a.n. Okay, so I was halfway through writing this when I saw the preview clip this morning, and had to scrap a decent chunk of it. For the sake of most of the rest, Coulson was not present for the discussion in the sneak peek. I literally spent six hours at work shambling around trying not to look to goddamn miserable.
"He's clearly very dangerous."
"Yeah, well the same could be said about you May!"
May recoiled as if burned. Oh God. Oh no. Skye couldn't know about that, she couldn't, She had never told anyone what had happened in Bahrain, the only people who could know were dead.
Skye must have seen the unmitigated fear in her eyes, but she continued. "I heard what happened to that little girl in Bahrain." The rest was lost in the rush of her own thoughts, the panic.
Melinda's eyes were wide as she unconsciously backed away, her heart pounding in her chest, that little girls voice as fresh in her ears as it had been when she was prone on the ground.
Skye knew she didn't have to say anything else. She was only trying to prove a point, but she knew she had crossed a line. She could say without a shred of doubt that she had never seen May look this scared. "May..."
"Don't." It was barely a whisper.
Before Skye could say anything or approach her mentor, she ran from the room.
Skye chased after her, but the only thing she found was the sound of hurrying footsteps and a door slamming.
Many people considered Melinda May brave.
Melinda May was not one of them. She knew she was a skilled fighter, a master of more martial arts than most people could name.
But she was a coward.
Even the mention of Bahrain made her flinch. She had been too afraid and ashamed to tell anyone what had happened there, not her husband, her superior officers, or her best friend. And now that her young student had found out, she had locked herself in her room and refused to come out.
She had been an idiot to think that she and Skye had been making progress, that the girl might actually like her. She knew the truth now, and there was no way Melinda could take that accusation again, not from Skye. Even after this long, she couldn't face what she had done, what she was.
Yeah, she was a coward.
And a monster.
It was six in the morning when Phil Coulson found himself walking to the kitchen to make himself a cup of coffee and start the day.
He passed the gym, too tired to really think straight, but quickly backtracked to it a moment later.
It was quiet. The gym was never quiet at this time, it was when Skye and May were meant to be training.
Coulson entered curiously and saw Skye sitting on the floor, eyes downcast. She looked up hopefully when she heard his footsteps, but quickly flattened again when she saw who it was. "Good morning." Coulson said pointedly.
"Morning." Skye mumbled, not looking at all apologetic for her non-existent welcome.
She nodded. "He's kind of shaken up, but I think he's okay." Skye looked up at him. "SHIELD's not gonna... experiment on him or anything, are they?"
Coulson frowned, but this seemed to be genuinely worrying her. "Not on my watch."
" 'kay." Skye mumbled, eyes fixing back on the ground.
"Is this some new kind of training?" He asked, trying to get a rise out of the girl, but Skye merely shook her head.
Coulson sighed. "Skye, I promise, no one's gonna hurt Lincoln." Not that that seemed to be the only thing bothering her. "Where's May?"
"I don't know." Skye said, her voice hitching a little. "She's always on time for training, a-and now I can't find her anywhere."
Worrying, but there was no way May could have left the base without alerting almost everyone on it. "What happened?" He asked, approaching Skye and sitting down beside her.
The younger agent looked hesitant. "I don't know if she'd want me to tell you. I was angry yesterday when we were talking, and I said something I shouldn't have, and... I crossed a line."
"That bad, huh?" When Skye nodded, he sighed. "She's probably in her room, she hasn't left the base."
Skye shrugged. "She won't open the door." It might have been Coulson's imagination, or the floor beneath them may have trembled ever so slightly along with Skye. "I'm really worried about her, but she won't let me in."
Skye seemed really worried, and Coulson pulled her into a quick but tight hug. "I'll check on her." He said softly, "Make sure she's okay."
The hacker nodded, eyes shining with tears. "Tell her I'm sorry?" She bit her lip. "I- I didn't want to upset her, I just..."
"Did you say sorry?"
Now Skye looked even worse. Nice one Phil. "I- she ran away before I could."
That thought consumed Phil his entire way to May's room. She ran away. Melinda May, his best friend, ran away from Skye. Not that Skye couldn't be intimidating in her own way, but... Skye.
He reached Melinda's door and knocked, not really expecting a reply. He received none. "May?" Coulson mumbled. "It's me. Can I come in?" When there was no response, he changed the question to a statement. "I'm coming in." Skye wasn't the only one who was worried.
When he typed in his override code and the door slid open, Phil was surprised at what he saw. His best friend was curled up on her bed, facing away from the door. Red flag. Anyone with their amount of tactical training never rested facing away from the door. When he entered Phil noticed May's hand dart under her pillow, which was a much bigger red flag. "It's me." He said softly.
May didn't move from her position, curled up, facing away from him, one hand firmly under her pillow.
Phil slowly walked closer, sitting on the edge of the bed. "Give me that." He said, trying to pry her arm out.
"No." Suddenly the gun was pointed at him, and Phil realised that this was a lot worse than he had thought. "It's okay." He said, closing one hand over the barrel of the gun. Melinda's grip on it was soft, thankfully, and he put it down on the ground, flicking the safety on, then drew his best friend into a gentle embrace.
The most worrying thing was how easily Melinda fell into it, remaining pliable in his arms. Christ, Phil hadn't seen her like this since Bahrain. "Skye's worried about you." He said. "I can kind of see why."
"I can't." Melinda whispered, burying her face in his jacket. "I can't- take her looking at me. She knows Phil, I-I cant."
The slots were starting to fit together in Coulson's mind. He hadn't seen May like this since Bahrain, and Skye wouldn't tell him what she had done to upset her. She had been at some kind of summer camp for powered people though. "Is this about Bahrain?"
The way she trembled answered that question for him. Coulson wasn't stupid. May had never told him, or anyone else, what had happened in the compound in Bahrain. But he was not an idiot. The little girl had died. Whatever had happened in the lead up to that, whether the girl was a hostage that had been shot when Melinda tried to help her, to scared to listen and had run into the line of fire, it was something that May blamed herself for. He knew from experience that comforting words did nothing, so he just held her quietly in the dark.
Phil wasn't sure how long it was when Melinda started to shift. It felt like a long time. "You should talk to Skye." He mumbled into her hair. "She was sitting in the gym hoping you'd show up. Wants to talk to you. She said she didn't mean it."
May shook her head. "No, I- not yet, I can't." She drew a shuddering breath. "How can she even look at me?"
"She loves you." Phil said it like it was the simplest thing in the world. "She loves you, and she understands. Things go wrong in the field, and people can get hurt. You know that too."
For the first time since he had entered the room May met his gaze. "Phil..."
"It wasn't your fault."
It was clear from the look on her face that she didn't agree.
He pulled her closer, and Melinda tucked her head under his chin. "I never asked what happened for a reason." He said. "It doesn't matter. I know that it wasn't your fault, because I know you."
She didn't believe him. She never did. It was hard to believe someone who had no idea what had happened, what she had done. Phil pressed a kiss to the top of her head, then drew away. "You should talk to Skye." He murmured. "She doesn't think it was your fault either."
When Coulson exited his friend's room he was not entirely surprised to discover that Skye had followed him up and was not sitting on the ground, waiting for him. "Is she okay?" She asked in a low voice, so as not to be overheard.
He glanced back at Melinda's door, not wanting to lie, but not wanting to upset Skye any further either. "She will be. Give her some time."
This answer obviously did not satisfy the hacker.
"Skye, May never told anyone what happened in Bahrain." She looked up to meet his eyes, feeling like a kid being scolded. "Not me, not Andrew, no one. Director Fury couldn't get her to even submit a report on it. The only person who knew was her."
"I didn't mean to find out." Skye said, trying to explain. "I- I didn't even know what story it was until half way through, and then I was just angry and..." She fell silent. "She didn't want me to know."
"She didn't want anyone to know Skye." Coulson said, crouching down and taking her hand. "But you do know now, and maybe you can help her."
"Help her what?"
"Move on." Because Melinda had never forgotten what had happened in Bahrain. It was in her eyes every second of every day, and it haunted her dreams at night.
"I don't know how." Skye whispered, and Coulson smiled.
"There's not exactly a guidebook for this kind of thing. Just... talk to her."
"If she lets me in." She said, glancing at the door.
He smiled. "She will, just give her some time."
"Okay." Skye assented, "But I'm gonna stay here."
"I wouldn't expect anything less." Coulson said, standing. "But the world hasn't stopped turning, so you mind doing some damage control on your laptop from here?"
Skye shot him an incredulous look.
"If you do I'll bring snacks." He bribed, and Skye relented. He was right, no matter how much she wished it didn't, SHIELD needed to cover up a lot of stuff.
"Fine." She assented, "But I want the good stuff!"
Coulson smiled as he walked away. "You always do."
Coulson had brought Skye her laptop and a truly exquisite looking sandwich, but Skye did not eat it. She redirected media channels and posted fake news articles, but honestly she could do that in her sleep by now. She felt sick. All she could think about was May, locked in her room, refusing to talk to her, and honestly Skye didn't blame her for that one bit.
Thinking about what she had been through made Skye want to cry. She couldn't imagine having to make that kind of decision, having the situation forced onto your lap and having to deal with it.
And it brought light to any number of situations that Skye could remember.
The one that really struck her was Sif, coming to take her away, because how much would that have reminded May of Bahrain? That time she had been protecting Skye, when Sif was the one on the warpath. Skye knew how determined May had been to keep her safe. She didn't even seem to consider any other option.
But then Skye had made her own decision, and one gunshot later May was there beside another powered girl who she had tried to protect.
God, Skye felt so awful about it all.
She sat up as her phone buzzed with a text message, digging it out from her pocket. The message was short.
'You should eat.' From May.
Skye glanced up at the security camera on the ceiling. 'You too.' She sent back.
'Later.' She received a minute after, and got the impression that May struggled with responding on that one.
Skye hid a grin and slid the plate over to the door, waving her hand in front of it as if wafting the scent in. 'Don't you want some?'
Skye slumped. Too soon for jokes, she should have known that. 'I'm sorry. I never wanted to tell you like that.'
No reply. 'I promise I'll never tell anyone.'
A minute later the door slid open, but May didn't speak a word. "May?" Skye quietly stood, walking over her laptop and the food, peering through the door.
The woman was sitting on her bed, legs curled up to her chest and a tablet computer beside her, the dim light illuminating making the tears on her face shine like stars.
"Hey." Skye whispered, hurrying over and wrapping her arms around her SO as the door slid shut. "I'm so sorry, May. I-" There was no defence, so she just stuck with it. "I'm sorry."
"You don't have to be sorry." Her voice was dead, and Skye tightened her arms. "You didn't do anything wrong."
"Yeah, I kind of did." Skye said, as if she was stupid. "I know how much Bahrain hurt you, I shouldn't have just thrown in in your face like that."
It was a long pause before May said anything else. Finally, in an indescribably broken voice, she whispered. "What was her name?"
Skye hesitated. She wanted to help May get through this, not help her wallow in it further. "May..."
"Please." She couldn't find the energy to argue, but she had to know. Had to have a name to put to the face of that little girl.
Skye was silent for a little while, but eventually said, "Katya. Jiaying said that Eva, her mom, stole the crystals to change her, but she was too young, and she went insane."
Katya. So she finally had a name.
Skye tried to take her hand, but Melinda flinched away. She didn't know everything. "I'm sorry." Skye said again, softly. "I-I didn't even know what Jiaying was talking about for most of it, and by the time I worked it out..." She sighed, "I didn't mean to... yesterday, I shouldn't have said that."
May said nothing, staying disconcertingly still, allowing Skye's presence, her arms around her, but doing nothing to acknowledge them. The quiet to her had Skye thinking she would do anything to see May back to normal, talking, criticising, maybe even smiling a bit. Not sitting here staring straight ahead with dead eyes, asking for the name of the little girl from Bahrain.
Skye felt tears well up and sniffed a little, curling up closer to her, hoping against hope that May could one day forgive her. For now all she wanted was for her to be herself again.
When May finally spoke again, it was still in that flat, deadened voice. "I know you haven't decided if you'll stay yet." She said, "But Bobbi would be good for you. She's taller than you, but she knows a lot about hand to hand, and she likes you."
"What are you-" Suddenly Skye felt like the rug had been pulled out from under her, panic seizing her heart. "You don't wanna train me anymore?" Oh God, that hurt. She loved learning with May, being her friend. Had she ruined all of that in a few sentences? Wow, great, set a new record in screwing up people you love, nice one Skye.
The non-expression on May's face faltered a little, a few tears escaping and rolling down her cheeks. "I've always known what I am Skye." She said quietly, her voice on the brink of losing control. "Now you know too. I don't expect you to want to-" She broke off, pressing her lips together to keep it all in. She couldn't say that losing Skye was okay. It wasn't. But there was nothing to be done now that Skye knew what she had done, what she was.
"There's nothing you could have done for her, you have to know that." The younger woman mumbled. "There were no options."
But May shook her head. "I was scared." She whispered. "I was scared, and I shot her. A little girl."
"Anyone would have been scared." Skye said. "That doesn't mean you did the wrong thing."
"Killing a child is never the right thing."
"No." Skye agreed. "But it was the only thing to do. If you hadn't, someone else would have had to, and more people would have died."
"Sometimes I wish I'd died in there." Skye's blood turned to ice. "Feels like it'd be better."
Skye shook her insistently, angry now. "Never say that again." She growled, fire in her eyes.
"Wouldn't matter anyway." Skye's righteous fury did nothing, the fire rolling off Melinda as if she were made of ice. "You don't need someone like me."
"I'd be dead ten times over without you."
"The others would have saved you."
"Stop it." Firm, but she softened quickly, gently gripping May's shoulders. "Look at me." May did, tears dancing behind her eyes and on her cheeks. "I love you, you know that? Not cos you taught me stuff or saved my life, I just love you, and there's nothing you can do about it. I don't think anything less of you for being stuck in an impossible situation and taking the only way out, so just stop it. You didn't turn her into a superpowered psycho, her mom did, you just had to deal with it."
May squeezed her eyes shut and rested her head on her kneed. This time when Skye wrapped her arms around her she let her, leaning in ever so slightly.
Skye buried her head in May's neck. "You're not a monster May, you're just my S.O."
a.n. Brownie points to those who know where I lifted that last line from. Technically there are two, but I'd be really surprised if anyone gets both.