Skye was inconsolable. Unapproachable. She had barely sobbed what had happened in the temple, how Tripp had died and she had developed some kind of earthquake power, before barricading herself inside her bunk. No one saw her leave, but she had eventually, only for long enough to barricade herself inside her room at the Playground instead.
Everyone had tried approaching her. Coulson visited every day, even trying to override her door lock, but of course Skye was a hacker. He tried to comfort her, telling her that there was no way that any of them would leave her, but it did nothing.
Fitz and Simmons came down separately, trying to coax her from her room with promises of movie nights and prank wars. They also received no response.
Bobbi tried to talk to her once, but found herself woefully unequipped for dealing with this situation, as well as not knowing Skye very well to begin with.
May had been bringing food down three times a day. She said nothing, only knocked on her door and announced that the food was there. She would leave it outside the door and walk away, but the plates disappeared, so she was probably eating it.
After a week May decided that she needed to do something. Skye wasn't coming out on her own, and she refused to let this girl go through what she had gone through. "There are sandwiches today." She said, after knocking and putting the plate down, and listened carefully for the movement that meant Skye was awake. "Skye-" Melinda broke off. This was hard. Words were not her forte. "You don't have to talk or come out, just..."
One hand resting on the door, she slid down to the ground, kneeling as if in prayer. "I know you're scared." She said softly. The earthquakes that had been shaking their base was proof of that. "And I know it's not for the reasons that the others think."
Melinda thought that the shaking was another one of Skye's, but then realised that it was herself. "I don't know what it's like to have this happen, but I know how you feel. I know what you're doing." She drew a deep breath. "When I came back from Bahrain I did this too. Locked myself away. I was scared." God, Skye had better be listening to this. "Coulson tried to help, tried to... convince me that no one thought I was a monster, but he didn't understand. I pushed him away."
Melinda felt a slight pressure on the door and knew that Skye was sitting on the other side. "He thought that I was scared about what other people would do or think, but that wasn't it." She trembled. "Every time I walked into a room I knew exactly how long it would take for me to kill everyone in it. How I would do it, how- how far I would get before someone took me down. I always felt like I was a second away from killing someone, and that terrified me."
This time when the walls shook Melinda knew that it was Skye. "When I finally started going out, I always made sure that I was around some specialist or another, that they were armed, and I wasn't. I don't know if anyone noticed. I never told Phil, or anyone else. I didn't see him for months afterwards." Her eyes darted to the corner, triple checking that no one was there. "I think it was over a year actually."
"I can't make it stop." It was the first time Skye had spoken since returning. "A-and you're all too stupid to leave me."
"Not the word I'd use." May masked her surprise.
The walls shook more and Skye's voice made it clear that she was in tears. "You're all so... breakable. Coulson's like some statue, he's not gonna move, he'll just crumble." A sob escaped. "A-and you- you're like a file- you've got so much pressure on you already, if I pile on any more you'll just..."
Break. The word wasn't spoken, but it was heard nonetheless. The comparisons surprised May in their accuracy. She didn't realise she was so obvious. This was Skye though. "You're right, in a way." She said softly, trying to find the words to explain. "But it's not like that." Phil was easier. "Coulson's not a statue. He's a cliff, a mountain. No matter how much of him crumbles away, he'll still be there." Because that was who he was.
Skye said nothing, but the shaking walls were enough.
"Me- I-" Melinda looked around again, because she really didn't want anyone to hear this. "You don't ever have to worry about breaking me, Skye. I'm already broken." She heard Skye sob again from within her room. "The pressure's the only thing keeping me in one piece any more."
There was silence for a while after that, punctuated only by Skye's gasping breathing as the quaking lessened. Finally, she softly asked. "If I open the door will you let me hug you?"
May smirked a little, standing up. "Only if you come and have lunch in the common area with everyone else." She knew Skye. She was going to come out either way.
A moment later the door whooshed open. Skye stood in the doorframe for a moment, frozen. She looked tired. Bedraggled. Her hair was dirty and unbrushed, she was in the same clothes as she had been in in San Juan, and her eyes were red from tears and sleep deprivation.
May surprised her by hugging first. Skye clung to her in return, noting that May was really holding her quite tightly. That was the person she was though. She wasn't soft and welcoming like Coulson. Melinda May was tough and tangible. She was a solid presence in Skye's life. She buried her head in her SO's shoulder, squeezing her eyes shut.
Melinda sighed. "Don't make my mistakes Skye." She said softly. "Please."
She sounded so helpless. "I'll try." It occurred to Skye that May had rarely asked anything of her before. Anything that May wanted from her was stated or demanded. She might as well have been begging.
May pulled away. "You stink." She said, pulling a face.
Skye laughed breathlessly. "Sorry." She muttered.
Skye knew that May didn't usually let her emotions show on her face, but the levels of concern and affection now shining in her eyes made Skye want to hug her again. "Shower first." Her SO said, "Then come out for lunch."
"Okay." Skye said softly.
May raised a challenging eyebrow. "And if you're not down in half an hour I'll kick down your door."
Skye smiled, but May could see the fear fill her again at the thought of being around the others.
"Hey." She said to get her student's attention. "That only way to get over this one is to face it, trust me."
Skye bit the inside of her lip. "I don't want to hurt anyone." It felt different to what May said. For her hurting someone would be something she intended to happen. For Skye it could just be that she got upset or... anything.
"I could, and you know it."
May set her jaw. "Fine." She said, an undercurrent frustration in her voice. She drew her gun from her back pocket. "Icer. If things get out of control, and you really can't stop, I'll stop you."
Skye found herself fighting not to cry again. She knew that, for all her intimidation, May hated the idea of hurting her. Even in sparring matches she was weirdly careful. The only times she had put any kind of real force behind it was in an emergency. "Thank you." Because it cost May a lot to offer, but the safety net made her feel so much safer.
All of a sudden Skye remembered another 'gifted', from another time. Hannah Hutchins. She remembered how angry she was that May had shot her when things had gotten out of control. A few tears escaped and Skye sniffled a little. "A lot's happened since the last welcome wagon, huh?"
"Yeah." May said softly, remembering. Things had been simpler then. Easier. Phil was only in charge of a team, not an organisation. They weren't on the run from the government or a nazi faction bent on world domination. She was always able to protect her team.
But Skye had hated her then. The girl was molten in all her feelings, and she hadn't liked May one bit. She had been screwing Ward, the thought of which now made her feel sick. Maybe the big picture was harder now, but she had to cherish the little things. Like Skye, and the rest of her team.
This time Skye hugged first, knocking the air out of her SO with the force of it. May froze, surprised. This was different to before, when she had been offering Skye comfort. This was tight and close and a little desperate. This was 'please don't ever leave' and 'thank you' and 'I'm sorry' and a million other things that Skye may never say.
May returned the embrace, one hand going around Skye's back, the other gently cradling her head. She hoped that Skye understood the things that she couldn't say, and maybe she did because her arms around May's ribs tightened and the floor shook.
After another moment the older woman sighed. "Okay, that's enough."
Skye smiled. "Have I used up my hug quota for the month?"
May smirked. "Call this one an early Christmas present."
Skye laughed and extracted herself from the embrace, wiping her eyes. "Thanks."
There was an unusual tenderness in May's eyes. "Any time." The moment ended. "Now go." She pointed towards the bathroom. "Shower, then lunch."
The hacker nodded, shooting back a half-hearted grin as she headed to the showers. Maybe things would be okay.
Melinda watched her go. Skye was going to be just fine. She was brave and strong and surrounded by people who loved her. She would be okay.