put him in it regularly, but because he was serum enhanced at some point, his brain kept repairing itself. They kept him in cryo in between missions, sometimes for years at a time, so he’s temporally very confused.”

“So, withdrawal from unknown narcotics, possible brain damage, chemically induced psychosis and who knows what else,” Jemma summed up. Phil gave her a weak smile.

Marvellous.” She slipped a pair of latex gloves from the pocket of her lab coat and snapped them on. “And from the look of him, probably fleas. I know you don’t want to let him out, but is there any chance you could get Mack or Hunter to haul a few buckets of hot water down here so I could at least give him a sponge bath?”

“I’ll see to it,” Phil promised, and then he tapped on the control panel.

Captain Rogers’ head snapped up, and he stared at them from penetrating blue eyes. He was dressed in his full Captain America regalia, minus the identity-concealing cowl, which hung down at the back of his neck. And he was just as beautiful as all the old images suggested. Jemma tried not to stare, but it was very difficult, with the Adonis-like perfection before her.

“This is our medical expert, Dr Simmons,” Phil said as the screen dropped with a hum and Jemma walked across into the secure part of the vault with her medical bag. The screen hummed back up behind her.

“Hello,” she said politely to Rogers, who only watched her from those blue, blue eyes. She moved forward, looking at Barnes, who hadn’t moved. “Is he asleep?” she reached out to touch his forehead.

“Don’t touch him!” Rogers said sharply, just as the metal hand whirred up and grabbed Jemma’s wrist in a bruising grip.

“Don’t you dare break my wrist!” she snapped crisply.

Eyes even bluer than Rogers’ snapped open, staring at her, and then the crushing hold slowly relaxed. “It’s all right, любовь моя,” Barnes said quietly, releasing her wrist gently and lowering his hand to his stomach.

What?

Jemma blinked. Stared at Barnes. Then at Rogers. Then down, at where Barnes was plucking away the remnants of his tattered shirt over his stomach. At that sculpted, muscled stomach – and the words printed neatly there, at the top of his abs, in her careful, precise handwriting.Don’t you dare break my wrist.

She looked up into those knowing blue eyes, and then, because she couldn’t look at him any more, she looked at Rogers. Who was staring at her with his mouth open.“I don’t suppose you have Hello, Is he asleep written on you somewhere?” she said a bit pitifully.

“As a matter of fact, I do.” His smile was a bit sheepish as he tugged up his sleeve to show the words she'd spoken on the inside of his muscled forearm.

Barnes let out a harsh little laugh. “You coulda told me you had a new mark too, punk!”

“I didn’t want to upset you! I only saw that you had a new mark yesterday…”

Jemma stared from one to the other of them, barely able to believe what was happening. Captain America and his soulmate James “Bucky” Barnes were legends, a soulmate pair with a tragic ending, true, but what they’d been able to achieve together first – and now she was supposed to be a third wheel in their bond?

“Inconceivable!” she said aloud.

“Why do you say that?” Bucky pushed himself up to sit upright with a pained grunt.

“Oh, don’t, please,” Jemma tried to revert to professionalism, pressing gently on his stomach to make him lie down. “We can talk later, if you want to. But right now I need to look at you.”

“Look all you like, doll, feel free to touch as well,” he gave her a roguish grin.

“I can see you’re going to be a dreadful patient.”

Steve smiled beatifically. “She’s got you figured out already, Buck.”

“I’ll be the best patient in the world with you to take care of me, котенок,” he promised, gazing up at Jemma as she leaned over him to look at a nasty-looking gash right where his prosthesis met his body.

“I’m not a kitten,” Jemma responded absently, turning to dig in her medical bag.

“You speak Russian?” Steve asked.

“I learned. I thought one of my soulmates might be Russian.”

“Sort of,” Bucky sighed as she carefully cleaned the gash with an antiseptic wipe. “Don’t worry about that, doll. It’s already healing.”

“It’s filthy,” she protested, “and it must be at least three days old, you’ll get an infection if I don’t clean it up.”

He shook his head. “No, I got it this morning.”Jemma stared. Peered at the deep gash, which was definitely days old. Or would have been, on anyone but a super-soldier. Her hands began to shake.  

 

 

Steve was the one who lunged forward and caught her before she fell, which Bucky was grateful for, because he wasn’t sure he could move that quickly right now. He managed to wriggle over sideways, though, and Steve laid Dr Simmons – and they still didn’t know her first name! – gently on the bed beside him.

“Bit of a shock, I should think,” Bucky said, smoothing her chestnut hair back from her face. “Wow, Stevie, she’s so beautiful.”

“We’re damned lucky,” Steve was staring too. He’d barely been able to get a word out since the pretty doctor had entered the room, and once he discovered she was their soulmate – well. He looked up and out through the still-transparent barrier at an open-mouthed Agent Coulson. “Do you want me to bring her out, sir? I think she just fainted with shock.”

“I never faint,” Jemma said weakly, snapping his gaze back to her face. “I despise people who faint.” She struggled to sit up. Steve pressed on her shoulder lightly to hold her down.

“Perhaps just a temporary lapse on consciousness due to shock,” Steve suggested, his mouth twitching into a smile at her offended expression. Bucky was right, she was just like a kitten, all fluff and tiny sharp claws. She narrowed those soft brown eyes at him.

“I’m not complaining,” Bucky said cheerfully. “Hey Stevie, I got our soulmate into bed on first meeting!”

“You’re impossible,” Steve said as Jemma turned her head and glared at Bucky. And then her expression turned even crosser.

“If you’ve given me fleas, Barnes, I will never forgive you.”

Both men couldn’t help but laugh as Jemma slowly pushed herself to sit up, turning her glare on Steve when he moved to stop her again. “Don’t you dare.”

“Котенок has claws,” Bucky chuckled.

She hissed at him, and then laughed at his expression. “I suppose you could think of a worse pet name for me.”

“I wanna pet you like a kitty cat,” Bucky said salaciously.

“Not until you’re properly cleaned up!” Jemma said firmly as he reached to stroke her hair. “God only knows what I’ve picked up just from sharing that pillow! Is that hot water on the way, Coulson?”

“Be here shortly,” was her reply.

“Oh no, you’re not giving me a sponge bath,” Bucky realised what she intended.

“What, you don’t want my hands all over your naked body?” given boldness by his flirting, Jemma grinned cheekily back.

Sharp intakes of breath, and hot stares from two pairs of intense blue eyes, made her blush and look away.

“I’d like nothin’ better once I’m back to myself,” Bucky murmured after a moment. “But first, котенок, will you tell us your name?”

“Oh!” she went even redder. How had she forgotten to introduce herself? “Jemma. It’s Jemma.”

Bucky scooped her gloved hand in his and squeezed it gently. “Jemma. That’s a beautiful name for a little cat.”

Our little cat,” Steve reached for her other hand.

Jemma looked from Bucky to Steve, and back again. And the expressions on their faces told her quite clearly that she wasn’t going to be a third wheel in their relationship.

She was going to be the heart of it.

 

 

любовь моя = my love

котенок = kitten 

 

Chapter Text

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“You summoned me, Heimdall?” Thor strode into the Bifrost chamber. The golden-eyed Guardian turned to face him, nodding.

“Yes, my Prince. You are sworn to protect Midgard and an issue has arisen there that requires our attention.”

“Not Lady Jane again?” Thor said with a small sigh. He and Jane had soon realised they were not compatible beyond the first flush of attraction, but the woman still seemed a magnet for trouble.

“No; this is on the other side of the ocean. One of the Kree devices has been activated.”

“Ugh! How many are dead?”

“Only one. Two have evolved. One’s power is contained within herself; she is of no concern to us. The other is who you must retrieve; a young maiden who has gained power over the element of earth. She has not yet learned control and must be removed from her element, lest she cause great tragedy all unwitting. Go to her, Prince Thor, and I will send the Bifrost to take you both to a place where she will not endanger anyone while she learns to control her powers.”

 

 

The earth was shaking as they scrambled out of the tunnels and fled. Skye sobbed uncontrollably against Coulson’s shoulder; May kept glancing anxiously back at them as she drove the car as fast as she dared, heading back to the Bus.

“Coulson,” May said suddenly, “Look.”

Phil leaned forward from the back seat, looking at where she was pointing. A feeling of dread coiled in his stomach as he saw the pattern of lightning flaring in the sky.

“Is that what I think it is?” May asked.

“It looks as though we may have drawn some attention,” he said, shrugging. “Nothing we can do. Keep going. Looks like whoever it is will meet us at the Bus.”

Thor was standing at the Bus’s open ramp, being stared at in awe by the wide-eyed Koenig brothers, as the car pulled up. Coulson had murmured to Skye that they might be having Asgardian visitors, and she managed to suppress her tears, peering out of the window.

“It’s Thor himself,” Coulson muttered, spotting the red cape.

“The big guns, huh?” May said.

“The biggest.”

May caught Skye’s eye in the rearview mirror and smirked slightly. Skye managed a watery grin in return. Of course Coulson wouldn’t get the joke about Thor’s arms.

Mack – who hadn’t said a word since she told him what had happened to Trip – got out of the car first and stood facing Thor. As though that would do any good if the Asgardian had come to kill her. Thor was bigger even than Mack, and with that hammer… Skye’s thoughts broke off as her foot touched the ground and the earth started to shake again.

“Let not thy foot touch Midgard’s surface, my lady!” Thor boomed, striding forward. He took her hand in his to urge her back into the car, but as soon as their skin touched, both of them cried out.

“Ow, ow, that burns!” Skye squealed, trying to snatch her hand away, but even though Thor wasn’t holding on, she seemed to be stuck to him. And then her hand came away and she held it up, staring in astonishment as the odd circular birthmark on the palm of her hand began to fill in with swirling patterns of red and gold. Thor held out his hand, palm up, and she saw a similar pattern there, only his colours were flowing pale blue, white and yellow.

“What is it?” Skye said, horrified.

“It is a soul-bond, my lady, the way it appears among my people,” Thor gazed at her in wonder. “Over a thousand years I have searched for you,” he said, his deep voice low and soft, and then he dropped to one knee, gazing at her where she sat sideways on the back seat of the car, clapping his marked palm over his heart. “I vow myself to you, body and soul, my lady, as your champion and protector, for all time.”

Skye stared at the god kneeling before her. At his perfectly windswept blond hair, his blue eyes, the slight scruff of stubble across his hard jaw. He looked far too beautiful to be real. Born without soulmate words on her body, she’d spent her whole life waiting for them to appear, and in the end resigned herself to being one of the Unmarked. To discover that she did have a soulmate after all, Thor himself, on this day of all days – it was just too much. She burst into tears again.

Thor clenched his jaw, watching his soulmate weep. She seemed so young, so fragile to bear such a burden. He rose and turned to Coulson, who’d been watching with his eyes almost falling from his head. “I must take her away, Son of Coul. She endangers all of you until she has learned to control her power.”

“The quakes?” Coulson asked.

“Aye, Heimdall saw what has occurred and sent me to collect her. I will keep her safe, never fear.”

“I know you will.” Coulson offered his hand to shake. “We lost a friend today,” he said, too quietly for Skye to hear. “Let her grieve.”

“She will have all the time she needs, I promise you. I will send Lady Sif to you now and again, with news, until I am able to return her to you. Only one thing,” Thor hesitated. “What is her name?”

“Skye,” Coulson said quietly. Her father had called her Daisy, but he knew Skye well enough to know she would never use that name. “Her name is Skye.”

Thor inclined his head, turned back to the car, and lifted Skye out easily, cradling her close to his chest, before striding away from the plane to a clear patch of ground.

“Where are you taking me?” Skye sobbed out.

“To a place where you need not fear,” Thor told her gently. “Heimdall! Open the Bifrost!”

 

Chapter Text

 photo SkyeFrost_zps3da7d38b.jpg

 

 

Everywhere she walked, the earth shook beneath her feet. Terrified, she begged Coulson for answers, but he could only shake his head helplessly. And she would not, would not, seek out that butcher who called himself her father.

Someone must be able to help!” she said a bit frantically to May. They were aloft in the Bus, where at least the small quakes weren’t following. “Someone must have learned to control these sort of powers, be able to teach me!”

May hesitated. “The only one we knew is Donnie Gill, and he drowned in Marrakech.”

“What about the Avengers?” Jemma said helpfully.

“None of them have those sort of powers – except – but Coulson wouldn’t,” May said thoughtfully.

“What? Who?” Skye begged.

“She means Loki,” Phil said from the doorway of the lab, where they were all standing around the examination table where Skye was sitting. “And ordinarily I wouldn’t want you within a million miles of him, but – he has changed. According to Agents Barton and Romanoff, who I do trust to know.”

“Let me get this straight.” May crossed her arms and stared at him. “You’re planning to give Skye to the man – the Asgardian – who killed you.”

“I’m not giving Skye to anyone! But the fact is that Loki might be the only person who can help, right now. And he wasn’t in his right mind when he stabbed me. It’s up to Skye, anyway – what do you want to do?”

Given the choice of Loki or her father, Skye picked the one she didn’t know for sure was evil. “Loki.”

“I’ll make the call.”

Loki arrived an hour later, in a quinjet piloted by Agent Barton, who seemed on surprisingly good terms with the man who once brainwashed him. The very first thing Loki did was turn to Coulson and deliver a surprisingly heartfelt apology for stabbing him.

“I – uh – well, I survived,” Coulson stuttered, surprised.

“Still, I owe you a debt.”

“You can repay it by helping Skye,” Coulson felt on safer ground there.

“Ah yes, your young agent who has been affected by the Kree Terrigen device. Anything I can do, Son of Coul, I shall do.”

“Well, then,” flustered by Loki’s unexpected charm, Phil looked at Clint, who shrugged. “All right then. Please follow me and I will introduce you to Skye.”

Loki was wearing his battle armour, but not his helmet or cloak. He walked silently behind Coulson, occasionally ducking through low doorways. On entering the lab, his eyes went immediately to Skye, still sitting on the exam table.

Coulson waved everyone else out. He stationed himself by the door to watch, aware of Clint taking up a position on the other side of the door as guard.

“Lady Skye,” Loki swept her an elegant bow. “I understand that you may require my assistance.”

“Can you make it stop?” Skye stared up at him. He was so tall; far taller than she’d expected, he must be a good six foot five, and all of it looked lean and whip-hard. His black hair was a stark contrast to the pale beauty of his face, his green eyes standing out sharply as he stared at her. “It hurts. Inside my head, it feels like there’s an extra part there, and it hurts.”

“May I examine you?” Loki held up his hands, a faint emerald-green glow shimmering around them. “It will not hurt,” he reassured gently. “It may even feel a little soothing.”

Skye glanced at Coulson. He nodded after a moment, and she nodded at Loki. Gently, he brought his hands to either side of her head, the green glow seeming to sink into her scalp.

For a moment, it did feel soothing, cool and soothing. And then, as Loki’s hands touched the sides of her head, there was pain, cold and brittle, tingling down Skye’s back. She let out a squeal, even as he cried out in surprise and stumbled back from her.

“What the…” Phil pulled his gun and pointed it at Loki, sensing Clint at his side, bow drawn. “What did you do to her?”

Loki was the one who seemed to be in pain now though, his skin turning a mottled, deep blue. He went to his knees with a low cry.

“Loki!” Skye scrambled off the table and crouched before him, reaching out to touch him. He held up a hand to ward her off, but she grabbed it, and even as she did, his skin stabilised back to its usual pale colour.

“It is you,” he whispered, amazed, gazing at her. “Oh, my heart, I have searched so long for you!”

“I felt you,” Skye gasped back, “in here!” she touched her head. “You’re my soulmate!”

“Oh, fuck,” Clint and Phil said in unison. And then they looked at each other and beat it hastily out through the lab doors.

“I never had words,” Skye said, still staring at Loki in wonderment, “I thought I had no soulmate…”

“Do you have marks on your back, like a row of circles down your spine?”

“Yes,” she nodded, and he helped her to her feet and drew her over to a mirror on the wall, turning her around and lifting her shirt up. She saw, to her amazement, that the four small circles at the small of her back were now a series of what appeared to be runes.

“My name,” Loki traced his fingers down the runes gently. “They spell my name, in the Jotun tongue.” This small, Midgardian woman, with her dark hair and darker eyes, was his mate, the other half of his soul, the one he had searched for all these dark, lonely years. She stared up at him, a smile beginning to curve her lips, and he vowed silently to himself that he would protect her. No matter what the Terrigenesis did to her, he would take care of his mate.

“Skye,” he said quietly, and she leaned against him, smiling.

“Loki.”

 

Chapter Text

  photo SkyeWolf_zps16d56bbf.jpg

 

“Hi,” Skye said to the tall, slender woman with dark skin and milk-white hair who opened the door of the mansion. “I’m here to enrol as a student.”

“A little older than most coming into their powers, aren’t you?” the woman asked, looking her over. Her face wasn’t unwelcoming, though. “Most of our students are in their teens, or younger.”

“I’m not X-gene positive. I’m a mutate, not a mutant. But I need help learning to control my powers, and I heard that I could find it here at the Xavier Institute.”

“Hmm.” The woman studied her for a moment longer, and then stepped back gracefully. “Come. I’ll take you to the Professor.”

 Half an hour later, Skye stumbled out of Professor Xavier’s study, feeling as though her brain had been turned inside out. The kindly, smiling man was easily the most terrifying person she had ever met, and that included her psycho father.

Another woman was waiting for her, young, slender, with straight dark hair with a curious white streak in the centre. Her smile was friendly, though, and her soft Southern accent welcoming.

“Hey y’all! Ah’m Rogue.”

“Uh, Skye,” she said, still a bit shell-shocked.

“Lovely to meet yah, Skye. Now c’n Ah show yah to yahr room?”

“Thank you.” She followed Rogue along the corridor and up a flight of stairs. At the top, they met a man, dressed in grey combat pants and a white wife-beater. He had black hair that stuck up in tufts, ferocious sideburns and glittering, tawny-coloured eyes.

“Another stray, Rogue, thought you’d given that up?” his eyes raked dismissively over Skye. “Who is she?”

“Who’s she, the cat’s mother?” Skye snapped, irritated by his dismissive glance. Who the hell did this scruffy dude think he was?

Oh. Well, apparently he thought he was a dangerous badass. Skye swallowed very carefully, trying not to breathe, cross-eyed with terror at the glittering blades that had suddenly sprouted out of the guy’s hands right in front of her chest.

“I really hope this is just a bad joke, Rogue,” he addressed the other woman.

“Logan, Ah swear it isn’t, Ah swear!” Rogue looked shocked and panicked. “Ah only just met her! Skye, tell him!”

“Tell him what, that he’s a complete psycho?” Skye could feel her powers starting to slip the tenuous leash she’d managed to get on them, feel the ground wanting to tremor under her feet. She shut her eyes and tried to focus. “Unless you want a nasty-ass earthquake wrecking this place, you need to give me space to take some deep breaths.”

There was a snicking sound, and she risked a glance and saw the blades retracting into Logan’s hands. He was staring at her with a troubled, puzzled frown.

“Your name’s Skye? Do I know you?” he asked at last.

“I’m pretty sure I’ve never met you before,” Skye said, finally feeling able to relax. “I think I’d remember.”

“I’m an asshole, I’ll be the first to admit that, but it’s the first time anyone’s said those particular words to me,” he said with a strange emphasis Skye felt she should understand somehow. And then she remembered the words scribbled in a messy scrawl on the small of her back. Your name’s Skye? Do I know you?

“No,” her eyes opened wide. “You can’t be!”

He pulled the wife-beater up and off in one smooth movement. And there, on a spectacularly muscled six-pack, was her scruffy writing. Who’s she, the cat’s mother?

Rogue, looking from one to the other of them, forgotten by them both, said “Y’know what, Ah’m just gonna leave yah alone,” and beat a hasty retreat. Neither of them noticed.

Logan didn't bother to put his shirt back on, which inevitably made Skye stare at his chest when he spoke, since he was a good eight inches taller than she was. And a very nice chest it was, thickly muscled and darkly furred, with a happy trail running down across that very fine six-pack towards his groin. Her eyes slid helplessly downwards.

“I won’t make you happy,” he said abruptly. “I don’t even know all my own past, and my future probably ain’t too bright.”

Skye smiled a little wryly, her eyes sliding up to his. “So we’re a pair, then.”

His dark brows raised, and after a moment he returned her smile. “You’re a brave girl.”

“Life’s shit,” she raised one shoulder in a half-shrug, “if you’re lucky you survive a while?”

He actually laughed, and held out a large, squarish hand. With absolutely no sign of the brutal blades that had sprouted out of it a minute earlier. “I like you, girlie.”

Skye grasped that big, warm hand, smiling properly up at him. “Prepared to give me a go?”

“You might be the only good thing that’s ever happened to me.” To her surprise, he lifted her hand in an old-fashioned courtesy and pressed his lips lightly to her knuckles before releasing it. “I’m game if you are.”

“Got nothing much left to lose.” Skye thought of Ward, the creepy stalker who kept coming back to haunt her, and her equally scary father. “I wouldn’t mind having someone as dangerous as you seem to be on my side for once.”

“That much I can promise.” Those tawny, feral eyes bored into hers. “We might not work out as a couple. But I’ll always be on your side.”

“I reckon that’s a fair enough place to start,” Skye slipped her hand into his when he offered it, and Logan picked up her bag with his free hand and led her down the hall towards the room that would be her new home.

 

Chapter Text

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Clint

He really hadn’t expected this when Steve recruited him to help hunt down the Winter Soldier, the shadowy assassin who probably had more kills to his name than Clint and Natasha put together. Not this lost, broken, confused man whose blue eyes looked as though they were gazing out from Hell itself.

Clint wasn’t foolish enough to be unwary, though. He lowered the bow and put the arrow away, drew his sidearm and walked closer to the man lying in the alleyway. He wouldn’t even be sure it was Barnes if not for the very distinctive metal arm, gleaming in the dull light.

“Hey,” he said quietly. “We’ve been looking for you. Steve sent me to help.”

Those blue, blue eyes flickered up to his, and to his immense surprise a small smile cracked the bearded face. “I’m very glad you found me,” Barnes said in a weary voice. He reached up his human hand, clearly asking for a hand up.

Clint startled back, eyes widening. “Seriously?” he said questioningly.

“What’re the odds someone else is gonna say those words to me?” In the tired smile, he could see the shadows of the very attractive man Bucky Barnes had once been, and something warm coiled in the pit of Clint’s stomach. “Must say I never thought it’d be someone as good-lookin’ as you, though.”

“Thought you were one for the ladies,” Clint finally leaned forward and gave Barnes his hand, yanking him to his feet. He was a heavy bastard, thickly muscled and that metal arm couldn’t be light.

“I was. Didn’t mean I didn’t like guys, too.”

“Huh. Me too. I got two soulmarks. You?”

“Yeah.” Bucky leaned on his shoulder wearily. They were almost the same height, Bucky maybe an inch or two taller. Clint put away his gun and wrapped his arm around Bucky’s back, supporting him. “Maybe we’ll get lucky and our third’s a girl, hmm?”

“That’d be nice.” Clint glanced at Bucky’s bearded jaw. “But I reckon you’ll do me until we find her. I ain’t kissing you until you’ve cleaned up a bit, though.”

“Fair enough.” Bucky actually grinned. “Just get me to a shower, handsome.”

Clint’s arm tightened around his exhausted soulmate as he helped him to the car. “Gonna take care of you, Bucky Barnes. Always.”

 

Steve was shocked – and delighted – when Clint and Bucky appeared at the Tower clinging to each other. He quickly took in Clint’s gabbled explanation and fended off Tony and Natasha, convinced Bucky to let Bruce quickly check him over for major injuries, and then let Clint take him to his apartment once Bruce cleared him.

“Can your arm get wet?” Clint asked, helping Bucky over to the shower.

“Yeah, it’s fine.” Bucky struggled to take his clothes off, so Clint helped.

His clothes were little more than rags, so as they removed them Clint just dumped them straight in the garbage. They were close enough in size Bucky would be able to wear his clothes. Clint stripped down to his shorts, fearing Bucky would fall in the shower, and went in with him. Bucky probably needed sleep, and food, but he was utterly rank. Clint wasn’t having that smell in his apartment.

“Would you shave me?” Bucky asked, to his surprise, when Clint finally had him clean and the shower switched off.

“Let’s feed you first.”

“I want to kiss you, though.”

“Oh…” Clint stared into those amazingly blue eyes, and then Bucky’s hands, one warm flesh and one cool metal, closed gently on his arms, pulling him closer. “The shave could wait,” a small smile quirked Clint’s lips, and he leaned in.

It was a tender, heated kiss, and to Clint’s astonishment he felt Bucky’s arousal jump against his stomach. “You can’t possibly be in any condition for that!”

“You wait seventy years and see how much you want it,” Bucky said with an exhausted laugh, “but you’re right.”

Clint made him wait a couple more days, until he’d been properly fed, rested, had a thorough medical examination from Bruce, and Tony had checked over his arm for any booby traps, trackers or damage. Tony wanted to remove the arm for testing and upgrading but Clint threatened to booby trap his armour if he did and Tony reluctantly gave in. For now.

Now I’ll shave you,” Clint told Bucky as they headed back to his apartment. Bucky gave him a lecherous grin.

“I hope that’s a euphemism for something else.”

“Shave first!” Clint laughed, “something else later!”

 

Bucky

He really couldn’t believe his luck. What were the odds that, at his lowest ebb, at the point where he’d really thought he might die there on the alley floor because he just didn’t have the strength to get up, a handsome, muscled blond archer would detach himself from the shadows and turn out to be his soulmate?

Bucky lay and gazed at Clint, sleeping peacefully beside him. The archer had his own dark past, they’d talked enough over the last few days for Bucky to realise that, but he was fundamentally a good man, one who could show Bucky the way back to the light. And in this place, with old and trusted friends close by, for the first time in a very long time, Bucky felt safe. He rolled to his side, put his arm over Clint’s waist, and closed his eyes.

 

Of course, Bucky couldn’t hide in the Tower forever. Natasha came to visit a couple of days later – at least the others had the courtesy to leave him and Clint alone that long – and told him apologetically that someone called Coulson was running S.H.I.E.L.D. these days and would really very much like to talk to him about what he knew of HYDRA’s plans, bases and past missions he’d been on.

“Who’s this Coulson?” Bucky looked at Clint.

“Used to be, the only two people in the world I trusted were him and Nat,” Clint shrugged, which did very interesting things to his shoulders and made Bucky stare. Clint caught him looking and grinned. “He faked his own death and went underground for a while, but after S.H.I.E.L.D. fell there weren’t many allies he could trust, so he reached out to the Avengers. He’s a good guy, Buck. You can trust him. And I’ll be there with you.”

“Where’s there?”

“They have a secret base somewhere,” Clint shrugged. “Coulson’s gonna send someone to pick us up.”

Someone turned out to be an agent Clint knew, a petite Asian woman he introduced as Agent May. She came in a quinjet, invisibly landing on the roof of the Tower. She declined to let Clint sit in the front with her as they still weren’t allowed to know where they were going, and looked surprised when he shrugged equably and sat down beside Bucky in the back instead, taking his hand and holding it.

“Agent May might not look like much,” Clint said quietly into Bucky’s ear over the low roar of the engines, “but she’s as good a fighter as Natasha. They call her the Cavalry – though not to her face.”

Bucky nodded in understanding, and squeezed Clint’s hand, grateful for the tip. Clint had filled him in on Coulson too ‘innocuous-looking, could kill you with his pinky’ and two other people he knew for sure were on the team ‘Morse, bloody dangerous woman, I’m not letting her talk to you’ and Morse’s ex-husband Hunter ‘former elite soldier, Brit, lethal bastard’.

It was Hunter who met them when the quinjet landed. He and Clint greeted each other coolly. Hunter asked Clint to hand over his weapons. Clint told him to fuck off. Hunter nodded as though he’d expected nothing less, exchanged glances with May, and led Clint and Bucky inside.

“No,” Clint said as he saw they were being led to some kind of interrogation room. “Not here. Coulson’s office or nowhere. We’re here as a gesture of goodwill, we don’t have to be here.”

“He’s dangerous,” Hunter gestured at Bucky.

“So am I,” Clint responded calmly. “Start something here and you’ll be lucky to have a base when Buck and I are finished with it.”

Hunter and May exchanged glances again, and a soft voice came from behind Bucky’s shoulder, making him whirl around defensively because he hadn’t heard anyone approach. A smallish woman – a girl really, she couldn’t be more than twenty-five or so – had come to stand in an open office doorway.

“Give it up, guys, Coulson predicted exactly how he’d react.” She smiled up at Bucky, and he smiled back in appreciation, because she was damned pretty, with soft-looking, long dark hair, and eyes so dark they were almost black, an exotic tilt to them. “This way, please.” She gestured him into the office.

Bucky blinked. Couldn’t be. He exchanged a look with Clint, who was still facing May and Hunter, but snapped his head round in surprise at those words. He’d seen the words on Bucky’s scarred back, entwined with his own.

“Certainly, ma’am,” his manners won out, and he inclined his head to the girl, watching intently for her reaction. Those very dark eyes widened slightly and her lips parted. Behind him, Bucky heard Clint take a deep breath, and nudged him.

“Say somethin’ to her!” Bucky hissed.

Clint appeared to have lost his voice entirely, just stared down at the girl with his eyes wide, May and Hunter forgotten.

“Cat got your tongue?” the girl arched a dark eyebrow sardonically.

“Just struck dumb by your beauty,” Clint managed to get out finally.

 

Skye

No. Way.

Skye stared up at the two gorgeous men before her, one blond, one dark, both utterly beautiful in their own way. Two pairs of blue eyes stared back.

Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier. And Hawkeye. My soulmates? That is surely not possible.

“Are you two…?” a wavering finger pointed from one to the other of them.

“Yup,” it was Barnes who answered, Hawkeye appearing to have swallowed his tongue again, though his eyes devoured her ravenously. “And you too, apparently.”

“I think I need to sit down,” Skye said a bit weakly. Four strong hands, three human and one metal, grabbed her as she sagged, and then the two of them steered her back into Coulson’s office and into a chair, before the startled eyes of Phil, who was sitting behind his desk waiting for them.

“What the fuck?” Hunter barged in behind them. “Let go of her right now!”

Clint found his voice, whipping round to face down the Brit. “She’s our soulmate, don’t you come one step closer!” His hand dropped to the gun at his hip, Hunter mirrored him, and things might have gotten ugly if Phil hadn’t spoken.

“Stand down. Hunter, May, get out. Skye, are you all right?”

“Yes,” she managed to gasp out. Bucky was leaning over her, his hands on her shoulders, blue eyes gazing at her in concern. He looked just like the old photos from the war, except his hair was longer, brushing his chiselled jawline.

“Skye, is that your name?” he knelt down in front of her chair, trying to make himself seem less intimidating, putting himself at her eye level. “That’s so pretty.”

“Skye?” Coulson rose and came around his desk, hands spread unthreateningly, watching Clint who still seemed twitchy. “Stand down, Barton, I just want to make sure she’s all right and then I’ll leave the three of you alone to talk for a little while, if she’s all right with it.”

Clint’s hand hovered over his gun for a moment longer, and then he folded his arms. Which did very wonderful things for his biceps, making Skye stare. Hawkeye did seem to be allergic to sleeves; he’d had his arms bare in every image she’d ever seen of him. She was very far from objecting.

“I’m fine, AC,” she reassured Phil. “Just – surprised.”

Phil’s mouth twitched. “I can see how you might be a little shocked right now, yes. Would you like me to leave the three of you alone for a little while? I still need to talk to Barnes, but it could wait.”

Clint and Bucky both looked at Skye, obviously awaiting her decision, and she felt a heady rush of power. “Yes, please,” she told Phil. “I’ll – we’ll open the door when we’re ready.”

Phil gave her a grin and a wink as he left, closing the door firmly behind him, and she heard him telling May and Hunter off in the corridor for eavesdropping. Their voices faded away, though she noticed Bucky seemed to listen for longer than she did. Of course, there was the rumour that he’d been serum-enhanced, he probably had super-hearing.

“So,” she stared from the still-kneeling Bucky, up at Clint. “You two. How long have you been together?”

“Five days,” Clint answered. “Found him half-dead in an alleyway in Pittsburgh, of all places.”

“He doesn’t look like he was half-dead five days ago,” Skye ran her eyes over Bucky, the way he filled out his tight black T-shirt. It was certainly no hardship to look at him.

“Super-healing,” Bucky said with a slightly bashful shrug. “The serum they gave me isn’t as effective as Erskine’s formula, but it did work pretty good.”

Just another thing to process in a morning full of shocks. Skye looked up at Clint, his arms still folded. Mmm. Biceps. “And are you super, too?”

“Only as a marksman,” he said with a slightly arrogant tilt of his head. Skye found herself smiling, and then Clint went down to one knee too, putting himself at her eye level, reaching for her hand.

“Are you okay with this, sugar? We – well, we certainly didn’t expect to find you so soon. Buck and I are still finding our way with each other.”

“Oh,” Skye pulled back slightly.

“You just made her feel unwelcome, you jackass!” Bucky elbowed Clint. “Don’t you think that, Skye,” he told her. “What Hawkass here meant,” he elbowed Clint again, “is that we are really glad to have found you, but we ain’t gonna rush you into anything you’re not ready for.”

Skye looked from one to the other of them. It had been a shock, sure, but she was beginning to think that she really might just be the luckiest girl in the world. Clint was nodding sheepishly, obviously agreeing with Bucky’s words, a slight flush staining his cheeks. They really were both ridiculously gorgeous. And all hers.

She pulled her hand from Clint’s, reached up to touch his cheek. Ran the fingers of her other hand into Bucky’s silky dark hair. “Maybe I wouldn’t mind if you rushed me a little bit.” Or a lot.

They both leaned in towards her, glanced at each other.

“You first,” Clint said, “been a long time since you kissed a girl.”

“Jerk,” Bucky grinned and nudged Clint again, but he leaned in anyway. His lips were pink and looked surprisingly full and soft in his hard, chiselled face. Skye leaned forward and met his mouth eagerly.

He kissed well, but gently, tentatively, as though seeking not to alarm her. Skye tightened her fingers in his hair and deepened the kiss, and Bucky responded more than enthusiastically, his arm sliding around her waist and pulling her closer. Only Clint’s sharply indrawn breath stopped them.

“Fucking hell, you two are hot together,” Clint’s eyes were almost falling out of his head, his pupils blown right out with lust. “I could watch that all day.”

“Why watch when you should be joining in?” Skye curled her hand around the back of his neck and pulled gently. He responded more than eagerly, reaching for her mouth in a kiss that was fierce with hunger right from the start and left Skye weak-kneed and wanting by the time he finally released her.

Bucky and Clint had one arm around each other, she saw, shoulders pressed together even as they both held onto her, half-pulled out of her chair and pressed in between them. Skye had never wished for the presence of a bed so much in her life, but Coulson really would kill all three of them if they started getting down and dirty in his office.

“Mine,” Clint said in a voice low and ragged with need. “Mine.” His arms tightened around them both.

“Mine,” Bucky echoed.

“Mine,” Skye completed their little circle, smiling at her soulmates. And then she leaned back, placed a hand on each broad chest and pushed lightly. “Now go let Coulson in. The sooner Bucky talks to him, the sooner we can go find somewhere more comfortable to be alone together, hmm?”

Clint moved so fast she barely saw him go, bolting to the door and opening it, yelling for Coulson. Bucky stood, grinning, and offered Skye his hand to help her up. She took it, smiling up at him.

“Will you stay with us?” Bucky asked, and in his voice she heard not just the question of would she stay while he talked to Coulson.

“Always,” she promised, leaning her head against his chest for a moment, feeling his other hand – the metal one – come up to caress her hair gently. “Just try getting rid of me!”

 

Chapter Text

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It is definitely possible to be too curious.

Her very first time meeting Jane Foster and Bruce Banner – such important scientists – and Jemma’s own curiosity had made her linger as the others followed them on the tour of the Tower labs. She couldn’t help herself from reaching out to touch the little device that hovered, apparently unpowered, above the strange symbols etched on the lab floor.

“No!” Bruce Banner’s shout was the last thing she heard before the world exploded.

 

Voices speaking an unknown language was the first thing Jemma heard as she regained consciousness.

“Where am I?” she croaked, trying to force her eyes open.

The voices went quiet, and then a very deep voice rumbled, “You are on Asgard, my lady.”

What?” Jemma’s eyes opened wide at that, and then she narrowed them, blinded by golden dazzle. Squinting, she made out a giant man crouching before her, wearing all golden armour. “Are you Heimdall?” she put together the pieces after a moment.

“I am. And there is one here who you have met before,” he gestured, and Sif’s concerned, beautiful face came into view.

“Doctor Jemma?”

“Lady Sif,” Jemma managed a smile. “Oh, thank God I ended up somewhere safe.” Her head lolled back and she fainted.

Sif and Heimdall exchanged glances. “Maybe not so safe as all that,” Sif said wearily. “You know Odin’s command; I must take her before the throne.”

 

Another Midgardian?” Odin snapped. “This is not to be borne; they invade Asgard at will now?”

Sif put a bracing hand behind Jemma’s back as she tried to back away. Jemma had recovered consciousness on the ride to the palace and started asking questions; all Sif could tell her was that Odin had ordered any intruders to Asgard brought before him, no matter the circumstances.

“The device was the one Lady Jane and Sir Bruce built for Prince Thor to return without need of the Bifrost,” Sif said. “It should not have activated under the touch of a Midgardian. We must return Doctor Jemma so that Lady Jane and Sir Bruce can study what happened…”

Odin’s eye glared harder. Jemma tried to shrink into the floor. That Cyclopean gaze was worse than Nick Fury’s, and that was saying something.

“Loki,” Odin said finally. Sif tensed as a tall figure emerged from shadows behind the throne and resolved into the Trickster God, clad in his formal green and gold court robes, a gold circlet atop his dark hair.

Jemma shivered with fright as that green gaze fell upon her. Dr Foster had explained that Thor originally thought Loki was dead, but he was masquerading as Odin while his father slept so that Thor could be with Jane on Earth. It has sounded sort of romantic and self-sacrificing. But under those glittering eyes, she doubted Loki ever had a romantic thought in his life. She felt like a particularly unusual butterfly caught in the net of an entomologist.

“This falls under your purview, since it was your magic that enabled Lady Jane and Sir Bruce to complete the device. Study the Midgardian and discover why she was able to activate it.”

Loki bowed to Odin, and gestured Sif and Jemma to follow. Jemma’s feet dragged; only Sif’s reassuring presence enabled her to move. They followed Loki to what looked like his study or perhaps lab, though it was full of arcane instruments Jemma couldn’t name.

“Leave us, Lady Sif,” Loki said. Jemma looked, terrified, at her ally, but Sif obviously didn’t have the authority to deny the Prince, because she bowed slightly and gave Jemma an apologetic look before backing out and closing the door behind her.

Jemma stood frozen, a rabbit in the headlights, as Loki paced around her, his boots soundless on the stone floor.

“Interesting,” he purred. “Ve-ry interesting. You have no magic, and yet there is something about you. I shall have to experiment.”

His tone reminded her of Doctor Whitehall, and Jemma wanted to scream. Until Loki moved back around in front of her and looked down at her from those piercing green eyes. His face softened suddenly into a slight smile.

“Don’t be afraid, little bird.” He reached out a pale, long-fingered hand, glowing faintly green at the fingertips, and one finger touched under Jemma’s chin, tipping her face up.

Jemma screamed. That hurt, that really hurt, icy cold flooding through her body. She went up on tiptoe, trying to pull away, but she couldn’t. Loki was screaming too, his skin turning a weird shade of blue, odd markings appearing. He collapsed first, his hand falling from her face as he went to his knees, and Sif burst in, sword drawn.

“Doctor Jemma! Prince Loki?” she said uncertainly, seeing Jemma still standing and Loki on his knees.

“Get out,” Loki rasped, getting to his feet. “Now!”

The door slammed. Jemma looked up at Loki, his skin back to normal, and cringed as he reached for her again.

“It won’t hurt this time,” his voice was soft. His hand caressed her cheek gently. “Do you not understand?”

She shook her head numbly.

“You’re my soulmate, little bird. You have no words on your body in the manner of your kind, do you?”

“No,” she whispered. Loki? Her soulmate?

A mirror appeared in mid-air, angled to show her the underside of her own chin, where his finger had touched, and a green-and-gold symbol there. “My sigil,” Loki said quietly.

“What right have you to mark me?” she burst out but was silenced when he showed her the finger he’d touched her with, and her signature scrawled across it.

“Soulmate,” Loki said quietly, incredulously. He’d had one brief glimpse into her mind before the bond hit and it was vast, as curious as his own. The universe had chosen well.

Somehow, Jemma was no longer afraid. Loki’s green eyes were tender as he gazed at her, and as he stooped to claim her lips, her arms found their way around his neck.

 

Chapter Text

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“Uh, Director Coulson, sir? Could I possibly have a word?”

Phil looked up and saw Jemma peeping in around the open office door. He waved her in and at a chair, and knew by the way she stood and twisted her hands together diffidently that she was going to say something he wasn’t going to like.

“Shoot another superior officer, Jemma?”

“Not this time, sir,” a very small smile graced her lips. “But, uh…”

“Spit it out.”

“I was researching the healing properties of GH-325 again and I found something,” Jemma gabbled, trying to get all the words out before Phil pulled his command voice out and ordered her to shut up. “There are records of a few, a very few, people being born with healing abilities similar…”

Born with them?” Phil blinked curiously. “Naturally? Not like the Erskine serum or GH-325?”

“Yes, sir, on the Asset register. I have one name here, sir…” she put a sticky note on his desk.

Phil looked down at the words written on it.

James Howlett, aka ‘Logan’.

“Oh, no. There is no way he’s going to agree to be your lab rat. He’s been through too much of that.”

“You know him?” Jemma’s eyes popped.

“Where did you say you got his name?”

“Errr…”

The phone rang. Phil held a hand up to Jemma, gesturing for her to wait, and picked it up.

“Call your dogs off, Coulson,” a voice growled in his ear.

“Not my doing, Logan, it’s one of my scientists researching unusual healing abilities, she came up with your name…” Phil blinked in astonishment as Jemma snatched the phone from him.

“Do you have any idea what it would mean for mankind if we could replicate this ability? Please, I don’t want to treat you like a lab rat, just one blood sample…”

There was total silence at the other end of the line, and then a soft click.

Coulson wouldn’t say any more, just ordered Jemma back to the lab and to forget she’d ever found out that name. She tried not to sulk.

It was late that evening, and she was alone in the lab working, when the door slammed open and a man stormed in. Big, burly, muscular, he was wearing a leather jacket over a white T-shirt and jeans. He had thick black hair and some rough-looking stubble – and a mean look on his face. Jemma backed up against her bench nervously as he came over to her.

“Who the hell are you?” he demanded.

“Jemma Simmons, who the hell are you?” she snapped. “You’re the one who just stormed into a secure lab!” Her eyes widened as he shrugged out of his jacket and ripped his shirt clean off, and she was just opening her mouth to scream when he pointed at his stomach.

His very muscular, ripped stomach, with a dark happy trail running down into his jeans and a long string of words just above his belt. She leaned in to look, her eyes widening, and he turned around so that she could see that the words went all the way around to his back, almost circling his waist completely.

“You talk too much,” he said gruffly.

“I babble when I’m nervous.” Her eyes slid up to meet his. “James Howlett, I presume?”

“Call me Logan.” His mouth quirked in a filthy grin. “That’s the name I’d prefer you to be screamin’ later, anyway.”

Jemma folded her arms, trying to keep her eyes off his chest. “Why don’t we negotiate, Logan? You give me that blood sample and I might give you a chance to make me scream your name.”

“You got yourself a deal, girlie.” He held out a forearm corded with muscle. “If I’m gonna be a lab rat, might as well be yours.”

She looked down at his arm, at the scars criss-crossing it, and wondered how someone with his healing ability got scars like that.

Gentle fingers touched his arm, and Logan almost forgot how to breathe for a moment. Soft brown eyes turned up to his and he saw tears in them. Tears for him.

“What have they done to you?” she whispered softly.

“Nuthin’ I didn’t survive.” He couldn’t resist reaching out, putting his other arm around her slim waist, pulling her towards him. “Had to survive to find you, didn’t I? Been waitin’ for you.”

“I’ve been waiting for you too,” she admitted shyly. Damn, but he liked that accent of hers. “And I’m so glad you decided to come find me after I was so rude on the phone.”

“Couldn’t resist,” he muttered gruffly. “Wanted to see what you looked like.”

Jemma looked down. “Am I a huge disappointment?”

Who the hell had been telling his woman she wasn’t beautiful? Logan touched her face, tipping her chin up to make her look at him. “Quite the opposite. Right now I’m thinkin’ I’m the luckiest bastard alive, because you are far prettier than a grizzled, scarred old bastard like me deserves.” She was lovely, a flush brightening her pale cheeks, her lips soft and pink, not a scrap of makeup on her face.

“Don’t you talk about my soulmate like that.” Her pretty brown eyes flashed.

“Make me shut up then,” Logan challenged her.

She should have been nervous, because he really was an intimidating sort of man. But he was holding her as though she was made of the most delicate fine china, and Jemma couldn’t find an ounce of fear left in her. So she pulled on his neck, drawing him down to her, and kissed that extremely fine mouth with everything she had.

He smiled when she finally let go. “What say we swap that order around? I’ll make you scream my name and then you can take the blood sample.”

“I could go for that,” Jemma admitted with a shy grin, letting him pull her towards the lab door with a muscular arm around her waist.

 

Chapter Text

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For the second time in her life, Jemma was falling out of a plane without a parachute. Only this time, she’d been pushed, and there was no Ward to come after her in a heroic rescue.

No, this time she was going to die. She shut her eyes against the sight of the ground rushing up at her appallingly fast. And then the breath was totally knocked out of her.

Dying – should hurt more than that? Jemma risked opening an eye. The ground was still moving at a dizzying rate, but it wasn’t moving up at her any more. She was – flying?

“Well, this is pretty fucking weird,” she said.

What the fuck did you just say?” an astonished voice said behind her ear. She snapped her head up, realised she’d just headbutted someone in the nose when they let out a yelp of pain, and twisted to look.

For about half a second she’d expected to see Iron Man, or maybe War Machine, but no, it was some big black guy with wings. Massive, metal wings. He was wearing black goggles across his eyes so she couldn’t see them, and there was blood streaming from his nose.

“Fuck, I neeb do lanb,” he said thickly, and the wings snapped up and back.

“Oh shit, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” she squirmed, trying to get an arm free, thinking perhaps she could put some pressure on his nose.

“Thtop wiggling!” he shouted. It was then that Jemma realised they were still several hundred feet in the air and she was only supported by one muscular arm wrapped tightly around her chest, pinning her arms to her sides. She froze, trying to hold herself as still as possible until finally they landed with a thump and he set her on her feet, the wings snapping down and folding away into an amazingly compact pack on his back.

Jemma stumbled back, and then back towards him instinctively, reaching for his face. He wasn’t crazy tall, probably close to six foot, but very broad and muscular. He fended her off with a big hand.

“Dobe duch id.”

“I’m a doctor, don’t be silly, I can stop the bleeding!” Well, if she had anything to stop it with. He gave her a sceptical look but then unzipped a pocket and held out a field bandage pack. She grabbed it, unsealed it and held it to his nose, telling him to tip his head back. He obligingly dropped to his knees so she could support his head with her other hand. Very carefully, she explored his nose.

“I don’t think it’s broken. Won’t spoil your handsome face.” Which he did have, now he’d pulled his goggles off. A very, very handsome face. He stared up at her from deep chocolate-brown eyes as she cautiously moved the bandage away.

“Do you have my words?” he asked, his voice still a little thick.

She nodded jerkily. “I – guess we got off to a bad start? Although you did pretty well. Thank you for saving my life. I’m Jemma.”

“Sam.” He stood up, looking down at her with a smile starting to curve his firm mouth. Even with drying blood smearing his face, he was awfully attractive. Jemma gulped. “Sam Wilson. Also known as the Falcon.”

“Oh,” she added the pieces together and came up with Captain America’s buddy. “My soulmate is a superhero?”

The smile broadened. “I ain’t one to blow my own trumpet. But I do like the sound of that when you say it. I reckon I don’t mind so much that my soulmate tried to smash my face in, now I find she’s as pretty as you. Always did like Jane Austen dramas, and you look and sound like you just stepped right out of one. Apart from the lack of corsets, obviously.”

Jemma blushed and laughed shyly, and one big hand in a fingerless leather glove reached up and cupped her cheek gently.

“I’m sure I’m a mess so I’m not gonna try and kiss you right now,” Sam said, staring down at the beautiful woman he’d just saved from an extremely messy death. “But later on when I’ve cleaned up I really hope that you’ll show your gratitude by playin’ swooning heroine to my dashing hero.”

Jemma smiled. “I’ll give it a try.” She looked down, then shyly back up at him through her lashes. “You’ve certainly got the dashing hero part nailed down.”

Sam felt about ten feet tall as she slipped her small hand into his and they started walking across the field he’d landed them in towards some buildings in the distance.

It turned out to be a small town with a single small motel, and only one room available for rent. And about five hours until someone could come pick them up. Sam shrugged, rented the room and said “Hey, at least I can wash up.”

Jemma blushed scalding red when she saw the one, large bed in the room. Sam rolled his eyes and told her “I ain’t gonna ravish you.”

As he walked into the bathroom to wash his face, he thought he heard her murmur;

“Pity.”

Did I really hear that?

He washed up quickly and hurried back into the bedroom. She was sitting on the bed, shoes and jacket removed. Sam couldn’t stop watching her as he stripped off his wingpack and combat vest. Damn, but she was pretty. He was a lucky man. And then Jemma turned to look at him with a surprisingly mischievous grin, lifted the back of her hand to her forehead, and said;

“Oh… I believe I may swoon,” and sagged backwards dramatically onto the pillows.

That was practically an engraved invitation as far as Sam was concerned. He took two giant strides and stooped over her. “Tempting little witch,” he muttered.

“Come here and claim your reward, dashing hero.” She smiled up at him.

“I don’t need asking twice.” His arms closed around her eagerly.

 

Chapter Text

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“It’s your birthday and we are going out.” Skye actually had a grip on Jemma’s hair, marching her out of the lab and off to her room.

“All right, all right!”

“So put on a nice dress and let’s go.”

Jemma only had one good dress, a strappy, red number she’d bought on a whim and never worn. She put it on reluctantly.

“Stop trying to pull it up over your boobs, you look sexy as hell,” Skye told her as they drove to the bar.

“Give over, no one’s going to look twice at me with you and Bobbi along,” Jemma shook her head, but Skye was insistent.

“You’re beautiful, Jemma. Someday the right guy is gonna come along and make you believe it.”

The bar wasn’t far away. It wasn’t her first visit with the team, but it was the first time Jemma had been there in a dress, and she was surprised by the appreciative looks she got. Not that she was interested. It wasn’t like she was going to meet her soulmate in a place like this, was it?

Skye seemed determined to get her drunk, and in the end Jemma gave in and did a few tequila shots, feeling pleasantly buzzed afterwards.

“There’s a hot guy at the bar, keeps staring at you,” Skye nudged her. “Told you that dress was a good idea.”

“I’m sure he’s not,” but Jemma couldn’t help but look. She’d seen the guy Skye was talking about, he was unmissable. Longish brown hair, he was wearing a black leather coat over a grey T-shirt and a hat that shaded his eyes but in no way hid that he was extremely good-looking. And he was watching her, idly shuffling a pack of cards in his hands. He smiled as she looked at him. She looked away, blushing.

“More tequila,” Skye decided.

Several drinks later, the karaoke started. They discovered that there was in fact something Melinda May couldn’t do as she totally butchered Total Eclipse Of The Heart, and then Bobbi and Lance sang Summer Lovin’ to each other and disappeared together afterwards.

“Oh no, not you,” Jemma said as Fitz picked up the microphone. “You sing like a bullfrog.”

Fitz grinned and poked her. “You do it then.”

“Oh, all right,” she chose a song. “My dad used to put this one on in the car.”

“She can really sing,” Fitz nudged Skye. “Watch this.”

They watched as Jemma picked up the microphone and stepped up on the little stage, a touch unsteady in the black strappy heels Skye had coaxed her into. And then the music started and she began to sing, a low, sultry voice that made every man in the bar snap to attention.

“On a warm summer’s eve, on a train bound for nowhere, I met up with the gambler, we were both too tired to sleep…”

From the corner of her eye, Jemma saw the hot guy at the bar suddenly jerk upright and jump to his feet. And then he was walking towards the stage slowly, staring at her.

What the hell, he’s gorgeous. And I’m drunk. As he reached the stage, she sauntered over, deliberately swinging her hips, leaned over and put her free hand on his cheek, and sang the chorus directly to him.

“You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, know when to run…”

Skye whooped. “You go, girl!”

Jemma looked over at Skye, trying not to laugh as she sang. Hot Guy backed away, but he didn’t stop staring at her.

At the end of the song, she curtseyed to the raucous applause and handed the microphone to a laughing Skye, insisting it was her turn. Hot and sweating, Jemma headed for the door, thinking she’d take a breather for a moment.

She ran right into Hot Guy outside. He caught her elbow as she stumbled, and little prickles of heat ran up her arm from his touch. He’d removed the hat and his coat, and he was even sexier now she could see his whole face.

“You have a lovely voice, chère,” he said in a thick Cajun accent.

Those words were like a dash of cold water in the face for Jemma. They’d been scrawled on her inner thigh since the day of her birth. “What?” she gasped.

“Took me a while to figure out the words were from a song.” He held out his arm, and she made out the words printed neatly on the inside of his forearm, visible now he’d taken his coat off. “Been looking for a girl who’d sing them to me for even longer. I’m Remy. Remy LeBeau.”

“Well it’s certainly an apt surname,” Jemma couldn’t help but say. “Handsome.”

“So what’s your name, chère?” he lifted her hand to his lips, gazing down at her. “Since it seems you’re my soulmate and all.”

“Jemma. Simmons.”

Remy drew a little closer to her, her hand still held in his, and then his free arm slid around her waist.

There was something really strange about his eyes. Jemma frowned, her drunken brain trying to figure out what it was, and then Remy whirled her around suddenly, bringing her hand to the back of his neck.

“I got secrets, chère, dangerous secrets,” he whispered in her ear, his low, husky voice making her shiver with sudden want.

“So do I,” she gasped back. “Maybe – maybe that’s why I’m meant to be yours.”

“I surely do like the sound of that. Mine.” He nibbled at her ear, and she almost melted. “I’ll find you soon,” he whispered, and suddenly he was gone, as Skye and Fitz spilled out of the bar, calling her name. For an instant Jemma saw him in the distance, a shadowy figure, his hat over his eyes again. And then he was gone.

“What’s this?” Skye held something out to her. It was a playing card.

The Queen of Hearts.

 

Chapter Text

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Captain America’s I-Am-Disappointed-In-You face was brutal. Skye found herself wincing in sympathy with Phil, who’d just had to explain to that face exactly why he’d let the Avengers go on thinking he was dead. Even the broad-shouldered black dude who’d arrived with Rogers was looking sympathetic.

“Be that as it may,” Rogers said eventually, “we’re here to ask for your assistance.” The look he gave Phil quite clearly said Which you OWE me. “We’ve discovered that HYDRA’s Asset – the Winter Soldier – is actually Bucky Barnes. And we’re looking for him. Tony figured that you’d hacked some HYDRA databases somehow, but you’ve upgraded your computer security and he couldn’t get in. I need to know if you have any information on the Winter Soldier.”

Tony Stark can’t crack my security. Skye felt a smug smile trying to curve her lips, even as the shock over hearing that Bucky Barnes was the Winter Soldier spread through the room.

“Well, Skye’s our computer expert,” Phil gestured in her direction. “She created the worm we used to get into the HYDRA databases…”

“Wait,” Captain America’s buddy said. “Did you say Skye?” He turned to look at her, raking an intense gaze over her from head to foot.

“Yes, my name’s Skye,” she said irritably. “So?”

“Damn, I really can’t be this lucky,” he responded, and cocked an eyebrow at her. Waiting.

Skye’s mouth fell open.

“Oh my God, aren’t those your…?” Jemma began.

“Out!” May snapped. “Out, now, everyone – yes, you too, Captain Rogers, haven’t you ever heard how when soulmates meet the polite thing to do is leave them the hell alone?”

Soulmates?” Skye heard Rogers say in astonishment. “Sam and her?”

The door clicked shut, and she stared up into dark brown eyes. “Sam?” she said weakly after a moment, when he seemed content to just stare at her.

“Sam Wilson,” he responded, seeming to remember his manners, holding out a big hand that engulfed hers totally when she took it. “Uh – some people call me the Falcon.”

“Really!” her eyebrows shot up. “You’re the one with the wings?” She’d seen footage of him, shaky cell-phone capture stuff, but he was always wearing black goggles that covered his eyes and prevented him from being recognised.

“That’s me. Your name is right between my shoulder blades.” Sam was still staring down at her, his expression wondering. “You’re so beautiful,” he said honestly.

Skye blushed, and then she realised there was something important she should tell him. “I have a creepy sort of ex-boyfriend stalker who likes to hurt and kill people I care about.”

“I see. Well, no-one’s perfect.” He shrugged, like the thought of Ward didn’t faze him in the slightest, saw her astonished expression and grinned. “I’m an Avenger. My closest friends are Captain America and the Black Widow. Unless your creepy ex is Loki himself, I ain’t worried.”

A little smile came back to Skye’s face, and, seeing it, Sam took the opportunity to tug gently on the small hand he still held, pulling her closer to him. “Now, my beautiful lady, Rogers and I really do need to get back to hunting for Barnes, so I should go fetch him so you can work your computer magic and make it happen.”

Skye nodded reluctantly. “Okay. I’m sure I can help…”

“Not just yet.” His other hand came up, caressed her cheek lightly. “Barnes has been missing for seventy years. Steve can wait another five minutes while I find out just how good that pretty mouth of yours tastes.” His hand curled around the back of her neck gently, drawing her closer, though he waited for her to give him some sort of signal. She might be his soulmate but Sam wasn’t about to force himself on her, lovely though she was. He’d seen too many soulmates fuck up by assuming, or demanding, too much at the first meeting.

Skye, however, was far from unwilling. Her eyelids fluttered closed and she went up on tiptoe, reaching for his mouth, even as her free hand settled lightly on his chest. Her touch almost burned through the thin T-shirt he was wearing, and Sam took a deep breath and a tight grip on his libido before he brought his mouth gently down on hers.

They broke apart several minutes later, smiling shyly at each other. Skye’s hands were both on Sam’s chest where she’d been enjoying investigating the thick layers of muscle there, while one of his was on her ass, cupping her against him, the other at the back of her neck holding her head still as he gently explored her mouth.

“I am luckier than I ever had any right to expect,” Sam sighed, holding Skye close.

“You and me both,” she murmured against his chest, hugging onto him for a moment before stepping back. “Now go and fetch Captain America so we can find his long-lost buddy. I have plans for you when we’re done, Falcon.”

“I like the sound of that.” Sam had to adjust himself as he walked to the door. “I like the sound of that a lot.”

 

Chapter Text

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Phil

“Coulson, I need help.”

Phil blinked repeatedly. He suspected it was the first time Natasha Romanoff had ever used the ‘H’ word in her life, at least asking for it.

“Clint’s injured and we’re stranded. Do you have a medic?”

“Yes. Give me your location,” Phil sighed. Whatever he thought about how exactly Natasha had obtained this number – and why she didn’t sound surprised that he was alive – Clint Barton more than deserved whatever help he could offer.

Less than an hour later, the Bus landed in an isolated spot in North Carolina, a few miles from the nearest town. There was a vehicle there, badly smashed up. And there were three figures beside it, two prone and one standing, red hair spilling around her shoulders.

“Agent Romanoff,” Phil was first to her, and to his astonishment she actually drew him into a hug. “Natasha. What’s going on?” Jemma was rushing past him, crouching over the two prone bodies, one of whom he could clearly see was Barton.

Natasha actually seemed to be holding back tears. “We’d been looking for him,” she pointed at the second body. “Clint managed to take his arm offline with an EMP arrow, but it reset, and he knocked Clint unconscious, and – it took me ages to take him down and in the end I actually stuck him with one of Clint’s Hulk arrows…”

Phil’s eyes widened as he realised the other body was the Winter Soldier. He knew who the Soldier was and that Rogers and Romanoff had gone looking for him. “You found him.”

“Yes, and he wasn’t exactly happy to see us.” Natasha gestured at the trashed car.

Jemma looked up. “I need to get them onto the Bus.”

No,” Phil and Natasha said in unison.

“We can’t take him on the Bus. Can’t risk it.” Phil gestured at the Soldier. “And we can’t leave him. We’ll set up whatever you need here, Jemma, but you treat them here.”

She sighed and nodded. “Yes, sir. In that case…” she turned to Fitz and started dictating a list of what she’d need.

 

Jemma

How she was supposed to do this in a field, she couldn’t imagine. She triaged quickly, kneeling between the two men. The Winter Soldier appeared uninjured, apart from an arrow stuck in his mechanical arm – which was Fitz’s problem, not hers – and another arrow lodged shallowly in his calf. It wasn’t bleeding, and he appeared to be in no distress, just breathing slowly, deeply asleep. He could wait.

She turned to Agent Barton, a boneless sprawl in the grass. Romanoff had rolled him onto his side, into the recovery position, but there was a lump on the side of his head she could see, sluggishly oozing blood. Right, him first then. First, get him comfortable while Fitz and May fetched her supplies. She struggled with the buckles and straps securing the quiver on his back. She needed to get that off before she could roll him to check for other injuries.

After a moment another pair of hands came in to help, and she glanced up to see Agent Romanoff kneeling on the other side of Barton’s body. “Thank you.”

“Should have done it already, but I was so worried about him,” Natasha muttered. She looked to be holding back tears.

There were a lot of rumours about Barton and Romanoff within S.H.I.E.L.D., and many of those said they were lovers. Jemma couldn’t resist asking. “Are you and him…?”

“Me and him what? Oh! No,” Natasha actually smiled. Glanced at Barnes. “No, we’re not.” Her smile was so odd, Jemma again couldn’t resist a question.

“Why do you look at the two of them like you know something no one else does?”

Natasha looked at the pretty young doctor kneeling in the field. Thought about the words she knew were on the bodies of the two men. “Because I do. They’re soulmates, and they share a third.”

“What?” Jemma blinked in astonishment. “Do they know?”

“Clint does. I’ve seen their marks, and I know both their handwriting. Clint said his words to Barnes earlier – don’t do this, I don’t want to hurt you – and Barnes didn’t react. He’s been very heavily brainwashed.”

“Oh, the poor man. How tragic,” Jemma leaned in towards Barnes, stroked his dark hair back from his face. “You poor darling, I’m going to help you get better,” she said. She looked back up at Natasha, who had to call on every bit of her years of training to hide a massive smirk. “We can help him. We have a memory-recovery machine. We’ll get him better for Agent Barton.”

“And their third.” Natasha worked very hard on suppressing the smirk.

“It’s not you…?”

“Definitely not.”

Agent Barton stirred at that moment, letting out a moan, and Jemma turned back to him instantly.

“Don’t try to move. You’ve been hit on the head, I’m a doctor, I’m taking care of you.”

He opened striking blue-green eyes, unfocussed for a moment, then sharpening on her face. “Oh,” he said vaguely. “You’re an angel.”

Agent Romanoff actually started laughing. Indeed, she laughed so hard she fell over backwards, shaking. “You cheesy idiot, Clint!” she choked out eventually.

Barton smiled, still staring vaguely at Jemma, who was gazing back at him, open-mouthed with shock. “What else was I supposed to say, Tash? She’s so beautiful.”

Oh my God. Agent Barton is one of my soulmates. Which means the other is… Jemma looked at the Winter Soldier. “I think I’m about to do something very embarrassing,” she said weakly, and fainted right on top of Agent Barton.

 

Clint

Today was turning out to be even more surprising than he’d expected. He’d known ever since Tasha told him the Winter Soldier was one of his soulmates that their meeting wouldn’t be easy; even more so once they found out that the Soldier was actually Bucky Barnes. And he’d known for twenty-seven years that his other soulmate would be treating him for a head injury. But he’d never expected this to happen. Not to meet both of them within an hour of each other, and then to have this lovely young woman faint into his arms with the shock.

He caught her, of course, though his head was pounding and he was pretty sure he was concussed. He was seeing at least two and a half of everything, never a good sign.

“What’s her name?” he asked Natasha, who was still laughing at him, but came to help him.

“Coulson called her Jemma.”

“Pretty name,” he arranged Jemma in his arms, her head on his shoulder. “She’s pretty. Damn, I’m lucky,” he glanced at the still-unconscious Barnes. “They’re both gorgeous.”

“Yes, well, now we just have to figure out a way to keep him from killing both of you,” Natasha said dryly.

“I’m sure you’ll think of something.” He gave her a beatific smile.

 

Phil

He honestly thought Natasha was pulling his leg when she told him. But then there was the evidence of Jemma lying unconscious in Clint’s arms, Clint staring at her adoringly – and a bit cross-eyed – and Natasha pulled up Clint’s pants leg to show Phil the words in Jemma’s neat script on his calf.

“Those two and him,” he gestured at Barnes. “What do we do about him?”

“Jemma said something about a memory machine?”

Jemma came round a few minutes later – after some determined cheek-patting by Skye and Barton – and they decided to load them all on the Bus, take them back to the Playground and stick Barnes straight in the memory machine. The sooner they broke his programming, the better. He’d been so heavily wiped he didn’t even recognise Natasha. She volunteered to sit beside him in the Bus, in the holding room, holding another of Clint’s Hulk-stopper arrows ready to stick into him if he so much as twitched.

Fitz came in to study the metal arm in complete fascination, removing Clint’s EMP arrow – which had only worked for about three minutes before the arm reset.

“Amazing bit of tech,” the young engineer said. “I think I could disable it temporarily by disconnecting a few things…”

“Do it,” Natasha said without a qualm. From what Coulson had told her, the last thing they needed was to be trying to restrain Barnes in that memory machine with his arm operational.

 

Bucky

It hurt. Oh God it hurt, he’d never known such pain, not even in that awful lab in Bavaria, nor when he fell from the train, lost his arm…

… and then the pain was over and he was staring up at two faces, one a lovely young woman, tears streaking her cheeks, the other a handsome blond man a few years older, a muscular arm tight around the woman’s waist, holding her close.

“Don’t cry,” Bucky told her, “you’re too beautiful to cry.”

She only sobbed harder, turning her face into the blond man’s chest. He smiled crookedly at Bucky.

“What’s so funny?”

The blond leaned forward, turning his head. Showing Bucky the skin just behind his ear where three small words were written. What’s so funny?

“Oh,” he blinked in astonishment. “You?”

“That’s right.” He had a low, steady voice. “Us, actually. My name’s Clint, and this is Jemma.”

“I’m Bucky. But I’m thinkin’ you know that already?” He remembered trying to kill Clint. It was the last thing he did remember. He was very sure he’d never seen Jemma before, though. He couldn’t have forgotten a face like that.

“Yes. But it’s really good to meet you anyway.” Strong hands unfastened the straps that Bucky suddenly realised were holding him down to a steel table, did something to his prosthetic arm which made it move again.

“How do you feel, Bucky?” Jemma asked softly, leaning in to look in his eyes.

He sat up slowly. “Really fucking pissed off.” She shrank back, and he reached out to her with a smile, not grabbing, just touching her fingers with his. “Not with you. Never with you. With those HYDRA bastards.” He took Clint in, the military stance, the weapons. “Gonna help me kick some ass?”

“It will be my genuine pleasure.” Clint looked at Jemma. “Later. Our soulmate would like to fuss over you some first, I think.”

“I’m good with that.” He picked up Jemma’s hand, brought it to his lips. She blushed a little shyly but smiled. He looked at Clint, who was watching them, trying and failing to keep an envious expression off his face. “You too. Get over here, handsome.”

Clint approached slowly. “I was kinda hoping you’d say that. Steve only tells stories of you with girls…”

“Didn’t want to shock him,” Bucky grinned, eyes alight. “Wasn’t exactly accepted in those days, even between soulmates. And I didn’t have marks back then.”

“And I thought you’d be a handsome older man,” Clint sighed. “No silver fox for us, Jemma.”

“You’re complaining?” she gave him an incredulous look, gesturing at Bucky.

“Oh hell no.” He put a hand to Bucky’s unshaven jaw, giving him a heated look. “Not at all.”

“Me neither,” Bucky smiled appreciatively at both of them. “No complaints here.”

“Good.” Jemma hitched a hip onto the exam table, almost sitting in Bucky’s lap – which made his body suddenly perk up and take notice. “Because you two are both gorgeous and I feel quite inadequate.”

“Don’t you dare,” Clint ran his free hand into her hair, tipped her cheek up so she looked him in the eyes. “What do you think, Bucky? Isn’t Jemma beautiful?”

“Pretty as a picture,” he brought her hand back to his lips again, lingering over kissing it. “I think we’re real lucky to have such a beautiful dame just for us, Clint. Reckon you can help me make her realise how lovely she is?”

“Reckon I can give it my best shot,” Clint said, smiling at the way Bucky and Jemma were looking at each other. “And I never miss.”

 

Chapter Text

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Fitz honestly thought he might cry when Jemma came floating back into the base as though she had wings on her feet, babbling about her soulmate. A superhero. One of the Avengers – well, not one of the original Avengers, but he was on the team now, that was more than enough to make Fitz feel useless and pathetic in comparison. And to make things even worse, Sam Wilson was so damn nice it made Fitz’s teeth hurt.

“Jemma told me about you,” the Falcon told him, shaking his hand with a broad smile, one which seemed permanently etched on his face when he was talking about or looking at Jemma. “You must come up to New York with her next weekend. Please. You’re like family to Jemma, and I’d love you to meet the team. You’ll get on like a house on fire with Tony.”

Fitz had heard too many stories about Tony Stark being an arrogant, obnoxious bastard to believe that. He might want to set Tony’s house on fire, though. But because Jemma was looking at him with her eyes shining and her smile hopeful, he nodded.

Why do I keep on setting myself up for more pain?

Jemma wasn’t his soulmate, no. But then his parents weren’t soulmates and they adored each other: both of them had met their soulmates when young and it hadn’t worked out. Fitz had hoped, from the time when he realised that he and Jemma worked so well together – well, it didn’t matter what he’d hoped. He could very clearly see that in the way that Jemma and Sam were looking at each other, stealing touches and kisses when they thought no one was looking.

So Fitz took the train up to New York with Jemma, and they walked from Grand Central Station to Avengers Tower because it was all of three blocks, and no sooner had they entered the lobby than Sam was there, sweeping Jemma off her feet in a very dramatic kiss.

“I’ll, uh, leave you two alone,” Fitz beat a hasty retreat into the elevator.

“Doctor Leopold Fitz?” an urbane voice said.

“Please just call me Fitz,” he responded instantly.

“Yes, Dr Fitz. I am JARVIS, the Tower AI. Mr Wilson informed me that you would be interested in meeting Sir – Mr Stark, that is. Would you like to go to the labs now?”

“What the hell, I might as well get it over with. Yes, all right.” Fitz slumped back against the wall of the elevator and picked at his nails. Who knew, maybe if he pissed Stark off enough he might get booted out and banned from the Tower and not have to watch Jemma and Sam all the time.

JARVIS didn’t speak again. Fantastic, he’d probably annoyed the AI by not sounding exactly enthused about meeting Stark. The elevator doors soon slid open on – the most amazing lab Fitz had ever seen.

“Oh,” he couldn’t help a low sigh filled with envy as he looked around. And then he saw Tony Stark in the middle of the lab, trying on what appeared to be some new arm pieces. Stark looked up, saw him and gave one of his trademark manic grins.

“Well don’t just stand there! Come and help me with this.”

“What do you need me to do?” Fitz’s feet, and his mouth, were already moving when he registered the words.

No. That can’t possibly be. His hand came up to rub at the silvery soulmark on the back of his neck. He had two soulmarks, one the black of a romantic mark and the other a silvery platonic bond. A platonic bond sounded wonderful to Fitz, someone who wouldn’t expect anything more of him than his friendship.

But… Tony Stark?

“Really?” Tony took in the astonished look on the young engineer’s face. He knew who the kid was, of course. JARVIS had given him a rundown on both Sam’s soulmate and her engineer buddy. “Fucking awesome, an engineering bro!” the kid was apparently a brilliant engineer, creative on a par with Tony himself. Tony couldn’t have been happier. His life was complete; Pepper and now young Fitz.

Fitz looked a bit shell-shocked, so Tony stripped off the new arm pieces and strode forward to give the younger man a hug. They were even about the same height. “It is fucking awesome to meet you, Leo Fitz,” he said warmly, and was horrified when Fitz’s eyes filled with tears. “Oh my God, no, no, JARVIS get Pepper right the fuck now!”

Pepper was just as delighted to meet him as Tony had been, and just as horrified by his misery. Somehow Fitz found himself seated on a couch in Tony’s penthouse with both Tony and Pepper hugging him while he poured out his heartbreak over Jemma.

“He doesn’t understand,” Tony poured himself a whisky, leaning on the bar, looking at the kid asleep on his couch.

“Because he hasn’t found his soulmate.” Pepper came to him, slipped her arms around his waist and leaned her chin on his shoulder. They’d eventually convinced Fitz to show them the black writing on his foot, a rather generic Hello, it’s nice to meet you.

“I’m not having my Engineering Bro miserable. It’s not Simmons’ fault, but we gotta fix this. We gotta find his girl, Pepper!”

Pepper smiled fondly as Tony went to fetch a blanket and covered Fitz over with it gently.

She didn’t trust Tony to take care of a pot plant, never mind a vulnerable young man with a broken heart.

She’d find Fitz’s soulmate for him.

 

Chapter Text

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“I hate Kree,” a deep voice announced almost conversationally. “Arrogant bastards.”

There was music playing in the background. It took a moment for Skye to process and recognise the song as Steppenwolf’s Magic Carpet Ride. It seemed oddly appropriate for what she’d been through over the last day. At least she probably wasn’t in the temple any more, not with that music.

“Improving the human race my ass,” the voice continued.

“Do you always talk to yourself?” Skye finally managed to get her eyes open and looked up to find – oh – an extremely good-looking guy sitting beside her. He had his feet propped on some sort of console and an unfamiliar-looking electronic device in his hands.

“Aaargh!” He flailed, the device dropped and he caught it before it hit the floor in an impressive display of superb reflexes. Skye took a moment to study him. He had short curly reddish hair, a dark red leather coat that did very nice things for impressive shoulders, and dark green eyes. Skye smiled at his obvious confusion as he stared at her.

“Wow, really, you?” he grinned, then. “How unexpected.”

“What?” she blinked in confusion.

“Oh – you were probably unconscious, weren’t you?” he obviously thought for a moment. “Are your soulmate words I’ll look after you, beautiful, don’t worry about a thing?

“Aaargh!” it was Skye’s turn to flail with shock.

“I’m Peter, by the way.” He pushed up the sleeve of his coat to reveal her handwriting on a corded forearm. Do you always talk to yourself? “And yeah – I kind of do. Sometimes I sing to myself.” He grinned as the song playing in the background changed, and started humming along after a moment.

“One way, or another, I’m gonna find ya, I’m gonna getcha getcha getcha…”

Skye found herself smiling again. “I don’t know this version. It’s not One Direction.”

“Who are One Direction?” he cocked his head quizzically.

“Seriously, where have you been living, under a rock?” Skye’s eyebrows flew up. “Even Coulson knows who One Direction are!”

“Ah. Well, about that.” Peter looked uncomfortable.

“Coulson, oh my God, he’s not dead, is he?” she panicked at the look on his face.

“NO! No, he’s fine, all your friends are fine. It’s just, you’re, well we’re, not on Earth right now. It’s not safe for you. I don’t live there.” He reached out a large hand and placed it gently over hers. “Rocket picked up a reading we didn’t like and we were in the neighbourhood, so we came to check it out, and found you… I talked to your Agent Coulson and he agreed that you’d best come with us for a bit. Skye. He told me to call you that and to say that he understood why you couldn’t pull the trigger.”

There was far too much about that statement that Skye absolutely could not deal with. She just sat and stared at Peter, feeling his warm hand press down gently on hers, seeing sympathy in those dark green eyes.

“Where am I?” she whispered numbly after a few moments.

“My ship.” He gave her a small smile. “Spaceship, that is. We’re in a distant orbit, pretending to be an asteroid, far enough from Earth that you can’t do any damage.”

She had to take deep breaths, bring her knees up and put her head between them. She felt Peter move to sit beside her, his arm wrapping around her shoulders in a warm, comforting hug. “It’s all right,” he whispered gently. “It’s all gonna be fine, Skye. I gotcha.”

She couldn’t help but lean into him, feeling his other hand come up to caress her hair.

The song changed again, and Peter started singing along quietly, holding her close, trying to comfort her, reassure her with his touch that she’d never be alone again.

“Just a small town girl, livin’ in a lonely world, she took the midnight train going anywhere…”

He was surprised that Skye apparently knew the song. It had to be older than she was. But she lifted her voice and sang the next line.

“Just a city boy, born and raised in South Detroit, he took the midnight train going anywhere.”

They were well into the chorus when the door opened and Rocket looked in. “Now there’s two of you making that awful racket?”

Skye screamed and tried to hide against Peter’s chest. Which was an extremely nice feeling, but he still glared at Rocket. “I told you not to come in, she’s not ready for you lot, she’s never seen an alien before!”

 

“You’d better show me the rest,” Skye said about ten minutes later, when she’d got over meeting the obnoxious talking raccoon.

Peter sighed, getting to his feet and offering his hand to help her up. “Get all the shocks over with at once, huh?”

“That’s the plan.” Skye looked up at him and gave him a small smile. “But you’d better hold onto me in case I faint.” There was a teasing glint in her eyes, he was glad to see. She was resilient.

Which was good. She’d need to be.

“I can certainly do that.” He put an arm around her waist, holding her close. “No one will hurt you, Skye. You’re in no danger on my ship, I promise.”

His reassuring words got her through meeting Gamora and Drax – and baby Groot. It was when they got to the ship’s cockpit and she stared out through the viewscreen that everything hit her.

Earth rotated slowly before her stunned eyes, a blue-and-white ball, beautiful beyond imagining, and so very, very far away. She turned to look up at Peter, tears forming in her eyes. Seeing her expression, he hugged her closer, looking down at the planet of their birth with sorrow on his own face.

Another song played in the background.

I see the bad moon rising, I see trouble on the way. I see earthquakes and lightnin’, I see bad times today.

 

Chapter Text

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Clint and Natasha

“I hate you.”

“I fucking hate you too.”

They glared at each other, quivering with rage, for several silent minutes. It was Natasha who looked away first, wearily. “Why do we keep doing this to each other, Clint?”

He didn’t say it, knowing she’d probably shoot him if he did. Just waited, silently, until the tension drained from her body and she turned around, stalking across the room to him, fisting both hands in the front of his T-shirt.

“I can’t do this. I can’t keep doing this,” the words burst from her. “It’s like that stupid song…”

He knew which song she was talking about, of course. With Or Without You. They’d adopted it as their theme song several years ago. He couldn’t live without her – but at the same time he couldn’t live with her. She drove him insane. And she felt exactly the same way.

“Where are you?” he whispered into the darkness late that night. Alone in his bed, because Natasha had left. Again. “We need you. What’s taking you so long?”

 

Just kill me. Make it quick.” She’d said it in Budapest, lying in an alleyway, already punctured by bullet and knife wounds. He’d had an arrow pointed at her heart, and from fifteen feet there was no way she could move fast enough to make him miss.

He’d almost fallen with shock. “That sounds like something I’d always regret,” he said slowly, and knew she was the right one when her beautiful mouth dropped open with shock.

Fury had been enraged when he brought the infamous Black Widow in instead of killing her, but there were policies regarding soulmates that had forced Fury’s hand. He gave Natasha a chance – and a warning, that if she stepped out of line it would be her soulmate who paid the price. She never had, despite how crazy Clint made her sometimes, because she’d found a place in S.H.I.E.L.D. that had nothing to do with her soulmate and everything to do with being allowed, for the first time in her life, to make her own choices.

Neither of them felt the need to tell anyone that they shared a third. Generally triads completed fairly quickly; more than a year or so before the third turned up to complete the bond was pretty uncommon. The Fates weren’t usually that cruel.

 

Ten years. Natasha leaned her head on the cool glass, staring unseeingly out into the night. Ten years she’d been with Clint; and she did love him, God how she loved him, he was part of her soul, but he drove her insane sometimes. They needed their third; without her – or him, though considering Clint’s preference for women and her enjoyment of both sexes, Natasha guessed it would be a woman – they were unstable, unable to be together for long without falling into their old habits of fighting over petty things, picking at each other. They needed their third.

“Where are you?” she whispered. “We need you. What’s taking you so long?”

 

Jemma

“Breathe,” Skye nudged her friend. “They’re just two more S.H.I.E.L.D. agents.”

“They are not just two more agents, Skye, they are the greatest legends in the Agency!” Jemma almost hyperventilated at Skye’s casual dismissal of the two agents who were coming in to meet Coulson’s team that afternoon. “They’re Avengers, the only unenhanced humans on the Avengers team, and have you seen them? Agent Barton’s arms are the hottest thing ever, and Agent Romanoff is the most beautiful woman alive and… and…” she saw the look on Skye’s face. “And they’re standing right behind me, aren’t they?” she trailed off pitifully.

Skye nodded silently, her eyes wide as she looked past Jemma. “Hello,” Skye said, trying to distract them from Jemma’s gaffe. “I’m Skye, and this is Jemma Simmons.”

Jemma mustered up a smile and turned around, keeping the smile firmly in place. They were looking at her, and oh Lord, up close they were even more gorgeous than in their pictures, Agent Romanoff’s beautiful sulky mouth turned up in the slightest smirk, Barton’s grin wicked. Jemma gulped a little nervously.

“It’s an honour to meet you both.”

 

Clint and Natasha

They shared a startled look, communicating without words as they’d learned to do over the last ten years sharing a soul.

Her?

Could be…

Say something!

YOU say something!

“The pleasure’s all ours,” Clint told Jemma in response to Natasha’s final glare.

“Or at least, we’d like it to be,” Natasha added.

Jemma fell back a step, her eyes going very wide. No. No, that absolutely could not be possible. She’d guessed long ago, from the words and the way they seemed to form one complete sentence in two totally different sets of handwriting, that she had two soulmates who she’d meet at the same time, but never in a million years could she have dreamed that it would be these two.

“So it is you,” Clint said softly, stepping forward. “We’ve been looking for you…”

“… for a long time,” Natasha finished, her smile soft. “A really long time.”

Skye stared at the three of them, her eyes wide. Seeing her look, Clint lifted his left arm, showing the inside of his bicep and the neat, small words printed there. It’s an honour to meet you both.

“Right, well, I’ll be in AC’s office then,” Skye bolted. Omigod I need to tell EVERYONE…

 

Jemma

She stared at them both, unable to believe what was happening. Agent Romanoff – Natasha – was about the same height as she, Hawkeye a solid six inches taller. They both moved closer to her, but slowly, not boxing her in, giving her the chance to back away if she chose.

“I didn’t know you had a third,” she said numbly at last. “You two are legends, soulmates and partners, Strike Team Delta…”

“We’ve been waiting for you,” Clint said softly. “For a really long time.”

“We need you,” Natasha added. “We fight if it’s just us. Like cat and dog. I’m sure Coulson’s told you stories.”

Jemma nodded. He had indeed. The Black Widow and Hawkeye had fought even more than Hunter and Morse did, from his tales. But as soulmates, it was understood that they’d always be drawn back together, no matter what. Two-thirds of a triad, alone without their third for so many years, though, that would be a deeply unstable bond. No wonder they seemed delighted to have found her.

Clint’s fingers brushed her cheek gently as he raised a shaking hand, touching her wonderingly, as though he was a little unsure that she was actually real. “Look at you, you’re beautiful,” he said wonderingly.

Jemma couldn’t meet those blazing blue eyes. She looked into Natasha’s glimmering green ones instead.

“I’m so glad we finally found you,” Natasha told her sincerely.

They were so genuinely welcoming, both of them looking at her with such desire, such naked need, that Jemma couldn’t possibly have denied them anything, even if they hadn’t been the two most beautiful people she’d ever seen. She opened her arms to them and a moment later they were both embracing her, Natasha’s cheek pressed to hers, Clint’s thicker, longer arms wrapping around both of them, holding them tight as he pressed light kisses to Jemma’s hair.

“Ours,” he rumbled softly, “you’re ours.”

 

Chapter Text

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“Hello, Daisy.”

Oh, no. She didn’t even have to look to know he’d be right behind her. What possessed me to decide I needed to go for a walk alone at this time of night?

“Fuck off, Ward, and don’t call me that.” She kept walking, hearing after a second his light footfalls as he moved to keep pace with her.

“It’s time for you to come with me. Your father’s waiting.”

“I said fuck off!”

He grabbed her arm then and Skye wrenched free, spinning to face him. “Don’t you touch me!”

“Is this cochon bothering you, cher?” A tall figure detached from the shadows, and Skye saw to her satisfaction that even Ward startled. So he hadn’t known the stranger was there either. And then the words registered.

“Please don’t get involved!” she panicked – oh God, if Ward realised this was her soulmate, he’d kill him for sure, and Skye would be doomed to a life of loneliness. Thank God Ward had never seen her soulmark, the flamboyant lettering on the back of her calf that she was always careful to keep covered with makeup if her legs were exposed.

“Yeah, walk away,” Ward put himself between Skye and the weirdo in the hat, jutting his jaw pugnaciously. “This is nothing to do with you.”

The guy stepped forward, lifting his chin so that Ward could see the hellish red glow in his pupils. Skye gasped at the sight.

“I’m afraid it has everything to do with me, crapaud, so why don’t you walk away while you still can?” He actually smiled at Skye, a calm, unconcerned smile.

The red glow in those eyes gave Ward pause for a moment. But he was so certain of his purpose, so sure Skye was meant to be his, he started forward anyway. “You asked for this.” His fist swung in what would have been a crippling blow – if it had connected.

Instead the guy moved back, quicker than anyone Ward had ever seen move. “I’m Remy, by the way,” he said to Skye in a conversational tone. “Since it seems you might be my soulmate, cher, how about I buy you a drink once I’ve dealt with le cafard here?”

Skye found herself grinning. She didn’t understand the French words the Cajun was using, but from the increased tension in Ward’s body she guessed they were insults. “He’s pretty dangerous,” she warned. “Be careful.”

“She’s not yours, she’s MINE!” Ward suddenly realised what had happened, and charged forward. “Mine!”

Remy moved so swiftly and smoothly Skye’s brain just couldn’t comprehend it, and suddenly he was standing between her and Ward. “I think the lady belongs to her own self. Vous êtes seulement un problème léger…” and something flicked out of his hand, flashing into flame as it went, striking across Ward’s cheek.

Ward screamed, clutching at his face in agony, and as he pulled his hand away Skye saw the vicious burn that now marred his good looks, stretching from the corner of his mouth half-way up his cheek. She did not wince. She had no sympathy for him, not after all he’d done.

“I’ll fucking kill you!” Blinded with rage, Ward leaped forward, too maddened to realise he was utterly outclassed until the pavement slammed into his face.

The bo staff Remy had produced from seemingly nowhere pressed firmly against the base of Ward’s skull.

“We’re done here. I ever see you near my lady again,” the tip of the staff brushed over the agonising burn on Ward’s cheek and he couldn’t suppress a scream, “next time, I won’t leave you alive.” The staff struck on the side of his head, and Ward slumped into unconsciousness.

Skye stared in awe as Remy made the staff collapse and disappear under his leather coat. And then he turned to her, a charming smile making his face even more handsome.

“How about that drink, cher?”

“The name’s Skye. And a drink sounds good to me.” She slipped her hand into his gallantly offered arm, unable to help a backward glance at Ward as they walked away from his prone body. Remy had just made him look like an untrained kid. Suddenly, Skye was no longer afraid.

“Then let’s go, Skye. I know a bar not too far from here.”

“What was it you threw in his face?” she couldn’t help but ask as they walked. “That thing which was on fire…”

His free hand moved, and a playing card appeared in it. “I have a certain skill.” The card suddenly caught fire, and he flicked it into the gutter.

“Wow,” Skye’s mouth gaped open. “What are you?” she dared a look up into those hell-cored eyes. “Because your eyes…”

“My curse,” he said a little sorrowfully. “I’m X-gene positive, ma belle.”

“Oh.” There was a story there, she could tell, about people rejecting him because of his eyes. Maybe even his own family. She felt a sudden deep sympathy with him and pressed her fingers lightly on his arm. “It’s okay. I’m – not quite ordinary myself.”

“Must be why you are meant for me, eh?” he smiled down at her, and seeing her returning smile, drew her gently to a halt. “You’re very beautiful,” gentle fingers caressed her cheek.

Skye nibbled on her lower lip nervously, and Remy, seeing it, bent his head and kissed her, gently drawing on the bitten flesh before pressing into a deeper kiss. Slender arms wound around his neck and he pulled Skye closer to him with a groan.

For several long minutes they kissed, heat building between them until Remy could take no more, not and remain decent, here in public where anyone could see. Slowly, he lifted his head, looking down at Skye, seeing her closed eyes, her lips swollen from his attentions. He crushed her even more tightly to him, thinking angrily of the asshole who’d dared to accost her. He’d kill the bastard if he ever saw him again.

Ma belle,” he muttered into her hair. “Je t’adore…”

 

Chapter Text

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“Rocket? Rocket, wake up!” Gamora turned frightened eyes on Peter. “Peter, he’s really sick. We need help.”

“We’re a long way from civilization,” Drax murmured.

“Maybe not.” Peter flicked through the astrogation screens. “We’re only a couple of jumps from Earth.” He scowled at Drax and Gamora’s snorts. “They’re not THAT backward, we could find medical help there…”

“Someone familiar with alien biology?” Gamora crossed her arms.

“Rocket’s based on an Earth creature!”

“Well, I suppose we have nothing to lose by trying,” Gamora looked down at their unconscious friend.

“Except Rocket,” Drax pointed out. Both Peter and Gamora glared at the overly literal warrior.

“What exactly are you going to do?” Gamora asked Peter. “Kidnap some Earth doctor? We could never send them home…”

“Well, there are some Earth folk who know they’re not alone in the universe,” Peter shrugged. “I’ll do some research. See if I can find someone medically trained.”

He’d narrowed it down to two choices by the time they slipped into Earth orbit, heavily stealthed. Doctor Bruce Banner or Doctor Jemma Simmons. In the end it wasn’t really a choice.

“I don’t want to fight that,” Drax rumbled, poking a thick finger at the on-screen image of Banner morphing into the Hulk. “Take the woman instead.”

 

 

“I’m sorry about this,” a low voice said in Jemma’s ear, “but we need your help.”

Her eyes flew wide as something hissed against her neck, but she didn’t have time to get a word out.

 

 

“She might be my soulmate, Gamora, get out of the way!”

“Just because we found the words you said on her arm, doesn’t mean that and you know it!”

Jemma came awake to the sound of two people arguing, over a familiar song playing in the background. She smiled at the sound of Freddie Mercury’s distinctive voice. Well, if there’s Queen playing, things can’t be all bad.

It was a man and a woman talking, she thought. She blinked her eyes vaguely open, looking for the source of the voices. A tall man, short reddish hair, dressed in a dark red leather coat, was standing facing a woman with her back to Jemma. The woman had long silky black hair. As the man looked at Jemma, his eyes widening to see her awake, the woman turned to look.

She was green.

Jemma blacked out again.

 

 

“Please wake up, honey,” a low voice murmured, close to her ear. “Shit, what a mess.”

“I told you that I go into semi-hibernation occasionally, can’t believe you fucking idiots panicked!” a different voice squeak-growled. Jemma tried to puzzle out the statement and then left it for later. Hibernation?

“Just get out, Rocket. Let me look after her. She’s been through enough, and I blame myself.”

The low voice sounded despondent. Jemma forced her eyes open and saw the red-haired guy from earlier, sitting beside her, scrubbing at his face with large, capable-looking hands.

“Don’t feel bad,” she told him, “crazy shit does seem to happen to me.”

His mouth dropped open, and then he smiled, an incredulous, delighted smile. Jemma suddenly realised just how very good-looking he actually was.

Holy cow.

“You really are my soulmate,” he breathed softly, reaching out and taking her hand. Deep green eyes bored into hers, and Jemma sucked in a breath.

“Really, wow. Because you’re gorgeous.”

Oh shit, verbal diarrhoea alert…

The smile broadened even further. “I could say the same thing,” his expression turned distinctly flirtatious, “but I don’t think it’d really do you justice.”

Jemma found herself blushing. She sat up, and the man reached to steady her.

“I’m Jemma, by the way. Jemma Simmons.”

“Yes, I know who you are. My name’s Peter Quill.” He looked a bit sheepish. “I’m afraid we accidentally kidnapped you. For your medical skills!” when she looked suddenly frightened. “A, er, friend of mine was really ill, and we thought you might be one of the very few people who could possibly help. Only – he’s all right now.”

“And what are you going to do with me now?” She was surprised, and flattered, when his green eyes slid down her body and he licked his lips with unmistakable masculine appreciation, but his gaze came back to hers.

“We send you home.” It broke something inside him to tell her that, this lovely creature who was literally born to be the other half of his soul, but he couldn’t keep her. The life he’d been forced into so long ago was no place for her.

Jemma stared at Peter for a long moment. He met her gaze unflinchingly, but she could see the pain there. It was becoming ever more clear, from what she could see in the room, her memory of the green woman and the strange words Peter had exchanged with whatever creature had been in the room before she opened her eyes, that she was not in Kansas anymore. Or indeed, any other place on Earth.

And yet – here was her soulmate. Quite evidently human – or at least, as human as anyone else she knew.

“What if I don’t want to go?” she whispered.

Jemma,” he said, closing his eyes as though in agony. She moved fast, scrambling from the bed and into his lap, straddling – ooh, nice – muscular thighs and settling her hands on broad, leather-clad shoulders.

“I’m not leaving, Peter,” she told him as he opened his eyes and looked at her. “The universe put our marks on each other for a reason. I’m yours, and I’m staying. No matter what.”

His arms closed around her. She had no idea what she was letting herself in for, Peter tried to tell himself. He should let her go. He should make her go. But instead, he pulled her closer and kissed her hungrily.

We've gotta hold on to what we've got,

It doesn't make a difference if we make it or not.

We've got each other and that's a lot,

For love we'll give it a shot.

 

Chapter Text

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“Bring it down, Skye!” Coulson ordered in her comm, and she gritted her teeth. The ground tremored and she sucked up the power and redirected it, sending it into the ancient fortress, this time above ground, where they’d found another Divining chamber. There was no Obelisk this time, thank God. Watching another friend die would destroy her.

“Wait, my sister’s in there!” a voice yelled, and then Skye was suddenly knocked off her feet, by something moving so fast it blurred.

“I can’t stop it now!” she shouted at the man now crouched over her. Her eyes widened as she recognised him; he’d been on TV lately quite a lot, and that white hair was pretty distinctive.

Quicksilver?” she said in astonishment. What was the speedster Avenger doing here?

Light blue eyes examined her curiously, and then he lifted a hand to touch his comm. “Wanda? You okay, Wanda!” he must have had a response, because he sagged with relief. “You’re damn lucky she’s all right, missy.”

Pietro examined the girl at his feet. A pretty creature, small and slight, dark hair tumbling around her. And hellishly dangerous, he suspected, because she’d quite clearly caused the quake that was even now crumbling the ancient temple hidden in the jungles of Laos to dust. Possibly his soulmate.

“You stay right there,” he pressed a firm hand on her hip when she attempted to rise. “They sent me to try and stop you because I could get to you quickest, but my team will be here in a minute.”

“Mine too…” oh God, I have to warn Coulson. She reached up a hand to her ear, but Quicksilver intercepted it.

“Oh no you don’t.”

“But I…” a large hand curled around her wrist and yanked her to her feet.

“Don’t make me hurt you,” he warned. “You might be my soulmate but my duty comes first until I’m sure you’re not a danger to my team, or my sister.”

“I – what? Soulmate?” Skye stared.

“Oh.” He looked disappointed. “Your words aren’t Wait, my sister’s in there?”

“Yes – wait, is that what you shouted?”

Her dark eyes were very wide as she stared up at him, and she looked very young and vulnerable. Except Pietro knew she was a scant few weeks younger than he was. His mark had appeared when he was just a baby, across his stomach, and the pain of it had brought him awake screaming in the night, according to the old Romany woman who’d raised the twins after their mother died.

Plus, earthquakes. He tightened his grip on her arm. Trust no one. No one but Wanda – and, slowly, the other Avengers. “Who are you?”

“My name is Skye,” she responded immediately. “You’re Pietro, aren’t you?”

He nodded. “If you know who I am, you know I can break your neck before you can scream,” he warned softly. “Don’t try me.”

Skye nodded, frightened by his grim expression. The Maximoff twins were very private people, but they’d given a few interviews in which it was strongly implied, if never outright stated, that they’d been imprisoned, tortured and experimented on by HYDRA.

Somehow, she’d never thought that her soulmate would be threatening to kill her within a minute of meeting her, though.

“Let go of her!” it was Coulson’s voice. Skye turned her head to see him coming up over the rise, gun in hand, but he never even had the chance to threaten Pietro, because in an instant Quicksilver was behind her, thickly muscled forearm across her throat lifting her off her feet.

Coulson froze, his mouth dropping open, and a low voice nearby said;

“Well, well, look who’s back from the dead.”

Hawkeye stepped out of the trees, arrow nocked and pointed at Coulson. A deeply unimpressed look on his face. “I heard rumours. Didn’t want to believe you’d really try to keep this from us for this long.” He flicked a glance at Pietro. “Stand down. If she’s one of Coulson’s, she’s on our side.”

“That’s good, because she’s my soulmate.”

“Really!” Hawkeye grinned. “Well, how about we leave you two alone to get acquainted and Phil and I go to see some people who are going to be very upset? You’re going to love Cap’s I-Am-Disappointed face,” he told Phil as the two of them walked away.              

Pietro had eased Skye down and loosened his grip the moment Hawkeye gave him the all-clear. She whirled around now and jabbed her finger into his chest.

“You asshole, what a way to treat your soulmate!”

He grinned sheepishly, shoving his hands into the pockets of his pants. Skye couldn’t help but look at the way the action made the fabric tighten across his lean hips. Wow, Pietro was built. The grey-and-blue stretchy top he was wearing did very nice things for his chest and shoulders as well. Somehow her hand stayed on his chest, flattening out from the poking finger. She looked up to his eyes and caught him looking down her top.

“I’m sorry,” Pietro said guiltily.

“For being an asshole or for getting caught looking at the goods?”

“Both?” He pulled his hands out of his pockets and reached out, cupping her arms gently at the elbows. Rather to his surprise, she let him pull her closer.

“I have a known weakness for assholes,” Skye confessed.

“Yeah?” he raised one hand to her cheek, a little disturbed to note that it was shaking slightly. “Well from now on I’m the only asshole for you, all right?”

She wanted to argue, to make a lippy retort, but he did that thing again where he moved faster than she could see and suddenly his mouth was pressing against hers.

Skye had to take several deep breaths when he let her go. “I won’t be a blushing fainty-maiden for you,” she warned.

“Good. I don’t want one.” This time when his lips met hers, it was a very long time before they came up for air.

 

Chapter Text

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She started awake, taking slow deep breaths as awareness returned. Tightening her fists on the edge of the sheet covering her body.

Every night, it was the same dream. The Berserker Staff, the way it had felt in her hands, so right, so perfect. The only outlet she’d ever had for the rage that had fuelled her for so long. She’d caught herself planning, many times, to go back to Cuba and dig it out of the wreckage she’d created when she smashed HYDRA’s barbershop base down there. Several times, she’d tried to mention it to Thor, tell him that he should go get it and take it safely back to Asgard. But each time she did, the words seemed to freeze in her throat. If she told Thor, the Staff would be forever out of her reach.

She rose silently from her bed, dressed in her workout clothes and went down to the magnificently appointed gym all of the team had been invited to use. It was before dawn and the huge room – a whole floor of the Tower – should be deserted. It usually was at this time, she’d found.

Instead, there was a man there. Above average height, solidly built, fluffy dark hair shading to salt-and-pepper at the temples. He was wearing only loose judo pants and Melinda took a moment to appreciate the aesthetics of a very pleasantly muscled chest, thickly furred with dark hair. She was a woman, after all. Though, her taste lately had seemed to be lacking. She grimaced slightly at the thought of Ward.

The man was moving slowly, surely, through T’ai Ch’i poses. His form was excellent, Melinda thought critically. In more ways than one.

A faint smile touched her lips, and she moved silently to another mat, some distance from the man, and began her own slow dance, feeling the stretch and pull in her muscles as she steadily warmed them up.

For almost an hour they worked out, neither speaking, though once when their eyes met the man gave her a small nod and an even smaller smile. Melinda inclined her head very slightly in acknowledgement.

He finished first – which was only reasonable, since he had started first – gathered a towel which had been draped over one of the exercise machines and slung it around his shoulders, moving towards the fancy water filter in one corner of the room and pouring himself a glass.

 

From the corner of his eyes, Bruce saw the beautiful Asian woman finish and step lightly off the mats. Courteously, he poured her a glass of water and, as she approached, turned and held it out.

He’d intended to introduce himself. But something about her face, so calm and truly serene now, unlike the seething rage she’d been poorly masking when she came into the gym, made him say instead;

“It’s good for calming the rage, isn’t it?”

She’d been in the very act of accepting the glass from his hand. It slipped, but he tightened his hand just in time to stop it falling. Black eyes glittered as she snapped;

“What would you know about rage?”

The glass hit the floor and shattered. Neither of them noticed the shards and water splashes that sprinkled across their bare feet. They just stood staring at each other incredulously, until Bruce managed to gather himself.

“More than I ever wanted to,” he muttered. The Other Guy was unbelievably silent in the back of his head, but Bruce could feel him watching. Feel his fascination, his recognition, that here was rage that matched his own. “I’m Bruce Banner.”

He knew who she was, though her name momentarily escaped him. He might have only returned to the Tower from a sojourn in India late last night, but JARVIS had quickly briefed him on events since he was last there, and flashed up images of Coulson’s team, in case he ran across one of them in the common areas and was surprised. So it stood to reason that she’d recognise his name. He half expected her to run screaming, poor woman; what a nightmare to find that your soulmate was as dreadfully cursed as he was.

Instead she only lifted one dark eyebrow and said “Ah. Well, that explains quite a lot.”

“It does?”

She gave him an enigmatic smile, scanning over his bare chest. “Where are the words?”

He touched his hip. “I’d offer to show you, but…”

The smile grew more genuine. “Perhaps later.” She twisted side-on to him and pulled up her top, showing his cramped handwriting along her ribs on her left side. A sudden urge to lick her smooth golden skin startled him, made him step back with a crunch of glass.

“Owww!”

“Don’t move!” she glanced around, reached out and grabbed the towel from around his neck, spread it across the shards of glass so they could walk away. She made him sit down on the mat she’d just been using, carefully picked out the one shard of glass that had lodged in his foot, watched with an impressed look as his skin healed almost as quickly as Steve’s would have done.

“Well,” Melinda met her soulmate’s dark brown eyes, “now what?”

“I guess we get to know each other,” his smile was rather bashful. “Won’t you please tell me your name?”

 

Three weeks later

“COME, MY ANGRY LADY!” Hulk boomed, holding out a massive hand to Melinda as she stepped out of the SUV and ran to his side, the Berserker Staff in her hands, hers by right now, given by Thor’s own hand. “LET US GO SMASH!”

Her grin was vicious. “Let’s!”

 

Chapter Text

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“Simmons,” May’s voice said crisply over the comm, “we need you in here. There are prisoners and at least one of them is wounded. I’m sending Hunter to escort you in.”

Jemma gulped nervously, buckled her body armour and picked up her medical bag. A couple of minutes later Hunter appeared at the door of the quinjet, nodding in approval at her preparations.

“Stay close,” was all he said, and she followed him at a swift jog through the complex. The sound of gunfire had died down completely.

“Is everyone gone?” Jemma panted, out of breath. Yes, she kept up her running on the treadmill but Hunter was going fast.

“They all bugged out once the Avengers started the assault.” Hunter wasn’t even breathing hard as he loped along. “No HYDRA goon in his right mind wants to face Captain America, never mind Hulk and the rest. I’m so glad we’re working with these guys now. Coulson was mad not to go to them earlier.”

Jemma didn’t argue. She didn’t have enough breath. A moment later they burst into a control room, two empty glass-walled cells on one side. May and Coulson knelt on the floor beside an unconscious young woman. A tall, white-haired man – at first Jemma assumed he was old, because of the hair, but then she saw his face and realised he wasn’t old at all – was standing behind Coulson, alternately clenching and releasing his fists.

“Here she is, Pietro, this is Jemma Simmons, our medical expert,” Coulson glanced up as she and Hunter ran in. “She’ll help Wanda, don’t worry.”

“What’s wrong with her?” Jemma slid to her knees beside the unconscious girl, meeting Coulson’s eyes.

“She knocked herself out with excessive use of a mental power,” Coulson said, as though that was completely normal. Jemma blinked. Looked at the girl – Wanda, apparently. There was a trickle of blood coming out of her ear, more blood at her nostrils.

“A mental power…?” she said cautiously.

“Wanda is a telekinetic, according to Pietro. He’s her brother.” Coulson indicated the white-haired man. “Apparently she used her powers to take down the guards who came to kill them when they realised the complex was under attack, and then to break them both out of their cells.”

Brother and sister; they look nothing alike. Jemma looked from the dark-haired, delicate creature on the floor to the tall, muscular male towering over her. “She’ll be okay, I’ll take care of her,” she tried to reassure him.

He blinked startled blue eyes, and she wondered if he spoke English. Had Coulson been speaking to him in another language?

“Do you understand me?” she asked.

“Yes, I understand you perfectly.” He did have an accent, something Eastern European, she thought. And his blue eyes were boring into hers questioningly.

“Oh!” Jemma blinked in astonishment. “You? Really?”

“Can we talk about that later? My sister needs help.”

“What was that about?” Phil said in an undertone as Jemma began to examine Wanda, thumbing an eyelid up gently and shining a light into her pupil.

“Soulmate.”

“Seriously?” that was May, sounding shocked.

Jemma sneaked a glance up at Pietro, towering over them, arms folded. He gave her a half-smile.

“Yes.”

Wanda stirred then, and Pietro was suddenly, carefully setting Jemma aside. “She won’t react well to seeing a strange face. Wanda? Wanda, can you hear me?”

Dazed eyes the same pale blue as her brother’s opened, focussed, and then Wanda said weakly; “Did she come, Pietro? Is she here?”

“Yes,” Pietro’s eyes slid to Jemma, and a true smile came to his face, making her blink with the realisation that he was actually very good-looking. “And she’s just as beautiful as you promised she’d be.”

Jemma blushed scarlet as Phil and May both looked at her with incredulous grins. Oh God, she was never going to hear the end of this.

… Wait, did that mean Wanda was clairvoyant as well as telekinetic?

“Let’s get out of here,” Pietro scooped his sister up effortlessly, arranging her with her head resting on his shoulder.

“Oh, but…” Jemma panicked slightly. “That might hurt her…”

“She’ll be fine. She just needs to sleep. She’s done this before. Just show me the way out of here.”

Coulson shrugged, stood up and gestured at the door. As they headed out, May and Hunter pausing to plant some explosives, he hissed in Jemma’s ear; “Pietro was locked in one of those cells too. Find out if he has any powers.”

They were on the quinjet, strapping Wanda carefully down to a stretcher, when Jemma felt it was appropriate to ask. “Uh, Pietro?” his name felt strange on her tongue, but he seemed to like the way she said it, because he turned to her with a warm smile.

“Jemma.” Their fingers brushed, reaching for the same strap, and Jemma couldn’t help a blush.

“I – er, I wanted to ask – Wanda’s your sister?”

“My twin.”

“Your twin? Okay. Well, uh, she seems pretty – special. Are you – do you – I mean…”

“Am I special too?” his light blue eyes bored into hers, and then his mouth curved in that smile that seemed to come so easily to him. “You could say that, but I’m not like Wanda. I’m just quick.”

What does that mean? She didn’t have time to ask, though, because at that moment there was shouting and gunshots outside, and she looked out through the open ramp to see a squad of four HYDRA commandos break cover and come racing for the jet, guns blazing.

Jemma screamed. She could see May, Coulson and Hunter racing in from the side, but they were too far away, the HYDRA guys would get to the jet first. Something blurred at her side, and then the commandos were all suddenly on the ground, like so many fallen rag dolls.

Pietro came strolling back up the ramp, smiling at her again. Jemma stared at him, wide-eyed.

“See?” he said. “Told you I was quick.”

 

Chapter Text

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It all happened because of a stupid bet.

Barton had run off to go ream out Coulson when they found out Phil had faked his own death – kind of – and he’d come back with a gleam in his eye, telling her that the Cavalry was back in the field.

“Hmm?” Natasha murmured disinterestedly, flipping a page in her book.

“That’s right, she’d already quit fieldwork when I brought you in, hadn’t she? Did you ever meet her?”

“What does she look like?”

JARVIS helpfully threw an image of a slim Asian woman of indeterminate age up on a screen. Natasha studied it for a minute.

“No. You told me she went into Admin when she retired from the field, right? I avoided that place like the plague.”

Clint grinned. Natasha was even less enamoured of ‘bureaucratic nonsense’ as she called it, than he was. Which was saying something. “Nat, you should totally meet her. Melinda May is the only woman I’ve ever met who is as badass as you are.”

Well, that piqued her professional pride. Natasha set down the book and looked hard at Clint. “Clint Barton, no woman alive is as badass as I am.”

“Wanna bet?” his eyes gleamed, and she considered smacking him. No, better to just prove the idiot wrong.

“I’ll take that bet. Think she’d accept an invitation to spar?”

“Only one way to find out!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Natasha Romanoff wants to spar with me?” An expression actually showed on May’s face for a moment. Something hungry and eager, that part of her that liked a challenge, and Phil knew she wouldn’t back down. “Bring it on.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

They agreed a date and location (one week, Avengers Tower) bout rules (no weapons of any kind, barring their own bodies) the umpire (Rogers) and criteria for the winner (four falls out of seven, determined by tap-out or unconsciousness). Clint had begged hopefully for jelly-wrestling until Natasha threatened to render him unconscious before the bout so he’d miss it. He shrugged and started making bets.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

JARVIS kept the book, in a section of himself locked under Pepper’s control so Tony couldn’t interfere. Coulson reprimanded Skye sternly after JARVIS sent him an email politely asking if he could please ask Skye to refrain from trying to hack him to manipulate the odds. She gave up and sulked.

Jemma offered to give May a cocktail of performance-enhancing drugs. Shocked, May told her very firmly that cheating was all very well against HYDRA and Cybertek, but doing so in a bout against a fellow professional was most definitely against everything she stood for. Jemma changed her bet.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The bets were about even for both sides, JARVIS informed them when they were all gathered in the comfortable cinema-style seats at the side of the gym (no uncomfortable bleachers for Tony Stark). One person had bet on a draw.

“You can’t have a draw in a four falls out of seven bout, that’s not possible,” Fitz pointed out. “Who made that bet?”

“I’m afraid I’m not at liberty to disclose that information until the end of the bout, sir,” JARVIS said politely.

May and Natasha approached the mat from opposite sides, both dressed in identical outfits, black skintight workout gear. They’d both braided their hair back tightly in a sure sign they meant business.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

May studied the Russian’s beautiful face. She’d never actually seen Romanoff in person before this moment. What an incredibly stunning woman. They were just about the same height and probably a similar weight, although Romanoff was a bit more top-heavy. Not that it would affect her balance, though it might distract May a bit.

“Agent Romanoff, Agent May,” Rogers said, “Please take your places.”

Silent, they both ghosted onto the mats. Bowed to each other. The noise in the gym settled to a thrumming anticipation.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Natasha could hear her own heartbeat in her ears. May was beautiful, lithe and graceful, the very way she moved showing her lethality. Suddenly, Natasha was glad this wasn’t a real fight, that at the end of it both of them would walk away. She didn’t think she could bring herself to really hurt the other woman.

No one was ever sure who made the first move. Even JARVIS, refining the footage later, couldn’t discern it. They moved in the same microsecond, fluid and almost faster than the eye could see, hands and feet striking, defending, parrying, striking again. Natasha got in a kick to May’s ribs, but a moment later found herself flat on her back, having to somersault away before an elbow strike connected with her temple.

It took three-quarters of an hour for them to get to three falls each. Steve called a break, handed them each a bottle of water. They had both declined to have a ‘trainer’ attend them, and simply sat down cross-legged on the mats, facing each other.

“I’m glad we’re on the same side.”

Natasha looked up, startled. They were the first words May had spoken to her directly, and they definitely weren’t what she had expected. Oh, it was what she’d been thinking too, but – those were the words printed in a neat hand just above her navel, the words she was very careful about letting anyone see.

“I hope we always will be.” Natasha was angled away from the watchers, loudly placing more bets at the moment, so she put a hand to the hem of her top and pulled it up a few inches, showing her soulmark.

May leaned forward slightly, her eyes wide. She tapped her fingers on the front of her left thigh.

“Well, this changes everything,” they both said in unison.

“Draw?” May said.

“Draw. I won’t risk putting another bruise on you. Not unless you want me to.”

May smirked. “Maybe later. In private.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Phil leaned back in his comfortable chair, putting his hands behind his head and letting out a satisfied sigh as JARVIS announced his winnings.

“I love it when a plan comes together.”

 

Chapter Text

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I’m going to die. I don’t want to die. Jemma huddled on the floor of the van, arms wrapped around her head, flinching away from contact with the boots of the men seated at the sides.

She’d been in town picking up supplies, had intended to cook a nice dinner for the team to celebrate Hunter and Bobbi’s second engagement. And then, outside the market putting the groceries in the car, a sweet-smelling cloth was suddenly clamped to her face and the world went black.

She woke up on the floor of a moving vehicle, her hands zip-tied together in front of her. And since they hadn’t bothered to hood or blindfold her, and the men in there with her hadn’t got their faces covered, they clearly had no intention of letting her live. She huddled into a tighter ball and tried not to sob.

“It’s the wrong fucking one!” the man they dragged her before shouted at his men in a thick German accent. “You got the wrong woman – you incompetent idiots!” He gestured to someone across the room, and another man came striding towards them. Jemma’s eyes widened with terror. She knew that face, the black hair and even darker eyes, the swarthy good looks. She’d seen Brock Rumlow around S.H.I.E.L.D. before HYDRAgate. The handsome STRIKE commander had even caught her looking once and winked at her flirtatiously before she blushed and fled.

“Crossbones, they got the wrong one. Dispose of her.”

“Sir,” Rumlow nodded, and his massive hand clamped around Jemma’s upper arm, yanking her to her feet.

“Please, at least kill me quickly,” was all Jemma could make herself whimper as he hauled her towards the door.

He froze for the barest instant, looking down at her. Then he turned his head and spoke to the German. “She’s pretty enough to suit my tastes, sir. Mind if I have a little fun with her first?”

The German laughed. “Take your time.”

Jemma almost hyperventilated as Rumlow dragged her out of the room, down a seemingly endless series of corridors and finally shoved her into a small room, kicking the door shut behind them. There was a bed there, and he pushed her down on it, coming down on top of her to cover her with his body. His lips closed over hers before she could scream. She fought, trying to bite him, but it was utterly hopeless; he was far stronger than her, pinning her down, grabbing both her wrists in one big hand and dragging them over her head.

And then, much to her everlasting astonishment, he pulled back and whispered in her ear; “Shh. You need to trust me. I’ll get you out of here.”

 

Brock watched as his soulmate’s tear-filled eyes went wide with shock. He’d hated frightening her like that, but he knew only too well that every inch of this place outside his own quarters was under tight surveillance. What a fucking awful time to meet her; but considering the words that had been written on his ass for twenty-seven years, since he was a green military recruit, he’d known it wouldn’t exactly be under ideal circumstances.

“I don’t want you. You’re a traitor,” she hissed back softly, obviously taking her cue from his quietness.

“I’m Fury’s top man in HYDRA,” he breathed in her ear, stroking her hair back from her tear-damp cheeks. “Or I was. You just trashed that, sweetheart, because I’m gonna have to blow my cover to get you to safety.”

Jemma hardly dared to breathe. Could it be true? But – what choice did she have but to trust him? She looked up into his midnight eyes. He was older than her, mid-forties at the least, but still extraordinarily good-looking. And her soulmate. Surely he couldn’t be all bad. “What do you need me to do?” she whispered at last.

“I’m sorry. But we need to make it sound and look good. I’m not going to rape you, but I’m going to tear your clothes up and put a bruise or two on you. Here,” he lifted her hand, pressed her nails into his stubbled cheek. “See if you can raise some blood.”

He didn’t hit her, but instead used pressure and pinches of his rough fingers to put a few strategic bruises on her pale skin, his eyes agonised, gently kissing each mark after it formed and whispering how sorry he was, that he’d never hurt her again. He asked her to hit him instead, use the flat of her hand to create the sound of heavy blows striking flesh, told her to scream and beg and cry while he growled obscenities.

It was ugly and awful and insanely arousing. In the middle of it all Jemma couldn’t quite help herself from fisting her hands in his dark hair and dragging him down for a proper kiss, deep and hungry.

The smile she got when he lifted his head was breathtaking. “Later, beautiful,” he whispered, before ripping her blouse half-off with a loud snarl. His breath stuttered as he looked at her breasts, and their eyes met in silent acknowledgement that next time he did this, the outcome would be very different.

Brock opened a small wound in his own leg and smeared blood over her, whispering apologies, promising that he was clean, before bandaging the wound and covering it. An hour or so after it all began – after Jemma had screamed herself almost hoarse – he pressed his fingers against her throat, hating himself even more as her eyes widened with shocked betrayal before she fell unconscious.

“Sorry, sweetheart,” Brock lifted Jemma’s limp body in his arms, pressing a tender kiss to her bruised lips. “But if you don’t already look dead, I’ll be asked to share. And I’d kill any other man who so much as laid a finger on you.”

 

He was watching the mushroom cloud of the explosion boil up in the rear-view mirror when Jemma stirred in the seat beside him.

 

Chapter Text

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“Make the call, Phil,” Melinda stared him down. “The way I see it, we have two choices. We let Skye fulfil her father’s prediction and go to him because no one else can help. Or you can make the call.”

His grief-filled eyes met hers, and she sighed. “I know you love her like a daughter, Phil; Skye’s damn good at working her way into people’s hearts. But we’re going to lose her to that crazy bastard unless you make the call.”

He’d known for weeks that he would have to do what she was suggesting. He’d been avoiding it, knowing that the aftermath would be ugly. But finally, he nodded and picked up the phone.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Barton and Romanoff were the ones who came, of course. Stark was too angry, and Banner and Rogers never knew him well enough. But Hawkeye and the Widow knew that after all this time, he wouldn’t have made the call unless he genuinely needed their help. The meeting wasn’t pretty, but finally they agreed to meet with Skye.

At Skye’s own request, Fitz and Mack had taken a shipping container and mounted it on the biggest shock absorbers S.H.I.E.L.D.’s budget would stretch to. She spent most of her time in there, working hard on trying to get a handle on her powers. Often she would only join the rest of the team for meals.

“Skye?” Phil rattled the container door. Clint and Natasha stood behind him, waiting quietly, in that unnervingly still way they both had. “Can I come in?”

The container was shaking slightly. Clint tipped his head to look at the flexing shock absorbers, glanced at Natasha. She twitched a red eyebrow, but said nothing.

The container stilled, and Skye’s voice said wearily; “Yes, AC, come on in.”

She looked up, shading her eyes against the brightness as the door opened. The only light in the container was a single hurricane lantern on the floor, and the sunlight outside silhouetted the three figures stepping inside until the door thudded shut behind them and she saw who they were. They really did come. May, when she told Skye that she’d pushed Phil into making the call, had been unsure whether his former strike team would be able to forgive him enough to agree to help.

“Skye,” Phil said kindly, “We have some visitors. This is Agents Barton and Romanoff…”

“I know who you are,” Skye spoke directly to them, to the beautiful redheaded spy and the solidly muscled blond archer. They glanced at each other, then back at her.

“Do you really?” Barton asked, and at the exact same moment, Romanoff said;

“Are you quite sure about that?”

“Wh-what?” Skye staggered backwards, the container shook, and they both moved fast, jumping forward and catching an arm each, easing her to sit down on the floor.

“Fucking hell,” Natasha cradled Skye’s face gently in her arms as Clint sat down beside her, pulling her to lean on his broad chest. “You poor sweetheart. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

“It’s all right,” Clint murmured soothingly as Skye began to cry, great heaving sobs that shook her small frame. “It’s all right. We’re here now. We’ve got you.”

“Um,” Phil said, utterly bemused, “What the hell just happened?”

“She’s our soulmate, Phil,” Natasha looked up at him, eyes shining with her own tears. “We’ve been looking so long for her. And to find her like this, after you told us what happened to her…”

Phil winced, remembering suddenly the blunt, stark way he’d described Skye’s past, her father, her issues with Ward and what had happened to her in San Juan. He hadn’t minced his words, knowing Clint and Natasha had no tolerance for prettying up harsh truths.

But realising you’d just told two assassins about their soulmate’s brutal past – well. Phil looked at the three of them, huddling together on the metal container floor, Skye almost in Clint’s lap, Natasha curling like a cat around both of them, stroking Skye’s tearful face as Clint held her close.

“I’ll leave you alone for a while,” he said. Natasha ignored him, focussed on Skye, but Clint looked up and met his eyes.

“I’ll come talk to you later,” he said, and Phil winced. He could almost see the list beginning in Hawkeye’s mind. Ian Quinn. Grant Ward. ‘Cal’. Barton liked to make lists. And then he liked to cross them off.

Phil retreated hastily, wracking his brain, hoping he hadn’t said too much already. Barton and Romanoff on a rampage to avenge the wrongs done their soulmate would be bad enough, but the rest of the Avengers would probably want in on the action as well. He shuddered at the thought of the possible widespread destruction. The Avengers weren’t exactly a precision instrument.

“It’s gonna be okay, darling,” Clint whispered tenderly to the sobbing girl in his lap. “We’re gonna take care of you. We’ve got you now.”

“We’ll never leave you,” Natasha promised, wiping tears from Skye’s cheeks with her thumbs. “You’ll never have to be alone again.”

Skye couldn’t help it; she was so overwhelmed with emotions. She hated herself for being a stupid sobbing kid but she just couldn’t seem to stop. Not that Clint and Natasha seemed to care, though, Natasha quietly validating her right to feel angry and upset, Clint just holding her and murmuring soft words of comfort.

“I’m sorry,” Skye gulped at last. “You two can’t want a silly girl like me in your bond. Coulson’s told me about you…”

“Has he told you that I like women just as much as men?” Natasha interrupted smoothly.

“Or that there’s quite enough of me to go round?” Clint wiggled his eyebrows salaciously.

Skye couldn’t help but laugh at that. Natasha silenced her with a kiss.

“I am the luckiest man alive,” Clint murmured, watching, until they both turned and simultaneously punched him in the ribs.

 

Chapter Text

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“We need more manpower,” Hunter leant on Coulson’s desk wearily, massaging his tight neck muscles. “We’re running ourselves ragged, Director. Sooner or later something’s going to go wrong because we’re spreading ourselves too thin.”

Head in his hands, Coulson didn’t look up. “We’ve had this argument before, Hunter, and the problem is still the same. We can’t trust anyone who used to be S.H.I.E.L.D. and we can’t afford mercenaries. We’re not even paying you – unless you count whatever arrangement you and Agent Morse have come to between you.”

“That’s not why I’m staying and you know it,” Hunter replied, annoyed at the implication Bobbi might be paying him in sexual favours. “Look, I know we’re broke, but – I was thinking of calling a guy I know who hates HYDRA just as much as we do. They experimented on him, once upon a time. He’s kind of a lone wolf but he’s one hell of a good man in a fight.”

“Would I know the name?” Phil asked wearily.

“Wilson. Wade Wilson.”

It didn’t ring any bells. Phil entered it into the main database; came up blank. “You trust him? Completely? With all of our lives?”

“Yes.”

“Make the call, then.”

“You won’t regret it, sir.” Hunter walked away. “Your ears might, though. He can talk the hind leg off a donkey.”

Phil grinned faintly and laid his head down on the surface of his desk. Just five minutes… it had to be the fact that he was so exhausted that caused him to forget to ask Skye to dig up some information on Hunter’s friend.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

They heard him coming before they saw him. Hunter had spent the last couple of days talking enthusiastically about his apparently eccentric but very dangerous friend, and the one thing that was constant about the rather wild stories he was telling was that he said Wilson talked ALL THE TIME.

So it was no surprise to hear a cheerful voice chattering nineteen to the dozen, as Jemma and Fitz stood in the kitchen. She was making sandwiches for lunch with her usual careful attention to detail and didn’t look up from the cheese she was grating as Hunter and the other man entered the room.

“Wade, this is Jemma and Fitz, our science and tech boffins…” Hunter said, but Wade was already talking again.

“Oooh, nice kitchen, good, is anyone a good cook? You got the ingredients for chimichangas? I love chimichangas. Yum, buffalo mozzarella, my favourite!”

Jemma smacked the hand that appeared in her vision, reaching for the grated cheese. “That’s not yours, keep your grubby paws off it,” she said sharply.

The hand froze. Jemma smacked at it again, just as it occurred to her that the chattering voice had finally fallen silent. She looked up and blinked as she took in Hunter’s friend, a tall, leanly muscled blond with beautiful brown eyes, staring at her.

“Not yours!” she said firmly, pushing the offending hand away.

“I’m hoping you might be though, beautiful,” Wade said, raising his eyebrows questioningly.

Jemma stared. He was wearing a dark red, sleeveless shirt over cargo pants, some sort of weapons harness criss-crossing his muscled chest, the hilts of what appeared to be two swords sticking up over his shoulders.

He did not look how she had expected her soulmate to look. Yes, Jemma fully admitted she had a weakness for handsome, cut guys. But somehow she’d always expected to end up with a fellow nerd, particularly considering the cheesy pick-up line which was her soulmark.

“My hands aren’t even dirty,” he said cheerfully, taking advantage of her shocked distraction to steal a few bits of grated cheese. “I just washed them.”

“Whu,” was about all she could get out. “You?”

“Soulmate? Considering your reaction, yeah, think so. Wanna see the words?” he pulled up the hem of his shirt and showed her the line of neat script across a tightly muscled six-pack. That’s not yours, keep your grubby paws off it.

“That’s my writing,” she said, in complete amazement.

“Should hope so too, otherwise I just made a total fool of myself. Nothing new about that, though.” He stole a few more bits of cheese, cheekily popped one of them between Jemma’s parted lips as she stared at him in shock. She ate it instinctively, barely noticing Hunter ushering an astonished Fitz quietly out of the kitchen and closing the door.

“Can you cook? That’s so cool. I knew the Fates would give me a soulmate who could cook.” He looked appreciatively at the sandwich she was assembling. “And you’re very pretty too which is most excellent. Hunter said you’re a scientist, I’ve always had a thing for brainy chicks, should have guessed my soulmate would turn out to be one.”

“Do you ever stop talking?” Jemma said a bit desperately. Wade cocked an eyebrow, appeared to think about it for a nanosecond, and shook his head.

“Rarely.” His eyes fastened on her lips. “I can think of a way you could shut me up, though.”

Jemma blushed, and Wade grinned. “Maybe later? Has Hunter being telling you horror stories about me, is that why you look like I just hit you on the head with a baseball bat?”

She nodded a bit numbly.

“Ah, shit. Which ones?”

“Um – the one where you died and then you came back to life?”

“Which time?”

Jemma had to hold onto the counter as her knees buckled. Wade saw her face turn pale and hastily grabbed a chair, pressing her to sit down, going to his knees before her and taking her hands, chafing her icy fingers gently in his large, capable ones.

“Look at it this way,” he said flippantly, “at least you won’t have to worry about me getting killed when I’m out on missions?”

 

Chapter Text

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Being science support sucked. The bad guys seemed to view you as awfully convenient targets slash bait to lure the wrecking crew into positions where they could take potshots at them. Resigned to being taken hostage for the third time this month, Darcy curled up under her desk and wrapped her arms around her head. At least Stark had sprung for heavily reinforced furniture so there was less likelihood of a stray ricochet taking her out. And thank God Jane wasn’t here today. One more episode of his soulmate being taken hostage and Thor was going to take her to Asgard permanently.

“Hey,” she risked lifting her head from her arms for a moment, found herself looking across the aisle into the blue eyes of the engineer from Coulson’s team who was working with Bruce on some super-secret project. They’d never spoken, but he was rather cute in a nerdy kind of way. Fitz, she thought his name was. “You got your Taser on you?” he had a Scottish accent that would have made her go weak at the knees, even if he just hadn’t said the words of her soulmark…

Oh. “Never go anywhere without it,” Darcy whispered, watching for his reaction. Sure enough, he started back, eyes going wide for a moment before he shook his head to clear it.

Shit,” Fitz whispered, heartfelt, staring into the big, dark blue eyes of the pretty lab assistant hiding under her desk. Magnified by her glasses, they looked deep enough to drown in. What a fucking terrible moment to meet his soulmate. He’d been eyeing her for a week, but felt far too shy to talk to her. She peeked nervously out from under the desk, pulled her Taser and slid it quietly across to him.

“Please don’t do anything heroic that will get you killed,” Darcy begged softly.

“Wasn’t the plan.” He looked away from those eyes – that cleavage, oh thank you, God – with an effort, focussed on swiftly disassembling the Taser. What an unbelievable stroke of luck that he’d been fiddling with the busted Thunderstick when the labs were invaded. Now if he could just get the contacts to match up… hastily he hid the parts under his legs as boots clattered close by.

“That girl,” a low voice snapped. “Get her. We’ll show them we mean business.”

Fitz barely suppressed a scream as rough hands dragged Darcy from her hiding place. She didn’t look at him, didn’t draw attention to his hiding place, and as soon as they were gone he started working even more frantically, willing his hands to stop shaking. What the hell were they going to do to his soulmate?

Darcy kept her eyes away from Fitz, afraid that if she looked at him she might start screaming. Am I going to die before I even get to touch my soulmate? She’d seen what he was fiddling with, though, knew what the device did. If he could get it to work, they might just have a chance. There were a dozen commandos in the lab, but none of them were wearing ear protection, and all the lab staff were doing the smart thing and hiding under their desks.

Except her, of course. She was currently being dragged towards a smashed window, used as a human shield for this asshole.

Oh shit. He’s going to chuck me out the window to prove his point. On the other hand, maybe not – he has to know several members of the team can fly… she could see Falcon crouched on the building opposite. Then something cold was pressing against her temple.

“You accede to our demands or I blow her fucking brains out!” the terrorist shouted. “Five. Four. Three...”

Oh shit I don’t even have time to tell her to get down…

Fitz scrambled out from under the desk and slammed the Thunderstick down on top of it, ducking his head low, praying Darcy wouldn’t fall out of the window. The flash and boom had barely cleared before he was racing across the lab. He’d never moved so fast in his life. The deafened, stunned commandos were still crumpling to the floor. As was Darcy. Fitz reached her as she toppled towards the shattered window, dragged her from the loosening grip of the bastard who’d been just about to murder her. She slumped into his arms.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“You with me, Darce? Can you hear me?” Jane’s voice sounded faint and tinny. Darcy blinked her eyes open blearily.

Oh. Medical. What a novel surprise, she thought sarcastically. And then she remembered the events that had led up to her ending up here this time around and her eyes flew wide. “Fitz! Is he all right?”

“He’s fine,” Jane smiled down at her. “He was a hero, Darce. That guy was two seconds from shooting you and none of the others could have got to you in time, even Clint didn’t have a clear shot. Fitz saved you and then overrode their hacks that had isolated the lab to get you out.”

“Oh,” Darcy settled back against her pillows, a smile curving her mouth. “See, Jane, I always told you my soulmate would be a handsome hero as well.”

“You did.” Jane smiled in return. Turned her head to grin at Fitz, who’d just entered the room and frozen, startled, his mouth falling open. “Here’s your handsome hero now, Darce.”

She looked smaller lying there against the white sheets, though when she turned her head to see him her smile was as bright as the sun. Fitz approached shyly, taking the hand she held out to him eagerly.

“Hey,” he said awkwardly, speaking loudly to ensure she could hear him. “I’m sorry about your hearing, it’ll be back to normal in a couple of days…”

Darcy’s full lips curved in a sensual smile. “Shut up and kiss me, hero.”

Jane smiled and slipped silently out, closing the door behind her, as Darcy’s arms wound around Fitz’s neck.

 

Chapter Text

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Fitz and Darcy were adorable together. Jemma smiled as she watched them in the Tower labs, Darcy gazing lovingly at him while he worked, always having the tool he needed ready to hand to him. And Jemma had never wanted anything more than to see Fitz happy, truly. The smile that had graced his face since he found Darcy was nothing short of ecstatic.

Jemma sighed a little, turned back to her own work, rubbed absently at the words on her wrist. While she was happy for Fitz, it did feel just a tiny bit as though someone had stolen her best friend. She wished her own soulmate would hurry up and arrive. Even if he was possibly a dangerously cocky maniac. What kind of idiot said Everything’s under control! to their soulmate on first meeting?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When the explosion blew out one wall of the lab, Fitz’s first instinct was to shove Darcy under the lab bench. Then he leapt towards Jemma, pushed her down too. Unfortunately that left him exposed when the opposite wall blew in, and he went flying across the lab, skidding uncontrollably across the floor towards the huge hole in the wall.

Fitz!” Jemma screamed, scrambled up and raced after him. He was gripping onto the window-ledge by his fingertips; she threw herself down on her stomach and grabbed his wrists. “Oh my God oh my God – Darcy!” but the other girl was unconscious, knocked out in the second blast, she realised as she looked frantically over her shoulder. “Fitz, I can’t pull you up!” he was heavier than she was, and she had absolutely nothing to brace herself against. He was slipping. Sliding away from her over the seventy-storey drop, his face turned up to hers, agonised.

“Take care of Darcy!” he shouted.

“Fitz, no!” A flash of red in the corner of her eye, and she turned her head to see a figure in a red-and-blue suit coming fast, swinging across the side of the building.

“Save him, please save him!” Jemma shouted at Spider-Man.

“Everything’s under control!” and suddenly Fitz was pulled from her grip, jerking upwards and in over her body into the wrecked lab. Then strong hands were lifting her too, setting her on her feet well away from the gaping hole and that terrible, vertiginous drop.

“Fitz, oh God,” Jemma stumbled towards him, hugging him, utterly relieved he was alive. He hugged her back, sucking in huge gulps of air.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Peter watched, realising painfully that every suspicion he’d had about his soulmate was true. She was in love with another man. And he’d done the right thing and saved that man for her, instead of letting him fall to his death. He turned away on silent feet, left without looking back. He didn’t see Fitz break away from Jemma and both of them fall to their knees beside Darcy, stroking her hair and fussing over her until she opened her eyes. At which point Jemma suddenly spun around, her eyes going wide with realisation – only to realise that they were alone.

“Where did he go?”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It took Skye a fortnight to track down someone who might know Spider-Man, a young photojournalist called Peter Parker, and another week to arrange a meeting with him. He seemed surprisingly skittish for a journalist. But eventually Jemma walked into a café and sat down opposite a young man with a shock of reddish hair.

“Peter Parker?”

“I am, yes. So what’s so urgent that you need to talk to Spider-Man?” he looked up, met her eyes and blanched. “You!”

Jemma cocked her head, her brain racing at lightning speed, realising there was only one possible reason he could have reacted like that when she was certain that she’d never seen his face before. “It’s you, isn’t it?” she said softly. “Is that your real name, Peter? You don’t have to worry, I won’t tell anyone.”

“I don’t get why you bothered to track me down,” he said, suddenly angry. “I saw you with him. What do you need me for? I saved him for you, that’s what you wanted, isn’t it?”

“I’m glad you did,” her smile was achingly lovely, breaking Peter’s heart, and then she reached out a slender hand and put it gently over his on the table. “I don’t think his soulmate would have been able to go on without him if you hadn’t.”

His… soulmate?” he said, hardly daring to hope.

“Fitz is my best friend. Darcy, his soulmate, was unconscious on the lab floor when you saved his life, Peter. They both want to thank you.” Jemma pressed lightly on his hand, that hand that was far too strong for what he claimed to be. “And I’ve been looking for you since I was four years old,” she said it quietly.

Peter found himself shyly returning her smile. “You don’t look that much older than me.”

“I am glad you know how to compliment a girl, at least. After running out on your soulmate, you’ve got a little bit of ground to make up.” Jemma raised her eyebrows at him, and was relieved when he let out a sheepish little laugh and turned that large, capable hand under hers, grasping her fingers lightly.

“I’m sorry. I – had entirely the wrong impression.”

She stared into his eyes, realising suddenly what a noble thing he’d done. He’d selflessly walked away from his soulmate because he believed she loved another man. And this was Spider-Man, the most anonymous hero out there.

“Let’s start again,” she said quietly. “Hello. I’m Jemma Simmons.”

“Peter Parker.” He smiled at her, a proper smile, and it transformed his face to something more than just boyish good looks. “I am absolutely delighted to meet you.”

 

Chapter Text

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“You’re going to be an Avenger, Skye, stop looking as though you’re going to your own funeral,” May told her crisply.

“Can’t help it,” she muttered sullenly, “how the hell I’m supposed to pull this off without telling them Coulson’s alive, I can’t imagine.”

“Yes. Well, you know I agree it’s not one of Phil’s brightest ideas, but he is the Director. Just try and conceal it for as long as possible,” May said, not unkindly.

“Fantastic, keeping secrets from my new team. What a fantastic way to make friends and influence people,” Skye grumbled under her breath, but then she had to stop because they were walking in the door of Avengers Tower, and May had made it very clear to her that JARVIS monitored every square inch of the place. She was looking forward to meeting the AI the most, actually.

They were expected. May wasn’t invited up, and Skye looked sadly over her shoulder at the last remnant of her old life as the elevator doors slid closed. May gave her a bracing smile and a nod, mouthed “Remember what I taught you!”

Skye stiffened her spine. May had taught her that she was strong, that she wasn’t just a weak, silly girl. Had told her to take pride in her abilities, however she came by them. When the elevator doors slid open, she walked out with her head held high and a calm smile on her lips.

“Holy smokes,” a blond man she recognised as Clint Barton said, “wouldja look at that.”

Skye looked around. They were all there; apart from Thor, who apparently lived in London with Doctor Foster. Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, Bruce Banner, Clint Barton and Natasha Romanoff, the original Avengers, joined now by Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes.

The testosterone in the room was so thick she nearly choked on it, particularly since all of the men stood when she entered and several of them were actively heading in her direction. Skye backpedalled, but the elevator door had closed behind her and she ended up with her back against the cold steel doors, staring nervously up at the men towering over her.

“Hel-lo gorgeous,” Barnes said with a cheerfully flirtatious grin, grabbing her hand and bowing over it, grazing her knuckles with lips that looked far too sensuous to belong to a man.

“You must be Skye,” that was Sam Wilson, his teeth bright in his dark face as he smiled at her – looking agonisingly like her lost friend, so she found a lump welling in her throat despite the ridiculousness of the situation. “We’ve all been dying to meet you.”

“And you’re even more stunning than your file picture.” Barton again, running his eyes over her body.

“Back off boys, she’s a techie, I get first dibs,” Stark said smugly.

Banner and Rogers didn’t speak, but they were both surveying her with hungry eyes. Skye wondered inconsequentially if the male Avengers were like this with every woman who crossed their path, or if she was somehow a special case. She looked helplessly at Romanoff, who was lying languidly back on a couch, grinning at the hopeful antics of her male teammates.

“How in hell’s name do you put up with this bunch of bozos?”

The stunning redhead burst out laughing. Absolutely cackling, causing all of the men to turn to look at her, and then at each other with confused expressions.

“You okay, Tash?” Clint said after a few moments.

Natasha wiped tears of laughter from her eyes and stood, walking over towards Skye, edging Barnes and Wilson out of her way with a few twists of her hips and shoulders. She grinned as Skye’s eyes followed the sensual movements.

“Sorry, boys,” Natasha said airily to her team-mates, before she turned and looked Skye straight in the eye. “This one’s mine.” Slowly, she eased down the zip between her breasts.

Skye’s eyes widened, not just because of the rather spectacular cleavage being revealed. Because there between the Russian spy-assassin’s breasts was a line of text in her scruffy, spiky writing.

How in hell’s name do you put up with this bunch of bozos?

“Well,” Skye looked up into Natasha’s laughing green eyes, “I guess we’ll be putting up with them together?”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Five hours later

Clint edged along the air duct, trying to move as soundlessly as he could. He was still about twenty yards from the opening above Natasha’s bedroom, where he planned to plant a pair of miniaturised wireless cameras Stark had provided.

“Hurry up, Barton, I’ve got the popcorn ready,” Tony said in his earpiece. “And the tissues…”

Fuck off, Stark, if Natasha catches me I won’t have a gullet to swallow with, Clint thought. A crackle under his left hand made him freeze. Very quietly, he took out a tiny pen torch and shone it down. A piece of paper was taped to the base of the duct. With his name on it.

He removed the paper, already suspecting what he’d find.

Hawk, do you really want to piss me off that badly? Tell Stark to rent a fuckin’ girly porno, the cheapskate.”

“Busted,” he said aloud, and started crawling backwards through the duct.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Skye giggled, leaning her chin on Natasha’s shoulder as they watched the retreating archer through Natasha’s own wireless cameras. “He’s absolutely terrified of you, isn’t he?”

“With good cause.” Satisfied that they wouldn’t be interrupted, Natasha twisted lithely, catching her soulmate in her arms. “Don’t worry. Soon enough we’ll have them all terrified of you too.”

Skye smiled at the older woman happily. “I am so glad I found you.”

“So glad I found you too, Милая моя,” Natasha said softly, running her fingers into Skye’s hair. “So very glad.” She leaned in, giving Skye time to pull back, but the younger woman met her lips eagerly, sliding her arms around Natasha’s neck and pulling her close.

Милая моя – my sweet

 

Chapter Text

 

 

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I’m so tired.

I can’t let my team see me like this.

They wouldn’t understand.

Melinda May was alone on the Playground’s roof, having a very quiet, unobserved breakdown. She was so tired of being strong for everyone, being Coulson’s rock and his conscience, of bracing the others through their moments of crisis and uncertainty. Since she broke it off with Ward – and yes, she hated the bastard, but he had been useful for releasing tension – the stress had been ratcheting higher and higher inside her. Until now, when she broke, like a clockwork mechanism wound past its breaking point, tiny springs and cogs exploding, shattering under the pressure.

I have to pull myself together.

Tears were running down her cheeks, her small body shaking violently as she crouched, hugging her knees.

I’m so alone.

She was the team’s secret-keeper. The one who Coulson trusted with everything weighing him down, the one whose shoulder Skye cried on when the effort of controlling her powers all the time got to be too much, the one they all looked at when the shit hit the fan, believing that everything would be all right because the Cavalry was there and she could get them out of anything.

I couldn’t get Trip out.

The tears slid down her cheeks even faster as she thought of him, the friend she’d never even had a chance to say goodbye to. The other one who’d been a steady rock for the team, whose loss had left a gaping hole that no one would ever be able to fill.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“You’re sure that’s her?” Clint whispered doubtfully. He and Natasha were crouched on the edge of the roof, having just zip-lined across from a nearby tree. They hadn’t even spotted the huddled, sobbing woman until they landed.

“Matches the picture Hill showed me of the new Deputy Director,” Natasha breathed back softly. “And this is the place she thought they might be holed up.”

“Well if the Deputy Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. regularly has nervous breakdowns on the roof in the middle of the night, this is even more fucked-up than we thought,” Clint muttered.

“She retired from the field after some kind of breakdown, apparently,” Natasha told him. “Coulson pulled her out of Admin because she was a competent pilot.”

“You know as well as I do that you don’t get a nickname like The Cavalry for being a competent pilot.”

Natasha said nothing, but Clint felt his soulmate shift very slightly on the roof next to him.

“How do you want to do this?” Natasha murmured at last. The original plan had called for them to infiltrate the building, kidnap Coulson and ask him just what the fuck he thought he was playing at, trying to hide the fact that he was alive when he knew damn well Maria Hill was working for Stark. Natasha had tripped her up verbally just yesterday and eventually wormed the whole story of Coulson’s actual-death experience out of her.

Clint let out a soundless sigh. “I reckon we take her and ask her a few pointed questions first. She doesn’t appear to be in any fit state to dissemble.”

Her soulmate had come up with plenty of worse plans over the years, so Natasha didn’t argue. Silently they separated, moving across the roof in a pincer movement to trap Agent May in between them, both with non-lethal weapons in hand – Natasha ready with her Widow’s Bites, Clint a Taser arrow on the string.

“Are you Melinda May?” a low male voice nearby broke May out of her near-trance, and she shot to her feet with a startled scream, striking out instinctively – but he was further away than she’d expected, and her blows hit only air. The real attack came from behind, and her reaction time was dulled just enough by her fatigue and distress that she hit the ground before she knew it, arms wrenched painfully behind her back.

“Don’t fight, it won’t change anything,” a female voice said in her ear.

Something clicked in May’s brain at those words, but the adrenaline was pumping too hard for her to track it down just now. “You’ll have to kill me to make me stop fighting,” she panted, preparing to pop her shoulder out of its socket, knowing it was the only way to get out of that painful grip.

What?

Much to her surprise, the woman let go. May bounced up onto her feet, setting herself into a defensive stance, backing up, trying to get both the man and the woman in her view. They were both lowering weapons, staring at her, she could see in the faint moonlight… was that a bow in the man’s hands? Surely not… she lowered her hands, staring.

“Are you who I think you are?”

He paced towards her, tall, blond, his handsome face breaking into a wide grin. “If you’re thinking I’m Clint Barton, yeah. If you’re thinking I’m your soulmate – that too. Allow me to introduce Natasha, our third.”

May stood staring from one to the other of them in disbelief as Romanoff approached, also smiling.

“Not possible,” she said a bit faintly.

“Why were you crying, dear one?” Natasha asked, reaching to take the other woman’s slender shoulders in her hands. There was strength there, she could feel the tightly packed muscle under the close-fitting leather coat.

“It’s just,” Melinda looked at Natasha, at Clint, moving in beside her, lowering his hands to settle one at the small of each of their backs. “I’m just so alone.”

It was a cry for help neither of them would ever be able to deny. They both moved in, drawing her into their embrace, Clint nestling her head against his shoulder while Natasha curved sinuously against her back.

“Not any more,” Clint said softly, stroking the silken black hair that tumbled across his shoulder. “You’re not alone any more.”

“We’ve got you,” Natasha whispered. “We’ll always be with you.”

 

 

Chapter Text

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“Sir, I need to see you. Now.”

Phil looked up to see Jemma at his office door. White-faced and shaking, she was clearly very agitated. He rose and went to her quickly, guiding her to a chair. “Whatever is it, Simmons?”

She sucked in a shaky breath. “I – was running some medical tests on Skye. And I realised that we never did fill in all the S.H.I.E.L.D. standard forms, due to the agency collapsing the very day she joined – anyway, we started filling them in, and when we got to the soulmarks section – sir, I didn’t know she had one!” She shoved a printed photograph into Phil’s hand. “This is on, well, to put it politely, sir – on her bottom.”

Phil bit his lip, trying not to laugh at Jemma’s obvious embarrassment. He lost all urge to laugh as he looked at the photograph and the words on Skye’s skin.

I’m Brock, but I suppose you know that.

No,” Phil resisted the desire to put his fist into the wall. “Tell me this isn’t his writing!”

“It’s a match in the database, sir,” Jemma said weakly. “I tried not to react but I think Skye suspected something…”

“Shit. What does his soulmark say?” Phil demanded.

Jemma handed over another photograph. It’s nice to meet you, I guess? was scrawled in the loopy handwriting Phil knew all too well was Skye’s, across Brock Rumlow’s muscular forearm. Phil actually remembered seeing it, now he thought about it. Rumlow had flaunted it, often joking about how he hadn’t met his soulmate yet but he was looking forward to it because she was twenty years younger than he was.

“What do we do, sir?” Jemma asked hesitantly. Brock Rumlow was a thorn in the new S.H.I.E.L.D.’s side, a mercenary working for the highest bidder – which was generally HYDRA and its allies. “If he by some chance found out…”

“I’m thinking,” Phil said absently. “Send Skye in, please, Jemma. And May.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

There was no way he could have kept it from Skye anyway. He was a bit surprised she hadn’t already gone looking through S.H.I.E.L.D.’s databases for someone with the name Brock. She certainly would now.

“You know who it is, don’t you?” was Skye’s immediate question on entering his office. “I want to meet him…”

Phil closed his eyes in pain. “It’s not quite so simple as all that.”

And then May came up with an idea.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“You can’t afford me, Coulson.” Rumlow leaned back comfortably in his chair. They were meeting at an anonymous café, the location arranged just a few minutes before. Bobbi, Hunter and May were out there watching. They were sure Rumlow hadn’t been followed.

“You’re broke. You’ve got no funding. And since you’re too proud to go to Stark for help – and he won’t pay for mercenaries anyway – I fail to see how you can tempt me into joining your side. A man’s gotta live.”

“What,” Phil said, “if I had something more than money to bid for your services?”

Rumlow surveyed the older man thoughtfully. Damn, but Phil always had been a good poker player. “And what would that be?”

Phil slid a photo across the table, face down. He kept his fingers firmly over it as Brock reached for it. “There are conditions, Rumlow. I’ll need proof of your good faith. But I bid… your soulmate.”

Brock had been tilting his chair back. The front legs hit the floor with a crash as he almost ripped the picture from under Coulson’s fingers and flipped it over. And there was his writing, on smooth pale skin. Only two words, I’m Brock, only a tiny patch of skin. For long moments he stared. And then he looked up at Phil.

“Tell me what you want me to do.”

“The labours of Hercules are nothing in comparison,” Phil warned. “You’ve got a lot to make up for.”

“I’m your man, Coulson.”

“She’s one of mine. S.H.I.E.L.D. to the bone.”

“Then so am I.” Rumlow’s eyes were unflinching, focussed, dedicated. Phil slid another piece of paper across the table.

“This is your proof of my good faith. A list, in your soulmate’s handwriting. When you’ve ticked off every item on it? Call me.”

Brock flipped the paper, noticed immediately the loopy writing that matched perfectly that on his shoulder, trailing down the page in a long list. The first item on the list said Steal Loki’s sceptre. The second said Capture Baron von Strucker and deliver him to the Avengers.

“Looks like I got some work to do. I’ll be in touch.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It took him two years, one working inside HYDRA and one with the Avengers. Steve Rogers accepted him with surprising grace – once he dumped a chained von Strucker on the lobby floor of Avengers Tower, anyway. By the time he finally ticked off the last item on the list – that damnable sceptre, it was HYDRA’s most prized possession and they kept moving it – he was a fully-fledged member of the Avengers team.

“I have to deliver it to Coulson,” Brock told Thor. He’d been upfront with the Avengers from the beginning about the reason for his change of heart, knowing there was no point in lying about it. He wanted his soulmate, and Coulson had promised to deliver if, and only if, Brock proved he’d turned to the side of the angels once and for all.

“You earned the right, brother Crossbones,” Thor said gravely, handing the sceptre over, “but please advise the Son of Coul that I wish to return the sceptre to the safety of Asgard’s vaults.”

They met back in the same café where it all began. Brock was carrying the sceptre in a guitar case; he nodded to Coulson – who was looking a lot more prosperous these days, now that S.H.I.E.L.D. was a legitimate agency again and HYDRA was in ruins, thanks to Brock’s efforts – and said; “It’s in there. But I’m afraid Thor wants it back. He’s waiting in the van.” He nodded at the black van parked across the street outside.

“That’s fine. I’m quite happy for it not to be in the possession of anyone on Earth.”

Brock reached into his pocket and with slightly trembling fingers, removed the much-folded sheet of paper. He smoothed it out on the table and looked up to Coulson’s eyes. “Here’s your list, Coulson.”

Every item on the list was struck through with thick black lines, dates and notes scribbled alongside in Brock’s spiky hand. There were a couple of bloodstains. He’d paid in blood and pain for some of the things on that list, earned new scars.

“There’s only one problem,” Brock said unwillingly.

“And what’s that?” Coulson didn’t need to look at the list. He had his own version, and Rumlow had made damn sure to provide proof of everything on it as the tasks were completed. He looked into Rumlow’s dark eyes instead. Wondering if the man truly had changed.

“You told me my soulmate was S.H.I.E.L.D., one of yours, and I said I would be too. But – I can’t. I’m an Avenger, and I can’t walk away from that. There’s too much still to do. Von Doom is making trouble and AIM are becoming a real threat…”

Phil smiled. “I think your soulmate will understand.”

Brock sagged with relief. “Please, Coulson,” he said hoarsely at last. “When can I meet her?”

Coulson stood, lifting the guitar case. “I’ll go deliver this to Thor.”

Brock watched as Coulson walked away, heading outside to the van. Phil nodded to a young woman sitting at the table closest to the door, working away on her laptop. Brock had noticed her when he came in, assumed she was a student or something from her hippyish clothes and long dark hair falling over her face. Young and pretty, he’d noted vaguely. He suddenly paid a great deal more attention as she closed her laptop, picked it up and came across to him, sliding into the seat Coulson had just vacated and looking up at him from eyes as dark as his own.

“It’s nice to meet you, I guess?” Skye said uncertainly.

Brock sucked in a deep breath. “I’m Brock,” he said slowly, “but I suppose you know that.”

Skye had been in his presence several times over the last couple of years, though she’d made sure to stay far enough away that he wouldn’t speak to her, when he’d come to deliver things to Coulson as proof of his completion of items from the list. She doubted she’d ever become immune to the impact of those dark good looks, though. Even the scar on his cheek, recently gained, only added to his rugged attractiveness.

She was beautiful. Dear God, but she was stunning, small and dark of hair and eye, exotically alluring, nibbling nervously on a plump pink lower lip. Brock had to clench his hands on his knees under the table, because his every instinct was screaming at him to take her in his arms and ravage that soft mouth with his own.

“Won’t you tell me your name?” he asked softly. After all the pain and effort he’d been through for her sake, the blood he’d shed, the last thing he wanted to do was frighten her off now. He’d earned this chance, but he still had to make it count.

“Skye. Just – Skye.”

“It’s beautiful. You’re beautiful.”

She blushed a little shyly, looked at her hands, folded atop her closed laptop. Nervously, Brock reached out, laid his big hand gently over her small ones.

“I daresay you know it all, since you wrote the list. I’ve been a pretty terrible person – I’ve hurt people, caused the deaths of hundreds, maybe thousands…”

“Saved millions more,” Skye looked up at him with a small smile. “None of us have perfect pasts, Brock. As far as I’m concerned, that,” she nodded at the list, still lying forgotten on the table, “more than wipes out any red in your ledger. Plus I heard what you told Phil, about staying with the Avengers. That’s proof enough for me.”

Brock gulped, unaccountably nervous. “You’ll give me a chance, then?”

Skye smiled shyly and nodded. And then he was standing, tugging gently on her hands, his dark eyes hopeful and intent, and she realised just how long he’d been waiting for this. She stood, looking up at him nervously. He was a big man, tall and powerful; the top of her head didn’t quite reach his chin. He didn’t seem bothered by her small size, drawing her gently into his arms, giving her plenty of time to pull back, to escape, if she changed her mind.

She came to him willingly, turning her face up towards his, her dark eyes drifting closed as he bent his head. For a moment Brock just stared, unable to believe that this gorgeous creature could possibly be his, after all that he’d done in his life. How could he possibly have earned such a reward, with all the stains on his soul?

He wasn’t kissing her, just staring. Skye opened her eyes and gave him an arch look. “Forgotten how to kiss a girl, Brock?”

“Ain’t never kissed one as beautiful as you,” he muttered gruffly, and then his hands slid into her hair, tilted her head just right as his mouth came down on hers.

Skye moaned as he kissed her with consummate skill, his mouth warm and searching over hers, his stubble rasping her chin lightly. Her hands came up, landed on his muscled chest, and she felt him tremor slightly, a low growl rumbling in his throat before he pulled back, resting his forehead against hers, callused thumbs lightly caressing her cheeks.

“I’d burn the fucking world down for your sake,” Brock confessed raggedly.

“I know. I promise I won’t ask you to.”

 

Chapter Text

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Wow, travel via Bifrost was really trippy. Skye stumbled a few steps before recovering herself, and at that she did a lot better than Fitz who face-planted heavily. Thor hauled the engineer to his feet with a jovial laugh.

“Welcome to Asgard, my friends!”

It’s very… shiny, Skye thought. Everything in view appeared to be made of gold, including the armour of the giant currently pulling a massive sword out of the mechanism in the middle of the chamber. Is that clockwork? She glanced at Fitz, whose eyes were just about hanging out of his head.

May was watching the golden-armoured giant, as always watchful when someone was armed in her presence. He caught her looking and inclined his head slowly, moving to stand with the sword point-down on the ground at a sort of parade rest. That must be Heimdall, Skye realised.

“Come,” Thor said cheerfully, “let us to the city, I know Lady Jemma is eager to see you again!”

Skye couldn’t help but gasp at the beauty of the city before them. It seemed a long way away, though. Were they expected to walk? And then, coming fast along the Rainbow Bridge, she saw galloping horses, two with riders and the rest without.

“Oh no,” she said out loud, but was drowned out by the voices of the others, exclaiming in delight as they saw that one of the riders was Sif. The warrior maiden swung down off her horse and greeted them all enthusiastically. Skye sidled backwards, her eyes wide. Horses. Oh God no. She had a total phobia of the monsters. And the others all obviously didn’t, happily accepting reins and swinging up into saddles, even Coulson in his dapper suit managing to make it look completely natural.

“M’lady?” she looked up to see that the other rider had dismounted and was standing before her, offering the reins of the last riderless horse. “Your mount?”

Throat closed with terror, she could only shake her head, eyes wide with panic.

“Can’t you ride, Skye?” Fitz called.

“No. Nonononono.”

The rider looked at her for a moment, and then reached up and removed the silver helm he was wearing, revealing a short mop of blond hair and lovely greenish-gold eyes in an exceptionally handsome face with a short blond beard. “Go on, Thor,” he turned and tossed the reins of the riderless horse at Sif, who caught them. “I will bring the lady.”

Skye pressed herself back against the wall, staring with terror as the other horses thundered away – leaving only the blond man and his own mount, a huge black beast standing quietly at his shoulder.

The rider surprised her then by dropping to one knee with a clank of his armour. “M’lady, I swear on my honour that no harm will come to you. My horse is sure-footed, and if you permit it I will hold you so that you do not fall.”

“I’m scared,” she whispered.

“I understand.” He gave her an understanding smile. “We all have fears, do we not?” He grinned and said confidingly “I do not like spiders. Especially ones with hairy legs.”

That made Skye choke out a laugh, and he smiled, encouraged. “I am Fandral, m’lady.”

“Oh, the one Thor calls the Dashing? One of the Warriors Three?”

“Dashing is entirely a matter of opinion, m’lady.” He winked.

“Ah, like that, is it? I’m Skye.”

“The boon companion of Lady Jemma! I am honoured to make your acquaintance, Lady Skye.” He took her hand gently in his armoured glove and lifted it to his lips.

Skye had never had her hand kissed before. She didn’t expect to feel as though she’d been struck by lightning as his warm lips brushed her knuckles.

“Aieee!” she let out a pained squeal, snatching her hand away.

“By Odin’s beard!” Fandral clapped his other hand to his mouth.

“What the hell!” Skye stared at her hand, at the golden runes etching themselves – painfully! – in under her skin, like a strangely metallic tattoo. “What did you do to me?”

He lowered his hand and she saw a light blue rune had formed right in the middle of his upper lip. “I fear the question is, what have we done to each other, my lady!”

A strange noise behind Skye made her turn, and she saw Heimdall – laughing?

“Eh, Fandral, caught out by your own charm! No other woman would have you now, not with your soulmate’s mark right there on your mouth; you’ll be kissing no more maidens!”

What?” Skye stared from Heimdall to Fandral in astonishment.

“That,” Heimdall told her, pointing at Fandral’s mouth, “is the Asgardian rune for sky – Lady Skye.”

“Wait. What? Soulmates?”

“Apparently.” Fandral came to his feet, and she realised just how tall he was, nearly matching Thor in height, towering over her. He looked directly at Heimdall. “I’m not complaining. You know how long I’ve waited.”

Heimdall inclined his head and went back into the chamber, leaving them alone. Fandral looked down at Skye. “We must go on to the city, Lady Skye. There will be time enough there for us to learn of each other.”

She smiled a little shyly. And then remembered the damned horse. Fandral, seeing her eyes widen as she looked past him, turned and let out a low whistle.

Skye stared in amazement as the huge black steed dipped its muzzle to the ground and went to its knees.

“Here,” Fandral’s voice was suddenly warm in her ear, his mailed hands firm on her waist as he set her before the saddle and seated himself behind her, pulling her into his lap. “I will never let you fall, my lady.”

Somehow, enfolded in his armoured clasp, his short beard brushing her brow as they galloped towards the city, Skye forgot to be afraid.

And so begins the tale of Fandral the Faithful and his Sky-maiden, heroes of Asgard and beyond…

 

Chapter Text

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“I’m not going back, mate.” Pyro said calmly, facing the ring of armed S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. “Not to that prison. I never committed any crime.”

“We know,” the oldest agent said. “It was wrong, John, for you to be locked up pre-emptively just because you might be dangerous to someone. I’m Phil Coulson, the Director now, and you have my word it won’t happen again. The Fridge no longer exists, anyway.”

“In that case,” he swept an arm around, indicating the guns, “why all the firepower?”

Coulson actually smiled. “You’re the one with the firepower here, John, we both know that. We’re here because we heard reports of strange fires in the desert. Where there’s nothing to burn.” He gestured at the bare sand around them.

“No one to hurt here, either. Stop calling me John.”

“Do you prefer Mr Allerdyce? Or should I call you Pyro?”

“Pyro will do. It’s what I am.” He clicked the Zippo lighter in his fingers, flipping it open and closed, open and closed, though he didn’t light it. “What do you want, Coulson, if it’s not to cage me up again?”

“We don’t do that. Not anymore. You must have heard about HYDRA and S.H.I.E.L.D….”

“One and the same, the way I heard it, mate.” Pyro smiled cockily.

Skye found her finger tightening on the trigger. Damn, but he was an irritating bastard, the tall fair-haired man with the Australian accent. Good-looking, she had to concede. And fearless, even in the face of the ICER guns she, May, Bobbi, Hunter and Coulson were pointing in his direction, he seemed more angry than afraid.

“Perhaps they were,” Phil said coolly, “but no more. S.H.I.E.L.D. is closely affiliated with the Avengers – we don’t lock up people with super-normal abilities, Pyro. We ally with them. Work with them. One of the people in this circle, other than you, has abilities…”

“What?” suddenly the Zippo was lit, only a small flame in the gathering desert twilight, but deeply threatening considering the abilities Pyro was reputed to possess. He whirled, taking a good look at each of them, pausing for a long moment at Skye. “It’s you, isn’t it? You have the look…” the flame in his hand flared up.

Hunter pulled the trigger, even as Skye said; “What look?”

“What?” Hunter said when they all stared at him. “I didn’t want to make any closer acquaintance with his personal flamethrower, thanks very much.”

No chance of that right now. ICER rounds were apparently effective on this particular super-human. Pyro was flat on his back, utterly still.

May pocketed the Zippo. “Let’s get him back to the Bus.”

“Sir,” Skye muttered to Coulson as they headed back, Pyro cuffed and dumped into the rear of the SUV, “he said my soulmark words.”

Coulson then did something that Skye had very rarely heard him do.

Fuck.”

“Sir!”

Back at the Bus, Hunter and Mack hauled Pyro to the Cage and dumped him on the thin mattress. Coulson checked his watch, looked at Skye and sighed. “He’ll be coming around any minute. You’d better stay – but he’s going to be really pissed off when he wakes.”

“All the more reason for me to stay close, then,” Skye reasoned. She’d not been able to stop staring at Pyro ever since he said the words. He was about her own age, attractive in an intense sort of way. She’d not been able to see what colour his eyes were before.

Oh. They were blue… as they snapped open and he glared at her, rolling upright quickly, wrenching at the cuffs holding his hands behind his back before letting out an almost animal howl of rage.

“Coulson!” his eyes settled on the lying bastard. “You said you weren’t going to take me back!”

“We’re not,” Coulson held his hands up in a pacifying gesture. “Skye, take the cuffs off him. John – Pyro – please, hear me out.”

The pretty sheila was unfastening the cuffs. He considered grabbing the gun holstered on her thigh, but the look she gave him made him reconsider. “I’m listening,” he said to Coulson.

“Pyro, I truly believe you are meant to join us, now. Skye’s your soulmate.”

“Pull the other one mate!” John looked disbelievingly back at the sheila. She looked away, a sudden expression of hurt on her face, before murmuring;

“Do you remember what you said before Hunter shot you?” When he frowned, she said “You said It’s you, isn’t it? You have the look, and then I said What look?”

His hand shot to his chest, just below his heart, though he looked angrily disbelieving. “You could have looked at mine. Show me yours. I want to see.”

Skye hesitated, glanced at Coulson. “Would you mind turning your back, sir?”

Coulson frowned. “You don’t have to show him…”

“I’d rather not get off on the wrong foot with my soulmate doubting everything I say,” Skye said, her eyes boring into John’s. He had the grace to look a little ashamed, though as Coulson sighed and turned his back, he looked at her intently again.

“Don’t be getting any ideas now,” Skye warned as she unfastened her belt, unzipped her pants. Carefully she folded back one flap, away towards her right hip.

John stared at the smooth pale skin revealed, fighting not to lick his lips. The feisty sheila would probably smack his head in. But hot damn

…oh, that was definitely his writing.

“You are my soulmate,” he said in surprise.

Skye fastened her clothes again, slightly flushed at the look he’d given her, a warm, appreciative stare. “Don’t think that gives you any special privileges.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it, babe.”

“And don’t call me babe!” Figures. My soulmate’s an ass.

“You’ll get used to me. I grow on people,” John said, grinning at his soulmate’s expression, guessing pretty accurately what she was thinking.

“Like mould,” Skye muttered. He grinned and blew her a kiss.

Dammit. I’m totally gonna fall for the cocky little shit.

 

Chapter Text

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“And this,” Stark said, “is my best buddy, the legend of the Air Force, War Machine!”

Skye resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Stark was a maniac; the introductions had been getting steadily more extravagant. And yes, he did have some cause, she had to admit. But he was introducing the Avengers to people they were going to be working with, not some audience of thousands. Could he not even be bothered to say the poor guy’s name?

“Colonel James Rhodes, sir,” the tall, good-looking black guy said, shaking Coulson’s hand. “Good to meet you, I’ve heard a lot about you.” He rolled his eyes at Stark too, Skye saw, and had to suppress a giggle. Well, at least this flyboy wasn’t quite such a maniac.

“Likewise,” Coulson said politely, and respectfully. He’d mentioned to the team that the only reason Rhodes wasn’t on the original team instead of Stark was that the armour was Stark’s creation and they needed him to maintain it. Rhodes was far more stable and trustworthy.

He gave off that vibe, Skye thought, as he worked his way around the S.H.I.E.L.D. team, speaking politely to each of them in turn as only Rogers and Banner had bothered to do thus far. Steady, calm, the kind of man you could put your trust in and know that he’d come through. Perhaps that was why Stark liked him so much – he was a rock in Stark’s otherwise shifting world. When Rhodes got to her – the last one in the group – she held out her hand with a true smile.

“Sir, it’s a genuine honour to meet you.”

He paused, and then took her hand in a warm, firm grip, looking at her curiously from intense dark eyes. He seemed to consider for a long moment what to say, and then he rumbled;

“It’s a true delight to meet you too, ma’am.”

The beautiful young – very young – woman started back, her hand dropping from his and her eyes going wide.

“Good God,” Rhodey said, completely shocked. “I am – so sorry.” He spared a moment to be grateful that Tony was declaiming about something and nobody was looking at them – except Hawkeye, who was always watching everything, and was eyeing them curiously.

“Why?” The young woman – Agent Skye, he thought her name was – cocked her head at him.

“Sweetheart, I must be nearly twice your age, you can’t want an old man like me!” he shook his head a little regretfully – she was, after all, very beautiful and he was only human. “It’s okay. I’m not going to push myself on you. We’ll just be friends, okay?”

That hurt. That really, really hurt. Even her soulmate didn’t want her. Skye’s eyes filled with tears, though she fought hard not to let them fall. “If that’s what you want,” she choked out, turning away. She needed somewhere private. Somewhere that no one would see her cry. She stumbled blindly toward the doors that led out to the rooftop helipad.

“Did you seriously just tell your soulmate that you don’t want her?” Barton said incredulously in Rhodey’s ear as he watched Skye walk away. He twitched – dammit, he never could catch the archer moving, the bloody man needed a bell on him – and turned around.

“No!”

“Because it sure looked like it, you fucking idiot. Get out there before she throws herself off the roof.”

What?” he spun back round, and Skye was indeed walking towards the edge of the roof. “Oh hell no!” he bolted towards the doors. “JARVIIIIIIS!”

The AI was smart enough to figure out what he needed, and the armour was forming around his body as he bolted out onto the roof. He caught up with Skye as she put her hands on the edge of the low wall surrounding the terrace, snatched her off her feet and rocketed up into the sky.

Even Tony was open-mouthed as he stared out at War Machine taking off into the sky with the pretty young agent.

“What the fuck just happened?” came from half a dozen throats.

“Rhodey just found his soulmate,” Clint said smugly. “I think they want to be alone.” Of course the girl hadn’t really been going to throw herself off the roof – but at least the thought had given Rhodey the push he needed. He winked at Natasha, who rolled her eyes at him and sighed.

Skye wasn’t particularly enamoured of the idea of turning into a smear on the pavement, so she didn’t bother to struggle or scream as they rocketed across the city. They landed after a few minutes on an island – well, a rock – in what she thought was Long Island Sound. As soon as he set her down, she spun around and whacked him hard on the chest, without really thinking what that would mean.

“Owwww!”

“Are you all right?” Rhodey flipped his faceplate up and reached for her hand in concern.

“Yes, you fucking maniac! What the hell was that about? First you tell me you don’t want me and then you interrupt me having a perfectly good cry about it and kidnap me in some insane dramatic gesture…”

She wasn’t planning to throw herself off the roof.

Well, this is embarrassing – I’m never going to tell her I thought that…

“I changed my mind?” Rhodey offered a little weakly. She was crying because she thought I didn’t want her… “Skye, it’s not that I don’t want you, don’t ever think that. I just – I’m too old for you.”

He looked utterly magnificent in the silver armour of War Machine. Skye licked her lips.

“Haven’t you ever heard the saying you’re only as old as the woman you feel? Get out of that armour and I’ll prove the theory.”

He stared at her open-mouthed until she jumped dextrously up, wrapped her legs around his armoured torso and kissed him thoroughly.

“That – sounds like an offer I can’t refuse,” Rhodey said hoarsely when she finally let go.

 

Chapter Text

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“You fight well, Captain!” the fierce warrior-maiden shouted, decapitating the huge, ugly, slavering beast which had just been about to try and bite Steve’s head off, “if a little too defensively!”

“She’s not wrong there, punk,” Bucky yelled, giving him a hand up and offering one of his multitude of guns.

Steve sighed and took it. Bucky was right, as usual. Sometimes getting in close was a seriously bad idea. Especially since one of the stupid monster-beasts Loki had summoned up had swallowed his damn shield. He was going to have to figure out how to get it back somehow, and preferably not by making like Jonah.

“She’s fuckin’ awesome,” Bucky shouted, firing off a couple of shots. “Look at that chick go!”

“That’s the Lady Sif, not a chick,” Steve shouted back, shooting one of the flying beasties out of the sky and agilely leaping away from the falling corpse. “Thor’ll smash your head in if you don’t speak of her with respect, so watch your mouth!”

“She’d probably do it herself, look at her, Steve!”

Unwillingly, Steve glanced across. Sif had turned up to summon Thor and the other Avengers to assist in the fight, and stayed to help. And for a girl with a sword, she was one helluva fighter, he had to admit. He hadn’t seen a dame kick ass like that since – well, since never, he silently admitted to himself. Even Natasha wasn’t that badass, not that he would dare say that to her face. Sif came belting back towards them now, sword dripping blood, and looked up at both of them with a wide, cheerful grin.

“You are both uninjured? Good! Come with me, I think there may be more of the monsters this way.”

Almost casually, as they walked past one of the fallen monsters, Sif paused and swiped her sword along its belly. Steve’s shield spilled out, along with a pile of reeking monster guts. “You might want that, Captain.”

“I like her, she’s got style,” Bucky said admiringly. Sif flashed him another one of those toothy grins.

“You don’t do so badly yourself, warrior.”

“Call me Bucky.”

The smile turned more genuine, and she looked at him appreciatively, running her eyes boldly up and down his body. “I shall do that, and you may call me Sif.”

“Buck, what are you doing?” Steve hissed, scandalised, shaking the monster guts off his shield with a grimace. “Not that she’s not stunning, but…”

“Come on, Stevie, you can’t tell me that you wouldn’t love to put your hands all over that,” Bucky muttered back as they followed Sif through the thick undergrowth. “I love you an’ all, but…”

Steve didn’t reply, because Bucky was right. They both liked women too. It was an unspoken desire between the two of them to find a woman who could somehow accept them both, even though she couldn’t be their soulmate. If Steve didn’t know better he’d say that the pair of them were missing a third, that they should be part of a triad. Both of them had their soulmate words written in a circle – and to both of them it felt as though the centre was an empty space that needed to be filled.

Sif was beautiful, Steve acknowledged silently, knowing that Bucky hadn’t missed the way he’d been eyeing the warrior-maid. Tall, with dark wavy hair tumbling down her back, she looked as though she was born to wear armour, born to wield that sword. She might even be physically strong enough to handle both him and Buck, being Asgardian.

Steve shook his head, trying to clear it of the suddenly filthy fantasies filling it, glared at Bucky. “Stop it. It’s not going to happen.”

“What’s not going to happen?” Sif could hear them both clearly, although they probably thought they were talking too quietly for her to hear. They both stared at her wide-eyed, stopping in their tracks. She turned fully to face them, cocking her head.

Something wasn’t right here. They were soulmates, but… Sif concentrated, and her vision slid sideways in a way she’d never quite been able to define…

She could see the soulbond shimmering between them when she looked at them this way, a beautiful thing, woven of golden light – and with far too many missing threads. “What is wrong with it?” she asked, puzzled.

“What’s wrong with what?” Steve stared at her. She seemed to be staring at the space between him and Bucky.

“It’s beautiful, but it’s not complete.” Sif felt strangely drawn to the damaged golden web. She walked towards it, sheathing her sword, holding her hands out. “Where is your third?”

“We don’t have a third,” Bucky said, astonished. “What – can you see our soulbond?”

“So many parts missing, so much strain,” Sif whispered, her silvery eyes glowing slightly. It was the only tiny bit of magic she had, this gift of Seeing soulbonds when she chose to. Her hands came up, plucked at one shimmering thread – and both Bucky and Steve cried out. Suddenly, the soulbond was filling in, a thick net of silver and golden threads, spinning in a vortex around all three of them. Runes began to trace themselves in over the backs of Sif’s uplifted hands, and both Steve and Bucky shouted with pain as the hollow space in the circle of their soulmark words filled in.

All three of them were on their knees when it stopped, Sif breathing raggedly as the Sight left her. She lifted her head and found two pairs of incredulous blue eyes staring at her.

You’re our third,” Bucky found his voice first.

“So it would seem,” Sif pushed herself to her feet, did not protest when they both reached for her. She’d been thinking since she first laid eyes on them how magnificent they were, both large men, powerful and dangerous warriors, had even considered inviting them to her bed for a night until she realised they were soulmated to each other and regretfully dismissed the idea. Now – well, she could have far more than one night.

“You’re beautiful,” that was Steve, looking at her shyly, taking one of her hands in his and examining the runes now etched across the back of it.

“Ours,” that was Bucky, more forward, one hand settling in the small of her back as he moved closer, the other lifting a lock of her dark hair between his fingers and stroking it gently.

Sif smiled. The Fates had favoured her indeed. A roar broke her happy contemplation of the pleasures she would surely find in her soulmates’ arms, though, and she frowned.

“This battle is not over yet, my consorts. There are more of these foul beasts yet to dispatch.”

“Yes,” Steve agreed, letting go of her hand reluctantly. “We’d better get that dealt with. What’s your plan, Sif?”

“Kill them all,” Sif said, “then we go and have victorious celebratory sex!” She smiled, showing her teeth again, and drew her sword.

“I like the way you think,” Bucky said admiringly.

“Oh God help me,” Steve sighed dismally, realised they were both looking at him disappointedly, and backpedalled hastily. “Not about the, uh, sex part. That sounds good. That sounds – really good.”

“Then let’s get the killing out of the way!” Sif reached up, hooked a hand around Steve’s neck and kissed him quickly. “A promise for later, Captain!”

“She’s even worse than you,” Steve said to Bucky after he got his breath back.

Bucky only grinned at him before bolting after Sif yelling; “Hey, don’t I get a kiss too?”

 

Chapter Text

  photo ColossalQuake_zps35bf9dc1.jpg

 Incidentally, this image is correctly scaled for Daniel Cudmore and Chloe Bennet... he really is that huge

 

“Wolvie,” Skye said, peering through her binoculars, “you know I love ya, right?”

“You know I’ll surgically remove your spine without anaesthetic if you call me Wolvie again, right?” Logan responded rhetorically. He was lying between his soulmate and her young protégée on a hilltop overlooking a HYDRA base.

Skye took her gaze away from the eyepieces and gave him a cheeky grin. Logan smiled ruefully. He was coming to understand just why this young woman was so central to her team, why Melinda thought so well of her.

“Yeah, yeah, you’re all bark and no bite. You did say some of your buddies might be showing up for this fight, yeah?” Skye took one more look through the binoculars before starting to wriggle backwards down the hill. Logan and May followed suit, and soon they were standing in the shadows of the trees, well out of sight of the base. “Because seriously there’s a small army down there and I think they might be a bit well-armed for even you to take on alone. And since Coulson doesn’t want me to shake the place down, we might be a tad under-manned.”

“It’ll be fine,” Logan said. “Xavier’s busy but he’s sent us a couple of the heavy hitters.”

“A couple!” Skye’s voice went up to a near-squawk, and both Logan and May hushed her hastily, fearful of the sound carrying on the night air. “We need more than a couple, we need the Brute Squad!”

Logan’s eyes slid up and past her, and he grinned. “Well, at least we got Piotr.”

Skye wheeled, looking up – and up – and up some more at the man who’d quietly walked up behind her. He was about six foot eight and about four feet across the shoulders, a veritable giant who would have been terrifying if he wasn’t standing there with a calm smile across his face.

“Oh,” she said after a stunned moment of silence, “You are the Brute Squad.”

An expression of slow astonishment dawned across his face – a very attractive face – and Skye wondered if he was a bit simple-minded. Until he said in a deep voice with a faintly Russian accent; “It’s surprising, but no one has ever called me that before.”

“Really, even I get the reference, I’d have thought it would be an obvious one!” Logan let out a chuckle, and suddenly realised Melinda was tugging at his arm. “What?” he blinked, and realised that Skye was staring up at Piotr with her mouth open.

“Soulmate,” May whispered in Logan’s ear. “Those words are on Skye’s stomach.”

“Ohhhh.” Logan looked from the slender, delicate Skye to the man-mountain gazing down at her. He checked May’s watch. “I suppose we could give them five minutes?”

“I’ll give you five minutes. Come here.” She arched her eyebrows at him, and he very willingly followed her behind a nearby tree. May could make five minutes pass very entertainingly.

“Are you my soulmate?” Skye said wonderingly.

“It would seem so.” A huge hand lifted, cupped her cheek wonderingly.

“I really am going to have to climb you like a tree.”

Piotr suppressed a choke of laughter. She was lovely, this small woman, feisty and strong. “I could lift you,” he suggested. She was over a foot short of his height, the top of her head not even reaching his shoulder.

“Why don’t you do that? Because we’re going to have to start this fight in a minute and I’m not going to go down there without a kiss from you.”

He gathered her easily in one massive arm, lifting her off her feet as though she weighed no more than a feather. The other hand slid into her hair, tilting her head at just the right angle for his mouth.

“Good enough?” Piotr said breathlessly a couple of minutes later.

“Um,” Skye mumbled, her small hands still locked onto those massive shoulders. “I – think we might have to try again to be sure?”

“I can do that.” He eagerly brought his mouth back to hers.

“Knock it off, you two, time to go,” Logan strode past them, May following him, both of them smoothing their clothes.

Piotr let out a grumpy sound and reluctantly set his soulmate on her feet – before blushing as he realised he didn’t even know her name! Taking her small hand in his huge one, he followed after the others, leaning down to murmur;

“That was forward of me – I didn’t even ask your name. I’m Piotr Rasputin, by the way – my code name is Colossus.”

“Yes, I can see why,” Skye slid her eyes up him. He was easily the biggest man she’d ever met, would tower even over Mack. “Skye. My name is Skye.” She pulled her hand out of his, knelt down and put both hands on the ground. “They call me Quake.” The plan called for her to start some gentle earth tremors under the base, hopefully setting the base personnel running around like confused ants. “Ready?”

Before her astonished eyes, Piotr grew even taller, his skin shimmering metallically.

This is why they call me Colossus,” he rumbled, and one steely finger brushed Skye’s cheek as he stooped briefly beside her. “I’ll be back.”

And he was gone, striding towards the distant base, Wolverine running at his side to keep up with his giant steps.

“Did he seriously just quote the Terminator at me?” Skye said disbelievingly.

“Shut up and make the earth move, Skye. Which is a point. You’re not bringing him back to base any time soon. We need the Playground pretty much intact.”

Skye couldn’t help but giggle at the deliberate innuendo in May’s words, and as a consequence the earth tremors that began a few moments later had a strange, hiccupping rhythm to them.

Piotr, currently busy pushing down walls, didn’t care. As long as the ground shook beneath his feet, his soulmate was safe. He smiled to himself. He’d make sure her feet didn’t touch the ground later.

 

Chapter Text

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“How do you know it’s not a trap?”

“I don’t. That’s why I brought you.”

“Phiiiil,” Skye whined. “Come on, you gotta tell me something.”

“You know plenty about Warren Worthington III. I saw you and Jemma sighing over that magazine where he took over Tony Stark’s title for Most Eligible Bachelor, now Stark’s off the market.”

Skye blushed slightly. “Yeah, yeah, billionaire playboy philanthropist and all that. What I don’t get is why you’re interested in him.”

“His name was on a list Fury left me in the Toybox. As a possible source of ‘black’ funding for the new S.H.I.E.L.D., and no I don’t know why that might be. I do know he agreed to meet and he said it had to be here and that I could bring one person only with me. As much as I was tempted to bring May because she doesn’t talk so much,” Phil gave Skye a meaningful look, “realistically you’re the most dangerous person on the team these days.”

“Just seems like a really weird-ass place for a successful businessman to want to meet,” Skye grumbled quietly as they walked down into the small valley. It was a pretty place, she had to admit, a shallow grassy bowl with a small stream burbling through the middle of it. The tall, blond man standing by the stream looked thoroughly out of place in his expensive business suit.

“Mr Coulson.” Worthington stepped forward, held out a manicured hand. Hard blue eyes raked once over Skye and clearly dismissed her as unimportant.

“Mr Worthington. Thank you for agreeing to meet with me.” Phil heard Skye’s teeth grind and hoped she wouldn’t lose her temper.

What an asshole. He might be gorgeous, and more broad-shouldered than I expected, and wow he could cut glass with those cheekbones… Skye shook herself, irritated. He’s an asshole, no matter how pretty he is.

He sure is pretty, though – oh what the hell, there’s no law against looking.

Phil hoped he was concealing his irritation a lot better than Skye was. She was practically glaring a hole through Worthington. The guy was being arrogant, though, and very evasive in his answers. Only the mention of Fury’s name got a reaction out of him, broad shoulders shifting uncomfortably under his suit jacket.

“Fury and I had an agreement,” Warren said coldly, feeling a sudden panic rising in him. Shit, who else did Fury tell? Did this innocuous-looking man know about him? Was this some sort of attempt at extortion? He glanced at the girl, who hadn’t stopped staring at him. She was pretty enough that at any other time he might have felt flattered. Looked back at Coulson.

“I’m not privy to whatever agreement you had with Fury,” Phil said, wearying of Worthington’s evasiveness. “I’m the new Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., but we’re now a black operation and we don’t have funding. Your name was top of the list Fury left me of people who might be willing to help. That’s the reason I called. That’s the only reason I called.”

The two men stared at each other for a long moment. Warren could still feel that cold shiver down his back, feel his wings trying to tremble, escape from their confinement. He didn’t dare turn his back on them for fear that the two agents would see the odd movements under his clothes.

“I’m sorry you’ve had a wasted trip,” he said finally. I can’t risk anyone else learning my secret

Skye lost her tenuous grip on her temper. The ground shook beneath their feet, Coulson stumbled and would have fallen if she hadn’t grabbed his arm, and Worthington…

Worthington rose off the ground, propelled by enormous white wings that had literally torn free from his clothes, shredding his expensive shirt and suit coat.

The ground stopped shaking. Warren settled back to his feet with a sigh, taking in the open-mouthed, astonished expressions of Coulson and his companion.

“Well, fuck, you didn’t know after all,” he said to Coulson.

“Are you an angel?” Skye asked a bit dumbly, utterly stunned by those wings. They had to be nearly twenty feet across.

“If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that…” well, I wouldn’t be all that much richer than I am now. And I still wouldn’t have my soulmate.

“Those are my soulmark words!” Skye said in surprise.

“They what?” he blinked. He was just about to demand Show me, but realised she probably already thought he was an arrogant ass. He turned instead, flicking his wings up so he didn’t whack her with them, showing her the cliché written between his shoulder blades. Are you an angel? “Is this your writing?”

Gentle fingers brushed his skin – and the delicate feathers that grew around the words. Warren shuddered with sudden shock. Oh my God that’s an erogenous zone. No one ever touched me there before

“It’s my writing,” Skye said quietly. She looked at Phil.

“I’ll be in the car.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean… did that hurt?” she couldn’t help but touch the downy feathers again as Phil walked hurriedly away. They were unbelievably soft.

“N-no,” he stuttered. “Not hurt. Ahhh!” he had to turn around, even though she might look down and see how aroused he was, because if she touched him there again he was going to do something very embarrassing like stain his pants. He was already going to have to find another shirt from somewhere. Pants might be trickier.

His wings folded around Skye as he turned and reached to take her hands in his. They were incredibly soft.

“We got off to a bad start. Won’t you tell me your name?” Warren asked quietly.

“Skye,” she smiled up at him wonderingly.

He smiled crookedly. “How appropriate. The sky’s my favourite place to be.”

She couldn’t help but laugh as his wings gathered her closer, his head tilting down towards hers. “I think I’m going to like flying when it’s with you.”

 

Chapter Text

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“And this has been home, for the last few months.” Skye walked towards the Playground’s rear door, her soulmates on either side of her, Natasha and Bruce just behind. “It’s an old SSR base, used to be Peggy Carter’s headquarters…” she was reaching to input the code when there was an odd metallic plink behind them.

“What was that?” All alert for danger, they spun, hands dropping to guns, Clint stepping apart from the rest of them to jerk his ever-present bow off his shoulder and draw an arrow.

A tiny, innocuous-looking metal sphere lay on the ground, just beyond Bruce’s foot. And even as they looked at it, it exploded in a soft puff of white smoke.

In the distance, Skye glimpsed a tall, dark figure. “It’s Ward!” she shouted, starting forward. Bucky grabbed her arms, holding her back.

“No, it’s an ambush…”

“Worse than that,” Natasha said. “We’ve all just been exposed to something.” She traded a look with Bucky, nodded at Skye and Clint. “Those two are unenhanced, get them somewhere safe – don’t take them inside in case it’s contagious – you, me and Bruce should be all right...”

“I don’t think so,” Bruce said, and they all looked at him in alarm as his voice deepened to a rumbling roar. “RUN.”

“Him, he’s the one that did it!” Natasha pointed frantically in Ward’s direction, trying to direct Bruce before the Hulk took over completely, and then the four of them took to their heels, fleeing around the side of the building as Hulk bounded after Ward – who obviously hadn’t expected that to happen, because he spun around and ran like hell.

“Skye,” Clint said hoarsely as they reached the rather dubious cover of a space between an old shipping container and the side of the building.

“Yes,” she threw herself into his arms and he actually dropped his bow before they started kissing frantically, hands tearing at each other’s clothes.

“What the fuck?” Bucky said in astonishment. “Guys, this really isn’t the time or the place…”

“Shit, it’s sex pollen!” Natasha started laughing. “Phew, I thought it was something serious! HYDRA developed it to distract,” she told Bucky. “Kind of hard to fight back when all you’re thinking about is fucking like rabbits. It won’t work on you and me.”

“You sure about that?” his eyes were fixed on his soulmates, his breathing coming faster. “Because I feel really weird…”

“Oh no,” come to think of it, Natasha was starting to feel a bit strange herself. She sagged against the side of the container, averting her eyes as Bucky went to join Clint and Skye.

“What the hell is going on?”

Oh thank God, Coulson.

“Sex pollen. New strain,” she said hoarsely. “It works on me and Bucky…”

“Oooh, not good. Not good. Inside, come on,” Coulson grabbed her arm, and she pushed him away with a snarl, trying to be gentle, but he still bounced off the wall with a pained grunt.

“Don’t touch me! Leave those three, they’ll be all right, but you need to get me into a cell or something…”

“Can you walk? I have a medic on site…”

“I’ll probably kill him, just keep him away…”

“It’s a woman.”

“Well you’d better keep her away too unless she’s willing oh God Coulson this is really not nice I feel really horrible now…” her skin was itching, feeling too tight for her body, as she staggered after him and down into a vault.

Coulson was muttering into a com he’d pulled from his pocket, and just as Natasha collapsed on the bed in the corner of the vault, tearing at her clothes, a pretty young woman in a white lab coat came dashing in.

“Sex pollen, Coulson? The best I can do is make her comfortable… oh,” Jemma’s eyes widened as she took in the beautiful redhead rapidly stripping her clothes off to reveal a spectacularly toned, yet curvaceous body. Jemma couldn’t look away, even though she knew it was thoroughly wrong to ogle the woman like that when she was in this state. “Is that the Black Widow? I thought the serum-enhanced were immune…”

“New strain. Which probably means whatever you’d have used on her probably won’t work anyway.” Coulson winced at the thought.

Stark naked and totally unconcerned about it, Natasha turned to face them, her eyes fastening on Jemma.

“You got any toys?”

Well, that explains why I didn’t find my soulmate when I was five like I expected.

“I could probably do better than that,” Jemma took a hesitant step forward. Natasha’s eyes widened, and she moved forward too. Coulson coughed, looking away, his cheeks scarlet.

“Phil – I think she might be my soulmate.”

“What?” Phil stared at Jemma. “I didn’t know you…”

“Preferred women? Well now you do.” Jemma unbuttoned her lab coat, never looking away from the Russian spy now standing as close as she could get to the invisible barrier down the centre of the vault. “Unless you want me to have to invent eye bleach for you, I suggest you get out now.” She hit buttons on the console, switching the cameras off.

Phil fled. A definite mutter of “The Avengers are stealing my team” sounded as he rushed up the stairs.

“This is probably not the best way to start our soulmate relationship,” Natasha said, trying desperately to remain calm.

“I can think of worse. I’m Jemma, by the way.” Jemma finished removing her clothes.

“Call me Nat. And get in here. Please.”

“I didn’t think the Black Widow ever begged.” Jemma pushed the button to drop the screen. Natasha was on her in a moment, almost dragging her towards the bed.

“For you? I’ll make an exception.”

 

Chapter Text

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“Fuck!” Coulson had given her ten minutes to pick up medical supplies and that wasn’t enough time. Jemma skidded around the corner, racing up the next aisle with her shopping cart – no, not this one either…

“Where the fuck is the hydrogen peroxide?” she said aloud, swung the cart around the next corner and collided so hard with a man standing there that the cart fell on its side, spilling her carefully gathered supplies all over the floor.

“Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck!” she shouted, and fell to her knees, grabbing at the spilled packets. A huge shadow loomed over her and she looked up to see the man she’d crashed into – a very long way up.

“I’m sorry I crashed into you, are you all right?” she gabbled rather ungraciously.

He stooped and lifted the cart back to its wheels easily, squatted opposite her and started scooping up her fallen supplies with hands the size of shovels.

“I’m fine. You shouldn’t swear so much.” Dark brown eyes looked back into hers from a rather handsome face. He had a faint accent – Russian?

Hot guy alert! Jemma swallowed nervously. “I try not to swear but sometimes it just comes out. My parents were very strict about it. Even my soulmate isn’t going to like my swearing.”

Wait a minute…

“Well, when you grow up with ‘fuck’ written five times on the palm of your right hand, it’s a little off-putting.” He held up said hand, broad palm towards her.

Oh. My. God.

“That’s my writing.”

“Thought it might be.” He tipped the last of the dropped supplies into the cart, stood up and offered that enormous hand to help her to her feet. “You’re obviously in a hurry so I won’t delay you – but could I possibly have your phone number? I’m Piotr, by the way.”

“Jemma.” Numbly, she let him take her hand, lift her easily to her feet. She had to tip her head back to look up at him, saw him smile as he took in the height discrepancy between them. “I’m only five foot four, how the hell did I end up paired with you?” Her brain to mouth filter had failed completely.

“I mean, you’re seriously hot and yes I do have a weakness for big muscly guys…” He had to be six foot eight, and about four feet across the shoulders. Easily the biggest man she’d ever met, and there wasn’t an ounce of fat on him, not from the way his jeans were clinging to his hips and lean thighs oh God Jemma stop looking at his thighs

He was outright laughing at her, though trying to suppress the chuckles. “I’m glad to hear that. I have a weakness for pretty English girls with verbal diarrhoea.”

She blushed. He was still holding her hand, her fingers tiny against his, resting over the row of swear words written on his palm. And oh God, how embarrassing, how was she going to tell her parents that they were right about her potty mouth after all?

“Your phone number?” Piotr prompted gently. His soulmate was staring up at him from wide hazel eyes, a blush tinting her pretty cheeks rosy pink.

“Oh!” she started. “I – don’t think I should give it to you. I work for…” what do I call SHIELD, these days? A secret crime-fighting organisation? A superhero support group? An anti-supervillain agency? Not-HYDRA? “… the government?” it came out in a questioning tone, like the lie it was.

He cocked his head, looking at her. “You’re not X, are you?”

“What?” she blinked in confusion.

“Jemma, what the hell, I said ten minutes…” Coulson came around the corner, saw her standing with Piotr and froze, eyes travelling up, his hand slipping inside his jacket.

“I know who you are,” Piotr said in tones of enlightenment. “Jemma works for you, Director?”

Coulson stilled, his hand obviously on his gun. “…Colossus?” he said after a moment.

“That’s what they call me.”

“Why are you holding Agent Simmons’ hand?”

Piotr looked down at the dainty hand still clasped in his. She’d made no effort to pull away even when Coulson showed up. “Because she’s my soulmate.”

Jemma had never seen Phil look so shocked. Not even that one time when they’d all walked in on Hunter and Bobbi doing it on the kitchen counter – well, the less said about that the better. Mack had used up the entire base supply of bleach before any of them would eat in there again.

You. Are Jemma’s. Soulmate?”

“Uh-huh.” He traced a light pattern over the palm of Jemma’s hand with his fingertips, making her shiver slightly. “Don’t suppose SHIELD could use my particular brand of brute force?”

 “Oh,” Phil’s grin was positively predatory, Jemma realised. He definitely knew something about her soulmate that she didn’t. “I think we could find a use for you.”

Piotr told Jemma everything later – much later – that night. Even turned his skin to metal for her, and laughed, the chuckle booming hollowly in his chest, when she knocked on it and hurt her knuckles.

“Owww!” She’d hit a little too hard. He shimmered back to normal – acres of warm, lightly-tanned skin over smooth muscle – and took her hand in his, kissing her knuckles gently.

“Careful, Птичка моя. Don’t hurt yourself.”

“But I want to know how it works!”

“Some things aren’t meant to be understood, Jemma.” He pressed a gentle finger to his words, written across the curve of her ribs. “Some things are just magic.”

She narrowed her eyes at him. “Magic’s just a word for technology we don’t understand yet.”

“If you say so.” He opened his marked palm over her ribs and they both felt the crackle of the soulbond, steadily strengthening between them. Already, he couldn’t bear the thought of being without her. “Feels like magic to me, though.”

She had no answer for that. Just put her arms around his neck and reached to kiss him again.

 

Птичка моя – my little bird

 

Chapter Text

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Surely this is what they do to the badasses? Why am I trussed up like a damn goose? Fitz couldn’t help but wonder. Bad enough that he’d been captured, but apparently his captors were utterly paranoid as well, not to mention sadistic. He was chained up, thick cuffs locked around his wrists, his arms above his head, attached to another chain hanging from the ceiling. He could just about keep his feet flat on the floor, but his shoulders and elbows were wrenched agonisingly to the limits of the joints. Every now and then he raised up on tiptoes for a few moments, but it didn’t really relieve the pressure. He couldn’t even scream, because there was a rubber ball gag stuffed into his mouth, tied off behind his head.

This is payment for your sins, Leopold Fitz, he could almost hear his mother’s voice in his head, and rolled his eyes. Fantastic. Now I’m hallucinating.

If I’m hallucinating, can we get to the good bit of the fantasy? Because – well, he’d had this fantasy before. Or one awfully like it. Without the pain in his shoulders, and with a lot more sultry Russian spy.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“This is the place,” Natasha whispered softly in Coulson’s ear. “I know where they’ll be holding him. I can get him out quietly.”

Coulson eyed the base through his binoculars. The place was too big, too well manned to do it the noisy way. He nodded without looking at the Widow. “Please try to keep him alive, Natasha. I need him.”

“I’ll get him back for you. This is my specialty.” Natasha touched light fingers to Coulson’s shoulder and was gone, a silent ghost in the night.

It certainly was her specialty, Natasha mused as she slipped silently through the base, avoiding detection with ease. She loved hostage rescue. Not that she ever got any payoff. Why couldn’t there ever be a nice guy who’d be suitably grateful to be rescued by the Black Widow? But noooo, they were always either too traumatised at having to be rescued at all, or pissed at being rescued by a girl. She almost snorted.

There it was, the doorway to the prisoner containment area. Natasha stopped and tapped three times on her com in a prearranged signal.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The earth trembled slightly. Fitz had fallen into an exhausted, semi-somnolent state, but after a moment he lifted his head.

“Skye?” he said, or would have, if he’d been able to make any sound come out. The room was brightly lit, but there was no one in it. Until the door opened, and a lithe redhead in a black catsuit slipped in.

Fitz blinked. Now I’m really hallucinating.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

There he is. The young engineer from Coulson’s team, chained up in a horribly awkward stance. He blinked blue eyes at her vaguely.

“Do you know who I am? I’m here to get you out,” Natasha whispered, darting quickly up to Fitz. “Don’t make a sound – oh.” God, those sadists gagged him as well.

“NNNN?” he said, eyes very wide.

“Sshh!” She pulled a knife, reached to cut the gag off. “I’ll take this off but you have to be quiet!”

The ball gag slipped out of his mouth and Fitz let out a hiss of pain as his jaw muscles creaked. The Black Widow looked up at him sympathetically, sheathing her knife – wow, he’d never realised the gorgeous redhead was actually shorter than he was. She looked about six foot tall on TV. But in soft black pumps that made no sound on the concrete floor, she was only about five foot four.

“It’s all right,” Natasha touched his jaw gently. Handsome lad, she thought a bit irreverently, nice face, with those lovely blue eyes. She looked up at his chained hands, frowned slightly. “I’m going to have to climb you to get those chains undone. It’ll hurt your shoulders even more, but there’s nothing else for it.” And she jumped up, wrapping slim legs around his torso.

Oh. My. God.

Fitz held very still, his nose shoved deep into the Black Widow’s cleavage, as she worked at the cuffs on his wrists with a lockpick.

Hallucination or not, this is going to be my spank bank fantasy for the rest of my LIFE.

The cuffs came undone, and Fitz’s arms dropped. He let out a pained groan Natasha felt through her body, buried in her chest as his face was, but he held still, his body straight, as she slid down him – until she hung up on a rather impressive erection.

Oh dear God she knows I’ve popped a boner.

“That’s an unusual reaction,” Natasha quipped with surprise as she dropped lightly to the floor.

Well – either she’s gonna kill me now or this really is the best hallucination fantasy ever – maybe they gave me the gooood drugs. Either way I’m gonna say what I always say in these fantasies...

“How can I ever thank you?” he rasped out, his mouth and throat sore from the gag.

Huh. Natasha cocked her head. Her soulmate words. The first time since they’d appeared on her hip twenty-eight years ago that someone had said them to her.

Leo Fitz looked to be about twenty-eight.

“Well,” she said softly, “when we get out of here, I can think of a whole selection of ways you might like to say thank you. I could even tie you up and rescue you all over again, if you like.”

Oh dear God I’m going to come in my shorts if she keeps looking at me like that.

Natasha pushed her wonder – and rising lust – aside. “But right now, I have to get you out of here. Can you walk?”

“I’ll follow you to Hell itself if I have to,” Fitz said back fervently. Especially if I get to watch that ass along the way…

 

Chapter Text

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“Excuse me,” a voice said at his elbow, and Fandral turned from watching Thor toasting the room full of Midgardian warriors to see a small, delicate lady standing at his elbow. She was pretty, he thought, with her pointed chin, wavy chestnut hair and large hazel eyes.

“Lady Jemma, is it not?” he bowed gallantly. “How may I serve?”

“Oh,” Jemma blushed. The tall blond warrior Thor had called Fandral – the Dashing, and she could quite see why, he was obnoxiously gorgeous – had turned up with Thor and Sif earlier at an extremely fortuitous moment and helped defeat the monsters that had been just about to overrun the Playground. A nasty gift from Lorelei, apparently, who was still pissed with Coulson’s team and had escaped Asgard again. Fandral had killed the enchantress with a swing of the long sword now sheathed across his back, ending the battle.

Despite that, he was much less intimidating than Thor and Sif, with his ready smile and dancing eyes.

“I was wondering if I might ask a very large favour?”

“I should be honoured to undergo a quest for your favour, beautiful maiden!”

She was very young. And even prettier when she blushed. She giggled at his extravagant words, and then opened her mouth and said the very last thing he expected.

“I want your blood.”

What?” he stumbled back, hand going up to the hilt of his sword. Thor had sworn that none of the Vampyrii yet existed on Midgard…

“That came out wrong!” Jemma panicked. “I’m a bio-scientist and I’m really fascinated by the differences between Asgardians and humans, I was wondering if I could possibly get a blood sample and I’m too scared to ask Thor or Sif…”

Fandral found himself laughing. She was adorable. “Of course, Lady Jemma. Lead the way.”

Jemma nodded, leading him out of the common room and down to the lab. Everyone else was upstairs partying – relieved to be alive – and they were quite alone. Fandral looked around with interest as she switched on lights and took out blood collection apparatus, snapping on a pair of latex gloves.

“Your arm,” she gestured at his elbow, and he nodded, stripping off his leather jerkin and rolling up the sleeve of the fine silk shirt he wore beneath.

Jemma gulped, looking at the thickly corded muscles of his forearm. It was warm under her touch, and as his bicep flexed, the vein conveniently appeared. She poked the needle at it.

It snapped clean off.

“Oh crap!” Jemma started back, looking for the broken needle.

Fandral let out a laugh. “I fear this may be a problem, my lady. Your Earth steel will not easily pierce Asgardian skin.”

“Apparently!” Jemma found the broken needle and picked it up carefully, depositing it in her sharps container. She stripped off her contaminated gloves and dumped them. “So – I guess I can’t take a sample, then,” she said, crestfallen.

“Certainly you can.” Fandral disliked seeing that disappointed look on her face. He drew a short knife from his belt and offered it to her. “Cut me – here,” he gestured at his forearm. “Hold a bowl beneath to catch the blood.”

“No, I couldn’t!” she gasped, horrified. He raised a mocking blond eyebrow – and flipped the knife over, drawing it across his arm in a long, deep slice. “Oh my God!”

“Catch it quickly, my lady, already the wound begins to heal,” Fandral murmured.

Jemma looked frantically around, found a clean beaker and held it under the dripping blood with shaking hands. He was right, though, in under two minutes the wound was entirely closed up and there was only perhaps a quarter cupful of dark red blood in the beaker.

“Please don’t ever do that again,” she put the beaker down and grabbed for a packet of surgical wipes, ripping them open and pressing one against his arm, wiping away the smeared blood over the freshly formed scar. “Will this fade?” she pressed her fingers against it, uncaring that she had forgotten to put fresh gloves on.

“Ahhh!” they both cried out simultaneously. Jemma would have pulled away, because it burned like fire where her skin touched his, but his other hand came up and clamped her fingers against his arm in a grip she couldn’t have broken with a crowbar.

Oh my God, Asgardian blood must be toxic to humans – wait, why’s he in pain as well?

The pain faded, but Fandral didn’t let go of her hand, staring deep into her eyes.

“It is you,” he whispered wonderingly. “A thousand years I’ve searched for you, my lady.”

“What?” she blinked. He lifted his hand, taking hers with it, turning it over to reveal a row of tiny golden runes printed on her fingertips – and a row of tiny silver ones along the cut on his arm. “What does that say?”

He read for a moment, laughed slightly. “These say Property of Jemma Simmons. Yours say Beloved of Fandral. They are soul-marks, my lady, Asgardian soul-marks. Apparently your soul feels the need to claim ownership of me.”

Jemma’s jaw hit the floor. She’d resigned herself that she was never going to get a soulmark, reaching her age without the words appearing on her body. “You’re my soulmate?” she gasped out.

“Yes, my lady.” His greenish-golden eyes gazed deep into hers and she shivered as she felt something click into place inside her. It was a deeply satisfying feeling, like a key turning in a lock. Two halves of something becoming whole.

“Yes,” Jemma whispered, staring up at Fandral, and it was she who reached up to his face, framing it in her small hands, drawing him down for a kiss.

“By Odin’s eye, Fandral, we can’t take you anywhere!” Thor boomed disapprovingly about three minutes later.

“No,” Fandral murmured, lifting his head, looking down at Jemma who clung to him, her arms still around his neck. “No, Thor, you can’t. I’ve found my place – and I’m not going anywhere.”

 

Chapter Text

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“Remind me again why we are dealing with a dictator?”

Skye sounded outraged. Coulson sighed and looked at her. How was everything still so black and white to Skye? he wondered. After everything she’s seen, everything she’s been through

“Skye, there are dictators and then there are dictators. Victor von Doom may be an absolute monarch, but he’s no Mugabe. Latveria was an impoverished Baltic nation fighting to keep from being swallowed up by its neighbours when Doom ascended the throne. Today, Latverians have the highest standard of living of any nation on Earth.”

“And closed borders,” Skye snapped back. “No immigration or emigration.”

“Again not strictly true. Doom is just very, very picky about who he allows citizenship to. Productive members of society only. Unemployment is less than one per cent, and those who are disadvantaged or handicapped are assisted. Frankly, if I was Latverian? I wouldn’t want to emigrate.”

“Humph,” Skye muttered. “I still think it’s wrong. All those people living in luxury…”

“Skye, ten years ago all those people were starving to death! I was in Latveria once, back in ’96, I think it was…” Phil shook his head. “A more miserable hellhole I’ve never seen. Doom has worked miracles. And he says he’s willing to provide S.H.I.E.L.D. with a safe haven on European soil, and bankroll our operations. He believes in what we’re doing and he hates HYDRA. So please. Mind your manners.”

“Am I still allowed to think he’s an asshole?” Skye muttered angrily.

“Plenty of people do, I believe,” a smooth, deep voice said behind her, making her jump and let out a shocked scream, fumbling for the weapon she’d had to surrender before entering the embassy. She whirled, trying to strike out, but two large hands suddenly had hold of her wrists, holding her still.

“Looks like your boss isn’t the only asshole around here!” she snapped at the tall, dark, handsome man before her. He reminded her of Ward, a little, though he was probably a few years older. And even better-looking, his beautifully symmetrical features only accentuated by a tiny scar on one cheek.

Dark brows angled downwards over striking blue eyes. For a long moment they stared at each other, and then he looked at Coulson.

“Would you care to enlighten her, Director?”

“Skye,” Coulson said rather nervously, “you’ve just insulted the President of Latveria. Twice. And attempted to assault him. Please stand down.”

“Get away from me,” Skye snapped, ignoring Coulson completely. “Let go of me!”

“And why should I do that?” Those mobile dark brows arched, and he smiled slowly. “I think you’re the first person ever to think anyone might be my ‘boss’, and quite probably the last. So are you going to show me the words, or am I going to have to make you?”

“No,” Skye gasped out, struggling against his grip. Too spooked to even think about using her power against him – not that she would dare, she’d never tried it against another human being and it might just kill him and…

No! I don’t want you, you stand for everything I hate!”

“So did S.H.I.E.L.D., once,” Phil murmured, watching with fascination as he realised what was happening. As Doom’s sleeve slid up his forearm with Skye’s struggles, revealing a line of words around his wrist in her spiky handwriting. “I really am going to have to ask you to let her go, Mr. President.”

He let her struggle for a moment longer, just long enough to make it quite clear that she couldn’t get away if he didn’t want her to. And then he let go, and surprised Skye by making a small bow to her.

“That, I believe, was the very definition of a bad beginning, and I hope you won’t hold it against me. Good day. I am Victor von Doom. It’s nice to meet you.”

Skye looked down at the hand he held out to her, that large, powerful hand that had gripped like steel around her wrist. Looked up into those startlingly blue eyes.

“This is Agent Skye, sir,” Phil said quietly when she couldn’t find her voice. She did manage to raise her hand to shake his, and was stunned again when he lifted it to his lips in an old-fashioned courtesy. The slight brush of his lips against her knuckles sent a shiver down her spine.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, ma’am,” Victor said courteously, his eyes locked with the dark gaze of the slight woman who held the missing half of his soul. And who apparently hated his guts.

“Um,” Skye said helplessly, for once utterly lost for words. “Hi.”

She heard Phil choke next to her, and then Doom turned to Coulson with a charming smile.

“Director, I do apologise for any inconvenience, but I’m sure you understand I’ve been rather thrown a curveball here.”

YOU’VE been thrown a curveball!

Phil was nodding, though, the traitorous bastard, and smiling. “Yes, sir, I do understand. Perhaps you’d like me to go and sit, um, over there?” He gestured to the very far end of the extremely large and opulent reception room they’d been shown into. Doom nodded and smiled back, so he headed off, choosing a seat right in the corner where he could still see them but wouldn’t hear their conversation. Not unless Skye started screaming, anyway.

“This is weird,” Skye finally found her voice. “How are you my soulmate? You’re a, a, a…” she couldn’t quite come up with the word.

“Please don’t say super-villain, it’s so cliché,” he sighed.

“...Monarch!”

“And you’re an anti-establishment anarchist. Or you were,” he arched his eyebrows at her. “You changed your mind about S.H.I.E.L.D., Skye. Give me a chance to make you change your mind about me, too.”

He was still, somehow, holding onto the hand he’d kissed. He lifted it back to his lips, brushed them over her knuckles again, and smiled into her eyes.

“I think we could achieve great things together.”

 

Chapter Text

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“Skye,” May walked into her office, “would you care to explain why I have a very irritated accountant on the phone asking why you’ve been siphoning money from one of the Worthington philanthropic funds?”

She looked up, wide-eyed. “No?”

“You mean no, you wouldn’t care to explain?”

“No, how the fuck did he catch me at it?”

“That’s a discussion you can have with Mr Drake while you’re arranging to pay the money back. Worthington’s one of the good guys, Skye. He might have nearly as much money as Stark but he does even more philanthropic work with it. He’s agreed not to pursue us – indeed, to look the other way – as long as the money goes back and you apologise. So go meet with Mr Drake.”

Jemma convinced Skye that she should go to the meeting looking professional – as opposed to her usual street-chic look – and persuaded Skye into a smart navy skirt suit, cream silk blouse, pantyhose and heeled pumps.

Jemma would probably have carried it off beautifully. The English rose never seemed to overheat. On a stinking hot August day in New York, Skye was absolutely melting, though. Any makeup she’d been wearing was long since melted off by the time she got to the Worthington building. Which wasn’t nearly air-conditioned enough, in her opinion. She gave her name to a snooty receptionist and was sent up to a very high floor, greeted by an even snootier secretary and shown into a very opulent – and deliciously cool – office.

Skye couldn’t help a small moan of pleasure as the cold air hit her skin, raising goose-bumps. And then she met the eyes of the man seated behind the desk, saw his expression change as he heard the embarrassingly sensual sound she’d just let out.

“Hi,” she said, embarrassed, giving him a small waggle of her fingers.

Oh, wow, he’s rather yummy. I wouldn’t mind if he wanted to make me let out more sounds like that…

Bobby sighed mentally. I hate it when pretty girls say ‘Hi’ to me. Always gets my hopes up…

“Didn’t anyone ever tell you that you should never say anything generic like ‘Hi’ when you first meet someone, just in case they turn out to be your soulmate?”

Skye’s mouth fell open. “Well, yes,” she said, “but since I always knew I was going to say ‘Hi’ to my soulmate, I kind of got in the habit of saying it anyway?”

What?” he shot to his feet. He wasn’t particularly tall, only a couple of inches taller than Skye in her heels, but pleasingly broad-shouldered beneath his shirt and tie. He came stalking towards her and her eyes widened, because he did not move like an office nerd, not even one who worked out. He had the lethal glide and grace of a trained operative. She worked with enough of them to recognise it by now.

“You’re apparently the reason why half my lower back is covered in writing, so you owe me at least a little bit of honesty here,” she said, backing hastily towards the door. “You’re no accountant. What the hell are you?”

Bobby hesitated in mid-stride. Stopped still and held his hands up placatingly. “You’re Agent Skye, right? One of Coulson’s?”

She nodded, wide dark eyes fixed on his.

“Then you’ll know about the X-Men.”

Oh. Skye blinked. Worthington was a mutant, one of the few in the public eye, not that he had much choice with those spectacular wings of his. She supposed it wasn’t at all unlikely that there could be a fair few mutants working under his benevolent aegis. “You’re X?”

“X-gene positive, yes.” He could see the question hovering in her eyes, so he held out his hand and concentrated, creating.

Skye stared in astonishment as tiny fragments of blue ice started to whirl over his outstretched hand. In just moments they were coalescing into something solid, and then he was holding something out to her.

It was a rose, a perfect flower sculpted from blue ice. She took it wonderingly; it was hard and cold under her fingers, but as soon as he let go she could feel the ice warming and turning slick.

“They call me Iceman,” Bobby said, enjoying her expression. “But to correct you – I am, also, an accountant. Robert Drake, but call me Bobby.”

“That’s kind of cool,” Skye admitted. “I’m not X-gene positive. I’m something else.” She could feel the ice starting to drip on her fingers. So she concentrated and sent a tiny quake through it.

Ice shattered away from her hand, and Bobby started back. “What the hell…?”

“They call me Quake. I’m still learning to control my powers, though.” She could feel the vibrations of the tiny quake even now.

“I could – maybe help you with that.” He stepped forward, offered his hand. “It’s taken a lot of work to fine-tune my skills.”

Skye nodded, thinking of the perfection of that icy rose. “Thank you.” She slipped her hand into his, surprised to find it warm. “Hey,” she couldn’t resist the joke, “d’you wanna build a snowman?”

“If you ever call me Elsa we’re through,” he grinned at her, admiring her bright eyes, the way her lips curved as though she wanted to laugh.

“But there are so many Frozen jokes I could make,” she lamented. “Do you sing? Please tell me that you’ve sung Let It Go at least once while building a castle out of ice…”

He shut her up with a kiss.

“If you ever sing that song in my presence,” Bobby murmured a couple of minutes later, when Skye was relaxed in his arms, her fingers running through his spiked blond hair, “I will put you over my knee and spank you.”

She looked up at him, eyes dancing, lips swollen from being thoroughly kissed. “Promise?”

 

Chapter Text

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This is bad. This is real bad. Bobbi breathed through her mouth, feeling the blood trickling down her throat from her smashed nose. Hurry up, Iz

She was tied to a chair, and the Chechen asshole in front of her wasn’t running his mouth as he was supposed to. He was just beating the shit out of her. She couldn’t even flip the chair in the trick Izzy had taught her, because the fucking thing was bolted down. All she could do was sit and take the beating, and hope Izzy and whoever she was working with here came along soon…

Pain exploded along her cheekbone and she screamed as she felt the delicate bone shatter.

Fucking hell, Fury had better cough up for a good surgeon to fix this shit!

Half-blinded, she rocked her head back upright just in time to see the Chechen’s head explode in a red mist.

“Like to pick on defenceless women, you wanker?” a voice said in a distinctly English accent, and she focussed vaguely on a stocky, compact man in urban-patterned combat gear coming out of the shadows, silenced pistol in hand.

“You asshole,” she said thickly through smashed lips, “I needed him alive!”

The Brit turned to her with a surprised look on his face. After a moment he sheathed the pistol and pulled out a wicked-looking combat knife. “You’re welcome, darlin’,” he said dryly, and started slashing the cable ties which bound her to the chair.

“Ugh,” Bobbi was disgusted with her own weakness when she couldn’t stand up. “You don’t understand, he hadn’t told me where his base of operations was!”

“He didn’t have one.” The soldier got his shoulder under her arm and lifted, taking her weight easily. He was an inch or so shorter than she was, so it was surprisingly comfortable to lean on his sturdy frame while she got her legs under her. “Not any more. I blew it the fuck up about three hours ago. Y’know, Izzy seemed to think you’d be happier to see me than this.”

She couldn’t help but groan, the pain hitting her as she tried to move.

“You want me to carry you, darlin’?”

“No!” not on her first solo undercover mission, hell no she wasn’t going to be carried out like some fainting useless heroine. “My SO would have my head.”

“Not considering the state of you.”

Hunter looked with concern at the tall woman staggering along at his side. She was in pretty bad shape. Agent Morse, Hartley had called her. Young but already considered a superb S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. A skilled interrogator. Only things had gone wrong, her cover blown, and the Chechen had been taking a vicious pleasure in destroying what had apparently been spectacular looks. “Hang in there, darlin’,” he muttered, wondering if she really was his soulmate. She hadn’t reacted when he spoke to her, though, so maybe not. “I’ll have you out of here soon.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Bobbi came awake slowly, opening her eyes and taking in the hospital room around her. Someone was sitting by her bedside, and she turned her head to see a dark-haired man sitting there, reading a book. She took in his features curiously. Sharp cheekbones, dark eyes, the kind of starved-wolf look she’d always found attractive in a man.

“Who are you?” she croaked.

“Hunter. Sergeant Lance Hunter of the 22nd.”

“22nd is the SAS,” she dredged from her sleep-muddled brain.

“Who dares, wins,” he quoted his regimental motto at her, grinning. “So with that in mind, darlin’, how about a date?”

“What?” she could feel the bandages covering her face. Remembered the sickening cracks of her facial bones shattering. “You can’t want to, I…” she lifted a hand, touched her bandaged jaw.

“This is the only time I might not have to beat all the other guys off with a stick,” he said with a shrug, those lovely chocolate-coloured eyes laughing. “I’ve seen photos. The surgeons have done a bang-up job, darlin’, don’t worry, you’ll be just as beautiful as you ever were in no time.”

“Well,” she said, a bit embarrassed at being so vain, “maybe when I’m not hideous, I’ll take you up on that?”

“I’m not worried about waiting.” He seemed to hesitate for a moment, and then he stood and slowly started to unbutton his shirt.

Bobbi wasn’t going to object because it looked as though he might be very nicely built under the plain black button-down, although it seemed a little odd for him to be giving her a striptease. Until he pulled the shirt open and revealed the scrawled writing she recognised only too well across his collarbones.

You asshole, I needed him alive!

“Oh,” she said a bit blankly.

“Yeah, and after I harassed Iz for about three hours she agreed to look. Apparently my words are on your arse, which is probably appropriate seeing what you think of me.”

She looked at the insult on his chest. Apologies weren’t exactly her style, though. So she said instead; “I guess I owe you a date, at least.”

“You don’t owe me anything, darlin’. It’d be nice to rock up at the Regiment’s Christmas ball with a beautiful secret agent on my arm, though.”

Christmas was four months away. She’d be all healed up by then, good as new. She looked into his eyes, liked the fact that he wasn’t pushing her. “You got yourself a date, soldier.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

At the SAS Regimental Christmas Ball

She was the most beautiful woman in the room by miles, turning every head. In a stunning turquoise gown that set off her blonde hair to perfection and four-inch silver heels, she towered over him. And he absolutely didn’t give a shit.

“Gonna marry you,” he told her as they danced together, she light and graceful in his arms.

“Are you now?” she arched her eyebrows at him.

“Yep. You’re clearly far too dangerous to be left on the loose.”

She smiled. “So are you, soldier.”

 

Chapter Text

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“Pietro,” Wanda’s voice said hoarsely, “quick is not always a good thing. Most women wouldn’t consider it so, anyway.”

“Oh,” he blushed quite charmingly, Jemma realised, and had to smother a smile as she made her way to her patient.

“How are you feeling?” she reached to take Wanda’s hand.

“Good. It’s nice to meet you. We’ve both been looking forward to it.” Her eyes were startlingly green, and not at all in focus, Jemma realised.

“Well, I’m Jemma,” she said a bit uncertainly, looking over her shoulder as May, Hunter and Coulson came running into the jet. “We’ll be taking off now, it’ll be a bit bumpy until we rendezvous with the Bus – that’s a big plane – at altitude, and then we can get you transferred.”

“That’s nice. I’m looking forward to meeting her,” Wanda said, and then her eyes drifted closed.

Pietro grabbed at Jemma, steadying her, as the jet lifted off the ground. She leaned into him for a moment, smiling shyly, but her expression quickly shifted to one of concern.

“I think Wanda may be concussed. Or have bleeding on the brain. We really need to get her up to the Bus as quickly as possible so I can get her into the med bay and use the CT scanner…”

“Jemma,” he caught at her hands gently. “Wanda’s not concussed or anything. She talks funny sometimes, when she has visions. She’s been seeing this day for years, the day when we both meet our soulmates. I can’t tell you how many times she’s told me about you, but her descriptions – well, she never did you justice.”

They were staring at each other, leaning in for a kiss, when Hunter’s wolf-whistle broke it up. Jemma gave the former mercenary two fingers without even looking at him, but he was right. Attractive though Pietro was, this really wasn’t the time or place.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“You won’t believe it, but Simmons managed to find her soulmate,” Hunter told Skye gleefully. She gave him an incredulous look.

“What?”

“Yup. The guy we rescued. He’s a strange one, and his sister’s even odder.”

“This I have to see,” Skye decided, and headed down to the med bay. She’d begged to go on the mission, but Coulson had vetoed it. Hulk got nervous when the ground started shaking for no reason he could discern. Big wuss, Skye thought.

Well, that had to be Jemma’s soulmate then, the tall white-haired man standing just inside the med-bay door, arms folded over his muscular chest as he watched Jemma fuss over a pretty dark-haired girl. The man gave Skye a quick glance, and then a longer, slower perusal, mouth quirking up in a grin.

Oh my God poor Jemma, her soulmate’s an asshole, he just ogled me, was Skye’s immediate thought. And then he turned away, still grinning, and looked at his sister.

“Wanda,” Pietro said softly, “she’s here.”

Wanda gestured impatiently and the penlight Jemma was trying to shine in her eyes flew out of her hand and hit the wall. Wanda pushed herself up to a sitting position and focussed on Skye.

Full, soft lips curved in a beautiful smile, green eyes glowed, and then Wanda said, “Oh, you are beautiful. I’m so happy to meet you.”

Skye took a startled step backwards. Jemma blinked. “Skye? Aren’t those your soulmark words?” Something hit her then. “Wait, you said Wanda knew the two of you would meet your soulmates on the same day?” she stared at Pietro. He nodded with a smile, reaching to take Jemma’s hand and draw her towards him, giving his sister the space she needed.

“I really thought you preferred guys!” Jemma said to Skye, startled.

“I used to. Until I realised that all they wanted to do was use me and tear me down,” Skye said bitterly, thinking of her past mistakes. Miles. Ward. No, indeed, she’d always liked women too and she doubted she could ever bring herself to trust a man again. Somehow it was no surprise that her soulmate was a woman, and this girl was lovely, about her own age or a touch older, with soft straight dark hair and those astonishingly green eyes.

“I won’t do that,” Wanda held her hand out slowly, as though coaxing a skittish animal, and slowly, Skye came to her and took it. “I don’t want to use you or hurt you. You’re amazing, Quake.”

Skye’s eyes popped wide. Nobody, not even Phil, knew the name she’d decided to adopt for herself, to use when she wished to remain anonymous. She hadn’t shared it yet, not quite ready to declare herself equal with the other ‘code name’ heroes.

Wanda carried on, uncaring that Skye hadn’t yet spoken her soulmark words, knowing that they would come, when the moment was right. “We’re going to be an amazing team. I can use my probability powers to make your quakes strike only where they need to. I’m afraid I need one thing from you, though.”

“Whatever you need,” Skye found her voice at last, awed and wondering. “I’ll do.”

“There’ll come a day when it’s possible that I might unmake the universe. When that day comes?”

Skye only stared at her wide-eyed. Wanda gave her a reassuring smile.

“I’m going to need you to give me a good slap across the face and tell me to snap out of it.”

 

Chapter Text

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“Urgh,” Bruce opened his eyes. The world tilted. Blurred. He shut them again.

“Are you all right?”

He was far too accustomed to people asking him that, but it wasn’t usually a light, feminine voice speaking. He kept his eyes closed. “I will be. Please stay away from me.” Something occurred to him then and he scrabbled at his waist in a panic. Oh, thank God, the super-stretchy pants Tony had created were still on. He wasn’t bare-ass naked in front of some poor girl.

She didn’t say anything, and he assumed she’d left. Until something soft draped over his shoulders.

Reluctantly, he forced his eyes open. Saw her sitting beside him. Very young, as he’d thought from her voice; well, not a child, mid-twenties probably, but young compared to him. Especially since he felt about a hundred at the moment, as usual after a Hulk transformation.

“You really shouldn’t sit so close,” he gathered the soft thing around his shoulders, realised it was a survival blanket. “I’m dangerous.”

“I know what you are.” She had dark brown eyes with a slight tilt to them. “I know who you are. Bruce Banner, PhD, aka The Hulk. I’m Skye.” She smiled at his wary expression. “Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., I work for Coulson. We were watching your, well, the Avengers, disagreement with MODOK from up high.”

And just like that he remembered. “Fucking technomancer and his clever-ass transformation ray,” he muttered under his breath.

“Yes, I’m afraid he took you out of the fight early. Stark told Coulson he had the situation under control so we followed you from the air. He did, incidentally. Or rather, Hawkeye did. An EMP arrow took care of the problem.”

“And Coulson sent you down to take care of me?” he huffed, cautiously sitting up. “Has he run out of more senior agents with any balls, then?”

Skye’s eyes widened, and she failed to suppress a laugh. “Uh, I volunteered. And since I’m the one you’re least likely to be able to hurt, Coulson agreed. Eventually.” She had a small pack on her knees she’d taken the blanket from; she dug back into it now and produced a bottle of water and a protein bar, offered them both.

Bruce accepted, eyeing her curiously. “That statement makes me think you’re a lot more dangerous than you look.”

Skye smiled tightly.

“So, uh, you said the words that are on my leg,” she said after they’d sat in silence for a few minutes, Bruce slowly eating the protein bar and drinking his water, grateful that someone had obviously briefed Coulson and his team on what state he’d be in after an involuntary transformation.

“I what?” he spat out a bit of water, fortunately missing her.

“I’m sure people ask you if you’re all right quite often, really, so I’d have to see my words to be sure,” Skye was blushing slightly, “or I’ll have to, um, well…” She tapped her fingers on the inside of her thigh. In the close-fitting black combat pants she was wearing, she’d have to take them down to show him.

“I can’t possibly be your soulmate! It’s not a platonic mark!” he said the first thing that came to mind.

“Oh,” she flinched back. “You’re in love with someone else? Or – gay?”

“Neither – but you can’t be more than half my age…”

“I am twenty-six and you’re forty-one,” she said with dignity. “I am a good deal more than half your age. Plus, while your hair might be starting to grey at your temples in what I must say is a very distinguished and sexy look, I happen to know that you are in peak physical condition thanks to the Other Guy, as apparently you prefer to call him. If you don’t want me, just say so. Don’t make invalid excuses.”

He was staring at her with his mouth slightly open, his delicious chocolaty eyes wide. Skye resisted the compulsion to crawl into his lap and cuddle him. Hulk might not like it. She let out a small sigh.

Oh well. It’s not like I ever do anything the easy way. Finding out my soulmate has a rage monster alter ego should be pretty much par for the course, really. She took a certain vindictive pleasure in hoping Ward tried something when Bruce was nearby, though. Skye suspected she’d really enjoy watching Hulk play soccer ball with Ward’s head.

She was gorgeous. Young and beautiful, obviously smart, darkly pretty in the kind of way that had always made Bruce take a second look, or indeed a third. More than that, she knew about him and she wasn’t running screaming. Indeed, she was casting him a decidedly flirtatious look under her lashes.

“I won’t ask you to show me your words,” he said flatly, shrugged the blanket off his shoulders and stood, edging down the waist of his pants to show the words just on the upper curve of his ass. Skye stood gracefully, stepped close to look.

“Yes, that’s my writing,” she murmured. Her fingers lightly brushed the small of his back, and she looked up at him. “Looks like you’re stuck with me, then.”

“I really do think you’ve got that backwards,” but he couldn’t resist curling an arm around her, drawing her closer. Hulk was silent in the back of his mind, Bruce could feel him watching with a silent fascination that actually boded quite well for his staying out of things.

Skye’s arms slid around his neck. “We’ve all got baggage,” she said quietly. “Some of us are just better at sharing the load. Let me share yours, Bruce.”

He smiled down at her. “It’s quite a load.”

“I’m stronger than I look.”

Somehow, he didn’t doubt it. And as her arms tightened around his neck and she drew him down for a kiss, he had the strangest feeling, for the first time in a very long time, that everything really was going to be all right.

 

Chapter Text

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Why am I always the one who gets into these situations?

Jemma had to wonder as she cowered under the lab bench, watching the guy with the crazy eyes wandering around muttering to himself. The job seemed so simple, go undercover at this small-town lab Phil suspected was creating a knockoff of the Centipede serum and find out what was really happening.

It wasn't Centipede, was in fact something that was none of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s business, Jemma had found out just that morning.  It was another version of the mutant-depowering serum, which made it squarely a problem for the X-Men. She'd emailed it in to Phil and asked for extraction.

Only, someone else had arrived first. She recognised the blond from briefings on the X-Men – only this wasn't one of Xavier's. This was the dangerous mutant known as Pyro. He'd already killed the three other lab staff and was now roaming around selecting horribly flammable chemicals and mixing them with a dangerous look of glee on his face.

Jemma tried not to breathe loudly. Wondered if she was going to make it out this time. Only her natural instincts had kept her alive thus far, since she’d dived under the bench at the first gunshot outside, when the other scientists had frozen in place – and died when Pyro came in the door.

“That should do it,” Pyro murmured, and began pouring the horribly volatile mixture he'd just made along the floor in front of the storage freezers. When he'd finished, he took a Zippo out of his pocket and flipped it open, a grin forming on his face.

Jemma took a deep breath. He's put the gun away. I have to run. Now. He might survive that explosion but I won't...

She was running like hell for the door when the world went red and white and very loud.

 

Jesus H Christ! Bobby leapt from the X-jet which had just landed and went belting towards the flames. Pyro, had to be, the son of a bitch... He was already creating ice, trying to contain the explosion, when movement caught his eye. A woman, her clothes on fire, doing the smart thing and rolling trying to put them out. He diverted ice and contained the flames, putting them out. He was vaguely aware of Logan, Jean and Scott running past him, but none of them could do much until he contained the flames.

“Are you okay?” he heard Scott shout at the woman.

“Yes!” Jemma shouted back over the roar of flames and the hissing crackle of ice. “It's Pyro!”

Of course it is. Bobby bared his teeth and redoubled his efforts. Within minutes the entire building was encased in a sarcophagus of ice, the flames raging inside rapidly dying as they ran out of oxygen.

“That was rather impressive,” a soft voice said by his knee as he lowered his hands finally, and he looked down to see the woman he’d saved. Her clothes were pretty much non-existent after getting burned, and he averted his eyes in embarrassment, but not without noticing that she was very attractive.

“Did you get burned?” he asked. “I can help…” he held out his hands, ice forming over them, before it occurred to him that in order to help, he’d have to put his hands on her near-naked body. He flushed slightly.

“No, I’m all right,” Jemma was surprised to discover. Her clothes had only been burning for a second or so before the thin layer of ice had crackled all over her and put the flames out, obviously created by this good-looking young man. “Thank you for saving my life.” The shock was wearing off slightly.

Bobby turned to give her a more thorough look. Shock might be making her not feel pain from any burns… he stared.

“That. On your shoulder. Is that your soulmark?” Wait, she said That was rather impressive to me…

“Yes?” Jemma stared up at him. “Oh,” she suddenly realised what he’d said to her. “Wow. I always thought that would happen in the kitchen or something. I’m a terrible cook.”

His lips twitched, and he unzipped and peeled off his tight-fitting leather jacket and reached to put it around her, offering his hand to help her up.

“Can’t say I had any expectations about when I’d meet you.” She was smaller than he was by about five inches, he discovered. Which was nice, her pretty hazel eyes on a level with his chin. She looked up at him and smiled, huddling his jacket around her.

“I’m Jemma.”

“Bobby. Please tell me you weren’t an evil scientist working in that lab?”

“Actually I’m an undercover agent from S.H.I.E.L.D. and I’m guessing you’re here because Coulson called?”

Bobby smiled in relief. Over her shoulder, he could see Scott melting a tunnel into the ice encasing the building, Logan preparing to go in. Pyro should be unconscious by now from lack of oxygen, but Jean was ready just in case. Bobby’s work was done, for now. He put an arm around his soulmate, holding his jacket closed around her body.

“I’m sure this is all backwards,” he said with a grin, “but could I get you some clothes to put on?”

Jemma found herself giggling at the amusement dancing in his blue eyes. “I suppose we’d better.”

“Though I hope you’ll give me the chance to take them off later,” his voice went deep and soft, and he stared into her eyes.

“I’m sure that could be arranged,” Jemma murmured. Oh my goodness he’s gorgeous.

Oh my goodness he’s going to kiss me…

They were kissing passionately when the older X-Men returned, an unconscious Pyro slung over Logan’s shoulder.

“What the – I thought we brought Bobby, not Gambit?” Scott said incredulously to Jean, who blinked, read a few surface thoughts and smiled.

“She’s his soulmate.”

“The lucky little fucker,” Logan eyed Jemma’s bare legs appreciatively until Bobby threw a fistful of ice shards at him without ever breaking the kiss.

 

Chapter Text

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May prided herself on her poker face. She’d played cards with Remy LeBeau and held her own, at least until the Cajun cheated. She watched with a certain degree of amusement as even Phil and Bobbi failed to hold their neutral expressions when introduced to Gamora, the beautiful green woman, the knee-high tree called Groot, the talking racoon and the hugely muscled guy who apparently didn’t like shirts.

She ran her eyes over him appreciatively, letting nothing show on her face. His skin was a strange colour, slightly greenish although not as bright as Gamora’s, patterned all over with red – veins? Scars? Tattoos? She found it faintly fascinating, would love to take a closer look.

Jemma looked radiant, barely able to separate herself from Peter, who never let her out of his sight. They were so obviously happy together that May let go of her last lingering worries. She showed her teeth in return to Rocket’s bared-teeth greeting and inclined her head politely to Gamora.

“I am Groot,” the small tree said, tapping a twig on her knee, and she went to one knee and looked into its eyes.

“I am pleased to meet you, Groot, I am Melinda May.” She held out a hand, and the tree folded twigs over it for a moment. She could swear it was beaming with pleasure.

“I am Groot!” It turned to Rocket, tapped twigs on the racoon’s shoulder. “I am Groot! We are Groot!”

“No, Groot,” Rocket growled. “We can’t keep this one.” He bared teeth at May in what she realised was Rocket’s version of a smile. “Sorry. He likes you. Says you’re one of ours.”

May found a smile curving her lips, and then a giant shadow fell over her, where she was on one knee to speak to Groot and Rocket. She rose gracefully to her feet, still smiling.

“This is Drax,” Rocket growled – she realised he sounded like that all the time. “The Destroyer.”

She looked up into surprisingly human dark brown eyes.

“Jemma has told me of your courage and skill at war,” Drax rumbled, in a voice so deep it thrummed right through her. “I am honoured to make your acquaintance.” He placed a huge hand over his heart – or where his heart would be if he was human, anyway – and then held it out to her. “Though Jemma did not speak of your beauty.”

Rocket tripped over his tail. “Did Drax just make a pass at her?”

“We are Groot!”

May’s hand stuttered on its way to meet Drax’s. The only thing she knew about the huge warrior was that Jemma had said he was incredibly literal, incapable of deception or exaggeration. And that was an admiring look on his face.

She let her eyes linger on the huge shoulders and lateral muscles. Felt that fine tremor begin in her body as she realised that finally, she was truly physically outmatched. This man would never let her be on top. He’d…

Stop fantasising about what he could do with those muscles and shake his hand already!

Her hand looked tiny and pale as it approached his. He held his hand oddly, palm up, and she laid her palm over it, hoping it was the appropriate way to greet him.

A strange heat curled around her palm, licked up her arm. May gasped, went to pull back even though the sensation wasn’t unpleasant, but enormous fingers curled around hers, holding her still.

“You,” Drax rumbled in delighted amazement. “You are my mate.” He’d thought her beautiful when he first laid eyes on her, standing so straight-backed and still, the warrior inside him recognising a soul as fierce as his own. But his mate. This was his mate.

“What the hell?” Peter turned at Drax’s words.

“Look!” Jemma gasped, clutching at his arm. He put his hand over hers automatically, staring.

It was warm in the Playground, mid-summer. May had left her jacket off and worn only a short-sleeved black T-shirt with her cargo pants. And as she held Drax’s hand, staring up into his eyes, marks were beginning to curl and twist up her arm. They weren’t red like his, but a light brown, looking almost like henna on her pale skin, but the patterns were a perfect match to the huge warrior’s.

“Peter,” Gamora came to his other side, her eyes wide, “that’s how his people find their soulmates. It’s triggered by touch…”

They all stared, dumbfounded, as May reached her free hand up to touch Drax’s face. He turned his head, pressed a kiss to her palm, and the marks started to curl down that arm as well.

“Uh,” Gamora said suddenly, “one more thing I know about his people’s mating rituals…”

“What?” Jemma peered at her, eyes bright with fascination.

“Once those marks are all over her, we had really better not be in this room. He’ll go into, ah, rut, and kill anyone in the vicinity who’s not his mate…”

Jemma looked at the marks that were already covering May’s arms, curling and twining up her neck. Then she looked up at Peter.

“RUN AWAY BRAVELY!” Peter yelled.

There was almost a crush getting through the door, and then Gamora and Peter started grabbing the nearest heavy items of furniture and piling them in front of the door. Seeing their urgency, Mack and Hunter piled in to help.

“But May…” Phil started.

“Will be fine!” Gamora said.

A snarl from behind the door made them all freeze, and then they heard May’s voice in a throaty moaning tone none of them had ever heard from her before.

“Oh, Drax, yes…”

“Let’s run away some more. Someplace not in earshot,” Peter suggested hastily.

“We should make you and Jemma stay and listen, we have to listen to you two all the damn time,” Rocket grumbled.

Eyes swung to Jemma. She blushed.

“Phil, do you still keep that bar in your office? I could definitely do with a drink.”

 

Chapter Text

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“I could almost think you wish to keep me company, little sister,” Heimdall rumbled, watching Sif carefully. She had taken to visiting the Bifrost chamber a great deal of late, and he did not think it was for the pleasure of his company. Her spine stiffened as she stood with her back to him at the observation window, though she said nothing.

“I cannot follow your gaze, but I know you bend it upon Midgard.”

“I have friends there now,” she responded after a moment. “The Son of Coul and his men and women of SHIELD.”

Heimdall walked to stand beside her, focussing briefly. “You watch while they sleep? I had not thought you a voyeur, sister.”

A flush very faintly touched her high cheekbones.

“Come; do not seek to deceive me. What is it that piques your interest? You cannot always be here to watch over whoever it is that you look at so often.”

Sif sighed and turned from the window; looked up into her brother’s golden eyes. “A man.”

“Indeed!” Heimdall tilted his head, and then smiled. “You have been alone a long time, sister. Do you follow Thor’s example and look for a consort among the Midgardians? They live fleeting lives.”

“Not this one,” Sif murmured, looking back out again. “Born of Midgard, he was made against his will into something more. He – intrigues me. Broken and made anew, he has become far more than the sum of his parts.”

To Heimdall, she would forever be his tomboyish baby sister, the little girl with scraped knees who pestered him to teach her to use a sword until he gave in and began the secret lessons which had set her on the path she followed yet. But Sif was a woman grown, with a woman’s needs and wants. She had been married, had lost her beloved husband to Lorelei’s schemes. Had declined an arranged marriage with Thor because she knew what love was and wished to wait for it to find her again.

Impulsively, Heimdall bent and kissed the top of Sif’s head. “Go to him.”

“What?” she started.

“Go to him. Now. Find out if he could be something to you. Do not waste time, Sif, Midgardians have so little of it, and even if he does live longer than most I know you would not have chosen any man other than a warrior, and warriors do fall in battle. You would regret it if you were not at his side.” Heimdall drew his sword and climbed the steps to the Bifrost mechanism.

“What, wait! Now?” Sif looked down at herself frantically. She wasn’t wearing her armour, or even a nice gown, but plain leather pants and an old tunic, since she’d come here directly from a practice bout with Fandral. At least I have my sword, was the last thought that came to her as Heimdall grinned and the Bifrost whirled her away.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Bucky – that’s my name, I really am Bucky Barnes – spun as a crashing rumble sounded behind him. His hand closed on the knife in his pocket. He had no other weapons at the moment, but he’d been planning to remedy that. There were plenty of criminals in the back alleys of Washington, DC. The city wouldn’t miss a few of the more heavily armed ones.

A woman rose from a kneeling position in the middle of the dark street. Strange golden symbols flared around her for a moment before slowly dissipating. She locked eyes with Bucky and he stared, because even when he was locked down deep in the Asset’s personality he’d still have thought she was the most beautiful dame he ever laid eyes on. Night-black hair tumbled to her shoulders and she had the most stunning face, pale and perfectly sculpted with wide, clear eyes…

“Look out!” he yelled suddenly, seeing a car come speeding around the corner. She was right in its path…

… and she was inhumanly fast.

“Okay, that’s not cool,” he pulled his knife, although looking at the big-ass sword on her back he had the distinct feeling that he was very much outgunned. Out-weaponed? Something. “Fuck off, HYDRA bitch. I’m not going back.” Not much point threatening her, so he put the knife to his own throat, pressed the tip in just above his Adam’s apple. One hard thrust would sever the brain stem. They wouldn’t get their Asset back from that.

Sif cried out in distress as she saw what he was doing. Saw the resigned determination in his blue eyes.

“No! I promise, I am not here to harm you!”

“Ain’t only ever seen but one person move as fast as you do, and there’s only one Captain America. The only other people messing with enhancements are HYDRA. So I know who you are. I’m not going back.”

He pressed the knife a little deeper, and blood started to trickle down his throat.

“Please,” a tear ran down Sif’s cheek. “Please, I’ll go. Don’t harm yourself. Please.” She took several steps back, looked up at the sky. “Heimdall!”

Nothing happened.

“Heimdall, now! I will not endanger him!”

Bucky lowered the knife.

HYDRA had been very interested in Thor and Loki. There’d been what could only be described as a sudden craze for Norse mythology, and while the Asset hadn’t exactly been briefed on what they’d concluded, he’d heard plenty.

“You’re from Asgard.” That – explained everything. The glowing symbols on the road, the super-speed, her strange clothes, that big-ass sword.  

“Yes.” She ceased shouting for Heimdall – and damn her meddling brother to Hel! – once she saw he’d lowered the knife. “I am Sif.”

“I’ve heard of you.” She’d turned up on a SHIELD mission, not long before SHIELD went south. Of course HYDRA had read all the reports.

“I’m not here to hurt you, James Buchanan Barnes.” She had beautiful eyes, silver-grey in her pale face. He saw in them only sympathy.

“I’m so tired.” The knife clattered to the ground at his feet.

“I know.” Sif approached slowly, gently, her hands held in front of her and well away from her sword. “Come with me. Please. This world has been too cruel to you.”

“Oh,” his confused brain suddenly made sense of it all. “You’re a Valkyrie. I’m dying?”

“No, and no!” Sif shook her head. “Please, come with me to Asgard. Our healers can help you, give you back the parts of your memory that are lost.”

“I’m not sure I want them,” he said honestly.

“That is your choice. But you are a hero, James Buchanan Barnes, and on Asgard you will be treated as one. Here on Midgard they will never understand, never accept what you are. Please.”

He looked at her outstretched hands. She was right. Even Steve would never be able to accept what he was now, what HYDRA had made of him. A fresh start in a new place would be – something he could never have here.

Slowly he reached out his hand, his human hand. The metal one wasn’t working properly without tech maintenance he couldn’t do himself. Perhaps on Asgard they could help him fix that too…

Their hands met and a white light flared around them. Heat raced up Bucky’s arm, but it was a pleasurable feeling. Sif’s eyes met his, wide with amazement.

Haldor?” she gasped.

“Bucky,” he said, shaking his head.

No wonder I was enthralled from afar. Oh, Haldor, your soul has come back to me at last.

The light faded out, and Bucky looked down in amazement at the silvery-white rune on his palm. “What is it?”

Sif showed him her matching mark. “A soul-mark. You are my soulmate.” She was staring at him with a wide, joyous smile and tears running down her cheeks. “So long have I waited for you to come back to me. So very long.”

“Don’t cry. Beautiful dame like you shouldn’t cry.” He wanted to hold her, wipe those tears off her perfect face. Kiss her until she forgot all about crying. He tugged lightly on her fingers and she stepped into his arms, fitting there perfectly like she’d always belonged there. Something strange tugged at Bucky’s mind, something that didn’t seem to fit with any of his memories. “I’ll never leave you again,” he whispered against Sif’s dark hair.

 

Chapter Text

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What am I doing here? Jemma wandered through the spacious halls of the magnificent mansion, feeling utterly out of place. There were superheroes everywhere, X-Men, the Avengers, Fantastic Four – this was not a party for normal people.

And yet, here I am. As usual at a party, being a wallflower. Several of the younger X-Men had tried to draw her into their chatter – Fitz had joined them willingly when Jubilee fluttered her eyelashes at him – but Jemma felt out of place with them and wandered on. She knew many of the people present, of course, was on friendly terms with a lot. Johnny Storm winked at her and called; “Hey, you gorgeous nerd, when am I going to get that date?”

“When hell freezes over,” Jemma smiled sweetly at him and moved on, grinning at Hawkeye who was chuckling into his beer at her put-down of the Human Torch.

She glanced into a smoky room and saw a group playing cards; Tony Stark, Hunter and Bobbi, Remy LeBeau and Logan with a cigar clamped between his teeth and May beside him. Logan glanced up and saw her.

“Hey, Jemma. Can we deal you in?”

“No empty seats,” she pointed out, shaking her head.

“There’s room on my lap, cher,” LeBeau grinned at her.

“Only for your ego, swamp rat,” Jemma smiled at him when he clutched his heart and pretended to be wounded, and moved on again, waving her hand in front of her face to clear the smoke. Glancing into another room she moved hastily on when she realised that the couple entwined on the couch were Skye and Piotr. She’d definitely be intruding there.

She’d reached the end of the corridor, and a door that led out onto a balcony.

A little fresh air to clear my head, she thought, and opened the door to slip out. She was leaning on the stone balustrade when a slight movement behind her made her let out an involuntary scream.

“I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to startle you.”

It was her host, Worthington himself, the tall, beautiful blond with the magnificent white wings.

“I saw you leave the party, are you not enjoying yourself, Jemma?” he came to lean on the balcony beside her. They’d been introduced earlier but not had a chance to speak in the crush.

Hand to her pounding heart, Jemma stared up at him. Trying to compose herself. It had to be a coincidence that the mutant known as Angel had just spoken her soulmark words. Had to be. Surely?

Warren had been watching the pretty scientist all night. Slight and graceful, she’d slipped through the crowd like a ghost, never quite fitting into any one group, though it was obvious many of his guests considered her a friend. Her smiles were fleeting but genuine, he thought, but he also thought she felt out of place, apart from the others. Much like himself. So when he saw her slip outside, he’d followed, intent on making her feel more comfortable in his home. He wanted to see her smile more.

And now she was staring up at him from wide eyes, pink tongue slipping out to moisten her lips in a way that suddenly had his body perking up with interest. His wings lifted involuntarily, feathers stirring in the chilly night air.

“Are you cold?” he asked suddenly, realising the dress she was wearing – gold, sparkly and fitted to a very nice figure, hell yes he’d noticed – was sleeveless and her arms were bare. Almost instinctively he stepped closer, folding his wings around her to shield her from the cold wind, only realising a moment later what an intimate thing he’d just done; he might as well have pulled her into his arms.

Jemma let out a gasp of shock as Angel’s immense wings folded around her. Pure white, warm and unbelievably soft, it was like being wrapped in a cloud of feathers. She couldn’t quite help a sensual little sigh, leaning into the feeling.

“My best friend Jemma,” Skye had said while making the introductions. Warren thought it was a pretty name, practical. It suited her. He murmured it now, his hands coming up to catch her elbows as she swayed backwards against his wings. Her eyes were sensuously half-lidded – oh what the hell, I’m gonna kiss her.

He kissed fabulously, warm firm lips seeking over hers, hot tongue stroking lightly at her lips until she parted them, then slipping into her mouth to taste her. All the while strong arms held her close and those amazing wings cradled her gently.

“Um,” Jemma sagged against him when he finally lifted his head. “Wow, you’re really good at that.”

Warren blinked in astonishment, and then he started to grin. “Somehow, I never thought my soulmate would be complimenting me on my kissing technique when she spoke my words.”

He was right; that startled look before had been because he said her words. Jemma looked surprised again.

“Really?”

He was wearing one of his specially made tops with multiple zips, built to comfortably accommodate his wings. Reaching down now, he opened one running across his chest, showed her the words across his left pectoral muscle.

“Oh,” Jemma stared at the words in her neat writing. “But – we seem so unlikely. You’re a billionaire superhero and I’m just…”

Mine,” he said possessively, gathering her closer with his wings. Bending his head to kiss her again.

“Jumpin’ the gun, aintcha Angel?”

Only the Wolverine would dare to interrupt at a time like this. Warren lifted his head and glared.

“Ain’t midnight yet,” Logan smirked around his cigar. “Now put Jemma down before May sees you and gets cross.”

“If you think I’m waiting until midnight to kiss my soulmate, you can dream on. Don’t let the door hit you in the ass.”

Logan was so shocked the cigar actually fell out of his mouth. “Your soulmate?”

Warren didn’t even bother to answer him, he was so busy kissing Jemma again.

 

Chapter Text

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Barnes was like the Tower’s resident ghost, Pepper thought. Steve hadn’t had to track him down, in the end. He’d just turned up one day in the lobby. JARVIS had recognised him at once and put the place on lockdown until Bruce – the only Avenger in residence – arrived, talked to Barnes and discovered that he was, in fact, Barnes. Mostly. The poor man had gaps in his memory that would most likely never be filled.

Pepper had never spoken to him. Tony – and JARVIS – were very protective of her and cautious of Barnes, so the two of them had been living in the same building for a month before they even came face to face, and then Barnes’ huge sapphire eyes just widened and he was gone before she could even say Hello.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The second time she saw him, he came into the kitchen in the middle of the night when she had her mouth full. She’d just got back from Japan on SI business that evening. A short nap later and she was jet-lagged and starving. So she headed to the common kitchen – no point looking in her fridge, she’d been away for a week – and found some leftover kung pao chicken. It looked reasonably fresh, so she zapped it in the microwave and was sitting at the counter shovelling it in when Barnes slipped into the room.

They stared at each other for a moment – Pepper’s cheeks bulging like a hamster – and then he was gone again.

“Is it just me, or does Barnes run away from everybody?” Pepper asked Steve the following day. “Because if that’s so, I really think he needs more therapy.”

Steve grinned. “You should feel flattered.”

“I… don’t?”

“Buck’s fine with everyone except beautiful women. When he was with HYDRA, the only beautiful women he saw tended to be the not-nice kind – Red Room like Natasha used to be, for example. He’s all right with Tasha now, but other beautiful women trigger something and his flight instinct activates. He mentioned to me that he’d seen you a few times and fled, and asked me if I’d tell you please not to be offended, but you’re so beautiful he can’t cope.”

Pepper couldn’t help but blush, even though she knew it was a deeply unflattering look with her strawberry-blonde hair and freckles. Barnes thinks I’m beautiful. Bucky Barnes, the man who looks like an S+M version of a GQ model... “Well,” she said, trying to keep her voice steady, “please tell him that I’d never hurt him and he doesn’t have to be afraid of me. I don’t want him to feel uncomfortable, but we do both live here…”

Steve was giving her a knowing, amused look. Pepper resisted the urge to run like a scared rabbit herself.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The third time Pepper saw Bucky Barnes, he saved her life.

She was touring a manufacturing plant when the bullets started flying. She’d had absolutely no idea that one of the four silent suited bodyguards following her around was Barnes until he moved with inhuman speed to throw her to the ground, flinging himself on top of her as a shield, holding up his metal arm. The bullets spanged off it even as he whipped a gun out and returned fire.

“Are you all right?” Bucky asked once the shooters were all down. He left his fellow guards to mop up, more concerned about Pepper’s safety. “Were you hit?” He stared down into her shocked, turquoise-blue eyes. He’d asked Hill to assign him to Pepper’s bodyguard duty because he needed to get used to being in her proximity without having to speak to her. She was so accustomed to having silent guards around her now she regarded them as furniture, never looking at them properly, even though she always smiled and said thank you when one of them opened a door for her or such. Not that Bucky ever got that close. But when the bullets started flying his body had reacted outside his conscious control, instinct taking over to protect her with his own body.

“You cut your hair,” Pepper said inconsequentially, vaguely aware that was an extremely odd thing to be worried about in the wake of being shot at and then Barnes speaking to her. Saying her soulmark words, no less.

Sapphire-blue eyes widened, a black eyebrow quirked. “Had to. Wasn’t going to find my soulmate until after I had.”

“Oh. Oh!” Pepper stared up at him. At that GQ-model face, at the full pink lips that looked so incongruously sensual on a man. “You’re talking to me now.”

“Bit rude not to since I’m lyin’ on top of ya, huh? Soulmate.”

Pepper couldn’t help staring at his mouth, as it widened in a smirky grin. This, she thought, this is the James Buchanan Barnes who was Steve Rogers’ best friend. The ladies’ man, the joker, the charmer.

“I won’t put up with you playing around on me,” she warned. “I had enough of that with Tony.”

“Why would I want to?” Bucky was honestly puzzled. “You’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever laid eyes on.” Realising he had to be crushing her, he stood and helped her to her feet, but quickly hustled her over to a corner of the room and blocked her in with his body, shielding her until he got the all-clear in his earpiece.

He was a couple of inches taller than her even in high heels. And so strong. Pepper pretty much melted as Bucky caged her in with his arms, leaning in to murmur in her ear.

“I’m on the clock so I’m not gonna kiss ya now. But later on,” he gave her a heated, meaningful look, “I’m gonna find out just how spicy you are, my Pepper.”

Her knees wouldn’t hold her up. He had to carry her to the car, claiming she was too shocked to walk.

Which she was. Just not in the way the other bodyguards thought.

 

Chapter Text

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“Sir!” Fitz came belting into Coulson’s office, Mack on his heels, waving a tablet. “It’s the. The.”

“Readings,” Mack said.

“Yes, like when Lady Sif came…”

“The Bifrost!” Phil shot out of his chair. “Where? New Mexico?”

Fitz shook his head and pointed at the floor.

“Here,” Mack said helpfully.

The Playground’s alarms began to shrill.

“Stand down!” Coulson leaped for his desk and pushed a button. “Stand down, it’s visitors from Asgard! Assume they’re friendlies!”

“Not much we can do about it if they’re not,” Mack said wryly.

“True, but let’s not go looking for trouble. Hopefully, it’s Sif…”

It was Sif, looking worried, accompanied by a tall, silent black-haired warrior with an Asiatic face and more weaponry than a human would be able to carry and remain standing. Phil knew his face, though not his name.

“Son of Coul,” Sif began without preamble, “we are here to beg your aid.”

“Anything we can do, my lady, we are in your debt,” Phil said immediately. He’d invited them into the conference room; May was the only other person present.

“Would you summon the one known as Skye?”

Caught off guard, Phil blinked. May left the room silently and returned a minute later with Skye, who’d been lurking in the corridor with the others. She greeted Sif politely and looked at the warrior curiously. Looks like a samurai, Skye thought, taking in the weapons. He returned her stare from flat black eyes.

“This is Hogun,” Sif introduced finally. “One of the Warriors Three. He is not, though, Asgardian, but Vanir, of Vanaheim. And it is on Hogun’s behalf that we are here.”

They all looked at Hogun. Who still didn’t speak.

“An attack on Vanaheim was repelled,” Sif continued, “but not before the attackers impacted a large kinetic strike on the planet’s surface. There has been a massive tectonic plate shift and earthquakes and volcanoes threaten the Vanir’s very civilisation.”

Skye suddenly understood why they wanted her.

“Skye, we understand from Heimdall’s observations that you are able to control quakes, to direct them. Please, we are here to beg your aid.”

“But,” she said, “I don’t – I’ve only worked with small quakes…” she gasped as Hogun lowered himself to his knees before her.

“Lady Skye, I beg of you,” he said in a quiet, deep voice. “You are the only hope for thousands of my people.”

She really didn’t have any option but to say yes, after that.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Two hours later, she had set foot on not one but two alien worlds: a brief stop on Asgard for Heimdall to redirect the Bifrost – apparently Asgard was the central axis – and then on to Vanaheim. Where they landed in the middle of a huge plain. A city sparkled in the distance – and a wide crack snaking rapidly across the ground warned Skye of the terrible danger beneath. The tectonic plate was cracking – she went to her knees and put her hands on the earth immediately.

She lost count of how many hours they worked. Hogun had a sort of flying skiff which they used to skim from one site to another, Skye doing her best at every place to contain and redirect the earthquakes into harmless tremors. They’d started at the most dangerous site and worked their way down a seemingly endless list, but she would not stop. Not when she could see the fear in Hogun’s eyes, behind the grim mask of his handsome features.

She was shaking with weariness and leaning on Sif’s arm by the time night fell.

“Time to rest,” Sif said quietly. “Come. We will take you to the city for the night. You must rest.”

“No,” Skye said. “No, I can keep going – can you fly this thing in the dark?” she turned to Hogun.

“Yes, but Sif is right. You must rest.”

“No.” Her voice cracked with exhaustion. “No, I can still help!”

“You must rest.” He’d said little all day, only stood at her side and flown the skiff with grim concentration, communicating with some central authority as they worked. “Lady Skye, my people will be singing hymns to your name for a thousand years, for your actions today. But they would rather worship you as a living goddess than a dead one. The worst danger is over; the Vanir will sleep safe tonight. Come.”

His black eyes were peaceful for the first time that day, and slowly, Skye allowed herself to believe him. She reached out to take the large hand he held out to her, suddenly feeling as though she might not be able to climb into the skiff without his support.

They both screamed as the pain seared them. Sif started and drew her sword, and then stared as she realised what was happening. And then Skye pulled her hand away.

“My soulmate!” Hogun gasped out, holding up his hand, marked all over with runes and symbols, an exact match to the ones appearing on Skye’s hand. “You’re my soulmate!”

“Oh,” she stared at her hand, and then at Hogun’s. A vague, weary smile came to her face. “That’s nice.” And she collapsed into his arms.

 

Skye awoke to find herself a heroine to the Vanir. They were chanting her name in the streets of Lireigh, the capital city. Calling her Princess Skye, which confused her thoroughly until Hogun admitted that his grandfather was actually the King and that as his soulmate the title was hers by right.

“I don’t think I’ll be very good at the princess thing,” Skye said worriedly, looking down at the cheering throng in the great square before the castle.

Hogun put his hands on her shoulders, turned her gently to face him. He was no longer grim, a wide smile softening his face whenever he looked at her. “You are more than a princess to me. You are my goddess.”

“Well,” a small smile came to Skye’s mouth, “I don’t think I’d mind a bit of worshipping, if it was from you?”

 

Chapter Text

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“Agent Grant Ward.” Phil slid the tablet in front of Natasha. She sat back with it, read the file swiftly. Looked up.

“Looks like he’s a fucking pain in your ass,” she said succinctly, and Phil half-smiled.

“He’s the finest Specialist I’ve seen since Barton. But he was Garrett’s man.”

“Ugh,” Natasha made a face.

“Yeah, that. Garrett took him, twisted him, made him into a perfect weapon, and then infiltrated my team with the bastard. He came so close to taking us down, Nat, I don’t even want to think about it. And he’s been a thorn in our sides ever since. He and Skye were close, he was her SO, and there was – something between them, I don’t think either of them could quite define it. He got more than a little obsessed.”

Natasha was listening silently. Without judging.

“Skye had the chance to end him in San Juan. She couldn’t do it. She shot him four times in the back – in a bulletproof vest.” He nodded at Natasha’s grimace. “She’s very young. She’s never had to kill up close and personal before, and certainly not someone she once cared about.”

There was silence between them for a moment.

“You want me to deal with the problem.” It wasn’t a question.

Phil nodded. “After what happened to Skye in San Juan, the last thing she needs is more emotional upheaval. I have the terrible feeling that Ward’s going to flip the other way, go from wanting to ‘save’ her to just deciding to kill her because she’s dangerous now.”

“We can’t have that,” Natasha said quietly. She’d taken to Skye almost instantly, taken the emotionally damaged young girl under her wing. “I’ll take care of it, Phil.”

“Quietly.”

She smiled, laying the tablet down and rising. “Of course. That’s why you asked me and not Clint, hm?”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Grant Ward sat at the rickety table with his head in his hands. A gun lay on the scratched timber before him and for at least the twentieth time that week he debated putting it in his mouth and pulling the trigger.

God, I was wrong. I was so fucking wrong.

He’d genuinely believed in Skye’s father. Right up until the moment when he saw the thing that used to be Raina come up out of the tunnels, and realised what appalling danger Skye had been in. Cal had put her in that danger, used her for his own selfish ends. Skye hadn’t wanted to go down there, and he, Ward, had forced her into a position where she had no choice. Four bullets in the back had been the least of what he deserved.

His hand reached for the gun. Just end it. You ruined everything.

But a slight sound behind him made him turn to look at the woman asleep on the bed, her face heavily bandaged. Agent 33 was sleeping off the effects of the anaesthetic. He’d brought her here, to Columbia, emptied his local safe-deposit box and taken her to a black-market cosmetic surgeon who’d finally been able to remove the damaged face veil and restore her own face. She couldn’t remember her real name, and he’d never known it, so finally they settled on Angela. She was posing as his sister. They looked enough alike, with dark hair and eyes, for it to be believable.

He couldn’t leave Angela alone. She was like a child, lost and confused without Whitehall’s direction. She wouldn’t last a day on the mean streets of Bogotà. She needed him, at least until she could find some way to function on her own.

Ward sighed and took his hand off the gun, dropped his head into his hands again. He was so unhappy, exhausted, and generally done with everything, that he never even heard the door open. He only looked up, startled, when the chair opposite his scraped on the rough wooden floor. His eyes snapped wide as the beautiful redhead sat down, and he grabbed for the gun – which was in her hand, pointing at him.

For a long moment he stared at her in silence. “Just do it then,” he said. “End me.”

He sat, waiting for the bullet, and when it didn’t come something else occurred to him. “But please look after Angela,” he added, gesturing at the sleeping woman. “She needs help.”

Is he my soulmate? Natasha wondered, staring at the handsome man sitting opposite her. His file showed that he was less than a year younger than she was, and she didn’t know if she’d been born with her mark or it had come sometime in her infancy, so she couldn’t be sure. Not yet.

Phil wants me to end him.

I’m thinking I don’t have to …

“There’s red in your ledger,” she said quietly. “I’m here to give you a chance to wipe it out.”

His jaw dropped, the blank mask of his expression replaced by pure astonishment. “What?

She smiled, tipping her head slightly to one side. “The Red Room taught me that I had to kill my soulmate, when and if I found him. I chose to break their indoctrination. Make my own choices. Can you break past what Garrett did to you, Grant Ward?”

He looked at the gun in her hand, still pointed rock-steady at his head. “I broke free of Garrett long ago. Left all my past in flames.”

“I know.” She knew what he’d done to his family. She also knew they’d deserved every bit of it, and more. “I can offer you a future. A cause to fight for.”

“The Avengers?” He smiled bitterly. “That’s no place for the likes of me.”

“I thought they wouldn’t want me either.” Natasha shrugged, fluid and graceful, and he couldn’t help but follow the movement with his eyes. “But I’ve earned my place. All I can offer you is a chance – one chance – to earn yours.”

He stared into her green eyes, and slowly – very slowly – Grant Ward nodded.

 

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Steve was firmly convinced that all Asgardians were mad, by human definition, anyway. They certainly seemed to have no sense of personal danger. Or even personal boundaries. Take the woman who’d turned up with Thor and his friends today; tall and stunning by any standards, she’d been eyeing him more boldly than he was at all comfortable with for a good ten minutes. And oh good Lord now she was coming over, her silver-grey eyes fixed on his.

He looked around frantically, but there was really no easy escape; she was between him and the exits. He was going to have to stand there and try to deal with flirting – did Asgardians flirt like human women, even?

“You intrigue me. Would you care to share my bed for a night?”

Oh. Even more direct, then.

“I, um,” Steve turned beet red and stuttered. “I, um, really flattered, but, um…”

Sif cocked her head. “I apologise. I have embarrassed you.”

“I… yes.”

“Yes I have embarrassed you, or yes you would like to accept my offer?” She was amused. He looked so tall and strong and unflappable, this Captain of America, and yet she had seen the blush on his cheeks when she was introduced to him, the shy, admiring glances he had cast in her direction.

“Uhn.” Steve’s power of speech failed completely.

“I see.” Sif cast him one more regretful look up and down – it could have been a really good night – and turned away.

“Wait!” Oh hell, he’d been unforgivably rude. The offer had utterly floored him though – not least because he suddenly wanted very much to say yes, even though he knew he shouldn’t. Except she obviously didn’t seem to think there was anything wrong with it, and he suspected he was the only man in the room who’d even contemplate turning down such an offer.

Even Clint had given Sif a long appreciative look until Natasha had drawn a small knife and pressed it against his ribs. The archer had laughed in his easy way then and looked away, but not before giving Steve a speculative look as he saw Sif’s eyes turned in Steve’s direction.

Steve reached out a hand to Sif, and it landed on her forearm before he wondered if he should touch her. She might whip out that big-ass sword and chop his hand off…

“Aiii,” he let out a sharp hiss of breath as the pain hit, for an instant wondered what she’d done, but then she was letting out a cry of shock, her other hand coming up to press his against her forearm, huge silvery eyes turned up to his wonderingly.

“What the hell?” Steve gasped as the pain receded. He pulled his hand back, and Sif let him, though she stared at him wonderingly. “What was that?” He looked at the palm of his hand, and saw to his amazement a mark filling in there, all silver and black, looking rather like a sword across a shield.

“Look,” Sif said softly, showing him her forearm where he’d touched her. A perfect replica of his shield appeared, red, white and blue.

“What the – what does that mean?” Steve had never seen anything like it.

Except… the mark shaped like a hammer on Jane Foster’s palm…

“Soulmates,” Sif said, her eyes shining up at him. “You are my soulmate, Steven Rogers. Oh, you are everything I might have hoped for – a warrior without peer, my equal in truth!”

“Er,” was about all Steve could get out as she threw herself at him. His arms closed around her almost automatically, and then she was up on tiptoe and plastering her lips to his.

Oh. Well – this is nice…

This is a whole lot better than nice, who am I trying to kid?

By the time Sif let go – and she’d wrapped her extremely strong arms around his neck, so it was she who decided when the kiss ended – he was scarlet to his hairline – and absolutely everyone was staring at them, gobsmacked.

“My soulmate,” Sif announced proudly, holding up her arm. “We go now to complete our bond.”

“Uh,” he hadn’t thought it was possible to get any redder, but his face felt like it was on fire. “We do?”

“Yes. Where is your bedroom?”

Tony was absolutely cackling, and Clint wasn’t much better. Natasha laughed aloud, calling across the room;

“Sorry for trying to set you up with all those mortal women, Steve, should have known a goddess would be the only one for you!”

I’m going to have to get out of here before I spontaneously combust. In more ways than one… because Sif was still pressed against him, her arms around his neck, and his body was extremely interested in that fact.

The Asgardians were actually applauding as Sif led him towards the elevator. Even Bruce had a broad grin on his face.

I am never going to be able to look any of them in the eye again…

“My floor, please, JARVIS,” he told the AI, who was obviously on board with the let’s-embarrass-Steve theme because he started playing some slow, smooch blues music. JARVIS never played music in the elevator unless specifically requested, so Steve shot a death stare at the speakers.

“Ah, your quarters. Adequate,” Sif said, looking around the comfortable apartment. “Where is your bed?”

Steve gestured, still beet red. She looked at him curiously.

“Why are you embarrassed, Steven? This is the most sacred of joinings, the consummation of a soulbond. Is it not so among your people?”

“Yes, but – I…” he didn’t know how to say it.

Sif’s expression suddenly cleared. “You waited until you found your soulmate!”

It was easier than saying no girl would look at me before and then I fell in love with Peggy, only nothing happened, and I’ve spent the last two years mourning her and fighting – so he simply nodded.

“I’ve never bedded a virgin,” Sif said thoughtfully. “Never mind. I’ll be gentle!”

 

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Jane hadn’t been expecting Thor back for a couple of days, since she knew he was escorting some of Coulson’s team to Asgard to visit Jemma and Loki. He’d pressed her to go along, but Jane honestly wasn’t ready yet. Not after the last time she’d been there and Queen Frigga had died defending her. How could she possibly face Odin – who already disapproved of her for being Thor’s human soulmate – after that?

Would she ever be ready? Jane mused, dragging herself slowly out of bed. She’d slept in that morning – well, afternoon – since she had, as usual, been in the lab until the early hours of the morning.

All right, she’d been there until sunrise when Bruce came in from his dawn yoga and all but threw her out.

It was just all so interesting. Her stomach churned as she headed to the bathroom and she groaned.

“Not again! I even ate dinner!” Tony had come by with pizza about midnight and the pair of them had sat up late doing crazy maths and building things.

Oh God, yes again – she barely made it to the toilet before emptying her stomach. She was sitting on the floor, resting her forehead against the cool tile wall and feeling thoroughly miserable when Thor’s booming voice filled the apartment.

“Jane? Are you here?”

Fantastic, I’ve just spewed my guts up for no apparent reason and my god-boyfriend turns up… but it was Sif who appeared in the doorway, looking down at her.

“Lady Jane? Oh dear – she is suffering from the morning nausea, Thor.”

“What do you mean, the morning nausea?” Jane said weakly as Sif picked her up easily.

Sif sighed as she laid Jane gently down on the bed. “Damn Odin. You didn’t even know,” she muttered. “You’re with child, Lady Jane.”

“I’m what?” Jane’s shriek echoed around the apartment.

It took the combined efforts of Sif and Phil – Jane started throwing things at Thor – to calm her down from that revelation. And then Phil had to break it to her that Odin had ordered her to Asgard to get married.

“I’m not going,” Jane said mutinously. “And you can’t make me.”

Sif arched a black eyebrow. Jane felt like an idiot. Of course they could make her.

“Jane,” Phil said, not unkindly, “You’re carrying the next heir to Asgard. I’m not sure how their inheritance laws work – especially considering Loki’s status – but Odin is adamant that Thor’s child won’t be born illegitimate. Plus,” he glanced at Sif and coughed, the tips of his ears turning red, “apparently Asgard’s moral code is rather more, uh, old-fashioned than I’d realised. There have been incidences of disrespect shown to Jemma because she and Loki are cohabiting, and some, um, not-nice things said about you.”

Jane thought about that, her eyes narrowing. “Thought you guys were supposed to be so advanced?” she snapped at Sif. “Oh, get in here,” as she spotted Thor hovering outside the door. “I can read between the lines that this wasn’t your insane idea, for once.”

He gave her his sad-Labrador look and she couldn’t help but soften.

“I don’t have any choice, do I?”

“I’m sorry, my Jane,” he knelt beside the bed and took her hand. “But only in that you feel you have no choice. I have made it clear to you time and again that I want no other but you for my princess.”

“Princess, oh hell,” Jane muttered. “How’s Jemma taking that?” She and Jemma had never spoken, but Jane remembered glimpsing her on the tour of the labs that had barely begun before Jemma accidentally stumbled into Asgard and found herself soulmated to Loki.

“Probably not much better than you,” Coulson said dryly.

Jane grinned. “I do think I’m going to like her.” Thor had told her laughingly that Jemma took no shit from Loki. Which Jane was very much looking forward to seeing.

“We have orders to escort you to Asgard immediately,” Sif said.

“Well it can wait until I’ve had a shower and changed!” Jane said firmly, “because I’m not going to Asgard in Iron Man pyjamas smelling of puke!” She pointed at Thor. “Go break the news to the others.”

“As long as you promise never to wear those pyjamas again,” Thor muttered, getting up.

“I wouldn’t have been if you were here, but I was cold!” Jane took in Coulson and Sif, both blushing. “Okay, forget I said that. You two go wait outside. I won’t be long.”

Half an hour later they were on the Bifrost, heading for Asgard. Jane sat before Thor on his saddle – he’d flatly refused to let her ride alone now he knew she was pregnant, and WHOAH still dealing with that idea. Thor’s huge hand curved protectively over her stomach, holding her on his lap, and she could already tell he was going to be a completely impossible prospective father.

Sif led them to a chamber Jane didn’t recognise, thankfully. She suspected that seeing anywhere where she’d spent time with Frigga would lead to a breakdown right now.

The first person she saw on entering the room was Loki. And she couldn’t help walking over and giving him another slap.

“What now?” he exclaimed, hand flying to his abused cheek.

“That’s for shagging Jemma when you’re supposed to be behaving yourself, you lecherous shit!” She looked at Jemma, hand over her mouth as she started to giggle. “I’m sorry he’s so impossible.”

“I’m getting used to it,” Jemma snickered.

“Wait,” it was Thor and Loki who first realised what had just happened, since both of them saw their soulmates’ platonic marks far more than Jane and Jemma did. Jane’s was on the back of her right thigh, Jemma’s between her shoulder-blades. The Princes of Asgard looked at each other, and then at the two lovely, brilliantly clever women laughing and embracing each other, doubtlessly already coming up with ways to make their soulmates’ lives hell.

“We are so doomed,” Loki said dismally.

 

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“Thank you,” Jemma accepted a glass of champagne from a white-jacketed waiter and took a small sip. It was good champagne, too, Warren Worthington III had spared no expense on this engagement party he was hosting for one of his closest friends.

Skye is engaged. I can hardly believe it. Jemma looked across the room to where Skye stood at Bobby’s side, both of them smiling at a tall blond man talking to them. Skye looks so happy.

Bobby had been unbelievably good for Skye, his light-hearted attitude and cheerful approach to life a perfect foil for her seriousness and occasional dark moods. He was always ready with a quip or a prank to make her smile, and she smiled so much more now. Even her powers were under far better regulation now that Bobby was teaching her the fine control he’d learned.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

John had flown in from Melbourne that very day, had just met Skye, and after making her laugh with a few extravagant compliments – and Frozen jokes – was just in the process of asking her if she knew any nice girls she could introduce him to.

“What’s your criteria?” Skye asked with a teasing smile.

“Breathing,” Bobby cracked, which made John’s hand tighten on the Zippo in his pocket. He didn’t pull it out, though, just glared at Bobby briefly.

“Smart,” he looked back at Skye. “I like girls I don’t have to dumb down for. Can’t stand vapid, silly chicks. And – someone who wouldn’t be afraid of me. Be nice if I didn’t have to put a bag over her head, too, but the first two are honestly more important.”

Even Bobby didn’t make a crack at that, looking at John with a certain sympathy as he was serious, for once.

Skye smiled. “Well – I know one girl who might fit those requirements. Jemma’s a genius. And you wouldn’t have to put a bag over her head, either.” She beckoned to someone across the room.

“You’re a great sheila,” John said impulsively. “Bob’s lucky to have you.” And he turned and leapt up onto a table to propose a toast.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Catching Jemma’s eye, Skye waved her over, obviously intending to introduce her to the tall blond. Jemma eyed him. Well, he was certainly eye candy. She started making her way across the room, but before she got there the blond had broken away from Skye and Bobby and jumped up onto a nearby table.

“Friends, mutants, and normal people,” he declaimed in a broad Australian accent, and the room quieted, though not without a few chuckles, “we are here tonight to celebrate the engagement of my best friend and the woman mad enough to put up with his chilly personality. Raise your glasses please to Skye – and Elsa!”

Jemma couldn’t help but giggle, as Bobby shouted “Fuck off, John!” over the cheers and laughter.

John laughed, jumping down off the table. “Bugger, I haven’t got a drink.” His gaze fell on a pretty, slender girl close by, laughing at his antics. She had a full glass of champagne in hand, so he swiped it, downed it in one gulp and grinned at her. “G’day, beautiful. Cheers.”

Jemma blinked. “What did you say?” she said, a bit stupidly, she thought afterwards.

“I said, g’day, beautiful… wait.” John stared at her.

“John, you’re so rude, you stole Jemma’s drink,” Bobby reproached, putting a hand on his shoulder. “Jemma, this is John Allerdyce, my best friend, also known as Pyro. John, this is Jemma Simmons…”

“My soulmate,” John said in astonishment, as Jemma pulled up the sleeve of her blouse and showed his messy scrawl on her inner forearm. “Well, fuck me sideways.”

She blushed, pretty hazel eyes flying wide with shock.

“Uh, not literally – well, not right now – although it’s a tempting idea…”

John!” Bobby sounded absolutely scandalised.

“Eh, piss off mate, you met your soulmate in private. Cut me some slack.” And he reached out and grabbed Jemma’s hand. “Come on, beautiful. Let’s go somewhere and get to know each other.”

“Jemma, are you all right?” Skye asked urgently as John pulled her after him. “You want to go with him?”

“Yes,” Jemma said, a bit stunned. “We’ll just talk – I’ll be back in a bit…”

He pulled her down the hall and through a door into what was apparently a library, closing the door behind them and twisting the key in the lock before turning to look at her.

Just talk? I was hoping for a bit more, maybe…”

“Talk first!” Jemma said, hastily putting a table between them as he advanced towards her. Because although he was very good-looking and he was her soulmate… “Bobby said they call you Pyro?”

Without even looking, he pointed at the fire in the grate. It had died down to mere glowing coals behind a firescreen, but as he pointed the flames flared high, roaring up the chimney.

“Give me a spark and I’ll make an inferno. Bet we’ll burn up the sheets real good, beautiful.” He stalked towards her and Jemma found herself backing up against a bookcase, breath coming quickly, pupils dilating as he stopped in front of her, one hand coming up to lean on the bookcase beside her head. “What else did you want to talk about?”

She couldn’t think of anything but the way his mouth was moving. She had so many questions about how his power worked, about him – and she couldn’t think of a single one. “Uhn,” she said eloquently.

“We done talking for now, then?” his mouth kicked up in a smirk. Jemma’s eyes drifted helplessly shut as he lowered his mouth towards hers.

Damn, but I’m a lucky bugger, John thought as he watched Jemma respond to his flirting. Beautiful and brilliant, according to Skye. Couldn’t ask for anything more.

Jemma’s slender arms slid around his neck, and John smiled, closing his eyes as their lips met.

So this is what heaven tastes like…

 

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“I am sick and tired of cleaning up his fucking mess and I am going to give him a piece of my mind!”

The other X-Men watched in amazement as Ororo strode away across the muddy ground.

“I’ve never, ever seen Storm get angry,” Jean murmured to Scott. “Have you?”

He shook his head, still staring as Ororo got into the car and started the engine. “I could almost feel sorry for the poor shmuck when she catches up with him.”

“I’m just hoping it doesn’t happen in a populated area,” Jean sighed, “or there might be even more mess to clean up!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Prince Thor,” JARVIS interrupted Thor’s investigation of the pantry. He’d been hoping that there were more Pop-Tarts, but obviously the housekeeper hadn’t done the day’s grocery shopping yet.

“Yes, JARVIS, what may I do for you?” Thor said cheerfully. “Have we new enemies to smite?”

“Not today, sir, but there is a visitor for you. She is waiting in the conference room on the sixty-third floor.” JARVIS seemed to hesitate for a moment. “She seems rather irate, sir. I do not believe that I would recommend keeping her waiting.”

“Hm, well then I shall attend her directly, JARVIS, thank you. What is our esteemed visitor’s name?” Thor scooped Mjölnir off the kitchen counter in passing. Friend Stark got very irritated when Mjölnir flew through walls to come to Thor, so he had taken to carrying the hammer with him at all times.

“Ms. Ororo Munroe, sir.” JARVIS paused delicately. “I believe that her code name is Storm.”

“A kindred spirit!” Thor cried delightedly. “Well, play my theme song to her while you convey me there, JARVIS!” he very much liked the song that the Man of Iron had insisted was his song. It seemed so appropriate.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

JARVIS wasn’t programmed to argue with Thor. Not over things that weren’t immediately dangerous. The AI actually mulled for a moment over the wisdom of playing AC/DC to the very angry woman in the conference room, and in the end prudently opted for a lower volume than he might otherwise have used.

Ororo began to grind her teeth at the first bars of Thunderstruck. Thor arrived just after the first chorus, striding into the room all tall and blond and godlike. And she stormed over and slapped him hard across the face, so angry the lightning sparked from her fingertips.

Wow that hurt, that hurt way more than it should have done, even considering that he was Asgardian… she lifted her hand and stared at the runes etching themselves in across her palm with horror.

Thor wasn’t sure what he’d expected, but it wasn’t the beautiful, white-haired, dark-skinned woman who came marching up and slapped him as soon as he entered the room. It certainly wasn’t the pain of a soulmark etching itself in across his stinging cheek.

“What,” Ororo said incredulously, “is that?” she held her hand up towards him.

“It is a soulmark, my lady, the way it appears among Asgardians,” Thor said in wonder. He went to one knee before her, cloak swirling around him. “Hundreds of years have I searched for you…”

“Do you mean that I am going to get stuck with clearing up your mess forever?”

Thor looked utterly bemused. “I am not so untidy as all that, I think? My mother would not allow it…”

“Not that!” she couldn’t help but melt slightly at his bemused expression. He looked like a golden retriever puppy, all blond gorgeousness and huge eyes. “The lightning, Thor! Every time you summon a lightning storm with that hammer of yours, you leave the most unholy mess behind in the weather patterns, did you not know that? I am a weather witch, I can control all aspects of the weather, and lately all I seem to be doing is clearing up the mess you leave behind!”

Thor’s mouth dropped open. “I had no idea,” he said blankly. “It is not so on Asgard!”

“This is not Asgard!” She softened further at his remorseful, horrified expression. “The weather is a complicated mechanism, Thor. Have you heard of something called the butterfly effect? It is a theory about how a flap of a butterfly’s wings in one place can cause a cyclone somewhere else…”

“Ah, that’s an interesting metaphor for quantum mechanics,” Thor said with an interested nod. “Oh,” he caught on. “You’re saying that the lightning strikes I create with Mjölnir…”

“Are a lot more powerful than the flap of a butterfly’s wings.”

Thor sighed and bent his head. “I am deeply sorry, my lady Storm. It seems that the fates have sent you to me for a reason; yet another subject in which I must be schooled here on Midgard.”

Ororo melted. How could anyone possibly stay angry with that face? She held out her hand to him, touched his marked cheek gently. “I apologise for slapping you. I was angry.”

He caught her hand in his and kissed it gallantly. “You are forgiven, my lady.”

“And I… oh,” she finished on a gulp as he rose, towering over her. And standing – really close. Oh.

Thor stared down at the beautiful woman who held the other half of his soul. “Perhaps we should try a new beginning, my lady?” he said, seeing her flustered look. “I am Thor Odinson.”

“I, um. Ororo Munroe. But please call me Ro.”

“That is far too simple a name for my lady of the storm,” he said with another gallant kiss to her hand.

Ororo felt herself flushing for the first time in years. “Well,” she said briskly, trying to regain her lost calm. “Firstly, I believe, we need to begin with you learning to understand the effects you’re having on the overall weather patterns with these lightning strikes.”

“I am willing to be schooled by you, my lady of the storm,” Thor murmured. He grinned when she looked at him with her eyebrows arched. “In all things.”

Ororo blushed again.

 

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Rogue sat alone, staring into her cup of mead. It tasted good, but she could tell it had one hell of a kick. And she couldn’t afford to get drunk and lose control. Not even here.

Thor had volunteered to let her touch him, to discover if her power-leaching worked on Asgardians as well as it did on humans. It did.

He’d lasted longer than any human ever could before going to his knees – the rush of power had been so intoxicating that she hadn’t been able to let go of her own accord, had to be pulled off. Even more amazing than drawing in Gambit’s power.

Rogue sighed, glancing across the room. The Cajun was flirting with Lady Sif, and she was smiling at him. I miss him flirting with me like that. Even though I was the one to push him away.

A handsome blond Asgardian – Fandral, she thought she recalled Thor calling him – came to sit beside her, made a few flirtatious remarks she ignored until he sighed and left her alone.

And he reminds me of Bobby, all blond good looks and charm. She sighed and took another gulp of her mead.

When she lowered the cup, there was another man sitting beside her. Rogue opened her mouth to tell him she really wasn’t interested – and then closed it again, because this man was one she must not insult.

Loki, prince of two worlds, sat beside her, his dark head cocked slightly as he looked at her.

“My lady Rogue,” he said. “You should be careful. Stronger heads than yours have suffered from overindulgence in Asgard’s mead.”

“Yeah?” Deliberately she drained the cup before plonking it down on the table. “Sounds good for forgettin’ mah sorrows, sugah.”

Loki blinked, studying the beautiful young woman before him. She had unusual hair, long, dark and thick, but with two wide white stripes in the front he could tell were natural. And her eyes, as green as his own, were pools of sorrow.

“What troubles you, little one?” he was moved to sudden compassion. No one as young as she was should have suffered the losses, the pain, that he saw in her eyes.

“Ev’rythin’ an’ nuthin’,” Rogue gave him a smile that didn’t reach her eyes. “Yah wanna get me anutha cup of that mead, sugah?”

“I think you’ve had enough.”

“And now yah sound like Logan.”

Loki lifted a black eyebrow, reached out as she stood a little unsteadily. She wore gloves, he saw, long black silk ones to her elbow, almost but not quite meeting the forest-green silk Asgardian gown she was wearing. His colours; though he knew it was a coincidence, he liked the way she looked in them. His fingers settled on her bare upper arm.

“Don’t touch meh!” Rogue’s first instinct was to push him away instantly. And then she let out a gasp, because it hurt, but there was no energy drain. The pain passed almost instantly, and there was nothing but the feeling of Loki’s cool fingers on her skin.

“Odin’s eye!” Loki rarely swore. But then, finding his soulmate could certainly be considered a special occasion. He pulled his hand back from Rogue’s arm, inspected the runes across his fingers. “Well. I didn’t expect that.”

She was staring at him wide-eyed. “Ah can touch yah.”

“You’re my soulmate.” He tried desperately to look unflustered. “I should hope that you’d want to.”

“No, you don’t understand, Ah can touch yah!” She peeled off her gloves, flung them down on the table. Reached to put her fingers against his face. “It doesn’t work. It doesn’t hurt yah!” She couldn’t read his memories, couldn’t draw power from him even if she tried. An incredulous smile broke across her face. “Ah can’t hurt yah!” And she flung herself at him, straddling his lap, wrapping her arms around his neck and pressing her lips against his.

Loki remembered, as she spoke, what power this lovely young girl had. And the fact that she had no control over it, couldn’t touch any other being without draining the life out of them. Thor had warned them all about touching her. Loki had accepted the edict without really thinking about what such an awful curse must mean to the woman involved.

He thought about it now, seeing that incredulous smile light up her already beautiful face until she positively glowed. How starved of touch she must be, of affection – even more than I… and then she threw herself at him, clinging to him, her soft mouth meeting his.

Loki couldn’t help himself. His arms closed around Rogue and he kissed her back, enjoying the way she suddenly became shy, letting him take the lead, tasting her soft lips with his tongue.

Has she ever been kissed before? For certain there’s many things she’s never done, I will be the first to introduce her to the pleasures of the flesh

The kiss lasted until Thor grabbed Loki by the throat, even as Storm and Jean dragged Rogue out of his arms, clothes wrapped around their hands to protect them from her bared skin.

“No! No!” Rogue screamed, fighting to get back to Loki. “Ah can touch him! Ah can touch him!”

“Which is no reason to be letting him shove his tongue down your throat!” Jean reproached.

“She’s my soulmate, is that a good enough reason?” Loki growled, pushing Thor off.

Storm and Jean both let go, shocked, and Rogue threw herself back into Loki’s arms. He gathered her to him protectively, swirling his green cloak about them both – and with a mischievous grin at Thor, the pair of them vanished.

They reappeared in Loki’s chambers, a wave of his hand securing the door against intruders. And then Rogue wrapped her arms around his neck again, her slim fingers sliding into his black hair, and he forgot about everything but the woman in his arms, the woman who needed his touch more than she wanted air to breathe.

 

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Of all the things that surprised Phil after coming back from the dead, the fact that he now had a soulmark should not have been the most shocking.

Somehow, it was.

He'd never had a mark. Hadn't really wanted one, had always thought that a life dedicated to SHIELD would be quite satisfying enough. Even the cellist hadn't truly tempted him too much, pretty and charming as Audrey had been.

He couldn't believe that his soulmate had been born during that short period of his death. Not considering the words printed neatly around his left wrist, under the strap of his watch.

Don't you ever dare do that to me again!

Somehow, it felt as though she – and he was very sure it was a she – was referring to his death and resurrection. Someone he knew before, he thought.

But who?

It wasn't Audrey. He had Jemma ask, subtly. And slowly, he worked his way through the list of people he thought of as possibles. May, Hill, Sharon Carter. Romanoff, too; she'd been pissed with him, but not his soulmate. And she agreed to keep his secret from the Avengers. For now.

As for his soulmate - well, he'd just have to keep searching.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Of all the things that shocked Pepper the most, the fact that she developed a soulmark along with the Extremis powers should not have been the worst. It stayed even when the Extremis effects were reversed, two neat words on her right hip.

It was, though. Because it finally and completely destroyed her already fragile relationship with Tony. He couldn't deal. Didn't want to. Preferred to throw himself into working with the Avengers, helping a shattered Steve after SHIELD fell. Pepper wasn't really all that surprised to find the two of them entwined in the lab one day kissing. That had been brewing for a while, in her opinion. She just smiled and quietly closed the door behind her as she left.

Steve and Tony came together to tell her. She only laughed at their faces, at Steve's embarrassed, apologetic look, and Tony's half-defiant, half-sorry expression.

"About bloody time," was all she said, hugging both of them warmly. "And excellent timing too, Tony. One more day and I'd have lost the betting pool to Barton."

They both laughed sheepishly, and then Tony hugged her warmly. "I want you to be happy too, Pep."

"I will be." She tapped her hip with a meaningful smile. "He'll turn up. One of these days." Though I could wish he'd say something a bit more helpful than ‘Hello, Pepper’.

Which seemed awfully familiar for a first meeting. Could it possibly be someone she'd met before? Someone else who'd somehow gained a new soulmark?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It wasn't Romanoff who gave Coulson away, in the end, it was Hill. She said his name in a present tense context, in the heat of the moment, and when Tony corrected her she looked confused for just a moment too long. Steve's suspicions were aroused and he and Tony started digging. After that, the secret lasted less than a day.

Pepper wasn't invited to the first meeting for the sole reason that she'd been out of the country on SI business. She cried when Tony called to tell her, but by the time she finally came face to face with Coulson, in the penthouse atop the Tower which had become the Avengers Bar, her tears had gone and were replaced by that redhead temper of hers which really did need an outlet.

Oh Pepper. Phil stood as the stunningly beautiful woman he'd always had more than a little bit of a crush on entered the room, looking amazingly put together as always in a pale green shift dress and skyscraper Louboutin heels, which in combination made her legs look endless. Her sky-blue eyes fell on him and narrowed, and she came clipping gracefully over towards him.

"Hello, Pepper," he said, a bit stupidly, and then her hand cracked sharply across his face.

"Don't you ever dare do that to me again!"

His head snapped to the side – wow, Pepper had quite an arm on her – and turned slowly back. "What did you say?”

“I said don’t you ever dare do that to me again!” Even as she spoke, Pepper realised that it had hardly been the personal slight she’d made it sound like. But it felt personal. Phil had become a friend, more than that, even, the one person she’d been able to rely on when Tony had lost his mind and her world had crumbled around her ears. The one person she’d really wished was there when Killian had taken her for his mad Extremis scheme. Phil would never have put her in danger as Tony had, would have seen through Killian much earlier…

… oh my God, I’m in love with Phil Coulson and I had no idea.

Pepper stared at the innocuous-looking man in front of her. The man who she’d seen stand up to terrifying opponents for her sake with nothing more than a gun and raw courage, no flying armoured suit to protect him.

Now what the hell do I do?

Phil stared at Pepper, his blue eyes wide. Could it be..?

“I don’t suppose you gained a new soulmark about a year ago?” he said, trying desperately to keep his voice casual.

“No, just a couple of months ago…” she trailed off, staring at him. Suddenly realising that he’d said Hello, Pepper, just before she slapped him. “Phil?”

His hands were shaking as he unstrapped his watch, turned his wrist to show her the neat, precise writing there. “I don’t know how it’s possible,” he said quietly as she reached out, traced the words with her long, slender fingers. “I won’t – Pepper, you know I’d never press you for anything, but…”

“One more word and I’ll slap you again,” she threatened, before stepping in close, wrapping her arms around his neck and kissing him very thoroughly indeed.

 

Chapter Text

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Jane leaned her head wearily on Darcy’s shoulder. Darcy reached up a hand and patted her absently.

“Did you eat?”

“I had breakfast.”

“Ja-ane,” Darcy sighed. “It’s midnight.”

Jane leaned in and kissed her cheek. “Leave that and come to bed then, Darce.”

“In what way will that improve your calorie intake for the day?” Darcy sighed, though, shutting down her laptop and closing it.

“In that I made us a midnight feast?” Jane smiled, slipping her arm around Darcy’s waist as she rose.

“Oh,” Darcy smiled as she saw what Jane had done. Crackers and cheese, a bottle of wine, grapes, even a large block of chocolate. “Oh, Janey. I do love you.”

“You too.”

They sat on the bed together, eating quietly. Finally they were sitting back with a plastic cup of wine each, looking at each other.

“What now?” Jane asked.

It was a good question. They’d been on the run for months, ever since SHIELD turned out to by HYDRA – and so did Ian. Erik had fortunately been out of the country, visiting family in Sweden, and managed to go underground pretty effectively there. But Jane and Darcy were both trapped in London, easy targets for anyone looking to use them against their friend Thor. Darcy had backed up Jane’s research and then they’d destroyed the lab – along with Ian’s body – and made a run for it.

They’d been running ever since, trying to stay one step ahead of the HYDRA thugs hunting them. London was the worst city in the world to try and hide out in, considering the density of surveillance cameras, so they’d headed for the country immediately and gone to smaller and smaller towns, relying on Darcy’s hacking abilities to get by, as she set up dummy accounts and credit cards and siphoned money into them – and demonstrated a worrying ability to pick pockets Jane hadn’t known her soulmate possessed.

They’d found out they were soulmates in New Mexico.

“Is it always this fucking hot here?” Darcy had bitched, throwing her bag on the floor as Erik showed her in and going to stand in front of the fan.

“Pretty much,” Jane said, before suddenly spinning around on her chair and almost falling off. “Oh. Hello!”

They’d stuck together ever since, through thick and increasingly thin. Waiting for their third to arrive. Though Darcy was becoming deeply pessimistic that they’d find him – they both liked men as well, hoped it was a him – before HYDRA caught up to them both. Darcy had hacked enough of their databases to find out that there was a kill-on-sight order out for her, and that Jane was to be taken alive and put on a list for ‘compliance’. Whatever that was. Neither of them wanted to find out.

And so they found themselves here, in a tiny bed-and-breakfast on the shores of Loch Ness, pretending to be tourists. Jane had cut her hair and dyed it blonde; Darcy’s was now chin-length and streaked with pink. They both looked very much unlike themselves.

Which is why they both panicked when they went out for a walk the following morning, stretching their legs and looking at the sights – Darcy insisted she wanted to look for Nessie, since they were here – and a woman passing by took one look at Jane and stopped in her tracks.

“Good God, you’re Dr. Jane Foster!”

“No I’m not. Who?” Jane said instinctively and belatedly.

Darcy just pulled her (smuggled in and very illegal) taser, depressed the trigger and said “Run!”

They both turned, Darcy dropping the now useless taser, and almost ran into the young man coming around the (blessedly deserted) street corner. “Jemma, we should be getting back…”

Fitz froze in his tracks at the sight of Jemma on the ground, twitching. “What did you do?” he shouted at the two women facing him, wide-eyed. He drew his ICER gun from where it had been concealed at the small of his back and pointed it, steady-handed. “Nobody move!”

“She recognised me!” Jane said.

“So you shot her?”

“No, that was me.” Darcy stared at the curly-haired young man. Older than her but younger than Jane, she assessed. Her blue eyes slid sideways, met Jane’s dark ones. “It’s only a taser, she’ll be all right in a minute.”

“This is only an ICER and you’ll be all right in a minute if I shoot you too, so don’t bloody move,” Fitz stared down the two women who’d said his soulmate words. Soulmates or not, they’d attacked Jemma and he wasn’t about to let that stand. Only – the one with the pixie cut and the dark roots showing through her bottle-blonde hair looked really familiar for some reason.

“We’re not going anywhere,” Jane said, hands spread carefully. “Are we, Darce?”

“Nope.” Darcy was looking him over with interest. He had a thin, clever face, curly hair, jeans, a plaid shirt and a bulky Arran sweater. And he sounded like a local, unlike the woman they’d shot. “Tell me you’re not married to her or anything, that you waited for us?”

Fitz blushed to the roots of his hair as he moved cautiously around them to check on Jemma. “She’s my best friend.”

“Well, that’s good. Because folks are gonna think you’re being greedy with us two gorgeous girls in your life, never mind adding another one. Not that Jane and I would be willing to share you with anyone but each other, I don’t think…”

“Darcy shut up!” Jane elbowed her in the ribs.

Fitz just shook his head, going to one knee beside the still-twitching Jemma, ejecting the taser cartridge and disconnecting the taser pins from where they’d hit her in the chest. Her twitching stopped immediately, but she was struggling for breath, so he rolled her quickly into the recovery position.

“This is most surreal and unexpected,” he said aloud. “When Coulson offered us the day off so I could go visit my cousin while we were in the area…”

Coulson!” both Jane and Darcy exploded at once.

Fitz blinked, his head coming up. “You know Coulson?”

“F-F-F,” Jemma was trying to pluck at his sleeve, tell him something. “F-F-F.”

“Yes, it’s me, it’s Fitz. You’ve been tasered, you’ll be all right, Jemma, just lie still.”

“No, F-F-Fos-Foster!”

Jane. Darcy. Foster. Fitz’s mouth dropped open as the recognition clicked in his brain. “My God, you’re Dr Jane Foster! We’ve been looking everywhere for you! No, no,” as he saw both of them clearly start to panic and back away, “it’s all right, I promise, we’re with SHIELD, the real SHIELD, I’m on Coulson’s team.” He put his ICER away, and tried to look as unthreatening as possible. Not difficult, he thought wryly to himself.

“Coulson’s dead,” Jane said, “Thor told us Loki killed him.”

“It – didn’t stick. Look, I can call him, you can see for yourself. But right now can we get Jemma off the street?”

Fitz hauled Jemma to her feet and yanked one of her shaking arms over his shoulder, and Darcy took the other side while Jane led them back to the bed and breakfast, only a few steps away.

“This poor lady took a tumble,” Jane said brightly to the manager, “may we use the lounge?”

Without waiting for an answer she led Fitz and Darcy in and closed the door firmly behind them, watching as they deposited Jemma on a couch.

“Well, do something, you’re the doctor,” Darcy said to Jane.

“I’m not that kind of doctor,” Fitz and Jane both said in unison.

“Oh, what, you’ve both got doctorates? Way to make a girl feel inferior!”

“I don’t think you could ever be inferior to anyone,” Fit mumbled before blushing and hastily turning back to Jemma.

“Did you see that, he looked at my boobs! Our soulmate likes my boobs, Jane!” Darcy smiled widely. “God, I knew this would work, you’re the brain and I’m the boobs. Together we’re the perfect woman!”

“Shut up, Darcy. I think he’s shy. We’ll have to break him in gently,” Jane hissed.

Jemma, by now, was feeling mostly back to normal. She looked up at Fitz, bending over her looking concerned. “Are they really both your soulmates?”

“It seems so,” he cast a faintly hunted look over his shoulder, but couldn’t help the pleased smile that tugged at his lips.

“You’re so doomed, Fitz.”

 

Chapter Text

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Darcy had seen and done some strange shit since she and Jane moved into Avengers Tower. But being asked to babysit a ten-year-old while his half-cybernetic superhero father talked with the Avengers was a whole new level of weird.

She and Ace Petersen looked at each other cautiously. Darcy had zero experience with children. But then she had lots of experience with wrangling geniuses who could be very childlike, so she shrugged mentally and said; “You hungry?”

“Sure,” he brightened, so she took him to the common level and they raided the fridge for snacks. Ace sneered at her offer of a Disney movie, so she suggested they play videogames instead, and they were happily playing LEGO Batman when the boy’s father was escorted in by Natasha.

“Hey, Ace,” Mike Peterson said, taking in the pretty brunette sitting on the couch beside his son with a game controller in her hands. “Watcha doin’?”

“Havin’ fun with Darcy, Dad, she’s cool.”

Mike smiled at Darcy, hoping it didn’t make him look too freakish. “Thanks for looking after him.”

She’d already decided she wasn’t going to stare at Deathlok’s scars. The guy was a hero from what she’d heard, had been battling HYDRA for months alone and doing one hell of a job at it before Steve and Sam ran across him while hunting for Barnes. He hadn’t wanted to work with SHIELD, but Avenger backup was something no one would turn down.

He did have a nice smile, despite the scars, so Darcy smiled back and said, “Any time. He’s a cool kid.”

Mike’s eyes widened. She knew one of them was cybernetic, but you really couldn’t tell. “What did you say?” he said in surprise.

“I said… wait a minute.” She had thanks for looking after him scribbled on the back of her left knee. “Do you have Any time, he’s a cool kid written on you somewhere?”

Mike looked pained. “I used to. It was on my arm.” He held up the metal prosthesis. “I’m sorry. When I lost the words – I thought it might mean that I wouldn’t find my soulmate.”

Darcy stood up, staring at him wonderingly, not even noticing when Natasha slipped the controller deftly from her hands and slid into the seat beside Ace she’d vacated, occupying the boy’s attention.

“Well, you did find me.”

“I’m…” he gestured at his scarred face, at the cybernetic leg, his arm implant. “I’m a wreck. Half a man. You don’t want me. Look at you, you’re gorgeous, you could have anyone you want.”

“I want my soulmate,” was her only response as she laid her hands on his chest, feeling the solid muscle there beneath. “The hero.”

The smile that came to his face was so beautiful, she didn’t even notice the scars.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mike and Darcy married three months later. Ace was best man, and eight months later his little sister Marcia arrived and promptly became her father’s little princess.

It was a little over a year later when Darcy, following Marcia’s toddling steps, went into their bedroom and found Mike lying down, his teeth bared in a rictus of pain, gripping onto his human arm with his half-cybernetic one.

“Mike!” she dropped the load of laundry she was carrying and rushed to his side. “What is it?”

“Pain, Jesus, so bad!”

For a man who lived with pain every day, it had to be excruciating for him to complain about it. Darcy panicked and demanded JARVIS summon Bruce instantly.

Half an hour later Mike was in the Tower’s magnificently equipped medical centre, Bruce running tests on his arm. Several scans later he came to Mike and Darcy, his face grave.

“It’s cancer,” he said gently. “In the bone. I’ve just found out that apparently you’re not the first former Centipede soldier to be diagnosed with it. It seems the grafts were carcinogenic. I’m sorry, Mike.”

Darcy let out a frightened sob. Mike put his arm around her and met Bruce’s eyes squarely. “Take the arm off.”

Bruce shook his head slowly. “If we’d found this six months ago, that might have worked. But – it’s throughout your system, Mike. In your spine now. Spreading to your lungs. Any other man would have noticed the pain long ago, but because you live with such a high level of it…”

Fuck,” Mike dropped his head against Darcy’s. “How long?” he wasn’t a man to mince words. Didn’t want the truth prettied up. He could see in Bruce’s face that there was no hope, no treatment for this. Not even Stark and Banner’s genius could fix this.

Bruce bit his lip, closed his eyes. He didn’t want this man he considered a friend, and Darcy, dear sweet Darcy who mothered all of them, to suffer this. “You’re strong. Four, maybe six weeks?”

Mike closed his eyes and turned his attention to Darcy, sobbing heartbroken into his shoulder. “Hush. Hush now, pet.”

Bruce left them alone, tears in his own eyes, and went to tell the others. Mike and Darcy would have enough to deal with. They’d need all the support they could get.

Mike lasted almost five months, longer than any of them could have had a right to expect. Long enough for him to record dozens of video messages for his children, for Ace whose father remained his hero despite living with the Avengers, for Marcia who was too young to understand and would never remember her father.

They laid him to rest at Arlington, beside other heroes, on a dull rainy day which perfectly suited Darcy’s mood. Ace leaned against her side, Marcia in her arms, the Avengers gathered close around them, mourning one of their own.

“What do we do now, Mom?” Ace’s shaking voice jolted her from her own misery. She straightened her spine, swallowed her tears.

“We go on, love. Remember what your father used to say?” She looked at her friends, her family, standing close around them. Supporting them. “We’re a team.”

 

Chapter Text

 photo BlackHawkMockingHunter_zpsda33a44a.jpg

 

“This is pointless.”

“Doesn’t fucking feel pointless,” Hunter groaned.

“Lance, we both know this isn’t going to work. It never does.”

He sighed, looking up at her. “Could we at least save this conversation until after we’ve finished having sex? Because the sex part works. My sex parts would like to work very much, thank you.” He shifted his hips for emphasis. “And you’re killing the mood slightly.”

She smiled and let out a little gasp as he hit on a sensitive spot. “All right. We’ll talk – later.”

Of course, what they actually did later was fight. The lovemaking was amazing, had never been anything else. It was the rest where they failed. They were both too much alike, too hot-tempered and quick to anger, too ready to think the worst of each other and then refuse to back down even if they were proved wrong.

“Maybe you’re right,” Hunter sighed wearily. They’d fought, had angry rage sex and now lay separated by what felt like about half a mile of bed but in reality was about six inches. “Maybe we’re kidding ourselves, thinking we can make this work with just the two of us.” He rolled to his side, propped his head on his hand, his eyes sad. “We need the others.” His hands traced over the words on his collarbone – her words – and then dropped to the other two sets on his flat stomach.

“What if we never find them?” Bobbi said softly. “Do you know how rare completed quartets are?”

“Maybe even one would be enough.” He reached out and traced the intertwined words on the inside of her left bicep. “But I think they’re already together. Wherever they are.”

“Do you think they’re happier than us?” Bobbi swore she wouldn’t cry. She wouldn’t cry.

But when he looked at her with those sad puppy-dog eyes and said “I really do hope so, darlin’. I wouldn’t want anyone to feel as miserable as I know I make you sometimes,” she gave up and started bawling. A moment later he was holding her, pressing her face into his neck, stroking her hair gently.

She’d never let anyone else see her vulnerable like this. She hated letting Lance see it. But he held a piece of her soul – and this, he’d never use against her. Because she knew he was hurting just as much as she was.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Avengers Tower was not a nice place to be when Clint and Natasha fought. And for two soulmated spy-assassins, they fought a lot. Not with the shouting and histrionics with which Tony and Pepper disagreed, but with cold, angry silences on Natasha’s part, and Clint – well, Clint would just disappear into the air ducts and not come out for days, not unless the Assemble alarm sounded.

No one could make him come out, not even Steve’s Stern Voice. And then somehow – no one was ever quite sure how, with Clint in the vents and Natasha coldly silent – they’d make up and be found – usually by Steve – defiling some public spot in the Tower.

It was Sam, who’d known them the least amount of time, who eventually asked.

“Why the hell do you two fight so much?” he demanded. For once, they weren’t, were curled up together on a couch in front of the TV watching The Big Bang Theory, the only program they both liked. “You’re soulmates, aren’t you? I’ve never seen a soulmated pair fight like you two do.”

Everyone else – they all liked The Big Bang Theory, even Tony – immediately lost all interest in the TV and turned to stare at Clint and Natasha. She went stiff and silent, and he sighed, running his fingers through her red curls, trying to relax her.

“We’re not a pair, Sam. We’re incomplete.”

“Ah, a triad without your third! That’s gotta be tough,” Sam said, immediately sympathetic.

Clint shook his head. “Worse. We’re a quartet.”

“Holy crap, really?” Tony sat bolt upright. “I’ve never met anyone who was part of a quartet! Not a complete one, anyway.”

“You still haven’t,” Natasha pointed out dryly.

“So what do you know about them?” Tony wouldn’t leave it alone, despite Pepper repeatedly jabbing her elbow into his ribs. “Stop it, Pep, you know we’re all fascinated by our spysassin’s sex lives. We get to see enough of it, when they’re not fighting they’re fucking on any given surface in the Tower. They’re both so flexible. Are you flexible sexual-orientation wise too? Is it two women? Because if so, Katniss, I’m going to have to kill you for being the luckiest bastard in the world.”

Clint couldn’t help but grin. “At least one of them’s a man. His name’s Bob. And yes, Tony, we’re both bisexual.”

Tony’s eyes glazed over.

“If you even think about attempting to install cameras in our apartment, I will cause your suit to suffer an extremely painful and fatal malfunction,” Natasha said, without even bothering to look at him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Clintasha,” Maria Hill popped her head around the door of the office they shared the following afternoon, checking quickly to make sure they were both dressed – which they were, Clint making some minute adjustments to his bow with a tiny screwdriver and Natasha hacking something with the tip of her tongue caught between her teeth, “I need a favour.”

“If you’re gonna call us Clintasha, the answer’s no,” Natasha replied without looking up from her laptop.

“Oh puh-leeze. Everyone does it.”

“Not to our faces.”

“I’m totally not scared of you.”

They both looked up at her and Maria couldn’t help an involuntary step backwards. “Much?” she offered. Clint grinned.

“What is it, Maria?”

“My contacts in SHIELD want to meet and deliver some information about what Coulson’s up to. But I have to fly to Germany with Pepper, we’re leaving in less than an hour. I said you two would go instead. You’re recognisable so they’ll know who you are.”

“You already said we’d go?” Natasha arched a perfect red brow.

“Errr…” Maria gave up. She still sometimes forgot that she was no longer able to give these two orders. Not that they’d always obeyed them anyway… “Please?”

Clint just held out his hand for the info.

“Oh thank you. Agents Morse and Hunter.” Maria handed him a sheet of paper with a photo printed on it, a tall beautiful blond woman and a dark-haired, dark-eyed man with the look of a soldier about him.

“Mm, hot couple. Are they a couple?” Clint couldn’t help the aesthetic appreciation. Natasha got up and came to look over his shoulder, leaning on the back of his chair.

“They used to be. They divorced. They were soulmates, I don’t know what went wrong.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“I want a pretzel,” Natasha said suddenly.

“What, now?” Clint rolled his eyes at her, shrugged as she walked away towards the stand. “No thanks, I’m not hungry!” he called after her. She pretended not to hear. “Eh,” he muttered under his breath, walking a little further on – this was where Hill had said they’d meet Hunter and Morse – oh – wow, they were even better-looking in person than in the picture, Morse’s legs endless in blue jeans, a slight smile on Hunter’s chiselled face. He approached slowly, holding his hands out from his sides to show that they were empty.

“You’re Hunter?” he said, a little shy of addressing Morse, who was appraising him thoughtfully.

“Yeah, and this is Bob,” Hunter said cheerfully.

“Hi, nice to meet you – wait, what did you say?” Clint turned back to Hunter, eyes wide.

“He said the words!” Bobbi said to Lance, astonished. “You said the words!” she turned back to Clint.

A slow smile broke across his face. “I think you’d better meet Tasha.”

“Hawkeye is one of our soulmates?” Hunter spluttered incredulously.

“And I’m assuming that the Black Widow is our fourth,” Bobbi said slowly, staring into Clint’s eyes. He was looking at both of them appreciatively, his grin stretching wider. “Well. This is unexpected.”

“Unexpected!” Hunter just about choked. Staring at Clint. Hawkeye was a fraction taller than he was, just about Bobbi’s height – or would be if she was barefoot – and seriously gorgeous. And eyeing him hotly in a way that made an anticipatory shiver run up Lance’s spine.

Natasha joined them then, a pretzel wrapped in a napkin in her hand. “You found them, then,” she said to Clint, nodded cordially to Bobbi and Lance.

“In more ways than one. We’re your soulmates,” Bobbi said.

“And damn do I feel lucky right now,” Lance added, staring from Natasha to Clint incredulously.

Clint had never seen Natasha lost for words before. She just stood, blinking her green eyes, looking from him, to Lance, to Bobbi, and back to him again. And then she smiled widely and said;

“Oh, this is going to be fun.”

They moved together a little uncertainly, to begin with. Until Natasha, probably the most confident of all of them, slid an arm around first Hunter’s waist, then Bobbi’s. Clint moved in on the other side, completing the circle, and all four of them leaned into each other, relaxing as their bond finally – finally! – became whole.

 

Chapter Text

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“I’d better go look for Jemma,” Fitz finally broke away from the group he was chatting to in the end. They were extremely interesting – Dr McCoy was fascinating – but he hadn’t seen Jemma in a while. She had a tendency to be a wallflower at parties sometimes and he hoped that wasn’t happening. The X-Men were all so nice – well, apart from Logan, sometimes. The Wolverine, he thought, didn’t actually mean to be scary on purpose though. Rather like Agent May, who, he thought, might actually have been eyeing Logan with something like interest. Fitz shuddered at the thought of those two getting together and headed down the corridor away from the ballroom.

“Ah wouldn’t go in there, sugah,” a soft, husky voice said as he put his hand on a door handle, intending to go in and look.

“Oh, why not?” he’d turned with a slight smile before her words registered. “Wait. What did you say?”

The very attractive woman standing there blinked. “Um. What?”

Fitz recognised her, though they hadn’t been introduced. This was Rogue – who could kill with the touch of her bare skin. He looked down at her hands. She wore long green satin gloves.

“Er, hi. I’m Fitz. You, uh – you said my soulmark words.”

“An’ yah said mahn, sugah.” She smiled, but her green eyes were sad. “Yah know who Ah am?”

“I know.”

“Then yah know Ah can’t be like a normal girlfriend to yah? Not yet, anyway. The Professor believes one day Ah might get ahold of mah power…”

Fitz smiled, accepted the gloved hand she offered to shake. “Then I’ll wait. As long as need be. Because I think you’re very much worth waiting for.”

The smile that lit up her face made him feel warm through.

“And in the meantime, well. There’s more to a good relationship than sex.” He blushed slightly, saying it. “I’d like to get to know you. Properly.”

“Ah’d lahk that too, Fitz.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Six months later

“Will you please just accept the job, Rogue? Half the X-Men are working for SHIELD now we’re legitimate again anyway. I’m so tired of only getting to see you in passing, every now and again.”

“But where would Ah live, Fitz?”

“With me!”

She stilled, staring at him. “But – but Ah can’t…”

“I don’t care. There’s a spare room in my apartment, we can make that into another bedroom. Or put twin beds in my room, I know you don’t want to risk hurting me in your sleep. I just,” he looked sheepishly down at his hands, twisting them together. “I want to be with you. All the time.”

A slim hand sheathed in green silk came up and settled delicately on both of his. “How could Ah refuse, when yah put it like that?”

They both smiled.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Two years later

“Marry me.”

“What?” she turned her head to gape at him. They were settled together on the couch, watching a documentary on TV, Fitz rubbing her feet through her socks.

“Marry me.” His blue eyes were utterly serious. “I love you. I don’t want to be without you, not ever. Please will you marry me?”

She gazed at him, at his dear, beloved face, this brilliant, gentle man who risked his life daily in her presence. They’d accidentally touched twice – and he’d very daringly snatched a kiss once – and each time his face had paled, and he’d staggered and almost fallen. How much of his life had she already stolen, Rogue wondered? Would he be happier without her, free to fall in love with someone else, maybe have the family she could never give him?

Even though Jemma had pointed out that she could actually have Fitz’s children, if she wanted, though medical intervention, Rogue was too afraid – what if the children were like her? Or worse, what if they weren’t like her, what if they were normal, and she could never even touch her own child?

“Fitz, Ah don’t think…” she said at last, but he cut her off before she could finish the sentence.

“If you start again about how I’d be better off without you, I’m going to be very annoyed.”

She had to smile. His fingers were stroking lightly up her leg, caressing over her leggings. They’d found ways to touch, to pleasure each other, through thin layers of clothing. Clever, creative Fitz had even come up with a way for them to actually have sex, using a condom and strategically arranged clothes, and he made sure it was as good for Rogue as it was for him.

Impulsively, she turned and laid her cheek on his chest, nestling against him. Letting him pet her hair with his bare hand, the one part of her he could safely touch. “Ah love you,” she said softly.

“I love you too, you know that.”

“Let me think about it?” she requested after a few moments of quiet snuggling.

“As long as you need, my love. I’ll be right here waiting for you.”

 

Chapter Text

“It’s the most complicated fucking bomb I’ve ever seen,” Mack said, his dark face panicked as he looked through Hunter’s com pickup. “There’s no way I can defuse it, Turbo.”

Fit groaned in agony. Stupid, stupid idiot, he’d taken a fall trying to be a hero as they ran into the HYDRA base, and broken his right wrist in two places. Even if they could get him down to the bomb – which was on a fifteen-minute timer – in time, he couldn’t do the job.

“Rogue could do it,” Jemma said suddenly. She was carefully splinting Fitz’s wrist. “She could take the knowledge of how from your mind, and Nightcrawler could teleport her there.”

“Jemma, yah don’t know what yah’re asking!” Rogue was hovering anxiously over Fitz, her pretty face drawn with worry.

“I know exactly what I’m asking, Rogue.” Jemma turned to face her, her eyes terrified. “That’s a bio bomb and if it isn’t defused, everyone in that base is going to die in one of the most horrible ways imaginable. Even Kurt can’t teleport them all out in time. And you know as well as I that John will insist on being last out.”

Rogue looked away from the fear in her friend’s face. Because it was true. Pyro would never leave while there were still people down there.

“Rogue,” Fitz fumbled for her hand, trying to pull her glove off with his one working hand. “Do it. Please. For me.”

She looked at him, into his beloved face, calm and unafraid. He was already weakened. How much of his life would she steal; enough to put him into a coma? “Fitz,” she began, and he sighed and abandoned his attempt to get her glove off her clenched fist. Reaching up instead, he put his hand to the back of her neck.

“Kiss me,” he commanded softly, “and go save them.”

“Ah love yah,” she sobbed as he drew her closer.

“I love you too,” he whispered as their lips met.

It was like being struck by slow lightning, Rogue had always thought; drawing from someone’s mind as well as their life force, being filled with their knowledge, their thoughts and memories. But this was entirely different, because the very first thing that hit her was the total, shining love for her in Fitz’s mind. There was no fear of her there – fear for her, yes, fear that even his knowledge might not be enough for her to defuse the bomb and she might not get out – but no fear of her.

And as she kissed him, Rogue forgot to be afraid. Fitz’s mind was vast, brilliant, his thoughts ordered and structured, neat and precise. He was thinking of the skills and knowledge she needed; she found them easily, absorbed them – and opened her eyes to see him smiling at her.

“How?” she whispered, awed. She’d taken none of his life. Only that little piece of his memories and knowledge, borrowed for now.

“I don’t know, but we can talk about it later. Go!”

Nightcrawler was waiting: he grabbed her around the waist and they vanished with a bamf of displaced air.

With Fitz’s knowledge guiding her, she performed the delicate, multiple operations to defuse the bomb with more than a minute to spare, and sagged back on the floor as Mack and Hunter carefully secured the vial of lethal bio-toxin that would have been released into the base’s atmosphere.

“Well done,” Bobby patted her shoulder as they headed out of the base, the whole place finally secured, and she turned to him.

“Would yah mind if Ah touched yah?” she’d absorbed Bobby long ago. “Ah need to test something out.”

He hesitated, but nodded finally. “Of course.”

The instant she pressed a finger to his wrist, though, the drain began. She snatched it back, frowning. “Ah don’t understand.”

A little pale, Bobby swallowed convulsively a couple of times before they started walking again. “Don’t understand what?”

“Ah touched Fitz, to get his knowledge of how to defuse the bomb, and Ah didn’t drain him.”

Bobby gave her a startled look. “You’re sure?”

“Yah, Ah had to make a conscious effort to take his memories.”

“Maybe it’s the love thing,” Bobby said a bit facetiously. “Twoo wuv conquers all, and all that.”

She whacked his arm with a laugh – and then couldn’t stop thinking about it. She was almost shy when she got back to Fitz, sitting in the med bay on the Bus with his arm in a cast, but he held his good arm out with a relieved smile and she went to him at once.

“So, that happened,” Fitz said, after cuddling her for a few minutes. “Want to talk about it? Better yet, try it again?”

“Bobby thinks it’s about love.”

“If it was, then you should have been able to touch me long ago,” Fitz disagreed immediately, so quickly she knew he’d been thinking about it too. “Right away, really.”

That made her smile. “Ah think it’s about fear. Mah fear. The Professor always said it was a mental block, that Ah hurt people because Ah was afraid of them hurting me. But yah – when Ah touched yahr mind, there was so much love there – and yah weren’t afraid of me, either. Ah know yah’d never hurt me.”

“Never,” Fitz promised softly, pulling her closer still, bringing his hand up to run into her hair. “Kiss me again, love. I want to make sure it’s real, that it wasn’t just a fluke.”

She smiled, leaned in and brushed his lips lightly with hers. Nothing happened – nothing but a pleasant tingling, so she deepened the kiss, parted her lips when he swept his tongue lightly across them. For long minutes they kissed, that first, perfect kiss which had been denied them for so long, all the better because of the deep, abiding love that had built up between them. And then Rogue pulled back, smiling joyously.

“Yah know what this means?”

“I’m hoping it’ll mean you’ll say yes.”

“Oh,” her lips parted in a perfect O, and he couldn’t help leaning in to kiss her again. When he moved back, her eyes were shining like stars.

“Yes.”

 

Chapter Text

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“Coulson,” May said quietly, “I’m about to be arrested.” And then she swiftly took her com out, dropped it and crushed it under her boot heel even as she raised her hands above her head.

I’m badass, but eight heavily armed military police is a bit much even for me.

They searched her efficiently, taking the ICER gun at the small of her back and even finding the three small knives she carried about her person. Yes, she preferred her fists and feet, but being completely unarmed was unwise to say the least. Hands cuffed behind her back – tightly, she approved, even dislocating her thumb might not get her out – she was shoved into a vehicle and driven to a low administrative building.

“Take her to the Colonel,” the squad leader ordered two of his men. He gave May a serious look. “You can explain to him just why you were inside the perimeter fence. And how you got in.”

Or not, May thought. She kept her expression smooth and blank.

She was shown into a small interrogation room. Pressed to sit down on a plain chair – bolted to the floor, again she approved, but they didn’t cuff her to it. And then they left.

She looked around the room. One table, two chairs – a one-way mirror facing her. She looked into it, sighed theatrically and rolled her eyes. Bored now.

The door opened less than a minute later to admit a tall, solidly built black man in the uniform of an Air Force Colonel. May couldn’t quite stop her eyes widening slightly as she recognised him.

Oh shit, it’s War Machine. That throws a wrench in the gears.

“And just who might you be, ma’am?” he rumbled, sitting down opposite her and looking her calmly in the eye.

That – might be an even bigger wrench.

James Rhodes eyed the small, slender Asian woman sitting opposite him with curiosity. The woman was an enigma in more ways than just her expression, he thought. His men couldn’t fathom how the hell she got three miles inside the perimeter fence of Area 51 without being picked up. She’d been less than a mile from the building that he suspected had been her target – a building where some very restricted technologies were kept.

“I can’t help you if you don’t talk to me,” he said, not unkindly. “But if you don’t say anything, you have to understand you’re in a very awkward position. We ran you through facial recognition and nothing came up. Because of your racial appearance and the fact that you’re carrying no ID, you’ll be assumed to be a foreign spy.”

May’s mouth twisted, because he was right. She took a deep breath. Well. Time to find out the true situation. “That could be very awkward for quite a lot of people.” She looked at him expectantly.

Rhodey had thought he was unshockable. Long-term exposure to Tony Stark tended to reduce one’s shockability, he’d found. But his eyes flew wide as she spoke. His words weren’t on file, and they certainly weren’t visible. How could she possibly – well, there was only one way to be sure.

He got up and walked out of the room. Went into the observation room next door and ordered everyone out. Switched off the cameras and microphones and locked the room before returning to the interrogation cell.

“You’re going to have to show me.”

“I thought you might say that. Since I’m guessing you don’t want to take the cuffs off, you can look for yourself. They’re on my stomach.” She shoved to her feet and stood still.

He looked at her for a moment before going to one knee, figuring it was a less vulnerable position than bending down. She could knee him in the face if he did that. Slowly, he took the hem of her stretchy black shirt and raised it.

And there, written across her flat stomach in his neat script were the words And just who might you be, ma’am?

He lowered the shirt. Looked up into her dark eyes.

“Well, isn’t this a problem.”

She smiled, unexpectedly, her eyes dancing. “Depends how you look at it.”

He sighed, gesturing her to sit down, returning to his own seat. “All recording is off, there’s no one watching us. Tell me the truth.”

May watched him for a moment, decided to trust his word. “My name is Melinda May. I’m SHIELD. One of Coulson’s people.”

Rhodey rocked back on his chair, surprised. “I’ve heard of you – you’re not just one of his people, you’re the deputy director!”

“Eh,” she shrugged. “I was also the best person for this job.”

“And the job was?”

She smiled. “I’m afraid I’m not at liberty to reveal that. You know how it works.”

He smiled, unwillingly. She’d tell him personal details but the mission was classified. Of course. He’d do the same thing in her position. “What am I going to do with you?”

May couldn’t help but grin, casting an insolent look up and down his strong body. “I can think of a few things.”

“Oh, I can think of a few things too, sweetheart, all of them very bad ideas right now,” Rhodey couldn’t help but respond to that look, his body most definitely reacting to his soulmate’s interest.

“Why don’t you call Coulson? If he’d known you were here, I wouldn’t have had to sneak in. We’d just have asked you to steal it for us.”

You are gonna be trouble.”

She raised a dark eyebrow challengingly, and he couldn’t help but lean in to snatch a kiss on his way out. Her lips were soft and warm, her long eyelashes fluttering against his cheek as she kissed him back. Rhodey straightened and took a deep breath.

“How is it that you’re handcuffed in a cell and I still feel like you’re the one in charge?”

Melinda May smiled as he walked out, the door swinging closed behind him.

 

Chapter Text

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“This is not your fight,” Storm told the SHIELD agent who stood, calm in the middle of the chaos.

“They are HYDRA. I am SHIELD. Therefore, this is my fight.” Phil knew who she was. She was on the Asset Index, of course, with many of her allies, though SHIELD had always steered well clear of the X-Men. They were too dangerous to piss off.

“They were experimenting on our people.”

He only stood and looked at her, and at last she sighed. “Just don’t get in the way.”

“We’re only here for information, we’re happy to leave the wrecking of the place to your people. They seem to be doing an excellent job of it. Just let my hacker at the computers when you’re done.”

Storm nodded finally. “Shadowcat’s our own hacker. They can work together, clean the systems out.”

Phil nodded in acceptance of her terms.

Twenty minutes later he was standing patiently behind Skye and the young girl who’d walked through a wall, nearly giving him a heart attack, before introducing herself as Kitty Pryde, watching in bemusement as they performed arcane surgery on HYDRA’s computers. Gun in hand, he was there to watch their backs just in case any threats popped up. Not that that seemed very likely. When the X-Men cleaned out a facility, they really cleaned it out. And Skye planned to bring the whole place down on itself once they left anyway.

Phil startled as a stocky, dark-haired man wearing a bloodstained white wife-beater and cargo pants came striding in. His gun came up automatically even as his brain recognised the man from file pictures.

“None of that, buddy,” Logan knew who he was, Storm had warned him that the SHIELD director was here, and he half-expected Coulson to be a bit jumpy. For a suit he moved damn quick, though not as quickly as Logan. He didn’t bother extending his claws, just moved lightning-fast to grip Coulson’s gun hand and press down on it. “I’m on your side,” he said calmingly, forcing Phil’s hand down to his side as gently as he could.

Phil’s mouth dropped open. “Well – that’s really good to know,” he said after a minute of silence, in which Logan’s expression had turned quizzical, waiting for him to respond.

Logan’s grip tightened until Coulson winced, and then he let go slowly, still staring into those blue eyes. “That’s not what I expected. You’re not what I expected,” he said, as the tension began to ratchet higher between them. Not that he didn’t like men, he did very much, but a suit? Really?

“Nor are you.” Phil cast him a comprehensive look, from scuffed boots to bloodstained shirt to wild hair, and a smile quirked one corner of his mouth. “I’m not complaining, though.” He sheathed his gun, reached out to touch Logan’s hand, uncaring of the bloodstains on it.

“Me neither.” A complicated man, Logan thought. And an attractive one. Those were broad shoulders beneath the immaculate suit, and his stomach was flat. Coulson looked fit and hard, and he obviously wasn’t averse to going into the field himself despite his rank. Blue eyes twinkled at him.

“This probably isn’t the best time or place, but would you like to come by for a drink later?”

Now you’re talkin’ my language. Bourbon?”

“Only the finest.”

“You look like you’d appreciate the finer things in life.”

“Oh,” Phil took a step closer to Logan. They were almost equal in height, Logan just a fraction taller. Phil breathed in the animal, musky scent of him, his pupils flaring. “I certainly do.”

Logan found he suddenly didn’t give a shit about the two young women staring, wide-eyed, at the two of them. Stepping in closer to Phil, he curled a strong hand around the back of the other man’s neck. “I know I’m gonna appreciate the hell outta you,” he muttered, just before their lips met in a hungry, needy kiss.

 

Chapter Text

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He woke with a gasp, shuddering, sobbing with agony as the cold burned him from the inside out. Just like every other time, a tiny voice seemed to whisper deep inside him, but was gone as soon as he tried to reach for it. There was nothing there. Nothing but blankness.

And then, white-clad technicians, shining lights into his eyes, poking and prodding at him. He looked in their faces, searching for something familiar, but there was nothing. Until the Master came in.

“You are awake, Soldier,” the Master said. He spoke in German. It took the Soldier a few moments to process his memory of the language.

Jawohl, mein Herr.”

“Good. Come with me.”

He followed. The technicians had given him pants but no boots; he was sure-footed, though, did not slip on the tiled floor.

“We have a new asset,” the Master told him as he dressed in the plain clothes laid out for him in a briefing room, armed himself with the weapons provided to conceal beneath them. “Your mission is to protect her.”

The Soldier acknowledged the order quietly. He followed the Master to another chamber, one which contained two glass-walled cells. One of the cells contained a man; white-haired but youthful, he had his fists pressed against the glass and was shouting something inaudible. The other was empty, but before it stood a young woman. Dark of hair and eye, she was small and pale, wearing a red jacket and black dress. She was staring at the white-haired man.

“Now remember, Wanda,” the Master said in a paternal tone, “all you have to do is carry out your mission and everything will be just fine. This is Soldier; he will be your bodyguard.”

Her dark eyes passed over him, but she said nothing; and neither did he. He had not been ordered to speak.

“Be off with you, then,” the Master waved a negligent hand.

Wanda turned to look once at her brother. He stared at her with agonised eyes, shaking his head. But what could she do? Refuse the order and he would suffer far worse than mere death. “I love you,” she mouthed at him, and turned away.

A car and driver took them out of the facility. The Soldier looked around curiously, realising this was not the city he had last gone to sleep in (where was that, again?) but it was vaguely familiar. “Where is this place?” he asked the driver, the first words he had spoken save for acknowledging the Master.

“Rome,” came the clipped response.

He did not ask what they were doing there. Likely he would not be told. His mission was to guard the girl, that was all.

They were dropped off and the girl looked up at him, a little doubtfully. “Is Soldier the only name you have?” she asked.

“It is the only name I remember,” he answered quietly, and wondered why her eyes went so very wide.

You!” she stared into his eyes, reached up a delicate hand to touch his cheek, her eyes drifting closed as she did. “Oh – but what have they done to you!”

He did not understand, only stared at her blankly.

Wanda wanted to weep. She had seen her soulmate in her visions, only vaguely, but in her visions he was strong and confident, a warrior who would protect her, would help Pietro. Not this empty-eyed shell of a man who didn’t even remember that he had a soulmark. She glanced quickly about, drew him into a dark alleyway, away from the bustling crowds.

“Is this where we must go for the mission?” he looked about blankly.

“This is my mission,” she agreed quietly. Hoping, praying that she could get this right. Closing her eyes, she drew on every thread of probability she could find. Wove them together in her mind, added a chunk of fairytale and a good dollop of hope – and reached up and kissed him, passing the hex to him through her lips.

“What the…” Bucky’s eyes flew suddenly wide.

He remembered everything. It was all there, suddenly, everything that had been wiped from him through the long, bitter years. Gifted back – or was it cursed? – by the kiss of the girl standing before him, watching him with ancient knowledge in her dark eyes. He staggered back, hit the wall, stood there processing for several minutes.

“We have to move,” Wanda said at last. “If they don’t get word that I’ve carried out the mission, they’ll start torturing Pietro.”

“The – guy with the white hair?”

“My brother. He’s already suffered too much for me.”

“You’re my soulmate, aren’t you?”

She nodded, an agonised look on her face. “I’m sorry I had to do that to you. I – saw a little bit of it. What you suffered.”

He shook his head, trying to clear it. “That doesn’t matter now. What matters is gettin’ you and your brother away from those bastards.”

Her smile was like the sun coming up. “You’ll help us?”

“I’ll help you,” he confirmed gruffly. “It’s Wanda, isn’t it? I’m Bucky.” he reached for her hand and she let him take it with a shy glance up at him. “So, what’s this mission we have to complete, doll? ‘Cause I’m not in the mood to kill anyone but HYDRA scum.”

“Nothing like that. I have to steal a religious relic. We can return it later.”

By steal she meant telekinetically float it out of a church window, Bucky discovered, shaking his head incredulously. He took the heavy book from her, wrapped it in a silk bag she pulled from her pocket. “Let’s go get your brother, doll.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It was the middle of the night when JARVIS woke Steve from a rare deep sleep with the information that there was an important call he should take.

“Rogers,” he said into the phone, wondering who on earth it could be.

“Hey, punk. Couple of friends and I could use a ride.”

 

Chapter Text

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They first came face to face when she was at SHIELD Academy. He was a few years older, a Specialist with a reputation for getting the tricky jobs done. He’d come in to lecture the class on disappearing in a crowd, a skill for which he was renowned.

Melinda had listened intently. Phil Coulson was interesting, an articulate speaker. She thought of a question she wanted to ask him and waited behind after the lecture was over, but he got a call on his mobile phone and was suddenly hurrying out with an intent look on his face, saying “Yes, Director, I’ll be right up, ma’am.”

Nobody kept Director Carter waiting, so Melinda got out of the way with a quick smile when he gave her an apologetic nod. He tripped over her book bag, though, caught himself gracefully and carried on walking, talking on the phone, not even hearing her “Sorry, sir!”

She herself forgot she’d ever spoken a word to him. They met again a year later, after she graduated the Academy and she was assigned to a group of recent graduates he’d been asked to mentor. She didn’t like the other three – brash, pushy guys who were stupid enough to dismiss her as unimportant because she was female, how they expected to get anywhere in Peggy Carter’s SHIELD May couldn’t imagine – so she didn’t push herself forward to be introduced.

“And this is Agent Melinda May,” her training instructor, Felix Blake, said cheerfully.

“Hello,” Phil stuck out his hand, feeling a bit gauche as the beautiful young Asian woman smiled brightly at him.

So many people had said that to her in her life already that May didn’t bother getting excited. She’d wait for him to react to her words. “It’s an honour to be working with you, sir.”

He only smiled and shook her hand. “We’ll see how you feel about that in six months.”

She allowed herself a moment of disappointment. Because he was just her type, clever and attractive, a man who could take care of business. Well. My soulmate will turn up one of these days.

Except – he never did.

She married. Divorced. Suffered. Survived Bahrain, somehow, left the field broken. Saw Coulson often over the years; he seemed regularly to pop up where least expected. Somehow she’d known he’d come for her once he was brought back from the dead. When he popped up at her desk in Admin she tried to refuse, but in the end couldn’t say no.

She’d never noticed that the single word under her left ass cheek, in a spot impossible to see for herself without a mirror and a fair bit of contortionism, had faded to grey for six days before coming back as black as ever.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It was never going to be the right time to tell Melinda May he was in love with her, Phil Coulson realised grimly. Not now she was his deputy director. It would create too much friction between them, make running SHIELD impossible. He had to set it aside, set aside his own wants as he’d done so often over the years. He punched the button to end the treadmill program, stepped off as it slowed to a stop, pulled off his T-shirt and wiped his sweaty face with it.

The gym door thudded and he turned, startled, to see the very object of his desires step in, dressed in those black skin-tight leggings and strappy sports top that fed so many of his night-time fantasies.

“Good morning, May,” he said through a lump in his throat.

“Morning Phil,” she responded with a calm dip of her sleek dark head, moving to the mats. “Been running?”

“Gotta keep in shape to keep up with the kids.”

May smiled. She thought of the team as her kids too, he knew. Especially Skye. Sweet Skye, the daughter of his heart, the girl who looked as though she could have come from a mix of his and May’s genes. Phil sighed as he thought of his troubled girl and headed to the water cooler to grab a glass, slinging his sweat-soaked T-shirt over his shoulder.

May’s eyes roamed appreciatively over Phil’s torso even as she began her T’ai Ch’i. He certainly did keep in shape, his stomach flat and his shoulders broad and well-muscled. It was rare to see him without a shirt, he was body-modest, always had been even before the awful scars Loki’s spear had left on him. She’d appreciate the view while she had it.

Her gaze snagged on something just above the waistband of his sweatpants.

“Huh, I never knew you had a soulmark,” she found herself blurting in surprise.

“Oh,” he turned with a wry smile. “Yeah. Doubt I’ll find them now.”

“I’ve got one too. It says Hello,” she sympathised. She could see that his was only a couple of words, so maybe it was something just as stupidly generic like Hi there.

“Hah, oh that’s an awkward one. Mine says Sorry, sir.” A little to her surprise, he walked closer to her mat and turned to show her.

Long ago, as a teenager, May had developed a habit of forming the letter y with a little swirl in the tail. She’d eventually trained herself out of the habit – but it was distinctively her writing, or her writing as it would have been about twenty years ago. She stared now at the mark on Phil Coulson’s hip with her mouth dropping open in an extremely uncharacteristic display of shock.

“What?” Phil said, bemused.

“That’s my writing.” She remembered, then, the long ago lecture, the phone call and the way he’d tripped over her bag. “I said that to you. You were on the phone. I don’t think you heard me.”

He stared at her for a long moment, his blue eyes widening. “Did I say hello to you when we were first properly introduced?”

She nodded, numbly. Then tugged down her leggings and turned around, bending over. “Look. Here.”

Oh my God, I’m getting to look at May’s ass. And what an ass… she had the body of a woman half her age, tight and pert.

It was his neat scribble, all right, there under the curve of her butt cheek, right on her panty line. Face red, Phil looked away. “That’s my writing.”

“My God, Phil!” she yanked her leggings back up, turned to face him. “You know what this means?”

“It means,” he said a bit thickly, “that I’ve wasted more than twenty years not bloody doing this.”

And Phil Coulson reached out, took Melinda May in his arms, dragged her against his sweaty chest and kissed her as though the world was about to end.

 

Chapter Text

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They met completely by chance. Considering their line of work, they could have met in any number of situations, but as it turned out, they both walked into the same seedy bar at the same time looking for oblivion. She’d been there before and walked straight to the bar to place her order; he hadn’t, paused for a moment to let his eyes adjust to the dim light. The place was damn near empty.

His eyes were inevitably drawn to the woman who’d come in a half-step ahead of him; she was beautiful enough to make any man look twice, and she hadn’t given him a second look, which always piqued him a little. He was, after all, everybody’s type, and he’d just had a clean shave that morning.

She’d already slammed back her first shot of bourbon by the time he sat down beside her at the bar. He glanced at it, at her, lifted a finger to the bartender. “Vodka for me, and another one of those for the lady.”

“Ah don’t want anything from yah,” she said dismissively, in a strong Southern accent. Looked at the bartender. “Ah’ll take another, but ah pay for mah own drinks.”

The barman shrugged, poured both shots. As long as he got paid.

Ward stared at the woman, taking a much longer look. She said my soulwords. All my life I’ve known that even my soulmate doesn’t want me – but perhaps she just doesn’t like being hit on in bars?

It took him a long moment to compose what to say.

“I’m sorry to hear that you’re not interested,” he chose finally.

Rogue started. Looked back at the man sitting beside her. She’d dismissed him at first glance as just another pretty face, too pretty for his own good, really. Cocky, trying to buy her a drink. But – her soulmate?

They stared at each other for a long moment, and then Ward smiled. “My name’s Grant Ward.”

“This is a bad idea,” was all she said. And then she tossed a few bills on the bar, got up and walked out.

“What the…” he shoved a twenty at the bartender and bolted after her. “Wait!” he grabbed at her arm.

“Don’t touch meh!” she was wearing a coat, of course, and gloves; she never exposed skin unless she could help it and it was midwinter in upstate New York, perfectly reasonable weather for multiple layers. “Don’t ever touch meh.”

“Sweetheart, you’re my soulmate,” his voice dropped, softly cajoling, and he didn’t let go of her arm, backing her up gently against the wall outside the bar. It was nice and dim out here. “I can’t just let you walk away like this. Not without knowing how to find you again.”

Rogue gulped. He was handsome. Very handsome, even better-looking than Gambit in some ways… she suddenly realised he was leaning in to kiss her and that could not happen.

“No!” she said sharply, trying to wrench her arm away – but he was too strong, pushing her back against the wall, grabbing her other hand as she tried to bring it up to push him off and bringing his mouth down on hers in a hungry, seeking kiss.

There was a ringing in his ears, a weakness in his limbs. He staggered back, fell to his knees. “What did you do to me?” he rasped out, pain wracking his whole body.

She just stood for a moment, staring down at him. “Ah know what yah are, Grant Ward,” she said finally, and in her tone was utter rejection. “Ah know what yah’ve done, the choices yah’ve made. What yah did to Skye.”

He flinched at her name. Opened his mouth to try and defend himself, but Rogue carried on pitilessly.

“We both hurt the ones we love, yah and Ah. The difference is that yah choose to hurt and Ah try not to. Yah lie and make excuses, but the truth is that yah always had a choice, to do the right thing or the wrong thing, and too many times yah’ve followed the wrong path, even when yah knew yah should turn away.”

He couldn’t make so much as a sound come from his throat, as she carried on flaying him to the bone in that honey-smooth Southern drawl.

“Ah want no part of yah, with yahr mixed-up morals and yahr excuses. Yah’ll not use me like yah used so many others. Ah’ve a decent enough life without yah and Ah’ll live it unburdened by yahr troubles.” She cast one last glance at him, her head held high. “Don’t try to find me, Grant Ward. If Ah ever see yah again, Ah’ll do the world a favour and put yah out of yahr misery.”

He stayed on his knees as she walked away. Didn’t have the strength to rise. He had no idea what she’d done to him until he managed to stagger upright and went back into the bar. The barman looked at him as though he’d never seen him before.

In the cracked mirror in the men’s urinal, Grant Ward peered at a stranger’s face. Lined and wrinkled, his hair grey, he looked every bit of seventy years old. His cry of anguish shook the mirror in its frame.

 

Chapter Text

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“And this,” Sif said proudly, “is my friend Sir Leo Fitz, the Master Maker who repaired Lorelei’s collar and enabled me to capture her.”

The Warriors Three all looked suitably impressed and bowed their heads to Fitz, who blushed as red as a tomato.

“You do me too much honour, my lady,” he mumbled.

Sif looked at him oddly, but had to move on to introduce her friends to the rest of the team. When she had finished, though, she returned to where Fitz was standing by himself and spoke to him directly.

“You do not place a high enough value on your skills, Leo Fitz,” she told him firmly.

He flushed red again, unable to look her in the eye. Only looking down caused his eyes to light on her figure, outlined so spectacularly in her armour, and he jerked his chin up hastily. Shit, she’ll probably chop my head off for staring at her boobs.

“I’m just an engineer,” he said, aware that he probably was being a bit modest. Fixing Lorelei’s collar had been an incredibly complex job.

“Never!” to his astonishment, Sif reached out and put her hands on his shoulders, bracing him. “It is a truly honourable profession, to be a maker of technology,” she told him earnestly. “I could only wish for such skills myself, but alas, I am skilled in nothing more than destruction.”

“Oh, but you’re very good at that,” Fitz said, which made her smile. “We all have to stick at what we’re good at, don’t we?”

Her smile widened. “Do not ever change, Leo Fitz,” she said softly. “The Realms need good, honourable men such as yourself, now more than ever.” And to his utmost astonishment, she leaned forward – they were exactly the same height – and kissed his cheek.

He’d have blushed even redder, if that were possible, except the sudden stinging sensation on his cheek was reminiscent of being stung by half a dozen bees. He hissed with pain, clapping a hand to his face, barely aware of Sif letting out a gasp of shock and pressing her fingers to her lips.

“What the hell, ouch!” Fitz said in astonishment, but the stinging sensation was fading quickly. He touched his cheek and looked at his fingers, half-expecting to see blood. Sif was gazing at him, her grey eyes wide with shock, and then she lowered her fingers and reached out to touch his cheek.

Fitz flinched back instinctively, but Sif shook her head, reaching to touch him, her cool fingers brushing his face lightly. “You,” she whispered softly. “A Maker. The Fates have honoured me, in truth.”

He blinked in confusion, just then noticing an odd mark on her full upper lip. “What – what was that? What happened? What’s that on your lip?”

“It will be your sigil, Leo Fitz, even as mine is now upon your cheek.” She touched him again, smiling radiantly. “You are my soulmate.”

Okay, this is obviously some kind of really insane practical joke.

“That’s not possible.”

Sif’s brow creased in a frown. “You do not – you not find me of interest? I – know of your affection for your fellow Maker Lady Jemma,” she cast a jealous look across the room, to where Jemma was laughing at Fandral’s flirting, “but I had hoped that finding me to be your soulmate might be enough for you to choose me…”

Fitz’s jaw dropped.

She’s serious.

Oh my God, and I’ve just implied I don’t want her…

“Lady Sif,” he grabbed at her hand as she drew it back, a hurt look on her face, caught it in his. It was so strong, callused, a warrior’s hand; his felt weak and pathetic against it. “It’s not that. I – am not worthy of you. Could not possibly be worthy of you.”

That smile returned to her face, the one that could light up a room, and she pressed lightly on his fingers, stepping closer to him. “You will allow me to decide that, Leo Fitz. I find you very much worthy. That a Maker of your calibre should be my mate – well, I am the one who is blessed, I assure you, all of Asgard will believe it so.”

Well everyone on Earth is going to think I’m the luckiest dog on the planet, Fitz thought, and realised he’d said it out loud when she giggled. Sif. Giggled. She put the fingers of her free hand to her mouth and actually cast him a slightly coy look over them, before glancing around. No one was looking at them at the moment, as Fandral was monopolising everyone’s attention with a noisy recounting of the battle with the Destroyer in New Mexico.

“Perhaps,” Sif murmured, feeling very bold, “we could go somewhere a little more private and you could show me how lucky you are feeling just now?”

Do not faint, Fitz. Do NOT faint.

“Sure,” his voice came out a squeak.

Only May saw them slip quietly out of the room, and she assumed that Sif must have asked Fitz to show her some piece of technology.

Consequently, when Volstagg declared himself famished and Phil laughed and invited them into the kitchen, they were all rather stunned to find Fitz and Sif thoroughly entangled up against the fridge, he with no shirt on and she with several pieces of her armour removed.

Phil shut the door, blinked several times, opened it again.

Nope, not a mirage.

He shut the door again and looked at the stunned faces and dropped jaws around him.

“Maybe we’ll just get takeout.”

 

Chapter Text

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I’m so utterly out of my league it’s not funny. What am I doing here?

Mack looked glumly around the big room. Everyone in there was a heavy hitter, a high-level agent, an Avenger or a science genius.

Except me. I’m just a mechanic. Why did Coulson make me come along, again?

Mack sighed and eyed the door wistfully. They’d parked the SUV downstairs in a garage where there was an amazing array of sports cars and he’d so much rather be down there, admiring them, than here trying to make polite conversation with people he had nothing in common with. And who were completely not interested in talking to him.

There were three distinct groups, the science geniuses (Foster, Banner, Selvig, FitzSimmons), the badasses (Hawkeye, Black Widow, Bobbi, Hunter and May) and the tactical types (Hill, Rogers, Coulson and, surprisingly, Skye). Stark floated between all three groups as he bored of conversations.

The only other person besides Mack who didn’t seem to fit was the dark-haired young woman who’d been airily introduced by Stark as ‘Darcy, science wrangler extraordinaire’. She was currently on her own but looking completely unbothered about it, browsing at the buffet table.

That wasn’t a bad idea, actually. Stark had certainly laid on a spread for this first formal meeting between the teams and Mack was, as always, hungry. It took a lot to keep his big frame running. He ambled over in that direction and picked up a plate.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Darcy had a habit of eating when she felt nervous or uncomfortable. And she was very much out of her comfort zone right now. All the Avengers (barring Thor who was on Asgard) in one room together usually led to at least one fight breaking out anyway. With each other if they couldn’t find a common enemy. Add in a gang of SHIELD badasses and she could almost hear the explosions in the distance.

She examined the buffet offerings. Well, the catering staff had come up trumps anyway. She glanced up as a shadow fell over her, saw the enormous black guy from the SHIELD team, Mack or Mick she thought his name was. He was tall and muscular enough to make even Cap look ordinary, which was really saying something. Seriously badass. They probably used him as a battering ram. She offered a nervous smile and held up a small pastry parcel.

“What d’you think this might be?”

Dark eyes widened, and he actually took a step back, which made Darcy blink. He couldn’t possibly be shy, could he? Not a guy that size who looked like that

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It was the first time in his life anyone had said the words written in loopy script on Mack’s hipbone. And that it should be this deliciously curvaceous brunette with the lush mouth and the huge blue eyes… he blinked rapidly.

I couldn’t possibly be that lucky. Surely not.

She was still waiting for him to respond, her smile turning quizzical.

Say something, you look like a complete idiot… “Um,” he muttered, “I guess you’d have to taste it and see?”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Darcy’s mouth fell open. “You,” she said disbelievingly.

“Yeah. Looks like.” A huge hand hovered nervously near his hip, then he held it out towards her. “Um. I’m Mack.”

She took his hand a bit numbly. “But you’re one of the SHIELD badasses, you can’t be my soulmate,” she blurted.

A wry smile curved his mouth. “SHIELD, yeah. Badass, no. I’m a mechanic. I’m really not too sure why I’ve been dragged along today, to be honest. I think Coulson just likes to have me stand around and look intimidating.”

“That looks like a natural talent of yours,” Darcy said with a small grin. Her hand absolutely disappeared in his massive one. She could feel the calluses on his palms, the rough skin telling of the hard work he did. “I think I was just brought along in case there were any awkward silences because then I could fill them with babble.”

He grinned back, showing beautifully even white teeth. “So since both of us feel like we don’t belong here…”

“Let’s blow this party and go make a better one by ourselves?” Darcy suggested hopefully. Because hoo boy, Mack was hot, his tight grey T-shirt emphasizing a beautifully muscled body. Unf. She eyed him appreciatively up and down, taking a step closer.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“I like the way you think, blue eyes.” And oh boy, did he ever like the view as she moved closer. His height gave him the perfect angle to look into that spectacular cleavage.

Mack couldn’t get a deep breath as Darcy held out her hand to him and nodded towards the door. He glanced around. Nobody was looking at them, so he took it and followed her.

“Where are we going?” Mack asked as she pulled him towards the elevator.

“Jane’s lab, which will be empty right now.” She turned and looked up, all the way up, into his eyes. She was so little, the top of her head didn’t even reach his shoulder. A pocket Venus, Mack thought hungrily, a deliciously sweet armful of curves and sass. He moved in towards her, leaned his arm on the wall above her head.

“That sounds good to me,” he rumbled deeply. “Bein’ alone with you.”

“Yeah. Because then I can mack on you all I want and nobody’s gonna care.” Darcy grinned at the pun on his name.

Mack smiled back at her. “That sounds really good,” he murmured softly, and his head dipped as Darcy closed her eyes and parted her lips.

Of course, they lost track of time, and of course the tour of the Tower got to the lab just as Mack was showing Darcy the words on his hip. As the whole of both teams were treated to the rather spectacular sight of Mack’s naked ass, it was Hunter who recovered first to make the retort.

“This time, you’re cleaning the surfaces, Mack!”

 

Chapter Text

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She was tired.

It felt like she’d been fighting for ever. Wearing herself out using the power that she still struggled to control, until finally she had nothing left to give. Blood dripped from her nose as she gathered herself for one, last, final effort. She’d take him with her if that was what it took.

On her knees and still defiant, Skye watched as Grant Ward paced closer, across the shattered ground towards her. He’d waited his chance, patient like a spider, and now, when she was all out of fight, or so he thought, he would strike.

A flare of light dazzled Skye’s eyes. Barely able to stay conscious, she blinked, trying to make out what was happening, but could only see a tall, golden form between her and Ward.

Oh – am I dead already? Is that an angel? Good – Ward will never get into heaven – but then neither will I, probably…

Ward stared at the golden-armoured form that had suddenly appeared in a flare of rainbow light between him and Skye. Massive sword in hand, the warrior was huge, probably close to seven feet tall. Ward hesitated.

“She’s mine.”

“She never was, and she never will be. You cannot own people, Grant Ward. It is not for you to decide what is best for anyone other than yourself. Unless you learn that lesson, you will never find contentment.”

Heimdall stepped back to where Skye had collapsed. He’d been watching from Asgard, admiring her courage in the face of the odds stacked against her, the trap this cunning, conniving man had created to break her spirit, regretted that there was no way for him to reach out to aid her in her hopeless fight. And then to his astonishment Odin had ordered him to intervene. Told him that the maiden was too important to the future of the Realms to let Ward take her.

“You can’t…” Ward drew a gun, stepped forward. Stopped breathing as the tip of the warrior’s sword pricked his throat.

“Drop it or die.”

He was too fast to be human. He had to be Asgardian. Which meant Ward was outmatched. Slowly, face burning with impotent rage, he opened his hand and let the gun fall.

“She is not for you, Grant Ward.” Heimdall stooped, never letting the tip of his sword waver, and lifted Skye’s limp body easily in his free arm. “You will never see her again.” It was a promise rather than a prophecy, but Heimdall vowed to himself he would ensure it became reality. “Odin.”

The Bifrost exploded in a shower of rainbows around him, and the last thing he saw of Midgard was Grant Ward’s face twisting in a maddened scream.

“Good; you have her.” Odin stepped down from the Bifrost mechanism, moved forward to Skye’s side, stripping off his gloves and placing his hands on her head. “She over-used her powers, but she will live. Lay her down, Heimdall.”

“Here?” He was reluctant to place her on the cold stone floor. It seemed wrong. “No. Not here.” Turning, he walked down the hidden stairway to his rooms below the Bifrost chamber. Laid Skye gently upon his own bed.

Odin followed, a knowing smile upon his face. He stood back, watching from the shadows as Heimdall stripped off his gauntlets, gently moved Skye’s dark hair away from where it had tumbled across her face. Touched his fingertips lightly to the pulse in her neck.

Skye woke thinking her throat was being cut. She let out a gargled scream and clutched at her neck, only to encounter a massive, warm hand pressing gently on her skin.

“What the hell!” Her eyes snapped open and she stared up into golden eyes in a dark-skinned face. “Who are you? Where am I?” as she focussed past him and saw fluted stone columns.

“You are on Asgard, Lady Skye,” Heimdall rumbled, getting past his shock. He turned to give Odin a stare – the All-Father only smiled and departed. He’d known, though how – ah, of course, Lady Frigga’s scrying pool. Heimdall shook his head, turned back to look at his soulmate. “I am Heimdall. The Guardian.”

“I’ve heard of you.”

Of course she’d heard of him. Sif had mentioned him, and he’d appeared numerous times in the Norse myths Skye had read with interest once she realised that many of the legends were real.

No one ever mentioned that he was gorgeous, though… I’m being ridiculous, all Asgardians are gorgeous.

How do I tell her? I cannot tell her… Heimdall watched as Skye levered herself slowly to her feet, looking around.

“What happened to my neck? It hurt and now it doesn’t. Or do you Asgardians have some kind of super alien healing magic?” Spotting a mirror on the wall, Skye headed in that direction. Stared disbelievingly at the golden runes on her throat. “What the actual fuck, did you guys tattoo me?” She wheeled and looked up at Heimdall, who, oh wow, he was crazy tall as he moved close to her.

“Lady Skye,” he hesitated, and then he held out one of his hands. She looked at it, puzzled, saw golden runes shimmering on his dark skin. An exact match to the ones on her throat.

“I don’t understand?” she looked up into his eyes.

“You are my soulmate,” he said it quietly. Knowing she wouldn’t believe.

“Ah, no,” Skye let out a snort. His silence made her reconsider. “Wait. You’re serious. An immortal god is my soulmate?”

“Neither immortal nor a god. But yours. Yes, my lady, I am and will be forevermore yours.” He slid to his knees with a clank of armour, took her hand in his and brought her fingertips to his brow. Submitting himself to her utterly.

Skye’s jaw hung open. For long moments she couldn’t come up with a thing to say. And then finally she managed to get out;

“Well, maybe the universe really does like me after all.”

 

Chapter Text

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Melinda May was just thinking Oh fuck, this isn’t going at all well, when the arrows started whizzing over her head. And now they’re getting worse, because there’s only one possibility as to where they are coming from

That said, she was probably no longer in quite so much danger of imminent death, since the rain of bullets had stopped. Cautiously, she poked her head up from behind the dumpster she’d taken hasty shelter behind.

I’m totally going to stop volunteering to go scout places out for Coulson…

A hissing sound and a thud behind her had her turning to look up into a pair of flinty blue-grey eyes.

“Well well, look what I found,” Clint drawled, disconnecting the grapple arrow and stalking towards the deceptively delicate-looking woman. Very deceptive, he was sure, because he’d just watched her silently take out half a dozen guards before they were alerted to her presence and started firing on her position. He’d been sitting on the roof for days looking for an opening to invade this place. And she’d just created one. One corner of his mouth kicked up. “I don’t know who you are. But how do you feel about a little more murder and mayhem before we blow this place sky high?”

May found herself grinning back at him. “I think this is going to be the start of a beautiful partnership.”

He startled, blue-grey eyes flying wide as they raked over her comprehensively. And then his lips curled in a wicked grin. “I hope this is going to be the start of a whole lot more than that, gorgeous. Clint Barton.”

Holy crap, it’s really real. HAWKEYE is my soulmate. MY soulmate.

“Melinda May.” She gave him a long look in return, her eyes lingering on his thickly muscled arms. His tight ass as he turned to scope the area behind them, make sure there were no more incoming guards. Well, today’s certainly looking up.

“Wait,” Clint’s brain processed that quickly. “The Cavalry?”

“Don’t call me that.”

“But you’re a legend!”

“Pot, kettle.” She grinned over her shoulder at him as they ran.

He chuckled quietly. “Eh. I’m just a grunt with good aim.”

She shook her head at his self-deprecating remark. “Sshh now. We’ve work to do.”

Clint smiled, selected an explosive arrow. “You first, Cavalry.”

“Do not call me that, Barton!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

They were making their way quietly through the dark streets together an hour later when Clint nudged her shoulder gently. “You sure I can’t call you Cavalry?”

“I really hate that nickname.” May glanced sideways at him. “Why would you want to use it?”

The grin he cast her was absolutely filthy. “Well, I’m thinkin’ it would suit. I’d love to see you ridin’ me like a mustang, anyway.”

May actually tripped over her own feet for the first time since she was about three years old. A powerful hand clasped around her bicep, saved her from falling. She stared up at Clint. “What did you say?”

“You heard me. D’you like country music?”

She blinked. “What?” She couldn’t keep up with his train of thought. Not after he’d put that image in her mind, anyway.

Clint chuckled. Carried on walking. Started singing, softly, in a lovely smoky voice, as they walked down the darkened street.

She didn’t know the song. But judging from the lyrics, it was called Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy.

“Shut up. You are totally making that song up!” She couldn’t help but grin. It seemed her soulmate was a bit of a troll. Just like her, only she was less obvious about it.

“No, cowgirl. Not making it up.” He licked his lips at her, and she lost it completely, shoved him up against the wall – he let her, obviously, he was probably twice her weight in solid muscle – and climbed him like a tree, fisting her hands tightly in his short blond hair as she plastered her mouth to his.

“See,” Clint murmured when she let him up for air, “You do know how to shut me up.”

“I’m going to keep that mouth of yours too busy to dare call me Cavalry.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

 

Chapter Text

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“So. Where next?” Steve slumped into a chair at the Mission Room table.

Maria tapped her screen. “This place, we think. It’s in Austria…”

“Well that used to be Ground Zero for HYDRA,” Bucky muttered, traded glances with Steve across the table. “Looks like things ain’t changed much.”

“Is that a castle?” Steve said incredulously as an image flashed up on the big screen.

“They call it a schloss, in Austria – yeah, it’s pretty much a castle. The guy who owns it is some kind of minor nobility. Baron von Strucker. We believe he’s HYDRA.”

Both Steve and Bucky jerked upright as a picture appeared. “That’s not possible!” Steve gasped.

“Shit, Stevie, it looks like the same guy,” Bucky whispered, wide-eyed.

“Which is why we’ve picked him out. After Coulson’s information about Whitehall aka Dr Werner Reinhardt, Tony started JARVIS on scanning old file images of known HYDRA scientists and doing facial recognition searches against people alive today. Whereupon we identified this guy. Masquerading, as far as we can tell, as his own grandson.”

Bucky was looking queasy. “He was one of Red Skull’s people. One of the guys in that facility where they experimented on me…”

“We’re definitely going after this place next,” Steve said with finality.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Of course, it turned out to be a whole lot bigger than it looked. There was a network of underground tunnels under the castle, a maze that took hours to clean out of the HYDRA rats inhabiting it, even with all the firepower at their disposal. They finally ran von Strucker to ground at the very heart of the facility, in a laboratory that made Bucky shudder just to look at it and Steve’s hands tighten on the rim of his shield. There were two cells there, glass-walled, one empty, one occupied by a young, white-haired man, who was banging on the glass and shouting soundlessly.

Von Strucker stood in the centre of the room, a young woman at his side. Dark-haired and dark-eyed, she was delicately pretty in a way that would make any man look twice.

And there was a red glow surrounding her hands that Steve didn’t like the look of at all.

“There!” von Strucker shouted as Steve and Bucky came into the room. “Do it, destroy them!”

The young woman’s hands came up, the red glow brightening.

“I wouldn’t do that, miss,” Steve called out to her.

She hesitated, dark eyes widening.

“Now, do it now!” von Strucker roared, reaching to the panel in front of him. “Or your brother dies!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Tears ran down Wanda’s face as she was presented with an agonising choice; kill the soulmate she’d just found, before he even knew her – or lose the brother dearer to her than her own life. She sobbed – and her soulmate took the choice from her, doing something she could never have predicted.

He flung his shield like a giant Frisbee, directly at the glass sealing Pietro’s cell.

Even rocket-proof glass could not stand up to a vibranium shield thrown with the strength of the world’s greatest super-soldier. The glass shattered into a million fragments – Pietro fortunately had seen it coming and used his speed to leap back, or he might have been knocked down too – and von Strucker started back, his mouth opening and closing with shock.

Almost as fast as Pietro could move, Steve was in front of her, sparing her only a single glance before his hand closed on von Strucker’s throat and he threw the Nazi across the room to land at Bucky’s feet. Bucky looked down at the scientist, gasping for breath, throat half-crushed from Steve’s grip, and smiled slowly.

“You always do give me the nicest presents, punk.”

“Just make sure he’s ready to talk when you’re done,” Steve said, looking down at Wanda warily. “Miss? Your brother’s going to be all right,” he gestured at Pietro, climbing a bit unsteadily out of his cell.

She didn’t know what to say to him, so she let her hex dissipate and ran to Pietro instead, clutching at him like a child, burying her head in his chest. It had been years since they’d been able to touch, always one of them had been penned like an animal, under threat to make the other comply.

“I’ve got you,” her brother soothed gently in their native tongue, stroking her hair. “We’re going to be all right, Wanda. Let me take you out of here.”

She shook her head. “Soulmate,” she gestured back at Captain America, who was surveying the control panels with a disgusted expression. The Winter Soldier had already dragged a screaming von Strucker away.

“Really?” Pietro blinked in surprise. “Captain America?”

Wanda nodded a bit shyly. “He doesn’t know yet.”

For another long moment Pietro held her tight, savouring the last moments when his beloved twin was his and only his. And then he kissed her brow. “Best go let him know he’s the luckiest guy in the world, then.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Steve’s head snapped up as the dark-haired girl came back over to him. Her brother stood watching, arms folded over a muscular chest. “Miss?” he said, still wary of whatever that red glow had been around her hands. “Were the two of you prisoners here? We’re happy to help you…”

The smile she gave him was shy but blindingly beautiful, and then she said in softly accented English;

“I’ve been waiting for you for so long.”

Steve’s jaw dropped.

“My name’s Wanda,” she pushed up the sleeve of the red leather jacket she was wearing and showed him a line of writing along her forearm. His writing. I wouldn’t do that, miss. “And I’m very pleased to meet you, Captain.”

“Steve,” he said automatically. “Call me – Steve.” He reached shaking fingers, touched her cheek lightly, pushed back a lock of tangled dark hair. “You’re – mine?” She was beautiful. Far too lovely, too special, for a kid from Brooklyn…

She tilted her cheek into his palm, smiled again. “Always.”

Chapter Text

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Darcy was staring at the TV in utter horror, her mouth hanging open. Captain America being declared a fugitive was one thing – Steve Rogers was a nice guy and there was no way he’d done what they were saying – but this shit was fucked up. She grabbed for her phone to text Jane, ask if she was watching this, before remembering that Jane was on Asgard with Thor. Her phone wasn’t there anyway. She pawed at the coffee table, turned her head to look.

Huh, where’s my phone?

A movement across the room made her look up. Ian was there, her phone in one hand – and a gun in the other.

“I’m sorry about this, Darcy.”

It took a couple of seconds for her to put it together. “You’re HYDRA.”

“I’m afraid so. And you’re now a hostage. Dr Foster will co-operate to keep you safe, and Thor will do anything for her. So put your hands on your head, Darcy. Nice and slow.”

Her Taser was in her purse. On the other side of the room. And Ian looked frighteningly competent with that gun. Darcy remembered, suddenly, how surprised she’d been when he proved not-useless in the fight against the Dark Elves.

That was a Clue, Darcy, you moron. And now you’re screwed.

A few tears of rage ran down her cheeks as Ian cuffed her hands roughly behind her back, laughed quietly in her ear and licked her neck.

“Such a co-operative little girl.”

Sick with disgust, Darcy tried to turn away from him, but he shoved her against the wall, rough hands curving over her breasts. “How about once more for old times’ sake before I have to hand you over, sweet thing?”

“Get off me,” she choked, trying to bite him as he leaned in to kiss her. A cruel laugh was her only answer – and then a calm voice saying,

“Do as the lady says, buddy.”

Two heads snapped around in shock, took in the muscular blond guy in a red and black skinsuit crouched on the windowsill, a pair of long swords in his hands. And then Ian let go of Darcy and grabbed for the gun.

“Be with you in a minute, sweetheart!” the blond said cheerfully to Darcy, leaping off the windowsill. “Better take cover!”

She was too shocked to move. She’d always thought that be with you in a minute, sweetheart, was the kind of thing some utter jerkoff would say to her, probably looking at her breasts while he dismissed her as unimportant in the grander scheme of things.

Not a superhero apparently here to save her from an extremely unpleasant fate.

Which he was doing extremely competently – and impossibly – flicking bullets out of the air with his swords as Ian jerked the trigger. A couple of strides forward, a slight smile still on his handsome face, and Ian was sliding limply to the floor, lifeless body dropping off the bloodied tip of one of those long, wickedly sharp blades.

“Job done. Let’s get you out of those cuffs, sweetheart.” Wade wiped his katana clean, sheathed them both on his back and reached for the beautiful, curvaceous brunette. He couldn’t help but notice how magnificently her breasts jutted forward with her hands cuffed behind her like that. Holy crap, look at those boobs. I wanna go down on my knees and worship those boobs…

“I think you might be my soulmate.”

The small voice froze him just as he was picking the lock on the cuffs. He stared down into shocked blue eyes.

“In that case, I’m even happier I came to help out a damsel in distress,” Wade said slowly, forcing himself to concentrate on the lock.

“Why are you here?”

“Erik Selvig called. Asked me to check up on you.”

“He has the strangest friends.”

“Better than yours, it seems,” Wade huffed, glancing at the dead body on the floor. “I gotta say you have terrible taste in men.”

“Says my soulmate.”

He couldn’t help a grin at her sass as one cuff clicked open. “Yeah. Well. I’m the dictionary definition of terrible taste in men, sweetheart.”

Darcy found herself grinning too. This is probably the most awkward soulmate-meeting in the history of the world. He just killed my traitor-boyfriend.

“I’m thinking things are rather looking up in that department, actually. I’m Darcy.”

“I know.” Pretty brown eyes flicked up to hers for a moment, and then he carried on working at the other cuff. “Wade. Wade Wilson. Also known as Deadpool.”

He risked another glance at her face, saw that her jaw had dropped. “Want to pretend I didn’t say that last bit?”

“I might have had one too many shocks today,” Darcy said a bit weakly.

The other cuff popped open. “Yeah. Sorry about that. Not going to get any better. I need to get you out of here and leaving by the front door might not be wise.”

“What are you ARGH!” Darcy shrieked as he scooped her over his shoulder and leaped out of the window.

About ten of the most terrifying minutes of Darcy’s life later, they entered a completely different apartment – by the window again.

“Do you have an aversion to doors or something?” she panted angrily as Wade finally set her on her feet.

He tipped his head, apparently thinking about it. “No. But I don’t use them a lot.”

All the tensions of the day finally caught up with Darcy and her hand cracked out before she even thought about it.

Wade’s head snapped to one side. He brought it back slowly, her handprint blossoming red on his cheek, worked his jaw lightly and then grinned. His brown eyes gleamed as he slid slowly to his knees, put his hands behind his back and gripped his left wrist in his right hand.

“Hit me baby, one more time. Or lots. Please.”

Oh. OH.

He really is my soulmate…

 

Chapter Text

 Captain Pepper photo CaptainPepper_zps7cb5d1c3.jpg

 

“Say that again?” Pepper was completely disbelieving. Maria Hill sighed down the phone line.

“Fury’s dead. SHIELD is – gone. I need, I guess I’m going to call it asylum. SI has enough clout to give it to me.”

Pepper was sitting by Tony’s bedside. He was recovering, slowly, from his surgery, but he still tired quickly. Either she, Bruce or Rhodey was always with him, and she was suddenly very glad of that fact, if SHIELD was HYDRA, who could they trust? Something occurred to her then.

“What about the Avengers? Barton, Romanoff – Captain Rogers?”

Maria hesitated. “Romanoff has gone public, as you’ll have seen. She’s relying, in effect, on her status as an Avenger to get her immunity from prosecution. I can’t talk about Agent Barton at the moment. He’s safe and he’s not HYDRA, put it that way. Captain Rogers is in hospital. He was injured and almost drowned.”

“In what hospital? Where?” Pepper immediately demanded, reaching for her StarkPad. “A public hospital? Unacceptable. I’ll get him transferred here immediately.”

One of the things she’d insisted on building in to the newly rebuilt Avengers Tower was a large, and fully staffed, medical centre. There was more than enough room for Captain Rogers and any necessary entourage.

“Thank you so much, Pepper,” Maria sighed with relief. “Sam and I will escort him. I just don’t feel comfortable with him here, he seems so vulnerable…”

Pepper shook her head after hanging up. Captain America, vulnerable? It seemed so unlikely. Everything Tony had said about Steve Rogers made him sound invincible, unbreakable. But then Maria wasn’t one to exaggerate.

Rhodey agreed to go down to DC and then fly escort for the ambulance. The entire airspace around the city was still shut down except for military flights – but War Machine was military. Maria would drive the ambulance and apparently some guy called Sam Wilson was coming in with Rogers too. Pepper told JARVIS to give them all security access.

Bruce was sitting with Tony – getting his ear talked off as usual – when JARVIS informed Pepper that the little convoy had arrived. She got to the suite in the medical centre she’d set aside for Captain Rogers just in time to see Maria and Rhodey wheeling in his stretcher.

Oh my God the poor man. He looked positively grey. But then he’d almost drowned in the Potomac yesterday after a brutally exhausting fight with the Winter Soldier. Maria parked the stretcher and Pepper saw Rogers wince as he jolted slightly. She couldn’t help but hurry forward, reach for one of the big hands lying lax by his side and take it in hers.

“Everything’s going to be all right, Captain, you’re safe now.”

Cornflower-blue eyes turned to hers, widened.

Maria Hill sucked in a shocked breath.

“Who are you?” Steve rasped. His throat still hurt; he’d pretty much hacked up his lungs coughing after nearly drowning yesterday. The woman at his side, holding his hand, was lovely. Strawberry blonde hair, lovely blue eyes, freckles across a dainty nose. She was taller than Maria, so a nice height, he thought, quite tall. He’d never tire of looking at her, this stunning dame who’d said his soulmate words.

And then she opened her mouth again and tore out his heart.

“I’m Pepper Potts.”

Oh my God, no.

“You’re Tony’s girl,” he coughed out. “You’re all he ever talks about.” I can’t steal you away from Tony, it would kill him…

Pepper let out a slight chuckle. She’d had a startled moment when he’d said her soulmark words, but then Who are you? was something that had been said to her quite a few times in her life at this point. The thought of Captain America being her soulmate was just ridiculous. That said, she couldn’t let him continue under a misapprehension.

“Tony and I are best friends. Platonic soulmates. We’re really close, I’d do anything for him – but I’m not his girl.”

“You’re not?” He was vaguely aware of Maria pushing Rhodey and a protesting Sam out of the room, looking back over her shoulder at him and winking frantically, nodding her head in Pepper’s direction. Maria’s been spending too much time with Tasha, he thought inconsequentially, and smiled slightly, tightening his hand on Pepper’s. Agent Hill knew very well what his soulmark said. She’d seen the precise, neat script across his left pectoral muscle.

“No, I’m not,” Pepper managed to get out. Steve had pushed himself to sit upright, holding her hand firmly, his amazingly blue eyes intent on hers. And then he let go of her hand, and oh good God, he was stripping off his tight white T-shirt and pointing at his chest.

Wow. Muscles. She stared helplessly. So. Many. Muscles.

“Is this your writing?”

“Whut?”

How could he possibly expect her to focus on that little bit of writing when muscles? It took her a few moments to blink into focus and realise what he was asking.

No,” she said in disbelief. Saw his look of disappointment – disappointment! “I mean – yes. It is, actually. I’m just having difficulty believing that Captain America could be my soulmate!”

The smile that dawned across his face was like the sun coming up. He reached for her hand again, cradled it between two strong ones.

“I’m thinkin’ I’m the lucky one, ma’am.”

“You’d better call me Pepper.” A little shyly, she perched her hip on the edge of the bed.

“Then I’m Steve. Pepper.” He lifted her hand to his lips in an old-fashioned courtesy, and she just about swooned. “And I’m really lookin’ forward to getting to know you better.”

She blushed. And thought, from the look in his blue eyes, that Tony was a very long way off base with his Virgin Captain jokes.

Well, I daresay I’ll have lots of fun finding out…

 

Chapter Text

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They came face to face in a HYDRA safehouse that Skye had identified with some tricky hacking. Coulson sent Bobbi and May in to scope the place out.

“Are you seeing this, Morse?” May’s voice said in her comm.

“Oh yeah.” Bobbi had found three bodies so far. Freshly dead, every single one of them with guns in hand and in some cases recently fired, when she sniffed at the barrels. Yet there was not a drop of blood spilled anywhere. The kills had all been made hand-to-hand, each of the three dead with broken necks.

Bobbi stood and assessed the room. Cocked her head as she saw the bullet holes in the walls. They didn’t compute, from the firing angles. Ricochets, every one.

“Captain America hasn’t been here with his shield, has he?” she asked over the comm.

“Not that we know of,” May responded, but Bobbi barely heard, because someone had taken in a sharply indrawn breath behind her. She whirled, her batons coming up – and two powerful hands, one flesh and one metal, locked around her wrists, forcing them up to point her batons at the ceiling.

Bobbi writhed, twisting like a dervish to try and escape, but her attacker anticipated her every move and suddenly she was flat on her back on the floor, a heavy body pinning her down. Ice-blue eyes stared into hers from behind a curtain of tangled black hair.

“What do you know of him?” the Winter Soldier rasped.

Wide-eyed with panic, Bobbi’s brain was working feverishly. She knew who the Winter Soldier was. Steve Rogers’ efforts to track him down hadn’t gone unnoticed, and a little research in HYDRA’s databases had provided the truth. The question was, should she try to claim to know Rogers, or not? Would Barnes kill her either way?

The fact that he’d just said her soulmate words seemed rather irrelevant in the face of the metal hand closing slowly on her throat.

“I’ve never met him,” she gasped out quickly before he cut her air supply completely, “but I know who he is.”

The hand stilled. For a long, long moment they stared at each other.

“Huh,” Bucky said thoughtfully, and let go. Stood up and held out his hand to help the statuesque blonde up. She eyed it warily, reaching for the batons that had skittered away when she fell. He didn’t attempt to stop her.

“So who are you?” Bucky asked.

“My name’s Bobbi.” She hesitated, but she had her batons back in her hands now, felt a little safer, though it was an illusory safety, she suspected, looking at the ricochet holes in the walls. “I’m with SHIELD.”

“That’s just another name for HYDRA,” Bucky’s lip curled.

“Perhaps it was, but not anymore, I promise. I was here to do the job you’ve already done,” she gestured at the dead bodies.

He looked around, grimaced. “It seems like the only thing I can do. Try to destroy them all. There’s so much red in my ledger.”

The phrase made Bobbi wince. It was one she’d heard Romanoff use, a time or three. Sheathing her batons, she reached her hand out to Bucky. “It wasn’t your fault, Bucky. Or would you rather I call you Barnes, or James?”

“You’re my soulmate, doll, you can call me anythin’ you like,” he said, with a flash of charm that made her smile. Slowly, he reached out to take her hand, his human fingers closing gently over hers.

She was almost the same height as him, this beautiful blonde dame with eyes like the ocean. Strong and capable, she was the kind of woman who’d take no shit from anyone, least of all him. As her slender fingers curved around his and she smiled back at him, Bucky felt something tight deep inside him begin to unwind, for the first time in forever, it felt like. Wonderingly, he stared at his soulmate, realising what the feeling was.

It was hope.

“You can come with me,” Bobbi coaxed gently. “Nobody will hurt you, I promise. If you want to get in touch with Captain Rogers, I’ll help you. And if you want to keep hiding from him – I’ll help you do that too.”

He said nothing, only stared at her from those ice-blue eyes.

“Oh, and if you want to keep killing HYDRA agents? They keep trying to hunt us down,” Bobbi added, thinking of something that might appeal to him.

A snarl curled Bucky’s lip again. “They’ve tried to hurt you, doll?”

“Oh, they want me bad. I was undercover with them for a time. Blew the whistle on a whole bunch of their secrets,” Bobbi warmed to her theme. “There’s a hefty price on my head.”

His teeth bared. “They’ll never touch so much as a hair on your head.” He stepped closer, sliding his free arm around her waist. “Never.”

“I can take care of myself, now, I won’t tolerate you wrapping me in cotton wool,” Bobbi warned, suddenly thinking she might have gone a bit too far.

“I know that, doll,” his eyes were so blue. Bobbi could stare into them forever. And their lips were so close… he licked his, full pink lips in his stubbled face, and she lost it completely, sliding her arms around his neck and pulling him in for the kiss.

May was somewhat surprised, about a minute later, to walk into a room full of dead bodies and find Mockingbird and the Winter Soldier entwined in a passionate kiss in the middle of the carnage. Her dark eyes widened slowly with surprise.

“You know what? I’m just going to let you explain this to Coulson. I don’t think he’d believe me anyway.”

 

 

Chapter Text

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“I promise it’s nothing to do with us. But you know how erratically Coulson’s been acting.”

There was nothing he could say to argue with that. So he met her eyes, the eyes of the only woman he’d ever loved and ever would, and said “So tell me who you’re reporting to.”

“Maria Hill.”

“For Stark?” Bobbi had always bitched about that one time she’d met Stark and he managed to thoroughly piss her off by spending several minutes talking to her breasts. Not that Hunter blamed Stark, he could spend hours talking to those breasts, but…

“For the Avengers,” Bobbi corrected. “Come on, Hunter, you can’t deny that everything would probably have gone a whole lot better in San Juan if we’d been able to call them in! Mack was supposed to do it, but…” she trailed off.

Hunter nodded slowly. He couldn’t argue with her reasoning. But then, he rarely could. She had a way of telling you that black was white and making it seem utterly plausible.

“I’m coming with you. It’s obvious you can’t transmit the data for fear of interception, hence the data stick.”

She sighed, seeing his implacable expression. “All right, you asshole.”

Your asshole,” he said fondly. “Always.”

She couldn’t help but grin back at him and draw him in for a kiss.

 

Maria didn’t dare go out in public without a large armed escort. HYDRA were just dying to get their hands on her and strip her brain of everything she knew, so basically she lived in the Tower. It wasn’t a bad place to live – but it meant she couldn’t exactly go out to meet Bobbi, who had no intention of compromising her position in SHIELD by going to the Tower. Nor would Bobbi utilise a dead drop and risk the extremely sensitive information on the data stick falling into the wrong hands.

So Hunter and Bobbi went on a ‘date’. For which Coulson was quite happy to give them an evening off, when Bobbi told him that she just wanted to get away from work and pretend she and Hunter could be a normal couple. Just for a night. It might even help with the constant fighting…

Coulson practically shoved them out the door. He didn’t go so far as to lend them Lola, though, even though Hunter had the cheek to ask. And everyone else just wished them a nice evening, so they sauntered out and hopped into the SUV, drove into town and headed for the bar where the handover was due to occur.

“So what’s the code phrase?” Hunter murmured to Bobbi as they walked in and found a table.

Bobbi checked her phone. “It’s not verbal – it’s in ASL. Huh. Maria’s sent me a video clip. I don’t know ASL…”

“I do,” he reached for the phone. But his eye was distracted by a spectacular ass walking past, a solidly muscled guy in leather motorcycle pants and a blue denim jacket.

Hunter,” Bobbi sighed with a half-laugh. She knew he was bisexual. She’d always known. He’d been up front with her from the beginning about how hopeful he was that their shared third was a man. Not that Bobbi minded the idea. And goodness, if he was going to be distracted by a guy, that was one fine ass to choose…

The guy sat down three empty tables away, his back to the room, and without looking at them, began to sign with his fingers.

Hi there good looking. Buy you a drink?

Hunter gasped. Looked down at the phone in his hand. Looked at Bobbi with disbelief in his expression.

“What?” she said.

“It’s my soulmark words. My other soulmark.” The one that arched across his lower back. “Did Hill know?”

“How could she, you were never SHIELD, and I certainly never told anyone!”

Bobbi turned to stare at the guy, who was looking directly at them now. She could see he was actually wearing very tiny and discreet hearing aids. Must be at least partially deaf. She sucked in a breath as she recognised him. She’d seen his picture any number of times on SHIELD files. Had even been tasked to track him down when Loki took him. “Hunter, that’s Hawkeye. Agent Barton.”

“What!” Hunter blinked at her. “What’s your half of the code phrase?”

“It’s not specific. I just have to go over and tell him I’d like him to buy me a drink.”

“Yeah, that’s what the ASL says. Except he asked me, not you.”

She arched an eyebrow at him, and suddenly they were both giggling like idiots. She held out a hand and Hunter took it and stood up, accompanying her over to the other table.

“Mind if we join you?” Hunter asked.

“Because we’d love that drink, but we’re kind of a package deal.”

Clint stared at the absolutely gorgeous couple who’d just sat down opposite him and said both his sets of soulmark words. She was tall, blonde and stunning, and he had shaved dark hair, stubble and the watchful eyes of a career soldier.

“It really must be my lucky day,” Clint said slowly, still trying to wrap his head around it.

“In more ways than one.” The blonde laid her hand on the table beside his, lifted it to show a USB stick. He put his hand over it instinctively, brushed her fingers with his and felt the electricity spark between them. “I’m Barbara Morse, but call me Bobbi. This is Lance Hunter.”

“Just Hunter,” he said gruffly, reaching out to rest a hand on both theirs. Barton looked like he was in shock. “Why am I getting the feeling that we’ve just completely complicated all of our lives immeasurably?”

Clint recovered from his shock. Started to smile. “You know what? I like complicated.” He raised his free hand, gestured to a waiter. “Let me buy you that drink. And then we can talk about what kind of complicated fun we’re all going to have.”

 

Chapter Text

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She was green.

Not blue.

Phil had to keep telling himself that, but every time he caught a glimpse of Gamora’s skin he found himself getting what he felt was quite understandably twitchy.

He couldn’t seem to stop looking at her, though. Discounting the skin colour – and he was certainly not racist – she was one of the most beautiful women he’d ever seen. He wondered, suddenly, if she was a little shy, as she stood to one side in his office, not engaging with any of his team, just watching with a slight smile as Rocket enthusiastically argued some point of physics with Fitz.

“May I top up your drink?” He’d avoided a quiet approach. Gamora didn’t seem jumpy, but he’d heard from Jemma all about how lethal she was.

Gamora turned and smiled at the leader of SHIELD. He was a pleasant size, not overly large like Peter or Drax. But for his skin colour, Director Coulson might almost have been Zehoberei. “I thank you,” she said with a little smile. “I was enjoying the blue beverage.”

“The Bombay Sapphire gin. Ice and tonic?”

“No, thank you.”

“Er, neat?” Phil blinked. She smiled. He shrugged and poured a generous measure into her glass. “I can’t say I’ve ever met anyone who enjoyed their gin neat before.”

“I have two livers, Jemma tells me. I process alcohol rather more efficiently than humans.”

“Oh,” Phil blinked. Couldn’t help a glance down Gamora’s body, wondering what else about her internal biology was different. Where would a second liver fit…? Be polite, Phil. “Jemma has never mentioned the name of your race?” he invited her to start the conversation.

“The Zehoberei.” Her soft mouth turned down. “I am the last of them. Thanos destroyed my people.”

“I’m so sorry,” Phil said inadequately.

Slender shoulders lifted in an eloquent shrug. “It is what he does. I will stop him. One day.”

“I don’t doubt that you will.”

She smiled again. Nodded and moved towards the chair he opened his hand invitingly at, seating herself gracefully.

A particularly loud roar penetrated the walls and made everyone in the room wince. Particularly Phil.

“Are you sure May will be all right…?” he asked uncertainly.

“Very much so. I know something of Drax’s people; their mating rituals are – unusual, but there is no violence involved. Just a lot of noise.”

Phil couldn’t help a chuckle at that. “I’d never realised that humans could be soulmates with other species,” he admitted.

“Had you not? Well, I suppose until recently there were few other species for you to interact with.”  Gamora sipped her drink. “I daresay Dr Foster and her Asgardian were the first?”

“That we know of,” Phil agreed. “And now May and Drax.”

“Doubtless there will be more.” She looked briefly sad.

“What about your species – the Zehoberei? Are they able to…” he tried to think of another word than interbreed “find their partners within other races?” Because if not, that meant that Gamora, as the last of her kind, was doomed to be alone forever. Which was a very sad thought.

“I do not know,” she looked surprised. “We had never left our planet of origin before Thanos came. I am the only one of my people remaining. So I suppose if I find my soulmate, I will prove the theory.”

“How does it work, for your people, do you get words as we normally do? I don’t have any, not everyone does…”

“I know of your words, Jemma and Peter have told me of them. No, the Zehoberai have a mark much like a tattoo. It begins to fill with colour when we come into the presence of our destined mates.” She unfastened her jacket, slipped it off and pointed to her bare arm. “See, here is mine, it is an outline of a beast Jemma has told me looks like a Chinese dragon what the fuck is this?”

Phil blinked as Gamora gasped and rubbed at her arm. He couldn’t help but lean forward to look: the image did indeed look like a Chinese dragon, partly coloured in amazingly metallic red and gold. “How beautiful,” he said, very impressed.

Her eyes flicked up to his, wide with shock. “There was not a scrap of colour in this before I came here!”

“Oh,” instinctively Phil began to look around the room, wondering who could be Gamora’s soulmate. But as he turned his head away, she grabbed his wrist, and with immense strength belied by her delicate frame, pulled his hand against her arm.

They both gasped as the colours began to fill in faster on Gamora’s arm, and Phil felt a tingling begin in his palm. She didn’t let go, though, not until the dragon was completely coloured in shimmering red and gold. And then she turned his palm over to reveal a metallic green and gold tattoo of a six-limbed animal he didn’t at all recognise, but she smiled to see.

“Ohhh-kay,” Phil said slowly, a little stunned. “Soooo – that just happened.” And then something occurred to him. “Are there any mating rituals of your people I should know about?” Considering just what happened with May and Drax. He tilted his head, considering Gamora’s face. Her cheeks were definitely looking a darker green. Was she blushing?

“I – will need you to breed me. Soon. I – am already going into heat…”

“This is where I suddenly begin to hope that we’re actually biologically compatible,” Phil said in vague panic.

“We would not be soulmates otherwise, Phil, please…” there was sweat beading on her hairline, he realised, her breath coming quicker.

“Okay, okay, let’s get out of here…” but as quickly as he was on his feet, she was quicker, her slim arms winding around his neck as she sought desperately for his mouth.

“What the actual fuck? Is it something in the air in this place, Jemma?” Peter said from across the room, staring. “Because I have this really strong urge to run away again.”

 

Chapter Text

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Jemma was quite sure that she looked like a complete and utter wide-eyed idiot. Only. The Avengers. Were on. The Bus.

Iron Man had turned up rather fortuitously in the middle of a firefight that hadn’t been going very well for SHIELD, ended it very abruptly with a lot of rockets, and then spotted Agent Coulson.

There was quite a lot of shouting, and then a modified quinjet turned up with a lot of angry Avengers on it, and then a lot MORE shouting, and now they were all standing on the Bus’s ramp with still more shouting going on. Even Doctor Banner was joining in, though Jemma hoped he wasn’t all THAT angry. She kept a close eye on him, and observed rather thankfully that May was watching him too, her arms folded not at all far away from her ICER gun.

There was a sudden whoosh of rockets behind them and they all whirled around. Except Tony Stark, who kept right on shouting and waving his arms, until he noticed all the SHIELD agents reacting by reaching for their weapons.

“It’s just Rhodey. He’s always late to the damn party. Even missed the invasion of New York. Which, incidentally, Agent, let’s just get back to that…”

“I resent that remark, Tony,” War Machine landed with a thump at the foot of the ramp. “If you’d actually let me know before that damn portal opened that there was a problem…”

His armour was folding back even as Iron Man’s had done, and Colonel James Rhodes stepped out, dressed in urban camouflage fatigue pants and a tight grey T-shirt that showed off an impressively broad chest. Jemma couldn’t help an appreciative ogle. He caught her looking and gave her a wink, which made Jemma giggle and cover her mouth with her hand.

Amazingly, now that Rhodes was present he managed to somehow peacemake between the Avengers and Coulson – they all seemed to listen to him and respect his opinion, even Stark. Half an hour later they were all sitting in the lounge happily plotting the downfall of HYDRA. Jemma lurked in the corner, convinced someone would ask her to leave at any moment because she wasn’t important enough, but Doctor Banner had started asking questions about her research which she was shyly answering.

A shadow loomed over her, and she looked up to see Colonel Rhodes, looking down at her with a grin on his handsome face.

“Now you’re the lady I’ve been dying to get introduced to,” he said flippantly.

Jemma’s eyes flew very wide.

“Rhodey, this is Doctor Jemma Simmons,” Bruce said cheerfully, “very clever lady.”

“And a very beautiful one,” Rhodey said gallantly, scooping her hand and kissing it. She was still staring at him wide-eyed.

I need to say something.

My tongue’s gone numb.

Oh dear.

Bruce looked from Jemma to Rhodey, got a sudden inkling of what might be happening, and subtly moved away down the couch, leaving space for Rhodey to sit down.

Left the opening to sit by the gorgeous scientist, Rhodey wasn’t going to turn it down. She was probably a good few years younger than he was, but he hadn’t missed the appreciative look she’d given him when he arrived. Nor the way she was staring at him now from wide hazel eyes. She licked soft pink lips he’d very much like to taste and opened her mouth, but no sound came out.

“Don’t tell me you’re shy, Doctor Simmons?” he said teasingly. “Not a girl as gorgeous as you are?”

Deep breaths, Jemma. Deep breaths. Say something.

Anything!

“I’m not shy. Just a bit flabbergasted.”

It was Rhodey’s turn to lose his voice. He almost collapsed into the vacated seat and stared at her, stunned.

“You’re not disappointed?” he said after a moment. He was, after all, over twenty years her senior…

“Disappointed!” Jemma almost shrieked. “My soulmate is War Machine, how could I possibly be disappointed?”

Of course she said it very loudly just as there was a lull in the general babble of conversation and every head turned to look at them.

“James Rhodes, you unreasonably lucky son of a gun,” Stark said loudly.

“You know, this is a conversation that would probably go much better without an audience,” Rhodey finally recovered enough to say, and Jemma nodded immediately, grabbing at his hand and standing with him, hurrying him past an open-mouthed Coulson and forward to a small row of private cubicles, slapping her palm on a panel to open a door.

“In here.”

It was, in effect, a cupboard with a bed in it. Which Jemma realised as the door slid closed behind them and she looked up into Rhodey’s dark eyes, only to see them widen, his lips parting as he looked at the bed and then back at her.

“Okay, that was probably an unwise decision,” he muttered rather thickly, “putting both of us in the proximity of a bed.”

Especially since he was broad-shouldered enough to take up most of the room’s available space, Jemma realised.

On the other hand – well, he was her soulmate. She moved closer, reaching up to put her hands on his shoulders. “Doesn’t seem very unwise to me.”

Any resolutions he might have been privately making about not rushing her flew straight out of his head. “Whatever you say,” he agreed mindlessly, strong arms sliding around her slim waist.

Jemma smiled. “Well aren’t you just charming.”

“I try. I’ve probably got a few rough edges could stand to be smoothed off,” he warned her. Rhodey had been a bachelor a long time, after all.

“Oh,” her slim hand stroked down over the thick muscles swelling from the sleeves of his tight T-shirt, “I don’t mind a few rough edges.” The way she looked up at him through her lashes made his mouth go dry. And then that slender hand curled around his neck and pulled, and he lowered his mouth to claim hers. To claim her. His Jemma.

 

Chapter Text

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“Goodbye, my darling,” Peggy whispered, watching as the last drips of blood fell from the tube. She let the tube and lid fall too. Watched her tears drip down after it into the churning waters far, far below, until finally she had no more left to cry.

It was over. Time to start a new phase of her life. Without Steve. She lifted her chin and squared her shoulders.

“That was real maudlin; please tell me you’re not gonna jump,” a deep voice drawled behind her, and she spun with a gasp of shock; how had someone snuck up behind her without her hearing them? And someone who’d said the words on the soulmark that had wound like a snake about her right thigh since the day of her birth, too?

The man standing there had to be nearly as big as Steve had been: dark-haired and blue-eyed, he wore a simple workman’s shirt, pants and boots. And yet there was something about him that said he wasn’t ordinary at all. Peggy couldn’t quite help but grope for the gun in her bag.

“Please don’t, Miss Carter,” he moved far quicker than he should, one large hand pressing down on hers.

How do you know my name?” she spat at him. Unreasonably angered that this, this common-seeming creature, should dare to possibly be her soulmate. And now, of all times, when she was still grieving for Steve… her eyes widened as he held something out to her. It was a picture of her. One she’d given to Steve, once. Not the one he kept in his compass – that one she believed had gone down in the Valkyrie – but another.

“You’re pretty recognisable, Miss Carter,” the man said with a laugh in his gravelly voice. “Though Rogers talked about you as though you were an angel come to earth, Barnes said you had a razor edge on your tongue. I’m thinkin’ they might both have been right.”

“You knew Steve – and Bucky?” she gasped, her mouth falling open unflatteringly.

“Ran across them a time or two.” He smiled, his craggy face transformed to sudden handsomeness. “Name’s Howlett. James Howlett. I promised if I ever got back to the States I’d come and look you up. Steve said you were the kind of gal who’d get herself into trouble without someone to watch her back.”

Of course Steve would have said that. Someone to watch her back, not a man to look after her. It made a small smile curve her mouth, and she remembered suddenly that she’d heard Howlett’s name before. Not from Steve or Bucky, though, but from Dum Dum – or was it Gabe Jones?

James watched the beautiful dark-haired gal as she blinked at him, obviously thinking. Tears still stained her cheeks, and after a moment he fished in his pocket and pulled out a clean handkerchief, offering it. She took it and dabbed daintily at her cheeks.

“You’re my soulmate, you know,” she said almost conversationally.

“Yeah. Seems like you’re still grievin’, though. Cap’s a pretty tough act to follow.”

“From what I’ve heard about you,” Peggy said slowly, still recalling some of the wilder stories that Dum Dum – it had been Dugan, she remembered now – had told about one James Howlett, “you might be the only man alive who would even try.”

“Well, Miss Carter,” it was a slow, challenging smile, “it’d sure be nice if you gave me the opportunity.”

“I’ll consider it.” She tucked his handkerchief into her bag. “You’d better call me Peggy.”

He offered his arm, and after a moment she placed her hand on it. “You lead the way, Peggy. I’m just along for the ride.”

She cast him a sideways look from those pretty dark eyes. “Somehow I think you’re going to be a back-seat driver.”

“But of course I am. I’m your soulmate.” He gave her a wink, and she had to fight down a chuckle.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“He’s gorgeous, English,” Angie whispered as they watched Howlett prowl around the residence, checking everything out. “Your soulmate? You are one lucky gal. You got any brothers, mister?” she called out.

“One. But you don’t want to meet him.” Howlett stilled his pacing. “He’s not very nice.”

“Shame.” Angie ogled him shamelessly until Peggy nudged her.

“Stop eyeing my soulmate like that!”

“Well you don’t want him. Honestly, English, you have all the luck, you work with that dreamboat Agent Thompson…”

Peggy fought down a retch.

“… and now you find a gorgeous soulmate and you won’t even let him take you out to dinner…”

“Enough, Angie!” Suddenly, Peggy had a very wicked idea. “Why don’t you come with us? We’ll make it a double date.”

“Oh yes, and who’s my date going to be, Peg? They ain’t exactly coming out of the woodwork for Angela Martinelli…”

“Agent Thompson asked after you, you know. Asked about your grandmother…”

“He did?” there were stars in Angie’s eyes.

“Sure. And I happen to know he’s a very good dancer.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

James had to chuckle to himself as he watched Peggy manage her friends into falling in love over dinner. And then nudge Thompson into asking Angie to dance, to which the pretty young girl wasn’t at all averse.

“They look good together,” he told Peggy. She smiled slightly, her red lips curving. “May I have this dance, Peggy?”

She looked up at him as he stood, offered his hand. She hadn’t danced, other than for duty, since that fateful night over a year ago when she’d told Steve she’d save him a dance.

Slowly, Peggy reached out and took her soulmate’s hand. Let him pull her to her feet and lead her onto the dancefloor, powerfully muscled arms supporting her lightly.

“I’m not going to rush you, Peggy,” he murmured quietly into her ear. “I can see you’re still not ready. But I’ll always be here. However long it takes. I’ll always be waiting for you. And I’ll always, always, have your back.”

 

Chapter Text

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“Phil, I fail to see how you can be so calm!” May planted her hands on his desk and stared at him, wondering how their roles had suddenly reversed, why he was being calm and she was reacting emotionally. “I understand your reasons for wanting to ally with the Avengers – they have access to resources we don’t, and considering the number of superhumans we’ve had to face off against lately, the extra muscle will be more than handy – but they are working with Loki. Who, in case you have forgotten, murdered you.”

“He was under compulsion!”

“He didn’t have direct orders to kill you!”

“He didn’t know me and I was pointing a bloody great big gun at him!”

They stared at each other for a long moment, and then Phil smiled crookedly. “Thank you for your outrage on my behalf, May, truly. But I’ve put it behind me. I met Loki when I went to the initial meeting, and he apologised. Genuinely.”

“God of lies,” May muttered grimly.

Enough. Whatever you may think of him, it’s my decision and I expect your support.”

She managed one curt nod before slamming out of his office and going to the gym for a tai chi session to try to control her rage. Phil was her best friend. He’d been murdered and his killer was running around unpunished pretending to be a hero. It was so not all right with Melinda May that she wrapped her hands and took to the punching bag, imagining every hit connecting with Loki’s smirking face.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

She wasn’t any less angry when she finally met the Trickster. It was just one more point of annoyance that he was stupidly tall, a good foot taller than she was, and irritatingly good-looking, piercing green eyes in his thin, intelligent face seeming to look right into her. Her fist itched to punch off the faint smile that hovered around his thin lips.

Loki offered a hand, and the petite woman Coulson had introduced as Agent May gave it a disdainful stare, making no move to take it. Another one who cannot forgive, he thought a little sadly, and merely inclined his head to her. Well, Father never said that earning my redemption would be easy.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Several months later, May had to admit to a grudging respect for Loki. He was certainly a hell of a fighter, and rather like herself he never flinched from the dirty work, though she suspected he enjoyed it no more than she did. She didn’t trust him – but then, she didn’t trust anyone – but there were few people she’d rather have at her back when the chips were down.

Especially since he could teleport. She rather wished he was here right now, as she faced down the circle of armed men around her. They knew who she was, were keeping their distance so she couldn’t get in close and grapple.

“Shoot her,” Grant Ward ordered, and fingers tightened on triggers.

Gonna die, might as well… May opened her mouth. “LOKI, HELP ME!”

Jane and Darcy had both said something about Thor and Loki being able to hear when their names were invoked, if they were close enough emotionally to the person calling for them. She and Loki weren’t exactly friends, but she prayed there was enough mutual respect…

There was a sudden pop and a green cloak swirling around her, and then another pop and they were somewhere entirely different. No gunmen in sight.

“You called, Melinda May?” Loki murmured.

She was shaken enough to let her forehead fall against his leather-armoured chest for a moment. “Thank you,” she muttered.

“My ears deceive me!”

“Oh, don’t ruin it now by being an asshole,” she couldn’t help a grin. “You saved my life. Thank you.” She looked up into his green eyes and was somewhat surprised by the expression she caught on his face before he smoothed it quickly away. It looked almost like – tenderness?

She was the one who had finally made him understand what Thor saw in Midgardians. Until her, he’d really considered them as little more than fairly intelligent sheep. But this one, this tiny fierce lady with the heart of a dragon – she had captivated him for many long moons now, his nights filled with dreams of her. Despite the fact that she still hated him.

When she’d called for him – and of course he’d heard her, he’d been wishing so long to hear his name from her lips that he’d thought for a moment he must have imagined it – he’d almost died of terror when he realised why. He would go now and destroy those who had thought to kill her, destroy them so utterly that there would be not even ashes remaining, the only punishment which would quench his thirst for vengeance against those who would dare harm her. Loki made to step back, to leave her here where she would be safe, in his quarters at Avengers Tower which was the first place he had thought to take her – and found that her arms were still locked tightly about his waist.

“Lady Melinda, you must let go,” he murmured quietly.

“I don’t think I want to,” she replied.

His eyes widened. Slowly, he lifted a hand, caressed it over her hair, as black as his own. Gazed into her midnight eyes. He was so much taller than her that he would have to make the first move, and he hesitated.

“Just kiss me, Loki,” May said firmly, and a grin curved his mouth before he bent his head.

They both gasped as stinging heat flared, pulled back and stared wide-eyed at the runes forming on the other’s lips.

May knew what it meant. She’d seen the runes on Thor’s arm and Jane Foster’s hand. “My soulmate?” she said wonderingly.

“Aye, and you are mine,” Loki smiled down at her, awed. “So long have I searched,” he whispered softly, “only to find you at last, my heart.”

 

Chapter Text

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“It’s your turn to go to Asgard with Thor.”

“Don’t wanna.”

“God, Barton, you’re so childish. Come down out of that vent and get your ass up to the roof.” Tony put his hands on his hips and glared at the ceiling.

“You all hate Asgard. They make Nat wear dresses. You and Bruce are completely confused by the technology. And they keep trying to give Steve a sword to go with his shield. I just don’t want to go.”

“They’ll like you, you’re a medieval weapons specialist,” Tony wheedled. “Thor said you can take your bow.”

“Fuck off.”

“Don’t make me send Romanoff up there after you.”

There was a low growl, and then after a minute or so Clint dropped down through the vent and gave Tony a nasty look. “That was playing dirty.”

“I find it rather amusing how we all threaten each other with Natasha every time we need a legitimate threat,” Tony mused thoughtfully as he accompanied Clint up to the roof in the elevator. “Is there a threat that Natasha respects?”

“No.”

“Shame.” They emerged on the roof to find Thor already waiting for them, his red cape swirling in the wind.

“My friends!” he boomed happily. “Ah, Clinton, you are indeed to accompany me this day!”

Clint couldn’t help but grin. He did actually thoroughly like Thor, far more than any of the other Avengers except Nat, really. Maybe Asgard wouldn’t be all that bad.

Ugh, the Bifrost was pretty awful, though… it was a good thing his balance was so perfect, or he might have landed flat on his face. As it was he regained his equilibrium almost instantly and looked up to see a huge dude in golden armour and a smokin’ hot babe.

Clint’s eyes widened, the better to ogle her with. Damn, she really was all kinds of gorgeous; nearly as tall as he was with thick black hair cascading around her shoulders, silvery grey eyes in a pale, fine-boned face. She was wearing silver armour and had the hilt of a big-ass sword sticking up above her shoulder, and from the last he suddenly realised who she was. This must be the Lady Sif, one of Thor’s closest friends and a legend in her own right. Also the only person who Nat had liked on Asgard.

She was so beautiful he couldn’t quite resist flirting, though, so as Thor greeted Heimdall Clint stepped forward and delivered a flourishing bow – he was rather proud of it, actually, he hadn’t done one like that since his circus days – and declaimed;

“Since you are evidently the most beautiful woman in either Realm, I conclude that I have the honour of addressing the Lady Sif?”

Sif chuckled, amused by the archer’s flattery and grandiose gesture. Thor had spoken well of this Clinton of Barton, praising his courage and skill. He hadn’t mentioned what an attractive man the Midgardian was, though, and nor had Lady Natasha on her visit, despite the fact that Sif knew the two thought of each other as brother and sister.

Blue-grey eyes gleamed at her as he straightened up, and then he turned away as Thor spoke to introduce him to Heimdall. Sif’s eyes lingered on his biceps, thickly muscled and bared by the sleeveless design of his strange black armour. An attractive man indeed.

 

I’m so far out of my league I’m not even on the same planet, Clint thought to himself with a grin, but he still couldn’t resist asking Sif for a dance at the banquet that evening. She was even more beautiful tonight in a flowing, silver gown, silver combs pinning her dark hair back from her face. The dance steps looked easy enough he was confident he wouldn’t make a fool of himself, anyway.

Sif looked surprised. It was rare that she was asked to dance by a man she could respect. Most  Asgardians thought of her as ‘one of the guys’ and those who did not – well, those she did not respect. She knew what other women said of her too, saw the jealous glares as the handsome archer bowed before her and requested the honour of a dance. For a moment she considered refusing – but it had been a long time since she danced, and she did enjoy it.

“I’d love to,” she said, surprising herself with how much she meant it, and she reached out and slipped her hand into Clint’s.

Both warriors, they did not cry out with the pain. Their fingers only tightened around each other’s for a moment, and then Clint let go and turned his hand over, staring at his palm in astonishment.

He knew what the symbols appearing there, etched in silver and black, meant. He’d seen the ones on Thor’s arm and Jane Foster’s hand. Born without words, he’d resigned himself that they weren’t coming when he reached the age of thirty, realised he was doomed to be forever alone. But now…

You?” he said wonderingly, looking at Sif, who’d risen to her feet and stood staring at her own hand, now marked with black and purple runes. “But – I’m not…”

“You are. Whatever it is that you think you are not, you are wrong,” she reached out, took his hand again and pressed their marks together. They both let out a small sigh of pleasure as the bond began to strengthen, winding tightly into place between them.

Clint hesitated. “Shall we have that dance now?”

Sif’s lips curled into a mischievous grin. “I was thinking perhaps we could retire to my quarters and try out a different kind of dancing?”

Clint’s eyes flew wide. “Oh, I am very far from being averse to that idea,” he breathed as she tugged on his hand, and followed her more than willingly from the crowded hall.

 

970 words.

Chapter Text

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Since she was a little girl, she’d always dreamed of flying. Quite literally. The dreams had started the night her soulmark came, she’d been seven years old, and that night she dreamed of soaring like an eagle, the sky her domain.

From that day forward, she’d saved every cent to put towards flying lessons. Spent her free time lurking around the local light aircraft community learning everything she could about aeroplanes. Of course with a mother in the CIA she was always headed for intelligence or the military, so when SHIELD came calling she jumped at the offer. The best of both worlds, she thought.

It didn’t turn out so well for her, of course. Bahrain almost destroyed her physically and emotionally, and afterwards for a while she didn’t even want to fly. The dreams never left, though, and when Coulson came and told her he needed a pilot – well, she’d buried herself behind a desk for long enough.

One thing led to another and soon she was a lot more than just a pilot, of course. But at least working for Coulson and New SHIELD she had more say in the decisions. More chances to fly, too, both in quinjets and the Bus.

But she still dreamed of flying without a plane. Of the wind in her face as she soared.

She saw footage of the Falcon once he started working with the Avengers, shaky phone footage for the most part but the occasional scrap caught by professional news crews, and always stared lustfully, because those wings. She wanted those wings. The EXO-7, they were apparently called, some defunct Air Force program. She even reached out to Talbot and was told there weren’t any more. Even Falcon’s last EXO-7 had actually been destroyed in the fight at the Triskelion, what he was using now was some new, improved Stark version.

So when they ran across the Avengers in the middle of a fight and the Falcon landed right in front of her, shooting down the HYDRA agents trying to kill her before turning to her with a charming grin, the first thing she said was;

“I want those wings.”

Sam tried not to get too excited – she wasn’t the first person to say that to him, Barton had even said it when they first met, which had given him a few nervous moments, because Sam really would prefer a woman for his soulmate – but oh God, PLEASE let her be the one, because she was not only beautiful but totally badass. She’d been thoroughly kicking ass even before he crashed her party.

He took a deep breath and said the words he’d long planned in response to his soulmark words. “The wings and me, we’re kind of a package deal.”

Dark eyes flew wide, her lips parted, and then she was crossing the small distance between them with swift strides, unzipping her jacket and pulling up the stretchy black top she wore underneath to show a flat, toned stomach and his sprawling scribble across it. “You?”

“That’s me,” he confirmed, feeling an uncontrollable grin beginning to spread across his face. “Sam Wilson – former pararescue, now counsellor to superheroes and attempting to keep up.”

“Melinda May. I’m…” she paused and thought about it. “I’m New SHIELD. Really SHIELD, definitely not HYDRA…” she let go of her top, rezipped her jacket, fiddled with the zip in an uncharacteristically nervous movement. Hoping he’d believe her.

“Hill’s told me about your crew,” Sam reassured. “I know who you are. But the question I have to ask you, Melinda May, is how much do you like flying?” he took another small step, closing the last little distance between them, looking down at her. She had to be about eight or ten inches shorter than his height, and delicate-looking – which she most definitely was not, considering how many of the downed bodies around them were her handiwork.

May’s lips parted, she ran her tongue across them slowly. “I dream of flying. Every night.”

“Me too,” Sam said, surprised, “every night since I can remember.” He grinned, slid one arm around her waist holding a harness strap, clipped it into a D-ring on the other side of his belt and cinched it tight. “Hang on, sweetheart. I’ll get Stark to make you your own, but for right now we’ll have to share – and it’s time to get out of here.” The heads-up display in his flight goggles was alerting him to more incoming trouble.

She twined her hands in the straps across his chest, smiled up at him. “Take me to the sky, flyboy. Let’s go soar with the eagles.”

Sam had to suppress the urge to kiss her quite viciously, but could tell from the look in her eyes and the way she smiled that she knew what he was thinking. Gritting his teeth, he looked up and sent them rocketing up into the sky.

She was laughing for joy, turning her head against his chest to see where they were going even though the wind whipped tears from her eyes. This. This was what she had dreamed of for so long.

 

Oh. And the fact that her soulmate was tall, handsome and heroic? Bonus.

 

Chapter Text

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“Pepper, I’ve tried everything,” Tony said glumly, looking up from his tablet. “JARVIS and I have searched every soulmark database, legit and shady. Scanned over a billion handwriting samples looking for a match to the writing on Fitz’s foot. And, whoever she is – assuming it’s a she, and since Fitz is pretty sure he’s straight…”

“Yes, Tony, I understand,” Pepper tried to soothe him. It had been six months since Tony had convinced Fitz to come and live in the Tower with them. Jemma had stayed with SHIELD and Sam was effectively spending most of his time with them, so Fitz wasn’t confronted with the cause of his heartbreak every day. He was no longer wearing his emotions so openly on the surface.

That didn’t mean that he wasn’t an open book to Tony and Pepper, though. He was still hurting. Still lonely and afraid that he might not meet his soulmate until he was old and grey. He’d been born with the mark, so they knew his soulmate was older than him – but not her date of birth.

Tony had thrown himself into the search with his usual enthusiasm. Devoted an entire sixteen percent of JARVIS’s processing power to it. Hacked his way into more databases than Pepper had previously imagined might exist.

And… nothing.

Whoever she (or he, Tony hadn’t excluded any possibilities) was, they weren’t working for the government, law enforcement, or any number of other industries that required soulmarks to be scanned and registered. Around the globe. Nor had they graduated college or high school in the US, or any other country that scanned students’ papers for grading.

Which seemed wrong, to Pepper. Fitz was so smart – how could his soulmate possibly be a high school dropout?

She’d concentrated her search on women without registered soulmarks, once they’d determined that nobody on the planet had a registered mark that matched Fitz’s (fortunately quite distinctive) writing. There’d been a few quiet introductions – and false alarms – along the way, of course, because handwriting analysis wasn’t an exact science. Or it hadn’t been, until Tony and JARVIS started in on it.

Pepper thought – she hoped – that Fitz hadn’t suspected anything. Fortunately, Stark Industries did host lots of major events, and Fitz, as Deputy Director of R&D now – that was his official title, anyway – was naturally invited to many of them. And naturally met a lot of people. That some of them were women Pepper carefully steered in his direction was something she didn’t want him to know.

After all, she reasoned, sometimes people fell in love without being soulmates. Look at Clint and Natasha. Clint had no mark and the Red Room had forced Natasha to kill her soulmate when she was just a girl. The two of them had chosen each other, and were happier, and closer, than many soulmated pairs Pepper knew.

But Fitz even seemed to be oblivious to flirting – and some of the women Pepper had introduced to him had definitely been interested. Fitz was a catch, after all, brilliant, well-employed and not at all hard on the eyes. His soulmate would probably have to virtually smack him round the head with a baseball bat to get his attention, Pepper thought to herself, and laughed internally at the mental image of a pretty girl chasing Fitz around the Tower’s labs with a caveman club in hand.

“What are you smiling about?” Tony set his tablet aside and leaned against her. She smiled wider and slipped a hand to the back of his neck.

“I’m thinking that it’s time for us to stop worrying about Fitz for the night and retire to our own bed.”

“Mmm, I am liking the way you’re thinking, Pep,” Tony grinned. He was just leaning in for a kiss when the Assemble alarm went off.

“Oh what the fuck the goddamn timing!” Tony cursed, even as a panel in the wall slid open to reveal his newest suit.

“Go,” Pepper said, amused. “I’ll be here when you get back.”

“Hopefully in bed wearing nothing but that smile?” he snatched a kiss as his suit started to fit around him. She stepped back, laughing, watching as he zoomed out into the night. The quinjet took off a moment later. Hill must be flying it, probably carrying Bruce and Natasha. They were the only Avengers in the Tower.

“What’s happening, JARVIS?” Pepper asked quietly as she watched the glowing rocket exhausts disappear into the darkness.

“Former Director Fury notified Mr Rogers and Mr Wilson that he had a strong lead on a possible location for Mr Barnes. It is a large HYDRA facility in Austria. After conducting reconnaissance, Mr Rogers concluded that it would be wise to call for backup.”

“What, Steve didn’t just dive in and start bashing? Sam really is a good influence.” Pepper smiled. “Is Fitz busy, JARVIS? Come to think of it, has he eaten dinner?”

“He is in his lab, ma’am, and no he has not.”

“Then I shall have to fix that.” Tony was clearly going to be a while.

 

She was a little concerned that it took them two days to get back, but when they all – even Tony – stumbled out of the quinjet looking frazzled and somewhat singed, she had to bite her lips to keep from screaming. Her eyes widened with shock as she saw Clint – he’d been gone for months on some secret undercover mission – come out with his arm wrapped tightly around Natasha’s shoulders. Both spysassins gave her tired smiles before heading down into the Tower.

Steve was next, supporting a very wrecked-looking Winter Soldier. Pepper took a slightly nervous step back, but the smile on Steve’s face convinced her there was nothing to worry about. Probably.

And then Bruce helped a thin young man in a torn grey sweater wheel a stretcher out of the jet, and for a horrible moment Pepper thought it was Tony on the stretcher, as she saw a flash of dark hair. But no, it was long hair, and there was Tony walking out of the jet behind them. She ran to him in relief, hugging him tightly.

“But who got hurt?” she turned back towards the stretcher.

“Girl. Her name’s Wanda. She and her brother Pietro were being held at the facility – experimented on,” Tony shuddered. “They’ve both got superpowers. He’s superfast and she can move shit around with her mind.”

Pepper opened her mouth to start asking questions, and then with another look at Tony decided they could wait. He was nearly asleep on his feet from the look of him, and filthy. “Come on. Let’s get you cleaned up and you can tell me all about it later.”

 

Fitz was working on a new bit of tech when JARVIS quietly alerted him that the Avengers had returned.

“Tony’s all right?” Fitz checked first.

“Sir is fine, although he appears weary. Ms. Potts is taking care of him.”

“Good. Everyone else?”

“The Avengers are all unhurt. They have, however, brought three other persons with them, at least one of whom is currently incapacitated.”

“Huh,” Fitz took off the magnifying goggles he was wearing. Jemma wasn’t at the Tower at the moment, he realised. “Does Bruce need an extra pair of hands in the medical centre?”

“I’m sure your help would be appreciated, Fitz.” It had taken several weeks of arguing and in the end a direct order from Tony, but JARVIS had finally been convinced to just call him Fitz. The AI treated him like a little brother who regularly needed his nose wiped, but Fitz found he didn’t mind.

Fitz headed down to the medical centre. He’d picked up enough from so many years working with Jemma – the thought of her still caused a distant throb of pain in his chest – that he wasn’t a bad field medic himself. And while Bruce handled most of the work, he might be pretty tired himself, if Tony was as wrecked as JARVIS had seemed to imply.

Fitz walked in to utter chaos. Or it looked like chaos at first glance, but that was probably only because Bruce was looking frazzled as he tried to manage three patients at once – and a frazzled Bruce was never a good thing.

Steve seemed to have the Winter Soldier – fuck, they found him – reasonably in hand, even if Barnes was looking around with wide scared eyes and taking deep breaths to steady himself. The medical facility was obviously triggering some nasty memories, but Steve was sitting on the end of the bed talking to him and Barnes was listening. Those two would be all right, for now.

Sam was standing by another bed trying to convince a white-haired guy who looked to be about  Fitz’s age, to sit down and submit to Bruce’s examination. The guy was literally hopping from foot to foot with anxiety but moving so fast his feet were a blur.

Fitz shook his head and looked at the last bed. There was a young woman lying there, awake but exhausted-looking and very pale. She was just lying quietly and watching the white-haired guy having his anxiety attack, so Fitz thought he might go over there and check on her.

“Hi,” he said, with a welcoming smile. “I’m Fitz. I’m not a doctor but I have some medical training, so I might be able to help if you don’t feel well.”

The girl looked up at him from magnificent dark eyes. She was, he suddenly realised, quite stunningly beautiful, with long silky dark hair, those eyes, lovely soft pale skin and full rosebud lips.

 

“Hello,” Wanda said softly, shyly. Her soulmate. Well. She really hadn’t expected that, when she’d agreed to go with the Avengers. And he looked like such a nice young man, with a cheerful, open face, tightly curled hair she itched to run her fingers into, and lovely kind blue eyes. His low voice had a warm Scottish brogue that made her just want to beg him to talk to her again. “It’s nice to meet you.”

Fitz’s eyes widened. And then he just as obviously dismissed the thought. Wanda weakly pushed herself to a sitting position and reached towards his hand. “I’ve been hoping for so long to meet my soulmate.”

“What?” his blue eyes widened. “You – you really are? But you’re gorgeous!”

“Well. So are you.” She gave him a direct look even though she was sure her cheeks were colouring up.

“Oh. You. What?” Fitz completely lost the ability to speak coherently, as Wanda slipped her small hand into his. Too thin, his brain supplied, and he looked down at her pale, slender fingers. “I don’t even know your name,” he managed to say a bit pathetically after a few moments. Staring at her hand instead of her face helped him clear his head a little, even though the touch of her skin on his was sending all kinds of strange impulses jangling along his nerves.

“Oh – it’s Wanda. Wanda Maximoff. That’s my twin brother Pietro,” she nodded at the white-haired man, who Bruce and Sam had finally convinced to sit down and take his shirt off to Bruce could check him over. “We’ve been held prisoner by HYDRA.”

“Oh God, I’m so sorry,” Fitz’s eyes flew back to hers, horrified. “You poor things.”

Wanda’s smile was weary. She patted the bed beside her and he sat instinctively. She leaned her head against his shoulder. “We’ll be fine now,” she whispered softly. “Everything’s going to be fine now that I have you.”

The look she gave him, peeping up through her lashes, made him feel taller than Thor. “Lie down and rest,” he said quietly, daring to stroke her silky dark hair. “I’m here. I’m going to take care of you now, my lass.”

Wanda lay down, pressed her cheek against Fitz’s thigh as he sat beside her. “Please don’t leave me,” she whispered quietly.

“I swear I never will.”

 

Chapter Text

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Clint was doing his best to have a nice sleep in his favourite air vent above a rarely-used visitor’s lounge in the Tower’s residential levels when the argument erupted below him. He squeezed his eyes tighter shut in irritation and debated shouting at the culprits, but they’d probably finish soon enough. He didn’t know the woman’s voice, but the guy was the Brit who’d tagged along with Foster and Lewis when Thor brought them back from England. Hunter, he thought the guy’s name was. Lewis’s soulmate, seemed a decent enough bloke.

Although possibly not, considering the argument going on beneath him…

“Hunter, enough,” Bobbi said finally. “Look, it was over between us even before you met Darcy. We both knew that even if we never admitted it out loud. I’m not pining away for love of you, you vain idiot. She’s your soulmate, and we’ve both seen instances of people trying to break those bonds. It rarely ends well for anyone concerned.”

“I’m not trying to break the bond, I’m just saying that I’d never want to hurt you, Bob,” Hunter said in irritation. “Darcy understands that I cared – still do care – about you. She says she’s willing for me to come back and work with you and SHIELD if that’s what the agency needs. She’s willing to trust me.”

“It’s not necessary. And it’d create friction between the two of you, come on, Hunter. Darcy can’t seriously want you working with your ex-wife. She said that because she wants you to blow me off and choose her.”

“She… does?”

“God, you’re such a fucking idiot,” Bobbi sighed affectionately. “Yes, Hunter. She wants you to choose her, and she wants you to be clear and probably public about it. Don’t you dare fuck things up with that girl because you’re worried about my feelings. She’s the best thing that ever happened to you.”

“I know.”

“Then why are you still here talking to me?”

Hunter laughed, kissed Bobbi’s cheek and left. She flopped onto the couch in the small lounge where they’d been arguing and cast her eyes up at the ceiling.

After a moment she said “You can come out now.”

Clint nearly fell through the vent from shock. “How the hell did you know I was here?” he gasped, dropping down to land agilely before her.

Bobbi blinked as the solidly muscled man landed lightly in front of her – and said her soulmark words. Blond-haired, dressed in a pale grey sleeveless shirt that showed spectacularly muscled arms and old, faded blue jeans that clung lovingly to strong thighs, he was about her height – and utterly gorgeous.

How did you know I was here?” he repeated.

“I heard you breathing, once Hunter had gone – oh my God, you’re Hawkeye,” she gasped.

“And apparently you’re Bat-ears.”

Clint cracked the joke to cover up his shock. Because she was easily the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen, long-legged and lithe, sprawled casually across the couch in black leather pants so tight they looked as though they were painted on and a tight black T-shirt. Dark blonde hair tumbled around a stunning face, and ocean-blue eyes examined him curiously.

She smiled. “Actually, they call me Mockingbird.” Long-fingered hands gathered the hem of her T-shirt, edged it up to reveal a smooth, flat stomach. With his messy, dyslexic squiggles across it. “I don’t suppose this looks familiar?”

“Unh,” his brain was scrambled by all that smooth golden skin. “The writing, yeah. The gorgeous woman, not so much.”

A smile curved that gorgeous, kissable mouth, and then she was getting up off the couch in a ripple of sinuous movement that completely fried any remaining brain cells Clint might have had left. He just stood there and stared.

 

He was watching her from intent blue-grey eyes, his laser focus a little unnerving – and incredibly arousing, entirely focussed on her as he was. Bobbi found herself shivering a little as she moved closer, lifting her hand to touch his chest, looking directly into his eyes as she murmured;

“So where’s yours?”

“Hmm?” he blinked at her. “Oh. Mark. My mark.” His hands went to his waist and then he was peeling his T-shirt off, showing her neatly printed words in a short line just above his right nipple. You can come out now.

“Yes,” Bobbi murmured, a little overwhelmed that Hawkeye should be her soulmate. One of the Avengers. Her soulmate.

I mean, I know I’m badass, but that’s a whole ‘nother level.

Strong hands lifted a little hesitantly to her waist, and she realised, suddenly, looking into his eyes, that he was just as nervous as she was. Just as off balance. She smiled at him encouragingly, even though her heart was beating fast enough she thought for sure he must be able to hear its pounding.

“I don’t even know your name. Mockingbird,” Clint murmured softly. She was so close he could actually feel her sweet breath on his lips, but he wasn’t going to kiss his soulmate until he knew her name. “Hunter called you Bob?”

“Asshole does that. It’s Barbara, Barbara Morse – but please call me Bobbi.”

“I’m Clint…”

“I know who you are.” Her long-fingered hands landed on his chest, and he could feel the calluses there. She handled guns and – swords? Something like that. He tightened his grip, curving his hands further around her slim waist.

“You’re really fucking gorgeous, Bobbi,” he muttered thickly.

“Snap,” she whispered back, leaning in closer, her fingers sliding up over his shoulders, testing the resilience of the powerful muscles. Exploring his scars, mapping them with tender care.

“I’m gonna kiss you now.”

“Good,” she smiled against his lips, felt his returning smile before the intensity of the kiss drove away all rational thought.

 

Chapter Text

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Whenever May visited Asgard, she always found herself lingering in the Bifrost chamber, looking out at the cosmos. Once or twice she’d turned from her contemplation to find Heimdall watching her. He usually inclined his head with a slight smile before looking away, and she always courteously returned the smile.

She was somewhat surprised, at the royal wedding, to find Heimdall standing at her side as she watched the dancing.

“Lady Melinda,” he rumbled quietly in greeting.

“Milord.” She gave him a friendly smile, but said nothing else.

They stood in silence together for a long moment, and then Heimdall cleared his throat and spoke again. “Lady Melinda, it has come to my notice that you enjoy viewing the cosmos when you pass through the Bifrost chamber. You are welcome to visit there whenever you wish, not merely when you are to traverse the bridge.”

Surprised, she turned to look up at him. “I am?” She’d had the impression that no-one went to the Bifrost chamber except to travel.

“Indeed.” Gold eyes gleamed down at her briefly before he looked away. “Your company would be welcomed.”

“Oh. Well – thank you. I may take you up on the offer. It’s very beautiful in the chamber. So very peaceful.”

“Yes. I know that you like to fly your aeroplanes. Perhaps when you look out at the sky, it is a similar feeling?”

“Yes, but not as intense,” May tried to explain. “Looking from the Bifrost chamber – you can see forever.”

Heimdall nodded slowly. “Indeed. Perhaps you have the makings of a Guardian, Lady Melinda.”

She blinked. He made her a slight bow and was gone, moving incredibly gracefully and easily through the crowded hall for such a big man. For the first time she realised he wasn’t wearing his golden armour, but a simply cut – if beautifully made – dark brown tunic and leather pants which really did awesome things for his long, muscular body. She couldn’t quite resist tilting her head for a long look at his ass as he walked away. “Love to watch you go,” she murmured laughingly under her breath.

The Valkyrie chaperoning her nearly choked on her cup of ale.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Midgardian guests were staying a few extra days after the wedding, except Fitz and Darcy, who were heading back to Earth. May decided to accompany them to the Bifrost chamber, even though she wasn’t travelling. She watched as Heimdall used his sword to activate the mechanism and Fitz and Darcy were whirled away in a blaze of rainbow lights.

“How amazing,” she murmured softly as the bridge blinked out.

“In all these years, I have never wearied of the Bifrost’s beauty,” Heimdall agreed, and she found herself smiling up at him as he gestured towards the observation window.

“You see this differently to me, don’t you?” May asked impulsively as he joined her. “Your eyes…”

“Were once as yours are. Guardians are made, not born.” He hesitated, and then spoke again. “When I was young, I was drawn to come here, I knew not why. I only knew that the only place I felt at peace was right here. Looking out at the universe.”

May’s jaw dropped.

“Very few find that peace here. For almost all, it is too much to take. They feel intimidated, their fragile egos crushed by the certain realisation of how insignificant a mote of dust they are in relation to the universe. Fewer still are able to look again and again, are drawn to return and gaze forth into infinity.”

He hadn’t looked at her while he was speaking. He did so now, saw her wide eyes and parted lips. “Your eyes are already beginning to develop tiny flecks of gold, Lady Melinda,” Heimdall told her gently.

He’d seen them when she arrived on Asgard this last time; resolved that he would find a way to speak to her privately. Inviting her here was the only premise he could think of. Even her Valkyrie guard did not bother to enter with her; they would not believe that he could ever behave dishonourably.

“Soon,” Heimdall told her, “you must make a choice. You will find that you are uncomfortable if you are long away from here. You will need to choose to either not return unless you must, and when you do, I will prevent you from looking out. Or – you will need to remain here, allow the transition to occur, and become a Guardian, even as I am.”

“Oh,” May breathed. Looked out of the window. “I could stay here?” She turned to look back up him. “With you?”

Heimdall’s eyes widened. His hand raised, curving lightly around her jaw, and the tip of his thumb just brushed the tender skin below her left eye.

May instinctively struck out as the pain radiated through her eye socket. Hitting Heimdall was like hitting a tree, though, he never moved; but she managed to push herself away from him.

“What happened?” she gasped, fingers pressing at the spot from where that agony had bloomed. And then she realised that she could see her reflection in his armour and leaned forward, peering disbelievingly at the mark appearing on her cheek

Heimdall was looking at his hand in astonishment. And then he stared back at her, saying softly; “My soulmate? After all these long, lonely centuries – you are my soulmate?”

“So it would seem,” she stared up at him, rather awed. “Well, I guess that’s my choice made then, isn’t it?”

Heimdall seemed to shutter down instantly, taking a few steps back. “I will not ask you to stay with me if you choose not to become a Guardian – it is not an easy life…”

She took three quick running steps and leaped into his arms, her legs wrapping around his waist. He was nearly a foot and a half taller than her, after all. How else would she have been able to grab his face in her hands and kiss him to silence?

 

Chapter Text

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He was thoroughly, thoroughly sick of being undercover. Without his bow, he was just another gun, albeit an extremely accurate one. Faceless and nondescript, he’d gained a reputation for being a man who could keep secrets simply by very rarely speaking.

Consequently, he kept being tapped to bodyguard higher and higher-level officials in the secretive organisation he now worked for – the name of which he didn’t even know, it was that secretive. Until one day he was told to accompany the Vice-President of Research to a lab, and walked in to see a horribly familiar symbol painted on the wall.

Clint was too well-trained to let anything show on his face. He looked away from the octopus, keeping his expression incurious, scanned around the room with the blank-faced, thousand-yard stare of a highly-trained bodyguard. One scientist, he catalogued, two prisoners in cells. He dismissed the prisoners temporarily as no threat to his VP and assessed the scientist. Older, in his fifties or perhaps early sixties, but fit, moved well, strong for a lab nerd. Hmm.

Clint’s eyes narrowed infinitesimally. He looked away from the scientist, checked out the prisoners. The cells were glass-walled in the front, simply furnished with a cot and not much else. One of the prisoners was a white-haired man, though he wasn’t old, currently curled up asleep on his cot. The other was a beautiful young woman, or she would be beautiful if her dark hair wasn’t tangled and her pale cheeks weren’t stained with tears. She glared at him defiantly when she caught him looking at her.

Clint looked away, turned back to his VP and the scientist. It wasn’t in character for him to ask questions, though he was desperately curious. No, better to listen. He might learn just as much, if not even more.

Half an hour later he trailed the VP out of the facility, having to use every ounce of his control to keep a tight lid on his rage. He turned once as they left, looking back at the young woman. She tilted her head and gave him a curious stare from inside her glass prison.

He went to call for assistance. Only, of course, the first person he called was Natasha, and she told him in the panickiest tones he’d ever heard from her that Fury was dead, SHIELD was imploding on itself and he needed to get the fuck out Clint, right now!

Okay. No time to wait for help, then. Time for Plan B.

And in Clint Barton’s book, Plan B was also known as Plan Blow Everything The Fuck Up.

He’d already placed the charges. Smuggled in the plastic explosive, bit by painstaking bit over the weeks and months, hidden in the hollow heels of his boots. Molded and formed it into no less than twenty bombs, more than enough to bring down the facility. He could have detonated them all at once from anywhere in the world with a single text message.

Of course, it wasn’t going to be that easy. Not now he’d decided he wasn’t leaving there without the twin prisoners. So instead, he set off three charges at the other end of the facility, spaced five minutes apart, and in all the rushing and scrambling and shouting, used his rank and authoritative manner to barge his way into the research lab with that damned octopus on the wall.

“Time to evacuate, Herr Doktor,” he barked at the scientist in German.

“I don’t… wait, aren’t you Gerhardt’s bodyguard…?”

Clint shot him. Then ran to the control panel, swiftly tapping keys until the cell doors swung open.

The young man was out first, moving so fast he blurred in front of Clint’s astonished eyes. Snatched the gun from Clint’s hand and shot the scientist twice more, in the head, before swinging the gun up and pointing it at Clint’s face.

“Whoa, whoa, I’m here to help, I just let you out!” Clint said, taking a hurried step back.

“Don’t shoot him, Pietro,” a soft voice said, and he flicked his eyes sideways to see the girl walking towards them. There was a red glow about her hands that Clint really didn’t like the look of.

Bloody superpowered people. How do I always get myself mixed up in this shit?

“How do we know you’re not one of them?” the girl turned to him, fixed him with her dark eyes.

Clint felt his eyebrows trying to climb off his face. Surely not. He held up his phone, tapped a button. There was a distant boom. “Because I’m the one blowing sixteen shades of shit out of this place?” he said, before realising that they might possibly not be the best soulwords to have on one’s body. If they were hers.

Oh well. They were distinctive, anyway.

And obviously the girl recognised them, because her mouth dropped open and the red glow around her hands blinked out. “You?” she said disbelievingly. The guy was staring as well. Well, if he was her twin no doubt he knew what her words said.

“Apparently, yeah. Name’s Clint Barton. Hawkeye. The Avenger with the bow, except I haven’t got it because I’m undercover. You wanna get the fuck out of here?” he tapped another button. Another boom, this one closer.

The twins exchanged glances. “Yes,” the girl said at last, apparently in conclusion to some unspoken discussion. She turned and gave Clint the full impact of her smile, which just about knocked him sideways, because she was seriously gorgeous when she smiled. “Let’s get out of here. I’m Wanda Maximoff, and this is my brother Pietro. It’s nice to meet you, Clint Barton.”

He grinned, and held out his free hand to her. Deciding to let Pietro keep the gun, for now at least. He looked like he knew what he was doing with it. “Let’s blow this joint, baby.”

Wanda took his hand, her smile widening even further. “You certainly know the way to my heart.”

 

Chapter Text

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Yes, Clint, I promise I’ll buy you if no-one else does,” Darcy giggled at him.

“You’re a doll,” he dished out a hug.

“And you’ve been spending too much time with Steve and Bucky.”

This was so not Darcy’s scene, she thought as she sat back and sipped at her glass of champagne. Stark Industries’ annual charity gala ball, complete with celebrity bachelor auction. Twenty thousand dollars a plate, and still they’d been hugely oversubscribed, because the whispers had got out that this year it wasn’t a celebrity bachelor auction. It was a superhero bachelor auction.

Pepper and Darcy had begged, bribed, bullied and eventually called in Natasha. And still the only one of the ‘original’ Avengers they could get on the list was Clint. Not that it mattered, with Sam, Rhodey and Pietro the Avengers were well-represented, not to mention a generous helping of X-Men and Johnny Storm.

Johnny was auctioned off first and surprisingly didn’t fetch all that much – Darcy figured most of the women in the room had already dated him. Tony, acting as the auctioneer, revved up the crowd and got a much better price for Rhodey, who came zooming in over the crowd’s head in the War Machine armour.

All the superheroes showed off their powers to oohs and ahhhs from the crowd. Gambit did some spectacular card tricks before exploding one in a whoosh of purple flames. Sam did a neat bit of really tight flying, and Pietro whizzed through the crowd. Iceman built a magnificent ice sculpture across the stage and Pyro created an absolutely stunning illusion of flames. Colossus armoured into metal and bent a piece of I-beam into a pretzel.

“How the hell am I supposed to follow all those?” Clint squeaked miserably. “All I do is shoot arrows!”

Darcy was there as his plus-one. Like hell she could have afforded a ticket. Oh, Pepper would have made her come along anyway, but – well, it was nice to have a date. Even if Clint was like the big bro she’d never had. “You’ll be fine. Now go knock ‘em dead.” She waved her bidding paddle at him. He’d promised to cover her up to a bid of fifty thousand, which was more than Johnny Storm but less than any of the others had fetched. Privately, Darcy thought the only thing he’d have to worry about was fending off the rich trust-fund bitch who’d buy him. Especially since Pepper had made him come in his sleeveless battle suit.

There were oohs and ahhh’s as Clint strode onto the stage, unslinging his bow from his shoulder. Tony introduced him to absolutely thunderous applause, and then Clint drew back slowly – letting everyone get a good look at his surging biceps, he was such a showman, Darcy thought – and fired an arrow into one of the mirrorballs above the crowd. It was a specially set up prop, exploding in a shower of tinsel.

Everyone was so busy squealing nobody heard Tony call for the first bid. And nobody bid: Darcy saw Clint’s dejected face and snatched her paddle up. “Fifty thousand!” she yelled.

“Fifty thousand to number seventy eight!” Tony boomed, and suddenly everyone was paying attention, and the bids came thick and fast. Darcy stood with a small smile; her job done, she thought she might make her way to the bathroom. Her lipstick could probably do with a refresher.

“Are you that desperate for a second date?” an amused voice said behind her.

Darcy spun around so fast she nearly fell off her Jimmy Choos – another gift from Pepper, the woman was far too gener