Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Author's Note: This is a little something that popped into my head after watching episode eleven. I think finding Coulson the way they did would have had a much stronger effect on Skye. I also wanted to see something more between she and May after the harsh things May said to her in the last episode. So this is my take on all of that, plus a little Coulson at the end. Hopefully it's not too out of character. Enjoy!
Back Where We Belong
Skye jerks awake with his name on her lips. Her heart is slamming inside her chest and her breath is coming in labored gasps. It takes her a moment to realize that she's in her cabin on the Bus. For the smallest fraction of a second she feels safe.
And then it all comes rushing back. She remembers watching the explosion consume Mike, remembers the helicopter flying away with Coulson and all the emotional turmoil it caused her. But worst of all are the memories from that afternoon. She can still see him laying there, his body twisting in pain as he begged to die. He told her later that it had all been a dream. But Skye has told enough lies in her life to recognize them in others. Whatever they did to him triggered some kind of memory. And as much as he's trying to pretend that is hasn't, something about it has changed him.
The thought of seeing him lying on that table in so much pain snaps something deep inside of Skye. She's spent the last few days running on adrenaline, and that has allowed her to bury all of the emotions churning inside of her. But now the adrenaline is gone and the realization is hitting hard. They almost lost him. Coulson is the closest Skye has ever had to a father and he almost died.
She leans forward and presses her forehead against her knees as first one muffled sob and then another slips out of her mouth. Silent tears begin to trickle down her cheeks. She can't tell if she's crying from fear or relief. Maybe it's some strange mixture of the two. Because even now, even knowing that he's been lying to her about her parents, she still can't bear the thought of losing him, of losing any of them. And somehow that scares her more than all the rest of it put together.
May is used to not sleeping. She can count on one hand the number of times she's slept in her bunk for a whole night since coming on the Bus. It just doesn't happen. Ever since the day people started calling her the Cavalry, she just hasn't been much of a sleeper. Some nights she doesn't even go back to her bunk, choosing instead to remain in the comforting familiarity cockpit. Sometimes she switches on the autopilot and lets herself doze off, but it's never for more than a few hours at a time.
Tonight is no exception. It's past midnight and May is staring up at the ceiling of her small cabin. She knows in her head that her body is exhausted. Who wouldn't be after the last few days they've had? But no matter how she tries, she just can't seem to go to sleep.
Finally she can't take it anymore. She swings her feet onto the floor and slips out of her room. The Bus is quiet as she starts making her way up to the cockpit. She loves nights like this when there's no sound and no commotion. Everything is so peaceful.
And then she hears it. A tiny sniffling like someone is trying to hide the fact that they're crying. Her path takes her straight past Skye's bunk and it only takes a moment to tell that the sound is coming from there. May isn't entirely surprised. The two of them found Coulson in a horrible state. By the time the others arrived he had managed to pull himself together, but the sight of him begging to die is still fresh in May's mind. It's clearly tormenting Skye as well.
May starts to walk right by Skye's bunk and leave her in peace, but something holds her in place. She's never been good at dealing with crying. Actually, she's not very good with emotions in general. And after the terrible things she said to Skye just before Coulson's kidnapping, the two of them are still on shaky ground. She's probably the last person Skye wants to find her like this.
But then she remembers what Skye was wearing when they met up that afternoon. The jacket had been one thing. That could be passed off as a completely coincidental attempt to look like a secret agent. It was the sunglasses in her back pocket that had tipped May off. Of all the sunglasses Skye could have bought, she picked a pair that looked exactly like May's. Because even after everything May said, something in Skye still looks up to her, still wants to be like her.
Skye has never been afraid of May the way Fitzsimmons used to be. She never saw her brokenness like Coulson or her usefulness like Ward. When Skye looks at May she sees straight through all the walls and bluster to the woman beneath. And as terrifying as that can be, it also makes May feel like maybe someday she could get back to the person she used to be, the person Skye still sees.
That thought is enough to harden her resolve. May raises her hand and knocks.
"Skye?" she calls quietly through the door. "It's May."
The sniffling stops immediately. May can almost feel Skye holding her breath as she waits to see what the older agent wants. For a long moment May doesn't even know what to say. She's not good at this. But she feels obligated to try. Skye is the reason they got to Coulson as quickly as they did. Who knows how long it would've taken them to find him Agent Hand's way. Skye saved his life. And for that she deserves at least this much.
"Coulson's going to be okay," May tells her. Somehow she knows in her gut that this is what Skye needs to hear. "We got him back. Because of you." She hesitates momentarily, trying to decide what to say. Finally she settles for, "You did good."
The only answer she receives is silence. Skye is probably caught between embarrassment at being discovered crying and shock that May is actually saying something nice to her. When it becomes clear that she won't be getting a response, May turns and walks away from the door. She tried.
"You knew, didn't you?" Skye's voice suddenly asks. May turns to find that the door to the small cabin has slid open. Skye is standing in the doorway in an oversized Han Solo T-shirt and a pair of grey sweatpants. Her eyes are red, but the tears have stopped. When she sees May turn, she quickly reaches up and wipes away the remaining tearstains.
"You knew I would find him faster on my own," Skye adds for the sake of clarification.
"I had a hunch," May says matter-of-factly. A tiny smile pulls at Skye's mouth.
"Thank-you," she says softly.
"What for?" May asks in confusion.
"For believing in me," Skye says. She glances down at her sock-covered feet as if they give her courage somehow. "I know you've had your doubts about me. I'm not exactly a model agent."
"No, you're not," May tells her flatly. She takes two steps forward so she's standing in front of Skye. "You're emotional, impulsive, and unorthodox. You ignore orders and disrespect the chain of command. You throw protocol completely out the window. You are without a doubt the most unlikely S.H.I.E.L.D. candidate I have ever seen."
Skye is staring down at the floor, unable to meet May's eyes. She looks for all the world like a kicked puppy. But May isn't finished.
"And you are exactly what this team needs," May tells her. Skye very slowly looks up. She's shocked to find that May is completely serious.
"Do you mean that?" Skye asks softly.
"Without you, Fitz and Ward would have died in Ossetia," May says as a way of answering. "Without you, we would never have found Coulson. He was right to keep you around. You're a part of this team, Skye, no matter what Agent Hand says. Or HQ or anyone else. You belong here just as much as the rest of us."
The tears are back in Skye's eyes, but this time it's for a completely different reason. She and May have been more or less at odds from the moment the hacker set foot on the Bus. To have the hardened older agent finally accepting her is like watching the last piece of a puzzle fall into place. For the first time in her life, Skye finally feels like she belongs.
On a sudden impulse, she reaches out and wraps her arms tightly around the older agent's neck. May freezes at first. She's not used to such physical affection. But after a brief hesitation she forces her arms to lift and very awkwardly wraps them around Skye's back.
"Thank-you," Skye whispers. Her voice is thick with emotion.
May doesn't respond. She doesn't have to. The fact that she's actually returning the hug is acknowledgement enough. She's mildly surprised to find that the hug is not nearly as invasive as she might have imagined. In fact, it feels rather nice. Although she'd die before admitting that to anyone.
Skye pulls away after a short moment. She doesn't want to make May uncomfortable.
"I, uh..." she stammers awkwardly. She motions over her shoulder with her thumb. "I should... try to get some sleep."
"Skye?" May says as the young hacker turns away. Skye turns back around, her eyes silently asking the question. "Next time you can't sleep... there's an open seat in the cockpit."
This time Skye can't hide her smile. They both know it's the closest May will ever come to apologizing for her harsh words. The gesture warms Skye's heart.
"As long as you're quiet," May adds quickly, her usual bluster returning. She can't let the hacker think she's getting soft. "If you start chattering, I'll throw you in the holding cell."
"And blast me out the airlock," Skye finishes with a chuckle. The smile on her face makes it clear that she's not the least bit intimidated. "I'll keep that in mind.
"Good," May says. She's clearly not sure how to finish this conversation. Skye reaches out and touches her door, preparing to head back into her cabin.
"G'night, May," she says warmly.
"Good night," May says politely.
Skye heads back into her cabin and slides the door closed behind her. She climbs back under the blanket, feeling far less tense than she was just a few minutes ago. She's asleep almost before her head touches the pillow. It's the best night's sleep she's had in a long time.
May manages to get a few hours of sleep from the pilot's seat. She's awakened by the rising sun coming through the large windshield. It's truly a beautiful sight. This is May's favorite part of the day: watching the rising sun from the peace and quiet of her cockpit.
A short time later the door quietly swings opens. May looks over her shoulder expecting to see Coulson with a morning greeting and a course adjustment. She's mildly surprised to see Skye standing there with two thermoses in her hand.
"I brought you coffee," Skye says, holding out the plain black thermos. "I thought maybe... you could use some."
"Thanks," May says skeptically. She reaches out and hesitantly takes the offered thermos. She takes a slow sip, expecting it to be either too watery or too strong, but it's actually surprisingly good. Skye is carefully watching her face and she relaxes just the tiniest bit when May seems satisfied.
"Is that seat taken?" she asks carefully with a pointed look at the co-pilot's seat. May holds out her hand in a signal for Skye to take the seat. The young hacker carefully sits down and pulls her knees up to her chest. Then she looks out at the sky, which still looks a bit like a box of spilled paint.
"Wow," she says in awe. "It's beautiful up here. Do you watch the sunrise every day?"
"Usually," May says in typical one-word fashion. Skye takes a sip of her coffee as her wide eyes continue to take it all in.
A comfortable silence falls as they both drink their coffee. May is honestly surprised that Skye can keep quiet for so long, but the younger girl seems perfectly content to sit there and watch the sky. The easy silence filling the cockpit is just one more sign that May has indeed misjudged Skye.
Skye manages to remain quite for almost half an hour. She slowly drinks her coffee, clearly savoring each sip. When the thermos is finally empty, she sets it down on the floor of the cockpit. Then her eyes fall on the dashboard and all the instruments it holds.
"How do you remember what all of these buttons do?" she asks curiously. She reaches out to touch a flashing light, but May gives her a pointed look. Skye immediately withdraws her hand. "Right. No talking. Sorry."
May turns back to the windshield, but there's just the barest hint of a smile on her face. Something about Skye seems to pull out the livelier side of May. And right now that part of her has a completely crazy idea.
She lets the silence reign for a moment before speaking.
"Have you ever flown a plane?" she asks, still looking straight ahead.
"No," Skye says slowly. She can't see where this is going. May looks over at her with a carefully blank expression.
"Do you want to learn?" she asks.
The grin that crosses Skye's face is one of the biggest May has ever seen.
Coulson is awakened by a slightly bumpier stretch of flying than usual. They must be flying through some turbulence. It slowly levels off and then the Bus is flying straight again. By that point the alarm clock is about to ring, so Coulson rolls himself out of bed. His body still aches from yesterday. He's honestly surprised he slept at all.
He gets dressed and brushes his teeth before leaving his cabin. Just because he feels terrible doesn't mean he has to look it. Then he heads for the kitchen. It's still early, so he isn't really surprised that he seems to be the only one awake.
Coulson reaches the kitchen to find that the electric coffeepot is already on. After getting out his personal mug, he discovers that the pot is also half empty. It seems he wasn't the only person on the Bus who had trouble sleeping.
He takes his coffee and begins gently blowing on it as he heads up to the cockpit. He likes to check in with May first thing in the morning just to be sure there weren't any problems during the night. No matter how early he wakes up, she always beats him there. He's beginning to think she sleeps in that cockpit.
His coffee has cooled enough to start drinking by the time he reaches the door to the cockpit. He's just about to knock when he hears voices inside. Curious, he presses his ear to the door.
"The can came right down on her head," May is saying. "She was completely covered in paint."
"Oh no!" Skye laughs. Coulson is mildly surprised to hear her voice. Usually she and May drive each other crazy.
"It wasn't until she pulled the can off her head that we realized it wasn't Maria," May says.
"Who was it?" Skye asks in suspense. Coulson can imagine her sitting sideways in the co-pilot's seat with her knees to her chest as she eagerly listens to tales of May's younger days.
"Agent Romanoff," May says drily.
"No!" Skye gasps in shock. "You didn't."
"We did," May informs her.
"Was she mad?"
"So what did you do?"
"We made a swift tactical decision."
"We ran. Fast."
Skye's laughter echoes through the door of the cockpit. Coulson feels a smile crossing his face at the sound of it. It's a welcome change from the tears she was shedding the night he was abducted. And to hear her and May getting along so well is practically a miracle.
He pushes himself away from the cockpit door and walks back toward his office, sipping quietly at his coffee. He can hear the tired voices of Fitzsimmons as they stumble sleepily into the kitchen in search of their own caffeine fix. Once that gets into their system, the small trickle will turn into a steady stream of chatter that won't stop until they go to bed that night. Grant is probably downstairs by now working on the punching bag as he starts his own morning routine. All is right with the world.
For the first time in days, Coulson suddenly feels a semblance of peace. His team may be bruised, but they are by no means broken. And neither is he. They have gone through the crucible and they have come out stronger.
In spite of everything, Coulson decides that just maybe they're going to be okay.
I hope you enjoyed this small story. Leave me a review and let me know what you thought about it! And also feel free to check out my other Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. story called "Team Movie Night".