A/N: Please don't kill me! I'm back. I know this chapter is a bit off but I needed to get a fair amount of set up in for the next chapters and I've been trying to figure out the best way to work the timeline out.
Coulson sat quietly in the hotel's comfortably decorated lobby pretending to read a newspaper while kept looking toward the doors. It was such an odd feeling he had welling in the pit of his stomach. On the one hand he had all but worshiped the great Captain America while growing up, but on the other… He was more than a little protective of his hacker. Especially after she had opened up to him after the Lydon incident.
It wasn't long before the source of Coulson's confliction walked in and immediately spotted him while obviously trying to locate the elevators. Coulson kept his voice polite, "Good evening, Captain."
Steve couldn't say he was all that surprised to find Skye's team leader guarding the entrance. It was obvious to anyone that cared to look that the two shared a deep affection. "Hello again, Agent Coulson."
"I hear you are taking Skye out again tonight." Coulson was using that friendly tone he usually used before he start in with vague but frightening threats.
Steve simply nodded and looked the older man in the eye. "With any luck this won't be the last time either."
The two men stood staring silently at one another for a few minutes before Coulson reached to shake Steve's hand, "Just take care of her. She's already been through more than her fair share of hardships."
"I'm getting that." The more that Steve heard about Skye's past the more curious he became. For people like Clint, Natasha, and now Coulson to express sympathy, in their own spy like ways, gave Steve the impression that when Skye finally did choose to fill him in he would have a hard time not wanting to 'add red to his ledger'.
Coulson in his ever observant way must have seen this very thought pass over Steve's face because he just calmly stated, "Remember, I'm the one you'll have to deal with if it's you that hurts her."
"I will keep that in mind." Steve said coolly, before adding, "You know I still check in on Audrey from time to time. She still seems to think you're dead."
Coulson had the decency to look ashamed before he schooled his expression back to its usual friendly impassive mask. "It's better for her to believe that. At least she's safe."
"Being safe doesn't make her hurt any less." Steve said before making his way to the elevators.
Coulson watched his childhood hero with a heavy heart. Things had become so much more complicated since he made his return.
Moments after Ward stormed off to chase down Skye, May's phone began to chime in her pocket. A quick glance at the display told her all she needed to know. She quickly slipped out without drawing the attention of Coulson who was clearly waiting in the lobby to confront Captain America about dating his surrogate daughter and made her way to the quiet spot between the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials long ago picked by Fury for some of his more private meetings.
"You're late." He said, tonelessly.
"I'm never late." May said, raising an imperious brow. "What is it that you needed, sir?"
She knew that the director would appreciate her straight to the point attitude as he had in the past. Which is why she wasn't surprised when all he said was, "Update me on all the developments."
"There are no signs of mental or physical deterioration. Though he does say he feels rusty at times."
Fury nodded, he was constantly worried that he had made the wrong call when it came to the extreme measures he had taken to keep Coulson alive. "And your opinion of the new girl. This Skye?"
"She's useful." Leading with any type of emotion wouldn't matter to Fury and May knew that both Colson and the Captain had likely already made her case using emotional arguments. Truthfully, May was beginning to develop her own soft spot for Skye. "Even with her past and her most recent mistake, she remains so. Though, I do feel more comfortable that her actions are closely monitored."
Again Fury's only response was to nod. "Will her new relationship with Captain Rogers cause problems in the future?"
May quickly shook her head, not surprised by this question either. "I think that trying to force them apart would create a bigger problem than any that may occur while letting this play out. Beyond that, their partnership could work in SHIELD's favor eventually."
Fury snorted at look out into the distance rather than at May. "You know I hate it when you're right, Agent May. I really do."
With nothing more to say he walked away.
When Ward glanced over to see what had captured Skye's attention in the middle of their conversation he was more than a little surprised to once again recognize none other than Steve Rogers stepping off the elevator. It took Ward only a heartbeat to catch up to what must be going on. All the whispered phone calls, evasiveness about plans, all of it suddenly made sense.
Ever since the Hub, it had been Captain America distracting his rookie.
Ward felt like a bucket of ice water had been dumped over his head. This was actually worse than the clawing sensation he had in his gut when he'd thought she was sneaking off to meet with a Rising Tide buddy. It was even worse than finding her with her hacker ex.
He turned back to Skye just in time to catch the last vestiges of her bright smile, one that had clearly been directed at Rogers. It was the smile that used to be directed at him. Before Ward could think of anything to say Skye broke the silence, "Actually, Ward, I have a date."
By this time Steve had made his way to where the two were awkwardly standing. He barely even glanced in Ward's direction, choosing instead to focus on Skye. "Wow! You look incredible." He told her before finally looking to Ward. "Agent Ward, I didn't expect to see you again so soon."
"I didn't expect to see you taking my rookie on a date." Ward kept his voice completely emotionless.
Steve recognized that tone instantly. It was the same way that several of the STRIKE team members sounded when this were not going according to plan. Steve just smiled and gently reached for Skye's hand before saying, "Well, it's a fairly recent development."
It was impossible for Skye to miss the quickly rising tension between the two men. She knew it was likely just because Ward didn't like to be walk into unknown situations so she quickly added, "It's our first 'date date'."
She was hoping to reassure Ward that she really hadn't been keeping this new relationship from him intentionally. Well, only a little intentionally.
Ward stopped glaring at Steve and glanced back to her, "Date date?"
Steve chuckled at Ward's obvious confusion. "Last night was just a coffee date. Tonight I'm taking her on a real date." After his explanation Steve looked to Skye. "Are you ready to go? I know I'm a bit early."
She nodded with a small smile before turning to pull her door all the way closed, giving the men the first glance at the back, or the lack of a back, of her deep blue dress. Both Steve and Ward barely rearranged their shocked features before she was facing them again. She quickly looked up at Ward and said, "I'll see you later, Ward.
Steve recaptured her hand, secretly feeling that instinctual need to be touching her somehow. Then he met Ward's eyes, "And I'm sure we will see each other again, Agent Ward."
Ward could do nothing but nod and watch as the pair made their way to the elevator. He continued watching as Steve released Skye's hand only to move his it lightly touching her back. Ward's entire mind was rebelling against the thought that his Skye was on a date with SHIELD's golden boy. His hands fisted at his sides as he couldn't help but think, 'That should be me.'
As the elevator's doors closed giving Steve and Skye some relative privacy he looked down at her a little sheepishly. "That seemed a bit tense. I apologize if you weren't ready to tell anyone-"
"Actually, I was just about to fill Ward in." Skye cut him off mid apology. After speaking with Simmons she realized that by not telling Ward she could find herself more deeply embedded in the rookie doghouse. And more importantly Steve could begin to think that she was hiding him. "Besides it's usually tense with me and Ward right now. He's still holding my… incident against me."
"Ah." Steve said, like her explanation cleared up the whole situation. While Skye may really believe that was the cause of Ward's attitude, Steve felt pretty sure that there was more to it than that. At least from Ward's perspective.
"So where is this real date going to be? I still really don't how you can top Emilio's coffee." Skye joked, breaking Steve away from his considerations about the other man.
He gently tugged Skye a bit closer, wrapping his arm more effectively around her waist. "Well now if I tell you it won't be a surprise."
After sneaking away to let Skye finish preparing for her date Jemma couldn't help but make use of the truly spectacular labs at the Triskelion. She reassured herself that it wasn't technically work if she was actually having fun while she was working.
It wasn't too long before she was joined by an equally guilty looking Fitz. He couldn't stay away from his tech just as she couldn't stay away from her work with the new chemical compounds she was working on. The pair worked side by side, bickering occasionally for a couple of hours before Jemma decided that what she really needed was a good strong cup of tea. She quietly slipped out, not bothering to ask Fitz is he wanted anything. She knew exactly what he would say and she saw no need to interrupt him as he muttered about running more complex simulations.
She made her way to the best café that her clearance level would allow her access to. It was a bit farther than the café that most of the science officers used here but the selection of food and teas was always worth making the trip up several floor and over to the operations side of the area.
As she entered she went straight to the small kitchenette area. This particular area wasn't set up like the restaurant style café but designed in a more self-serve, home style kitchen with several more comfortable seating choices scattered around the large room. With her mind still bouncing between the ideas and plans that she and Fitz had been discussing, Jemma failed to notice that she wasn't actually alone in the room.
Seated at a smaller table tucked in the corner of the room Clint watched as the female scientist that was currently assigned to Coulson's new dream team wander toward the kitchen area quietly humming to herself. With his curiosity peaked, he silently made his way to stand a few feet behind the girl, Jemma, according to the SHIELD file he had recently looked over. It was rare to find anyone other than specialists or field agents in this area, one of the unspoken rules that helped keep SHIELD compartmentalized.
Clint watched as she efficiently began to gather items and place a full kettle on one of the available stove tops. He stood keep a silent watch, smiling as she began to dance slightly to whatever tune she was humming to herself. When he saw her grab two cups Clint almost wondered if he hadn't been as stealthy as he thought, "Oh, none for me. Thanks though, sugar."
Jemma yelped in shock while spinning slightly and dropping on of the cups in her hand. Clint was able to snatch it before it hit the floor and shatter. He handed it back to her with a quiet chuckle, "Didn't mean to scare you, Jemma. Just wanted to introduce myself."
"You're Hawkeye!" Jemma squeaked out. "How do you know who I am?"
"I've been keeping up with Coulson and his shenanigans for a little while." Clint smiled. When he'd seen the several pictures of her he'd known she was a pretty little thing but seeing her standing in front of him eyes wide and cheeks flushed, Clint found himself more than a little interested in getting closer to this girl. "I didn't think I'd be fortunate enough to stumble on you in the ops lounge though."
Jemma rushed to explain, "Oh, I came for the tea! I didn't mean to interrupt anything! I do apologize, sir."
Clint internally winced at Jemma's formal address. He should be used to it by now as almost every agent treated him with about the same amount of respect given to Rogers, but it just felt wrong coming from the woman in front of him. "How about you call me Clint. Seeing as how were likely going to be seeing a lot of each other."
"We are?" Jemma couldn't stop herself from blurting out.
"You think Steve can stay away from Skye for too long?" Clint asked as he moved a little bit closer, not wanting to scare her off. "He's a bit taken with your friend."
Jemma's laugh made Clint's heart beat just a little faster. It was a noise he wanted to hear again and again especially if he was the cause of it. It was a wonder he heard her say, "I'm fairly certain that feeling is mutual."
Before Clint could form a response the kettle she had set to boil started to whistle and she moved to finish her original task with a practiced ease. Just as Clint was going to ask who the second cup was for the lounge's door slammed open and an out of breath man called out. "JEMMA!"
Without even turning from her task, Jemma responded. "Yes, Fitz, I know the samples should be almost ready to be tested!"
Hearing the name and seeing the man's face made the information click in Clint's mind. Dr. Leopold Fitz, prefers to be called by his last name, also assigned to Coulson's team. One of SHIELD's tech geniuses.
Just like Jemma, Fitz's mind was so wrapped up in what he needed to tell her that even though he noticed that she wasn't alone he was midsentence about possibly finding a way to make the tracer rounds undetectable before his brain registered who the other man was. "You're Hawkeye!"
"You're very observant, Dr. Fitz." Clint said blandly. "But Jemma here already mentioned that a few minutes ago."
Fitz flushed and moved to stand closer to Jemma out of habit. "Sorry, sir, I just never thought I would actually meet an Avenger. Let alone two in one day."
Clint nodded, while noting the obvious level of familiarity between the two scientists, his mind trying to establish if they were more than just team mates, lab partners, or friends. Neither of their SHIELD records even speculated about their relationship status. Inwardly he sighed, he needed more information so he kept his voice a little friendly, "Well you bound to run into some of us working with Coulson."
Jemma couldn't help but note that Clint hadn't corrected Fitz calling him sire and her naturally inquisitive mind wondered why. Instead of voicing her question, Jemma looked over to Fitz with good natured exasperation, "And really, Fitz, we just spent most of the morning with Steve!"
"Which is still very far from usual for us!" Fitz sounded equally exasperated.
She just sighed and handed Fitz his completed tea but taking up hers and looking shyly at Clint. "I really should get back to the lab, but I do hope to see you again, sir."
"We just went over you calling sir, Jemma." Clint put the slightest emphasis on her name with a slow smile. "It's just Clint. And don't worry, I promise you'll be seeing me a lot."
'I'll make sure of it.' Clint thought to himself. There was something about Jemma that had his instincts taking notice and after years of experience Clint never ignored his instincts. He watched as Jemma blushed once again with a sweet smile before walking away. And he wasn't above keeping his eyes trained on her retreating form think that he couldn't wait to wrap his arms around her slender waist and pull her close. He just needed to be absolutely sure the field was clear.
With that in mind Clint turned his gaze to where Fitz still stood silently assessing the man as he quickly grabbed a few more snacks and started shoving them in his pockets.
Fitz looked over once he realized that Clint was still there looking at him and said, "I really should get back to Jemma. It was a pleasure meeting you, sir."
It was easy to tell from his eager expression that Fitz was hoping Clint would address him the same way he had Jemma. Unfortunately, that would not be the case. At least not until Clint was sure exactly what role Fitz played in Jemma's life. "Same to you, Dr. Fitz."
Fitz turned ad hurried away more than slightly concerned that he had done something to offend the Avenger. He replayed the short conversation in his mind but couldn't pin point what he could have done wrong. Fitz sped up hoping that Jemma may know.
Skye was glad that Steve had the foresight to switch from a motorcycle to a sleek looking black Corvette. When she couldn't help herself and teased him slightly about the car choice, he had turned slightly pink and muttered, "It's Nat's. If I used any of Tony's cars… I don't think our date would stay very private."
It took about four minutes of driving for Steve to casually reach over and grasp Skye's hand once again. Ever since he'd first touched her at the Hub it became almost completely natural to him. Even the simplest contact with her gave him a calmness that he was slowly coming to crave.
After a few moments Skye took a deep breath and spoke so quickly Steve almost missed it. "Is it strange that I'm nervous?"
He chuckled while shaking his head. "Only if it's strange that I'm nervous too." He took a moment to look over at her instead of the road before continuing, "It's a good nervous though."
Skye nodded. "A very good nervous."
The rest of their drive was filled with light hearted small talk. Skye told Steve how strange it had been to go dress shopping with Agent May, he'd laughed when she explained how May really had executed the trip like any SHIELD mission.
"I guess that helps explain why Agent Coulson was waiting for me in the lobby."
Skye's cheeks flooded with color. "Oh God! I'm so sorry! He didn't say anything too embarrassing, did he?"
Steve shook his head, "Just a gentle reminder to treat you right."
Before she could vocalize any more apologies Steve stopped her by bringing the hand still enclosed in his up for a gentle kiss. "It was a reminder I didn't need. But it's still good to know he cares for you."
Skye felt her heart flutter in her chest and all she could do was stare after Steve as he exited the car and quickly made his way to open her door, ever the gentleman. He quietly led her to the front of a beautiful restaurant. "I'm still a little new at this. A friend of mine told about this place."
"I'm sure this place is great." Impulsively, Skye shifted to her toes in order to kiss Steve's cheek before trying to lighten the moment. "Even if it's not… It's not every day a girl gets a real date with Captain America. Plus, anyone from my past set the bar pretty low. In fact, I think you pretty much out did them just with coffee."
Steve actually laughed a bit, Skye had correctly guessed that part of his nervousness was because sometimes he felt so out of touch. He gently put his hands on her waist to pull her a bit closer and gently brush his lips across her forehead. "I told you, I'm just Steve. But I am hoping you get used to me taking you on real dates. Probably won't be every day… as much as I would like that."
Skye laughed up at him, "You'd probably get tired of me any way."
Even though it was easy to see that she had made the comment in jest, something about it struck a chord and made Steve tighten his hold on her just a bit. He made sure his tone while gentle still left no room for argument, "I very much doubt that Skye."
She heard the seriousness and sincerity in Steve's voice. Her heart started beating faster and she realized that every response she had ever used in situations like this couldn't seem to make their way out. So Skye just continued to hold his gaze and Steve bent slowly to kiss her.
By this point Skye thought she would be passed feeling like her heart would explode out of her chest every time their lips met. But now she knew that she was wrong.
Steve kept the kiss as sweet and simple as he could. Even though whenever he held her in his arms he could feel his control slipping. But he could tell from Skye's expression that as much as she wanted to believe he wasn't going to lose interest in her, she didn't. At least not yet.
But Steve had never been one to shy away from a challenge and making sure that Skye knew she was cared for and wanted may be one of his biggest challenges yet.
After watching Skye leave with Rogers, Ward did what he always did when he could quiet his mind. He paced his room. He let his mind continue to churn over all the little moments he was now sure that Skye had been distracted by the good captain. His mind replayed how the man had reacted that morning when they'd first met and remembered how it had been a text that drew Rogers away. Ward couldn't help but wonder if the message had been from Skye.
Though it wasn't unheard of for Ward to feel jealous, it was after all a side effect of his deeply possessive nature, he couldn't remember the last time the feeling had burrowed so deeply into his gut. Skye was his rookie, his responsivity, she was his…
Ward's cell phone began to ring and pulled Ward from the unpleasant path his thoughts had started to go down. While a small part of him hoped it would be Skye calling to tell him that her date was a bust and asking that he come save her, on some level Ward knew that Captain Perfect was likely showing her the time of her life.
As soon as Ward registered 'Garrett' in his caller ID he knew he would need to get his emotions under control. He could already hear his SO sneering at him 'Is that a weakness, son?'
Ward barely managed a terse greeting then he heard, "Well, hello to you too, son."
Ward had to grind his teeth because he knew that if Garrett was calling and opening the conversation with the mock endearment something bad was about to come up. "I'm sorry, sir. Having so much down time has made me tense."
As far as lies went, this one wasn't a total farce. Ward really did get tenser the longer he was off mission but that wasn't what was causing his mood tonight. However, he would never tell Garrett the real reason.
"Well from what I hear you'll be back on active tomorrow. I think you can stick it out that long." The older man chuckled, darkly.
"Yes, sir. I'm looking forward to being back where I belong." Ward knew that the double meaning in his words would be clear.
There was a pause before Garrett said, "Good to hear. You're making progress from all that I've seen."
Ward remained quiet. After years of working for the man he knew that there was more to this call than just a kind check in. It wasn't surprising when Garrett continued, "I hear your little rookie has been making some pretty big waves and some pretty powerful friends."
As much as Ward wanted to growl at the reminder of Skye's new friend he knew that would make her even more interesting to Garrett. And that was the very last thing he needed. "It will pass, sir."
"Hope that it does." Garrett's tone remained light but Ward could hear the ominous threat lurking behind the words. "Or pretty soon all of the Avengers will be swooping in. Too many variables there."
"I don't think the Captain will stay focused on her too long. I'm sure he will have more important things to handle." Ward said, not entirely certain if he was trying to convince himself or his SO. He desperately hoped that this dalliance would soon be over.
On the other end of the phone Garrett sighed, "We'll see. Just keep an eye on it. She's your rookie, son, remember that."
"And keep me updated on everything else as well."
Garrett ended the call before Ward could even respond. He threw the phone on to his bed and scrubbed his hands over his face, suddenly exhausted. Everything had gotten so complicated ever since Skye stepped foot on the bus. He needed to manage her and hope like hell that he could find a way to make sure she understood how things were. If everything fell into place like so many were hoping it would, he would need to have her unwavering trust if he was going to keep her.
Skye and Steve had fallen into an easy conversation once they were seated at a semi private table that the host had rushed to assure them was the best in the house, the complementary bottle of wine hadn't hurt either. At least for Skye. She'd been shocked when Steve told her he couldn't actually get drunk.
"You mean, at all?!" She had gasped.
"Well, Thor occasionally brings down this drink from Asgard that works, but other than that…Nope."
Skye pretended to pout, "That's a shame. I was hoping I could take advantage of you one day."
Steve smiled and shook his head at her, "Maybe one day I'll ask Thor to bring me some so you can get your wish. Just remember, it's not taking advantage if I'm willing, doll."
Skye leaned a bit forward in her seat, "I'll hold you to that."
Her comment brought another smile to Steve's face as he thought of a number of responses but said none. Not one of them would be appropriate for their current setting but that didn't stop him from imagining all the ways he'd let the beautiful woman in front of him take advantage of him.
After a few moments, Skye reached across the table to lay her hand on top of his, "So tell me something about yourself, Steven Rogers."
"The full name, really?" He asked with a raised brow.
Keeping her eyes locked on his, Skye said, "I just mean I've heard stories about you… as in Captain America you-"
"No doubt some told by Coulson." Steve deadpanned, remembering the agent's previous level of hero worship.
Skye just nodded with a smile, "But I want to hear more about you."
Steve's hand turned over under her and he gently squeezed hers. His heart started pounding when he tried to figure out what to say. He knew that he wouldn't lie to her but he couldn't help the fear starting to work its way into his system. It was an old fear that Skye would be the one to lose interest in him once she discovered that deep down inside he was still just the scrawny kid from Brooklyn. Maybe, Skye would agree with Stark's original assessment that everything special about him had come from a bottle.
In his momentary hesitation Skye could almost see all these thoughts move across Steve's face. She recognized the look from her time in the system and imagined it was the same look she had when a new foster family started asking her questions. As much as she wanted to reassure him, Skye knew the best thing she could do at this point was listen and then prove that nothing he told her would change the way she saw him.
He took a deep breath and began, "I was sick a lot while I was growing up. My mom did the best she could but medicine wasn't quite as advanced back then. Which is why she ended dying so young from something that is treatable today."
"I'm so sorry, Steve." Skye said sincerely.
Taking a moment, Steve remembered Clint's advice and decided not to shrug off this moment and try to change the subject. "Even still, I always had Bucky."
Skye immediately recognized the name, of course she did, but she didn't want to interrupt. Instead she just sat quietly waiting for him to continue.
"We took care of each other." Steve chuckled quietly looking off in the distance, like he was looking for the memories long past. "Though he'd say he mostly took care of me. I sort of had a knack for getting myself into trouble back then."
This time as much as Skye tried she couldn't stop the laugh from bubbling out, "Back then?"
Steve's eyes shifted back to hers then, "Look who is talking. Didn't I find you stirring up a fair amount of trouble yourself when we met?"
"Fair point." Skye conceded easily.
Steve looked at her seriously, "I think Bucky would have liked you."
Skye was a bit shocked at the simple statement. She knew that to Steve Bucky's opinion on a person would be incredibly important. "I wish I could have met him. I bet he would have the best stories about you."
It took a few moment but then Steve started speaking quickly before suddenly stopping, "You know I could…Never mind."
"Oh no, you could what?" Skye pressed. Steve should know by now that Skye was the type to chase answers.
Steve's face flushed with embarrassment, "I could show you."
"What do you mean?" Skye asked, confused.
Steve suddenly released her hand to rub the back of his neck. "They decided to put together some stuff from back then. Of us… you know the guys from back then. For this exhibit." Steve finished lamely and he picked up hand again. "I haven't seen it yet, but we could go take a look together."
"On one condition." Skye answered immediately.
Steve was a bit surprised she would be interested at all. "What's the condition?"
"You have to tell me what they got wrong and tell me the details they cut out." Skye let the excitement she was feeling show in her voice. "Museums always leave out the most interesting details."
Hearing Skye's request made Steve laugh once again and helped ease his nervousness. "That's actually two things. But I think I can manage it.