Dinner

I don't own Marvel, ABC or Marvel's Agents of SHIELD. If I did, Ward would've lost his shirt sooner. Much sooner.

A look at the different personalities on the Bus through food. Written mostly because I was hungry. Bon apetit.

Coulson had decided that making a chore list was the best way to make sure that things were actually done on the Bus, rather than the piles of dishes left in the sink, the overflowing laundry baskets and garbage bins, the filthy cars and cargo bag floor that had been left the first week of their occupancy of the Bus, and had drawn one up. The least favoured job was definitely washing the cars, which were often covered in mud and gunk due to their often journeys into jungle, forest, meadows.

And the favourite job was most definitely cooking.

::

FitzSimmons liked cooking. Fitz liked making savoury meals, while Simmons liked making sweet things, and in college and beyond they'd muddled along together.

They liked cooking. It didn't mean that they were necessarily good at it.

The problem was, mainly, that they were scientists. Meaning that they liked to experiment. If they stuck to the recipe, to the procedure, like good scientists, everything would turn out absolutely spectacularly.

Unfortunately for those on the Bus, they were great scientists, which meant that they liked to experiment.

Strange, wonderful things occurred.

Food poisoning, nausea and injuries also occurred.

Fitz had grown annoyed at the provided stove's configuration, and had decided that he could "improve" on it. Two days later, a new stove appeared, and three days later, Coulson had it removed and replaced. The burn on Ward's arm had lasted considerably longer than the stove itself.

Needless to say, Fitz was banned from tinkering with kitchen appliances.

Simmons had a habit of replacing the ingredients she didn't have with things that were basically the same as certain laboratory ingredients. No-one noticed when she substituted vinegar for watered down acetic acid in the salad dressing, and she made a very passable synthesized ester* when she found out that they didn't have any vanilla essence for the cake she wanted to make.

However, adding the acid that onions contained did not result in an extra onion-y French onion soup, instead making everyone cry, which resulted in laughter, even stony faced May.

And the debacle that was Fitz's tacos, complete with toy train set to take the fillings around the table… that was never to be discussed again. Especially not Fitz's alterations to the train set… that resulted in finding pieces of taco shell in the Bus months later.

And then there fiasco that was the beef stew that resulted in the entire team taken out of rotation for a week due to food poisoning that differed from person to person – Ward simply looked very green, and was quite unsteady on his feet, while Skye spent long hours worshiping the porcelain god, and Simmons had terrible stomach cramps when she wasn't in a feverish unconsciousness.

And the one time FitzSimmons had banded together to try and make a "fizzy" custard… They'd ended up actually floating. As in defying gravity. It had only lasted for a few hours, but May hadn't been impressed. It wasn't easy to pilot a plane when you kept floating out of your seat.

The weeks that FitzSimmons cooked were looked upon with a mixture of anticipation and trepidation – anticipation to see what they would come up with next, and trepidation for the exact same.

::

Ward's cooking history was surprisingly extensive, from his afterschool job in a diner to multiple undercover operations in the highest rated Michelin star restaurants in Europe, and he had been in many other countries and his cooking showed it. The first meal was an authentic curry that tasted like it'd been cooked in India, not in the middle of a snow covered Russia. The next meal was a noodle dish that May swore tasted like her mother's, which was her great-grandmother's recipe.

Soon, Skye sat on the end of the kitchen bench next to where Ward prepared and cooked the meals, and because Ward couldn't stand for idleness in the kitchen, he soon put her to work, peeling and chopping and minding pans so that food didn't burn. He taught her what he'd been taught in the many operations in restaurants, which flavours tasted better together, and which should never be put together, introduced her to new foods that she'd never eaten before, living in an orphanage and then a van. Her favourite lessons were the ones he'd learnt at home, from his mother, and from the diner he'd worked in during high school and college. About the absolutely best way to make crust for apple pie (the best he'd ever eaten in a tiny diner in Massachusetts, hands down, despite having tasted the best apple pie that each of the six – yes, six – continents had to offer). About how to make scrambled eggs so fluffy and light it was like eating really yummy clouds. About the secret to make chocolate chip cookies that were chewy in the middle and nice and crisp on the outside.

Boundaries blurred, and it wasn't uncommon for the pair to be seen popping bite sized morsels of food into each other's mouths, or reaching around the other for cooking utensils, the idea of personal space completely obliterated. It was better than any S.O.-rookie bonding idea Coulson could ever have come up with, and if they started throwing knives in the kitchen, he didn't complain too much, as under Ward's tutelage, Skye hit almost everything she aimed at.

Ward came out of his shell a little more, accepting the compliments about his cooking rather than deflecting them as he had the first few times, which mostly was thanks to Skye's insistent elbowing him in the side every time he went to try and deflect, and instead offered a titbit of a story in which he explained where he'd learnt how to cook that particular dish. He was still a little stiff, and sometimes snapped as a result of his patience pushed too far, but he always immediately apologised, and everyone knew that it was only due to his exposure to the Berserker staff that resulted in his fiery-than-before temper. Coulson didn't expect miracles overnight, but, as he ate another helping of Ward's amazingly delicate and delicious panna cotta desert (a result of a month-long solo mission in the south of Italy years before), he was still very glad that he'd decided to split up the cooking duties among the team.

::

Skye didn't have much of a cooking history, having been brought up in an orphanage, and her cooking skills amounted to what she'd learnt in her high school cooking classes before she'd dropped out. As a result, the first few times she cooked, they were basic, simple meals, but they were filling and you could walk away from them without wondering if you'd spend the next few hours having some personal time with the toilet.

However, after expressing her desire to learn more to the group in general at dinner (one of Ward's amazing dinners, a French casserole with a name she couldn't pronounce and didn't try, especially not with a mouth full of it), she wandered back into her bunk to retrieve her tablet and instead found a thick book sitting on her pillow.

Only one person on the plane read books. May was too busy flying, most of the time, or if not, doing some sort of yoga, work out, thing… Coulson did a lot of paperwork, and the last thing he wanted to do was read more when he had time off. FitzSimmons were usually watching movies, or TV episodes, or making new bits of confusing technology – and they didn't like paper copies. If they read, they read e-books. Ward, however…

If you didn't find Ward working out in his free time, you found him buried in a book. Skye liked this, because if Ward was reading a book, it meant that she could curl up next to him with her tablet and he wouldn't mind if she used him as a warm, human pillow. She also liked this because sometimes, not very often, he'd fall asleep while reading, and he was very, very cute when he slept. Not that she watched him, or anything, because that would be creepy.

Ward knew that she didn't like books. He'd given her a novel to read, before, but she fell asleep (on him) before she got even halfway through the first chapter. She woke up tucked into bed with the book on her nightstand and her favourite stuffed animal in her arms. He'd given up presenting her with novels to read, but apparently not books completely, flipping through the book. It was a book about cooking. Not just recipes, but tips and tricks and facts about food. Skye picked it and her blanket up and went into the common area where Ward was sitting, reading another thick novel. She curled up next to him and gave him a smile in thanks for the book, and began reading. The next time Skye cooked, she had the book open on the counter, and she cooked a meal that was a little more complex.

Of course, there were failures, but Ward would often step in and help her out (he claimed it was what S.O.s were for, helping out their rookies), but her cooking got better and better, and soon those on the Bus wondered whose week it was, Ward's or Skye's. Sometimes Skye and Ward would trade off days, but it was more often that they shared, and worked together, not unlike FitzSimmons.

Skye trusted her S.O. more now, following his orders without question (but sometimes quips), and if it was adoration in Skye's eyes when Ward explained the advantages of the different sorts of potatoes when making the special hash-browns that he'd learnt to make in a diner in Texas, Coulson wasn't too picky – he was just glad that their relationship was more cordial than it had been previously.

::

May found that cooking was as calming and therapeutic as tai chi. Measuring, chopping, sautéing, baking, frying, grilling, stirring. She made very healthy food that usually tasted pretty good, and if they had a bland meal because May had a thing against salt, no-one minded too much because they felt so very, very healthy and virtuous eating it.

Skye liked watching her cook because she was so quick, so precise with her movements, and occasionally, May would get into what was a comparatively chatty mood, and tell her stories. Skye liked May's stories because May wasn't the sort of person who embellished their stories. Anyway, May's stories didn't need embellishing, because they were awesome in the first place.

May didn't mind being watched, nor telling the stories, because Skye's wide-eyed innocence was refreshing, to say the least. It was nice for someone to hear her stories without needing (or cleared for) context, and just want to hear the "awesome" stories of fights, and survival. Skye especially loved the ones where May kicked the butts of many men at once while being almost or completely alone in her fight. May noticed that Skye loved movies that empowered women (Mulan, Tangled, Brave – she watched ones for older people too, but Skye adored the innocence of movies for younger audiences), and she loved stories about how May herself, or the other female agents, Romanov and Hill, mainly, kicked men's asses. She requested the story of Romanov kicking Ward's ass when he was a rookie multiple times (she admitted it made her feel better when she heard it from someone other than Ward that he wasn't the perfect agent he appeared to be).

Cooking relaxed May, especially baking. Dinner was usually followed by a cake, or muffins, or cookies, or pastries (never healthy, and almost always packed with chocolate). Baking was careful and measured and every step had to be perfectly timed so that the cake didn't sink and the cookies didn't burn and the soufflé rose and the custard didn't curdle. And the steady hand required to decorate the cakes she baked with smooth icing and piped decorations and tiny sparkly bits.

May liked being on the Bus, despite her earlier protests, because although she liked baking, it usually went stale because she only ate a little at a time. However, on the Bus, fresh baked goods disappeared overnight. Forget stale, they didn't have time to cool down to room temperature.

May liked that the people on the Bus liked her baking enough that they were prepared to accept it as a gift. Simmons had decided, a week before Coulson's birthday, that they had to celebrate it, because less than a year before, it was unclear as to whether he'd live to see his next birthday. So May baked him a birthday cake.

Using three different chocolates to symbolise three different colours (blue, red and white), May painstakingly made a cake replica of Captain America's shield while Skye and Ward distracted him by offering to wash and polish Lola for a birthday present, which of course required his complete supervision. Coulson's eyes had actually filled with tears when that cake had been placed on the table before him. Later, when the younger agents were distracted bickering over the television, and whose turn it was to choose the movie/television show, Coulson had given May a very quick hug and whispered 'Thank you' in her ear.

::

Coulson liked cooking to music. Classical, orchestral and jazz, mostly, although sometimes his mood changed, and he listened to classic rock. His cooking was more enthusiastic than talented, but it was hearty and tasty and never very healthy unless you ate the salad that he always served with it in pretence of keeping up healthy eating standards. Ward and May were the only ones that ate it, May because she ate so very healthily and Ward simply because he ate a lot and despite his cooking abilities, wasn't picky about what he ate.

Coulson liked it when it was his turn to cook because for some reason, whenever it was his turn to cook, the rest of the team decided to congregate in the common area while he did so. Ward usually appeared first with a book and a drink and settled himself on one end of a couch. Skye turned up not long after, dragging the duvet from her bed with one hand, and her tablet and earphones in the other. She would cuddle up against Ward, using his shoulder as a pillow, plug the earphones into her ears and catch up on Youtube clips.

Coulson remembered the first time Skye had done this. She'd dragged her duvet out, juggling her tablet and phone in the other hand, and had scoped out the room in a glance. May had taken a seat by the window and was typing into a laptop, probably filling out mission reports. FitzSimmons were sitting on one of the couches arguing over the merits of the 11th Doctor versus the 10th Doctor in terms of choice of companions. Fitz was in favour of Tennant, while Simmons argued for Smith, and Ward outed himself as a closet Doctor Who fan when he joined Simmons by revealing a soft spot for Matt Smith's portrayal of the Doctor by inserting small remarks when they took a moment to breathe. FitzSimmons had taken up one of the couches, sprawling out with laptops and tablets and Fitz was fiddling with one of the dwarf drones, tiny little miniature screwdrivers spread out, covering half of the table. Ward sat on one end of the other couch, bottle of beer sitting on the unoccupied corner of the table, book open in his hands. Skye flopped down, not at the other end of the couch that Ward occupied, but right next to him, using him to prop herself up while she swung her legs up onto the couch. She settled herself with a sigh, tugging the duvet into place, before beginning to catch up on the Twitter accounts that she followed. Coulson watched with interest, waiting for Ward to call her out on her familiarity with him, but Ward simply relaxed back into the couch, allowing her to continue using him as a pillow, and asked Fitz why he thought Rose was a better companion than Clara.

Coulson knew the moment that he watched a sodium-pentothal-dosed-Ward being questioned by Skye in the Bus's interrogation room that Skye would be good for the overly buttoned up Ward, and if May hadn't suggested that Ward take Skye under his wing, Coulson would have. Skye was cuddled up against Ward's side, each of them with one earbud in an ear as they both laughed at a Youtube video.

FitzSimmons sat on the other couch. They hadn't settled the Doctor Who debate, but moved on to Fringe, arguing over whether a chemical such as Cortexiphan could be synthesised. Coulson enjoyed the prattling, overlapping banter; he'd grown quite accustomed to it now, and on the few occasions when FitzSimmons weren't on the Bus, the silence was eerie. Their deeply impressive minds never stopped working, like clocks that were constantly ticking over. It wasn't uncommon for a sleepless agent (such as Ward, May or himself) to wander down to the lab to find one, the other, or most likely, both, in the lab, working on a new piece of equipment or the current case or a past case which still had an unanswered question that they had to find the answer to. Coulson had learnt that attempting to send them to bed was a silly thought, because they'd turn up at breakfast with rings around their eyes, as you could physically send them away, but asking them to mentally turn off for such a menial thing as sleep was impossible.

They would often begin the day and end the day with the same argument – sometimes they'd discuss a television show, or superpowered beings (a favourite was who would win in a fight, Captain America or Thor – Coulson always very loyally maintained that Captain America would win, having already seen the Captain hold his own against Thor. Heck, they'd managed to decimate a good acre of forest without doing major damage to each other), or a scientific theory, or even just a random subject, seemingly pulled out of nowhere.

May usually appeared last, after setting the autopilot on the plane. Skye had freaked out the first time May walked into the common area while they were in the air, and Ward had to quickly calm her down by explaining how the plane had the best of the best technology, including amazing programming that Fitz had had a hand in, allowing the plane to be capable of fully automated flight. Fitz had shown Skye the programming, and Skye had agreed that it was pretty cool before calming down.

She usually settled down on the seats near the window with her laptop or a tablet. Coulson wasn't exactly sure what she did, although he knew, when he caught her in one of her very rare smiles, she was catching up on her emails with family or the few friends she had at SHIELD. May was an intensely private person, and the nickname she once took pride in, the Cavalry, now stung and burned whenever it hit her ears. Coulson knew the story, although he was sure none of the others did, although Skye might've found out before he put the tracking bracelet on her wrist, despite SHIELD monitoring her electronics from the moment she stepped foot on the Bus. Ward probably knew embellished snippets, while FitzSimmons probably had confusing theories given to them by older agents.

They all had their own reactions to being called to dinner. Ward marked his place in his book with a spare piece of paper, nudged Skye to get her off of his arm and tell her that dinner was ready, and then lazily wander over to the table. Skye would pause the video, lock the tablet, put it down next to Ward's book and follow after him, dropping into the seat next to him with a toothy grin at Coulson. FitzSimmons usually had to dash off to the bathroom to wash oil or grease or biological material off of their hands before joining them. Coulson would put the last dish on the table just as May joined them after making a quick check on the plane's flight plan. Ward, Skye and May would dig straight in, Fitz would mentally debate the best way to arrange the food on his plate for maximum deliciousness (his words, he'd done it since college according to Simmons), Simmons would silently say grace before beginning and Coulson would watch them eat in silence for a moment with a satisfied smile before beginning himself.

It was a strange team that he'd gathered together. They'd always have their differences, but they worked… well, they worked. It was too soon to put an adjective next to that word. There wasn't really a word to describe it, yet. But as Coulson watched them eat, he was sure they'd find it in the end.

::

This was supposed to be amusing, and then it turned introspective and analytical, especially after 1x08 "The Well". I'm terribly sorry if the tense (past, present, future) changes, but I did have a bit of trouble with it.

Please review. Reviewing is fun. It gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling. Why don't you try it?

XD PurpleHipposRock