Coulson's breathing began to return to normal as he sagged against the wall of the med cube. He couldn't believe what he'd just said to Skye, and he was astounded at her reaction. She hadn't yelled at him. She hadn't held him accountable for the horrible thing he'd done to her. Hell, she had actually thanked him for saving her life. He tried to think logically instead of emotionally. Maybe she was just so grateful to him for giving her a place to stay, a family of sorts. Was she just agreeing with him because he was her boss and she didn't want to lose her job?

God, I'm as bad as Fury. I've done this horrible thing to her and now I'm expecting her full obedience.

He looked furtively at Skye and saw her staring at him intently. To her, he looked like an exhausted rabbit unable to shake the wolf off his trail.

"A.C. sit down," she said softly as she moved over on the bed. He was gripped with uncertainty for a moment, but his tired body made the decision for him, and he sagged down next to her. She laid a gentle hand on his arm and sighed.

"Those wheels in your head are spinning so fast I think I can see smoke coming out of your ears. What's wrong?" she said gently. He closed his eyes and tried to make his racing thoughts slow down. Secrets and lies tangled in a vast web of confusion in his head. He no longer had the steady sense of what was right and what was wrong. He wasn't sure anymore. How could he explain this with any degree of clarity? Skye's hand moved to rub up and down on his back and the feeling actually calmed him. It had been so long since he had experienced any sort of physical comfort.

Not since, Beth. He almost smiled at the thought of his cellist girlfriend until another thought swirled to the forefront.

Was she even real? Did Fury implant her as well? He shuddered. Skye leaned closer, and placed her other hand on his chest, effectively holding him.

"Skye, I'm… messed up. I can't think like I used to. Everything… everybody is no longer what I've always thought them to be. Even me. I'm not sure you should even be agreeing to work with me. What if seeking these answers is wrong?" He ducked his head, embarrassed and ashamed.

She's thinking I've gone over the edge. Maybe I have. He thought desperately. Skye began talking in a firm and confident voice.

"A.C., you were a soldier. A loyal, willing combatant who gave his life for his country. That sacrifice was your last full measure, and it should have been met with respect and honor. Instead, people with questionable integrity took it and abused it. They didn't bury you with accolades or put your name on the S.H.I.E.L.D. wall of fallen agents. No, they moved your body off to a diabolical location to torture and brainwash you. They lied to you, and they made you feel that everything you believed in was false. And you wonder why you're confused. You have every right to be." Skye felt torn when she saw the single tear that edged down Coulson's face. But, she had to make him see that he wasn't reacting any differently than any other man would when faced with the same circumstances. And she wanted him to know how much she truly trusted him.

In an almost indecipherable gasp he replied, "I wanted to die."

"And that was what you should have expected, A.C." Skye answered with emotion. "You did your job, and you died for them. No one should have asked more of you."

Reaching up to wipe his tear with a corner of the sheet, she was glad to see him finally meet her eyes. The guarded look he usually gave her was gone. He searched her eyes for anything false, but he saw only real compassion there. And he saw something that he'd always seen from the first time he had met her. He saw her old soul. The same one he had. The one that had been built upon the bricks of life, love, betrayal, loss, struggle and suffering. Yet, he also saw her calm determination, compassion and trust in humanity. He knew with all his heart that he cherished this woman and would never hurt her intentionally.

"Skye, don't do this if you don't want to. Don't do it for me. I would never expect you to." He said.

"I wouldn't, A.C." she replied. "But, this is something I think is right. I don't want anyone else going through what you did. We have to stop this."

They sat in silence on the bed for a long time, holding each other. A common purpose, a common bond had brought them together and it was stronger than most attachments people made with each other. Theirs was born in experience and ideology, and whether it led to something more was yet to be discovered. But, for now, it was enough. More than enough.

To be continued.