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Ever since she’d signed those darn accords there had been more sitting on her hands then actual work. She would have disliked them just for that fact alone, tying her hands (and others). It was just another annoyance that they tracked her every move and continued to do these darn check ups. It left one feeling more useless and more like a thing then a person.
She’d gotten the call for her check up early, which was probably the most exciting thing to happen since that late season snowstorm. Oh wait, she was forgetting the mugging she’d survived and reconnecting with Jemma because of it. All in all the snowstorm had been less painful. The knife wound in her side was still healing, which was why she was a little on edge as she walked down the hall towards the lab for her appointment.
She hadn’t reported the incident. So she wasn’t the best at submitting to helicopter parenting done by the government. So sue her!
Her old boots thumped on the floor as she came around the corner and pushed the door open. She was expecting the usual monotone voiced tech weenie to be waiting, complete with the same old dry jokes about her speed and lateness. What she got made her stop in her tracks. ”Mack?” Surprise was the least of her feelings right now, ”What are you doing here?”
Over coming the initial reaction she rushed forward, arms coming out to force a hug on the big guy. It only lasted a moment though before she stepped back and thunderclouds formed on her brow, that finger coming up to point at him. ”You… Te doy una hostiaque tey visto de torero!” Obviously her happiness to see him was a little tempered with conflicting emotions on the subject.
If there was such a thing as easing back in, Mack wasn’t familiar with it. He barely had boots on the ground and he was already holding his hand out for new assignments, including getting back into his old role of looking out for their inhuman recruits. Once upon a time, he was the first to distrust them and question their involvement with S.H.I.E.L.D. but it was amazing how things could change.
People like Daisy and Yo-yo deserved all the credit there.
A glance at his watch showed that his next check-in appointment was late but not so late that he was going to worry about her yet. In the meantime, he was tinkering with an engine component, his hands stained with oil and grease. Clearly, his approach to these things wasn’t quite as by the book as the last boring techy guy but Yo-yo already knew that. She just didn’t know it was him she was going to find here.
He flashed her a smile when she pushed the door open, grabbing a rag to wipe his hands as his project was temporarily put aside.
Of course he was happy to see her but it wasn’t as simple as that. There was history behind them now and not everything was resolved. She was still a sight for sore eyes.
“Golpear lejos, si te hará sentir mejor,” he said, his tone light. He even turned his body to offer her an arm to aim at.
If she’d known who was going to waiting for her this time she might not have dragged her feet on the way in. Sure, even a speedster could wander off course a little and there were other people around here she could say hello too on her way to the lab. Being late was just a little annoyance, a little act of rebellion she knew she could get away with.
Her finger curled back into her palm with the rest of her fingers as she took the invitation to slug him in the shoulder. He was a big guy. He could take it. The man still knew how to make dirt look good though. ”Your Spanish is better then ever. You find someone else to practice with?” She smirked and stepped back against, putting a hand on the table and leaning against her arm.
When was the last time he’d called? Or she’d called him? Too long. She didn’t remember. That was a lie though; she did remember she was just refusing to acknowledge that, thinking it would diminish his importance in her life. No, the importance he could have had she told herself. That was why she hadn’t called either. She refused to be the desperate woman barking up some man’s tree.
”So what are you doing back? Did you run out of fascinating alien doohickeys to mess with?” Was she a little jealous of those pieces of alien tech. Maybe. Again another personal denial. But then when a man runs off to play with toys and doesn’t visit, well she was tempted to hit him again just for good measure.
The man was the picture of calm as he tidied himself up, mentally switching gears in his head from his former task to his new one. He knew Elena well enough by now not to let on that her tardiness irritated him. After all, if she knew that, she’d only do it more just to poke the bear. It didn’t matter if it all seemed to wash off him, she tried anyway. One day, she’d get a rise out of him.
At least her lateness wasn’t on account of him. He could have given her the heads up but he thought the surprise might be a good one.
“One of the guys up north was originally from Columbia. Got a lot of practice in with him,” he replied, keeping to himself that they’d play drinking games to teach him vocabulary. The games had been fun but not entirely productive given the drunker her got, the more the wrong answers piled up.
Like a gentleman, he pretended to flinch as she punched him. Honestly, she did pack a good punch but he was far too used to getting beat up at this point to be bothered by one good natured jab.
She wasn’t the only one that thought that it had been too long. He might have had a tendency to get buried in his work and forget to come up for air but that wasn’t an excuse. The calls were a bittersweet reminder that they were seperated and whatever had been forming between them failed to launch. There was a part of him that wanted to change that now that they were back in the same zip code but his track record with relationships wasn’t good and S.H.I.E.L.D. had rules about this sort of thing. It wasn’t always easy for Mack to ignore such things, even in the name of his own happiness.
“Just felt like time,” he answered lightly, knowing it didn’t really say much but it was hard to explain. He’d missed everyone and the family aspect of their team. Coming back didn’t bring the team back, what with everyone going their different directions, but maybe they could rebuild.
The surprise was good but it wasn’t without its reservations and questions on her end. Certainly it was better to have someone with a decent sense of humor and good taste in movies asking her all the stupid questions and running the scan on her tracker. The lab rats were so dull and made references she hadn’t’ a clue about. Most didn’t seem to speak Spanish though, so she had a bit of her own fun that way.
Over all she got a long better with the field agents and military guys, which shouldn’t have been surprising. Yo-yo had always been a doer herself. Ready to jump in and help and do what she thought was right, sitting at a desk or in a lab was never her thing.
”Oh? Is that so. Can I hope he educated your palate a little more too?” Really Mack wasn’t too bad on handling the spices but she had to tease him about something and since this was all a little awkward on both sides (no matter how well they were hiding it). If the man could handle learning her language then next on the list was learning her cultures food and not just that Americanized garbage they served up here. ”Believe it or not, I actually found a place on 43rd that serves real Columbian food.”
She rolled her eyes at his vague answer but hadn’t really expected anything else unless it was something about orders coming from on high or some new piece he had to come out of hiding to handle himself. ”Yeah, well it’s a different SHIELD these days.” She pulled over one of the stool and sat down, leaning on her elbows on the table. ”Alright, so lets get this stupido check up over with eh? I want to go grab a beer. Any new questions for me this time?”
Mack couldn’t fault her for any reservations she had, not when he had his own. He wanted to come back but nothing was ever the same way that it was before. It would take time to figure out just what had changed in his absence. Talking a few times on the phone wasn’t the same as being here and he was sure that the distance had changed more than just what was obvious.
“He tried,” the big man replied, his tone light and conversational. “Some of the things that man ate,” he shook his head, teasing Elena mostly. He was not the sort of man that would be described as unadventurous by any definition and he’d actually found a few things that he liked. If they ever made it to the restaurant together, he might actually be able to hold his own with the menu. “We should check it out sometime,” he offered, a tentative olive branch to see where their footing was.
If all she wanted was a work relationship, so be it. He wasn’t going to force anything.
“I’m starting to figure that out,” he replied, in all seriousness. Up north, he’d been isolated from a lot of the changes but now he was in the thick of it. Rubbing the last of the oil from his hands, he picked up his tablet and fired it up. He could get readings from her tracker that way and start to analyze the data. “Mostly the same old,” he admitted, “But it’s nice that some things haven’t changed.”
She smiled, ”What had you? The peppers? We can warm you up to those nice an easy.” Have him sweating bullets with her uncle’s special salsa recipe though. Maybe he’d grow some more hair on his head. Her eyebrows a little up her forehead, a look of surprise at that one sentence. ”Turtle man, are you trying to nonchalantly ask me to dinner?” He might be trying to beat around he bush a little but that wasn’t her style at all. He was the slow one here, which was no secret.
”Yeah, a lot more red tape and new faces. Seen Coulson yet?” Just out of curiosity. She hadn’t seen much of the man since the regime change, yet another familiar face gone from the place. She didn’t like that. All these strangers, people she didn’t know for sure she could trust.
She didn’t think about it but this version of SHIELD probably wasn’t as alien to him as it was to her. He’d been with SHIELD a lot longer then her. Before its fall with Hydra and drastic downsizing. When red tape and no one knowing more then absolutely necessary was the normal way of things. She had only known Coulson’s team, the small group, the family, the Secret Warriors. She was a lot more comfortable with how that had operated then this.
That was why it was really good to see Mack again. A familiar face she knew she could trust around here and knew her beyond her inhuman ability and status. Elena really hadn’t been comfortable in SHIELD lately.
”And what are those?” She snorted but jerked around as someone dropped something just out in the hall with a loud CRASH, metal on cement, something was going to be chipped and dented. The swift motion though caused her to wince and suck in a painful breath, the stitches in her side pulling, the wound wasn’t completely healed yet and she still had to be careful.
“The peppers weren’t actually that bad,” he replied with a grin. She could keep guessing if she wanted but she’d be very cold if she kept going down the spicy path. That salsa recipe could give him a run for his money though. Recipes handed down from previous generations had a tendency to pack a punch. “We both gotta eat,” he said, equally nonchalant. He’d always be the slow one but he could definitely stand to get a kick in the ass.
It was hard to move on. He could have used that as an excuse but far too many years had passed for that still to be valid. Deep down he knew that if he kept moving so slow, he was going to miss out on what life had to offer.
Red tape he could do without but it came with the job. Only time would tell just how bad it had gotten. “Briefly, a quick welcome back before he had an emergency to handle.” At least the big man was letting him acclimate a bit before throwing him in the deep end. On one hand, he was grateful for that. On the other, he sort of wanted to rush back into it all.
The red tape was probably a big reason why he wasn’t thrust back in. Shield was bigger again, they had protocols and action plans and all those things they left behind when it was their team against the world. He was going to miss those days far more than he cared to admit.
Mack had been about to answer when the noise in the hall caused Yo-Yo to move quickly and wince. Concern clouded his expression as he half reached out to touch her and stopped. “Healing up from something?” he asked, expecting it to be a battle wound and not necessarily one that was kept on the down low.
”Oh? Well then I wont hold back.” She wasn’t in the mood for a guessing game, if he gave her a chance she would find out eventually and in this detail at least her patience was still good. Though at his pace she might be ninety by the time she got the answer. She shook her head while glancing down for a moment before her eyes came back up. ”Half a step forward and two steps back eh Mack?” Worst turtle pace ever.
It was equally disconcerting and comfortable how quickly they could move back into that friendly flirtationship they had going. Things hadn’t changed enough that they were a complete miss but then that was just it. Nothing had changed and she could only make so many steps by herself.
”Yeah, he’s been busy. Hasn’t been around much, I think he prefers it that way.” It had been a sharp change for all of them when things had switched over again but maybe more so for Coulson. Going from the man who made all the decisions to seeing someone else at his desk giving him orders. Yo-yo couldn’t blame him if he didn’t want to hang around this place much. She didn’t.
Darn clumsy grunts… She eased her next breath in and out carefully as she resettled on the stool, the sharp pain fading back slowly into that dull ache it had been before. Her hand had covered the wound and she glanced down as she pulled it away, glad to see there was no blood seeping through her shirt. ”Just an accident, I’ll be fine.” As she got evasive about it. She knew she should have reported it, it could effect her field readiness so SHIELD thought they had a right to know but there would be nothing on Mack’s tablet about a recently injury.
It hadn’t been that bad, in the big picture of things. It was only bad because of who she was and what she could do. The way her body metabolism was hyped so high that it couldn’t manage a decent job of actually clotting a wound without help. A detail they were both very familiar with.
Even though he knew she was teasing, he still felt a moment of guilt for their situation. He never imagined that she’d been waiting all this time for him to figure out what he wanted. The fact that they fell so quickly into their old routine was a surprise. A good one, of course, but a surprise nonetheless. He pushed the guilt aside, knowing that it did neither of them any good. At the end of the day, he wasn’t going to push something that didn’t fit. “Can’t we start with dinner and see how it goes?” he responded, unable to commit to any more than that right now.
He knew that he ought to have more courage, he’d been in situations that seemed impossible and got out of them, but it scared him that they might lose what they had in trying to have more. He didn’t want to keep taking two steps back anymore either. That meant they had to take a step forward.
“Maybe he’s enjoying getting back in the field more,” he suggested. It was also on the back of his mind that maybe it was intentional on Fury’s part. Keep the old boss out of sight while he took the helm back. Most likely, it was a bit of all three.
Mack wasn’t one to take things at face value, especially not when someone he cared about was injured. With a few swipes of his finger, he went through her record. “You sure? This isn’t on your file.” He looked at her pointedly, his eyes asking the question. What was she hiding? Whether she told him or not, he was having a look at that wound to make sure it was healing up right.
She pretended to think about it for a moment when she was actually a little surprised he went back to pursuing the idea of dinner. She’d taken his earlier retort as the usual brush off. What she considered a patented Mack Maneuver, flirt a little then quickly veer off in another direction, usually work related. ”Maybe. But I’m paying for myself.” At least that way there wouldn’t be any assumptions on either side and she wouldn’t feel guilty about anything. And hopefully he’d find it less date like? Darn man had her second guessing herself now!
”Probably.” She shrugged, ”After all the only person that likes being the boss is a bad boss.” As bosses went Coulson had been alright. Except for that whole secretive shtick when they suspected someone was infected by Hive. She understood why they were cautious, even if she still didn’t agree with how they had gone about it.
He started poking at that damn tablet and she sighed, ”You’re not going to let this go are you?” Already knowing the answer. She met those eyes though, going through the process of the stare down enough to make sure he knew she could win if she really wanted to but was making the choice to trust him before breaking contact. She leaned onto one elbow while her other hand reached down and pulled the hem of her shirt up just enough to show the wound.
It had been a puncture, though a shallow one due to the angle, the man had terrible aim and she figured he was more scared then she had been. The wound had a neat little row of stitches, professionally done. ”Is fine, I had a doctor take care of it.”
A step in the right direction, sure, but a very small step. “Sure,” he replied, deciding not to push his luck by insisting to pay. Keeping it casual was probably the right move anyway. If it didn’t go well, they could fall back on being friends and coworkers. It would also keep the pressure off. They were just two people that happened to be sharing a meal together. (Yes, because that was all it was.) They might both know better but it was easier this way. At least for now.
Coulson might not have been Mack’s favorite person in the beginning but he had grown on Mack. At least he had been the devil he knew. Now he was going to have to get to know a whole new set up. Again. Shield had a way of breaking itself down and building from the ashes fairly often. Hopefully they’d get it right this time but Mack wasn’t about to put money on it. “You’ve got that right. At least Coulson did it for the right reasons.” He didn’t know Fury well enough to say the same but the man had held the job before. At least he had experience.
Mack met her gaze, steady and unwavering. She didn’t think for a minute that he was going to let it go and he didn’t yield the point. “No,” he said squarely. “What happened?”
He moved in closer, his fingertips gentle as he examined the stiches. The doc did a good job but he’d be damned if he let this go. It should have been reported. Elena could have been put on a mission and something like this could have endangered everyone she went out with. He had a lot of questions but he kept it to one for now.
There, that was settled. Or it would be if they ever managed a date and time to the rendezvous. There was still that measure of flexibility that they could hide behind and thus never actually get to the restaurant. Would be a shame though, they did have really good food. And even authentic regional beers. ”Did you get into any hockey while up there?” That’s all they did up there right? And ski?
”You think he did? Not that I’m disagreeing. I’ve heard the stories though.” She watched him. She might not have been with SHIELD back when Hydra popped up again and divided everything up but stories didn’t die around here. At one point it seemed there were two SHIELDs, which was confusing enough from an outsider view. One such story had Mack and Bobby on the opposite team.
The man could be a brick wall when he wanted to be. Which actually seemed like most of the time. He was lucky he was cute and had a great smile. ”It’s New York, someone tried to mug me.” She shrugged, ”Isn’t that like one of the bucket list things to do when visiting?” she wasn’t all that concerned about it. It was done and over with now. She’d actually been through scarier situations and probably worse.
She was going to put her shirt back down but his fingers reached her first. She twitched then shifted away as a laugh bubbled up, unable to keep it back. ”Enough Mack.” She pulled the shirt back down over the evidence, ”Tickling me wont help it.” She tried to get back to that teasing state they usually had going. Trying to prove this wasn’t anything to worry about. No reason to get all serious!
Life as an Agent of Shield was never boring but it didn’t always afford the most certainty when it came to making plans. All could be quiet for weeks when suddenly all hell would break loose. Almost literally.
Mack found himself looking forward to the prospect of doing something normal with Elena for a change. Their normal activities usually involved shooting things. While exciting, it was hardly reminiscent of anything romantic.
“A couple of the guys got me in on the occasional pick up game,” he said with a shrug. It had been a good excuse to blow off some steam with good activity and drink beers with his friends after. He wasn’t going to become obsessed with players and stats or anything but it had been fun.
Mack had been through a lot with Coulson and it was no secret that he didn’t always agree with the man or trust him but he’d grown to believe in him. “I think he did.” Doing things for the right reasons didn’t always mean that the things were right but that was a whole different discussion.
He responded with a suspicious look but he decided not to press her story. Not yet at least. The wound was expertly bandaged and he laughed with her when she teased him about tickling. “If you’re okay to laugh, it must not be that bad.” He flashed her a lopsided smile but it didn’t change the fact that he was going to put a note on her file to be checked by a Shield doctor before being assigned a mission. She wasn’t likely to thank him for that but it had to be done. “Just don’t go antagonizing the muggers for a bit.”
So he could skate? She wouldn’t have figured and found herself curious enough as to how that had gone that she wished she had seen it. Maybe a discrete call up to that base could put her in touch with someone that could give her a few good stories about it. She’d never been skating herself. Hockey and those ice sports hadn’t been as big a thing down south as football. Real football, not this American game.
That was one of the things she liked about Mack. He always knew his own mind and wasn’t afraid to let other people know it. If he disagreed with someone, he told them. You had to respect that sort of self confidence. He was still a company man but he managed to be one that could still follow his own moral compass. Maybe that was why it had pissed her off so much when that Hive shit had gone down. She still didn’t know if he had agreed with how that was handled or not and she wasn’t sure she wanted to hear the answer.
The story was the truth, if lacking in any real details. Maybe she’d tell him the whole tale later if he asked but honestly it was a little embarrassing that she’d been caught off guard like that. Her, Speedy Gonzales. ”I did tell you.” Making an extra point while still grinning. ”the doc didn’t even have to use a blow torch after all.” Sure that had been a painful and scary event but they had survived and if you couldn’t have fun after surviving then maybe you didn’t really survive.
”Hey!” Her head snapped up. ”I did not. Though maybe I should have. Maybe they would think twice next time.” But she’d been good. She was following the rules. As much as it chaffed. She was a registered metahuman asset and as such wasn’t allowed to so much as stop a mugging without permission from the Big Man.
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