A/N: It started out as a part of my drabble series, but as I was writing it, the story kept growing and growing and… turned out to be this. The first four sections were already published in the mentioned series, so you can skip it if you have read that, but after these four sections the story is completely new and never seen before :)
Word Count: 4081
Disclaimer: [Insert funny text here that tells you I don't own Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.]
Today Was a Fairytale
But can you feel this magic in the air?
It must have been the way you kissed me
Grant's dating history is… laughable, to say at least. It is one thing to pick up women for what both of them know is a one-time thing. The same goes for seducing targets on missions. But actually inviting somebody on a date, somebody he actually wants to like him, is completely different.
It's terrifying – in a way it's even more terrifying than facing a dozen hostiles alone, with only one pistol.
So yeah, he's… stressed out. His palms are clammy, his guts are in a twist, and he feels like if he opens his mouth he's gonna stammer. (God, he's worse than a high school freshman.) But damn it, he is a freaking S.H.I.E.L.D. specialist. He can do this.
Every mission's success lies in the planning. Of course, plans sometimes get thrown out of the window once the action starts.
Just like now.
He had a plan. He really had. He was going to get Skye alone. Walk up to her, smile down at her charmingly. Ask her if she's ever tried real Italian food. Because he knows a really great restaurant here in Florence, and if she'd like, he'd love to take her there. Of course doing it in the most charming and confident (bot not cocky) way. Maybe initiate physical contact. Like touching her elbow. Or tucking a lock of hair behind her ear. (Or would that be too much?)
So yeah, he had a plan.
Emphasis of the past tense.
The problem starts where he can't get her alone. Because FitzSimmons are monopolizing her, playing cards with her in the lounge. It's enough to take one glance at her for him to see that she has no intentions of giving up the game any time soon. So he does the next best thing.
He joins the game.
Three rounds of rummy later he's losing pathetically (he's down on his luck and just can't concentrate on the cards when Skye is sitting next him, and she's casually placing her hand on his knee when she gets excited). Two more rounds and he's losing his mind. It's like the steam is collecting up inside of him, the pressure rising, and he's ready to burst.
So he abandons his former strategy, and decides to bring up the topic in front of FitzSimmons.
"So, Skye, I've been thinking…"
"Wait, wait, wait…" she says, not even looking at him, as she starts placing her cards in neat lines on the table. "That's it! I win!" she exclaims, throwing her last card to the center of the table. "You were saying?"
"It's just… ah… Since we're here for a couple of days, and I know this restaurant in downtown – they have amazing lasagna – and I was thinking," he is blubbering. And his gaze is darting around, unable to focus on her face. Damn it, he's pathetic. "So I was thinking that we could go there, if you'd like to."
Skye's eyes go wide in surprise.
"Well, it sounds great. I've been meaning to explore the – Ouch! Simmons!" Fitz's sentence is interrupted, assumedly, by Jemma's foot connecting with his shin.
His painful cry breaks the tension, drawing both Grant's and Skye's eyes to him, but he's watching, rather sheepishly, Simmons, who's glaring at him. Like she's actually annoyed with him, almost like he's not getting something he should –
Oh. Suddenly, there is understanding in his eyes. Jemma's glare softens. Fitz cocks his head towards the galley, to which Jemma answers with a slight nod. They might think that they are being subtle, but they are not. Not at all. It's painfully embarrassing.
"Oh, look," Fitz says, standing up. "It's empty," he picks up the bowl, still half-full with pretzels. "I'd better go and… refill it." And with that he walks to the galley.
"I'd better check on him," Jemma adds, standing as up well, but winking at Grant before joining Fitz.
Finally left alone (sort of left alone. FitzSimmons are still within hearing range), Skye turns towards him, amusement twinkling in her dark eyes.
"You were talking about some restaurant?"
It takes him a moment to compose himself.
"Yes! It's a great place. And I'd love to take you there, if you'd let me."
Skye smirks at, in that knowing way of hers, which makes him sweat.
"Agent Ward, are you… asking me on a date?"
(So much for the best since Romanoff.)
She grins at him, and his heart starts beating so wildly in excitement he's legitimately starting to fear that it'll jump out of his chest.
"Okay. I'm in." And with that, she leans in suddenly and presses a kiss against his cheek (he can hear Simmons gasp in the galley). "Pick me up at seven tomorrow?"
He spends the next twenty hours or so with slightly panicking.
Which is completely irrational. He is facing nothing he should be afraid of – it's just an evening out with Skye. The very Skye he spends most of his time with. The only difference is that now they're not calling it training or hanging out, but a date.
He's having a date with Skye.
It's a completely new paradigm in their relationship – up until now it was enough for him to be a mentor, to be patient with her, to listen to her when she needed somebody to rant to. But now? Now he needs to be interesting, exciting, charming – good enough for her.
It's something he is sure he doesn't qualify for.
Damn it. What was he thinking?
He is so going to make a fool of himself. And Skye is so going to realize that she doesn't want him. Because he's boring, and way too by the book, and stuck up and–
And anyways – what are they going to do? Beyond eating?
He needs a plan. Preferably a fail-proof plan. Like he needs to write a list of good conversation topics. Anything training related is, of course, out of the question. Then what? (He would have such an easier time if he would have a clue what she is talking about when she's chirping about this movie or that series.)
Then, if he survives the dinner part, and Skye still enjoys herself enough that she doesn't want to go back yet, he'll need something else prepared to do with her. Maybe they could take a walk? The historical downtown should be romantic… Right? He'd better look up some satellite images, familiarize himself with the area.
And what he should wear? (He kind of wants to shoot himself.) Go formal, or more casual? Tie or no tie? Should he take a sidearm with himself?
He is so not trained for it.
It's Simmons, who – bless her soul – pours some sense into him.
He must be panicking rather obviously, because Jemma calls him down to the lab with some far-fetched reason, and when he gets there, she makes him sit down in her desk chair, then looks deep into his eyes.
She is scaring him a little.
"Stop it," she says. No – she orders.
"Freaking out. It's completely uncalled for."
He blinks. For a moment he considers complete denial, because he is Agent Grant Ward, who can break a man's neck in thirteen different ways – one handed –, and he is so not freaking out over a date. But, in the end, he only says, "It is?"
Simmons lets out an exasperated sigh.
"Of course!" she exclaims. "You are crazy for her, she is crazy for you… It's clear as the day, only you seem to be blind to it."
"Really? She's… crazy for me?" his voice is a bit higher than he'd like to admit.
"She'd be stupid not to," Jemma scoffs. "You are a remarkable specimen, with near perfect symmetry, and enough muscle mass for any female to consider you an eligible ma–" She stops herself mid-sentence, and clears her throat before continuing. "I mean, you are very attractive. And you have a connection we Skye. You guys click," to illustrate it, she claps one of her hands in the other. "You'll be fine. Just be yourself."
He almost counters to that with saying that it's being himself is what he is the most afraid of, but she silences him with a surprisingly stern glare.
Some of the weight lifted off his chest, he sighs.
"Thanks, Jemma." She only nods at him in acknowledgment, smiling at him in a "you are a dork, but in the adorable way"–stlye, then turns away from him, slightly shaking her head. He is smiling, too, as he stands up to go back to the main deck. But as he reaches the door, he turns back for a moment. "Jemma?" She looks at him. "Tie or no tie?"
To her credit, she actually seems to consider his question.
"No tie. And roll up your sleeves!"
Of course they have to raincheck their date.
Because in their profession if something can go south, it sure as hell will, so even though they were supposed to have three more days of surveilling from the distance, he ends up spending the night of his supposed date with Skye tracking down one of Vanchat's business associates first in Rome, then on the other side of the Adriatic Sea. It's not a dangerous job, not even an overly difficult one, it's just freaking maddening that the guy has such a shitty timing.
(And okay, maybe the punch Ward gives him once he gets him just outside his seaside villa on the Croatian shore was a bit uncalled for.)
(But he is not sorry at all.)
But the fact remains: he misses his date with Skye.
The next day finds them in Opatija, a small Croatian town on the coast. It's well into the morning when they manage to catch Vanchat's partner, and the sun is already high on the sky when they can finally call it a day – by then the only thing on Grant's mind is a bed and a couple hours of sleep.
But when he wakes mid-afternoon, the previous day comes back with vengeance.
Because now he is facing a dilemma: should he let their missed date slide, call it fate sending them a message, or go up to her and ask for a reschedule? A second chance?
Of course, he still wants to go out with her (even if the thought of it still scares him a little), but still, the former option is still alluring, because it, at least, saves him from an embarrassing encounter. Because what could he say to her? "Skye, I'm sorry that an alien artefact-dealing bastard messed up our date. But maybe we could find another day for it?"
Damn, this is pathetic.
He is pathetic.
And he needs Jemma – maybe she could set him straight.
(By telling him that he's being ridiculous.)
But his dilemma gets resolved before he could do anything about it – because as soon as he gets there in his line of thought, there's a knock on his bunk door.
On the other side of it – maybe not so surprisingly – there is Skye, in shorts and a tank top, the strings of her bikini peeking out from under it.
"Hi," she says, her smile almost shy.
"Okay, so, I was thinking," she continues, leaning against the doorframe, her body language restless, excited, anxious, "that it's a shame that we got robbed of last night. I don't know what you're thinking, but I was getting really excited about it. So…" she draws the word out. "Here's this charming little town, the weather is amazing, we have nothing else to do… What do you say we make up for last night now?"
Opatija is beautiful – or it might be just his company making him say that.
The town is charmingly Mediterranean, all greenery and sandstone and blue skies and clear water. It's making his soul soar – or it might be nothing to do with the scenery, only with the fact that Skye is right there beside him, chittering away.
She is telling him about the one time the nuns took all the kids at the orphanage to the pool, and lost one of them, and while they were frantically searching for him, he was napping away happily behind a tree or something. He's not sure. He is not even sure how they got to sharing childhood anecdotes. He is way more captivated by Skye herself than her words.
On a normal day, when he has to be Agent Ward, he likes to pretend that he finds her constant talking annoying. The reality? Yeah, when he's stressed it can bother him, but other than that, it's absolutely endearing.
She is absolutely endearing.
Right now, he only has a vague idea of what she's talking about. But, on the other hand, he could write a book about the shade of her skin, the softness of her hair, the twinkle in her eyes, and the full, inviting shape of her lips.
(If he thought he had it bad for before now – well, he was wrong.)
They are taking a stroll down the promenade stretching along most of the city, the soft pink walls of Villa Angiolina to their left, the clear blue water to their right. When she finishes her story he laughs with her, more genuinely than he's laughed in years. Then he starts telling a story of his own, slightly nervous, a story of how he and his little brother once – accidentally – made their father's Very Important Business Partner fall into the pool. He'd much rather tell her how beautiful and wonderful and painfully perfect she is, and how deeply in love with her he is, but he settles for this anecdote, because it's making her chuckle, and hearing her laugh makes him so unbelievably happy (and at least he has the words for it).
And for a moment, forgetting that world outside this little, peaceful Mediterranean town exists, and with her by his side, laughing and smiling up at him, and sharing funny stories with him, the moment is perfect.
And it only gets a little more perfect when she twines their fingers together.
They have dinner on the terrace of some little, seaside restaurant with the reflection of the setting sun on the water as a backdrop. It's not exactly the famous Florentine lasagna he wanted to show her, but he couldn't care less. They end up ordering some kind of seafood dish that's even foreign to him, but Skye's feeling adventurous ('What's the worst thing that can happen? Okay, maybe this is that kind of spikey fish that when not prepared the right way kills you, and maybe it's the chef's first day, but… What are the odds?"), and he goes with it. It turns out not even half bad, and the wine the waiter suggests to go with it is actually quite good.
And Skye's frown as she picks out and sets aside the tiny octopus tentacles is simply priceless.
It surprises him how easily their conversation flows during dinner. He's expected, despite their history, a degree of awkwardness, and it was there at the beginning of the date, but by the time the last rays of the sun disappear behind the horizon it's long gone. There's no stammering, no strained silence, only light conversation, jumping wildly, but naturally from topic to topic (he was a little afraid they'd run out of things to talk about, but it doesn't seem to be the case), and smiling, laughing and flirting.
God, he loves flirting with her.
Firstly, it doesn't feel mechanical, like when he flirts for the success of a mission. Then it's all calculated, all facades. Usually, he isn't even attracted to the target, not even a bit – yet he has to act like she is the shiniest gem in the room. It usually makes him feel almost… guilty. But with Skye, it's seems effortless, and leaves him feeling almost giddy.
Secondly, she's simply a good partner. If he nips her, she'll bite back. He's known that she's sarcastic, but her true wit only gets to shine now. She quick, smart, daring, suggestive, sensual, sometimes almost even dirty. And yeah, sometimes he doesn't get her references, but then she'll just smile or frown or dramatically throw her hands into the air, and tell him what she means. By the time they get to the dessert, he has about four books to read and half a dozen movies to watch.
"Okay, I'm in," he tells her as he takes a spoonful of his ice cream, "but only if you provide the audio commentary."
Her smile is almost blinding.
"Bring some popcorn, and we a have deal, Turbo."
When they finish dinner they still have no intentions to go back to the Bus ("The night's still young."), so they just continue their stroll down the promenade.
Soon they're out of the main part of the city – here there are less people, less light, less noise, only the soft roar of the sea. The sky is clear, dotted with bright stars, the moon's almost full, and the air is warm, humid, with only a hint of breeze.
At one point Skye leads him off the walkway, to the rocks lining the shore; he lets her. She chooses a bigger, flatter one, sits down on it, and, after taking her shoes off, she dips her feet into the water. He settles down next to her (the stone still holds some of the sun's warmth), so close that his side is pressed against hers. She leans her head on his shoulder.
"It's so peaceful," she says, gazing into the distance, where the lights of Rijeka glisten on the other side of the bay. He doesn't answer her with words – only nods, and contemplates whether he should press a kiss against the top of her head.
They lapse into silence – the easy, comfortable kind, which comes naturally after hours spent talking. And yet, he is unable of complete stillness, so he starts caressing her hair, the soft locks sliding like silk between his fingers. She leans into his touch. It's mesmerizing.
A minute or two pass, and all she does is sigh in contentment as his fingers brush against the nape of her neck – she is so lax, he is starting to entertain the thought of taking her chin into his hand, turning her face gently towards him, and pressing the lightest of kisses against her lips.
But before he could act, she moves.
Pushing herself away from him, she takes off her shirt.
"What are you doing?" he asks, half amused, half taken aback.
"The water is too inviting. I'm taking a swim," she answers, standing up and pushing down her shorts, thus leaving on only her flower-patterned bikini.
Before he could say that it's a bad idea, she's already slipped into the water, letting out a small yelp when she finds out that it's deeper than she thought. Standing there, up to mid-chest in the Adriatic Sea, she is way too adorable for him not to grin like an idiot.
"Come on, Grant!" she urges him (his heart definitely doesn't skip a beat at her using his first name). "The water is amazing."
"No thanks;" he shakes his head, "I'm good. I'm okay with just watching you." Because she's a breathtaking sight, illuminated by the moonlight, her wet hair clinging to her chest, grinning up at him like he is the best thing in the world.
"Don't be a spoilsport!" she laughs. "Live a little!"
When he shakes his head again – mostly just to play with her –, a mischievous glint appears in her eyes, and the next moment she splashes him, the water hitting him right across his chest.
"Hey!" he chuckles, trying to shield himself from her next attack. "Stop it!"
"Or what?" she asks tauntingly, splashing him again. By then, the front of his pants and T-shirt is mostly wet.
He gives in.
He quickly gets rid of his shirt and pants, then slides into the water, reaching for her before she could have time to get scared. She squealing with delight, trying to slip away from him, but she's clearly not a great swimmer, so he catches up within a few feet, grabbing her foot, managing to get her underwater for a moment or two.
They start a playful grapple in the water – she is simultaneously trying to stop him from tickling her and getting his head under water, while he makes a show of not letting her get away, even though he does let her pull him down once or twice. It's a mess of limbs and laughter and splashed water, and he is having the time of his life.
But the moments like this tend to break, and this does, too – around the time he actually realizes how close they are.
Because at that point her legs encircle his hips, his hands are on her waist, her arms are around his neck, and their lips are dangerously close. They realize this almost completely simultaneously, and then time seems to freeze.
They still, looking deep into each other's eyes, half-afraid to even breathe.
It's a turning point.
And the gravity is too strong.
He is not sure who moves first; the only thing he knows is that the next moment he is tasting the sea salt on Skye's lips.
It's well past midnight when they finally make it back to the Bus.
They stood in the water for a very long time after that first kiss, unwilling to sever the connection of their bodies. They spent long minutes, maybe even hours getting acquainted with each other's lips, caressing, nipping, exploring. If only they had just a little less sense, they wouldn't have even stopped there.
But they did, and he is equally grateful for it and disappointed by it.
When they finally climbed back to the rock, his fingers had already turned wrinkly, and her lips were swollen. They lay there for a while, catching their breath, letting the soft breeze dry their skin.
After it, they just couldn't keep apart.
They shared small, teasing kisses as they dressed up. On the way back, they clung to each other, stopping once in a while to sample the other's lips (it's late, but they still encounter a couple of tourists as they near the town's center; he catches an older couple calling them adorable).
(He can't help but agree.)
He is almost sad that it's over when they walk up the ramp of the Bus – if he could, he would stop time to make the night endless.
But he's just a mere human and he can't, so he settles for the next best thing – imprinting as many details of the night into his mind as he can.
He walks her to her bunk, but then he's reluctant to let her go. He takes her hand in his, gently caressing her arm from her wrist to her elbow.
When she looks up at him, for a moment he thinks the starts have abandoned the sky and found new home in her eyes.
"So…" she starts almost timidly, with a hint of a smile on her lips. "As far as first dates go, it wasn't a disaster."
"No, not at all," he grins.
"That given, maybe we could… repeat it?"
He can barely contain himself.
This time he knows that she is the one who moves first, but he meets her halfway. The kiss starts almost chaste, but passion soon wins them over, and he is pulling her close while licking her lips, begging for entrance.
That's when she pushes herself away, slightly dazed, breathing heavily.
"Easy there, cowboy," she chuckles. "Proper Southern girl, remember?"
He rests his forehead against hers.
"Nothing to be sorry for," she says, giving him a peck on his lips. "Good night. See you in the morning, sweetheart."
And with that, she slides open her door and retreats into her bunk. When the door closes, he feels like doing a stupid little victory dance.
The feeling just intensifies when he spots Jemma's head peeking out of her bunk, holding up her thumb to him.
(That night he falls asleep with a goofy grin on his face.)
A/N: I have been to Opatija once, but it was nearly seven years ago – so what you can read here is only partially based on my memories, and mostly on Google Earth. Also, I have no idea about Croatian cuisine, but with a harbor town I guess there's a great chance that they have some kind of seafood dish in the beach restaurants. If they don't, please feel free to correct me.