Skye started it. That would be the childish defence May would use, if called upon to do so. Not that it was necessary, as none of the others knew. To call it a war was such a harsh term, but it was a little bit accurate.
It had started over two months ago, just after they had rescued Coulson from the Clairvoyant, and yes, Skye was the instigator.
Not intentionally though.
She had been trying to get Ward, expecting him to be the one to enter the gym where she had rigged the bag of flour to empty onto his head.
Unfortunately for Skye, it was not Ward who entered the gym.
Almost before the trap was sprung and the flour was dumped onto the pilot, Skye was sprinting out the door to hide under someone's bunk, horrified.
After the initial shock, May shook her head to clear her hair of the white powder and grinned, narrowing her eyes. The new kid wanted to start something? She had better be prepared.
Skye was scared witless for the next few hours. She didn't mean to hit May. She knew that she had problems interacting with people, didn't want to be friends with any of them, and dumping a sack of flour on top of her didn't seem like the best way to change her mind on that.
She stayed on edge until she opened a kitchen cupboard for breakfast and it opened with an explosion of glitter, coating her face and body. "FITZ!" She screamed on instinct.
The engineer ran into the kitchen at her call, then doubled over with laughter. "That's brilliant, that is." He said, "Who did that?"
Skye stared at him for a moment. Fitz hadn't done it. But who-
It is on.
Skye retaliated. Playing to her strengths, she hacked May's headset so that it blasted the chorus from 'I believe I can fly' the next time they took off.
May didn't say anything about it, but when she saw Skye, once they were up in the air, she gave the hacker a dour glare, along with an almost suppressed smile.
A few days later Skye opened her laptop to find the blue screen of death. Her horrified screaming reached the gym before she realised that May had simply hidden the icons and changed her background.
May could hear the frankly inventive swearing from the cockpit and had to hold back laughter. So help her, she was enjoying this.
The next time she put on her sunglasses to combat the glare of the sun, she found that the lenses had been obstructed by pictures of Nicholas Cage. She laughed for the first time in a long time. It seemed like she and Skye had the same idea of what a joke was. She had been at the academy with many trainees who would publicly humiliate each other, draw on each other while they were sleeping, steal clothes while another trainee was in the shower.
It was kind of boring. Uncreative. And a little mean.
Not that creativity was all there was.
Skye flung herself onto her bunk to go to sleep that night and a loud long farting noise broke forth.
Simmons knocked on her door after five minutes of hysterical laughter to find out if she was okay. Skye just waved the whoopee cushion at her, red faced with mirth. It wasn't even that it was that funny, but Melinda May had hidden a whoopee cushion under her mattress and Skye would never look at her the same way again.
She belatedly realised who had gotten Fitz with the whipped cream a few weeks previously. She left it under the cushion on the pilots seat. For the rest of the day there was a hint of a smile on May's face that wouldn't go away.
The back and forth continued for a few weeks. Neither of them said anything to the other, nor anyone else. There were surprisingly few misfires, almost all by Skye, the most memorable of which was when she manufactured a fake head in a jar with a picture of her own head, and Fitz had found it in the fridge.
He didn't speak to Skye for three days.
May woke one morning, like any other, and started her tai chi. When she was making breakfast afterwards, Coulson joined her, the others were still asleep. He smiled in that way that made her feel like the floor had disappeared, offered a perfectly wrapped gift and said, "Happy birthday."
She had forgotten. "Thank you."
"How many is it now?" They had an ongoing rapport of joking about their age.
"Almost half a century." She grinned.
Coulson laughed. "Wow, that's something."
"Like you can talk." May was still smiling. "What is it now, twenty thousand days?"
He loved her like this. Happy and relaxed, a teasing glint in her eyes. She picked lightly at the tape and Coulson groaned. He had forgotten how long May took to unwrap things. "Just open it!" He urged, but she only grinned and took as long as humanly possible.
Coulson couldn't settle on one thing, so there were two gifts wrapped together. One was a group photo of the team, framed. They were all smiling, even May herself. She and Coulson were standing normally, but Skye was forcibly dragging Ward and Fitzsimmons into a group hug, which they were all resisting. There was also a large mug which read 'Keep Calm, I'm the Pilot'.
"I figured that the others wouldn't be able to steal that one."
May smiled softly at the picture and, before she could second guess herself, embraced him.
"Thank you." She said again.
Coulson was a little surprised by the hug, but reciprocated, "You're welcome." He mumbled, savouring the feeling of her in his arms, so strong, but so small. She was a being of contradictions.
She requested that Phil not tell the others. The idea of them having a party about her was not something that appealed to May at all. She hated being in the spotlight. So she was surprised when she entered the cockpit after lunch to find a sloppily wrapped gift and a cupcake with a lit candle in it on the dash.
There was a post-it stuck to the gift. 'I figured you didn't want the others to know, so I didn't say anything.' The messy handwriting could only be Skye's. 'Happy birthday though.'
There was another note under the first. 'Nothing's booby trapped, I promise.' May smiled. That was kind of sweet. Assuming that Skye hadn't actually booby trapped anything. She must have hacked her personnel file.
The present turned out to be a couple of books. The first bragged '101 Imaginative Pranks', the second was a novel titled 'The Book Thief', which May had heard of but not read.
She spent the rest of the afternoon nibbling away the cupcake little by little and flicking idly through the books. All in all a very good day.
So of course something had to come along and ruin it.
First they found out about Skye's past, which had destroyed the girl. She was locked up in her room for days, unapproachable. May didn't try. She didn't even know what she would say.
Then it got worse.
Then it got even worse than that.
Skye was barely clinging to life in a hospital bed and all any of them could do was watch. This wasn't supposed to happen. It wasn't supposed to be like this, but May had seen so many people die in the field now that she knew death felt a certain way, and no matter how much she fought and screamed against it, that feeling wouldn't go away.
They saved her. Not that May could take much credit for that. Fitzsimmons worked out where the secret lab was, Ward, Fitz and Coulson stormed the place while Simmons kept Skye alive for the precious minutes it took to bring her the drug. All May could do was fly the plane.
Skye was still unconscious, breathing through a tube, but Simmons said that she was getting better. The scientist refused to leave her side for at least a few more hours, but May had left her with a blanket and a cup of tea, as well as a buzzer if she needed any help.
None of them had gotten any sleep in over forty-eight hours. Food had been patchy, and every single one of the team had been pushed to their limits.
Coulson was asleep. Ward was asleep. Fitz was asleep. Simmons was probably asleep, given any problem with Skye would make the machines she was hooked up to go wild. May slid the door to her bunk open, the usual smooth sound cutting through her dozy consciousness.
As soon as she entered the trap was sprung; a large can of snakes exploding from the shelf on one side of May's bunk.
The pilot yelped and collided with her door as she flinched away, then hoped she hadn't woken any of the others. There was an absence of complaint, so it seemed that she hadn't.
May looked at the brightly coloured snakes littered across her floor and felt the hot sting of tears burning her eyes. She knew that grief didn't always make sense, and that emotions sometimes didn't follow logic, but Skye was okay now.
She didn't bother to try to reason with it. She was too wound up and tired. Instead, May kicked off her boots and lay down on her side in her bunk, letting her fatigue take over, allowing the few tears that had built up burn a trail down her face, and fell asleep.
Skye woke up the next day. She wasn't very lucid, but just to see her was enough for her team. She was recovering very rapidly, and Simmons was, no matter what she said, a competent doctor. May had brought them food first, lunch, but Skye was asleep at the time. Simmons promised to keep Skye's meal for her when she woke up, and thanked May profusely for the sandwiches. Maybe she saw the concern buried under layers of carefully controlled expressions. Maybe she was just hungry.
It was another twenty-four hours after that until May went to see Skye again. She told herself that she should let the girl rest, but it was more of an excuse than anything.
When she walked through the door, Skye smiled. She looked better, but still thoroughly weakened. "Hey," She said, sitting up and wincing, "Haven't seen you since I woke up."
"I wasn't sure if you would remember that." May said, taking a seat beside the bed. "Where's Simmons?"
"Took some of my blood samples to the lab for a test." Skye coughed softly, "And I remember most of it, more or less." She cocked her head. "Did Coulson cry?"
Skye gaped for a moment, then laughed, "Wow, I don't even have the heart to hold that against him."
May smiled minutely but said nothing. A moment later she gently tossed something onto Skye's lap.
Skye grinned sheepishly, picking up the can of snakes. "Oh, heh. Thanks."
The older agent shrugged. "It's yours, you don't have to thank me."
They had never spoken of their little war before now. It felt strange. "Think I can get Fitz with it?"
May grinned. "Too easy. If you can get Ward, then I'll be impressed."
Skye narrowed her eyes. "Challenge accepted." She said, laughed, then doubled over, coughing.
"Are you okay?" Skye couldn't help but be touched by the concern, "Do you need some water?"
Skye nodded, getting her breath back. "Simmons left a bottle-" She rasped, gesturing to the bench.
May seized it as Skye breathed deeply and evenly, passing it to the girl.
After she had had a few decent swigs, Skye screwed the lid back on and dropped it to the ground. "Oh, I hate this." She said, "Breathing tubes suck. My throat's killing me."
"I know what you mean." May said, "Once when I had surgery for a gunshot wound I woke up too soon from the anaesthetic."
Skye stared in horror, "Not in the surgery?"
"No," May dispelled her fears, "But very soon after. The tube was still down my throat, and I was slow from the anaesthetic, so I couldn't pull it out." She pulled a face.
Skye shuddered, "And I thought sleeping in the nasty hospital bed was bad."
"That's pretty bad too."
The hacked snorted.
Skye started fiddling with her hands, twisting her rings around. "Can I ask what happened?"
May frowned. "What do you mean?"
She looked so small in the oversized hospital gown. "I mean- I know I got shot, duh," She gestured to her abdomen, "And I remember... some stuff." She blinked heavily, like waking from a dream, "Just sounds and flashes, and I can't make any sense of it."
"Did you ask the others?"
She shrugged. "Simmons has been so busy with... me, and Fitz has been trying to look after her. Haven't really seen much of Ward or Coulson, and it doesn't feel like a group discussion."
May sighed softly and looked away. "It's a long story."
"Can you give me the cliffnotes?"
When May didn't elaborate or look up, Skye reached out and took her hand, "Look, I get that it's been a rough few days for you guys. I know whatever you did was... hard." She said, "So if you don't wanna tell me right now, that's fine." Now Skye was the one avoiding eye contact,
"But can you tell me one thing?"
She looked genuinely afraid. "What is it?"
"What happened to Ian Quinn?"
May sighed again and wove her fingers through Skye's sympathetically. "Nightmares?"
"He's in custody." May said, "Currently being locked in a windowless cell in the Fridge."
She nodded again.
"And I almost beat him to death."
"What?" Skye sat up, gaping.
May actually looked guilty. Like a child caught with her hand in the cookie jar. Her hand freed itself from Skyes only to be encased in her own. "The doctors said you weren't going to make it, so..."
Skye stared, wide-eyed. She let out a breathy laugh, even though it wasn't really funny. "Why'd you say almost? Is he in a coma or something?"
She might be high on painkillers, or May might actually be blushing a little. "No, Coulson stopped me after about thirty seconds. He got a broken nose and a concussion though."
Skye smiled, feeling a surge of affection for the other woman. She knew May cared. She wasn't stupid. But she rarely showed it. "Thanks." She said genuinely, then after a moment of deliberation, pulled her into a tight hug. No more nightmares for her. Imagining May breaking Quinn's nose cleared that up pretty nicely.
The hacker felt May tense a little at the contact, but she didn't pull away. "You're really nice, you know that?"
"Take that back."
Skye giggled. "Nope. You're a sweet teddy bear, accept it."
May's eyes narrowed, but she felt safe smiling a little. "If you tell anyone..."
Skye laughed again, "Don't worry agent softie, your secret's safe with me."
May growled a little. "Get off me."
"Skye." When Skye still hadn't released her after a moment, May let her arms come up and tentatively returned the embrace. "I'm glad you're okay." She murmured.
"Me too." Skye mumbled.
"Did you just stick a 'kick me' sign to my back?"