[Image: A photo of Cobie Smulders; she’s wearing a leather jacket and jeans and leaning against a wall, her hands in her pockets.]
(This actually works frightfully well with the longfic I have of them getting together that is currently gathering dust on my hard drive.)
They’ve been full agents for a year when they get sent out on an undercover op together. Nothing major, just a meet and greet with a possible new contact, but they can’t look like they’re from a massive paramilitary organization that generally works in secret.
"We put our logo on a lot of shit for being secretive," Jasper says as he and Maria drive to the airport to fly out. Well, Maria is driving. Jasper is realizing he has an empty water bottle, two notepads, three pens, and a key chain (what the fucking hell) in the bottom of his go-bag that all have SHIELD logos on them.
"You didn’t clear that out before you repacked?" Maria asks. "You don’t have a second go-bag for undercover?"
Jasper pauses, two pens in his hand, the third already thrown into the backseat of the car. “Second go-bag. Why the fuck didn’t I think of that?”
Maria chuckles, and Jasper maybe throws the pens into the backseat a little harder than he means to. He still hasn’t asked her out. He wants to, and he will, goddamnit, but when he was screwing up his courage this afternoon, they got the assignment, and there really hasn’t been time since.
"Get something bright-colored," Maria tells him. "That way you don’t grab the wrong one, and it definitely doesn’t give off undercover agent vibes."
"That’s a really good idea," Jasper says. "I was wondering why yours was bright red."
They pull into short-term parking, buy a parking pass at the machine, and then Jasper passes it off to an agent headed the other direction in a smooth, palm-to-palm slide over that makes Maria raise her eyebrows.
"I didn’t know you could do that."
"Wanted to be a magician when I was a kid," Jasper says. "Palmed a lot of coins."
He maybe feels ten percent more important than he did a minute ago. Okay, 15.
They check in at the desk, then make the way to their terminal. Once they’re there, Maria glances at the clock behind the flight crew desk and reaches for her bag. “Hey, I’m gonna change before we head out.”
"I’ll do that, too," Jasper says. They’re both in the civvies they wore to work, but a trick to good undercover is to wear things you’re not usually in, things that make it harder for someone to figure out who you are if they run into you while you’re working.
They split off at the bathrooms, and Jasper ends up getting caught in his tie, swearing a lot, getting mostly uncaught, and then popping a button off his shirt. “Fuck it,” he mutters as he watches it roll across two stalls. He shoves his shirt and tie into his go-bag, kicks off his shoes and pulls off his pants, and changes into jeans, a long-sleeve tee, and a sport coat. Not the edgiest outfit in his repertoire, but he’d needed something that would go with the loafers he wore to work, since the turnaround time for the mission had been so tight.
He comes out of the bathroom a minute later and scans the crowd for Maria. It takes him a moment to find her, but then he does and holy fucking shit.
She’s leaning against the wall, go-bag by her feet on the wall side. She’s in black jeans, a leather jacket, and a gray t-shirt that’s just sheer enough to hint at something while not sheer enough to actually show it. Her hair’s half up, and she’s redone her make-up and swapped out her work flats for a pair of stacked heel boots.
"I look like your nerdy cousin," Jasper says as he walks up to her. "Or your hopelessly devoted personal assistant." He just manages not to make a face at himself for saying that out loud.
"You look like a guy with some style," Maria says, and she smiles, and it’s the same smile she always gives him, and it helps his brain reset. "That’s a nice jacket."
"Thanks," Jasper runs his hands down his lapels, not trying to preen but maybe preening a little bit. "That look really suits you, like spectacularly."
Maria stands up straight. In the boots, she’s got two inches on him, and Jasper is tempted to stand on his toes and kiss her on the mouth, but he hasn’t even asked her out, and he would absolutely deserve the punch to the face he’d probably get for going for it.
He could remedy this by maybe, possibly, going ahead and asking her out. Their flight’s going to board in ten minutes. If she says no and it gets awkward, they can just read books the entire way to the mission.
"Hey," he says, and he straightens his shoulders without thinking. Maria cocks her head, taking in the movement, and goddamn, she is smart and clever and quick and funny and beautiful. "We’re gonna wrap this up quick, right? I mean, it’s a meet and greet."
"Yeah, just exchanging information, getting some goodwill intel," Maria says. She smiles at him, a little teasing, a little amused, like she smiled at him the first time they talked after she’d punched him in the head in hand-to-hand and gone with him to the infirmary on the instructor’s orders because you weren’t supposed to make your fellow agents bleed. "Why? Got a hot date?"
"I was hoping so," Jasper says. "If you want to grab a slice with me after we’re done. I Yelp-ed the area around the hotel, and there’s a pizza place within walking distance that doesn’t appear to suck."
She doesn’t answer right away, and Jasper watches her think it over. He doesn’t know what she’s thinking, but he’s guessing it’s probably about the pros and cons of agreeing to a date with a co-worker. SHIELD’s got better recruitment and retention rates for women than any other agency on the planet, but they’ve also got the same sexist fuckfaces as anywhere else. Jasper’s watched Maria take plenty of shit for being better at her job than any of them and refusing to cave to their insistence she tone it down to appease their egos. Jasper loves that about her. He loves a lot of things about her. He’s not in love with her, not yet, but they’ve been friends for nearly three years, and wanting to date her has been on his mind a few months, and he thinks he could easily fall in love with her if she wanted to go for it. But she has to want to go for it. He’s asking. She’s considering. If she says no, he’ll hit his favorite shitty Chinese place, eat until he’s up to his ears in MSG and over-salty homemade soy sauce, and hate himself at the SHIELD gym the next day, but he sure as shit won’t stop being her friend.
"Not really feeling pizza," Maria says. "Anything else good around there?"
"Local burger place, but it’s only three stars," Jasper replies, and no, his heart does not fucking explode, but it might come close.
"Above average," Maria says. "Pretty good odds."
"Yeah," Jasper agrees, and he feels himself grinning. She grins back, leans down, and kisses him on the cheek. "Pretty fucking good odds."