Shore Leave
An Agents of SHIELD fanfic by Aisling Yinyr Ngaio

Being parked in the middle of nowhere, at a facility not best equipped to repair damaged planes, Agent Coulson gave the team what could loosely be termed as "shore leave" until the Bus was ready to fly again. And yet, they couldn't really go anywhere, not without tons of paperwork just to check out one SHIELD land transport for "leisure" purposes, and besides, apparently there wasn't anywhere to go within a three hour drive in any direction which could possibly be termed as civilization. So while they weren't on active duty, and only on one occasion were asked to consult via teleconferencing for the Singapore office, they remained on the Bus. After all, the damage was largely localised to the hull on the right side, and anything lost that wasn't nailed down could be replaced easily.

The first and easiest thing replaced were the lab doors Agent May trashed, and Fitz was understandably enjoying the rewiring of the doors and the various gadgetry he almost wanted to personally re-design and install himself if not for Simmons calling him back for an opinion on their latest project. Skye, from the little niche of space she'd managed to carve in the sciency lab, thought it just in the nick of time, since the maintenance guys looked like they were about to hit Fitz over the head with a crowbar, seniority be damned.

She enjoyed being here in the lab, in the company of these two scientists (well, technically an engineer and a biochemist). Their natural closeness tugged at her heart in a way it had yearned for all her life. She'd never had that, not that kind of close friendship with any of her foster siblings. Despite being the St Agnes alum who'd lived there the longest, and the various foster families she'd lived with (she lost count after twelve), she'd never felt like she belonged anywhere, or that love and friendship were anything other than fleeting and in-the-moment. Even Miles was ready to let her go when she'd made the decision to leave for LA, while he returned to his Austin base.

So she came down to the lab day after day with her laptop, preferring to surf and work from the space FitzSimmons had unconsciously ceded to her, and basked in the warm glow of their chattering babble, the way they bounced ideas off each other without even needing to look at one another throughout the whole process, the way that, though they were quite distinct in their different disciplines, they'd worked together for long enough to be able to comfortably handle the most basic elements of their partner's work.

She didn't see Agents Coulson and May often during this time (though there was this one time she saw Coulson escorting a wannabe pirate in a trench-coat up to the cabin area), but Agent Ward could be found many a morning and evening utilising the empty space in front of the lab to do his workouts. She suspected it was ostensibly in part to keep an eye on them; Ward never came into the lab without Fitz asking him in to try out their latest weaponry inventions, and he usually never stayed long, but at least he no longer regarded her with a hostile eye, or talked down to her whenever they spoke.

On the second day of "shore leave", Fitz bounced over to her sans his lab coat with an adorable puppy smile, and offered to show her the ropes of SHIELD-616's equipment. "Well, since you're already one of us, it'll be better during missions for you to learn how to navigate our systems and OS to, you know, work your thing," he said in his thick Scottish brogue.

Skye readily agreed, and since the systems throughout the Bus were pretty standard, they worked their way through the various protocols and programs from Fitz's tablet. While she as a Consultant didn't get her own SHIELD issue, all the Agents' tablets were, as she learnt that day, linked directly to the main system running in the conference room. She quietly filed away the new things she hadn't known from her Rising Tide days to the back of her mind, all the while feeling a small twinge of guilt at Fitz's helpfulness and open, trusting disposition.

After that, feeling the ice was sufficiently broken for these two – because if one of them accepted her then naturally the other would, too – she tried joining into their conversations every once in a while. She didn't understand all of what they said, but when they looked up at her on the few occasions she threw in a line about something she'd just read about off the internet into the comfortable silence in between project note comparisons, she could tell that while they each loved their main expertise, they were actually pretty enthusiastic on just about everything (except for gruesome stuff for Fitz, that's a no-no).

On the fourth day, during one of Fitz's daily trips to the food stash in his room for yet another lab-stash-replenishing exercise, Simmons remarked casually that she liked Skye's hair and how she wished she knew how to do it that way too, because she never had the time or patience to learn, or ended up forgetting about it in the excitement of brainstorming with Fitz. This was an area Skye was happy to be of service in; she might be jobless most of the time and live in a van, but she had her own priorities. They all had their guilty pleasures, after all. So they had an impromptu hairdressing session right in the middle of the lab, to the amusement of Fitz (who watched the entire thing crunching on his bowl of chips), and unbeknownst to them, Agent Coulson, who happened to be on his way back to his quarters after dealing with some issues regarding the repairs at the main building, and smiled when he saw the young hacker and the biochemist bonding over something as normal as hair.

In the middle of the curling session, the topic somehow turned back to the Peruvian mission, and Skye commenting on, "But seriously guys, you're like actual SHIELD agents but you've never been on a field mission?"

FitzSimmons blushed simultaneously, and Skye had to resist the urge to squee at how cute their unintentional mimicry was. "Well, we've always been, you know, down in the lab-"

"-and usually, the other agents, they bring back the samples to us-"

"-But Simmons here, she kinda wanted to see the world, and frankly, I'd never even thought about how a small team would mean we'd all have to go out so soon after joining up-"

"-We didn't even think we needed to be field certified for this, and Dr. Streiten never said a thing during our physical, so-"

"-Quite frankly, we thought we'd have time in deciding to get cleared for the field before going out there on more dangerous missions, y'know?"

Skye paused with the curling iron and asked curiously, "So you guys gonna get certified soon, or what? I mean, this field work probably isn't going to stop any time soon."

FitzSimmons looked at each other, probably recalling the last time it crossed their minds, when they were all tied up to the cargo bay door. Simmons was the one to shrug, "Eventually, I guess. I mean, we've always been trained as a researcher, so our SO didn't exactly focus on the physical aspects in training."

"Yeah, and we only had to go through one module of physical ed at the Academy. Coming out here, it's been a..." Fitz struggled to finish the sentence without stepping on Simmons' toes. " experience," he finished dramatically with a little cough.

Raising her eyebrows, Skye deftly changed the subject, obviously one of contention between the pair, as she continued pampering Simmons. So that's three combat ready agents and, including herself, three non-combatants. Wait a minute, she hadn't actually seen Agent Coulson in action; clearly he was no slouch but she saw him more as a negotiator than a fighter. No wonder Ward was so tense all the time they were out at the ruins. In that moment before May drove up in the bulletproof vehicle, Ward had been the only trained combat ready agent standing between the three of them and a red scarf with a rifle.

An idea began to form in her head. It sounded crazy at first, and it went against everything she believed while in the Rising Tide. But if she were to survive long enough on this Bus to complete her snooping into her redacted past, she had to learn to fight, to defend herself, especially if, as she'd just mentioned, the team remained active in the field, which, since Coulson included both May and Ward into the team, was extremely likely. Besides, if she got in deep enough, she could possibly even get enough clearance herself to dig into the heavily locked archives where her history might be. She'd certainly found nothing even remotely similar in all of her previous hacks that could lead to something useful. Clearly SHIELD had layers upon layers of secrets that even the best hackers would take years to fully unravel. And what if some of the information was off the grid, like this top secret "Slingshot" facility?

She broached the idea to Ward the next time she saw him, on the evening of the fifth day. Far from being surprised by it, he actually looked almost smug (his facial expression didn't actually change, but...), as if he'd given the idea some thought even before she had it. Did nothing surprise the man...? All he said was, "Well, we'd need to speak to Coulson about it, but you have to be sure that you want to do this. And of course, you'd need an SO." A short pause. "He's in meetings for the rest of the day, so I'll take you to see him tomorrow morning."

Skye had agreed. She'd even agreed for Ward to be her SO, since Coulson was always so busy and May was... well... terrifying. She was glad for the opportunity to spend more time with Ward as well. She suspected that he wasn't half as grouchy as he pretended to be. It should be fine.

Of course, hindsight was 20-20.

By the time her first full day as an agent-in-training had passed, she was even grateful to be limping into the lab that she completely forgot she was missing her laptop, and was too tired to go back up to her bunk before bedtime. She collapsed in her chair, drawing the attention of FitzSimmons, and moaned theatrically, "Guys, don't ever ever think about getting field clearance. EVER." Amidst gentle laughter, casual conversations, and a reminder that they'd be back in the air tomorrow, Skye smiled at her new teammates and dared to hope that, despite her secret, this could actually work. Maybe it'd turn out to be another just-for-now relationship, but she did like them... and somehow, they liked her too.

She didn't want it to end. And that terrified her.

- Finis -