+ this is dumb and i am trash so i apologise but i thought we could all use the fluff? not that it's straight fluff. bc there are hints (hopefully) of ward's crushingly low self esteem in there. and it's a little bittersweet, with all that's happened.

+ it came from a conversation with louise (singingtowerss | tumblr) in which we were like "but how did they get to that closet?" and then sorta grew bc i was avoiding all the other massive angsty projects i'm working on. (also schoolwork, but w/e)

+ title is from "just a boy" by angus & julia stone

Air ducts are horrible. Honestly, always, without fail, horrible. They are dusty, cramped, and you have to shuffle along on your elbows without making a sound, or the whole building around you will hear you clanking along.

"Ward," Skye hisses ahead of him. She twists her head to look at him. He envies her, a little bit, for being so small. He couldn't turn around if he tried without getting wedged in there. Forever. Which would be both an agonising and embarrassing way to die.

"Yes?" he answers her.

"Left now, yeah?"

He checks the PDA in his hand, which Fitz has uploaded the blueprints of the ventilation system onto. "Yes."

She does a little salute, and smoothly pulls herself round the corner. It would be unprofessional of him to stop for a second to admire her grace. She must be rubbing off on him.

Of course she's rubbing off on him. He knows it. She's trained him to make her coffee and french toast every morning. He'd drop everything to play boardgames with her. He shot someone in cold blood against Garrett's orders because he made some threats against her.

He's hit with an awful feeling, utterly in contrast with the way he feels every time he thinks about Skye. No, the thought of his SO makes him feel decidedly nauseous. HYDRA is out of the shadows now. How long is it going to be before he has to reveal himself? Weeks at a real, huge push, if he manages to stretch every second and avoid Garrett in every way possible.

So probably days at most.

Before he's going to have to leave the team. And leave Skye.

Leaving Skye. That's what makes him really want to be sick. What if Garrett really does come for her, and he can't protect her? He knows there's no way he could forgive himself. He feels a sense of obligation to her. It's not just as her SO, either, he knows that much. He knows it's more than that.

Up ahead, she stops and turns to him again. "Hurry up, Robot," she says. "You're dragging behind. Is all the metal throwing off your hard drive or something?"

She grins at her own awful joke, and he can't help but smile back. She's got that effect. "No," he defends himself. "You just have a distinct size advantage."

"Are you calling me small?" She makes a face of mock offence.

"Yes," he says. She raises an eyebrow. He might be digging himself a hole here. "But it's a good thing."

"Oh?" She's still trying to maintain an offended look, but she's full on grinning at him again, and it's doing weird things to his insides. Not necessarily unpleasant. Just weird.

"Yes. It makes you… you know. More…" He desperately searches for a word that isn't 'adorable', because he feels like that might earn him a kick in the nose. "Agile?"

She rolls her eyes. "Whatever, Terminator." She turns away again, shuffling onwards.

He follows, trying to get the scenarios out of his head in which he tells her how beautiful she is, and other such mushy things. How is he ever going to be able to live without her? Without her teasing and her smiles and her? He needs her.

He stares at her feet. Fuck, he thinks. I'm in love.

Well, he still has a few days at least, hopefully, maybe.

It's now or never, really.

Really. If he doesn't act now, he might never get the chance.

Not actually now though. He's going to wait at least until they're out of the air ducts. Because they're dusty and horrible, and he's not sure he can speak. Which is definitely the dust, and not that he's having a panic attack. Why would he be having a panic attack? It's not like he's planning on confessing his feelings to possibly the love of his life in a few short minutes.

God, what is he supposed to even say to her?

Hey Skye. I think I love you.

No, too forward. And sudden. And big. And scary.

And stupid. She would probably think he was trying to make a really bad joke. Or she might just freak out and never, ever speak to him again because he's a total dumb monster.

Skye, I most definitely have some incredibly strong, debilitating feelings for you.

Probably still a bit much.

It was a terrible idea anyway. He's going to screw everything up. He's going to scare her off, and she will never want to be with him. Ever.

He's going to die alone.

You're pretty cool.

Maybe not enough.

Shit. They're nearly at the ends of the vents. She's got the hatch down to the janitor's closet open already and is wiggling through. Does he really want to tell her how he feels in a janitor's closet anyway? He imagined it being much more romantic.

Scratch that. He doesn't actually imagine it. He just imagines her sort of knowing and everything magically working out.

Maybe he should just leave it. Save them both some pain.

No. No, he has to do this, for his own sanity if nothing else.

Maybe we could grab a drink?