dedication: to Rachel. happy Christmas, my prince.
title: just us and the city
summary: It's only three weeks, after all. — Skye/Grant.
Skye loves Christmas.
This is not a joke, okay, this is the real godforsaken truth. She loves the shit out of it, loves the coloured bulbs and the way the smell of cedar boughs sinks into everything, turns a house inside-out with love and festivity and family, and god, Skye wants.
'Course, she can't ever really remember having a Christmas like that, but hey, what can you do?
She rolls with it.
Fitz and Simmons have families to go home to, but she has a feeling they're pretty much going to be together, anyway. They unravel without each other, don't think she hasn't noticed; she sees it, sees the way they start to just—linger, lose themselves when they're waiting for someone else to finish their sentences. Skye likes Jemma, but definitely as not as much as Fitz does. She'd call them platonic life partners, but there's no way that kind of staring is at all platonic. Whatever, not her business anyway.
Coulson is apparently going to spend the day with the Avengers (at the behest of one Tony Stark? And Skye goes excuse me, you know Tony Stark? and Coulson just smiles beatifically and ignores her entirely, that dick), and as for May—who the hell knows. There's probably a secret-society-type party for kick-ass ladies that run SHIELD, and May is probably invited. Whatever.
(And even though she's beginning to think May is secretly mothering her [which, yes, that is a thing that needs to keep happening, she's never wanted to call someone Mom so much in her life except for—yeah, well, her mother], Skye knows that people don't take in strays. Not like her. Not for keeps. Whatever. Whatever. Whatever.)
Skyes doesn't think about Grant Ward, because he's whatever, too.
So three weeks before the day in question, when they've touched down in some city in New Mexico that she has no desire to be in, Skye goes shopping. It's like a million and four degrees, and she's got sweat sticky down the back of her shirt, and the mall is the kind of packed that she has giddy dreams about. Lost in the crowd, she can barely figure out where she wants to go first, and it's a struggle, but:
Skye buys herself a gigantic hideous Christmas sweater, a set of gold fairy lights, and enough eggnog to probably drown a moose. She is tempted by the large inflatable Santa Claus and the bobble-headed reindeer. Pointless knick-knacks, really, but Skye hoards shit like a cat and everyone else's things, and she wants all of it.
She figures an ugly silver wreath and some terrible old Christmas movies is a good compromise, and grabs those, too.
Frankly, the eggnog'll have her out before the sun even sets.
(There's plenty of booze hidden in her bedroom on the plane, so she's not worried about it. Coulson would probably give her a dirty look, but what, what do you want. What.)
She doesn't tell anyone; she just stuffs it away under her bed, bottles of eggnog and alcohol clinking together as she roots around her little mini-fridge trying to get them all to fit. The wreath pushes against her palms, plastic. She tucks the sweater around them for extra padding. Better than nothing, anyway. The lights get tucked into her dresser with the movies, and pretty soon there's no evidence that she ever bought anything at all.
She leaves them there, and tries to forget about them.
Her failure is systemic and predictable.
It's only three weeks, after all.
Los Angeles is the most indifferent city Skye has ever had the fortune to settle in.
While they'd circled down, the endless sea of shimmering lights had reached up with golden open arms to welcome them. SHIELD has a base here in this indifferent glowing city, but that isn't what pulls at the pumping organ in her chest. No, what tugs at her heart is the anonymity of it. She presses her face to the reinforced Plexiglas, nose leaving an imprint that she won't let Simmons eradicate later, and tries to breathe in the pollution through the thick clear sheet—if she could absorb it in through her skin she would, the sounds and smells and lights of the city that never sleeps.
Nothing happens, of course, because nothing can get in or out of this place. Not even air.
Skye could disappear in LA, and it might actually take Coulson a couple of weeks to find her.
(Not that she would, not with the REDACTED INFORMATION that is all over the only file she has about her own history. But, y'know. The point is that she could.)
May only raises an eyebrow at Skye, still curled up in one of the plush leather seats on the Bus with her knees up to her chest, and leaves without a word. She pauses, and looks over her shoulder, face a canvas curling up into the barest edges of a smile.
"Merry Christmas, Skye," she says.
"Merry Christmas," Skye echoes.
And then May is gone, the door closing behind her without a single sound.
And Skye is alone.
So she scampers to her bedroom to find her horrible sweater and her wreath and her fairy lights, all of them still tucked neatly away. In the near-sub-zero temperatures of her mini-fridge, her eggnog is still good to drink, and the booze would have been good anyway.
Skye builds herself a Christmas Palace in her bedroom, only without the tree and the presents. There is tinsel everywhere. Ward is going to have a fit.
Why she's even thinking about this is a total mystery, and Skye tips her head back and just laughs until her stomach hurts, clutching at her abdomen, cheeks burning with it.
God, she really needs a new job.
(Or, like, maybe a boyfriend? Or at least a good hard fuck? Something?!)
She turns on the fireplace channel, turns down the heat, and wraps up in three different duvets she's been saving for this. The ugly sweater lights up. Skye is delighted.
Like this, she can pretend that it's snowing outside, and the world is a silent, cold place.
She closes her eyes, and then—
—someone's knocking on the door. Skye wipes sleep and eggnog off her face, reaches for the gun tucked beneath her pillow (she doesn't think about it anymore, doesn't think about how that's her first reaction. SHIELD is getting to her), and points it at the door. She's alone, the Bus is empty.
Whoever is knocking has no business in the only place she can call home, right now.
"Who is it?" Skye sings, sounding like an empty-headed ditz. Make them think you don't know anything, she thinks viciously, make them think they have the advantage.
"It's Ward," his voice comes low through the door.
"Oh, shit, yeah, hold on," Skye says, and looks around at her Christmas palace. There is no way she has enough time to hide it all, so whatever, fuck it. He can deal, and if he flips out… whatever, it's just Ward.
She stumbles out of her bed, wrapped in her duvet and her ugly sweater, and pulls the door open.
"Hi," she says. Her hair is everywhere, and he's in a suit. She feels suitably underdressed, and then shoves it away. Own it, Skye. He's just some guy, she tells herself. It's mostly true.
"Can I come in?" he asks. It's in that same soft, low tone, and she looks at the way his mouth turns downward. She knows that look—that look is loneliness, the empty hunger in a person's soul that wants to eat and eat to gluttony, eat until there's nothing left in the whole entire world.
Skye knows that feeling better than anyone.
"If you say one word about the decorations, I will make your life a bloody misery," Skye informs him, but moves out of the doorframe to let him pass. He takes it, a flash of something like gratefulness across his face before his expression settles into neutrality again.
Grant looks around the room, from the fairy lights to the wreath and then he looks at her, up and down, black leggings and her Christmas sweater down to the middle of her thighs. There is an opportunity here, Skye knows it, and does not hesitate to take it.
"If I didn't know better, Agent Ward, I'd say you were checking me out," she teases.
He goes a little cross-eyed, and Skye turns away so she can stuff her fist in her mouth to muffle the laughter. It's funny because it's Grant, because it's so easy to get under his skin and turn him into a blubbering mess of incoherent ridiculousness. Seriously, what kind of secret agent is this dude? A pretty girl smiles at him and he gets flustered, dear god.
"It looks good in here," he says, finally.
Skye turns back to him, surprised. "You think so?"
"Yeah," he says, but his eyes are on her.
And there it is again, the hunger. He doesn't even know what he's hungry for, but Skye does. She knows exactly what he's hungry for—known it since the Berserker rage a month ago, since that Asgardian stick pulled all his worst parts out for him to see. May started putting him back together, but it takes more than sloppy drunk sex to put a broken person back together. Skye knows that.
God, Skye knows that so well.
(Been there, done that, got the T-shirt and the pregnancy scare. No thanks.)
"Why are you here? I thought you were—" And then Skye realizes she had no idea where Grant was going for Christmas, whether he even had a home or what his brothers were doing, or, hell, if they were even still alive. Wow, depressing thought.
"I thought you'd be with Miles," he says the name with a spite that surprises the both of them.
"No," says Skye. "We broke up."
(They didn't break up. Skye dumped him. Totally different story. SHIELD was her home now, and that was both ridiculous and hilarious. The irony of the situation did not escape her.)
"Oh," Grant says, and looks at her like a starving thing.
Skye's smile is crooked as she says "C'mon. I've got spiked eggnog. Let's get drunk and watch bad Christmas movies."
His agreement is the tiniest inclination of his head, and the warmth in his eyes.
Sky has no doubt that they are going to be making out before the movie's even started.