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It's All Fun And Games (Until Somebody Loses Their Mind)

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Chloe finally hunts Brett down in Iain’s trailer. Which, realistically, is probably the first place she should have looked, but Iain’s scenes for the week wrapped yesterday and, in all honesty, it’s not really like Brett to lurk alone in semi-darkness. Come to think of it, Brett has been doing a few things recently that are not really like Brett and it’s starting to become a thing.

 

(A slightly worrying thing.)

 

“Hey Bretty, ’sup?” Chloe throws herself down on the couch next to him, scattering various pieces of paper as she does so, throwing her feet onto his lap. She grins broadly at him as he huffs her name in exasperation.

 

“Oops?” She shrugs, insincerely, knowing that she’s pushing her luck. Chloe is ninety percent sure that she’s finally worked out why Brett’s been in such a strange mood for the last two weeks. If she’s honest she’s feeling rather proud of herself.

 

“I’ve worked it out.”

 

“Worked what out?”

 

“Why you’re being all ‘serious-face Brett.’” She drops her voice an octave and scrunches her forehead up as a demonstration of said face. “It’s because you think I’m going to be disappointed.”

 

“Chloe, I’ve got lines to learn and I really don’t have time for riddles right now, so do you think you’re going to be getting to a point any time soon?” Brett pushes her feet off his thighs before getting down on his hands and knees to collect pages of script from under the coffee table.

 

“Okay, Mr Grouchy-pants. You think I’m disappointed because we’re not having sex.” Chloe smiles sweetly at Brett as he suddenly focuses his full attention on her. She’s fairly sure that he’s holding his breath.

 

“What?” At least Chloe thinks that’s what Brett means by the slightly strangled noise that comes from his mouth. She simply crosses her arms, raises her eyebrows at him and waits.

 

“I, um, I…” Brett swallows and tries again. “Er, do you, um…”

 

“Skye and Ward, Brett,” she finally takes pity on him. “You think I’m upset that they’re only kissing in a janitor’s closet when he and May had, like, seven episodes of having sex.”

 

(Not that she was counting.)

 

She tries not to feel slightly hurt by the obvious and, frankly, rather unnecessary look of relief that crosses Brett’s face and barrels on, barely pausing for breath.

 

“And it’s not even as if Ward kissed May on film so, like, I’m already ahead.” Her brain catches up with her mouth about three seconds too late. “I mean, Skye, obviously. Skye’s already ahead. And they’ll totally be doing it by the end of the season, so I’m not worried. They’re endgame,” Chloe breezes on before inwardly flinching as she realizes what just came out of her mouth.

 

She braces for the inevitable teasing about how she’s a dork who spends too much time ‘trolling fandom’. Whatever, it’s not like she’s the only dork in the room. Brett brought up ‘trolling’ and ‘fandom’ all on his own in the second week of shooting, so it isn’t as though he has a leg to stand on.

 

“Brett?” He’s just staring at her with this bizarre look on his face and it’s starting to freak her out. “Earth to Brett? Are you listening to me?”

 

“Yeah, sure.” He rolls the sheaf of pages that he’s finally finished collecting into a cylinder and shoves them into his back pocket, nodding absently at her. “Endgame.” The smile he offers her is so weak that Chloe actually begins to become genuinely concerned for his mental wellbeing.

 

Usually Brett’s more than happy to sit and throw theories around as to how the writers are going to contrive to keep Skye and Ward apart when their chemistry is undeniable. They spent a week bugging Mo and Jed about it, moaning that they’d have to increase their gym time if they were going to be showing up naked on camera by the end of the season.

 

Well, if she’s being honest, Chloe was bugging them about the gym thing. She’s pretty sure Brett doesn’t need to worry about puppy fat, but they’re friends and so he did the decent thing, spending twelve minutes explaining the minutiae of his CrossFit workout to the writers and how he’d need to change it up in the event of toplessness on camera. Chloe knows because she timed him. He beat her cardio explanation by thirty-two seconds. It was the first of their bets he’d won in over four months though, so she’s not bitter.

 

(She’s still nine-three ahead on Battleship.)

 

“Brett, you’re kinda freaking me out.” Perhaps honesty’s the way to go, “Is everything okay? I saw you going into the writer’s room earlier.”

 

“Yeah, Chloe, everything’s fine, just new sides. I gotta go, okay? Bill and I have to shoot this scene before we wrap for the week. I’ll see you Monday.” This time his smile actually reaches his eyes, and he’s half-way out of the room as he says, “Bring gum.”

 

Chloe realises what scene they’re shooting on Monday and her lungs seem to suddenly forget that they’re there for the express purpose of keeping her breathing. Her heart has apparently temporarily taken up residence in her throat as well, and she’s pretty sure that this is not a reaction that her body should be having to kissing a friend. On camera. In front of fifty crew members.

 

Several deep breaths later, Chloe just about manages to convince herself that her reaction is simply nerves. It’s a totally normal response to needing to sell her emotions to the viewers. Emotions are difficult things to convey and she’s worried that it won’t be believable and that’s all this is.

A rebellious part of her brain suddenly wonders if he’ll use tongue.

 

(Shit.)

 

++++

 

Chloe definitely does not spend the weekend freaking out. She knows this because she does utterly productive things like organize her underwear drawer by color and buy a whole new set of sheets. She chooses them based on the thread count and not the fact that they complemented her sexiest lingerie and, therefore, the two activities are totally unrelated. She even rewatches some completely randomly selected episodes of the show and closes her eyes when Brett’s topless. (Just to prove that she can.) She finally hits pause at a moment that was totally unintentional, only to find Arthur staring at her with a sorrowful look on his face. She wonders when she got to the point that even her dog started judging her life choices.

 

She spends the rest of the weekend watching every Chris Evans movie she can get her hands on. She watches Captain America twice. They’ve been invited to the World Premiere of The Winter Soldier in a few weeks and she tells herself that she doesn’t want anyone to know that she has no idea what happened in the first movie.

 

Her new-found dedication to research has absolutely nothing to do with that day last week when Brett was saying how intriguing he found the assumption that people had to choose a side in the Good versus Evil debate, and that the Marvel movies clearly demonstrated that you could go to hell with the best of intentions.

 

She’d rolled her eyes at him when he started geeking out about it and offered to go and get Clark, the designated ‘Marvel fanboy’. Brett shut up after that.

 

(It has even less to do with the fact that she needs to remind herself that she’s had a crush on Chris Evans since freshman year of high school and only met Brett Dalton sixteen months ago.)

 

Chloe finally ventures out of her apartment on Sunday to go to the grocery store where, amongst other things, she buys a four-pack of Big Red. The fact that Brett sprinkles cinnamon over his cappuccino because he likes it better than chocolate has nothing to do with it. She just likes the way it makes her lips tingle.

 

++++

 

She gets to set on Monday to find that it’s just her, Brett, and about thirty extras milling around looking bored. He turns up wearing a ridiculous T-shirt with a unicorn on it. She tries to ignore the fact that it’s clearly a size too small and instead focuses on the fact that her shirt has a print of Rainbow-Brite riding Starlite on it.

 

“That shirt is ridiculous,” she tells him with an air of authority that she doesn’t actually possess. She can’t help that she pokes him in the chest as she says the words. It’s as though her index finger has a mind of its own and Chloe’s just rolling with it these days. The first time she did it was during a read-through that was part of her third audition with Brett and, next thing she knows, it’s right there in the pilot script.

 

“I am a firm,” he smirks at his own stupid pun as Chloe rolls her eyes and thinks about how this would be a whole lot easier if he wasn’t actively encouraging her, “believer in expressing yourself through the medium of fashion. Clearly you’re just jealous of my impeccable taste. Do you even know who that is on your shirt?”

 

She sucks in an outraged breath and pulls a face to match. “You take that back, Brett Dalton, or I’ll dye all your clothes black and tell the internet you hate sunshine and happiness.”

 

“Funny.” He smiles, but she’s sure that she’s not imagining the shadow that briefly crosses his features as he says it. Still, she feels as though she gave him every opportunity to open up last week. From now on, she isn’t worrying about whatever’s bothering him. If he doesn’t want to talk then it’s not her problem.

 

“Thanks. In the meantime, I think we’re overdue for a selfie, don’t you? It seems a shame to waste our beautifully coordinated outfits.” Just like that, Brett’s acting like his usual idiot self and they’re trying to out-pout each other.

 

“Your face looks stupid in that one.”

 

“Your face looks stupid all the time. And no boy deserves your cheekbones. You should cover them up or something. “She tilts her head at him and pokes at his dimples until he moves his face out of her reach. “You should grow a beard. Then I wouldn’t have to look at them.”

 

In only takes a second for Brett to stop laughing and stare at her with a blank look on his face. It’s so totally Grant Ward that she nearly chokes on her gum as she tries to suppress a fit of giggles. He doesn’t break character though, just nods once and walks off in the direction of wardrobe. Suddenly Chloe’s struck with the feeling that something awful is going on that Brett doesn’t want to tell her. Oh God. Maybe she’s getting fired.

 

Chloe’s fairly certain that she manages to keep her meltdown internalised. She makes it through hair, make-up and wardrobe without succumbing to the tears that are hovering. She tells herself not to be such a baby. It’s not as though getting fired from this particular show would be the worst thing to have ever happened to her.

 

(Except it totally would.)

 

Fortunately, she’s so preoccupied with her fear of imminent unemployment that she barely registers the fact that she’s made it to set and into her seat ten minutes early. It’s not until Jo from make-up tracks her down and wordlessly hands her a tube of lip-balm, with an accompanying smirk, that Chloe remembers what scene they’re doing today.

 

“Shut up.”

 

“I didn’t say anything.”

 

Chloe doesn’t appreciate the laughter that follows Jo off the set. She walks over to Brett’s empty chair, wondering where he is, and deliberately puts the lip-balm down on it, along with a stick of gum. She decides that, if this is her last day on set, she’s sure as hell going to enjoy every second of it.

 

He catches up with her as she’s headed onto the sound stage and grabs her by the shoulder, forcing her to stop unless she wants to end up on the floor with him on top of her. (Which probably wouldn’t be all that bad and is definitely not something that she has ever thought about before. Regardless, this is not something that she needs to be dealing with right now.)

 

“What?” She spins around to face him; he looks genuinely concerned and she almost loses her already tenuous grip on her emotions.

 

“Didn’t anyone tell you that I’m allergic to bees?”

 

“What the hell does that have to do with anything, Brett? Have you actually lost your mind?” And it’s then that he thrusts the lip-balm at her and she sees that it contains bee venom, ‘for plumper lips and a tingle you’ll feel’. She makes up her mind to destroy Jo at the earliest available opportunity.

 

“Are you kidding me?”

 

“I know. It’s un-bee-lievable, right?” Brett pops the top off and promptly smears it all over his mouth before giving her a huge smile. Chloe’s brain kind of short-circuits after that. She doesn’t know if she should blame the appalling pun or the fact that his lips do, in fact, now look as though he’s been enthusiastically making out with someone for twenty minutes.

 

She stubbornly ignores the imagery that her brain conjures up, and turns on her heel to resume her walk to the mock-up janitor’s closet, where she fully intends to remind herself of all the reasons why gentlemanly blondes from Massachusetts are better for you than smartass Ivy League graduates with stupid faces. (The fact that she’s going to be kissing said stupid face in the near future is definitely not going to be a problem. At all.)

 

Given that she spent the weekend doing everything she possibly could to avoid thinking about this scene, Chloe’s pretty proud of the fact that she only screws up her lines three times. Brett seems to be channelling some sort of inner pain and he keeps getting this break in his voice that makes her want to hug him. (Which, obviously, is all Skye’s fault.) Chloe dimly wonders if “my character made me do it” would be an acceptable insanity defense. Vince yells ‘cut’ as Ward turns away from Skye and they reset for the next shot. The one that Chloe has been trying not to think about all day.

 

She looks everywhere except at Brett as Vince talks them through how he wants the scene to play out. It’s not as though they can’t re-shoot if it doesn’t look right, but Chloe really feels like she has to get through this in one take for the sake of her sanity. She surreptitiously rubs her palms on her thighs and tells herself that they’re clammy because it’s hot on set. It’s just her imagination that makes her think Brett’s squeezing the prop guns slightly harder than he needs to.

 

It’s not until she grabs his arm to turn him around that Chloe suddenly remembers that Brett is always considerably taller than she thinks. The thought slides smoothly around the simultaneous realization that Brett has arms that feel really pretty great under her hands. Like, she knows, intellectually, that he’s taller than her and has arms. It’s just that usually she’s not so aware of those two things.

 

(Of course, usually she’s trying not to kiss him. No. That’s not right. Usually she’s not trying to kiss him.)

 

Fortunately, her body decides that it’s had enough of dealing with whatever issues her brain is having because, without thinking about it, one hand’s on his shoulder and the other’s grabbing the front of his Kevlar vest. She’s on her tiptoes and all she can hear is her own heartbeat pounding in her ears. She breathes in cinnamon and warmth and his lips are soft on hers. She’s pretty sure that she gasps embarrassingly as he pulls away, but the rush of cold air into the space he leaves snaps her back to her senses and, somehow, she gets through the rest of the scene.

 

She has no idea how she gets to the bathroom since her brain is basically a mess of white noise, her lips are stinging in a way that she thinks might not be entirely due to lip balm, and she seems to have forgotten how to breathe. It’s everything she was worried about on Friday only dialled up to a hundred and, finally, Chloe is forced to admit that she has a problematic crush on Brett. Once she’s splashed enough water on the back of her neck to finally counteract the fact that her body seems to have forgotten how to perform homeostasis, she’s forced to face a more serious problem.

 

(There wasn’t even any tongue.)

 

+++++

 

Miraculously, Chloe makes it back to her trailer without encountering a single other person. She takes this as a sign that the Universe doesn’t actually hate her, even though everything that has happened today indicates the complete opposite. There’s a bottle of vodka sitting on top of her fridge with a scribbled note stuck to it that she instantly recognises as being in Lil’s handwriting.

 

C,
Thought you might need this.
Mwah,
L x

 

It’s possible, Chloe thinks, that maybe she’s not handling the Brett thing as well as she thought. Apparently it is also now definitely a thing. A quick look at the clock shows that it’s only four thirty. She does a rapid calculation, concludes that it’s well into happy hour in Manhattan, and that’s all the thinking she’s prepared to do at the moment. It’ll work as a justification if anyone raises an eyebrow at her. Not that they would. This is totally normal and professional workplace behaviour. She just needs a little help to relax.

 

Her brain inconveniently uses this moment to replay the memory of Brett’s lips on hers in detail. The last time her stomach felt like this was when she decided to go on the world’s highest rollercoaster. If only she’d known that kissing her co-star would have had exactly the same effect, she needn’t have gone to New Jersey.

 

Clearly desperate measures are needed. She upends her bag on the floor and finds, amongst dog treats, used ticket stubs and unidentifiable chocolate bars, a pencil. She extricates last week’s script from underneath the vodka bottle, pours herself a shot, and curls up on the couch. She’s a big girl. She can work through this.

 

After what she mentally accepts as a new low where she considers writing Mrs Chloe Dalton on the page in neat cursive, just to see what it would look like, she decides to write a list. Lists are good.

 

Moments During Filming Where Chloe Has Broken Character: A List

 

1. The smile she gave Ward (because that is definitely who she was looking at) as she pulled her top down lower than strictly necessary while filming the pilot episode.

 

2. That time Ward (Brett doesn’t ever look at her with barely disguised lust) snapped handcuffs onto her wrists and she definitely didn’t think about how much she’d enjoy him doing it for real.

 

3. Leaning back into Brett (Ward?) with more force than was strictly necessary while practicing the moves required to disarm an attacker. She definitely didn’t mess the move up four times more than she could have.

 

4. Battleship. It’s their thing. Her and Brett. She’s almost pissed that now it’s about Skye and Ward.

 

5. Deliberately walking into Ward/Brett’s arm with her boobs just to see how he’d react. Not at all, as it turned out. Jed thought it was hilariously in-character and kept it in the final edit. She’s not proud.

 

6. Fifteen minutes ago, when she basically tried to climb Brett (no point in denying it at this point) to get at his mouth.

 

(Her list basically proves that she’s screwed.)

 

++++

 

By some miracle Chloe is apparently not getting fired, and Brett’s on location for the entirety of the next episode. In his three-week absence Chloe actually starts to believe that her sudden desire to touch him was all just some temporary insanity. An unavoidable consequence of him being smoking hot (she’s in denial, not blind) whilst being tormented by some sort of inner turmoil, and her not having spent time with anyone other than her fellow cast members for months. She’s almost convinced until she spots him heading towards the writing room where they’ve all been summoned to read some extra pages of script. The sudden adrenaline surge that steals her breath at that moment tells her that she is totally wrong.

 

By the time she’s made the round trip to her trailer, counted slowly to ten, and reminded herself that she is in control of her emotions (and not the other way around), the only vacant seat is next to Brett. Of course. Nothing can ever be easy. Lil offers her a tiny smile of support, which she chooses to ignore. If the traitor really cared about her, she’d have saved Chloe a seat.

 

The first thing she notices is that Mo has a really odd look on her face. The second thing is the stack of red pages sitting in front of Jed. Chloe notes that he, too, has an utterly bizarre expression on his face. Jed explains that they’ve got the scripts for episode nineteen, but that there are some extra sides for seventeen that they need to read through first.

 

There’s a general sense of confusion in the room, since they wrapped on seventeen three weeks ago and it’s going to air next week. Chloe’s too preoccupied with acting ‘natural’ around Brett to care. Brett himself seems happier than he’s been in weeks, grinning at Bill, who’s sitting across the room. It would be nice to see if it weren’t for the fact that her traitorous fingers want to trace the hint of dimple showing through the stubble on his cheeks. Part of her brain registers that the stubble is unusual for Ward, but he’s still got a line of fake blood over his right cheekbone and it’s causing her focus some serious problems. Not to mention her heart-rate.

 

The pages lead on from where Ward leaves the Hub to escort Garrett to the Fridge. Mo stands in as Agent Hand while Jed reads out the directions. Chloe’s only half listening until;

Ward pulls out his gun and loads it as he stares at Garrett.

She really needs to focus on anything other than the way Brett’s lip is curling up in a half-smile, so she takes a deep breath and concentrates on Jed’s voice.

He aims at Garrett before shifting slightly and putting a bullet neatly between the eyes of the agent sitting on Garrett’s right and then his left. He turns to Agent Victoria Hand and a single shot from his gun brings her to the ground. Ward steps towards her and finishes the job with a double tap before nodding once at Garrett, who smiles. Fade out on Hydra logo.

 

The room is completely silent and all Chloe hears is the sound of her own blood hammering in her ears. She turns to look at Brett, whose expression is both rueful and proud, as if he’s done a great job hiding this enormous secret from the cast. From her. Then he turns to her and actually smiles. It’s the first time she’s seen the real Brett in weeks and she was so worried about him. Now she is legitimately furious.

 

“How could you? You bastard!” Chloe barely registers the fact that nobody else has even shifted in their seats. She’s on her feet and hitting Brett anywhere she can reach. “I fucking kissed you!” It’s all she can do to get the words around the lump in her throat and her vision blurs as she tries desperately to hold back tears. Brett catches both her wrists in one hand and the look of concern on his face is almost more than she can handle. “I fucking kissed you.” Her voice is barely more than a whisper as she realizes that she’s making a spectacular scene and her behaviour crossed into unprofessional around three punches to the chest ago. Brett releases her right hand so that she can slump back down into her seat, but his fingers twist around her left wrist and his thumb traces circles on her palm. It’s oddly calming.

 

When she finally manages to focus on something other than Brett and his cheekbones and stubble and the fact that she is probably way over invested in Skyeward, she looks up at the rest of the cast. Bill Paxton’s grinning like the Cheshire Cat, and she has an incredible urge to smack him in the face. Everything was fine until he got here. Iain is openly crying which actually makes her feel a lot better. You get judged less if you’re not the only one losing their shit.

 

(Probably.)

 

Lil is looking at Chloe in horror and manages to mouth you okay? at her. Chloe nods. That’s what you’re supposed to do when you find out that the guy you have a not-so-secret crush on has been lying to you about the feelings that his fictional character has for your fictional character. She is totally okay. She definitely doesn’t feel as though she’s drowning and it’s only Brett’s hand that’s keeping her afloat. That would make her melodramatic.

 

(More melodramatic.)

 

“Skye kissed Ward.” It’s barely a whisper and it’s directed at Brett and she’s sure that she doesn’t imagine the way his fingers squeeze hers. She clears her throat and glares at Mo and Jed. “Skye kissed him.” She’s pretty sure that she got her point across that time. Ming just clears her throat and says into the silence, “Yeah? Well May fucked him.”

 

And somehow it clears the air.

 

++++

 

Chloe is trying her best to concentrate. She really is. The fact that Ward is Hydra has her stomach twisted into knots though, and every time she thinks about Brett lying (to her) a wave of nausea punches her in the gut. She’s just having a hard time distinguishing between reality and fiction at the moment. Her brain helpfully tells her that it’s just like the last year and a half of her life. (There’s a list to prove it. Chloe really hates herself sometimes.)

 

She doesn’t want to sound petulant, but she trusted Brett and he didn’t tell her the whole truth. It stings more that she’d like to admit. (She’s prepared to entertain the possibility that she’s really over-identifying with Skye right now.) She’s not irritated at having one pulled over on her, like Ming. Nor does she look like a wounded puppy (Iain’s eyes are still red and the thought of him crying makes her want to cry all over again). She’s sure that she’s not going to manage heartfelt awe at the plot twist like Lil and Clark. Because she’s heartbroken. And she has absolutely no idea how to deal with it. What’s worse -- is it worse? Chloe thinks that perhaps worse is a relative term when you’ve decided that you’re mostly in love with your co-star -- is that Brett is looking at her as though he knows that she’s about three seconds from losing her shit. And what’s worst? (Chloe’s proud of the fact that she’s made it this far without the need for superlatives) She actually is.

 

(About to lose her shit.)

 

She counts down to her own implosion.

 

Three.

 

Two.

 

One.

 

But she neglected to turn the page and there, in black and white, is the direction that she has been dreading for the last hour.

 

Skye and Ward kiss.

 

Well. At least she prepared with a countdown.

 

Chloe is just wondering whether sobbing in front of sixteen other people is really a professional thing to do when Brett laughs. Which, for the record, is totally unreasonable because his dimples come out in force and all she wants to do is touch his face. If they do this right now she’ll probably end up in his lap with her hands sliding round to the back of his neck; maybe her fingers will stroke the hair at the nape of his neck where it looks really soft; perhaps the pad of her thumb will trace one of those cheekbones and…

 

Brett raises an eyebrow at her. She shrugs (because she’s totally chill about all of this) and he shakes his head before telling Mo that he thinks Skye’s reactions in the moment will be more real if he and Chloe don’t have a chance to “over-analyze”. Sometimes Chloe really worries about Brett’s ability to read her mind, but then he reaches across and tugs her ponytail before settling his arm along the back of her chair and the knot in her stomach unravels in an instant. Perhaps it’ll be okay after all.

 

“Questions? Comments? Concerns?” Jed always asks them this at the end of a read-through. Chloe thinks it’s almost rude to treat this as though it’s just another script and not the death of her hopes and dreams. (For Skye. She feels the need to be very clear on that.)

 

“Yeah. I’m concerned that Brett’s not an actor at all but is, in fact, working for the CIA. Or actually a T-1000 and Skynet has already won the war. Seriously, Brett, great job on not letting it slip.” Clark’s so genuine and sweet that it makes Chloe feel seriously guilty about feeling less than supportive of Brett’s recent clandestine tendencies. Brett just ducks his head and shrugs like it’s no big deal so she punches him in the arm and is probably more satisfied than she should be when he lets out a yelp.

 

“Yeah, asshole. Nice lying. Hydra through and through, apparently. You should really consider getting a T-shirt. Ward would be very proud of your commitment to your cover. Skye’s really upset. In case you were wondering. Which you’re probably not.” She searches for a suitable insult. “Jerk.” She tries to smile, but the look on Brett’s face implies that she’s not being particularly successful. Fortunately Iain takes all attention away from her by standing up with such force that his chair clatters to the ground behind him.

 

“We will not be talking about this any more. I am very fucking upset and I feel the need to drink to excess. If anyone needs me I’ll be in my trailer. With a huge sodding bottle of whisky. You are all very welcome, but work chat will be fucking prohibited. We will talk about sunshine, puppies and whether it is ever acceptable to ask a Scotsman what’s under his kilt. Spoiler alert: it’s bloody not. Good day.” He nods solemnly and walks out, putting a hand up to stop Brett’s heartfelt apology.

 

Lil offers to make everyone a ‘nice cup of tea’, but Chloe thinks that Iain totally has the right idea, so she makes her escape and catches up with him half-way down the hall, linking her arm with his.

 

“Well. That fucking sucked.” One of the things that Chloe really appreciates about Iain is his lack of bullshit.

 

“Yup. You okay?”

 

“No. You?”

 

“Not really. But, hey, at least we have each other.”

 

They walk in silence for a moment, Iain holding the door open for her as they walk outside. Chloe’s mildly offended that the world looks exactly the same as it did three hours ago.

 

“I’m mildly offended that the world looks exactly the same as it did three hours ago.” Apparently Chloe no longer has a filter, and this is a conversation that she and Iain are going to be having.

 

“Yeah. Couldn’t even have the decency to fucking rain. Rain is good for times like this. Makes you feel miserable on the outside to match your miserable sodding insides.”

 

“It never rains in LA, Iain.”

 

“I know that. I’m just bloody saying. An adorable monkey to cuddle would also be nice.” Chloe snorts. One of the great things about Iain is that he always knows exactly what to say to make you laugh. It’s why he and Brett have the most epic bromance of all time.

 

“Did you have any clue? About Brett?” She was aiming for cool and casual, but Iain eyes her suspiciously. Which is unfortunate.

 

“Well, I knew something was up. He’s been acting like a bloody lunatic for weeks. I thought it was cause the two of you weren’t fucking.”

 

Thank you! That’s what I said!” Chloe immediately feels a lot better about life. She’s not the only one Brett fooled. That Brett was able to keep all this a secret from his best bro makes her feel like less of an idiot.

 

“Or, you know, because you were. I hadn’t reached a final conclusion.”

 

Chloe’s in the middle of imagining a scenario in which Skye and Ward can perhaps become Skye-and-Ward, and maybe neither she nor Brett will be getting fired, so they can not only make out (she’s not proud that this has become fairly high on her list of priorities) but also start to... Wait. What?

 

“Excuse me?” The amount of false outrage she hears in her voice actually makes her flinch a little.

 

“Well, I thought that maybe you guys had finally gotten your act together and you just didn’t want to tell everyone. Not that any of us would have bloody well cared. Or, you know, be in any way at all fucking surprised. It’s not as though you’re constantly flirting or anything.”

 

“We do no such thing. I have literally no idea what you’re talking about right now.” Her brain chooses this moment to helpfully supply her with about a hundred examples of how that is a complete lie. She’s really glad that they’ve arrived at Iain’s trailer by now and she can totally avoid the issue by having an in depth conversation about why tequila is infinitely superior to scotch. (Hello? Body shots. Your argument is invalid.)

 

“Chloe, I love you like a sister. I love Brett like a brother. But you two? Do not love each other like bloody siblings. Except maybe in a Lannister sense,” he amends. “But if you don’t want to talk about it then that’s fine. We can say denial is just a river in Egypt, watch The Princess Bride and get blind drunk.” (Iain is an awesome human being.)

 

They’re forty minutes and half a bottle of scotch into their evening when Lil bursts through the door, wielding a bottle of tequila. Chloe decides that she has the best friends in the world.

 

“Is this a private party, or can anyone join?” The bottle lands on the table next to the TV with a loud thunk. “Don’t worry. That’s a rhetorical question. I’m joining regardless. Everyone else has left me.”

 

“So we’re the consolation prize? Thanks.”

 

I was trying to collect intel. I am not having anything like that pulled on me ever again. Bloody outrageous that was. And to think that Brett actually knew. Such a little shit.” She pauses to take a sip of the drink that Iain hands her and makes a small noise of satisfaction before continuing. “He said he hated not being able to tell us. I’m actually kind of impressed that he didn’t let it slip. I mean, I thought that he was being weird because you and him were sleeping together.” She gestures in Chloe’s direction with her glass. Chloe’s buzzed enough that she just shrugs. She’ll worry about her apparent total lack of subtlety tomorrow. “I was actually starting to get bloody pissed that you weren’t spilling the details because I’ve not seen a man naked in about six months and I need to live vicariously through someone.” She shoots Chloe a wink. “At least now I know none of us are getting laid. I feel surprisingly good about that. Shove over Chloe. My arse isn’t that small.”

 

“Are the others coming?” Iain eyes her (mostly empty) glass and leans across Lil to top it off.

 

“Ming had to go home to the kids, but she told me to have an extra shot for her and that she’ll punch Brett tomorrow; I think she decided Chloe had covered the physical abuse side of things today. Clark’s taken the others out for beers. He’s geeking out about this entire reveal, trying to get Jed to tell him if it’s got something to do with what’s happening in ‘Cap 2’. He hugged Brett and told him he was proud. Bloody traitor.” Lil drains her glass and holds it up for a refill. Chloe’s not entirely sure how they’ve managed to get thorough a whole bottle in under an hour. A tiny part of her suspects she’ll regret this tomorrow, but the rest of her decides that she totally deserves a night of getting stupidly drunk.

 

An hour later the credits roll, almost unnoticed, as Iain and Lil entertain Chloe by enacting the entirety of the film’s famous swordfight using bananas.

 

I am not left handed…

Chloe’s laughing so hard that she’s actually crying.

…I’m not left handed either.

Iain’s simultaneously trying to tell them about all the movie trivia he knows. He keeps slurring his words though and, apparently, multi-tasking is slightly beyond any of them at the moment. Chloe’s sides hurt from laughing and Lil wins comprehensively as she mashes a banana against Iain’s face. Chloe decides, for the second time this afternoon, that her friends are the greatest. And that she misses Brett.

“I miss Brett.” She has evidently reached the stage of inebriation where you lose the ability to internalise your thoughts. (It’s nothing to do with her inability to think about anything else for more than five minutes straight.) She doesn’t miss the look that passes between Iain and Lil.

“He’ll be here tomorrow, Chloe. It’s not as though he’s fired. We’ll still be hanging out with him.” Lil is so totally reasonable it’s almost rude -- and she’s not even drunk. What is it with Brits and their ridiculously efficient livers?

“But he’s been totally weird and not-Brett, and I miss him. I miss Brett Brett. You know? I really like Brett. He’s nice.” She pauses to think of facts that will lend her statement the appropriate gravitas. “He smells good. Also?” She pauses for effect, “His face is stupid.”

“We know.” Lil says it gently. “Maybe he’ll be back to normal now, you know? This can’t have been easy for him. The only people he could talk to about it were Mo, Jed and Bill. Just wait and see.” Iain nods in agreement with Lil’s comment before reaching for the as-yet untouched bottle of tequila.

“Body shots?”

Chloe really loves these people.

+++++

As she dry-swallows a couple of Advil the next morning, Chloe decides that today is the first day of the rest of her life. She is making sensible decisions from now on. Starting with getting over Brett. She acknowledges that this whole concept is ridiculous since she’s never even been under Brett, but a one-sided obsession cannot be healthy, so she is moving on. She’d announced her brand new life philosophy to Lil and Iain the night before. Lil just squeezed her hand and murmured ‘oh, Chloe’ in a voice that made Chloe want to cry. Iain had snored. Lightweight. He’s Scottish, for crying out loud; he should be a better alcoholic.

Chloe inspects herself in the mirror and decides that she’s getting bangs as soon as they finish shooting. (Skye would want her to. Brand-new hair for a brand-new attitude.) Maybe she’ll be able to talk Brett into growing that beard and they could have an unbearably cute catch phrase. She’ll give it some serious thought while she’s busy not thinking about Brett. Possibly this is not going to be as easy as Chloe anticipated. Maybe she can start tomorrow. Nobody should be expected to make major life-changing attempts with a hangover. That would be unreasonable.

She blows herself a kiss and posts it to Instagram. She definitely doesn’t check to see if Brett favourites the picture.

(And she absolutely doesn’t smile like an idiot when he does.)

[06.32] Brett: You want a ride to the office?

The text arrives about ten seconds later. (She was not really expecting that.)

[06.33] Chloe: I don’t accept rides with strangers

(She’s getting over him, remember?)

[06.33] Brett: Don’t be like that. I miss you.

(Well, shit.)

[06.34] Brett: Also you look like you’re still drunk.

[06.35] Chloe: Ass. I don’t miss you at all.

[06.36] Brett: Liar. See you in ten.

Brett is never late. Chloe really appreciates that about him. He says he’ll be there in ten and eight minutes later he’s pulling up outside her apartment, jumping out of the car to open the passenger door for her. She’s a modern girl and she can open her own door, but it makes her feel a little bit like a princess (don’t tell Lil) so she lets him do it. He bows as she walks past him.

“You’re such a dork.”

“I know. It’s one of my best qualities and don’t you try telling me otherwise. That, and my excellent fashion sense, are basically the greatest things about me.”

Chloe thinks that she could probably make a list of ‘Best Things About Brett’, but she’s come to realize that lists about Brett are dangerous. They make her think about his eyelashes and face and…

“Did you lose your razor?”

“Nope. I’m growing a beard. Well, trying to grow a beard. It just seems like a thing that Ward would do now. You know?” He scratches at the stubble underneath his chin and Chloe wonders what it would feel like under her fingers. Her brain helpfully supplies her with the word ‘amazing’. Stupid brain. It also tells her that she was going to try to talk Brett into growing a beard and isn’t that a phenomenal coincidence.

(She’s too hungover for this.)

“I’m sorry, you know.” She turns toward him when he starts talking, her face a study in disbelief. “That I couldn’t tell you. I really wanted to. Especially when you had that meltdown about us not having sex.”

“It wasn’t a meltdown. And it wasn’t about us, it was about Skye and Ward. Remember?” Her tone is vaguely patronizing, like he’s experiencing sudden onset amnesia, and she’s not entirely sure when she started becoming so proficient at lying to other people whilst being totally honest with herself. Maybe this is what being mature looks like.

“Sure. Nothing to do with you wanting to see me naked.”

She sticks her tongue out at him. Definitely mature. He laughs and she feels as though she hasn’t heard a real laugh from him in forever. The sound of it makes her absurdly happy and she decides that they’re going to be okay.

Chloe spends the rest of the trip regaling Brett with stories from the night before and they spend ten minutes quoting their favorite lines from The Princess Bride. Chloe recasts the entire movie using their friends. She’s Buttercup and Brett is Westley. Obviously. They have a debate about whether Clark gets to be the evil mastermind or if they should just give the role to Bill Paxton. Bill wins by default when Chloe announces that she would never give Clark a part where he dies. After all, Joss has confirmed that the world is on her side with that one. Brett squeezes her knee and confirms that they cannot fight the opinion of the Internet.

As they pull up at the studio, Chloe realises three things simultaneously:

One – Brett is back. The one she’s used to. He’s joking and there’s inappropriate touching and it’s such a relief that she kind of wants to cry.

Two – She is never getting over this.

Three - Lists about Brett are simultaneously the best and the worst.

Somehow she makes it out of the car and takes several deep breaths in some vague attempt to ‘center’ herself. Ming’s constantly talking about balance and ‘finding your inner peace’. Ming is pretty much the most awesome woman Chloe has ever met, so she pays attention. Unfortunately, it appears that this is something that needs practice and cannot be called upon just because you’re having sudden co-star issues. Her body feels as though it’s fifty degrees hotter than it should be and she takes off her sweater in an attempt to cool the hell down.

Brett chuckles beside her. (When the hell did he get so close without her hearing?) His breath is warm on the side of her neck and he is definitely not helping with the raging inferno that has suddenly decided to take up residence under her skin. She closes her eyes briefly in the hope that shutting down one of her senses might be beneficial. (It’s not.) She opens them again to see Brett pulling his own sweatshirt off over his head. She’s so distracted by the appearance of at least three inches of ridiculously toned abdomen that she seriously considers proposing hair-of-the-dog tequila body shots to start the day. She imagines what it would feel like to drag her tongue across his skin (tequila and salt and Brett) and lick up into his mouth; how his tongue would feel as it dragged across her bottom lip. She’s extremely proud of the way that she covers her involuntary moan with a small cough. Brett’s still tangled up in his clothes, so at least she has a few seconds to compose her features into something other than desire.

“We match. See?” He finally emerges, triumphant, from his fight against a sleeve and pokes her in the stomach. She pokes him right back; it’s only fair after all. As her finger touches the cotton she finally realises why he’s so entertained. They’re wearing identical t-shirts. Some artsy Iron Man print (which is totally cool. She didn’t think of Brett and his love of RDJ at all when she bought it, because that would be lame.). She totally didn’t wear it instead of her Captain America shirt today for the sole reason that she’s kind of done pretending that Chris Evans means more to her than Brett Dalton. That would be admitting defeat in the war of Chloe’s head vs. Chloe’s heart. Although she doesn’t really know if Chloe’s head and heart are on opposing sides any more. (So that’s potentially a problem.)

Either way, the smile on Brett’s face is completely fucking delightful and she grins right back. He grabs his phone from his pocket and announces that it’s selfie-time. She grabs his chin in her hands and the stubble feels exactly as she imagined. (Amazing.) Chloe is very pleased with herself for not rubbing her face up against it.

(So far, anyway.)

“You left bruises when you hit me yesterday, you know.” He pulls the hem of his T-shirt up to his neck, exposing a purple mark that is, indeed, roughly the size of Chloe’s fist. Of course it also exposes the torso that she was imagining licking, in detail, less than five minutes ago. She wonders if he’s actually trying to make her have a stroke. But it’s Brett. And this is what he does around her. For some reason he never feels the need to get mostly naked in front of the others. Chloe assumes that it’s because she’s in the special hell you get sent to for thinking about one of your best friends whilst you get yourself off in the shower.

(And also in places that are not the shower.)

She manages some sort of dismissive noise which, apparently, doesn’t satisfy him in the least because he actually grabs her hand and informs her that she has to feel the bruise because he’s pretty sure that she’s given him a hematoma and can’t she feel that hard lump under his skin? And, really, all Chloe feels is faint and really turned on. She can’t actually tell him that though, so she mumbles an apology and something about needing to get to wardrobe and bolts.

She’s not proud of the fact that she locks herself in her trailer, unbuttons her jeans and slips her hand underneath the elastic of her underwear. She’s even less proud that every time she pulls the pad of her middle finger across her clit she imagines that it’s Brett’s hand. Or his tongue. Or his cock. She is, however, slightly proud of the fact that she manages to achieve loose-limbed satisfaction in under three minutes, emerging five minutes later with her jeans fastened, hair caught up in a neat bun, and the ability to think straight.

++++

It’s five hours later and Chloe is really glad that she took the opportunity to take care of business before they started filming. Brett emerged from make-up covered in bruises and cuts and, while she’s grateful that they hide her contribution, it means that he’s been strolling around topless and scruffy all day and he’s basically the hottest thing she’s ever seen in her life. (Jo even offered to text her the ‘in progress’ shots for her collection. Chloe, very nicely, told Jo to fuck off.) Brett’s current lack-of-outfit is basically seared onto the insides of her eyelids. She couldn’t forget if she wanted to. (Which she really doesn’t.)

It’s not exactly helping that he keeps coming and standing next to her between takes. Shoulder-bumping whilst not wearing a shirt is something that Brett is apparently doing now, and it’s really causing her some problems. She feels slightly better about herself when Lil leans over during a reset and murmurs ‘yummy’ in her ear. Chloe’s not even going to pretend she doesn’t know what Lil means. She mostly decides, however, that Brett is not playing fair, and fairness is a thing that Chloe is very much an advocate of. Eventually they finish shooting for the day and Brett finally (sadly) puts on a shirt before suggesting that she come to his place to run lines.

Given that she was in the middle of wondering how to get into his apartment to prank him, planting an anonymous note and pair of handcuffs, she feels that this is an excellent plan. Its appeal may also have something to do with the fact that Brett is an insanely good cook and Chloe’s stomach suddenly reminds her that she hasn’t eaten all day. She tells him that she’ll meet him at his car before detouring to her trailer to pick up the handcuffs. Chloe’s not entirely sure why she didn’t take them back to props months ago. She suspects that it may have had something to do with the way that her pulse skipped when Brett put them on her. (Not that she dwells on such things. Because only an idiot would do that.)

Brett’s waiting at the car when she gets there and once again she’s struck by the thought that he’s doing anything but playing fair. He’s still got the remnants of his makeup on and there’s a hint of greasepaint on the angle of his jaw that makes Chloe suddenly entertain very graphic thoughts about licking him. (Again.) He goes through his usual door-opening routine and Chloe just rolls her eyes and gets in, vowing to keep her mouth to herself. Unfortunately she can’t help reaching across and swiping a thumb over the smudge on Brett’s cheek as he turns to grab his seatbelt.

“What are you doing?” Brett looks slightly disconcerted and it dawns on her that she shouldn’t have licked her thumb first.

“Greasepaint.” She shrugs, as though it’s no big deal. (Which, for the record, it’s not. She would have done exactly the same thing for any of her friends.)

(Probably.)

(Maybe.)

“Oh. Right. I didn’t get a chance to shower. Iain was in there singing and I didn’t want to keep you waiting. I probably look ridiculous.”

Chloe manages a non-committal noise and a shrug and somehow manages to keep the ‘-ly attractive’ to herself. Which is definite progress, in her opinion. She fixes her eyes on the road after that, because doing so is absolutely her safest option at this point. She seriously considers asking Brett to just drop her at home, because the thought of sitting in his apartment whilst he showers is doing really strange things to her emotions. She’s a grown-up though, and she can do this. She totally can.

“Do you think Skye will ever forgive Ward?” Brett’s voice rudely intrudes on the Brett-and-Chloe-showering-together scene that she’s carefully constructing in her head. She hadn’t even managed to get his top off yet.

“I hope so. Endgame, remember?” She’s trying really hard not to think about the fact that they might not get any scenes together next season.

“Right. You’re right.” He doesn’t sound convinced though and, now that she looks at him (which, to be honest, she has been trying really hard not to do), he seems sad. Which makes no sense at all. It’s not as though he’s having some enormous internal struggle with his feelings for her. She totally has more problems than him and she’s still managing to keep a smile on her face. She’s forced to admit to herself that yesterday probably wasn’t the best example of that, but she’s doing better today. (That’s what matters.)

“Do you think we can bully Mo and Jed into telling us?” Chloe’s actually convinced that those two have it in for her, but she’s interested in Brett’s opinion. As the sensible one in this relationship. Not-relationship.

(Fantasy? Shut-up Chloe.)

“Actually, I’m almost convinced that they’ve got it in for us.” Brett’s mind reading is eerily precise.

(Huh. Interesting.)

“I mean, they’ve known about this for months. Probably since before we even started shooting, and they didn’t drop so much as a hint. Then they made me lie. To you. For weeks. And, what’s worse, they let us think that there was going to be a happy ending for Skye and Ward. I mean, think about what we’re going to be doing this episode. It’s going to be tough."

Chloe nods. She thinks it’s wiser not to tell him that she’s been having some fairly detailed thoughts about what they’ll be doing. There is a lot of kissing outlined in the script. (She’s only human.)

“You’re right. They’re the worst. No way they’ll tell us anything.”

“Probably not,” Brett shrugs, “I’m going to ask them anyway.”

“Good.” Chloe wishes that Brett could look less adorable when he grins. She attempts to distract herself by reciting the alphabet backwards. It’s surprisingly difficult, and she’s only made it as far as the letter ‘O’ when they pull up at Brett’s place.

“Let yourself in, I’m just going to park.” Brett lifts a hip off his seat to rummage in his pocket, before producing a key. It’s still warm when she wraps her hand around it, fingertips brushing his. She should definitely have gone home and taken that cold shower.

++++

The thing about Brett’s place is that it’s Chloe’s idea of perfection. Bare wood interspersed with shades of white and stone, and a living space with floor to ceiling doors opening onto a roof garden that she loves. She wonders if she can blame real estate for making her fall for Brett. (Probably not.) She distracts herself by rummaging through Brett’s bookcases for something that he hasn’t already lent her and spies Kings of Cool. Excellent.

She’s curled up on the couch with the book and a coffee by the time Brett appears. He’s got one of those Keurig machines that Chloe thinks she should really invest in. Only then she wouldn’t have an excuse to come to Brett’s for brunch, and that would suck. So Chloe doesn’t buy one, and Brett teases her about it, and she’s totally cool with that. Or, at least, she was cool with it before she realised that the warmth in her chest had nothing to do with the coffee and everything to do with Brett. Now it makes her feel slightly guilty.

“You moving in?” Brett’s smiling at her from the doorway and she just pulls a face at him and takes another sip of her drink. “I’m just going to jump in the shower. I’d tell you to make yourself at home but, well, that’s probably redundant at this point.”

“You want company?” Holy mother of… What the hell possessed her to say that? Way to be totally obvious, Chloe. She thinks that the look on Brett’s face could best be described as alarm. “I can call Iain if you don’t want me to see you naked.” Nice save.

“You’re hilarious.” He rolls his eyes at her and walks out of the room.

It’s not until she hears him turn the shower on that she realizes he didn’t actually say no.

++++

“Good read, huh?” (Because obviously she didn’t join Brett in the shower. She’s not an idiot. You can’t plead taking a wrong turn in a one-bedroom condo you visit every week.)

“Awesome. Can I borrow it?” She risks a look at him and he’s fully clothed with no evil bits of make-up still hanging around. Sure, he hasn’t shaved, but Brett looking more attractive than anyone has a right to is something she’s been dealing with since the moment they met. It’s everything else she’s having trouble with. She decides that it’s safe to put the book down now and actually have a conversation.

“Sure you can. You hungry?”

“Starved.”

“Pasta or cheeseburgers?”

“How is that even a question? It’s like you don’t even know me.” (Except for how he totally does.) Chloe describes herself proudly as a cheeseburger connoisseur, even to total strangers, and Brett’s are basically the best that she’s ever tasted. It almost certainly has something to do with the way that he makes them from scratch using his mom’s recipe. Chloe never sits watching him shape the patties thinking about how his hands are extremely dextrous. He’s handling raw meat; thinking about that and sex at the same time is totally gross, isn’t it? (She almost always does it anyway.)

She raises her eyebrows as Brett pulls a couple of meat patties from the fridge with the air of a magician extracting a particularly delicious bunny from a top hat.

"Expecting company, were you?” And if there’s an edge to her voice he doesn’t seem to notice.

“Hoping. I feel as though we haven’t really had a chance to hang out for ages. I was terrified that I’d spill all Ward’s deep, dark secrets and have to kill you. And that would suck ‘cause you’re kind of okay.”

“Wow. Dial down the compliments, Romeo, you’re making me blush.” Chloe hops down from her perch, reaches for the chopping board, and busies herself making salad as Brett fires up the grill. She slides a little to the left, letting him lean across her to grab the pepper, and back towards the right to allow him to sneak his hand past her and get a fork. (It’s an expertly choreographed dance they established months ago.) His forearm brushes her hip for less than a second and once again the full force of how her feelings for Brett have become feelings hits like a freight train.

“Well they’re clearly enough to lure you into my lair, so I’m doing something right.” Brett then starts obnoxiously humming Dire Straits. Chloe gives him a withering look over her shoulder and keeps slicing tomato, deep in thought.

Things Other People Don’t Know About Brett Dalton: A List By Chloe Bennet

1. He knows how to cook a burger to the perfect stage of medium rare and, in any universe, she’d love him for that alone.

2. He has a great voice. It sort of creeps under her skin and into her veins and she can feel it resonate in her chest even when he’s ten feet away.

3. He has literally the most ridiculous T-shirt collection of anyone she’s ever met. So far this week: Mighty Mouse, Captain America, Iron Man and, currently, her personal favourite, Thundercats.

4. He smells amazing. If ever there was an argument for scratch’n’sniff TV it’s him. (What’s strange is that she once spent ten minutes hiding in his bathroom to hunt down the source and came up empty-handed. She is forced to conclude, therefore, that it’s just Brett.)

5. He knows when not to talk. Chloe grew up in a house with six brothers and she really values a guy who knows when companionable silence is the way to go.

Just as she’s wondering whether his great taste in books, or really dubious taste in movies, should be number six she realises that Brett’s talking to her. It’s not as if she doesn’t have multiple versions of this list anyway. They all end the same. (He’s the only person she wouldn’t mind seeing every day.)

“Sorry?”

“I asked if you wanted to eat inside or out.”

Through the door to the deck she sees the sky streaked with red and purple, the buildings downtown painted a vivid orange as the sun goes down. It would be an absolutely terrible idea to sit with Brett and watch the sunset whilst eating the best burger known to man at a candlelit table.

“Out.” Chloe Bennet, ladies and gentlemen. Risk taker.

She grabs cutlery, a couple of glasses and a bottle of wine (sure, they’re going to be running lines later, but what’s a romantic meal without wine?) and heads outside to set the table. She sits and watches the sun go down as Brett puts the finishing touches on dinner. He emerges a couple of minutes later with their food and it is, hands down, the best thing Chloe has seen since four fifty-three pm.

(Which was when Brett put his shirt back on.)

“Looks amazing. Thanks.” She lets out a moan of appreciation as she takes her first bite and confirms that it is, indeed, as phenomenal as expected. Brett gives her a proud smile and ducks his head. A whole host of scenarios, involving the noise she just made and the look on his face, immediately present themselves to her suddenly overactive imagination. (Just concentrate on the burger, Chloe.)

"So. I spoke to Jed and it looks as though you’re stuck with me for most of the next few weeks. For this episode and the next it’s the Skye and Ward show.” Brett uses his burger to gesture between the two of them. Chloe swallows a mouthful and lets out the most unimpressed noise she can manage.

“This isn’t exactly the Skyeward scenario of my dreams, Brett. You know, in case you were wondering. I don’t know why you sound remotely enthusiastic about it. I mean, sure, it’s great storytelling, but it’s also, like, the worst.” She pulls a face. “My mom’s gonna be so pissed.”

“What on earth has your mom got to do with it?”

“It’s possible that I may have turned her into the third biggest Skyeward supporter in the world.” Chloe shrugs. “She might cry when she finds out. I also wouldn’t put it past her to sic my brothers on you. Sorry. I guess.”

“If I’d known this an hour ago, I wouldn’t have made you dinner.”

“Why do you think I didn’t tell you?” Chloe smiles sweetly and takes an obnoxiously large bite, which results in relish dripping down her chin and onto her arm. Brett leans over the table and swipes it up with a finger before sucking it into his mouth.

“Waste not, want not.” He tells her, continuing to eat.

Chloe doesn’t respond, her mind still too busy trying to process what this means and whether she should even bother trying to analyze anything Brett does. It’s not unusual for him to steal her food, but this is extreme, even for him. She puts her burger down carefully on her plate, lifts her arm to her mouth and sucks what’s left of the relish off before wiping it on a napkin. She eyes Brett from under her lashes as she does, but he’s looking at the view and appears totally oblivious.

(But, like, that was odd.)

They finish the rest of the meal in relative silence with Brett interrupting her train of thought every so often to inquire which brother would be the most deadly in a fight and whether her mom might accept flowers as an apology. He adds that it’s not actually his fault that Ward’s a lying bastard. For once, Chloe’s brain engages before she can open her mouth and tell him about the hysterical ten minute phone call that her mom had to deal with after they read the new ending to Turn, Turn, Turn. She’s taking that one to the grave.

++++

Chloe always eats too much when Brett cooks and, as usual, she’s now sprawled inelegantly on the couch trying to decide if it’s worth the effort of getting up to grab her script. Brett chooses this exact moment to grab her ankles in his hands, swivelling her legs out of the way so he can sit and put her feet in his lap. His fingers are warm where they rest on the skin below the cuff of her jeans and his right thumb lazily circles her ankle. A thread of heat curls up her leg to take up residence in her stomach, a not-so-subtle reminder from her body of the effect that touching Brett has on her. It does, however, settle one thing. She’s not getting up.

“We should get started on this. It’s getting pretty late.” Brett removes his left hand from her foot in order to gather his script from the coffee table. She tries not to whimper at the loss of contact.

“Mmhmm. Sure. What scenes?” She really needs him to make this decision, because, if it’s up to her, they’ll extensively rehearse every scene where Ward and Skye kiss. She’s fairly certain that even Brett will work out that she has a giant crush on him if she ends up with her knees on either side of his hips, grinding down into his lap.

“Well, I thought that we could start with Ward offering Skye a drink…”

“I really pictured the whole ‘can I buy you a drink’ thing going very differently.” Chloe mumbles under her breath.

“…and we’ll take it to when she finds the blood behind his ear.” The only hint that Brett even heard her is the way that he strokes his palm across the top of her foot. Goosebumps erupt across Chloe’s entire body and the parts below her waist makes themselves very clear as to how they would like this particular scenario to play out. Brett just continues tracing liquid fire across her skin and fixes his eyes on hers, seemingly oblivious to the effect he’s having on her.

“That okay?”

“Great.” It’s already out of her mouth when she belatedly realises that he must be talking about the scene.

Chloe actually spent most of the morning memorizing lines, and Brett seems to be genuinely impressed by the fact that she doesn’t need her own script when they start. Unfortunately, the combination of Brett’s hands and the way that Ward’s (she’s not sure that it’s actually any easier to divide them into Brett and Ward any more, since she’s basically head over heels with both of them. She feels, however, that being in love with Brett is probably the better option at this point) voice trembles is really making it tough for her to concentrate. She is one hundred percent clear on the point at which the script calls for Skye to lean into Ward and kiss him though, and she’s about to sit up and do just that when Ward vanishes and Brett suddenly asks if that really seems in character. Chloe almost tells him to shut the fuck up and kiss her already.

(But that would be rude.)

“Well, don’t you think that Ward would probably be the one to initiate this kiss? I mean, Skye already did her part in that janitor’s closet, and Ward’s spilling his guts here. I just feel like it makes sense that he’s trying to get Skye to believe in the intensity of his emotions and so he’d be the one to make the move, don’t you?” Brett looks at her, eyebrows raised in query. Of course, he’s probably right, so she nods her assent.

“Okay, cool. We’ll talk to the guys about it tomorrow. I don’t think we need to bother with the rest of this scene. It’ll play better if we just do it in the moment.”

“Excuse me?” It slips out before Chloe has a chance to dial back the outrage in her voice.

“Well, I mean, I guess if you want to run the whole thing again we can, but I don’t really think we need to.” The rational part of her has to agree with him. She tries really hard to concentrate on what ‘Chloe, the co-star’ would do instead of what ‘Chloe, the girl in love with Brett’ would do and realizes that he looks vaguely anxious at the moment. She takes pity on him and shakes her head, forcing a smile past her acute disappointment.

“If you want to do the next scene, I’ll need my script,” she informs him. “I didn’t get a chance to look at it earlier.” Chloe doesn’t add that it was because Brett was on set at that point, sans top and she wasn’t really bothering to focus on anything else. “Grab it for me? It’s in my bag.” She gestures with her chin to where the item in question sits, near his feet.

“Say, Chloe, anything you’d like to tell me?” Brett’s tone borders on teasing and Chloe rapidly scrolls through the last couple of minutes of conversation in an attempt to work out if she’s inadvertently let something slip. Nope. She’s pretty sure that all the ‘I love you’s’ were only in her head.

“Should there be?”

Brett holds his hand out towards her and there, dangling from his left index finger, is a pair of handcuffs.

(Shit.)

“Shit."

“You know, if you’d wanted to make this more kinky, you should just have asked.” Brett deadpans. Chloe’s not sure what’s worse: the fact that he’s not laughing or that she’s three heartbeats away from spilling her guts and begging him to let her cuff him to his bed. It is some small consolation that she’d be the one doing the cuffing for a change.

(Which is very much not the point right now. She needs to focus.)

She swings her feet onto the floor in order to better launch herself at Brett, expecting him to stand up and make a run for it. This is not exactly the first time he’s found something embarrassing in her handbag -- a signed Chris Evans photo, assorted fanmail from that time she was a pop star, Brett’s own audition tape -- and usually he’s up and running before she has a chance to draw breath. She’s somewhat disconcerted, therefore, to find that she need do nothing but reach up to where he’s holding the cuffs above his head. Of course, he’s tall and she’s not, so the movement involves her positioning her knees on either side of his hips, bare stomach pushed up against his torso and boobs at the level of his face. To his credit he’s actually looking at her face but, really, it’s his loss if he misses this golden opportunity. Chloe’s breasts are two of her finest assets. It drives home, like nothing else, how much he’s so not into her.

Brett’s right hand seems to have found its way to her waist and draws her attention to the fact that her T-shirt has definitely ridden up higher than she would like. (Stupid Iron Man and his tiny T-shirts. She’s willing to bet that Captain America would have stayed put.) She can feel his knuckles brushing against her skin, clearly trying to get her to move. She can barely bring herself to look him in the eye, but she’s not employed by a network TV show for nothing, so she manages to plaster on a smile and do just that. She’s disconcerted for a moment, because Brett’s eyes are definitely hazel, but from where she’s sitting they’re virtually black; pupils blown so wide that the brown has almost vanished. She’s blocking the light, clearly, which probably also accounts for the way his eyes have narrowed slightly. She deftly hooks the cuffs off his finger and braces a hand on his chest so she can get up.

(Her hand helpfully supplies her with the information that Brett has clearly been working off some of his Ward-related issues in the gym.)

“Iain must have put them in there.” In fairness, it is totally something that Iain would do and she’s sure that he won’t mind.

“Sure he did.” Brett’s voice is still teasing, but there’s a sudden tension in the room that Chloe really needs to escape. She feels as though she’s moments away from confessing everything and begging Brett to take pity on her. Maybe he’d just let her fuck him out of her system.

(She doubts it would work.)

I’m gonna go. Thanks for dinner. I’ll show myself out.” She gathers up the remains of her dignity along with her bag, into which she deposits the cuffs, before heading to the door. She slips on her shoes as Brett walks towards her, looking concerned.

“Hey, Chloe, don’t be like that. You don’t have to go. I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable.”

Chloe thinks that Brett has no idea about the levels of discomfort she feels around him.

“It’s fine, Brett. It’s just getting late and I’ve got an early call time tomorrow.”

“Okay. If you’re sure. Let me grab my keys and I’ll take you.”

Obviously, Brett has been put on this earth specifically to torture her.

“I’d rather walk. Thanks though. I’ll see you tomorrow.” Chloe makes it out of the apartment before Brett can object, and only catches a glimpse of his face as she closes the door. He looks concerned and, she thinks, maybe a little sad. He’s probably mourning the loss of her sanity just as much as she is.

++++

Chloe hears nothing more about the handcuffs, which is unusual, particularly since it seems as though Brett is everywhere. He shows up when she’s curled up in the corner of the set learning lines; he appears at her shoulder when she grabs lunch; he’s already standing at the punching-bag by the time she reaches the gym; he’s constantly showing up in her dreams. The only place where he reliably isn’t is her trailer. (Which is a real shame.) They haven’t actually had a huge number of scenes together over the last week, but the entire cast has been on set shooting, and she keeps catching sight of Brett out of the corner of her eye. He always seems to be watching what she’s doing.

A week and a half later, everybody else gets a break before going on location and it’s just her, Brett and Patton left behind. She’s really grateful for the fact that Patton seems incapable of taking anything seriously, since Brett appears to have totally morphed into Agent Grant Ward. He has to spend about an hour in make-up every morning and he emerges scarred, bruised and generally looking good enough to eat. It doesn’t help that his wardrobe now appears to consist solely of black jeans that do amazing things to his ass, and a black Henley that molds to every muscle. Don’t even get her started on the stubble.

Chloe manages to control her hormones long enough for her and Brett to rehearse lines. Every time there’s supposed to be a kiss though, he seems to find a reason to stop. It’s probably a good thing, since it’ll make her reactions more authentic, but she’s starting to get really nervous. Particularly since the last time she kissed him she ended up having to spend twenty minutes decompressing in the bathroom. Sadly, she feels that she can’t explain to Brett that she just needs him to set aside an hour for her to work out her emotions on his mouth.

She decides that it’s grossly unfair that Academy Awards only go to movie actors since she absolutely deserves an Oscar for acting the part of Chloe Bennet: Not Having A Conversation About Her Actual Life. Skye and Ward talk about ‘choosing to have feelings’ and it ‘not being a good time to start anything’ and Chloe wonders if the writers are just having a huge laugh at her expense. The problem is that everyone keeps telling them how fantastic it looks on screen and that their chemistry is fabulous. Perhaps she can talk them into adding a sex scene before Skye finds out that Ward is Hydra.

 

Of course, time being what it is, it marches on, and, before she knows it, she’s sitting in an armchair across from Brett, about to embark upon a partial re-enactment of one of the most embarrassing evenings of her life. (Hopefully there won’t be any handcuffs this time.) Chloe thinks that one of her problems is that Skye is so much a part of her that she’s barely acting half the time. Brett is basically the opposite of Ward except when he’s doing ‘Ward in love with Skye’ because it’s exactly the way Brett has been looking at her recently when he thinks she’s not paying attention. She assumes that Brett’s newfound dedication to being weirdly method, channelling Ward at odd times, is why he’s been stalking her so much lately -- in order to perfect this blend of melancholy hope shot through with something that Chloe definitely recognises as lust.

 

(She should know. She sees it in the mirror enough these days.)

 

In the midst of trying not to stumble over her lines, while also repeating her usual mantra of ‘it’s Skye and Ward; it’s Skye and Ward’ she’s almost surprised to find herself sitting next to Brett with one hand grasping his and the other on his chin. She’s so busy worrying about remembering to slide her finger up his jaw to find blood that she’s utterly unprepared for the moment when he reaches out and pulls her towards him. (Score one for no kissing in rehearsals.) She’s having a hard enough time keeping it together when one of his hands is cupping the back of her head, his thumb brushing past her ear, but when he tangles his other hand through her hair and just pulls her into him she’s completely done for. She actually sucks the air from his lungs, closes her eyes and fucking moans against his mouth.

 

(Like, moans.)

 

Afterwards, she can’t even look at Brett, because she’s not sure she can handle seeing his ‘professional’ face when she knows that her pulse is racing at her neck and her own face probably looks as though she’s been thoroughly enjoying herself with, well, with Brett. She gets a round of applause as the crew sets up for the next part of the scene. Awesome. Now she can’t look at them either. It’s great that Vince is so pleased with the first take, it is, but she’s having serious issues; Brett hasn’t actually removed his hand from the small of her back, where he placed it as she stood up, and it’s a problem. Every inch of her body feels as though it’s lit from inside and she’s almost vibrating with the need to do the scene all over again.

 

(A mutinous voice in her head points out that there was still no tongue.)

 

++++

 

Chloe wakes the next morning with the suspicion that she may just as well have not bothered going to sleep. She’d spent most of the night wide awake, tossing and turning, trying to get stupid Brett and his stupid face out of her head. Then, in the ultimate betrayal, when she actually did fall asleep, she’d started dreaming about him. She’s refusing to think about the dreams because she actually needs to get to work this morning and, if she gives in, she’ll never get out of bed. As she’s wondering whether she should just call in sick, her phone buzzes. It’s a text from Brett -- how does he always seem to know when she’s thinking about him? -- with nothing but a picture of a steaming cup of coffee followed by a question mark. She considers ignoring him just to prove to herself that she can, but decides that it’s really not worth the loss of caffeine. The unwritten implication is that he’ll also come and collect her for work. She sends back a gleeful emoticon and is informed that he’ll be there in twenty.

 

It’s cool today and Chloe takes longer than usual in the shower, relishing the heat on her skin. This means that she’s cutting it a little close to Brett’s arrival, so she’s still scraping her hair into a messy bun when she realizes he’s two minutes from showing up. In her haste to leave the set yesterday, she never actually bothered changing, so she slips Skye’s plaid shirt over the top of her own clothes. At least she tries telling herself that’s why she does it. Realistically, she knows that she’s going to have a tough time today and it’s actually helpful to be in Skye’s skin from the outset. A part of her realises that Brett knows she’s bracing for a shitty day today, and she wonders if that’s why he’s making a noticeable effort. A more rational part tells her that he brings coffee and drives her to work twice most weeks. Even a third time isn’t that unusual.

 

After no more than a cursory glance in the mirror to ensure that she hasn’t forgotten any vital items of clothing (despite all evidence to the contrary, she still has nightmares that she’ll forget to put on pants before she sees Brett), Chloe rushes downstairs, scooping Arthur up on the way, arriving at the curb just as Brett pulls up. She doesn’t wait for him to get out, just throws her bag over the headrest into the back seat, climbing in after it with Arthur on her lap. She feels strange this morning, as though she’s standing at the eye of a storm, every inch of her skin straining towards an electric charge she can almost feel. Brett smiles at her, handing her a coffee; the moment passes, her senses settling back into their familiar confines.

 

After a mumbled greeting, neither of them speaks for a moment; Chloe’s too busy savoring her first sip of coffee while softly exhaling her approval, and Brett’s apparently having some sort of existential dilemma, staring intently at Arthur with a slight frown on his face, before putting the car in drive. Chloe slumps down further into her seat and braces her feet on the dash, just to see how long it takes Brett to notice and tell her to stop. He’s clearly not on his game today though, because Chloe gets both bored and uncomfortable before he even has a chance to tell her about the risks to her safety. She elects, instead, to twist in her seat so that she’s facing him. That’s when she notices the flash of red on his T-shirt.

 

“New shirt?” Chloe leans forward to get a better look, but the logo’s obscured by his hoodie.

 

“Hm?” Brett says it as though he didn’t hear her, but she’s about two feet away from him and the radio is turned way down, so there’s no chance of that.

 

“Your t-shirt. Is. It. New?” She enunciates it as though he’s an idiot. Which, on reflection, is totally uncalled for. (She’s just feeling oddly belligerent.)

 

“Maybe.” Brett tugs the zipper of his hoodie up higher and, whatever, Chloe can’t be bothered with this when she has coffee to concentrate on. He’ll tell her when he’s ready.

 

“Big day today, huh?” Chloe feels like she may as well just confront the elephant in the room. Car. Whatever. She hugs Arthur a little tighter. It’s no coincidence that she’s bringing him to set today. She has a feeling that she’s going to need some serious unconditional love later on. They’re wrapping on episode nineteen today and the only scenes left to shoot are the last few in ‘Providence’. Chloe wouldn’t go as far as to say she’s dreading it, but becoming an emotional wreck on screen isn’t actually all that different to doing it in reality. She knows that she’s going to be completely drained by the time they shoot the scene with her and Brett kissing and, honestly, she’s slightly worried about how she’s going to handle it, given her experiences to date.

 

“Yeah.” Brett is apparently doing monosyllabic today.

 

“Cool.” Two can play at this game. Chloe leans forward and turns the radio up to just beyond the level allowing conversation. As if in answer to her prayers, Happy comes on and Chloe sings along at an obnoxiously loud volume, punctuating the chorus by poking Brett in the arm. In fairness to Brett, he lasts a lot longer than she anticipates before saying her name with a note of warning. Other than moving her attention to his leg, she completely ignores him. In light of this, it’s not altogether surprising when he retaliates with a hand of his own. Unfortunately, Chloe choses that moment to shift in her seat and, instead of hitting her arm, Brett manages a direct shot to her left breast. (This isn’t exactly how it went in her dreams.) Chloe lets out a squeal of discomfort before grabbing said part of her anatomy to protect it from further assault. Even Arthur looks affronted on her behalf.

 

“Shit. Sorry. I thought that was your arm.”

 

“Really, Brett? Really? I’m pretty sure that was just an excuse to feel me up.” She’s only teasing and it didn’t even really hurt that much, but Brett looks utterly stricken, so she lets out a pathetic ouch and pouts at him. The effect is slightly hindered by the fact that Brett is driving and cannot, therefore, take his eyes off the road. Brett mumbles something but Chloe can’t hear him over the noise of the music so, with a degree of regret, she turns it down and sends a querying noise in his direction.

 

“I said, that’s not something that I would ever do.”

 

Well then. If ever Chloe’s in danger of feeling good about her chances with Brett in the future, she’s going to play this one moment in her mind. Assuming, of course, that it ever stops looping over and over. (She’s probably never going to be able to enjoy a Pharell song again.) Her stomach turns and she wonders, briefly, if she’s going to throw up. Fucking Brett and his effect on her fucking emotions. She resolves never to speak to him again and takes another sip of her coffee, expecting it to taste like dust and ashes in her mouth. (It’s still completely delicious and there’s definitely a special place in hell for people like Brett Dalton. Probably right next to the place for people like her.) The tension in the car is palpable and Arthur’s pawing at the door as though contemplating escape. Chloe knows exactly how he feels.

 

Brett sucks in a deep breath like he’s about to say something profound but, before he can speak, Chloe’s phone buzzes and Lil’s face grins up at her. She ignores Brett and picks up, greeting Lil with a degree of cheer that she’s far from feeling. Chloe’s fairly certain that Lil can tell that she’s barely following the thread of conversation, but the effort required to even hold it prevents her from having to talk to Brett for the rest of the drive. She doesn’t hang up until she’s safely in her trailer, having done nothing more than mouth her thanks at Brett when they arrived at the lot. She knows she’s being petty and, if she didn’t know better, she’d actually think that he looked upset.

 

(Good thing she knows better.)

 

++++

 

Brett’s apparently determined to torture her as much as humanly possible today, because he’s behind the cameras, watching as she films the scene where Skye realizes that Ward is Hydra. She catches his eye between takes, trying to offer a reassuring smile through the tears. For all that she’s still pissed about earlier, she feels concerned (and slightly proud) that he looks genuinely upset. She can’t help but secretly feel a little pleased though, because she is really upset. (Apparently Skye’s not the only one he’s making feel like crap today.) She also keeps sitting on the trash can mid-scene, which is pissing her off. So now she’s both upset and angry. (It’s probably not the best combination.)

 

After what seems like forever but is, in reality, only six takes, Chloe’s hiding out in the bathroom (she worries about the amount of time she spends doing this when Brett’s around), splashing water on her face and trying to calm the hell down, when she hears the door open. She looks in the mirror to see Brett standing behind her. This is really the last thing she needs right now.

 

“Hello, this is the ladies. I could have been peeing.” If in doubt, take refuge in sarcasm. It’s a strategy that has served her well in life.

 

“You’re avoiding me.”

 

“I’m really not.”

 

(She really is.)

 

“You really are. Look, about this morning, in the car. When I said it was something I wouldn’t do, I meant that I wouldn’t make excuses.” Apparently she now repulses Brett so much that he can barely look at her.

 

“What the fuck are you talking about?” Chloe just needs some time to herself and, right now, she cannot deal with Brett and his issues and his dumbass face that isn’t interested in her.

 

“You said that me saying I was aiming for your arm was an excuse.” He might not be making a lot of sense, but the look on his face is earnest.

 

(Christ, has he really spent the whole morning thinking about this?)

 

“Brett, I really don’t have time for this.” She tries to navigate around him to the door, but Brett seems to have other ideas, taking a step backwards to block her escape.

 

“I’m trying to explain, Chloe. Can you just…”

 

“No, Brett, I can’t just anything. You’ve made it very clear where you stand with regards to me and my boobs and feeling me up. Message received loud and clear.” She can hear the tremor in her voice; did he really have to do this when she was already having a completely shitty day?

 

“You’re not listening, Chloe. I meant that if I wanted to, you know…” Brett tails off and swallows so hard that she can actually hear it.

 

“All I know is that you find me physically repulsive to the degree that apparently you’re done joking about finding me attractive. Which, by the way, you could have picked a better day to tell me about. So I’m going to leave now. We’re going to get through the rest of today and then we won’t have to see each other until next week. By which point, hopefully, we will both have forgotten that this conversation ever happened.” Chloe pushes past Brett before he has a chance to say anything else. She clenches her hands into fists to stop them shaking and walks down the hall, plastering a smile onto her face as she goes.

 

(Never let them see you cry.)

 

++++

 

Chloe spends twenty minutes locked in her trailer cuddling Arthur and listening to the playlist she has titled Grant Ward is an asshat and so is Brett Dalton. She knows that she’s reached a new low but, frankly, she no longer gives a shit. After listening to Irreplaceable three times in a row, she decides that Beyonce is a genius queen and actually feels a lot better. Well, improved enough to settle Arthur back onto the couch, take a deep breath, and unlock the door. She straightens her shoulders and strides towards set as though she hasn’t a care in the world.

 

She gives Vince her undivided attention as he provides direction and they do a quick rehearsal of the scene. It’s really nothing more than standing in the correct spot and waiting until the crew indicates that they have the right coverage for the shot. It’s also totally awkward when you’re not really talking to the only other person in the scene with you. She sneaks a glance at Brett, but he’s staring at the floor, and Chloe realizes, with a growing sense of alarm, that she may have ruined a pretty great friendship by being totally irrational. So she’s probably going to have to apologise. And that really fucking sucks. If anything, she’s more annoyed about that than their stupid argument.

 

Eventually, they’re ready to start shooting and Chloe starts to relax; this horrendous day is finally nearly over. Of course, once again, art imitates life and Skye’s admitting to ‘acting first and freaking out later’ (and, really, Chloe needs to find out who to bribe round here in order to discover if there’s actually a secret camera crew following her every move) while Ward is being a duplicitous douche-bag. The look Brett gives her as Ward asks if Skye is still ‘freaking out’ suddenly reminds her how totally pissed she still is at him, because it’s fucking Brett looking at her, not Ward, and, really, how dare he?

 

Chloe’s not exactly proud of what she does next, but Brett totally deserves everything he’s got coming to him at the moment. She disregards all the direction she’s had with regards to the scene and, instead, steps forward so she’s standing toe-to-toe with Brett, her body flush against his. This time she’s the one pulling his head down to meet hers as she rises up onto her toes, pushing up against his chest for balance. The faint remembrance of heat in her bones that has been waiting, biding its time, suddenly flares to life and desire pools in her stomach, making her bold.

 

His lips finally meet hers and the last truly coherent thought she has is that she cannot be the only one of them that feels the electricity sparking between them. It starts off almost chaste, lips closed and just the slightest catch in her breath as he leans into her. She runs a finger down his cheek, feels his stubble rough on her skin, and slides her hand to the back of his neck. His hair is silk, his skin velvet and she has the overwhelming need to leave a mark, tangible proof of her presence. Chloe scrapes her nails along the soft skin behind his jaw and, just like that, everything changes.

 

Brett slides his arms up her back, tracing fire along every nerve in her body. He curves down over her, angles his head for better access and actually groans into her mouth. The noise shoots straight to her clit, and she runs her fingers through his hair, trying to pull him closer, to eliminate the space between them. It’s apparently all the encouragement he needs, because suddenly his tongue is sliding across her lips, parting them further, and licking up into her mouth. He makes another noise of satisfaction and it takes all of Chloe’s remaining self-control not to push him back against the wall and see how far they can take this. It’s all teeth and tongues; it’s weeks of pretending that she doesn’t want this, and it’s need and desire.

(She never wants to stop.)

Somehow she manages to pull away before things really go too far. Brett sighs as she steps backwards; his eyes are still closed. Chloe realizes that there’s a dull ache of anxiety in her chest in anticipation of what she’ll see when he finally opens them. His cheeks are flushed and, when he finally looks at her, his eyes are dark, his pupils completely blown, and the corner of his mouth turns up in the barest of smiles. Her body clearly knows what’s going on long before her brain catches up because the knot of fear unravels and satisfaction unfurls, golden liquid in her blood.

(Well. She wasn’t expecting that.)

They run the scene another three times in order for Vince to get all the shots that he’s after, but he keeps cutting at moments that are really doing nothing for the state of Chloe’s hormones. She feels like she’s a lust-crazed teenager and, unfortunately, her thought processes are in complete agreement.

“Why can’t you just let us do the whole scene every time?” She practically whines it. She’d feel embarrassed by the look on Vince’s face, if it wasn’t for the fact that she sees Brett raise his eyebrows at the same time as the corners of his mouth twitch. Brett finding her entertaining trumps any other emotion she might be feeling. Chloe’s spent enough time studying Brett’s face to know that this is his ‘trying really hard not to laugh at Chloe’ face. (Whatever, it’s not like he’s actually raising any objections.)

“Well, Chloe, it’s because I don’t need you to do the whole scene and, in case you hadn’t noticed, it’s getting late and I would like to get out of here at some stage tonight.” Vince turns his attention back to the screen in front of him. “That kiss was the perfect mixture of hot and convincing and I’m pretty sure you can’t improve on it.”

(She usually agrees with Vince, but this time? She’s completely sure he’s wrong.)

“If it’s any consolation, I’m in complete agreement with you.” Brett’s breath is hot on her neck as he leans down to murmur in her ear. His voice is low and she feels it like a caress on her skin, rich with promise.

Forty-five minutes ago Chloe thought that Brett found the idea of touching her intentionally to be unimaginable. Now here he is, acting as though personal space isn’t even important and making suggestive comments. He’s generally behaving as if this is an outcome that he is completely on board with. (Chloe really has no fucking idea what’s going on at the moment.)

Apparently, whatever Vince sees on his monitor is satisfactory because he informs them that it’s a wrap for the day and that they’ve done a great job. Chloe’s grateful for the fact that there are always hundreds of people on set because it allows her to slip away while Brett’s distracted by one of the crew.

++++

It’s cold as she walks back across the lot and she’s glad when she reaches the warmth of her trailer to be greeted by Arthur, tail wagging so enthusiastically that she thinks he might fall over. She scoops him up for a hug before rummaging in her bag for her car keys, eager to get home to a glass of wine and some space to think about what the hell went on today. She can’t seem to find them, so she upends her bag onto the table before it slowly dawns on her.

(Fuck. She came with Brett.)

Chloe has no idea what to do. She feels like a bit of an idiot because she’s standing in the middle of her trailer, holding her dog, trying to decide if it would be unreasonable to call a friend to take an hour-long round trip to collect her.

(She pictures how the conversation would go:

Hey Lil!

Chloe!

Say, do you think you could drive to the studio and take me home? Brett drove me to work so I don’t have my car. Also, I had a huge fight with him earlier and then we kissed. I mean, Skye and Ward were kissing but it was definitely me. And I think it was Brett. So, really, it was Brett and me. Help.

~hysterical laughter

Yeah. Not happening.)

Chloe’s about to run through the scenario with Iain as her rescuer, although she suspects it’s not going to go much better. (Iain would almost certainly ask if there was tongue before dissolving into hysteria. On reflection, Lil would probably ask too, if she could stop laughing long enough) There’s a tap at her door before she finishes that thought. Arthur starts struggling to get there before her and she knows, as if there were ever any doubt, it’s going to be Brett. She sweeps the contents of her bag back where they belong, grabbing up her phone as she does so, before organizing her limbs on a chair in her best impression of ‘casual lounging without a care in the world’ before saying “Come in.”

The door opens and Arthur hurls himself at Brett, tail wagging furiously with excitement, jumping up and swiping his tongue at the nearest available spot of uncovered skin. (Unfortunately, Chloe can relate.) Brett has, at least, had the decency to make a more thorough job of removing his make-up than the last time they did this. Chloe is, however, forced to admit to herself that her own strong inclination to lick Brett all the time has nothing to do with make-up and everything to do with the fact that he’s just, well, Brett.

“You ready to go?” Brett’s voice is even and he shows no outward sign of concern at all. Chloe hates him a little for that. (Stupid Yale and its stupid acting classes.)

“Totally.” Chloe pushes up out of her seat. (Nope, that absolutely didn’t sound like forced jollity right there. She sounds like a stoned frat boy. Way to go, Chloe.) She forces a smile, but worries that she hasn’t made a particularly good attempt at it when she sees the faint crease between Brett’s eyebrows. It’s too late to back out now though. She’s committed.

(She probably needs to be committed.)

“Mind if I carry Arthur?” Brett’s already got Arthur cradled in the crook of an elbow and it’s doing obscene things to Chloe’s emotional wellbeing. Brett scratches Arthur’s stomach and the dog lets out a tiny whine of satisfaction, frantically waving his paws in the air. Brett grins at Chloe like he’s expecting praise and reassurance about how clever he is for getting her dog to fall in love with him. It’s the same look that Arthur gives her when he remembers to sit at a crosswalk without needing to be told. (It’s completely fucking adorable and totally unfair.)

“I don’t think he likes you but, sure, go ahead.” She smiles sweetly as Brett scoffs in disbelief. Her irritation from earlier in the day seems to have vanished. She can feel something else in the air though, brushing against her senses, slightly out of focus.

She follows Brett down the steps, slinging her bag over her shoulder and turning to lock the door behind her. She doesn’t need anyone poking around in there and finding her collection of lists. That would be one more thing she’d never live down. She should make a list.

(Ugh, stop.)

“What?” Brett half turns towards her and she realises that she actually said that out loud.

“Nothing. Sorry. Just a -- uh -- a bug. Yeah, a bug. Um. In my hair.” She waves a hand ineffectually around her face, as though trying to swat away a fly. “It’s gone now.”

As Brett starts walking towards the car again, she thinks he says something disparaging about her to Arthur.

“Are you trying to bromance my dog, Brett? That’s not cool.” As she says this, Brett boosts Arthur up so that the dog’s chin is resting on his shoulder, facing Chloe, with his tongue lolling to one side. Arthur turns his head and licks Brett’s neck, drawing a laugh from Brett as he comments that he doesn’t seem to need to make much of an effort. Chloe nearly walks straight back to her trailer for a stiff drink and a lie down. This is all really getting to be too much for her. It’s hard enough for her to manage her feelings about Brett on a normal day, but now her damn puppy is getting in on the action. (Arthur is so grounded.)

Brett reaches the car before her and opens the door with the hand that isn’t bracing Arthur against his chest. Chloe slides herself down into the seat before reaching up so that Brett can give her back her dog. She somehow manages to tangle her fingers with Brett’s as he hands Arthur over and her pulse is suddenly thumping loudly in her ears. She’s aware that Brett hasn’t moved and she musters up the courage to look at his face. His expression is slightly puzzled as he looks at their hands, caught up in each other and Arthur’s coat. His eyes flick to hers and she almost forgets to breathe as he slowly smiles at her, his features transforming, before pulling his hand away. He shuts the door and Chloe buries her face in Arthur’s fur, closing her eyes and focusing on her breathing, hoping that it’ll calm the torrent of questions racing through her head.

(Dear Diary, how do I know if this cute boy likes me? Is it really a good idea to proposition your co-star? Can you die from not touching someone?

Dear Diary, what the fuck happened at work today?)

++++

“I think it went well today.”

Chloe’s glad of the fact that Brett has chosen to break the silence in the car, but his selection of topic really leaves a lot to be desired. If they start having this conversation now, she’s going to say something stupid. Or incriminating.

“Oh yeah? You talking about the part where I lost my shit at you, or the part where you and my dog became best bros?” Because there’s no way she wants to talk about the part that happened in the middle. The incredibly confusing part that she needs to have a really good think about before she makes an enormous fool of herself by mentioning.

“All of it.” Brett shrugs, absentmindedly scratching the stubble under his jaw. Chloe remembers vividly how it feels. She sits on her hands to stop them from doing anything embarrassing as he continues. “You were great.”

“Thanks.” Chloe’s not entirely sure what to do with this. Does she say ‘you too’? Does she do what she would have done yesterday and turn it into a sexual innuendo? Should she apologize for being totally irrational earlier? Is she prepared to finally learn the literal connotation of ‘actions have consequences, Chloe’?

(She wishes her mom wasn’t always right about things.)

“You got plans for the weekend?” He says it like he’s just a friend asking another friend about their plans for the weekend. Chloe’s not really sure what she was expecting. Maybe she was completely wrong about what happened on set earlier. What if it was just fantastic acting? Chloe forces herself to concentrate on holding a conversation in order to prevent her otherwise inevitable spiral.

“I was thinking of maybe catching up with Lil. I haven’t really seen much of her this week and some girl-talk is seriously overdue.” It hadn’t actually occurred to her until that second, but Chloe realizes that this is actually a fantastic idea. Lil knows them both, she works with them, plus she’s totally the nicest person on the planet. If anyone’s going to tell Chloe the truth and not make it feel as though the world’s ending, it’ll be Lil.

“Great. Why don’t you come for brunch tomorrow? See if Lil and Iain can make it too.” It’s not exactly how Chloe envisioned spending her weekend, because she should be alone, dealing with whatever’s happening with Brett, but he sounds so excited that she is physically incapable of saying no.

“Sounds awesome.” The car gets quiet again as Chloe pulls out her phone and sends a text to Iain and Lil. Lil’s response arrives a couple of seconds after she hits ‘send’ and consists of clapping hands repeated for an entire two lines with a single thumbs-up at the end. Chloe interprets it as an enthusiastic yes and conveys the message to Brett, who laughs. She’d love to say that Iain’s response is more restrained but the entire thing is written in caps and every other word is an expletive. From this, Chloe gathers that Brett hasn’t been hanging out with Iain as much as usual. Which is odd because she’s seen loads of Brett recently.

(Not as much as she’d like, though.)

“You need me to bring anything?”

“Just your lovely self,” he says, without a hint of irony. Chloe wonders, not for the first time, how a person is supposed to deal with this sort of thing.

“I’m not sure if my ‘lovely’ self will be available at ten am on a Saturday, but you can have ‘grumpy until she gets a decent coffee’ Chloe.” Accepting compliments graciously is something that Chloe can only manage once per conversation. Otherwise Brett’ll just keep firing them off and everything’s weird enough as it is.

“Any of your many selves will be more than welcome. I promise to give them all coffee. You’ll need to choose which one gets fed though because I’ve seen how much those girls can eat.”

“You’re hilarious.” Chloe deadpans. She grabs Arthur as he tries to make a break for Brett’s lap, but in doing so manages to knock over the remnants of her coffee from this morning, long since gone cold. Given the way that Chloe’s life is going at the moment, it mostly spills down Brett’s leg. To his credit, he barely flinches and actually manages to look vaguely amused. Chloe’s suddenly acutely aware of how totally unreasonable she’s been to him for most of the day.

“Shit. Sorry.” Chloe grabs her bag off the floor, depositing Arthur by her feet with firm instructions to “stay”, and rummages through its contents looking for something to dry the mess with. The only things she finds with absorbent properties are three tampons and a packet of tissues that looks like it’s seen better days. Brett’s pretty open-minded about things but she’s not sure she’s ready to fill his car with tampons, so she opts for the tissues. She realizes that Brett’s saying something about being fine and not worrying about him. He’s being so fucking understanding that her eyes actually start to sting. What the hell is wrong with her?

“I’m really sorry.” She knows, of course, exactly what’s wrong. She was a bitch to him and then she kissed him. Or he kissed her. She’s not exactly sure what’s going on, but it was phenomenal and, while she’s not sorry about the kissing, she is sorry about the other stuff. A weight, that she wasn’t even aware of, lifts from her chest as she says it.

“I said it’s fine, Chloe. Nothing a shower and a change of clothes won’t fix.”

“I know. That’s not what I’m talking about.” Chloe decides that clearing the air is going to make her feel better. Or, more likely worse during, but better after. At least then she won’t feel guilty every time she looks at him. “I mean for earlier. The parts of the day where I yelled at you. I’m sorry about them. The coffee’s Arthur’s fault anyway. He should apologize to you for that.” She sighs in relief that none of her speech was as bad as she thought it was going to be.

“You don’t need to be sorry. It was tough day for you. I get it.” Brett pauses, as though he’s trying to decide what to say next. “Although I don’t think I’ve ever been yelled at before for trying to tell a girl I think she’s beautiful.” There’s not even a hint of laughter in his voice and Chloe really doesn’t know what to say.

“I found tissues.” Chloe decides that a change of subject is definitely the safest course of action right now.

“Of course you did.” Brett shakes his head ruefully. “I wouldn’t be surprised if you produced a family of squirrels from that bag one day.”

“It’s a great bag, Brett, and you know it. One day you might be glad of a squirrel.”

“Chloe, I literally cannot think of any scenario in which a squirrel would be useful to me.”

“What if it was the middle of winter and you were lost in a forest and starving? A squirrel could guide you to nuts.” Chloe’s beginning to wish she hadn’t started this.

“I suspect I’d be better off if I killed it and ate it, but whatever you prefer.”

“That’s disgusting. You’re not Bear Grylls, you know.”

“You’re right. I’m much better looking.”

“Ugh. Shut up, Brett.” Chloe rolls her eyes as they pull up outside her apartment. She grins at him, though (because he’s right), unfastens her seatbelt, and holds out the packet of tissues. She’s seen enough movies to know that she should, on no account, start trying to mop up the coffee herself.

“Thanks.” Brett doesn’t so much as grab the packet, though, as the packet and her hand, his fingers lightly brushing the underside of her wrist. He twists in his seat so that he’s almost facing her. “It went well today,” he says for the second time tonight, earnest, his forehead creasing as he nods slightly. Chloe feels like she’s standing on uneven ground, waiting for the moment that one foot plunges into quicksand. She can barely breathe. “We should talk about the other stuff, though. When you’re ready.”

Chloe’s busy wondering whether Brett is talking about what she thinks he’s talking about when she realises that the hand not holding hers is now sliding under her chin. His thumb brushes across her bottom lip, so light that she almost misses it, and her heart starts to race. Brett leans forward slowly and presses a kiss to her cheek. His stubble feels incredible on her skin and one of her hands slides up his jaw almost of its own volition. She forces her eyes open as he starts to lean back, but he stops with his face an inch from hers.

His eyes are dark and flick down to her lips before he looks back up. Chloe has no idea what he sees, but one corner of his mouth hitches up in a smile; she feels an answering grin start on her face. Every cell in her body is thrumming with anticipation, but she’s determined that this time she’s going to know that it’s not just her who wants this. Her eyes slide shut as she feels Brett move back toward her and then there’s an exhale of warm breath on her chin. A very cold nose hits hers as Brett swears.

Chloe’s eyes snap open to find Brett dealing with Arthur enthusiastically licking his face as he tries to push him away one-handed. She can’t help but laugh at the absurdity of the situation and the fact that nothing about this can ever be easy. She should just take it as a sign.

“I think you’ve made someone jealous.” Her voice sounds strange to her own ears, laced with desire.

“Clearly.” Brett’s dealing with Arthur by the simple expedient of holding him against his chest. Arthur’s still straining to get at his face. “Since I’m now covered in dog as well as coffee I think I’m going to bow out gracefully before this situation gets any worse.” She takes solace in the fact that Brett sounds genuinely disappointed.

“Okay. I should probably take my dog of your hands then.” She leaves out the part where she and Arthur are going to have along chat about boundaries and when it’s not okay to cock-block mom. She leans forward and scoops Arthur out of Brett’s arms, trying really hard not to be obvious about the way that she brushes up against Brett’s chest a little more than strictly necessary. The grin that he gives her implies that she’s not really being as subtle as she thinks. She doesn’t really care.

“See you tomorrow?”

“Absolutely.” She’s considering telling Iain and Lil not to come, but she’s not actually sure that she’s ready to confront whatever this is. Which is ironic, given that she’s been doing nothing but imagining it for weeks. She’s just thrown by the fact that maybe it’s not as one-sided as she assumed. She gathers her bag and her dog and gets out of the car.

“Maybe leave Arthur at home.” Brett smiles and she nods before kicking the door shut with her heel.

Chloe stands on the sidewalk, watching him drive away, before addressing Arthur.

“You’re a bad dog.”

(She’s pretty sure Arthur’s laughing at her.)

++++

Chloe has a minor panic attack the second that she sets foot inside her apartment. She thought that she was doing pretty well, but it turns out that it’s not so easy to feign nonchalance when it’s just you and your dog with an entire Friday night of no plans stretching out ahead of you. In light of this, she does what any sensible girl would do -- calls her mom. Who, completely unreasonably, isn’t home. So that’s plan A out the window. Chloe hadn’t really gotten as far as organizing a plan B.

Eventually she settles on giving Arthur a bath, because he hates it and he totally deserves some torture of his own after the stunt he pulled in Brett’s car. Chloe has now replayed the entire day in her head several times, acting it out for Arthur at least twice. She’s finally reached the conclusion that she wasn’t hallucinating and that Brett was making a move in the car earlier. Probably. Almost certainly. When she starts wondering if he was really just going for the cheek kiss, and maybe everything else was just a result of her desperately wanting it to be true, her composure goes to shit. Really though, up to this point, he’s given her no evidence to suggest that he wants to be anything other than friends.

Ultimately, Chloe realizes that she’s only making herself completely crazy with questions that she really doesn’t have the answers to. She does, however, eventually manage to decide that she’s not actually imagining things. Brett really did lean in to kiss her in the car. The thought settles under her skin, warm in her chest, sparking with promise.

Chloe looks at the clock and sees that it’s only just gone nine. She considers making an attempt not to be totally lame, and calling friends to see if they want to go out. After five seconds of serious thought, she realizes that this is completely ridiculous because she’ll be seeing everyone she wants to tomorrow morning. Which needs to hurry up already. This is no way influences her decision to have a ridiculously early night. (She’s an actress. Beauty sleep is obviously important.) Plus, being unconscious means that she doesn’t have to try to analyze anything that happened today. (Bonus.) She somehow resists the urge to replay the scene from the car in her head until she falls asleep. She does, however, have some pretty vivid dreams of Brett’s tongue sliding up her inner thigh, his hand pushing her hips down into the bed to prevent her from moving, his thumb slipping upwards through damp curls.

She wakes up gasping, closing her eyes against the daylight, desperately chasing the last threads of the sensation of Brett’s phantom fingers on her skin. The dream escapes her before she has a chance to catch it though, so she regretfully opens her eyes to face the day. Three seconds later, she remembers that she’s going to Brett’s in a couple of hours. (She really needs to make an effort to get rid of this absurd grin that seems to be permanently plastered to her face.)

++++

Brunch is weird -- in that it’s not weird at all. She shows up twenty minutes late (nothing to do with the fact that she tried on and discarded three different outfits before settling on jeans and a Punisher tee.). Brett raises his eyebrows and gives her a crooked grin when he sees it, something that absolutely doesn’t make her heat skip a beat. (She is not a cliché.) She’s brandishing a bottle of Clamato juice and threatening to force Bloody Caesars on everyone. (She has absolutely no intention of carrying through on the threat because a) gross and b) this particular bottle of 99.9% clam free juice has been sitting in her pantry since an ill-advised trip to Toronto four years ago.) It’s totally worth the lie to see the look on Iain’s face as he hears what she’s proposing though. She’s never seen a Scotsman nearly cry before. Brett’s doubled over in hysterics on the couch and Lil’s offering to make everyone a cup of tea instead. Chloe pours the juice down the sink before Iain carries through on his threat to leave.

Iain is mid-monologue about the sanctity of alcohol and the fact that “there are only three fucking things that are acceptable to add to your spirits; water, citrus and frozen fucking water” when Chloe throws herself down on the couch next to Brett without thinking. Given that Lil is sitting on the other end, and Brett isn’t exactly a tiny person, she ends up somewhat closer than she’d intended. Brett shifts slightly so that she’s tucked up against his side, his arm slung across the back of the couch, fingers brushing her shoulder. It’s a position she’s sat in a million times before, it’s just that she usually makes a better attempt to hide the way that she breathes him in. She’s so busy grinning up at him that she almost misses Lil leaning around his other shoulder and pulling a face that implies that Chloe will have some serious explaining to do later.

By this point, Iain’s made it to the kitchen, where he’s extolling the various merits of haggis as opposed to black pudding. Lil is currently expressing a strong desire to eat neither. Honestly, Chloe’s just content to sit and listen to her friends bicker over the sound of Brett chuckling in her ear.

“I don’t give a fuck if you can’t understand why sheep’s heart would be any better than pig’s blood, Lil. You’re just going to have to trust that it is. Brett, can you come over here and sort out your fucking coffee machine before I die from caffeine withdrawal? Where’s the bloody ‘on’ button?”

“You owe the swear jar about a million dollars, Iain.” Lil’s apparently utterly impervious to Iain’s foul language as he tells her in no uncertain terms to “Fuck off.”

“You want coffee?” Brett turns to her, nose almost touching hers, and it’s all she can do to manage an affirmative noise. His arm tightens around her shoulder for a second before he’s gone. Lil takes the opportunity to slide across the couch into the space he leaves behind.

“Hi, Chloe.” Lil smiles at her, all innocence. Chloe suspects that she’s not going to enjoy what’s about to happen.

“Hi, friend.” Chloe decides that two can play at this game, smiling back as though she hasn’t a care in the world.

“Anything you’d like to tell me?” Lil clasps her hands together under her chin, bracing her elbows on her knees and fluttering her lashes. Chloe snorts at this exaggerated picture of sincerity and rolls her eyes. Lil starts to giggle, casting a quick glance over her shoulder to check on Brett and Iain. The two of them are deep in conversation about the correct temperature to heat the grill to so that they won’t be eating raw sausages.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Chloe offers. (Total lie.)

“You’re a bloody shit liar, Chloe Bennet.” This is not the first time that Lil has made this accusation.

“Okay, alright. Hypothetically, I might know what you’re talking about. Now is really not the time to be discussing this, though.” Chloe casts an anxious glance toward the kitchen, where Brett is dusting cinnamon across their coffees with an intent expression.

“Fine. You know that this can mean only one thing though, right?”

“Sadly, yes. I do.” Chloe knows that there is zero point in fighting Lil on this.

“Girls’ night.” Lil announces this with a triumphant air and a grin. Chloe can’t even manage to fake disappointment -- she’s actually desperate to talk to Lil about whatever’s happening with Brett. (She’d just like some reassurance that the whole thing isn’t in her head before she makes a total fool of herself.)

“Coffee’s ready.” Brett’s somehow managed to make four coffees in the time it’s taken Iain to find a cutting board. Chloe allows herself to feel slightly smug about the fact that she knows where everything is in Brett’s kitchen. She could have had those mushrooms sliced in under three minutes. And Brett wouldn’t have had to ask her to move so he could get a spoon.

“Have you put fucking cinnamon on my coffee, Brett?” For some reason Iain’s fundamentally opposed to cinnamon.

“Yeah, actually. Yours is the one with double cinnamon. You need to educate your tastebuds. Think of it as me doing you a favor.”

“You’re the least fucking supportive best friend I’ve ever had.” Iain shakes his head as though he can’t believe that this is actually happening to him, before sniffing suspiciously at his coffee. Chloe’s surprised when he suddenly grins. “Asshole. It’s fucking chocolate. Thanks, man.”

“You seriously thought I’d risk it after you threatened to feed me to sharks the last time? I’m a young man, Iain. In the prime of my life. I have a lot to live for.” Brett’s staring intently at Chloe as he says it. She tries really hard not to notice, but she can feel heat rushing to her cheeks and her imagination helpfully starts to suggest myriad ways in which Brett is clearly in prime condition.

“Well I wouldn’t actually feed you to sharks. Too fucking messy. I’d probably put arsenic in your cinnamon shaker instead. More poetic. And it’d be totally in-depth research for your movie this summer.”

“The one where I’m an ex-football star?” Brett’s face creases in confusion and Chloe wishes that she didn’t find it adorable.

“Well you’re filming in fucking Florence, aren’t you?” Iain’s gesticulating so wildly that Brett has to take a step back. It may also have something to do with the fact that he hasn’t yet put down the knife he’s using to torture helpless vegetables.

“So?”

“Well it’s the fucking Borgia and Medici business, isn’t it? Florence versus Rome? Christ, how did you even get the bloody part? Anyone would think that they just want someone who can act and look pretty. Nobody fucking cares about backstory any more.” Iain in full flight is really a sight to behold. Chloe grabs her phone, preparing to Instagram it for the masses. Brett and Lil are just barely managing to fight back their smiles. “You know what? You can all stop bloody laughing. Mo and Jed told me what’s happening to Fitz in the last episode. Research is fucking happening. I’m going to slay you all next season, just you bloody wait and see.”

“Mo and Jed did what now?” Chloe’s trying to forgive them for making Brett lie to her, but it’s proving difficult. She’s also been bugging them to tell her if she needs to give up on the whole Skyeward thing (not that she personally has any intention of doing so, but she really needs to know if she should start downplaying it for the fans) for next season. (It’s the least they can do.) Mo gave her a really long look, like she knew there was an ulterior motive in Chloe’s questions. Chloe just narrowed her eyes and clenched her jaw. (Grant Ward would have been proud.) Jed was oblivious, thankfully, but spun her the party line about ‘secrecy’ and ‘need to know’. Her point being: telling Iain what’s coming is outrageous and totally unfair.

“Told me what’s happening to Fitz.” Iain’s expression veers towards confused as he takes in the looks that he’s getting from the rest of the group. “Why are you all looking at me like I’m Hydra?”

“Seriously, Iain?” Chloe’s really glad that Lil hasn’t been rendered mute by this particular piece of information since neither she nor Brett seems able to wrap their heads around the fact that Iain gets given top secret information without even asking for it.

“Yeah, seriously. They said that they knew I’d want to make his journey as realistic as possible, so they wanted to tell me what to expect. Have they not told you guys what’s happening?” Iain seems genuinely mystified.

“No, they haven’t told us anything. At least, they haven’t told me anything. Except that I shouldn’t plan on seeing much of you guys for the first couple of episodes. Which I freaked out about until they took pity on me and told me that I wasn’t dead. Or an evil duplicitous douchebag.” Lil looks slightly apologetic about putting that last thing in. Chloe has absolutely no idea why. Must be a British thing.

“Brett?” Chloe doesn’t trust herself to say anything more than his name because, if she finds out that he’s been keeping things from her again, she’ll probably throw shit. Or cry. She hasn’t quite decided which.

“Hey, I have no idea what’s going on. After the last time, I told them that if I couldn’t tell you, I didn’t want to know.” Chloe’s not really sure if he means ‘you’ as in ‘you guys’ or ‘you, Chloe’. “I didn’t want to risk losing bragging rights to Arthur about my superior fashion sense.” So, ‘you, Chloe’ then. Good. She has terrible aim and, knowing her luck, her coffee cup would probably hit Iain, causing brain damage and amnesia or something. She wouldn’t handle that well.

“What about you?” It’s Lil who asks the question, but Brett’s staring at her as though her answer is really important to him.

“They won’t tell me a damn thing. I mean, I might’ve threatened to kill them after the whole Ward reveal, so, potentially, they don’t want to die? I probably wouldn’t have actually killed them though. Unlike Iain, I don’t have an in-depth knowledge of fifteenth-century Italian poisons.” Chloe smirks as Brett raises an eyebrow.

“Chloe Bennet!” Iain’s practically bouncing off the walls with enthusiasm. “Does this mean that you actually know how to do fucking research?”

“That’s kind of rude, Iain.” Of course Chloe knows how to research things. She did become a freaking popstar in China and teach herself Mandarin. It’s like people forget these things about her.

(Chloe is fucking smart.)

“Did you forget about the Mandarin, Iain?” Chloe would find Brett’s remark completely adorable except for the fact that he’s now imitating Joss doing the dance from ‘Uh Oh’. (Chloe hates the internet sometimes.)

“Yes! We haven’t done this in weeks.” Lil grabs her phone and rushes over to the kitchen, pulling Brett and Iain across to Chloe’s side of the counter that divides the room. She hits a couple of buttons on her phone and Chloe groans as she recognizes the first few chords that play.

Several made up words and three minutes later, Chloe’s sides hurt from laughing. She has to admit it’s pretty amazing that Brett, Iain and Lil have reached the point where they’ve memorized the entire dance and most of the lyrics. Chloe herself isn’t sure that she’d manage it, given that it’s been three years since she even spoke the language.

Brett has somehow managed to dance his way across the living room and pulls her to her feet, despite her assertions that she’s had enough of this song to last a lifetime. The fact that in the next breath he’s positioning himself at her back, the warmth of his body radiating through the thin layers of cotton that separate them, before pulling her flush against him, makes her protestations sound somewhat feeble, even to her.

“Now that’s some fucking dirty dancing!” Iain exclaims, prompting Chloe to break out of Brett’s grasp and chase him around the room. This results in the two of them collapsed in a heap in the corner of the room, almost crying with laughter, as Brett and Lil attempt to look superior. The moment is slightly ruined by the burning smell that starts to emanate from the kitchen.

++++

Chloe’s not entirely sure why Lil has insisted on going clubbing tonight. Her proposal of pizza and a movie was met with disbelief, and she was so taken aback by how utterly un-Lil like it was that she’d just accepted the nightclub suggestion without a second thought. At the moment, she’s pulling on dress number three and wondering why she wasn’t more clear about the fact that she really needs some advice about Things That Are Happening with Brett. She’s sure that her needs would be better met in a place where they won’t have to scream to be heard.

She takes some comfort in the fact that she’s managed to find her favorite lipstick and her current dress clings in all the right places. She considers swinging by Brett’s place first, just to let him know what he’s missing, but he and Iain were pretty definite that there weren’t to be any interruptions to poker night, no matter the emergency. Chloe’s a little unclear about how poker can be any fun when there are only two people playing, but Iain and Brett are weird like that.

Lil shows up promptly at eight, a bag of limes and mint in hand, looking fantastic. She makes a beeline for Chloe’s alcohol stash and mixes up a couple of mojitos like a pro. Chloe busies herself scrolling through her phone looking for a playlist that isn’t in some way related to Brett. She thinks she’s going to have to throw in the towel when she finds Like A Fish Needs A Bicycle. It should keep Lil happy, if nothing else.

“I’ve decided to let you be my wing-woman tonight.” Lil announces this to Chloe, like this is an actual conversation that they’ve been having. Chloe’s vaguely relieved that Lil appears to have forgotten her threat to find out what’s going on with Brett. She’s absurdly nervous at the thought of having to put her feelings into actual words.

“Oh yeah? Like I’m not always your wing-woman? That hurts, Lil. Really. I’m wounded.”

“You’ll get over it, I’m pretty sure. Anyway, it’s not like we need to find you a man, is it?” Lil casts a pointed look in Chloe’s direction. Apparently, she hasn’t forgotten about this morning after all.

“I thought that this was girls’ night? As in, no boys allowed?” Chloe takes a couple of gulps of her drink and realizes that she’s already finished her first. Given that she only started it a couple of minutes ago, this is probably not going to end well. (It’s a recurring theme when Lil and alcohol are involved.)

“Taunting boys is what makes girls’ night fun, Chloe. Don’t tell me you’re going soft on me. Maybe you’re just having feelings for boys now? Are you going soft on me, Bennet?”

“Make me another drink and I’ll tell you.”

“Huh. Bribery is it? Okay, but I’m making them strong and I don’t want you whining to me tomorrow when you’re wallowing in your hangover. Deal?”

“Deal.” Chloe’s hoping that she can get enough alcohol into her system to actually start telling Lil the truth. Or, alternatively, to pass out early and save herself the embarrassment of telling Lil all the details up to this point. The problem, though, is that part of her is desperate to tell someone. Arthur’s great at listening, but kind of lacking on the advice front. Anyway, he’s so in love with Brett that any advice he gave would have to be taken with a serious pinch of salt.

“I think I’m going to start a commune.” Lil often opens her conversations with these disconcerting statements. It’s taken almost a year, but Chloe’s finally getting used to it.

“Yeah? What kind?”

“I haven’t really decided, to be honest. I’ve gotten as far it needing to be well stocked with decent tea and a lot of alcohol. And there needs to be unlimited broadband.” Lil pauses, apparently deep in thought. “A pizza oven is clearly a must. No boys, obviously. Or only hot boys. I’m wavering a little on that one. I mean, I don’t really agree with objectifying people, but I need nice things to look at.” She hands Chloe another drink. “You wouldn’t happen to know any hot boys who might be interested, would you?”

“Your subtlety needs a shitload of work.” Chloe has to bite back a grin at the utterly unrepentant look on Lil’s face.

“C’mon. You know you’re dying to talk to me about it. Or, should I say, him.” Lil is obviously not going to let Chloe wriggle out of this, no matter how hard she tries. “But, if you don’t want to tell me now, I can wait. I’m a patient woman. Let’s talk about me instead.” Lil moves to the center of the room before striking a pose. “Tonight, Chloe, I’m playing the part of a young English girl, fresh to these fair shores, looking for the perfect movie role to launch my career. How many assholes do you think I’ll catch?”

“In this town? More than even you can handle.”

“Not possible. Have you met me?” Lil has a point.

++++

Four hours later finds Chloe sandwiched between Lil, the bar and three director slash producers who are desperate to show the new girls in town a good time. Lil’s doing a commendable job of flirting with all three of them without making it seem like she’s favoring any of them. Chloe’s honestly in awe of her skills. They’ve been getting free drinks for the last forty minutes and Chloe has left the realm of tipsy and is rapidly approaching inebriated. Which isn’t that much of a surprise.

“I need to sit.” While the bar has been performing admirably as a prop for Chloe until now, she’s reached the point where her feet really hurt. She also has a desperate need to text Brett. Unfortunately, Lil has her phone -- Chloe suspects that this is not entirely by accident. Lil seems more sober than anyone has a right to be, given the number of shots she’s downed.

“Sorry, gents. It’s been an absolute delight, but duty calls. Thanks for the drinks.” Somehow Lil has managed to liberate a bottle of champagne from the clutches of Oblivious Asshole Number Two. (Chloe’s definitely impressed now.) The tiny part of her that actually cares about how she’s going to feel tomorrow morning is concerned about the direction this night has just taken.

Lil hooks an arm around Chloe’s and deftly steers her towards the VIP area. Lil pauses to greet the bouncer who, it turns out, is a friend of hers from school. He’s a shade over six feet with blue eyes, sandy blonde hair, and a smile that lights up the room. Chloe suddenly understands why Lil was adamant that this was their destination for the night. Olly is apparently doing a buddy a favor. If the way that Lil giggles as he murmurs in her ear is anything to go by, Chloe suspects that she’ll be the only one going home alone.

They eventually make it to an unoccupied booth and Chloe sinks down into dark chocolate leather with a grateful sigh. Olly appears at her elbow with two champagne glasses and a wink for Lil. Chloe raises her eyebrows at her friend, who just shrugs her shoulders like this is something that happens every time she goes out (which, in fairness, it kind of is) and pours them each a glass. Chloe’s momentarily distracted by the thought that the leather is the exact colour of Brett’s eyes. She’s vaguely disgusted with herself for being such a sap.

“To girls who should know better.” Lil clinks her glass with Chloe’s and smirks. Chloe has a sinking feeling that they’re reaching the point in the night that she’s been desperately trying to avoid. She musters up a carefree smile from somewhere deep within and drinks. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees Lil’s phone, sitting on the table in a pool of melting ice, light up as a text arrives. Chloe catches sight of Iain’s name before Lil grabs it up and scans the message. Not for the first time she’s envious of Lil’s game face, which gives absolutely nothing away. For all Chloe knows, Iain could finally be making a declaration of undying love. Chloe admits that that’s fairly unlikely, since Iain’s basically the worst at keeping secrets, but she likes to imagine that she’s not the only who harbors unresolved feelings for a co-star.

(It helps her sleep at night.)

“So. I see at least four guys within spitting distance who are totally your type. Which one are we setting you up with?” Apparently, Lil’s done with being subtle. The rhythm of the bass takes up residence in Chloe’s chest and she can’t seem to slow her heartbeat.

“I thought we were dealing with your needs tonight?” Chloe has to admit that it’s a pretty flimsy excuse, but it’s all she can manage right now.

“Oh, Chloe. My needs are totally dealt with. Did you not see Olly? It’s time for you to decide.” Lil fixes Chloe with a look that is entirely unreasonable, given the amount that they’ve both had to drink.

“No.” Chloe’s aware of the fact that she’s jutting her lower lip out in the most petulant expression she can muster. Lil simply raises an eyebrow while continuing to stare at her. “Lil, stop.” She pulls out her most pathetic expression, but Lil counters by crossing her arms and continuing to fix her with a look of expectation. “If I tell you then it’s real and I can’t take it back.” The absurdity of yelling this over the top of a song asking why it ‘feels so good to be bad’ isn’t lost on Chloe, who buries her face in her hands.

“Hey, Chloe, it’s okay.” Lil’s presence is a comforting weight at her side and Chloe risks a look towards her. “I didn’t mean to push. You don’t have to tell me anything if you don’t want --“

“I’m ninety-three percent sure that I’m in love with Brett.” It comes out in a rush of air and the sheer relief that Chloe feels as the words leave her mouth surprises her.

“-- to.” Lil’s face is an absolute picture. Chloe wishes that she had her phone because the Internet would love this.

“I’ve tried really hard not to be. He makes it impossible.” Chloe shrugs, like her feelings are no big deal. Like she hasn’t been having a carefully managed Brett Dalton-related breakdown for the last few months.

“Finally.”

“What?” Chloe’s obviously misheard. There’s no way that Lil is actually condoning her behavior.

“It’s about bloody time. You’ve been dancing around each other for months now, and I was beginning to think I was going to have to lock Brett in your trailer until one of you made a move.” Chloe is really glad that the dim lighting hides the blush that she can feel rapidly spreading across her face.

“But Lil, it’s a completely terrible idea, right? I mean, what if we start something and it all goes horribly wrong? What if Skye has to hate Ward full-time next season? If I couldn’t manage to fool you then I’m probably not that good of an actress.” Chloe’s fully aware of the fact that it sounds like she’s fishing for compliments, but she’s actually genuinely concerned about what could happen if this becomes a reality.

“Shut up, idiot. It’s a great idea and it won’t go wrong. I don’t think anybody will really give a shit about the other stuff. If they do? Fuck them. It’s your life.” Lil raises her glass in a toast. Chloe ignores it and, instead, reaches over to give Lil a heartfelt hug.

“You’re fucking awesome, you know that?”

“I do, yes. Now, do you want to tell me all the things that you’ve been keeping to yourself about Brett? In horribly excruciating detail? Like your feelings on his abs, for instance? Or why you keep touching him when you think nobody’s noticing? Because, in case you were wondering, everybody noticed. Or how the two of you were basically dry humping in front of me this morning?”

“Shut up and drink, Lil.”

“Okay. I’d rather talk about Olly, anyway. He used to be a rocket scientist, you know.”

++++

The next morning Chloe has only a vague recollection of Lil and Olly bundling her out of a cab outside her apartment and Lil putting her to bed. There’s a bowl sitting on the floor next to her bed, and she’d think that Lil was an awesome friend if it weren’t for the fact that this hangover is totally her fault. Chloe’s head is pounding and she feels as though there’s a distinct possibility that she’s going to throw up. She manages to drag on a pair of sweats and stagger into her living room, noting that it’s two in the afternoon. Thank God for Sundays.

(Chloe thinks there’s a pun in there somewhere. Brett would probably know.)

She has a sudden moment of panic as she tries to recall when Lil gave her back her phone. (Knowing her luck, she probably decided to drunk-text Brett at four in the morning.) After five agonizing minutes of stumbling around the room looking for it, she finally locates it underneath a box of Advil and soluble Vitamin C. Lil is an angel and now Chloe feels bad for blaming her for the hangover.

After choking down the neon orange drink and nearly asphyxiating on the Advil, Chloe grabs her phone, a jumbo box of cookies, and stumbles as far as the couch. Where she intends to spend the rest of the day. She stabs the power button on the remote and there, in glorious technicolor, is Brett’s torso, paused from last week. She feels markedly better all of a sudden.

(It’s definitely the fast-acting Advil.)

Arthur jumps up onto the couch next to her before settling with his nose hanging over the edge of seat, staring at the TV. Chloe hits play and pulls a blanket over the two of them. She lets the commercials run during the first break, pulling out her phone and texting Brett.

[15.36] Chloe: Ward’s kind of an idiot

[15.37] Brett: That is news to nobody

[16.43] Chloe: He should smile more

[16.45] Brett: Noted

[16.52] Chloe: And wear fewer clothes

[16.54] Brett: Not really my decision. Are you drunk?

[17.10] Brett: Chloe? You there?

[17.22] Brett: I’ll wear fewer clothes, okay? Don’t be mad

[17.23] Chloe: I win

[17.23] Brett: Yeah, you do

[18.32] Chloe: Ward should also touch Skye more. She nearly died, you know

[18.45] Brett: Naked touching. Got it. Anything else?

[18.53] Chloe: I’m going back to bed. I’ll pick you up in the morning. BRING ME THE LARGEST COFFEE IN THE LAND

[19.01] Brett: You got it. Sleep well

All in all, Chloe decides that it was a splendid weekend.

++++

Fortunately, Chloe feels like a new woman when her alarm goes off at 5.30 the next morning. Early call times and stinking hangovers are not a great combination. Chloe does a full body shudder at the sudden flashback she has of the two-day nausea-and-vomiting experience following a particularly ill-advised night in Nashville. (Thank goodness she’s grown as a person since then.) She tries really hard to ignore the sensation that flutters in her stomach at the thought of seeing Brett this morning. She absolutely refuses to call it ‘butterflies’. (She’s not going to be that girl.)

Regardless of her best intentions, however, Chloe is forced to acknowledge that she’s having a bit of an existential crisis. On the one hand, she’s practically giddy with anticipation at the thought of what could potentially happen now that she’s actually going to stop ignoring whatever this is between her and Brett. (So maybe she is that girl after all.) On the other, she’s beginning to realize that being hungover is not the only cause of her vague sense of anxiety and nausea. She’s somewhat alarmed to realize that she’s basically promised Brett a ride to work. There’s absolutely no way she can back out now without things getting even more bizarre than they already are.

Chloe’s not sure that she can ever admit to another human being that she sits Arthur down and explains to him why he’s not going to work with her. She tells him that it has to do with not being sure if she’ll be able to come back to the trailer between takes. Anyway, he loves it when doggy day care comes to him, right? Also, Arthur didn’t exactly cover himself in glory the last time it was just the two of them and Brett in the car. Chloe doesn’t really know what she expects to happen today, but she’s sure as hell not going to let Arthur interrupt Brett this time. At least Arthur is wise enough to look repentant when she tells him that lessons have been learned.

In what is a truly alarming habit that she’s developing, Chloe gets through three outfit changes before she manages to make a choice she deems acceptable. She’s obviously losing her mind, because she’s always been the girl who pulls on jeans and a T-shirt and pulls her hair into a messy up-do. (Although it’s true that her hair usually takes at least three goes to pull off properly.) Regardless, Chloe is having real issues deciding how much skin she should show today. Which is totally ridiculous since she’ll be in Skye’s plaid shirt about two hours from now and she’ll be showing no skin at all. The real problem is that she’d rather she and Brett be wearing no clothes at all, but Chloe’s totally not imaging that in detail. No way.

(She wonders if it’s possible for a dog to look scandalized.)

++++

The smile that lights up Brett’s face as he sees her car is a pretty great ego-boost for a Monday morning. Chloe’s suddenly glad that she decided to put on a dress today. She feels like Brett deserves some sort of reward for the pleasing grin and the fact that the two coffees in hand show that he follows instructions to the letter. Chloe’s mind wanders off on somewhat of a tangent as she wonders just how good he might be at following her orders. She just about manages to get her mind out of the gutter as Brett pulls the door open and wishes her a good morning. Then he ruins things by leaning over and kissing her on the cheek.

Most of the time she can cope with Brett’s face and the way that the scent of him reminds her of summers by the lake and the way that she could smell a storm coming, the charge in the air making her skin thrum with anticipation. She could even handle the fact that he’s really really good at doing what he’s told. Combine those things and add the sensation of his skin on hers and, basically, her mind is so far into the gutter that it’s probably never coming back out.

“The largest coffee in all the land. As requested. Iain ate the finest muffins and my only bagel on Saturday night.” Brett lifts a shoulder as though this explains everything. Chloe rolls her eyes at his genuinely dorky behavior. She is in no way thinking about the week that she came down with the worst flu known to man and Brett brought over his boxed set of The West Wing and the chicken soup his grandma had made to “make that lovely young lady of yours feel better.” Chloe’s actually beginning to have a sneaking suspicion that she’s not the only one who has been over-sharing her feelings with her family.

“My hero.” The more Chloe thinks about things, the more she realizes that perhaps this is not exactly the sarcastic statement she intends it to be.

“You know it.” He actually smirks at the noise Chloe makes when she takes her first sip of coffee. “You relieved that we’re almost done with this episode?”

“Eh,” Chloe shrugs, “It hasn’t been all bad.”

“Yeah? Which parts?” Brett’s tone is all innocence, but Chloe can hear the smile he’s trying to hide.

“The parts where I got to hang out with Patton.” She’s absolutely not playing this game at the moment. She just needs to get through this car ride without doing or saying something utterly inappropriate.

“Ah. Of course.” It’s not that he sounds disappointed, per se, it’s just that his tone makes Chloe feel more mean than she had anticipated.

“How about you, Agent Traitor McTraitorson? Any parts you didn’t hate?” She’s irrationally pleased when she glimpses a smile crossing his face out of the corner of her eye. She takes a sip of her coffee in order to prevent her own treacherous mouth from grinning like an idiot at the sudden warmth in her chest.

“Yeah.” Brett pauses for just long enough that Chloe starts to wonder if he’s actually going to say anything else. Just as she’s thinking about demanding that he expand on that, he clears his throat. “I actually really enjoyed that minute and a half on Friday when you kissed me like you meant it.”

(Declarations like this should really come with some sort of warning.)

Chloe isn’t exactly sure if the noise she makes in response represents any known word in the English language. She really wishes that Brett could have done this about ten minutes from now, since then she’d be able to make a run for it and hide in her trailer. On reflection, it occurs to her that that’s probably why he didn’t wait.

“That was Skye and Ward.” And, wow, she really is a much better actress than the utter lack of conviction in that statement would suggest.

“Okay.” The weird thing is that Brett doesn’t sound remotely concerned about her apparent denial of their very much ‘not actually Skye and Ward’ make-out session. “How’s your coffee?” He barely pauses for breath between the two statements and Chloe tries not to feel offended.

“Awesome. As always.” This is familiar ground. Chloe can totally manage the rest of this trip without completely embarrassing herself.

“Good.” They continue to drive in silence for a minute as Chloe’s brain starts veering dangerously close to the territory of making a list of the best coffee Brett has ever made her. Fortunately, Brett distracts her by sliding off his jacket and twisting around to put it in on the backseat.

(A list of Brett’s best body parts would, however, probably be completely acceptable -- it would be important for science. She should totally get on that.)

“Skye and Ward should probably get their shit together and tell the truth, don’t you think?” Brett obviously doesn’t know that he’s interrupting some of Chloe’s Very Important Thoughts about shoulders versus biceps, but she’s irritated all the same.

“Are you kidding me? Skye has been nothing but honest. Ward’s the liar.”

“Maybe if she just told him that she knows the truth, things could be different.”

“Yeah, different, bad. He’d probably just shoot her on the spot.”

“I think that the truth is a pretty powerful thing, Chloe. You never know what might happen.”

Chloe’s mouth goes dry as she realizes that Brett is really not talking about Skye and Ward right now. She doesn’t need to look at him to know that he’s staring at her; she can feel the heat of his gaze on her skin.

“You never do.” Chloe knows that they need to actually have this conversation at some point, but she’s also fairly sure that the three minutes they have until they get to work probably isn’t going to cut it.

“It’ll be nice to have everyone back on set today.” When Brett changes the subject, Chloe’s so grateful she could kiss him. Which, really, is not at all helpful.

“It will. It was kinda cool when it was just us, though.” Sometimes Chloe wonders at herself. Brett just offered her a perfectly decent out and here she is, jumping straight back in.

“Kinda cool, huh?” Brett’s goofy tone makes the risk totally worth it.

“Don’t let it go to your head.”

“You got it.”

Chloe’s not sure if she’s disappointed or relived when they make it to the studio in record time. She’s barely brought the car to a stop and Brett’s jumping out and circling around to her door, helping her out. In a rather more unexpected turn of events, he pulls her into a hug.

Her body sort of takes over before her brain has even worked out what the hell is going on, her arms sliding up Brett’s back, fingers twisting in the collar of his shirt. She goes up on her tiptoes, chin resting on soft cotton, eyes sliding closed as she breathes him in. She’s acutely aware of the way that one of his hands is splayed across the small of her back, pulling her flush against him and it takes Chloe about a second to decide this is a pretty great start to her day.

“Thanks for the ride.” Brett’s voice ghosts across her skin, leaving a trail of goosebumps in its wake. He starts to pull away from her and Chloe, reluctantly, lets him go. He reaches up a hand to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear and she realizes that she’s holding her breath. His thumb drifts down to settle at the angle of her jaw and she wonders if he can feel her pulse stuttering under his fingers. She can see the hint of a dimple in one cheek as he looks at her and she can feel an answering grin pull at the corners of her own mouth.

Chloe really hopes that she’s managing to pull of some semblance of outward tranquillity, since her emotions are all over the place. She doesn’t remember ever feeling this off-balance in her life. She’s not sure if she should just stand here and wait for Brett to finish whatever this is that he’s started or just throw caution to the winds and close the distance between them.

(Or, more accurately, the 12 inches between their mouths.)

“Hey guys, whatcha doin’?” Lil’s voice sounds dangerously close, but Chloe’s far more interested in the fact that Brett hasn’t moved either of his hands and his touch is lightning sparking across her skin, electricity racing through her veins.

“Morning, Lil.” Brett’s voice is completely even and Chloe can’t help but narrow her eyes at the fact that he’s apparently cool with one of their friends finding them like this. Admittedly, it’s not exactly the most compromising position that one of Chloe’s friends has ever caught her in, but somehow Chloe feels like she should still be embarrassed.

(Her reaction could possibly stem from the very graphic images currently racing through her imagination involving her, Brett, and a great deal of nudity.)

“I need to get to make-up. I’ll see you in a bit.” Brett’s hand stays on her shoulder for a beat longer than strictly necessary and she feels a slight squeeze before he winks at her and walks away, giving Lil a nod as he goes.

Chloe drags a steadying breath past the disappointment twisting in her chest, telling herself that she’s completely ridiculous, before turning to face the music. Which comes in the form of Lil leaning against her car, arms crossed and one eyebrow raised so high that it has practically vanished into her hairline. Chloe just shrugs and turns to grab her bag out of the car.

“What was that I just witnessed, young Miss Bennet? Hmmm?” Lil is never going to let this slide.

“Nothing. Just Brett thanking me for driving him to work.” Chloe’s doing her best to fight down the blush that’s rapidly coloring her cheeks, but she can tell that she’s losing. Unfortunately, at some point she’s going to have to turn around.

“Oh, so that’s what we’re calling two people looking at each other as if they’re imaging the other one naked now, is it? Nothing?” Lil’s obviously teasing but Chloe’s slightly disconcerted by how close to the truth the comment is. Obviously, she rather let the cat out of the bag with Lil on Saturday night, but Lil is grossly abusing the trust that Chloe put in her.

(Everyone knows you don’t talk about shit you confess to when you’re drunk.)

“Fine, don’t tell me.” Lil isn’t exactly known for her patience. Then again, she also dispenses the best advice, so she’s probably well aware that Chloe will crack at some point today. Chloe, however, is determined to remain firm in the face of the tea and cookies, which will almost certainly be making several appearances throughout the day. “Come on, Chloe. Wardrobe awaits.”

“Honestly, Lil, I don’t know what it was.” Chloe wonders why she even bothers trying to fight Lil on anything.

“Pretty sure I do.”

“Shut-up.”

Lil only laughs and links her arm with Chloe’s, dragging her off to set, whether she wants to go or not.

As they round the corner they find Iain and Brett, deep in conversation. It quickly becomes apparent that they’re continuing the long-running debate about what Skye is going to turn out to be. Iain has come down firmly on the side of alien princess, while Brett is contending that that’s just not possible because, obviously, Skye’s going to turn out to be some sort of superhero. Iain just rolls his eyes and informs Brett that Ward is an asshole, so he’d better hope that Skye is anything but a superhero.

“She’d probably fucking shoot you. Wouldn’t you Chloe?” Iain has obviously decided that Chloe is now Skye. Chloe wonders if she should be as okay with that as she is.

“Yeah, I’m not shooting Brett, Iain. Even for you.” Chloe smirks as Iain makes a face at her.

“Thanks, Chloe. I appreciate that.” Brett gently bumps his shoulder against hers as she sits down next to him. A moment later, Chloe realizes that Brett has simply moved slightly along the bench so that she’s pressed up against him. It’s both unexpected and completely delightful.

“You’re most welcome.” Chloe grins up at him as he slings an arm around her shoulders. It’s a totally normal response for her to lean into him to get more comfortable. The look on Iain’s face suggests that gently rubbing her cheek against Brett’s shoulder is not so normal.

(It’s not her fault that his shirt is soft, he smells really good, and his shoulders are firm. Iain’s just going to have to deal with it.)

++++

They’re shooting the final couple of scenes of the episode and, although Chloe and Brett really only have about two hours of filming to get through, Clark has to get to a meeting and so the others are doing their scenes first. Chloe’s totally fine with this -- it means that she gets to sit with Brett, drink coffee, and take a crapton of selfies. Sadly, she and Brett aren’t coordinating their shirts today. Frankly, Chloe views this as a missed opportunity. Luckily, it doesn’t take much convincing to get him to move so that she can sit between his legs, back pressed to his chest to get a better angle.

(If she doesn’t bother moving afterwards and Brett just sits with his arms around her then so what? It’s cold on set. That’s it.)

Chloe catches sight of Iain elbowing Lil in the side before lifting his chin in their direction. Lil turns around to look at them before shrugging at Iain and continuing her conversation with Clark. Even from this distance, Chloe can see Iain’s eyes narrow in a way that she can only describe as calculating. She considers moving but first, of course, there has to be a list.

Reasons Why Chloe Should Stay Put: A list by Chloe (who is understandably biased) Bennet

1. Her back gets a sore if she has to sit upright for long periods of time. Brett is currently acting as a backrest and, therefore, he’s good for her posture.

2. It is actually kind of cold on set and Brett is warm. Ergo, he saves her from having to go and find a hoodie.

3. Every time Brett says anything, she can feel his voice vibrating in her chest and his laughter curl down her spine as his arms tighten around her. From the way that her cheeks are aching, she’s pretty sure his good mood is infectious.

4. Brett keeps reaching up to tuck wayward locks of hair behind her ear. Every time he does, his fingers linger a little longer on her neck. She’s not ashamed to admit that she’s feeling pretty turned on right now.

5. See number four. Any other arguments are invalid.

Chloe’s attention is drawn back to Lil and Iain, currently standing on the soundstage. Iain’s throwing his arms around in a manner that usually indicates that he’s getting worked up about something. Chloe eventually realizes that he’s actually pointing at her and Brett. Whatever Lil says in response must mollify him because Iain goes abruptly quiet before turning back to look at Chloe and Brett, who chooses that moment to rest his chin on her shoulder.

“What’re they up to?” A rush of warm air brushes past Chloe’s ear as Brett asks the question to which Chloe thinks there’s a pretty obvious answer.

“Oh, you know. Probably wondering how it’s humanly possibly for two people to look more attractive together than they do apart. The usual.” Wow, has Chloe’s mouth decided to run away with her this morning.

“Huh. Okay then.” Brett sucks in a breath, like he’s about to say something profound, but then just lets it out as a sigh that Chloe feels down to the tips of her toes. “Listen, sorry as I am to have to deprive the world of our combined faces, I’m going to have to go to makeup now. Gotta make sure my war wounds are accurate.”

Chloe tries really hard not to whimper as Brett begins to make moves to get up. From the way he starts chuckling, she suspects that she is completely unsuccessful. Oddly, what would have embarrassed the life out of her a few short weeks ago has exactly the opposite effect now. Brett knows that she doesn’t want him to go and, although he’s managed to push her to her feet, it takes him far longer than needed to let go of her shoulders. In fact, he practically trails a hand down her arm as he walks off. Chloe has to pinch herself to check that this morning isn’t just some really vivid dream that she’s having.

“Ouch.” Potentially she shouldn’t have done it that hard but obviously, if it hurts, she must actually be awake. Good

“Hi, Chloe. What’re you doing?” Iain’s voice startles her and she jumps, almost taking off his nose as she spins round to face him. When did he and Lil get so stealthy anyway?

“Watching you guys?” That was really not supposed to come out sounding like a question.

“Oh yeah? That’s not what it looked like. Looked as though you and Brett needed to get a fucking room. You know that you can’t use Skye as an excuse anymore, right?” Iain fixes her with what she thinks is supposed to be a threatening glare.

“Whatever, Iain. You’re imaging things.”

“Pull the other one. It’s got fucking bells on.” With that stunning non-sequitur, Iain turns on his heel and walks away.

Unfortunately, Brett chooses that moment to wander back onto set, having clearly made it nowhere near make-up, evidently for the sole purpose of bringing Chloe his sweatshirt. She’s fairly certain that he doesn’t need to stand and watch her put it on, but when he reaches out to pull the hood from where it’s caught under the collar, his hand lingers on her neck a little longer than it should. Chloe catches sight of Iain and Lil out of the corner of her eye, miming making out with each other, before Iain doubles over laughing.

She murmurs a thank-you to Brett, trying not to worry about the disappointed look on his face as she heads over to the others. She gives him what she hopes is an apologetic shrug as she walks away. Really, though, she needs to stop Lil and Iain before the entire crew catches on to them. She should have known Iain would coerce Lil into telling him everything that happened on Saturday night. She forgot to make her pinky-swear to silence. She’s going to tell Iain everything about Olly in minute detail.

(If only she could remember anything more than him being tall, British and not-Brett.)

++++

Chloe manages to hide from Iain for the rest of the day, and everyone else is long gone by the time she and Brett finish shooting. The drive back to his place seems to pass in no time at all and she wonders why the hell Los Angeles has chosen today of all days to have no traffic. Brett makes a comment about how much he needs a shower to wash this episode away and then spends most of the trip staring out of the window. Chloe, for once, really has nothing to say other than something about giving him back his book.

It’s not an awkward silence, more that she has no idea how to broach the subject she actually wants to talk about. It’s not like you can actually say, ‘Hey, are we going to hook up, or what? I’m pretty much dying of sexual frustration over here’ to someone, can you? Chloe’s saved from making the decision by their arrival at Brett’s.

“You should park upstairs if you’re coming in.”

“Is that an invitation?”

“Seriously? You don’t need an invitation, and you know it. Park upstairs. You’re coming in.” Brett taking charge of the situation probably shouldn’t be turning her on. She can’t deny the frisson of excitement which races through her at the thought of him taking charge in a variety of other situations. Pretty much all of them involve various states of undress and Chloe feels herself flush at the thought.

“You okay?” Brett’s voice rudely intrudes upon several delightful scenarios that Chloe’s in the middle of considering.

“Hmmm?” Chloe turns to him, all wide-eyed innocence. From Brett’s slightly puzzled expression, she assumes that she’s doing a really good job at acting calm.

(She didn’t even need to go to Yale.)

“I worry about you sometimes, Bennet.” The thing is, he doesn’t sound particularly worried. Chloe just grins at him.

“I’m fine. I didn’t even hit anything on the drive today, Bretty. You need to chill.” She almost ruins the effect by running her car up onto the curb as she says the words, but she manages to correct her course in the nick of time.

“More by good luck than good judgment.”

“Do you not want to be friends any more, Brett? ‘Cause you’re going about it the right way.” Light-hearted banter is exactly what Chloe needs as a distraction from what has been a pretty intense few days.

“Oh no. I definitely want to be friends.” With that, Brett opens his door and climbs out of the car before she has a chance to process what he means. Or, rather, a chance to over-analyze what she thinks he means.

He swings her door open just as she’s wondering if she should come right out and ask him if perhaps he missed a ‘with benefits’ off the end of that statement. He’s holding his hand out to help her out of the car and it’s not like she needs assistance, so it must mean something. She really likes the way his fingers wrap around hers, her palm fitting neatly in his.

“You’ve got cuts on your knuckles.” Chloe’s not sure how she didn’t notice them earlier. There’s a bruise running from just below his middle finger almost all the way to his wrist and she runs her thumb lightly across it. “Is this from training last week?” She looks up at him as he nods, still not letting go of her hand. “It looks sore.” Chloe has clearly become the queen of stating the obvious.

“It is, a little.” Brett’s fingers tighten slightly on hers as he pulls her out of the car. She’s not sure which one of them overdoes things but seconds later she’s almost nose to nose with Brett, her other hand braced against his chest and she’s very aware of the fact that it’s just the two of them, no cast-mates around to ruin the moment.

“Somebody should probably kiss it better.” It’s not that she doesn’t want to come right out and say that she, Chloe Bennet, wants to kiss it better, it’s just that she’s so used to not acting on her feelings for Brett that it’s taking her a moment to adjust. Well, that, and the fact that she’s still terrified that she, Lil and Iain are all wrong and Brett doesn’t actually want her to. (It took most of her courage just to work that statement past the ball of fear caught in her throat. She really doesn’t know if she can be any more explicit.)

“Somebody probably should.” Brett’s voice is quiet and she sees his pulse jump at his throat as he swallows. Somehow, the fact that he’s clearly not as calm about this as he seems makes her feel a lot better.

Chloe tries to ignore the fact that her hand is actually shaking as she brings Brett’s to her mouth, barely brushing it with her lips. She lets her eyes slide closed as she does it and she honestly couldn’t say if it’s because her lips are on Brett’s skin or that she’s too nervous to look him in the eye.

“Chloe.” His voice cracks as he says her name and she feels his other hand under her chin, a gentle pressure that forces her face towards his. “Look at me.”

(She was right. Brett issuing orders in any context turns her on.)

Chloe forces her eyes open and Brett’s face springs into focus. He pulls her closer, releasing her hand to slide his arm carefully around her waist. It’s as though he’s doing everything in slow motion, like he’s afraid that she’ll bolt if he makes any sudden movements. She abruptly realizes she’s not the only one who’s scared. He’s just better at hiding his fear. Chloe runs her fingers up his arm, in silent assurance that she wants this, before taking a step towards him.

She manages to swallow her nerves enough to offer him a tiny smile. Whatever Brett sees on her face in that moment obviously reassures him, because his own softens in answer, eyes crinkling at the corners and the hand under her chin sliding around to cup the back of her head. He kisses her carefully, like he’s afraid to break whatever spell they’re under, lips soft and warm against hers. Chloe’s brain takes a moment to process the fact that this is finally happening before her body takes over.

She skims her arms across Brett’s shoulders and pulls him down towards her, fingers twisting in the short hair at the back of his neck. She swallows down the needy groan he makes as she presses her entire body against him, and slides her tongue past his lips. The stubble on his chin is rough, a stark contrast to the warm softness of his mouth and Chloe just wants to get closer, erase any space between them. She pulls away just enough to bite down gently, teeth pulling on his lower lip, and the effect on Brett is electric. He tugs on her ponytail, forcing her head to the side and sucks a kiss onto the side of her neck, right where her pulse is racing. His other hand skips up her ribs and settles, a thumb tracing the outline of her breast through her clothes.

“Brett.” It comes out as a sigh, before all the remaining breath is knocked from her lungs as he pushes her up against the car.

“Shit. Sorry.” He steps backwards suddenly and Chloe’s left gasping in the space between them.

“Are you kidding me?” Chloe is not letting Brett do this to her again. No way. He even has the temerity to grin at her. He clearly doesn’t yet realize that this is no laughing matter.

“Did I hurt you?” Brett abruptly pulls her away from the car, turning her around to look at her back. Her irritation evaporates in an instant and she stifles a giggle.

“Brett, what are you doing?” She can’t help the chuckle that escapes her at the end of her question. Brett’s hands still abruptly on her shoulders and there’s a long moment before he speaks.

“Freaking out, I think. Sorry.”

“Okay. Can I turn around so we can freak out face to face?” In no world did Chloe imagine that she’d be the calm one in this scenario.

“Sure. Do that.” The light pressure of his hands vanishes as he says this and Chloe slowly turns to face him. Brett’s standing looking at the ground with his lower lip caught between his teeth, running a hand through his hair. Chloe immediately wants to replace his hand with her own, so she shoves hers deep into her back pockets before she does anything impulsive. (More impulsive.)

“Hey.” Chloe gives him what she really, really hopes is a reassuring smile that also says ‘I’d really like to continue what we just started’.

“Hey.” Brett pulls his eyes away from their minute study of the sidewalk and, after a brief moment where she’s not sure if he’s going to bolt or plead temporary insanity, he looks at her with a smile. “So. That happened.”

“It sure did.” Chloe desperately wants to ask if it’s going to happen again, but if the answer to that is ‘no’, she doesn’t want to hear it.

“You want to bring your bag upstairs?”

Chloe feels like that’s a far more loaded question than he’s making it seem. She’s hardly going to make an issue out of it at this point, though. Instead, she just nods and watches, speechless, as Brett pulls open the rear door of the car, grabbing her bags and jacket before using his foot to kick the door shut. He slings her tote over his shoulder before heading towards his apartment and it’s almost like the last five minutes never happened. He’s probably going to be the death of her.

++++

Chloe carefully keeps at least two feet of space between them as they make their way upstairs. She’s very clear on the fact that it’s not because she doesn’t trust herself around Brett, but more that her bag is large and he needs the extra space. Just in case he encounters an unexpected assailant and has to defend her honor. Or something.

(She absolutely doesn’t trust herself that close to Brett right now.)

Brett pauses at his door and Chloe almost walks straight into his back. That was obviously the reason why she kept so much space between them. She silently congratulates herself on a job well done. She peers around him, trying to work out why he’s not just opening the door. She can’t see any reason why they’re just hanging out in the hallway and so, because she never learns, she asks the obvious question.

“What are we waiting for?”

“Door’s locked.”

“Then open it. Jeez, Brett, it’s not rocket science.”

“Can’t. My keys are in my pocket and my hands are full.” He doesn’t even have the decency to turn around, so he still has his back to her and she has no idea if he’s joking. Well, Chloe understands the mechanics of putting things down in order to get your keys, so she knows that he’s ‘joking’, but she’s just not sure if he’s serious.

“So when you said I should come in, you meant into the hallway so that we could stare at your door?” Chloe’s determined to make this as difficult as possible for him.

“No. It’s just that unless you really do want to do that then you’re going to have to come and get my keys. From my pocket. Because I’m carrying all your things.”

“You could put my things down and get your keys yourself.” Chloe’s proud of the fact that her voice doesn’t even waver.

“I could.” Brett continues to stand facing his door, making absolutely no move to put anything down. With a sinking feeling, Chloe realizes this is a game of chicken that she has zero chance of winning. On the other hand, she has no intention of playing fair.

Chloe steps around Brett and turns to face him. Apparently he’s lost his earlier reluctance to look at her, because he’s staring intently at her face. She locks her eyes with his and takes a deep breath. She sees him swallow, hard, as she does. Never let it be said that Chloe Bennet doesn’t rise to a challenge.

“That a set of keys in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?” Chloe’s a little proud that the corners of Brett’s mouth twitch as he unsuccessfully tries to bite back a smile. She takes a small step forward so that she’s much closer to him than necessary and runs a hand from his waist to his hip. She’s gratified by his sharp intake of air as her fingers trace his waistband, and the way that she feels his muscles tense under her hand. She looks him straight in the eye and very deliberately slips her tongue between her lips to moisten them. Brett’s eyes slide to her mouth and he’s staring as though she’s water and he’s dying of thirst.

(She could definitely get used to this.)

She hooks the fingers of her other hand through one of his belt-loops, pulling him even closer. His pupils are so blown that she can’t even see hazel, they’re just pools of dark, inky black that she’s sure she could drown in. They’re breathing each other’s air and Brett’s a magnet, drawing her inexorably in. Just when she thinks that she can’t take the tension any longer, she slips a hand into Brett’s pocket and, quite deliberately, runs the back of her hand as close to his inner thigh as the denim allows. She’s satisfied that she’s tortured him enough when his eyes slide closed and he lets out a low moan. She finally slides a finger through his key-ring and extricates his keys, taking a step back. Chloe notes the bulge in his jeans with a certain amount of triumph.

(She could probably just have used her own key, currently residing in her back pocket along with the ones to her car but, really, this was much more fun.)

It turns out that the joke’s on her though, because she makes it as far as the couch before Brett drops everything he’s carrying, closes the short distance between them, and, cupping her face with his hands, enthusiastically continues what he started downstairs, without the hindrance of car doors. He slides his hands up her thighs before lifting, her legs wrapping around his hips as if they’ve done this a million times before, and pulling her down onto his lap as he sits.

++++

“That shower offer from the other day still stand?” Brett sounds completely wrecked, his voice rough in her ears.

“Sure, just let me get my phone and I’ll give Iain a call for you. Jeez, Brett, way to hurt a girl’s feelings.” She punctuates the statement by slowly kissing a path down his neck, feeling his pulse racing under her mouth. She flicks her tongue across his collarbone and sucks gently onto his skin.

“You know that’s not what I meant.” His breath catches mid-sentence as Chloe adds her teeth to the mix. She smiles against his shoulder.

“I actually have no idea what you’re talking about. You should probably be more specific.” She slides a hand up into his hair, grabs a handful, and tugs his head to the side so she can lick a trail up to the angle of his jaw. The taste of his skin is better than anything she’d imagined.

“Chloe, to be specific, I’m going to take a shower and you should really join me.”

“I’m outraged Brett Dalton. I do not shower with boys on the first date. My mama raised me right.” Her Southern accent is completely atrocious but it’s worth it just to see Brett’s eyes narrow and his jaw clench.

“Chloe.” He practically growls her name and, just for a moment, she wonders if that fanfic she’d ‘accidentally’ found on the internet was right all along, and you can actually come just from hearing someone say your own name like a fucking prayer. Three seconds ago, she’d have found the concept ridiculous, but Brett’s hands are gripping her hips, pulling her more firmly onto his lap, as his teeth scratch lightly at her neck and she’s about half-way there already. She can feel her underwear getting damp as the rough denim of his jeans scrapes at her thighs where her dress is hitched up. Brett sighs against her throat before moving his hands up to her shoulders and pushing her away from him.

(She should really learn when to keep her mouth shut.)

“Chloe, if this is too much…” Brett clears his throat and starts again. “If you want to slow down, we can.” It takes an obvious effort for him to say it, and she’s not sure if he realizes this, but his hair is sticking up in a million different directions from her earlier attention, somewhat ruining the sentiment behind his words. His mouth is stained with her lipgloss, concrete evidence of her presence, and it’s a sight she could definitely get used to. She goes to run a hand up his chest, but he captures it in his own, his expression giving Chloe pause. Apparently, he’s very unfairly waiting for an answer to a question that he hasn’t really asked.

“Are you asking me if I want to do this?” Chloe decides that if there was ever a time to be magnanimous, this is it. She sees the concern on his face and thinks that maybe now is the time to lay her cards on the table. His nod is almost imperceptible, but it gives her the courage to carry on. “I do. Want to.” She shrugs a shoulder, “I mean, does this really even count as a first date? If we’re talking ‘dinner and a movie’, we’ve pretty much been dating for over a year. My mom would totally be okay with it.” (Her mom basically has the wedding already planned but, for once, Chloe knows when to stop talking.) “There’s something else.” Chloe takes a deep breath. She can actually already feel the blush spreading across her cheeks at what she’s about to say. “You should assume that anything you’re suggesting is something that I’ve already imagined in my head,” she stares at a point over Brett’s shoulder before continuing, “In detail.”

The silence is deafening. Chloe doesn’t want to risk a look at Brett’s face, because this is definitely the moment where he’s going to realize that she’s an insane person who probably writes endless lists about how great he is. Just as she’s wondering how to elegantly extricate herself from this situation, Brett does the last thing she expects. He laughs. She’s totally affronted and gives him a look that clearly speaks volumes, because he manages to choke back his amused chuckle, hands tightening on her arms to prevent her escape.

“I’m sorry, Chloe. I’m not laughing at you. I mean, I am, but I’m laughing at me, too. We’re complete fucking idiots, did you know that?” Brett shakes his head.

“What are you talking about?” Chloe would like to be in possession of all the facts before she moves from her position on Brett’s lap. She likes it here.

“I thought you weren’t interested.”

There’s a long moment where neither of them speaks.

“I’m sorry, what?” The implications of this statement leave Chloe’s head spinning. She just needs a little clarification.

“You kept joking about Skye and Ward, saying that I was upset that they weren’t sleeping together. I thought you’d worked out that I was into you and you didn’t want --” he gestures between the two of them, clearly searching for the right word, “-- this.” Brett chuckles again. “I mean, it didn’t stop me trying. You are pretty cute and I’m only human.”

Everything suddenly snaps into place for Chloe, and she’s forced to agree with Brett. They are complete fucking idiots.

“You should really have tried harder.” Chloe grins at him.

“You’re probably right.” Brett’s answering smile is laced with promise and Chloe shifts forwards slightly, knees falling further apart, gravity pulling her pelvis hard against him. His sharp intake of breath makes her stomach clench in anticipation. “How about I show you how sorry I am?” Brett leans forward and claims her mouth with his own, pulling her head down towards him as he leans back into the couch. Chloe runs a hand through his hair, mirroring the way his fingers caress her scalp.

Brett’s apparently done with talking, which is completely fine with Chloe, since he’s now putting his mouth to much better use. One of the last truly coherent thoughts she has is that it was an excellent idea to wear a dress today because, honestly, easy access has a lot going for it. One of his hands rests on her knee, tracing spirals on her thigh (It’s a sensation so quintessentially Brett that Chloe has to wonder if he’s been trying to wordlessly communicate something to her for weeks. She decides to ask him later, when they’re not otherwise occupied). Brett runs his other palm up her side, tracing along her ribcage to the zipper of her dress, which he slides undone with agonizing care. Cool air hits Chloe’s back and she makes a noise that she thinks is some combination of yes and please as he slides the straps off her shoulders, before claiming his tongue with her own. She kisses him with a ferocity that leaves them both gasping when she finally pulls away.

For the record, Chloe’s not exactly unaware of the fact that Brett likes her boobs. (After all, she practically taunted him with them from the moment they met.) Right now, she’s incredibly grateful for that knowledge, because the look on his face is doing pretty amazing things to her ego. He has a goofy half-smile on his face as he stares down at her.

“Like what you see?” She reaches out a finger to trace the curve of his mouth. He flicks his eyes back to hers, nodding as he gently bites down on the pad of her thumb before brushing a kiss against it. She makes a small noise of disappointment as Brett takes his hand off her leg.

“Be patient,” he murmurs against her collarbone, before kissing her throat and pulling away to smile languidly up at her. Seconds later he efficiently pops the clasp of her bra and, well, she’s definitely not complaining any more.

Brett’s mouth is hot as he trails kisses down her breastbone, and Chloe shifts impatiently on his lap, desperate for friction. Brett circles his tongue slowly around her right breast, and she arches up into the sensation of stubble scratching against sensitive flesh. She likes the idea that she’ll wear the marks of his attention on her skin. He flattens his tongue, sliding it across her nipple and capturing in his teeth before giving it a sharp tug. It’s just this side of painful, a jolt of pleasure flashing through her chest. She shivers at the loss of heat as he turns his attention to the other side, but somehow manages to get it together long enough to realize that she’s half naked in his lap while he’s still fully clothed. This is unacceptable.

Chloe slides her hands under the cotton at his waist, slipping them up the toned planes of his stomach. The broad ridges and dips of muscle under her fingers feel unfamiliar, and she traces her way across his body, committing it to memory. Next thing she knows, Brett abruptly returns his hand to her leg, making her realize how desperately she’s craving the sensation of skin on skin.

“Off.” Chloe tugs at the hem of his shirt, leaving no room for doubt as to her intentions.

“Bossy.” Brett raises an eyebrow and grins at her, lifting his arms obligingly to allow her to strip him of his shirt. “I like it.”

Chloe throws his top over her shoulder before scraping a fingernail across his chest. She smirks as she hits a nipple and his eyes slide shut, a soft groan escaping his lips. It’s apparently all the motivation Brett needs. He wraps an arm around her waist, pulling her hips closer before finally, finally, sliding his hand up her thigh and cupping her through her damp underwear. Chloe presses her forehead to his, trying desperately to catch her breath as desire races through her, out of control. It takes every ounce of willpower she has not to buck her hips up into his hand.

Seconds later his mouth claims hers again, tongue flicking across her lower lip as his thumb draws lazy circles around her clit. It’s almost too much, despite the layer of cotton blocking some of the pressure. Part of her wants to tell him to hurry the fuck up, but the rest of her relishes the way heat slowly builds in her belly. She splits the difference, sliding an arm across his shoulders and pulling her body towards him as he pushes against her, settling them into a rhythm that has her blood pounding in her ears.

Brett pulls his mouth away from hers and she’d be embarrassed about the wrecked noise she makes were it not for the fact that Brett basically growls as she ducks her head, capturing a nipple with her mouth. The sound echoes in her chest and she’s taken aback by how much she wants him to make it again. By this point they’ve somehow manoeuvred into a position where Chloe can’t slip her hand down between them so, instead, she braces it on Brett’s chest, pushing herself slightly away from him.

“Where’re you going?” His words slur together, messy with want, and the disappointment she hears in his voice makes her chuckle.

“Nowhere, idiot.” She’s proud of the fact that her voice stays steady. Finally finding the button of his jeans, she flicks it open a second before he grabs her hand with his own. She can feel his fingers slick with her and it sends a thrill down her spine.

“Not yet. You first.” He shakes his head as he says it and, well, it’s not like she isn’t aware that Brett’s a gentleman, but it’s pretty awesome to see that the label applies in all areas of his life. In the next beat, he’s sliding his hand up her leg again and, at fucking last, pushing her now soaked underwear to the side, dragging his fingers across slick, wet folds. His breath hisses out between his teeth as he feels how wet she is. It’s everything she imagined and more.

His teeth fasten on the junction between neck and shoulder as her head drops back, exposing her throat. Chloe gasps his name as he hooks his fingers up inside her, squirming on his lap as her own fingers dig into his shoulders, desperate for purchase. He twists his hand, flicking his thumb across her clit. She’s talking nonsense, a garble of Brett, fuck and please and more and then his mouth is on hers, kissing hard enough that her lips tingle. Brett presses up firmly inside her, and Chloe has no idea what he does, but it leaves her breathless and light-headed. “Yes. Like that,” she manages, pulling her mouth away from his long enough to issue instruction.

“Yeah? You like that, huh?” She’s definitely not imagining the note of triumph in his voice. She’ll take the time to find it adorable later but, right now, she has other things to focus on.

“Fuck. Yes.” It’s as much as she can manage as his hand starts to move faster, just the right side of rough. Chloe hums against his jaw, sliding a messy kiss along stubble, sucking down onto his throat with enough pressure to bruise. The sound this drags from Brett makes her body squueze tight around his fingers. It clearly saves him the trouble of having to ask her if she’s close. Truthfully, Chloe doesn’t know if she’d manage to form actual words in her current state.

She slides her hands down so that her palms lie flat against his chest, pushes her torso away so she see where his hand slides into her, slick and warm and wet. It turns out it’s definitely a view she could get used to, and she bites down on her lower lip in a vain attempt to keep her whimpers to herself. She can feel her orgasm building, a low spark in her stomach, her pulse loud in her ears. Brett leans forwards to suck her nipple into his mouth at the same time as he scrapes his thumb across her clit again. She comes hard and fast, clenching down onto Brett’s hand as she breathes out his name, spine arching and toes curling against the denim of his jeans.

She falls forward against Brett’s chest, loose-limbed and shaky, and he presses a kiss to her temple. She can still feel the tips of his fingers just barely inside her, coaxing her gently through the tremors that are still running through her. She’s suddenly absurdly shy. It’s ridiculous, (she is ridiculous), because she just came all over Brett’s hand and, really, the time for nerves is long gone. She was, however, very much lost in the moment and now? Now she can’t seem to work up the nerve to face him.

“Chloe? You okay?” Trust Brett to be able to read her mind. She nods slightly against his chest, not trusting herself to actually speak yet. “Hey, look at me.” His voice is rough, skipping down her ribcage and filling the nervous space in her chest. She moves her head back a fraction, steadying herself with a shaky indrawn breath, before doing as he asks.

Her nerves vanish the moment that she sees his face, pupils dilated so that his eyes appear pure black, mouth swollen, desire written clearly across his features. He runs one hand slowly up and down her back, callused fingers rough as they trace the notches of her spine. Chloe’s acutely aware of where his other hand has fallen, knuckles gently rubbing against the crease of her inner thigh. Her breath catches as he circles his thumb slowly, deliberately, around her swollen flesh, never taking his eyes from hers. She can feel his cock twitch as he does it, despite the layers of clothing in the way. She lets her legs slip further apart, satisfied when she feels his thighs tensing under her.

“That was…” Chloe pauses, unwilling to make the obvious comment -- amazing, mindblowing, intense, fucking incredible (all true) -- but feeling the need to say something.

“A long time coming?” Brett clearly hasn’t lost his ability to be a smartass. Chloe blames it on the fact that she is at a distinct disadvantage in the control stakes. She needs to rectify this as soon as possible.

“You need to stop with the puns, Brett.” Chloe tries her best to look unimpressed but, really, her boobs are pressed against Brett’s chest, his fingers still hooked around the side of her underwear, and she’s fooling nobody. Least of all Brett, currently shooting her a lopsided grin.

“Make me.”

(And, well, she really likes a challenge.)

Chloe scoots back along Brett’s thighs, stifling a whine as she breaks contact with his hand. She glances up at him through her lashes, catches him watching her face intently, like he’s trying to commit her every movement to memory. Chloe considers telling him that she has every intention of doing this on a daily basis and so, really, he shouldn’t worry, but a slow blush works its way across his cheeks as she slides her hands along the inseam of his jeans and she decides that, actually, he should always look at her this way. (She’s not one to gloat, but his expression is the best combination of reverent and turned-on, and it’s doing really great things for her ego.)

This time, Brett makes no move to stop her as she reaches for the waistband of his jeans. She hears his jagged inhale and sees his stomach clench as she drifts her fingernails softly along his skin. He grinds out her name around clenched teeth as gooseflesh springs up across his torso. Chloe leans down, presses her mouth to his, simultaneously hooking her thumbs under the band of his boxer briefs. She swallows his wrecked groan and pushes her hands down until he gets the message and lifts his hips for her. His cock springs up, hard against his stomach -- Chloe knew that he was turned on, but there’s knowing and then there’s knowing. Chloe’s stomach flips like she’s dropping from the sky, freefalling into the atmosphere, an utterly addictive rush screaming through every nerve in her body.

 

Chloe takes a deep breath and pushes him back on the couch with one hand, fixing her eyes on his as she spits into her palm and licks down her fingers. She grins at the expression on Brett’s face -- utter shock warring with unfettered desire, before the latter eventually wins out. His head falls back onto the couch with a thud as she reaches down and wraps her hand around his cock, twisting her wrist slightly as she slides from base to tip. She thinks that he’s probably biting his lip hard enough to draw blood so she pauses, reaching out to run the thumb of her other hand across his mouth until his jaw relaxes.

 

“Show me.” She’s impressed that he still has the coordination required to put his hand on hers, more pressure than she’d expected, guiding her hand in long stokes across skin that is softer than she’d imagined. His fingers are still sticky as he slides them across hers and it’s enough to make Chloe grind down firmly against his now-naked thigh. She knows that he must be able to feel how wet she is, and she stifles a moan as he lifts his leg to give her more room to slide against him.

 

“Is that…” Chloe doesn’t even get to finish her question before Brett interrupts.

 

“Perfect. You’re fucking perfect.” Brett forces his eyes open with obvious effort, letting his hand loosen on hers as she picks up the pace. His cock is heavy, hot in her hand, the tip shiny with a spit. “Fuck, Chloe.” Reaching up, he tangles a hand in her hair, loose where it’s escaped from its tie.

 

Chloe doesn’t normally do this in front rooms where warm afternoon light pours through the windows, outlining every expression that crosses her face. (She’s normally three months into dating a guy before she even considers doing any of this.) Watching Brett, though, she’s suddenly very glad that she can see the exact moment he starts to lose control. His breathing is harsh, ragged, and she watches him look down at her hand, gripping his cock. She feels more than hears him say her name, a vibration that dances through the air and pulses along her bones, an echo of it making her cunt throb. Moments later, she feels the muscles of his stomach spasm, his breath catching in his chest as he spills, hot, across their joined hands. Pulling her face down to his, he presses his nose to hers and they sit, breathing each other’s air for long moments.

 

Chloe eventually pulls her face slightly away from Brett’s, far enough that the fine dusting of freckles across his cheekbones swims into focus. His eyes are closed, his lashes dark semicircles tipped with gold. They flutter open as she watches, and he lifts his chin to kiss her. It’s slow, unhurried, just the barest hint of open mouth. Chloe can feel his smile against her lips as he pulls away.

 

“So, Chloe, I’m not one to judge, but I really think, at this point, you need that shower just as much as I do.”

 

Chloe looks down at their hands, loosely entwined, sticky fluid coating their fingers and smeared across their thighs, a sheen of sweat slick between their bodies.

 

“Only if you promise it’ll be worth my while.”

 

“Oh, I can pretty much guarantee it.”

 

Chloe’s going to have to make some new lists.

 

++++

 

They’ve been trying to keep it quiet, their relationship. Chloe was pretty keen to just keep calling it a “thing”, but Brett insisted it was important that she take it seriously. He spent twenty minutes with his face between her thighs in order to prove his point and, needless to say, he won. Chloe’s not going to deny the fact that she gets a thrill every time he introduces her as his girlfriend. It’s still new and exciting and she loves the way that he looks at her like he can’t believe she’s really there. Neither of them had counted on Iain and Lil though. Less than forty-five minutes after Chloe and Brett discovered that they had definitely not locked the door to his trailer, there were collages of ‘THE HAPPY COUPLE ☺’ plastered all over the set. They’re still maintaining that they’re nothing more than friends, but the disbelieving looks that they’re getting on an hourly basis suggest that they’re fooling nobody. (It’s totally the thought that counts though.)

 

The shooting schedule has become ridiculous in the last couple of weeks, calling for longer and longer hours on set, and everyone’s nerves are beginning to fray. Chloe wonders if it’s some elaborate scheme on the part of Mo and Jed to have them all teetering on an emotional knife-edge as the season comes to a close. She’s spent days in blur of nervous energy, before finally being able to let Skye confront Ward at the close of filming yesterday. She spent twenty minutes hiccupping sobs against Brett’s shoulder last night, and she’s grateful that she’s not going to have to be mad every day for much longer. Her fury at Ward is starting to bleed into her interactions with Brett and she’s terrified that it’s going to ruin everything.

 

This whole episode seems to be a barely disguised re-enactment of her losing her shit in the read-through where they found out that Ward was Hydra. So that’s embarrassing. On the plus side, though, the emotional investment is insane and everyone’s raving about the dailies.

 

Brett spent most of the morning pressed up against Chloe’s back, arms looped around her waist, the faint scrape of his beard tickling her neck as they read lines. She’s not sure if it helped or not, but now Skye’s fury is inextricably linked with Chloe’s very real feelings for Brett and it’s exhausting as hell. She is exhausted. Every angry line she throws in his face is met with a determination to just make her see the truth about his feelings, and it’s all completely fucking awful, because it's like fighting with Brett. Eventually, Chloe's just kind of openly crying between takes. She takes some solace in the fact that nobody says anything, no doubt because half of them are surreptitiously wiping their eyes too.

 

Just when Chloe thinks that she really can’t take any more, Vince announces that they’re done for the day. She’s slumped on the bottom step of the spiral stairs of the bus, cuffed to the rail. She’s curled in on herself, head resting on her knees, and she’s just done. She feels a light touch on her shoulder and looks up to see Brett anxiously staring down at her.

 

“You want to get out of here?” He leans down to undo the cuffs as she nods wordlessly. “What can I do?” He runs a thumb under her eyes, wiping away the tear-tracks she can feel still damp on her cheeks.

 

“Even the playing field? I hate that Skye’s so helpless.” And there it is, the anger that’s bubbling away just below the surface.

 

“So.” Brett drags the word out for a full count of three, clearly formulating some kind of plan. “Probably you’d feel a lot better if Skye got to punish Ward. Yes?”

 

“Your point?” Chloe narrows her eyes at him, suspicious.

 

“Maybe you should hang onto these. You know, to keep them safe.” He hands her the cuffs that he’s finished removing from the railing and winks at her. “See you at home.”

 

And, like, she doesn’t know when his place became ‘home’ but, given the way she feels, and the fact that he appears to be basically promising some sort of sex-related way of working through her feelings, she’s not going to argue.

 

++++

 

Chloe lets herself into Brett’s apartment two hours and change after he leaves for the day. She still had scenes to shoot when he was finished, and they’d decided some time ago that they needed to continue to arrive separately a couple of times a week for the sake of appearances. This is one week where Chloe really couldn’t care less. She just needs Brett to reassure her that she’s not losing her mind.

 

She throws her bag through the open bedroom door onto the bed as she walks past, heading towards the sound of movement. Brett’s standing in the kitchen when she walks in, pouring a glass of wine that she accepts gratefully. She boosts herself up onto the counter, rests her forehead against his chest as he leans against the bench, arms bracketing her hips.

 

“You okay?” He presses a kiss to her forehead as she kicks off her shoes and hooks her heels behind his legs.

 

“Not really. I’m totally over this. I just want to wake up tomorrow and find out this was all an incredibly shitty nightmare. Poor Skye. I just really need something to take my mind off all of this.”

 

“Well, if it helps, I am one hundred percent on board with assisting you in that endeavor.” The look Brett gives her suggests that he’s been giving this some serious thought since he got home. Chloe takes another gulp of her wine before indicating that he should continue.

 

He takes the glass from her hand, setting it carefully back out of the way before sliding his hands around either side of her face and pressing a careful kiss to her lips. She’s wound tight, muscles clenched and he just waits, patient, fingers gently scratching at her scalp until the tension slides out of her and she breathes into his touch.

 

(She really must remember to congratulate Brett on the excellence of his ideas one of these days.)

 

Chloe slings her arms around his shoulders, tilting her head slightly to allow him better access to her mouth before locking her ankles behind his hips. Brett’s hands slide to her waist to pull her flush against him where it immediately becomes evident that he’s not wearing anything under his sweatpants.

 

“Couldn’t be bothered to dress properly, huh?” she murmurs against his ear, breathing in soap and the scent that is uniquely Brett.

 

“Figured I wouldn’t be wearing clothes long enough for it to matter.”

 

“Isn’t that a little cocky?” The last word comes out in a strangled exhale as Brett slides his hands under Chloe’s ass and lifts her off the counter, chuckling as he walks them towards the bedroom.

 

“Little’s not the word you used last night.”

 

“Shut up, Brett.” Chloe decides that the easiest way to get him to stop talking is by clamping her mouth onto his. The feel of her tongue sliding across his makes her ache with desire, and she pulls Brett down on top of her as he leans over her on the bed.

 

Heat flares at every point of contact between them and Chloe really needs for there to be less clothing happening. Brett clearly has the same idea, because he stands to pull his hoodie off before smoothing his T-shirt down over his chest. And that’s when Chloe realises that she’s seen this shirt before. Parts of it, anyway.

 

“Brett, is that a fucking Hydra logo?” Chloe’s proud that she manages to keep her tone even. She doesn’t know whether to punch him in the face or just rip his shirt off and keep going with her original plan to fuck him until neither of them can see straight.

 

“I thought it might help you work out your feelings, you know?”

 

No, Chloe doesn’t know.

 

“You just want to say it, don’t you? You’re bitter that, of the two of us, you’re the one who doesn’t get to say ‘Hail Hydra.’”

 

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

 

Brett’s back on the bed, knees on either side of her legs as he slides a hand up her stomach, dragging her shirt with it as he goes. He slides a hand under a cup of her bra, palm on her breast and gently twisting her nipple until she lets out a soft moan. She can feel him smile against her belly as he bites softly at the skin of her waist. She lets out a wordless noise of disapproval as he pulls his hand out from her bra, but her disappointment only lasts as long as it takes for him to pull her shirt the rest of the way off over her head and dip his head to the swell of her chest.

 

His mouth is hot through the thin lace of her bra and she watches, heavy-lidded, as her nipple hardens under his tongue. Her breath comes faster as he slides one of his legs between hers and pushes his knee firmly up between her legs. She lets out a sigh of satisfaction.

 

“That mean I’m forgiven?” Brett asks, lifting his head to look at her. She narrows her eyes, shifts so that she can put a hand at the back of his head and pulls him down to her throat.

 

“Only if you admit you want to say it.” He hums his denial against her jaw before licking his way back down to her bra. The fabric is damp from his mouth and she decides that even a tiny barrier is unacceptable so, propping herself up on one elbow, she reaches around with the other hand and undoes the clasp. Brett gets the idea pretty quickly and slides the straps off her shoulders, leaving her exposed from the waist up.

 

(It’s a situation that Chloe’s getting more and more familiar with. Brett is definitely a boob guy.)

 

She keeps her weight resting on her elbows as she watches Brett bite a pathway down her torso. Every muscle in her body clenches each time his teeth hit her flesh; she’s given up any pretense that she’s not dry-humping his knee by the time he gets to her belly-button.

 

Brett smiles up at her before he dips his head lower and she reaches down to run a hand through his hair. He slips open her jeans with one hand before peeling them down her legs, dragging her underwear off as he goes. Chloe’s head drops back to the bed as he kisses her instep, the tickle of his face against the sole of her foot making her giggle and pull it away.

 

“I don’t recall saying anything about it being your turn to make the rules.” Brett’s voice isn’t as steady as he probably thinks that it is. Hardly surprising given she’s sprawled naked beneath him.

 

I don’t recall there being a discussion about rules at all. Since I’m the one having a shitty time at work, I should probably get to have all the fun, don’t you think?”

 

“That’s kind of the idea.” Brett nips at her thigh, and she decides to just let him do whatever he wants.

 

Moments later, he’s spreading her open with his tongue, licking a broad stripe from her cunt to her clit, one arm pinning her hips to the bed, stopping her rolling them against his face. His stubble’s dragging at the soft skin of her inner thigh, and she struggles to remember how to breathe. He settles to his task with a single-mindedness that Chloe seriously admires, sucking on her clit with just the right amount of pressure to make her groan. He’s managing to keep her hips on the bed but her thighs press against his cheeks despite his best efforts, so he hooks them over his shoulders, barely pausing, and crooks two fingers inside her. Chloe is more than ready, slick and willing, jolts of pleasure racing up her spine. She’s keening Brett’s name -- she’d feel self-conscious were it not for the fact that he pauses to inform her that he wants to make her come with his mouth and, well, he’s doing a pretty bang-up job of making it happen. She’s coiled like a spring, begging him for release by the time he finally scrapes his teeth across her clit. The effect is electrifying and she’s fairly sure that she screams his name as she comes.

 

She takes a couple of deep breaths before opening her eyes to find Brett grinning up at her. His chin is slick and she wants nothing more than to feel his smile against her mouth. She hooks a foot behind his ass, pushing him up towards her. He doesn’t even bother to wipe his face, just kisses her, wet and messy, the scent of her surrounding them as she slips a thigh between both of his. There’s a damp spot on his pants and she knows that it wasn’t her. The thought that eating her out turns him on that much makes her heart skip a beat.

 

They lie there for a moment, pressing lazy kisses to each other’s mouths, Chloe stretching her limbs like a cat beneath him. The evidence of how badly Brett wants her is firm against her leg and, eventually, Chloe decides that she’s ready to move again.

 

“I really don’t think you realize the trouble you’ve caused by wearing that shirt, Brett.” Chloe hooks an arm around him and flips them so that she’s straddling him, their roles neatly reversed. Brett cushions his head with a bent arm and smiles at her like he hasn’t a care in the world.

 

“I thought you’d appreciate the chance for some immersion therapy. You know, to get you over your Ward issues.” She wants to wipe the smug expression off his face. Part of her hates that he knows her so well. The rest of her, unfortunately, pretty much loves it.

 

I don’t have ‘Ward issues’, as you so elegantly put it. Skye has ‘Ward issues’. And rightly so.”

 

“Well, just pretend you’re Skye and I’m Ward and we’ll see how it goes.”

 

“You’re crazy.”

 

“Maybe. It might be fun though.”

 

Chloe rolls her eyes at him and shuts him up using the simple expedient of a kiss. Sliding her hand up the bed to shift closer to him, her palm hits metal. It takes her a moment to realize that she’s touching the cuffs they ‘borrowed’ from set and, really, her actions from this point on are not her fault. She’s very clear on that.

 

Brett’s humming softly under his breath as she scratches up the side of his throat with her nails and licks softly at his mouth. She slides one arm carefully under his neck, lacing her fingers with the hand that’s pillowing his head. He shifts slightly, allowing her to stretch their joined hands up above his head. When she lets go, as she anticipated, he slides that hand up into her hair as the other strokes the side of her face. She kisses him hard, all the distraction she needs to pull both of his arms above his head. Before he really has a chance to register what she’s doing there’s a soft snick as the cuffs close around his wrists

 

Brett freezes against her and Chloe sits up, biting the inside of her cheek to keep from laughing. He’s laid out underneath her, clothed, but only just, with a look of complete surprise on his face.

 

“This is how betrayal feels, Brett.” Somehow she manages not to break character.

 

“Honestly, I kind of pictured the handcuffs thing going the other way. I had great plans for cuffing you to the bed and fucking you senseless.”

 

Chloe has the decency to acknowledge that this would not have been an altogether terrible turn of events.

 

“Well, you’re the one who wanted to be Ward.” Chloe shrugs at him as though it’s all his fault. Which, honestly, it really is. “I escaped. You’re my prisoner now. I’m going to make you tell me everything you know.”

 

Chloe pushes his T-shirt up over his head and considers leaving it over his face. The only problem with that plan is that it would prevent her from seeing the look on his face as he falls apart and she really, really likes watching that. So, with a glimmer of regret, she pushes it up to his elbows, deliberately positioning herself so that her boobs are directly over his face as she drags the cotton off his face. Brett’s mouth falls open, his eyes narrowing, and she hopes he’s getting the message that he’s not winning this particular battle.

 

Chloe slams her mouth onto his, hard, fast and dirty and his hips buck against her. She leaves him gasping and delivers a solid bite to his chest, a surge of triumph rushing through her as he swallows a growl. She rakes her nails down his chest, harder than usual, humming in satisfaction at the four parallel red lines they leave behind.

 

“Don’t. Fucking. Move,” Chloe leans forwards and murmurs in his ear. She can feel the way he shivers, finds that she’s thrilled by the way his eyes slide closed as she speaks.

 

Chloe slides her legs between his, gets up onto her knees and catches her tongue between her teeth as she strips him of his pants in one motion. The fabric catches on his cock as she pulls them down and he hisses softly, flinching slightly. If anything, he gets harder as she watches and she decides that he’s going to be fine. She slides her hands over his thighs, feeling the muscles tense under her fingers and, honestly, seeing Brett naked will always give her a thrill. She licks her lips, hears him let out a shuddering breath, and narrows her eyes at him.

 

“Remember, I’m in charge.”

 

“Yes, ma'am.” She’s pretty sure that’s a Captain America reference and she’d totally punish him for trying to have some power over the situation if it wasn’t for the fact that she finds it totally hot.

 

Chloe leans forwards and runs her tongue around the head of his cock. As he jerks against her mouth she slides a hand up to grip him at the base. She knows that she’s completely in control here, so she lets her jaw drop open and takes him as deep as she can, feeling every inch of his struggle to keep his hips on the bed. She really appreciates the way Brett follows instructions. She works him for a minute, tongue and hands sliding along his skin, enjoying the way his breath catches every time she swallows him just a little bit deeper. She pulls her head away with a pop to look at his face and finds him staring down at her, shoulders straining where his arms are trapped above his head. She realizes that she desperately wants to feel his hands on her body.

 

She slips first one leg and then the other over his hips, deliberately sliding over his cock where she’s slick and wet, pausing to enjoy a brief moment of friction. Brett’s eyes squeeze shut and she can see he’s losing the battle to keep still for her. Hooking her arms around his shoulders, she drags her body up his until they’re face to face.

 

“Fuck, Chloe.” He just puts it out there. She’s not even doing anything. She rectifies that by flicking his nipple with a fingernail.

 

“Say it, Brett. Say it.” She knows that she sounds just like Skye, but he started it, and it was her phrase first.

 

“Hail Hydra.” He gasps it out between breaths.

 

“Good boy.”

 

Chloe reaches up and releases his hands, utterly unprepared for the way that he spins them over and pinions her hands above her head with one of his. There’s a glint of mischief in his eyes but, honestly, his other hand is sliding down her body and his tongue is swirling around a nipple, and she feels as though neither of them is going to lose in this particular scenario.

 

Brett slowly relaxes his grip, moving his hands to either side of her head so he can push himself up to look at her.

 

“Hi.” Chloe hooks her heel around his lower back as she says it, pulling him flush against her, his cock trapped between them.

 

“Hi yourself.” His voice shakes a little as he drops to one elbow, his other hand snaking down between them. Chloe’s more than ready and Brett’s eyes widen as he feels how wet she is.

 

“Like being in charge, huh?” The thing is, she really does.

 

“Get on with it.” There’s no venom in her words and she’s grinning like a complete idiot, so Chloe’s fairly certain Brett’s not worried. She pulls her knees up further, in silent encouragement. “Brett, please.” She barely gets the words out before he’s thrusting up inside her, the slight burn and stretch taking her by surprise. God she needed this. His hipbones grind into hers as he bottoms out; she gasps his name as he pulls almost all the way out before sinking back into her. His head is buried against her shoulder, mumbling nonsense in her ear, lips skating erratically across her skin as he moves inside her. He feels ridiculously good, thick and hot, filling her completely with every stroke.

 

“I want you to come for me,” she whispers in his ear, still slightly shy of telling him exactly what she needs. It’s worth it, though, to witness the effect it has on Brett, his hips stuttering against her as he lets out a low moan. She snakes her hand down between them and presses hard on her clit, clenching around his cock as she does.

 

“Fuck.” Brett’s voice is raw and Chloe turns her face so that she can slide her tongue into his mouth.

 

She pulls away, gasping, barely even knowing what she wants any more. She needs him inside her. She needs him to fall apart. More than that, she wants to feel the exact moment when it happens.

 

Please, Brett.” She slides her fingers around his cock where they’re joined and his hips slam into hers, spine snapping straight, burying himself so deep that it almost hurts. It happens almost before she has time to process that she’s barrelling over the edge, her back arching off the bed as Brett grates out her name. He lasts two thrusts longer than her before he’s collapsing onto her, gasping her name.

 

They both lie there, panting, neither apparently willing to be the first to move. Eventually, Brett lifts his head from her chest and smiles at her.

 

“Better?”

 

“The best.”

 

(Superlatives. Always useful.)

++++