SPOILER: Everything up to 1x19
When she heard him call her name, she wanted to run. She wasn't ready. She had nothing to give him yet. Nothing to bargain for forgiveness.
She shouldn't have come here. Yesterday she had read about a series of mysterious fires in San Francisco, so she had thought that Phil and the team might come here to solve that case. She had just wanted to see them. See him. And make sure they'd all be okay. She never had thought she'd get caught.
She could just hide in the anonymity of the masses that flooded the market place this very morning. She could just disappear until she had some answers for him. If she really wanted to, he wouldn't been able to find her. But Phil came running across the street, yelling her name and she had no choice. She stopped and waited for him to catch up, her arms crossed in front of her.
"Melinda." He stopped in front of her. He stared at her like he'd seen a ghost.
"Coulson," she said, not daring to use his first name.
"Where have you been?" he asked harshly. He looked bad. Tired. He had a bruise beneath his left eye. It looked fresh.
"I've been trying to-"
"Doesn't matter." He shook his head and reached into his jacket to pull out his cell. "I've got to call the team." With that he grabbed her elbow, as if afraid she might try to run, then he started dialing.
Her stomach clenched. "What is going on?"
"Ward is Hydra," he said without looking at her. "You gotta come with me."
Hydra. No. No. No. No. She felt like throwing up. "What?" she whispered. "What?"
He looked at her, with his eyes wide open and pressed his lips together.
Then, "Simmons? - Yes. … No. I found May. … Yes. We'll meet at the bus." He hung up and let go of her arm. "I parked Lola around the corner," he said and clenched his fists.
He thought she had betrayed him again. Even without saying it, she knew.
Maybe she should just run. She was a better fighter than he was and she needed to complete her mission for the both of him. But she also wanted his trust and at least he wasn't yelling at her or sending her away. He wasn't talking to her at all, but she felt his gaze on her.
When they arrived at the bus, Fitzsimmons and Skye already waited at the gate. Skye hugged her as soon as May stepped out of Lola
"We thought we lost you," said Skye when she pulled away. "We're so glad Ward didn't kill you."
What had Ward done?
Simmons hugged her too whilst Fitz stood awkwardly next to them.
Coulson walked away.
Fitzsimmons and Skye filled her in on what had happened after she had left. How Fitzsimmons and Coulson had returned to an empty station and Eric's corpse. How Ward had kidnapped Skye. How Skye had been able to trap Ward. How they all had believed her dead. How they had missed her. Nobody accused her of anything. They just kept staring at her and Skye kept touching her arm. May was happy when they left her alone. To get some rest, as Skye said, like May just had been sick. It was weird and awkward. And it warmed her heart. She had missed them too.
She found Coulson in his office. He sat on one of the corner chairs beneath the windows, his elbows popped up on his thighs. His face buried in his hands.
She should probably leave. He looked at her. Caught again. He stood up and clenched his fists.
"You thought I died?"
He nodded and pressed his lips together.
"I'm not Hydra."
"I know." There was no doubt in his voice. She felt relief, but still, he hadn't forgiven her yet.
She could see the tension in his arms and shoulders, around his mouth.
"I was trying to find answers for you. I'm trying to - " She sighed. "Please, just … Will it always be like this between us now? You being angry at me?"
He raised his eyebrows. "I'm not angry."
"Since I'm back you're clenching your fists."
He blushed and looked at his hands. "I want to touch you but you don't like being touched and I was so unfair to you and –" He paused and looked at her. "I'm clenching my fists to keep from touching you."
Then she was wrapping her arms around his neck, holding herself to him, her face buried in the crook of his neck. She hadn't even noticed she had crossed the distance between them, but she must have, because here she was, hugging him.
He gasped. His arms looped around her waist. He held her so tight!
"I thought I lost you," he whispered. "I thought you were dead."
When he kissed the top of her head, she struggled with tears.
"I didn't know about Ward, I swear." She needed him to believe at least this. "I never would've left you had I known. I just wanted to make things better."
"I know." He rubbed her back.
She swallowed. "I should've known about Ward."
"Nobody knew." She could feel his head shake next to her. "We all trusted him," he added.
"I slept with him!" How could she misjudge someone so terribly? "I should've known!"
"He fooled the lie detector," he said calmly. How was he suddenly so calm about this? "He fooled us all." Then, "I thought he killed you."
"No." He pulled her closer. "I thought I lost you and my last memory of you was yelling at you."
She heard his regret. "I'm here."
"Yes." He sighed.
And they held each other. This was safe. She had needed this for so long and she was grateful he granted them this moment. She was grateful he made no attempt of letting go. Gosh, she had thought, she had lost him for good! She grabbed hold of the fabric of his suit at his shoulders.
"Where have you been?"
"Searching for answers about Tahiti."
"Anything I can do to help?" he asked.
She lifted her head to look at him. "You're not asking what I found?"
He smiled and brought up a hand to brush a stray of hair behind her ear. "If you'd find anything, you would've told me."
She and leaned into his hand. He caressed her cheek with his thumb.
"What happened to your eye?" she asked.
"Simmons," he said smiling.
She raised a brow. "Simmons?"
He blushed and twirled a curl of her hair around his fingers. "I kinda sorta almost strangled Ward and Simmons took me out."
"She punched you?"
"Elbowed me. By accident, really. But very effective."
"Does it hurt?"
He smiled at her. "I'm so glad you're alive."
She kissed him. She just leaned in and kissed him right on the mouth. And he felt fantastic. She captured his lower lip and pulled on it.
He groaned and turned his head sideways. "Melinda."
Quickly, she leaned back. "I'm sorry." She needed to go now. What had she been thinking? Gosh, she needed to go. His arms still wrapped around her.
"No, wait." He waited until she looked at him, before he continued, "There are strings. If we do this, there're strings."
She swallowed. Limitations. She could handle limitations. She could do friends with benefits. She could be professional once they ended it. If she could have one more kiss, she could do that. She was a fool for him. Right now she didn't care. Not when he glanced at her mouth again and again like he wanted to kiss her too.
"I want a relationship," he said. "I want all of you. If that's too much, we should stop now."
She stared at him. Her heart was pounding in her ears.
He nibbled at his lip. "I know that after your husband, after Bahrain, you don't really maintain these sorts of relationships but. " He took a breath. "If that's not what you want, we'll stop."
"You sent me away." Her brain couldn't compute his words "You saw Audrey."
"I was a fool. Yes."
"I'm a very bad consolation prize." She meant it. She had been second best to her ex husband. Being second best to Phil would kill her. Loving Phil almost did already.
"He closed his eyes and took a breath. "I'm horrible at this," he mumbled and opened his eyes again. "I love you."
"We can take it slow." He shrugged. "I know you care about me and we can take it -"
"I love you."
"Really?" His eyes widened. "You do?"
She nodded. Why was he surprised? Wasn't it obvious? She never had been this love-sick before.
"Good." He smiled brightly. This time he leaned down to kiss her. And she was ready.