Skye's dreams never made any kind of sense. Not in a fantasy kind of way, in a 'how did I think this was logical?' kind of way. Dreams of her laptop breaking and being taken to hospital for stitches, then being sold by one of the nurses. Dreams of driving like a bat out of hell to escape a tidal wave, but needing to stop every ten minutes to stretch her legs.
She was sure she could look them up and find some deep metaphorical reason for them being that way, and explain what those particular ones meant, but she couldn't be bothered. Dreams were dreams, TV for when you were sleeping. Skye just got the surrealist exhibition apparently.
Her nightmares were only slightly more realistic. The problem was, no matter how weird the dream, Skye didn't realise that it was a dream until she woke up. So whatever twisted sense the nightmare made, she would still wake up with tears in her eyes.
Tonight was no different.
Of course the foster agency wasn't still keeping tabs on her.
Of course this Bus wasn't a foster home.
Of course they weren't coming to take her away.
And of course the team wouldn't let them if they tried.
She had some pretty deep-seated abandonment issues, okay?
Skye woke from the nightmare gasping for air, on the verge of hyperventilation. She balled her fists and forced herself to take calm, slow breaths. It worked, to a degree.
Tears had still been shed while she was asleep, so her eyes stung. She had kicked the blankets off of herself in her sleep, so she was chilled to the bone, in a way that felt like she would never be warm again.
Skye didn't want to go back to sleep. She probably could if she tried, but she didn't want to.
Instead she pulled on her workout clothes and crept down to the gym, trying not to wake the others.
When she thought about it, the need to do something after one of her nightmares of being taken away made sense. She needed to remind herself that she was useful to the team. She needed to practice to prove to herself that she was always getting better.
Skye rolled the punching bag over to the middle of the gym and, with some effort, managed to hook it up.
The hacker lost herself in the pounding of fists on leather, not paying any attention to her surroundings, thinking only left right right left over and over.
So she almost jumped out of her skin when a voice carried through the gym, "You're too tense."
Skye stopped, eyes wide, trebling for some reason that she couldn't quite fathom. She didn't know how long she had been punching the bag, but she was plastered with sweat, so it must have been a while.
May approached down the stairs from where she had been sitting on the higher level, watching. She was in her usual workout gear, except her hair wasn't tied back.
Skye finally registered what she had said. "Huh?"
The older agent stood beside her now. Without her usual boots, Skye noticed, May was actually smaller than her. "You're too tense when you punch, you should relax more."
Skye glanced at her sideways. "I thought the idea was to be, like, hard, or something."
May nodded, "To a degree." She conceded, "But if you're tense all over then you lose any dexterity." She demonstrated, punching the bag as Skye had been. She looked stiff and slow. "The bag won't hit back, an enemy will. Plus you risk injury."
"I can't just flop my arms at people." She didn't bother to ask why May was up. She wouldn't tell anyway.
The older agent shook her head. "No. You need to find a balance. Balance is the key. Two opposing forces pulling against each other."
"Like ropes holding up a tent." Skye said, trying to feel out the balance of tension and calm. She had never thought of opposition as a good thing. In her ideal world, people would believe in the greater good and everything would flow.
May nodded, "And picking something up." She said, watching Skye carefully. "Thumb against fingers, gravity pulling down as you pull up."
"Opposition." Skye mumbled, falling back into a rhythm on the punching bag as May held it still, and that was opposition too. It was true, yin and yang and all that stuff, but she hadn't thought of it in that way before. "Guess that explains why our team's so good, huh?"
She nodded again. "That's one way of looking at it." Every member of their team had their own views, their own set of morals. That was as valuable as any training. Even Fitz and Simmons would often clash. May bit the inside of her lip imperceptibly. "You understand why I let Hand send you away, right?"
Skye looked at her in surprise. Partly at the words, partly at the meekness in May's voice. It wasn't like her to be shy. Maybe it was though. Maybe Skye just didn't notice. "Yeah." She stopped hitting the bag, grabbing a towel to wipe her face with. "I figured that out pretty fast when I actually thought about it for a sec." She smiled tightly. "Besides, I'm used to it."
The sympathy and guilt hit May like a freight train. How long had Skye felt like she wouldn't or couldn't come back? Minutes, hours? "I'm sorry." It was the first time she had said that in a while. "I couldn't say anything more with Hand around."
"It's okay, we got him back." It honestly meant a lot that May would trust her with Coulson's life. From what Skye could work out, there was nothing she valued more.
May's eyes were wearing a hole in her head. There were a hundred things that she wanted to say. That Skye was a part of their team, that she deserved to be on this plane, that she would never send her away like that, that she trusted the hacker with her life, but the words stuck in her throat. Sometimes May hated being like this. "Come on." She said, taking a step away from the punching bag and raising her fists, "Let's see what you can do."
Skye backed away so quickly she almost tripped over her own feet. "You're joking, right?" She said incredulously. "You'll wipe the floor with me!"
May raised a frank eyebrow. "What would be the point in that?" There was no point denying that she could annihilate Skye if she wanted to. The key word was 'if'. "You wouldn't learn anything."
"I'd learn not to screw with you."
May smirked. "I think you know that already."
Skye grinned tentatively and some of the tension eased.
"Come on." May gestured for her to begin. "I won't hurt you." Skye raised an eyebrow and May's smirk widened. "Much."
"There it is."
May pursed her lips momentarily and Skye realised that was her trying not to laugh. Her smile widened, then she threw her first punch, which was easily deflected. "Remember your breathing."
"Huh?" Skye tried again, only to end up with a firm but restrained punch to her shoulder.
"Breathe calmly." May said as their arms met in a slow but precise duel. She didn't really need to think about it, and after a few minutes of watching Skye sort out her breathing she swept Skye's legs out from under her, sending her crashing to the ground.
Skye winced, picking herself up. "You're timid." May said, trying to be gentle and not quite succeeding. "That's your problem."
The hacker stretched her arms a little. "Really? You can tell that after sparring for, like, two minutes?"
May shrugged. "It's very common. I had the same issue."
Skye bit the inside of her lip. "I don't know how to stop." She admitted. "I mean, changing stance I can do, but..."
"Take ownership of the space."
Skye looked at the other woman.
"Every time you walk into a room, that room becomes yours. You're not scared of me, or Ward, or anyone else you're fighting, not really. It's the room, the space. It doesn't feel like it's yours, so what happens in it is not up to you."
How the hell did May know that?
"Do something every time you enter a room. Put down a pencil on the table, leave the door open a crack. Claim the space, and then you have control over it."
"I don't though."
She shrugged again. "It's a matter of perception. You move like you're scared to go over some kind of line, but using the space to your advantage can save your life." May wasn't stupid, she knew why this was a problem for Skye, who had grown up in orphanages and foster homes. She had very little that was hers unconditionally. "This is your plane as much as it is mine." She said gently. "Or anyone elses."
Skye shrugged awkwardly. "Doesn't feel like that. I stowed away."
"At first maybe."
The hacker looked down. She didn't really feel any different than she did those months ago.
May caught her gaze, holding it. "Coulson took off that bracelet because he trusts you." She said. "I let Hand kick you off the plane because I trust you."
Skye raised her head, eyes wide, innocent and questioning. The other woman nodded, cementing the statements, making Skye accept it. A moment later Skye nodded too and May turned to leave.
"Hey," Skye's voice sounded a little choked and May stopped halfway up the stairs, looking back down at the girl. "You never said, why were you up?"
May hesitated momentarily. "Same as you." She said, continuing on her way and not looking back.