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The Academy

Chapter Text

“You have a visitor.”

Grant, who’d spent the better part of the morning simply staring down at his hands, glanced up in surprise. He’d swear the guard was speaking to someone else only he was in a cell all on his own. He was a ‘risk’ so they’d so far allowed him to be alone which he preferred. He didn’t want to deal with anyone else’s bullshit.

“What?”

“You heard me, come on, kid.”

He held out his hands and the guard cuffed him before leading him out of the room and towards the visiting area. He ignored the sneers of his fellow inmates. There were two types: those who feared him or those who wanted to challenge him. After it became clear him being around others would only lead to fights he’d been stuck in a cell on his own, not allowed to attend any classes or free time. He was truly a prisoner.

He wasn’t sure who in the hell would be visiting him. Not his fucking parents, that was for sure. He hoped it wasn’t Gramsy; she was barely hanging on as it was. He knew he’d added to her stress but he’d acted on impulse and aside from how it would affect her he didn’t care about the consequences. He’d do it again in a heartbeat.

When he arrived the guard motioned to a suit waiting at a table in the middle of the room. Grant stepped forward and eyed him warily. Was he a lawyer? No, no public defender would dress that nicely and there was no one to hire him a real lawyer. Maybe a cop? The cops he’d dealt with so far had been complete jackasses and this guy didn’t give off that vibe.

“Grant Ward?” The man stood and held out his hand. Grant eyed him warily but lifted his cuffed hands to shake it. “Please, have a seat.”

Grant continued to watch him curiously as he did as he was told. He’d been shown a lot of things since being thrown in here but kindness had not been one of them.

“I’m Agent Phil Coulson.”

“What are you, a cop? I already told those other cops everything.”

The man smirked. “I’m kind of a cop. I work for an organization looking to recruit bright young men like you. You’ve been on our radar for some time. You have great test scores and all of your teachers agreed were it not for your personality you’d be one of their best students. But you’re a risk. It’s hard to trust a man who will break out of military camp, steal a superior officer’s car, and drive five hundred miles to burn his family’s home to the ground. Tell me, did you know your older brother was inside or was that merely a coincidence?”

Grant stayed silent.

“I’m giving you a chance to tell your side of the story. There are no cameras; this won’t be held against you. I just want to know why.”

“Is it important?”

“It is to me. I’m willing to give you a second chance if you’re willing to earn it and the first step to that is telling me why you tried to kill your older brother.”

Grant kept his mouth shut. He wasn’t an idiot. He knew how the law worked. He’d spill his guts and they’d have a confession. He wasn’t falling for it.

Eventually Coulson sighed and closed Grant’s file. “Suit yourself. Too bad, you would have been a great asset to The Academy. Probably would have made a good agent as well.”

“Wait-what Academy?” He asked as Coulson stood.

Coulson hugged the file to his chest with a shrug. “Too late, I gave you a chance to-“

“I knew he was in the house!” He blurted out and immediately regretted doing so.

Coulson eyed him for a moment before tossing the file back on the table and returning to his seat. “Go on.”

He glanced around, panicked, before Coulson’s voice calmed him. “There’s no one listening. It’s just you and me. And I already know everything; I’d just rather hear your version of it.”

Grant wasn’t sure why but there was something about Coulson that made him believe he was telling him the truth. He gave him a small nod and toyed with the edge of the table while trying to find his words. Opening up and talking were two things he was good at but he’d give it a shot.

“You’ve read my file?” He whispered, knowing he couldn’t talk about everything. Sure, the file didn’t cover a fraction of it but he was sure it covered enough. He’d seen more social workers and doctors in his life than he cared to and every injury wasn’t on that list.

Coulson nodded.

“I….” he swallowed. “I was always too scared to fight back and I thought it was just me and my little brother, you know? My dad was always a bully and my mom was too weak to do anything about it and my older brother was exactly like my father and I guess I just never saw it. It was about me until I was brave enough to fight back and then it was about me and my brother and I never knew. I was too blind to see it. Then when they realized I wasn’t going to stop fighting back they sent me away, which I was fine with, except it left Edwin alone…

I was part of the problem for a long time but he needed me. And then I wasn’t there and I know it got worse, it had to have gotten worse, but I didn’t know how bad it was until…”

Grant couldn’t even say it. It made him sick to think about it.

“Your sister’s attempted suicide?”

Grant closed his eyes and tried to hold down the rage.

“I had no idea he was…I thought she was safe, you know? It was stupid but Alison always seemed fine. No bruises, no broken bones, Maynard and my father were always kind to her; it never occurred to me that…” Nausea crept up and he took a deep breath. “When Edwin called me and told me what they’d been doing to her,” he exhaled and opened his eyes, looking Coulson right in his eyes. “What they did to me and Edwin was nothing compared to what they did to her. I’m only sorry my father wasn’t in that house and that they both didn’t burn to the ground with it.”

It wasn’t cruelty or even hate. His father and older brother were monsters; the worst kind of monsters. They got off on hurting others. And his mother was just as bad as they were because she had never lifted a finger to stop him. His Gramsy had tried to get her to leave him, had tried every legal means possible to save them from that monster, and his mother had covered it all up, lied for him. She was just as guilty as he was.

Hell, even Grant had a part to play in all of this. He should have been braver; should have stood up to them sooner. Maybe if he had his sister wouldn’t have been forced into going against every belief she had to get rid of a kid she should have never had forced on her. Grant knew that was what finally broke her; what made it all be too much. Why his baby brother, who’d endured enough trauma to last twelve lifetimes, had found her half-dead next to an empty bottle of pills in a pool of her own blood.

They were the two people he should have spent his life protecting and he was partly responsible for ruining them. He’d never forgive himself for that.

Maybe snapping and trying to kill his abusers hadn’t been the best plan but he owed Edwin and Alison that much; of course in true Grant Douglas fashion he’d failed them once again.

To Grant’s surprise Coulson didn’t get up and leave, instead he reached out to place a hand on his but Grant pulled back instinctively. “Sorry,” he muttered, realizing his mistake. He was used to…well, it didn’t matter. If he was going to live in the real world he’d have to get used to being touched, right?

Coulson didn’t bring it up. “Here’s what I’m willing to offer you, Mr. Ward. My organization has ways of making things happen. Your grandmother is too sick to take in your brother and sister but we’ve found them a foster home that will take both of them in. They’re good people who have handled children from similar situations in the past. They’ll both receive therapy. And when your sister turns eighteen in a few months, if she’s healthy enough, we’ll make sure Edwin stays with her if he wants. And we’ll continue to monitor them for any threats. There’s nothing we can do about your mother but your father and older brother will be imprisoned on multiple counts of child abuse. Your grandmother has provided statements, that along with a written statement from you if you’ll give it, records we have of complaints, and a judge who owes me a favor will keep them in there for a very long time.”

Grant’s heart stopped. Was he serious?

“In exchange for what?”

“Nothing. I don’t like bullies, Mr. Ward.

Now, as for you, there’s a place for you in S.H.I.E.L.D. Academy. There you will finish your High School education while also receiving advanced training and if you do well you can continue on to attend our Academy of Communications and then if you survive that, our Academy of Operations. We also have an Academy of Science and Technology but something tells me you’d be more suited for the field.”

“S.H.I.E.L.D.?”

“The Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division. We’re the good guys, Mr. Ward. Spies. Doctors. Agents. I think you’d be a good asset, once you’ve had some training. But I do have some conditions.”

Grant gave him a nod to continue.

“You attend two therapy sessions a week. We can shorten it down to one when your therapist thinks it’s time. You have to make an effort to socialize. I understand with your past that your people skills are lacking but we’ll work on that. I want to see a real effort from you. This will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done, Grant. The work won’t be easy, you’ll be behind every one of your classmates, and you’ll be the new kid. On top of all of that you’ll be working through things no one your age should have ever been put through. But I think you can do it. And do you know why?”

Grant shook his head.

“Because you’re a good person. And I think you want to help people. Do you know want to know why S.H.I.E.L.D. was founded? Protection. An individual, the world, it doesn’t matter. I believe that every person is worth saving. And a man can accomplish anything when he realizes he's a part of something bigger. A team of people that share that conviction can change the world. And that’s what I’m offering you Grant, a change to be a part of something bigger, a chance to protect others, to change the world. All you have to do is work for it and you can accomplish it. So, what do you say?”

Grant swallowed and tried to find his voice. “Why me? I’m not sure I deserve the chance, sir.”

Coulson smiled. “Everyone deserves a second chance. Plus, I’m a sucker for the underdog. So, are you going to walk out that door with me or are you going to spend a good portion of your adult life trapped behind bars. Your parents and brother will be here in five minutes and they’re pushing to have you tried as an adult. You can face them or you and I can go get a cheeseburger while you tell me who Grant Ward really is and I tell you everything you need to know about S.H.I.E.L.D.”

It was everything he could want but answering was still one of the hardest things he’d ever done, which meant this was the right thing. It had to be.

“Can we get shakes with those burgers?”

Chapter Text

Grant hung his head and allowed the hot water to loosen the tense muscles in his back. Today had been one hell of a day, to say the least. After Agent Coulson had sprung him from the joint, they’d had that cheeseburger and one hell of a talk. He’d filled him in on very little, basically information Grant could find online if he looked hard enough and if he was any good with computers. When Grant had tried to get more information Coulson had simply told him it was ‘classified’ and once he took his entrance exams (oh yeah, there were tests he had to pass) and he was officially in S.H.I.E.L.D. as a student he would find out as much as his clearance as a student would allow him.

All of these rules and secrets were already driving him nuts, but he’d have to get used to it all, wouldn’t he?

Besides, it wasn’t as if he was the most forthcoming. When it came to talking about his feelings or his past he preferred to not bother. Coulson informed him this was a good thing, as a spy he’d have to conceal things, keep secrets, live other lives, but also warned him that keeping things bottled up was dangerous.

He’d tried to open up, but there wasn’t much about him that didn’t revolve around his family. Truth was he had no idea who Grant Ward was without them. Coulson promised he’d have a chance to find out.

Here’s what he did know: he liked mystery novels and books about soldiers and classic American literature, he wanted to learn to play board games, he wanted a dog someday, and girls both enchanted and terrified him at the same time. When he’d confessed the latter Coulson had laughed and replied with ‘there’s a girl I can’t wait for you to meet’ and left it at that.

Grant had left their lunch feeling pretty good until he realized Coulson wasn’t driving them to a hotel like promised, instead he was driving him to Gramsy’s nursing home. When he’d tried to argue for him to turn around Coulson insisted that he had to ‘say goodbye’ because it was ‘good for him’.

“I can’t do this, sir,” he insisted. How could he face her after what he’d done? After everything she’d tried to do for him? She was the only reason he knew what love was. She was everything to him and he’d let her down. He was a disappointment. No, he couldn’t do this.

“I’ve already spoken to her; she’s looking forward to seeing you, Grant.”

“You-“ Grant shut up the moment they turned into the parking lot. This was happening whether he liked it or not.

“I warned you this would be hard. If you can’t do this, I’m not sure you’ll make it through the school year. It’s time to be brave.”

Grant wanted to lose it but…wasn’t that what Coulson wanted? To see how much he could handle? So he did what he did best, he pushed down his feelings and decided to bullshit this as much as possible.

He led the way. He hadn’t been here much, his parents hadn’t really allowed it, but he’d been here when they put her away and the last time he’d run away. Grant had a photographic memory, he remembered everything. It was a curse, really.

They found her in the courtyard and he stood back awkwardly for a moment before Coulson gently nudged him forward. “Gramsy?” He began to smile as she turned back to him but his temporary moment of happiness turned to panic when he saw who sat with her. He tried to make a run for it but Coulson blocked the way.

“No, sir-“

“You have to face them sometime. Trust me; it’ll be good for you.”

Grant shook his head but Coulson gave him a look that told him he meant business. He should have stayed in Juvie. His parents and Maynard were nothing compared to this. At least there he could glower and hate them here he’d have to…deal with things.

“Grant?”

Edwin’s voice broke him and he knew Coulson was right; he’d have to do this sometime.

He turned and gave him his best smile. “Hey, kiddo.” Edwin gave him a smile, one that said he was his hero (he wasn’t) before rushing to hug him. Grant didn’t know how this kid was still intact after everything; let alone how he trust him.

He remembered the day he’d pulled him out of that well, hugged him and promised he’d keep him safe. He’d failed so many times, but he hoped with Coulson’s help he’d be able to begin to keep that promise.

“I’m sorry, Grant, I shouldn’t have-“

“No, don’t be, you did the right thing.” Grant patted him on the back awkwardly, unused to hugs, especially ones that kept going. He glanced over Edwin’s shoulder to find Alison staring at him with an unreadable expression on her face. She never said much. He’d figured out a long time ago her method of dealing was to shrink back and not be noticed so she could survive long enough to escape but now he wondered if she wasn’t just holding it all in the way he had for so long.

“I heard someone tried to kill our piece of shit brother,” she said, avoiding the scandalized look Gramsy sent her way.

“Yeah, bastard got out though.”

She smirked. “Too bad, he had it coming.”

Grant shrugged. “Heard he’s got some ugly injuries though; rumor has that same deranged delinquent took a baseball bat to his dick too, just to make sure he wouldn’t be able to procreate. Pity I never got the chance to shake his hand. Boy’s a damn hero.”

Coulson rolled his eyes and his Grandmother hissed his name in annoyance but for the first time in Grant’s life he saw a real smile from his sister before she flung her arms around him and Edwin. “Thank you,” she whispered, even though he didn’t deserve it. He’d done something only when it was too late. The only person she owed her thanks to was Coulson; he was the one who was saving them all.

“I didn’t do anything but throw a tantrum,” he replied awkwardly. He glanced over to find Coulson giving him a nod.

Right.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I…I should have figured it out. I would…hell, we both know I’m a coward but…” he shrugged.

“You would have protected her the way you protected me,” Edwin whispered.

“No, buddy, I-“

“But you have. I know it wasn’t your fault…you were scared, like me, but you started fighting back, Grant. I couldn’t have ever done that.”

Dammit, Grant wasn’t good at this. He glanced up to meet Alison’s eyes and she gave him a sympathetic look before moving to her knees and taking Edwin’s hands. “But you are brave, duckie. You saved me and you called Grant for help; that took a lot of courage. You’ll always be a hero to me.”

Edwin hugged her and Grant sighed in relief. Maybe they weren’t okay now and maybe it would take a long time before they were, but there would be, someday. And Edwin was going to be okay because Ali would take care of him.

Grant moved to sit next his Gramsy and took her hand.

“So...I guess I have some explaining to do?”

He knew Coulson was right and he’d needed that but…he sighed and stepped away from the now lukewarm water. Today had been emotionally draining. He was glad he’d seen for himself that his siblings would be fine but…would they really? And Gramsy looked so much worse…she was going to die and he wasn’t going to be there in her last days. He wasn’t sure if he was strong enough for it but she deserved not to be alone.

Coulson promised he could visit during school breaks but did he really want that? Maybe a clean break would be good for everyone. It would only be a matter of time before the resentment kicked in and they remembered everything he’d done and he just wanted to leave things the way there were now; with all of them on a path to getting out of the hell they’d endured their entire lives.

He stepped out of the shower and quickly dressed before moving to the window. He’d never been a good sleeper, he always needed one eye open and it was better when he was away from home, but barely. One thing that helped was looking up at the stars and trying to find the constellations. They were beautiful to him because they were the same stars you could find wherever you were. They were a constant in his life; stable. Plus, they reminded him of how small he was, how unimportant he was in the grand scheme of things and for some reason that calmed him.

But it wasn’t the stars that caught his attention when he glanced through the curtains. It was after dark but the summer was warm so he wasn’t surprised to find someone out by the pool. What did surprise him was how she was so beautiful she made him forget about his stupid life for about thirty seconds. She was absolutely enchanting with her golden skin and dark hair and her damn white bikini.

Then she glanced up, caught him staring, and smiled before finally diving in.

He all but ran from the window from embarrassment before realizing how stupid he was. So what? He’d looked at a pretty girl. Was that really such a bad thing to be caught doing?

No, but the oncoming erection was a problem.

He closed his eyes with a sigh. Even with his shitty family he hadn’t been able to escape the curse of puberty. However, unlike the other boys his age, he hadn’t had the chance to do something about it. He hadn’t even had male friends, let alone female friends. How in the hell did one talk to girls, let alone be normal around them? How was he going to handle being around them all the time? Living near them?

You could start by trying to talk to one, like the cute one outside. And if it goes horribly wrong at least you won’t ever have to see her again.

The voice in his head was stupid.

It also had a point.

Grant lingered at the door, debating the pros and cons of being brave for once when he made up his mind. He reached for the handle, telling himself he was only going to get some fresh air, and opened the door to find Coulson standing there with a box of donuts.

“Sir.”

“I told you, you can call me ‘Phil’…until we get to the Academy.”

“Right…Phil.” It felt wrong but he’d try it.

“Here, there are some miraculously left over, I thought you might want a snack before bed. I remember when I was a teenager, I ate everything, around the clock; I have no idea where I put it. Hell, my nephew’s the same way; don’t know where he puts it either; must be some weird puberty loophole. Anyway, here,” he said, opening the box.

Grant smiled and took a chocolate covered one. “Thank you.” He realized almost the entire box was gone and that there was no way Coulson had put them all away. “Are there other agents here, sir?”

“Yes, a few. We’re recruiting a few others, mostly the students we have in The Academy at your age are children of agents, but sometimes, when we see potential, we bring them in young, give them a fair shot at a real education so they can come back and attend the advanced academies if they choose.”

“Do agents really have families? I mean…do enough of them really have them that a school is necessary? I figured spies would be…well, loners. Like me.”

Phil smiled and took the last donut before shrugging. “Not all of our agents are specialists. We have scientists, engineers, doctors, communications experts, you name it; as for our ‘spies’ sometimes when your undercover things happen. It’s hard not to when you find someone you can trust with your life.”

Grant sensed Coulson have plenty of experience in that area. Maybe it was his ability to read people of the smirk on Coulson’s face.

“And do you have…experience with things ‘happening’?” It was a personal question and maybe he’d gone too far in asking it but he was trying to get used to this whole being sociable thing and considering Coulson knew so much about him it seemed only fair for him to know something about him.

Coulson smirked. “I’ll tell you all about it when I introduce you to my wife.”

Grant didn’t see a wedding ring, but he suspected most agents wouldn’t want to advertise they had weaknesses.

“I’m sure she’s lovely, sir.”

He chuckled. “You have no idea,” he muttered with a shake of his head. “All right, son, I’ll leave you to it. I want you up before dawn, we’re taking a fishing trip.”

Grant blinked in surprise. “Fishing?” He figured he’d be preparing for the exams he’d have to take.

“That’s right; you’re not opposed to fishing, are you?”

“Of course not.”

“Good, then I’ll see you in the morning.”

He nodded. “Right and…thank you again, for everything, sir.”

“It’s Phil.” Coulson replied with a smirk. “And you’re welcome. Good night, Grant.”

“Good night.”

Grant stood in the doorway and watched Coulson disappear into one of the rooms. Once he was out of sight he glanced over the balcony and found the pool empty.

Oh well, it wasn’t like he knew how to talk to girls anyway. But it didn’t stop the disappointment he felt. He’d been willing to talk to one or pretend he was and lost out.

You’ll have plenty of chances to embarrass yourself in front of girls soon.

He sighed knowing it was the truth.

Chapter Text

Saturday morning was spent fishing in relative silence. Phil showed him how to set the line, cast it, and went through everything needed beforehand. He liked using bacon for bait because he didn’t like torturing the worms plus ‘who doesn’t like bacon’.

They’d caught few fish all of which they threw back. When Grant asked him why Phil simply told him the point wasn’t to eat the fish today it was to learn how to catch them. And before he could ask him more questions he’d commented on how nice it was to just be out in nature and enjoy it so Grant had left it alone.

At noon they left so Grant could study for his entrance exams.

He spent the day holed up in his hotel room and would (from time to time) peak out the window to see if the beautiful sun-kissed goddess he’d seen the night before was around. He never caught sight of her and continued his studying.

They repeated their routine the next day except this time Phil showed him how to descale, debone, and cook the fish they caught (as well as how to start a fire). Then they took a shopping break. Phil had somehow managed to get a bag of Grant’s own things from home (including his favorite red baseball cap-his favorite because it had been a gift from Gramsy) but took him anyway saying he needed a broader wardrobe not to mention personal items.

Grant had been hesitant at first, he was used to getting Maynard’s hand-me-downs, and Phil had already done more for him than he deserved but he’d insisted saying S.H.I.E.L.D. was paying for it all which meant Stark was really paying for it all and Stark had enough money to fund the entire world.

When he asked if The Tony Stark was a part of S.H.I.E.L.D. Phil replied with a ‘no’ but informed him that Howard Stark was one of the founding members of S.H.I.E.L.D. and had made sure it could function without being a government agency which meant it had more money than it knew what to do with.

“What do you mean ‘without being a government agency’?”

“Someday, there may come a time when our government finds we’re no longer necessary because we don’t play by their rules and when that happens S.H.I.E.L.D. will rise not fall. Always remember you’re an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. not Congress, son.”

That was the first time he realized how serious this all was. This wasn’t just his escape, this was a future. So that night he studied even harder.

On the third day Grant took his exams after their morning fishing trip. His palms were sweaty the entire time and he felt sick to his stomach but they weren’t so bad. There was a long multiple choice exam, a brief written exam, an oral interview which was the worst part, and a physical assessment that included a medical exam and strength training.

When he returned to the hotel that night he passed out from exhaustion.

The next morning they were met at the lake by another agent. Grant knew he was an agent by the way Phil regarded him.

“Grant this is Agent John Garrett, he and I trained together. Garrett this is Grant Ward.”

“So, this is the kid you poached off of me?”

Grant took his hand and shot Phil a look of confusion. Phil gave Garrett a momentary look that really was nothing more than a second but it made Grant know not to trust him. He trusted Phil with his life and if Phil didn’t fully trust someone then he wouldn’t either.

“Sir?”

Garrett smirked. “Your S.O. at the Military Academy is an old friend. Called me about a troubled kid he thought might do well in S.H.I.E.L.D. but before I could meet with you Phil here got to you.”

Phil met Grant’s eyes and his suspicions were confirmed.

“Sorry, sir. Though, I guess this means I was always meant for S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t it?”

Garrett seemed to find this amusing because he clapped Grant on the shoulder. He flinched but only Phil caught it. Garrett walked towards his truck and pulled down the tailgate. “It seems so, kid,” he said as he pulled things from his truck.

Phil gave Grant a nod and he moved to help.

“So, Phil, did your girl find him? She’s crazy talented. Don’t leave this one alone with her, he might fall in love with her the way my boy Kaminsky has. Let me tell you, kid, when a girl is cute and smart: run. Nothing good ever comes of it.”

“Who am I running from, sir?”

Garrett chucked. “So, Phil, haven’t told him about-“

“John, Skye is not a topic for conversation right now. I asked you here for a reason.”

Whoever Skye was, Phil looked ready to kill Garrett just for mentioning her.

“Right. All right, kid, I’m going to show you how to pitch a tent and how to shoo-“

“No guns,” Phil said sternly and Garrett rolled his eyes.

“Come on, Phil, the kid’s going to have to learn to shoot sooner or later.”

“He can learn later. I told you, we’re doing this my way.”

Grant was confused but he kept his mouth shut and followed Garrett’s instructions on setting up a camp site. When they finished it was near dark and Grant glanced over to Phil. “Sir, are we camping?” He wasn’t sure what they’d been doing out here all week, maybe survival skills or something, but he was going along with it, sure his mentor had his reasons for teaching him all of these things.

“No, but you are,” Garrett answered.

Phil shot him a glare as a car pulled up.

“Sir?” Grant asked, suddenly terrified.

Phil took him by the shoulder gently and let him away from Garrett. “I’ll be back for you in a few days.” Grant opened his mouth but Phil cut him off. “You need a few days to yourself. Your life has always been about other people and this will give you a chance to be alone with your thoughts and be free of needing anyone but yourself. It’s not an exercise I’m comfortable with but it works and I think it’ll work for you.”

“Wipe that terrified smirk off your face, kid, if I was your S.O. I’d have left you out here with nothing and no promise to come back.”

Phil shot him a glare. “That’s why you’re not his S.O.”

The car door slammed and Grant glanced over to find a very attractive agent leaning against a black S.H.I.E.L.D. SUV. Her arms were crossed and she watched Garrett with distaste. Phil clapped Garrett on the back and thanked him for his help.

“Anytime, Phil, I’ll be keeping an eye on this one. We all know you can’t stay away from the field for long, maybe he’ll still be one of mine along with your boy Trip.”

“We’ll see.”

“Mel,” Garrett said with a nod as he moved to his truck.

“John.”

She waited until Garrett rode off in his truck to push away from the car. Phil smirked and Grant realized this was his wife.

“You’re late.”

She shrugged and fixed his tie before glancing over his shoulder and meeting Grant’s eyes. She was terrifying. “So, this is him?”

“Grant, this is Agent Melinda May,” he introduced, his eyes never leaving her.

“Did you bring it?”

She rolled her eyes and opened the backseat of the car. A large chocolate lab jumped out and ran around her feet before sitting down happily.

“This is the dog she had to save? Really? I was expecting something…smaller.”

Agent May shrugged. “Don’t look at me, she’s your daughter.”

“Why is she only my daughter when she does something you don’t approve of but when she does something brilliant she’s your daughter?”

Grants ears perked up. Daughter?

She smirked. “Maria’s men rescued it on a mission. It was on its way to the pound when she saw him. You’re the one who agreed to adopt it when she cried about it. You do enjoy taking in strays,” she teased affectionately, her eyes moving to Grant again.

He blushed.

“Does he have a name?” Phil asked as he reached down to scratch the dog behind the ears.

“Buddy.”

He glanced up with a frown. “Really, Mel? She speaks computer code all day and three languages and the best she could come up with was ‘Buddy’?”

I named him Buddy. She wanted to name him ‘Steve Rogers’ and appoint him the mascot of the Captain America fan club.”

“I like that name.”

“Of course you do, you’re also the president of said fan club.”

Phil leaned over and kissed her. “I’ll see you back at the hotel.”

She rolled her eyes and opened the car door. “Try not to get killed out here, kid,” she warned before disappearing.

Phil called to the dog and led him over. “Grant, you’re going to keep buddy out here with you for protection. There’s a charged cell phone in your pack, only use it if there’s an emergency. I’ll be back for you in three days, use these three days to really think about what you want and to try to make peace with things.”

“Sir, I don’t know if I can do this al-“

“I have faith in you, son. And if John Garrett comes back, there’s a pistol in your pack as well. Feel free to shoot him in the kneecap.”

“Sir?”

Phil placed a hand on his shoulder. “Let’s just say John and I have very different ways of mentoring and I wouldn’t put it past him to try to poach you, so to speak. Now, I promise you, I will be back on Sunday. Your results will be in by then and if you pass you’ll get to move into the dorms on Monday.”

“And if I fail, sir?”

He smiled. “That’s not going to happen. And be sure to take care of Buddy, yeah? I have a little girl who will be upset if anything happens to him. She finally conned me into getting a dog and here I am giving him to you the same day.”

Grant pictured a tiny child with Agent May’s serious gaze and nodded. “Don’t worry, sir, I’ll keep him safe.”

“Good. And try not to get too attached, no dogs at school, but I’ll let you visit him.”

“Don’t worry sir, I don’t get attached.”

Phil shook his head. “We’ll see.”

Grant watched hopelessly as he left him and then glanced down at Buddy who looked up at him hopefully.

“I guess we’re about to become best friends, huh?”

Chapter Text

Skye’s head was killing her and she felt slightly nauseous. She supposed it was probably because she’d been hanging off the bed upside down for too long but she was too bored to actually move. This was boring. Her whole summer had been boring. If he parents had been planning to work the whole time they could have let her go to England to stay with Jemma or left her in Virginia with the Carters. Anything had to be better than this. Sure, helping her dad track down leads for a case had been cool and helping him and his team find troubled teens to recruit (save, really) had been nice but otherwise she’d done nothing but sit around in hotel rooms. She hadn’t even been home longer than a day, this was bullshit.

When she could no longer handle her position she flung her legs back and let gravity do its job. She sprawled out on the floor with a groan. That had been a bad idea.

She sat up with a sigh and glanced toward her laptop. She really wasn’t supposed to be on it, something about how she needed to spend more time doing things that weren’t ‘hacking’. When she’d pointed out that she preferred decryption enthusiast and that no one had said ‘hack’ since the 80’s her dad had simply rolled his eyes and told her to figure out something else to do.

What the hell else was she supposed to do? Her mom was supposed to be working in the office not out on missions but she was, out on a mission, so she was stuck traveling with her dad with nothing to do. She’d read every book and comic she owned and there was nothing ever on television, not that she was big on that to begin with (the one show she’d really loved had been cancelled, those bastards). He wouldn’t even let her hang out with the one kid he’d decided to take under his wing because he needed ‘time to himself’ or some bullshit.

Maybe if she hacked into his file…

No, that would be an invasion of privacy. She hadn’t read it when she’d found him and she wasn’t going to do it now.

With a huff she sat up and moved to the window. It was late but probably still nice and humid out there. She glanced towards her suitcase and remembered the new bikini she had with the tags still on it. What the hell? She threw it on and grabbed a towel on her way out.

“Isn’t it a little late for a swim?” Her dad called as she passed by the room where he and other agents were working.

She leaned in the doorway and shrugged. “There’s nothing else to do. See, I was promised a summer at home with both of my parents and instead I’ve been living like a damn fugitive. Could have at least let me go somewhere cool, A.C., I know S.H.I.E.L.D. has the funds.” She never called him ‘dad’ in front of his agents; she wanted them to remember her dad was the boss and a total bad-ass.

“You’ll be back at The Academy in a week, where you and Trip can get into trouble and almost get thrown out some more.”

She snorted. “Yeah, like they’d throw us out, we’re goddamn legacies.”

“Qiaolian,” he warned and she groaned when one of his younger agents smirked.

“Whatever, A.C. Can I at least get the weekend in my own bedroom? I can’t even remember what it looks like.”

He gave her his disapproving father ‘look’.

“Skye, you either get this or me back in the field and your Grandmother’s for the summer.” She made a face. She loved her Grandmother but no. There was only so much of her she could handle. Like, her mom was strict, but her Grandmother was stricter and super into the ‘be a proper Chinese lady’ thing and Skye was anything but a lady. Plus, her Grandmother kept trying to get her to go to Camp Peary instead of The Academy and hell no. As if Skye would ever submit to the C.I.A. S.H.I.E.L.D. was much cooler, less government, more weird.

“That’s what I thought,” he said as glanced down to his paperwork. “Besides, better get used to not having roots, Skye, you’re going to be an agent in a few years.”

She scoffed. “Yeah, but not a field agent or a specialist. I’m going to be working from a base, A.C. And I’m going to have a cool apartment with a dog and you can’t stop me.”

“Skye, we’re busy,” he reminded and she rolled her eyes.

“Fine, but I want a dog for my birthday.”

“You’re not getting a dog,” he called as she left. She rolled her eyes. She could have asked for a pony instead.

“Normal families have dogs,” she called back.

Sure, there was nothing normal about her life. Her mom was The Cavalry, her dad was the director’s second-in-command, and all of her ‘aunts’ and ‘uncles’ were badass super spies, but it would be nice to have one normal thing. Like a dog or a boyfriend.

A boyfriend would be nice. Someone to make out with would be super nice. But it wasn’t happening. The only person not afraid to date The Cavalry’s daughter was Trip and eww, gross. He was like her brother (he even called her dad ‘Uncle Phil’ for crying out loud). She’d tried to make-out with him once, for science, but it was like super unarousing and neither of them were into it. She’d kissed a few boys at parties but nothing ever came from it. She was going to have to date some dumb frat boy at NYU to get any because none of the S.H.I.E.L.D. boys would touch her and she was only slightly into girls and well, the girls were mostly too busy actually caring about their schoolwork to date.

And Skye wanted to date way more than she wanted to focus on her schoolwork.

Plus she was smarter than most of her fellow students. Everything came naturally to her. She was such a slacker not because she was lazy but because there was no point in trying that hard. This year would be different. She’d be finishing up her regular studies while taking on early Communications Academy classes and she was ready for the challenge.

She entered the pool area after doing a perimeter sweep. Someone would have to be stupid to try something with S.H.I.E.L.D. around but you never knew. She tossed her towel down and ran a hand through her hair. She felt eyes on her and glanced up to find her dad’s new pet project watching her through his window.

Well, hot damn, hello to you too.

She recognized him from his picture but he was cuter than she remembered him being. She gave him a smile before diving in.

If he was smart he’d come say ‘hello’. If he came to her then her dad couldn’t say anything, right? And if he didn’t know the stories of The Cavalry…well, maybe she’d get to make-out with someone this summer.

Skye swam three laps before checking to see if he was still watching. She rolled her eyes when she saw her dad in his doorway.

Thanks for that, dad.

Who was she kidding? If it wasn’t because of her mom it was because of her dad. She was going to die a virgin.

Too bad, that skinny piece of boy was nice to look at and he would probably be nicer to be on top of.

Skye got out of the pool, suddenly not in the mood to swim alone. She went back to her room, showered, and pulled out her laptop. She logged into Camfrog to see if Jemma or Leo were logged in. She knew better than to think Sharon would be online, she was always off doing something and Trip usually wasn’t far behind. The three of them had grown up practically inseparable and she was once again angry that she hadn’t been allowed to spend the summer with them.

She sighed, knowing if she kept her laptop open she would try to get through someone’s mainframe out of boredom so she slammed it shut and sent Sharon a text telling her she hoped she was enjoying herself because she was dying of boredom and then because she had nothing else to do she went to sleep and totally didn’t have sexy dreams about a certain lanky white boy (she did).

Chapter Text

Skye had tried, like, really tried, but did her dad really think she wasn’t going to? Honestly. The highlight of her week had been seeing a shirtless Grant Ward accidentally through his window. She needed something to do. Plus it was so easy, like taking candy from a baby. All it took was a few keystrokes and she was in. It was almost embarrassingly easy. She made a list of the ways they could improve their security and then began to poke around. She knew she was caught when a throat cleared behind her.

Damn, someday she’d be able to detect her mom before she snuck up on her. Sure, she wasn’t planning to go into the field but she still wanted to be a bad-ass like she was.

She turned and gave her a sheepish smile.

“Hi mom, so you’re back, huh? How was The Treehouse?”

Her mom gave her ‘the look’, the one that was reserved just for her, the one that said she didn’t want to know and wasn’t going to listen to excuses and to stop. Skye chuckled and booted off her computer as he mom held out her shoulder bag.

“Run a brush through your hair and meet me out at the car in three minutes.” Her mom instructed before heading for the door.

“Where are we going?” Skye called as she tossed her bag aside and moved to the bathroom.

“Does it matter?” She called from the door. “Either you come with me or you stay here and stare at the pastel wallpaper some more.”

“Okay then,” Skye muttered as she did as she was told. She rushed after her mom and climbed into the car, happy to have somewhere to go. “So, where we headed? Home? Say home. Or somewhere with fries? Oh! The mall? I need new bras-“ There was that look again. She sighed. “Fine, but I still want fries.”

Her mom smirked. “We’ll see.”

Skye settled back, pleased. She was going to get her way. She always did.

After an hour in the car she realized where they were headed and she sat up in excitement. “Finally, is there some big case you need help on? Something I can infiltrate? It doesn’t matter; I’m going to be around people.”

“No hacking. Maria just came back from a mission and after we both turn in reports we’re all going to lunch.”

Damn, no Nat, oh well. “Still better than sitting around doing nothing.”

“Indeed.”

“You did promise me a summer at home.”

Her mom’s jaw twitched. “Yes, well, Fury promised me no more combat. Shit happens.”

Skye knew better than to reach over to comfort her and just glanced out her window. Her mom never talked about Bahrain, all she knew was that it had nearly destroyed her. Her dad said it was her arrival that saved her. She’d lost herself that night and therapy hadn’t worked, taking a break hadn’t worked, throwing herself into missions hadn’t worked. Her parent’s marriage had been close to falling apart. Her dad and Grandmother had done everything in their power to help her but none of it worked. The girl she used to be had died.

She didn’t know how she’d been conceived but she had a pretty good guess.

Her dad had finally decided to let her mother go when she’d showed up at his door with an overnight bag asking if she could come home and waited until he said ‘yes’ to mention ‘oh yeah, by the way we’re having a kid’.

She was their little miracle love child according to her dad and a pain in the ass according to her mother who would say it with a smile. She didn’t care either way, they were perfect for each other and if her arrival had kept them together then so be it.

Skye wasn’t entirely sure she’d fixed anything though. Her mom still had nightmares, which she didn’t talk about, she refused to go into combat ops and when it happened anyway, she’d withdraw for weeks. The only time her mother seemed at peace was working in the office or flying missions.

That was how she’d gotten her name; because of her mom’s love of flying.

It took all of her self-control not to run into The Hub screaming with excitement. Instead she took her level one badge and calmly entered behind her mom, the only indication of her excitement was the way she bounced on her heels. The parts of her summer spent here or at The Triskelion hadn’t been bad it was just the traveling and hotel rooms and having nothing to do that sucked.

“Can I go check out comma-“ Skye froze when her gaze landed on the cutest pair of eyes she’d ever seen. An unladylike squeal left her lips as she rushed to her Aunt Maria and fell to her knees so she could hug the dog at her side. “He looks like Fitz!” She giggled as it licked her face.

“What the hell is that, Maria?”

“It’s a dog, Mel.”

Skye could feel her mother rolling her eyes.

“I know that, but why is it here? Does Nick know about this?”

“Our team raided compound housing a super-soldier type serum and we found him. I’m going to take the poor thing to a shelter. I wasn’t just going to leave it there.”

“You’ve gone soft.”

Maria scoffed. “Dogs are better than people, Mel. Besides, it’s someone’s seventeenth birthday in a few days-“

“No,” her mother said sternly.

“Oh, mom! Can we keep him?” Skye gave her the lower lip and sad eyes and everything.

“No.”

“But do you know what shelters do? And he’s so well-behaved and older so he’ll be easy to take care of, please?”

“Skye, you can’t have a dog at school and I’m not taking care of it.”

Skye huffed. Her phone rang and she popped it open and put it to her ear without checking to see who it was. “Hello,” she answered with a pout.

“What’s wrong, princess?”

She failed to hide a cocky smirk. “Aunt Maria saved a dog and mom won’t let me keep him,” she pouted, turning on the charm. “You should see him, daddy. He’s adorable with big eyes and he looks a little like Fitz but he’s a dog. Can we keep him?” Her dad had never been able to resist a stray, though, the strays he took in were usually people, like Clint and Natasha and now Grant Ward.

He sighed. “Skye, if your mom said ‘no’-“

“They’ll kill him, daddy.”

“Why am I always ‘daddy’ when you want something?”

“Steve Rogers would have adopted him. Steve Rogers would have a farm filled with puppies. They’d all run around happily with capes and come on, daddy! I’ll take care of him when I’m home and you know you want a dog too. He’ll help keep the house safe when you’re gone and you can play with him and daddy he’s so cute.”

There was a long pause. “Let me talk to your mother.”

Skye smirked and handed the phone over. She scratched the stupidly adorable pup behind the ears and Maria gave her a wink. Skye smirked. Maria and her mom were best friends but her mom had gotten her with so many pranks in their youth Maria tried to get her whenever she could not as adults.

S.H.I.E.L.D. agents were all dorks with licenses to kill.

“You’re weak,” her mother said as soon as she put the phone to her ear. They all knew how this was going to go; Skye was taking the dog home. “You’re taking care of it. I’m still taking care of the last thing you wanted to bring home.”

“Hey!” Skye said, offended.

Maria rolled her eyes.

Her mother slammed the phone shut a minute later. “Fine, you can have the damn dog. But you and your father are responsible for it.”

Skye smiled and kissed him on the nose before glancing up at her mom. “Thanks, mom.”

“Yeah, whatever, what are you going to name the damn thing?”

“’Steve Rogers’, duh.”

“No.”

“Moooooooom.”

“No. And not ‘Captain America’ either. Or ‘Howling Commandog’ either.”

Skye huffed. Her mom knew her too well. She stood and let the dog towards the hallway. “Come on, buddy, let’s take you outside.”

“There, call him ‘Buddy’.”

Skye rolled her eyes. “’Buddy’ is a lame name, mom.”

She smirked. “’Buddy Rogers’, then?”

Skye sighed. “I can work with that.”

“Good.” She tossed Skye the keys to the SUV. “Why don’t you go to the pet store and get him whatever he needs while we do some work?”

Skye took the keys happily along with her mom’s credit card.

“Come on, Buddy, let’s get you pimped out.”

Chapter Text

When Phil arrived Sunday evening Grant was playing fetch with Buddy. He glanced up with a smile after throwing the stick a final time, relieved.

“You packed,” Phil commented, still in his suit. Grant wondered if he slept in a suit.

Grant shrugged. “I believed you when you said you’d come back.” Okay, maybe he’d been a little worried he wouldn’t, but he’d be stupid not to.

Phil half-smiled. “How was it,” he asked uneasily.

He shrugged. “It wasn’t so bad, actually. Buddy and I bonded and fished and hiked. It was nice to just…” He sighed, unsure of what to say. “I don’t know, not have to worry about anything, I guess,” he said with a goofy smile. “I’ve never been able to just be by myself and to think. Even when I used to hide in the school library I always had too much on my mind to relax, so thank you. I think I needed to be by alone, just for a little while,” he admitted

Phil looked relieved and Grant realized he’d been worried about him. He wasn’t used to anyone but Gramsy caring about him, it was…well, he wasn’t sure what this feeling was but it was new.

“Then let’s load all of this up. You hungry? There’s a great pizza place on the way upstate we can stop at.”

“Upstate, sir,” he asked, trying not to get his hopes up. He hadn’t brought up his results, but he was in good spirits, so maybe…

Phil smiled. “It’s on the way to the Academy; congratulations, Grant, you’re on the road to the rest of your life.”

That was the cheesiest thing Grant had ever heard and it made him smile. “Thank you, sir.”

“Don’t thank me; you’re the one who passed and you’re the one who’s going to have to do the work.”

“I know, but…without you I’d still be in that cell so thank you. I appreciate everything you’ve done for me,” he said sincerely as he threw the last of the gear into the back of the SUV.

Phil grinned. “We’ll see how much you want to thank me in four months when you’re cramming for finals,” he teased as he opened the backseat for Buddy. Buddy whined and glanced over to Grant with his big sad eyes. “Don’t worry, he’s going too. And you’ll get to see Skye.” As soon as Buddy heard the word ‘Skye’ he jumped into the backseat and made himself at home.

“He must really miss her,” Grant said as he glanced back at Buddy from his seat, feeling bad there was a little girl who’d gone without her dog for the week just for him.

Phil snorted as he got into the car. “When you see the collar she tried to put on him you’ll see how very wrong you are,” he muttered as he put the car in drive.

They drove until it began to grow dark. Phil told stories about Steve Rogers the entire time. Grant had heard of Captain America (who hadn’t) but Phil seemed to be obsessed. S.H.I.E.L.D. had been founded because of him so he was apparently a big deal around there. He made a mental note to brush up on his Captain America facts though depending on how much longer they were going to be driving maybe he wouldn’t need to.

“So, you have a choice,” Phil said as he parked the SUV in front of a pizza parlor. “We can head south and you can see your family one last time before school begins or we can stop for the night and head to the Academy in the morning.”

He knew the right answer was to go see his family but he wasn’t ready. He was terrified of what would happen once the high of being taken away from the hell they’d lived in wore off. When he’d left his siblings they’d been happy, they hadn’t hated him, and Gramsy had a smile on her face. If it was just to see her he could deal but the others? He couldn’t do it, not yet.

“I think we should stop for the night. I’m not…” he cleared his throat before glancing up to meet Phil’s eyes. “I’m not ready to see them, sir.”

He was going to be stuck in a school with other people around all the time he had to learn to deal with confrontation.

Phil said nothing. “You like garlic on your pizza,” he asked before opening his door.

Grant did his best to hide his smile. Okay, Phil was kind of cool, sometimes. Coulson. He had to remember when he was at school it was ‘Coulson’. Wouldn’t be hard to remember, Coulson was a much cooler name than ‘Phil’. “I don’t think I have a preference,” he admitted.

Coulson smirked. “Skye-that’s my daughter, you’ll meet her eventually-she likes to pile it on like she’s waiting for a vampire attack. Her mother hates it but it’s grown on me.”

“I’m sure Steve Rogers would like it too,” Grant said, trying to make a joke.

Coulson went dreamy-eyed for a moment. “You know, she thinks the same thing, maybe you’re right…”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Grant woke the next morning to Buddy licking his face. He chuckled and put his arm up to block him. “All right, boy, hold on; let me find your leash.”

Half an hour later Buddy had been walked and Grant was showered and ready (and eager) to get back on the road. When Phil came to collect him he was surprised to find him set to go and simply smirked and shook his head.

“John was right. Tell me, Grant, did you woodland adventure help you reset your internal clock?”

Grant shrugged. “Never was much for sleeping, sir,” he replied from the back seat as he scratched Buddy behind the ears. He wasn’t ready to give him back so he wanted to spend as much time with him as he could. “The first few nights it was the same as it’s always been but I’ve slowly been getting better at it. It’s nice, feeling rested.”

Phil said nothing else for the rest of the drive.

A few hours later they pulled up to a heavily guarded location in the countryside. Grant glanced out the window as they drove in and was surprised his jaw didn’t drop. Not only was the property huge but it was beautiful and there were already people milling about. Coulson had told him most students didn’t bother coming back until the weekend before classes picked up but the ones from ‘across the pond’ liked to come early so they could adjust to the time difference.

He’d been expecting to feel nervous (okay he totally was) but he was also kind of excited. No one was going to hurt him here. He could try this being normal thing for once. Maybe even be happy?

“All right, here’s your paperwork,” Coulson pulled a manila file out of the glove compartment. “It’s got your class schedule, room number, everything you need basically. Oh and here are your keys.” Grant took both items from him gratefully. “I’ve already got your books for you and your roommates will help you settle in. I’m sure you’ll all get along well enough.”

“Aren’t you coming with me, sir?” He wasn’t sure how he’d do with people who weren’t Coulson.

“I’ll be up soon, I have a few things to take care of plus Buddy probably wants to run around.” Buddy’s ears went up in excitement. “I’ll bring him with me so you can say good-bye, how does that sound?”

Grant smiled. “Great, sir, and-“

“If you say ‘thank you’ one more time I’ll disown you.”

He smirked. “I was going to say tell Skye thank you for letting me borrow Buddy.”

The corners of Phil’s mouth twitched. “I’ll do that. Grab your duffle bag, we can bring everything else up later.”

Grant nodded and stepped out of the car. He gave Buddy a scratch behind the ear before he jumped out and ran for a grassy area near the dorms. Coulson stepped out of the car and kept his eyes on Buddy. Confident his pal would be okay he turned his attention to his paperwork.

It took him a few tries to find the right building. He nervously approached his room. The door was already open and he blinked in surprise when he found the room inhabited by a girl. He glanced back down to his paperwork thinking he had made a mistake again when she spoke.

“Don’t worry, lover, you have the right room.”

He glanced up quickly at the voice and ignored the sweat forming on his palm. “Wha-Wait. I know you,” he said dumbly before blushing. She was the girl from the hotel and she was wearing tiny shorts and wow she was prettier in person. He grinned like a moron before realizing he needed to speak. “I mean ‘hi’?” She laughed and it was the most beautiful sound he’d ever heard in his life.

She jumped off the bed and grabbed his bag. “Welcome to the love shack,” she teased motioning to a sign over the door that actually read ‘love shack’. “I’d say sorry for hogging your bed but I’m really not. That’s my seat so you better get used to it.” He simply blinked, too taken in by her beauty and spunk to care about doing anything but allowing her to take his hand and lead him into the room.

Had he died? He’d died, right? He’d died and somehow gone to heaven.

“I’m-“

“Grant Ward, I know. Don’t worry, I know everything,” she taunted with a wink as she dumped his bag onto the mattress and threw herself back down on it. She picked up her magazine and patted the spot next to her. “Come on, it’s your bed.”

“I…what?” He was so confused. Why was she in his bed? Who was she? Was she flirting with him? Why was he sweating? And why was his throat dry? How was any one person so beautiful?

“Baby girl, leave the poor boy alone. I told you, you have to work people up to loving your personality not bombard them with it within the first thirty seconds. That scares them off.”

She shot up her middle finger and he turned to find a boy his age sitting at a desk with a laptop open. The room wasn’t that big but it fit three beds, desks, and dressers comfortably. On the third bed sat a small girl and an almost smaller boy who couldn’t be older than he was. The boy waved awkwardly and the girl smiled. The first boy stood and held out his hand. “Hey man, what’s up, I’m Antoine Triplett but everyone calls me Trip. Feel free to ignore her, we all do.”

“Grant Ward,” he said as he shook his hand. He glanced back at her fleetingly, finding he didn’t want to ignore her, not in the slightest. In fact he was pretty sure he wanted to worship her for the rest of his life.

Trip smiled. “Yeah, I got that. Guys, meet Grant. Grant this is Fitzsimmons.” He introduced.

“Hello, this is Fitz-“ the girl said motioning to the boy.

“Simmons,” Fitz finished motioning to Simmons.

“You can call me ‘Jemma’ and Fitz’s proper name is ‘Leopold’ but he hates it,” she said as if it were a secret, “so don’t even bother and everyone tends to just call us Fitzsimmons because-“

“We’re always bloody together.”

“And in the lab-“

“And we’re the youngest PhD candi-“

“And our names go-“

“Well you know how it goes,” Jemma finished.

Grant’s head swam. They were like one person, it was tripping him out.

“But the three of them together are Fitztrimmons. When those two aren’t in their lab playing with their science kits and he isn’t off punching something in the gym they’re all attached at the hip.”

Trip glanced over Grant’s shoulder to where the goddess was now sprawled on her stomach flipping through her magazine. “Don’t mind Qiaolian, she’s just jealous and masks it by coming up with dumb nicknames. Isn’t that right, Princess?”

“Fuck off.”

Qiaolian was a really pretty name and she certainly looked like a princess. The prettiest princess he’d ever seen. She was just perfect.

Shit, was he staring again?

She winked and he realized yes he was. He looked away uncomfortably.

“Oh ignore her, it’s silly, really, the nicknames. I mean, sure for years it’s been just me and Fitzy, but now we’ve got Trip and I mean I don’t know what everyone’s obsession is with nicknames around here. I’m surprised she hasn’t given you one.”

“Oh, I have.”

Jemma ignored her and he glanced back wanting to hear more about his nickname. “They’re rather silly.” He turned his attention back to Jemma, not wanting to be rude. “Is it an American thing or-what?” She stopped to find Fitz watching her in annoyance.

“You’re rambling again. You’re such an embarrassment.”

“I’m an embarrassment? I’m not the one pursuing a degree playing with toys and calling it science!” She said as she threw up her arms.

“Oy! Just because I’m not dissecting dead things-“

“Not the cat, again, Fitz!”

“It’s disgusting, Jemma!”

“How can you expect scientific advancement to occur when-“ And then they began bickering using terms Grant didn’t understand and he eyed them with confusion before turning to Trip who watched them with affection. Apparently he was used to this. He glanced toward Qiaolian who rolled her eyes. So was she.

“Fitz is engineering. Simmons is biochem. Trip is a specialist,” she explained. “Those two are always arguing about science and he’s the only one weird enough to understand it so they’re like a unit. Plus, I kind of think they all want to-“ she made a crude gesture with making a hole out of one hand and putting a finger in it and he got it.

His cheeks went red and she smiled and wow she was pretty.

“So I should get used to this?”

“Pretty much.” She sat up and ran her fingers through her hair. He watched, entranced, as she pulled it up into a loose ponytail and then hopped off his bed.

“I guess you probably want this to yourself, I’ll lay out on Trip’s lumpy be-“

“No,” he said a little too quickly. He cleared his throat and tried to play it cool. “I mean, if that’s where you usually lounge you can stay. I have my own chair and that’s really more my style,” he said lamely as he tried not to think about the fact that his pillow was going to smell like her.

She laughed and grabbed his hand. He flinched but let her pull him onto the bed with her. She curled up in one corner and he sat next to her awkwardly. “So, you’re really okay with this? Because like we’re here all the time and when I’ve claimed something it’s mine,” she warned in a flirty tone.

He smiled down at her dumbly. “Yeah.”

“See, told you he’d be cool,” she said to no one but him because Fitzsimmons were still arguing.

“Dumb science babies,” she muttered before turning her attention to him.

She cocked her head to the side and studied him for a moment before ruffling his hair. He flinched (again) at the initial contact before blushing (again). He wasn’t used to being touched by anyone and when he was…well, it wasn’t something he enjoyed. But she was pretty and he could get used to this and oh no now she was looking up at him strangely.

What had he done wrong?

She gave him a small smile and stood. “I’ll let you unpack. I haven’t gotten on Trip’s nerves enough today and guess what?” She leaned down to whisper. “He hates this body pray. Shh,” she mouthed as she put a finger to her lips and winked. A moment later he was met with the sight of her backside walking away from him and as nice as that sight was he preferred the one he’d just had of her sitting next to him.

“You hags were supposed to help me bring my stuff up from the car-what is she doing in my spot?”

Grant glanced over to find a blond girl in the doorway looking at Qiaolian in confusion.

“Sharon Carter, meet Grant Ward,” Qiaolian introduced.

He waved awkwardly as she nodded in his direction.

“Right, I will take Fitz’s chair then.”

“Sharon’s our roommate,” Jemma explained. It seemed she and Fitz were done ‘discussing’ (yelling about) cadavers. “We live on the floor below this one. Our room is nicer but you know how prudish Americans can be. It’s perfectly fine for girls to be a boys’ dorm room but the moment he steps into hers suddenly there’s an issue.”

Grant smirked finding Jemma’s Britishness to be very adorable.

Trip stood and helped Fitz to his feet. “We’ll help you, Sharon, won’t we Fitz?”

“I’m not carrying her bloody things; I’m still jet-lagged.”

“Oh, Fitz, come on now, we’re meant to get back on American time. Besides, Skye said something about there being brownies in the common room.”

Fitz perked up. “I am hungry.”

“You’re always hungry,” four voices said in unison.

“I’m a growing man,” he said, offended, and led Sharon out of the room.

“You coming, baby girl?” Trip called.

Qiaolian watched Grant for a moment before shaking her head. “Nah, I’ll help Grant unpack.”

“Fine, but I’m not saving either of you brownies.”

She laughed. “Don’t worry, I think we’ll live.”

Trip shook his head and left.

Qiaolian hopped off of his bed and came over as Grant stood to open his back and find placed to put his clothes.

“Sorry if you wanted to go, I just figured you’d-“

“No, I mean…thanks.” He glanced down to smile at her before turning his attention back to unpacking. He felt surprisingly at-home already but going out and being around a lot of people seemed like it might be too much for him.

She watched him for a moment before hesitantly putting a hand on his shoulder. He jumped in surprised and turned to find her biting her lip with a frown. “Sorry, I was testing a theory.”

He blinked. “What-“

“You know,” she said with a smile. “We still haven’t been properly introduced. I think everyone around here forgets that not everyone actually knows who I am.”

“Are you some sort of celebrity?” He joked.

“Kind of,” she admitted as a knock sounded on the door.

He turned to find Coulson and-

“Buddy!” Qiaolian threw herself on him before he knocked her to the ground and began licking her face in excitement.

“Grant I see you’ve met my daughter. She wasn’t harassing you, was she? I told her not to.”

He froze, suddenly terrified. “Your-she…but…I thought you name was Qiaolian?”

She laughed and rolled her eyes. “If you ever call me that I will kill you. That’s my middle name and Trip is a dick.”

“Skye,” Coulson warned and she gave him a winning smile.

“Sorry daddy, but he is.”

Oh God, this was Skye…she was…he was going to throw up. He had a crush on the boss’s daughter. This was bad. Especially because she was smiling up at him and there were butterflies in his stomach. Oh, this was so very, very bad.

“Grant, this is Skye, the two of you would have met sooner but I thought she may be a bit much to handle right away.”

She rolled her eyes. “It’s about time we met, yunno; I’m the reason you’re here.”

“What?”

“I’m the one who found you. I’m sort of good with computers and…getting through secure firewalls,” she winked. “Anyway, I found you in the system and sent you his way.”

He panicked. No, no. The girl he liked who he shouldn’t like because he owed Coulson everything knew about his terrible past? This was bad.

She seemed to sense his panic so she gave him a warm smile. “Don’t worry, I didn’t read your whole file, just enough to make sure you’d be a good fit and then I sent it over to dad. He’s the one who delved into it and you’re here, which means he thinks you’re good enough to be here which is all I need to know.”

He smiled down at her and forgot they weren’t alone for a moment. “Thanks,” he replied awkwardly before glancing away. He didn’t need Coulson to know he was into his daughter but the look on Coulson’s face said he did. Or maybe he was used to every boy who met her having the same reaction because he just shook his head. Hadn’t Garrett warned him not to fall for her?

Shit, what if she had a boyfriend?

“Thanks for taking care of Buddy,” she said as she hugged him to her chest.

Was it wrong to be jealous of a dog?

“I think he took care of me.”

Skye smiled and kissed Buddy’s nose. “Good boy. Hey, where’s his collar? What is this ugly thing? Dad,” she said as she glared up at him with a pout.

“That’s how your mother gave him to me,” he said innocently. Before she could open her mouth he cleared his throat. “Come on, Skye, I have Grant’s things in the car. The two of you can help me and keep the door closed, I don’t need the director finding out I let you sneak a dog in here, even if it’s just for a few minutes.”

Skye kissed Buddy one more time and jumped up. “Come on, Grant, maybe there’s still brownies.”

She held out her hand and he glanced to Coulson who just rolled his eyes. He turned to Skye and let her lead him out, finding he’d let this girl lead him anywhere.

Chapter Text

“You know, we can share Buddy if you want,” Skye teased, trying to break the awkward silence, as she gently nudged Grant’s shoulder with her own. He’d insisted on carrying the heavy things (typical) but she was currently carrying a box up the stairs.

He gave her a dreamy smile and almost tripped on the final stair, too busy staring to watch where he was going. The boxes in his arms hit him in the face as he stumbled to keep himself upright and to keep them from falling.

Skye made a face of concern. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, fine,” he muttered, red in the face.

She tried not to smile so he wouldn’t be embarrassed but he was so cute when he was flustered. Hell, he was cute period. It didn’t help that he was awkward and sweet on top of it. She really hoped this one didn’t scare easily because she liked him, like actually liked him. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d had a proper crush on someone; this was going to be nice.

Of course, the flirting freaked him out, or rather, the touching, so she was going to have to work hard to not do that. She didn’t know what her dad had pulled him out of but she didn’t want to make him uncomfortable. She was a touchy person be nature but she’d dial it down for him; even if it would be hard with his obvious crush on her (she wasn’t an idiot), but she was patient; she had to be with her family.

Skye followed Grant into his room and put the box on his desk before almost being knocked down by Buddy. “I missed you too, Buddy, but it’s only been like five minutes,” she teased as he licked her face. She smiled and scratched behind his ears. She made a face at the ugly red collar on him. She’d bought him a cool bejeweled one. She was going to find it and correct this abomination.

She glanced up as a nervous Grant knelt next to her and let Buddy climb into his lap. She watched him with amusement as he played with him; he seemed completely at peace and happy with Buddy around. It suited him.

“Like I said, we can share him. Little guy needs all the love he can get after what he went through.”

Okay, so she didn’t know he’d been abused but they’d rescued him from a drug ring, clearly they weren’t good people, and he reminded Skye a lot of Grant; they were both adorable puppies who had come from questionable backgrounds and she had taken them both in.

Grant smiled and glanced up at her. She had to take a deep breath because of those big brown eyes. Oh man, he was trouble, she could feel it.

“I’d be honored to share him with you,” he whispered.

Skye smiled and instinctively reached out to pat his hand but stopped herself. She’d caught on to his aversion earlier and just thinking about why he had it made her really sad. She hoped being here would actually do him some good. She’d hate to have found him and brought him here and it only making things worse.

She was a lot like her dad; she took in strays. It was how they’d found Fitzsimmons. She hadn’t been able to bear the thought of them off in the University being left out because they were so much younger than everyone so she’d batted her eyes and gotten them moved to the primary school dorms so they could be with people their own age.

Grant was now her stray and she was going to take care of him, she suspected he needed it.

“Good, because I think he likes you,” she said with a smile.

He stared back at her with that same dumb look and she glanced away to avoid blushing.

“So…did we get everything?”

“Yeah, I didn’t have much but your dad-“

“Oh God, he didn’t take you to the mall, did he? Because he is so lame, I’m sorry.”

He smiled. “Nah, just to get a few personal items.”

“Good, because let me tell you, he is a cool dad, okay, but sometimes it’s so embarrassing. I tried to take him bra shopping once and-“ Skye cut herself off because Grant’s ears went red the moment she said ‘bra’ and now he was staring at her boobs.

She smirked and stood so she could unload some things from his boxes.

“Anyway, how about we unpack this stuff and we can meet the others for brownies, yeah? They tend not to feed us junk food, with all of the training we have to go through, so you need to enjoy it on the rare occasion it happens. It’s so hypocritical though, you should see all of the crap I catch the agents who work for my dad eating. And I’ve seen Romanoff inhale burgers like nobody’s business.”

“Who?”

Skye smirked and glanced over at him. “Don’t worry, Douglas,” she teased, earning her a blush from his adorable face, “you are going to hear all of the war stories.”

He smiled nervously. “’War stories’?”

Skye chuckled. “Don’t worry, someday you’ll be telling your own.”

“I think I have enough of those,” he said quietly and she glanced over at him sadly. She wanted to hug him but she knew that would be too much.

“If you ever need to…I’m a good listener and I’ve grown up in this world, I know how to keep secrets.”

He looked back at her, still nervous. “Thanks, but your dad…” He glanced away and focused on folding a shirt. “He found someone for me to talk to,” he muttered.

Therapy. Good. She hoped it would help.

“That’s great; Dr. Sousa is supposed to be really good.”

He gave her another small smile and finished unpacking his clothes. Skye watched him with a smirk as Buddy curled up to take a nap. She glanced up when the door opened and her dad came in carrying the box they’d left for him.

“Hi dad-“

“What did you do?”

He was staring at her with that disappointed look and she frowned in confusion. There were a lot of things he could be referring to, he’d have to specify, really, but she knew if she said that he’d get madder.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, daddy.”

“Qiaolian,” he warned but before Skye could answer him an angry, older version of her mother appeared in the doorway with a stern look on her face.

“Hi, grandma!” She greeted cheerfully.

The older Qiaolian was no amused, in fact she stormed in, dropped a file on the desk, and glared at Grant who looked terrified before glancing back at Skye.

“Would you like to explain to your grandmother why you hacked into the C.I.A.’s mainframe…again? And why you let yourself get caught…again.” Her dad looked so disappointed but her mom had appeared and looked…was that pride?

Skye shrugged.

“I had to get her here for my birthday somehow, right?”

Chapter Text

Grant sat back in complete awe as he watched Skye’s grandmother scold her and Skye do nothing more than sit there with an amused, shit-eating grin on her face. This girl was….fucking amazing. She was not only smart enough to hack into the government’s biggest spy agencies but she wasn’t even afraid of the consequences.

She was trouble all right, trouble he wouldn’t mind being in.

He sat back quietly, terrified of her grandmother. She was an older version of Agent May but more…he didn’t want to say mean but maybe stricter was the right word. Agent May at least looked amused while the elder Agent May (he’d found out during her yelling she was formerly C.I.A.) continued to rail on in Chinese.

“Look, all I did was point out your agencies weaknesses,” she said with a shrug. “Why else would I have let myself be caught, someone had to inform you how easy it was to get in that backdoor of your firewall. It’s a little embarrassing to be honest, I mean, sure, S.H.I.E.L.D. has me to do security but surely your agency can find someone with my skills, right?”

Agent May shot her daughter a ‘look’ that said ‘don’t’ but Skye kept going. She was fearless.

“And now that you’re here you can go to my birthday dinner,” she said innocently.

He shifted awkwardly suddenly very turned on by her.

Grandma May (as he was now calling her in his head) pinched the bridge of her nose and cursed in Chinese.

“This is your fault,” she said as she turned to Coulson.

He looked bemused. “Why is that?”

“You’re too lenient with the girl, Phillip! She needs discipline.”

Skye rolled her eyes as she and Coulson both glanced at May who uncrossed her arms with a snort. “Mother, she gets plenty, trust me.”

“Not enough, Melinda!”

“Nǎinai,” Skye said with a sweet smile. “Isn’t part of you just a little proud? How many people could pull that off once let alone twice and at my age? Imagine what I can do once I’m a real agent.”

“I do which is why I’m worried.”

Skye at least had the decency to look mildly offended rather than smug.

“And why is she alone in rooms with boys?”

Her eyes were on Grant now and he froze in terror.

“Oh, mother, calm down she was just helping him move in. This is Phil’s new protégé.”

She eyed him warily. “I remember the last one…Barton, was it?”

Phil smirked. “Don’t worry, Grant is no Barton.”

Grandma May eyed him before turning with a sigh. “We’ll see.”

He glanced at Skye in confusion and she winked. “Later,” she mouthed.

“Hey, is the party starting early,” Trip asked as he entered the room.

“What did you do,” Sharon asked as she sensed the tension in the room.

“Hacked into the C.I.A.,” Skye said proudly.

“Again?” Jemma sighed.

Trip greeted Grandma May with a kiss. She seemed to adore him. She straightened his collar and commented on how much he’d grown before allowing him to lead her out of the room.

“Come on, Grant, we’re all going to dinner for my birthday.”

He stared at her. “What? I mean…happy birthday?” He mentally punched himself. God, he was an idiot. “I mean…”

“Yeah, yeah, come on, Super Spy, you’re invited. I’m not leaving you here on your own.” She reached out for his hand and for the second time that day he took it blindly. He’d only been here a few hours and he was already being invited to parties and agreeing to go to them. This was a lot of change for one day; he was surprised he was still handling it.

At dinner Skye made him sit next to her which was probably best. It was harder to stare at her this way. He seemed to make the biggest fool of himself when he was too caught up in watching her to focus on what he was doing. Of course it didn’t stop him from casting longing glances her way and smiling like a doofus as she spoke. He was sure everyone could see his crush and he was in far too deep to care.

He realized if this was how he felt after only knowing her for a few hours then he was in for a long, painful road because it was only going to get worse.

But hey for the first time in his pathetic life he felt like a normal teenager so that was good, right?

He assumed she was being so nice to him to help him feel like he fit in, he wasn’t confident enough to think she liked him back (even if she did keep shooting him glances that made him get the butterflies), but her grandmother kept giving him the stink eye. As they got closer to desert (Skye insisted the ice cream cake they’d bought was the best) Grandma May looked between the two of them and then shot a glare in Agent May’s direction.

“Great, another white boy,” she said in Chinese.

Skye simply smirked and cautiously placed a hand on his knee, giving it a small pat before returning to her pasta.

Grant blushed and tried to hide a smirk. Maybe he’d been wrong.

May and Coulson gave each other sickeningly sweet glances.

“They’re not so bad,” Agent May answered in Chinese and this time he couldn’t help but smirk.

Skye glanced up at him and raised an eyebrow. “Did you understand them?”

He shrugged shyly. “I’m good with languages. I mean, I’m not fluent yet but I’ve been learning.”

Skye smiled sweetly. “Well, I’m fluent, obviously, and in Russian, and I’m learning Spanish. I can help you if you want. It’s a good skill to have.”

“I’ll get you some materials,” Coulson said with a smirk in his mother-in-law’s direction.

“Oh sir, you don’t have to-“

“Nonsense, Skye is right. She, Trip, and Sharon each speak three languages fluently and they’re working on more. Fitzsimmons, how about you?”

“Six for Fitz, seven for me.”

Fitz rolled his eyes. “Only because she loves homework more than life itself.”

“Oh, Fitz, stop,” Jemma said with a sigh.

Grant smiled shyly. “All right.”

Skye smiled widely and kissed his cheek. “Great!”

Grant resisted urge to touch his cheek. He just stared at her dumbfounded while his cheek tingled where her lips had been.

Wow, what a girl.

Grandma May didn’t say anything but as they ate desert he could feel her slowly warming to him. Apparently he’d passed some sort of test but if the way she still dismissed Coulson was any indication he would probably never get a stamp of approval from her.

Then again, she seemed to like Trip, so…

Of course, Trip hadn’t married her daughter, so there was that.

When it was time to leave he began to follow Skye out of the restaurant like a dog being led on a leash when Coulson stopped him. Grant glanced up at him nervously, wondering if he was going to be told to stay away from Skye but Coulson surprised him.

“How are you doing with everything? It’s not too much, is it? I know Skye can be a bit-“

“She’s perfect!” Grant blurted out before realizing he’d come off a bit too zealous and blushed. “I mean everyone’s great, sir, really.”

Coulson gave his shoulder a small squeeze. “Sometimes I don’t know what to do with that girl,” he resigned while shaking his head before leading him to join the others.

Man, I’m screwed.

Chapter Text

Grant knew he shouldn’t be surprised; things had been going far too well, something like this was bound to happen eventually. Even so, when he woke up in a cold sweat, terrified, he was surprised to find Fitz at his bedside staring at him with wide-eyes.

Great, one night here and he was already going to scare off his roommates.

“You were having a nightmare,” Fitz whispered, his voice breaking. “They always tell Trip not to wake me when I have them but I never realized how scary it is to be the person witnessing them.” He seemed to snap out of whatever gaze he was in and gave Grant a timid glance. “I’m sorry if I woke you, I didn’t mean to.”

Fitz was worried…about him?

Grant shook his head. “No, you didn’t. It’s okay.”

He shoved his covers off and took a few deep breaths while his body cooled down. He ran a hand through his hair while avoiding looking at Fitz. He was embarrassed but Fitz didn’t seem to notice.

Instead Fitz took a seat on the edge of Grant’s bed and watched him quietly for a moment. “Do you want to talk about?”

Grant glanced up at Fitz and he reminded him so much of Edwin that he felt guilty.

He shook his head weakly. “Not really,” he whispered. He didn’t need his new friends to know how screwed up he was. He didn’t need to tell them about how Maynard had forced him to hit his baby brother, about the well, about Alison, about their parents; they didn’t need to know about any of it.

He wanted to start fresh which meant moving on. He’d talk to his therapist about this; maybe talking about it would help the nightmares go away. He didn’t even have them very often anymore; this was a fluke. It was probably just his brain playing tricks on him.

Grant wasn’t used to be happy and he had been happy; the entire past week had been the happiest of his life. Coulson saving him, knowing his siblings were going to be okay, and meeting Skye; he just wasn’t used to feeling this safe so he subconscious was tormenting him by giving him a taste of what he was familiar with.

He’d get used to this and then he’d be fine.

He had to be fine.

He couldn’t screw this up; not the way he screwed everything else up.

He could do this, he didn’t have a choice.

Fitz watched him for a long moment. “Okay,” he whispered before standing.

“Are you? Okay, I mean?” Grant called after him.

He couldn’t help but notice that Fitz looked so sad and he’d said something about having nightmares too. Maybe it was because Fitz reminded him of his brother or because he just seemed so small and helpless but Grant wanted to protect him and keep him safe; the way he’d never been able to keep his siblings safe. It wasn’t much but maybe he could do this friendship thing right from the get-go.

Fitz turned and gave him a small, shy shrug. Grant scooted over to give Fitz room to join him and after a moment of hesitation Fitz did. He sat with his knees to his chest and toyed with a loose piece of thread on his bottoms.

“It’s not a big deal,” Fitz muttered after a minute of silence. “Sometimes when my stress levels are high I have nightmares. They were worse when I first got here. I got my first Masters close to home so I had me mum around and then when I got my first PhD I had Jemma. When we came here it took a while to adjust so they came back. But Trip helped me through them.

You don’t have to worry about me waking you up every night or anything though.”

“That’s not why I was concerned, Fitz,” Grant whispered. “Besides, if anyone’s doing the waking around here, it’s me.”

Fitz gave him a smile and motioned to the window where dawn was beginning to break. “Trip wakes up every morning before sunrise to run laps and get his training in before everyone else gets to the gym. I’m used to it by now. I was about to head to the showers when I heard you.”

“Oh, well, don’t let me keep-“

“Don’t worry, I still have a few days to get back on Trip time,” he teased.

Grant smiled. He really liked Fitz. He barely knew he but like with Skye he could just feel there was something there. “Yeah, well, maybe I should get on it too. I have a lot to catch up on.”

“Just ask Trip for help, he’ll get you there. He’s been at this his whole life; if there’s anyone you should be taking pointers from it’s him. He was born for this spy business.”

“Kind of like Skye?” Grant didn’t even mean to mention her, it just happened; like an instinct.

Fitz smiled and glanced over at him. “You like her.” It wasn’t a question but an observation. Grant found himself blushing. “Don’t worry, everyone does but-“ Fitz paused mid-sentence.

“But what?” He was nervous now. Had she said something to Fitz? Did she in fact have a boyfriend? Was he creeping her out? Oh God, he was creeping her out wasn’t he?

Fitz’s cheeks went red and he shook his head. “I shouldn’t say-“

“Fitz, please.”

He met Grant’s pleading eyes and sighed. “Well, I think she likes you too. I mean, Skye flirts with anything that moves but I’ve never seen her look at someone with heart-eyes before.”

“What?” He managed to choke out.

“You know, heart-eyes; you were both doing it the whole time we were at dinner, it was distracting,” Fitz teased.

Great now Grant’s ears were pink too.

“I um-“ He shrugged, whishing he had something to do with his hands, to channel his nervous energy. “I mean…it’s stupid. I shouldn’t be worrying about girls right now.” Skye deserved better than he would ever be able to give her. He hoped he got over his crush soon so they could at least be friends.

“Worrying about girls may be what you need,” Fitz whispered hesitantly. “It’s normal, my therapist says it’s important to live now while we can because once we’re out of here we’ll be putting our lives in danger every day. At least, those in the field, I’ll just be in a lab all day,” he said dismissively.

Grant gave him an encouraging smile. “But that’s important too, Fitz.” He didn’t want to pry and ask why Fitz needed therapy but now he was worried about him.

“Yeah, but it’s not exactly adventurous, is it? Jemma’s always going on about wanting to travel and how exciting the field must be all I want to do is hide in our lab. I’m not brave or talented like Trip is.” Fitz wiped his palms on his pajamas nervously. “It’s probably good she has the others, she’ll end up on a team with one of them and get to see the world like she deserves to.”

Now he really was smiling. Poor Fitz liked Jemma. Grant was a moron who knew nothing about girls but this he knew to be a fact. He also knew zero confidence when he saw it. “Fitz, you’re not even eighteen and you have how many PhDs? And you’re in a new country on your own? You’re a lot braver than you give yourself credit for. Bravery doesn’t just come from being physically strong, Fitz. You’re the type of person who would die defending the things he believes in and the people he loves; that’s worth a lot more than putting your life on the line because you want to be a bad-ass.

As for Jemma; I think she’d prefer to do it with you at her side. I’ve only been here a day and I can already see the two of you are two-halves of the same person. I don’t think she’s going to leave you to have adventures in the field, Fitz. You’re not going to lose her.”

Grant wasn’t usually this much of a talker, he was more the strong and silent type. Maybe Coulson had rubbed off on him or maybe he just couldn’t bear the thought of poor Fitz beating himself up. If Fitz wouldn’t stand up for himself then Grant wanted to.

And despite his good intentions, his words seemed to upset Fitz. “You’re right; she’s going to let me hold her back. I hate it. She’s smarter than I am, she should be partnered up with someone else, someone who will make her better. She has the potential to be so much more but she’s going to squander it so we stay together.”

Fitz looked ready to be sick. “I should have stayed in Scotland, let her come here alone. She would have forgiven me eventually. But she wanted to come here so badly, for us to be a part of all of this, and I followed her because I was selfish and weak and couldn’t tell her ‘no’.”

“Fitz-“

Fitz met Grant’s eyes. “I don’t believe in any of this, I’m here for her. I don’t deserve to be here. All of this, S.H.I.E.L.D., is supposed to come first, but I’m always going to choose her. That makes me a liability.”

Grant put a hand on Fitz’s shoulder hesitantly and met his eyes. “Fitz, you deserve to be here or they wouldn’t have let you in. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having someone to fight for. You’re a scientist, not an agent. You’re not going to compromise your work if the organization you work for comes second to the girl you have fee-“

“I don’t have bloody feelings for her, mate!” Fitz’s voice was high-pitched and panicked.

Oh boy, Fitz was a terrible liar.

“She’s my best friend; that is it.”

Grant cocked his head to the side and gave Fitz a disbelieving look.

“Don’t look at me like that, you’re the one whose known a girl for less than twenty-four hours and probably already has a notebook filled with little heart drawings of your names together.”

He smirked. “You love Simmons, Fitz, it’s okay, I’m pretty sure everyone but Simmons knows it.”

“Please don’t tell her,” Fitz hissed desperately.

Gran’s smile grew wider. “I’ll leave that to you.”

Fitz shook his head. “No, she deserves better. Besides, she’s my best friend; I’m never going to ruin that by telling her I bloody love her. Have you seen the way she and Trip look at each other? He’d make her a lot happier than I ever could. I’m not going get in the way.”

“So you’re going to just sit back and watch them be happy together?”

Fitz nodded. “As long as she’s happy then I’m happy.”

Grant didn’t know how Fitz had possessed him enough to get over his aversion to touch but a moment later he had his arms around Fitz in a tight hug. Fitz was so much better than any of them and he would never see past his own insecurities to realize that.

This was weird. So this was a hug from someone who wasn’t his Gramsy. Grant had to let him go a moment later because he felt so awkward for doing it in the first place.

Fitz didn’t seem to find it strange. Instead he just sat there looking defeated.

“Fitz-“

He shrugged. “It’s okay, Ward, I know I’m pathetic.”

“That’s not what I was going to say.”

“But it’s the truth.”

“No, it’s not,” Grant said firmly. The only pathetic one here was him.

“So, which therapist did they give you?” Fitz was changing the subject and Grant let him. He’d help Fitz work on his self-esteem gradually. He wasn’t going to get anywhere with him at dawn on a Tuesday.

“How did you know I was seeing a therapist?”

Fitz glanced up at him shyly. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to assume, it’s just…” He chewed on the inside of his cheek nervously. “Coulson doesn’t just bond with just anyone. Plus, I can always tell, people like us, I don’t know, we’re so damaged maybe the whole world can see it, or maybe we can just recognize it because it’s what we see in ourselves.”

Just the thought that poor Fitz was ever hurt in any way made Grant want to punch a wall.

“Who was it?”

“What?”

“For me it was my dad, my mum left him but he’d always find us. Poor mum didn’t have it easy, genius for a child with zero social skills and a husband who drank too much. I probably shouldn’t have felt relief when he died but I did. It was better for her.”

For the third time in one day Grant found himself comforting poor Fitz. He gently put an arm around his shoulder and patted his arm awkwardly.

“Fitz-“

“Don’t; she’s happy now. I’m out of the way and she has a boyfriend now; decent bloke. Don’t know much about him except he makes her smile which is all that matters to me.”

And here Grant thought Coulson was the most selfless person he’d ever met.

“My parents and my older brother,” Grant muttered. Fitz had shared a lot, it was only fair. Besides, if anyone could understand him it seemed it was Fitz. Maybe he wasn’t as big of a freak as he thought he was.

“I…” Grant frowned. He had to talk about this to his therapist, right? Maybe Fitz wouldn’t hate him if he told him the truth. “I tried to kill my brother, it’s how Coulson found me, in jail.”

He expected for Fitz to be horrified but he just blinked at him in surprise. “The first time he ever hit me I was trying to protect my mum from him, tried to push him down the stairs; I kind of hoped it would kill him. But I wasn’t strong enough. I’ve never been strong enough.”

“At least you tried to stop him,” Grant whispered, suddenly regretting his decision not to see Edwin and Alison one last time. He wanted to go back and be the big brother they deserved. But it was too late for that; he just hoped their foster family was as good as Coulson said they were. They deserved to be happy.

At that very moment Trip walked into the room and froze in the doorway. Grant knew anger when he saw it so he quickly released Fitz.

“Morning, Trip.”

“Morning…” He glanced between the two of them and slammed the door. “What are you two up to?”

Fitz gave Grant a look that said he’d keep his secret but something told Grant that the glare Trip was shooting his way was proof that Skye wasn’t entirely wrong about Trip having feelings for both Fitz and Simmons.

“I had a nightmare and Fitz was telling me he has them too.”

Trip’s face changed to one of concern. “Are you okay?” Grant nodded. “Fitz? What about you? You were tossing a lot last night; you didn’t have one too, did you? I told you to wake me up when you-“

“I’m fine, Trip, no need to fuss.”

Grant watched them interact silently. Oh yeah, Skye was completely on to something. Trip looked at Fitz the same way he’d been watching Fitzsimmons argue yesterday. Grant would have to watch him alone with Simmons but he suspected it would be the same look he had now.

And Fitz…well, Fitz seemed a lot less awkward with Trip than he had five minutes ago, but he was still awkward. When Trip reached out to ruffle Fitz’s hair he blushed shyly.

Grant pressed his fist to his mouth to keep from smiling. It was adorable. He’d have to tell Skye later.

“What?”

He glanced up to find Fitz watching him quizzically.

“Nothing, I just…” He grinned. “Maybe you’re right about that notebook.” He couldn’t go more than five minutes without thinking of Skye, it was becoming a problem.

“What notebook?”

Fitz smiled and Grant was glad to see him happy again. “The notebook he uses to write Skye’s name in over and over again.”

“With rainbow gel pens?” Fitz nodded while Trip shrugged. “It was only a matter of time.”

Grant was too happy over feeling normal that he didn’t even care they were teasing him. “It’s a pink notebook,” Grant added with a smirk as he got out of bed and dug around for his shower things.

Trip laughed. “Yunno, Ward, I wasn’t sure at first but I think I like you.”

“Yeah? I’m still making my mind up about you,” Grant teased and Trip howled with laughter.

“New guy has jokes.”

Fitz’s stomach rumbled, interrupting their bonding.

“Come on, we better hurry up and shower before Fitz faints. If we don’t feed him every hour he either passes out of turns into a cranky ass.”

“I’m standing right here, you know?”

Trip smirked and gave Fitz a wink. “I know.”

“I’d tell the two of you to get a room but we’re already in one,” Grant teased as he left the room first. When they didn’t crack a joke back he smirked; yup, Skye was totally right.
 

Chapter Text

“Stop looking for her, it makes you seem desperate,” Fitz muttered under his breath right before shoving a large piece of bacon into his mouth.

Grant glanced over to tell Fitz he had been doing no such thing when he caught sight of the size of Fitz’s plate. Not only did he have a full short stack but it was also piled with toast, bacon, eggs, and fruit. He had more food in front of him than Grant and Trip combined.

“How-“

“Fitz is a black hole, man; no one knows where it all goes only that he’s never full.”

“It’s amazing,” Grant muttered as he watched Fitz inhale his food.

“Oh Fitz, honestly, at least have some juice to go with all of that,” Jemma scolded as she took a seat across from him. She reached over and poured him a glass which she set down next to his tea. Grant didn’t tell her that would be his third cup of tea, he was sure if he did she’d scold him for letting him drink so much.

“I wasn’t aware you were my mother, Simmons,” he muttered through a mouthful of pancake.

“Manners, Fitz!”

Grant took a sip of his own juice just to stifle a chuckle. He met Trip’s eyes and he rolled them as if to say ‘get used to it, man’.

“Thank God, Fitz actually left something for the rest of us,” Sharon muttered as she sat next to Trip. She stifled a yawn and reached immediately for the coffee.

“Where’s the princess?”

“I left her; I’m not her mother. If she wants food and caffeine she can haul her own ass out of bed.”

“Is Skye not a morning person,” Grant asked timidly.

The entire table erupted in laughter. “To say Skye is not a morning person is a bit of an understatement,” Jemma said as she jammed a piece of toast.

“To be fair she’s more of a not waking up person,” Trip said with a smirk.

As if on cue Skye plopped herself down next to Grant, mumbled something that he assumed was a ‘hello’, and reached for the coffee.

Her hair resembled a rat’s nest, she was wearing mismatched slippers, and she was wrapped up in her purple floral comforter but she was still beautiful. She yawned and tried to blink her eyes open but gave up until her third cup of coffee. Once she finished it she half opened her eyes to reach for the bacon.

Grant was sure she was about to fall asleep right there at the table so he held the plate out for her.

“Thanks,” she mumbled.

“You’re welcome,” he replied with a smile.

“So, what would everyone like to do today? There’s a marathon of Cosmos on today. I know it’s more than a bit outdated but it’s still fascinating. We could invade the common room and hog the television. It’s not as though anyone’s really here,” Jemma said cheerfully as she stirred her tea.

Grant glanced around and the dining room was quite empty. There were a few other students milling about. He was about to ask when most people would start returning when Skye growled next to him and rubbed her temples.

“It’s too early to be excited about shit on the Science Channel Jemma. I’m going back to bed,” she mumbled and she poured her fourth cup of coffee.

“Is that much caffeine healthy?” Grant asked meekly.

Skye shrugged. “Idon’tcare,” she muttered as she shoved a donut into her mouth.

“Oh, Skye, honestly-“

“Shut up, Jem,” she warned after swallowing.

Sharon rolled her eyes. “It must be nice to eat whatever you want and not gain a pound.”

Skye nodded. “Yup.”

“Your metabolism won’t be like this forever, Skye. It’ll go away in your mid-to-late twenties and then what are you going to do? You really should implement a healt-well, that’s just crude.” Jemma said, scandalized by Skye’s hand gesture.

But Grant didn’t think it was crude, in fact, she was cute; really cute. Everything about her was adorable. He watched her dreamily with a goofy grin on his face and handed her the plate of toast when she whined in its direction.

“You know, Skye, you would sleep better if you weren’t up all night reading Firefly fanfiction,” Trip teased.

Skye scoffed and made a face. “I was not reading fanfiction.”

“Writing it, then?”

Skye threw a donut at him but Trip just caught it and took a bite happily. “Fuck off.”

“Gladly.”

What was fanfiction? And could it help him bond with Skye?

“I don’t know about watching t.v. all day, I was going to hit the shooting range, Ward, want to come along?”

Grant cleared his throat awkwardly. He appreciated Trip inviting him and he wanted to go but he had his first therapy session. But he didn’t know how to tell his friends that so he sat there silently for a moment.

“He can’t, he’s hanging out with my dad. They’re real buddies these two.”

He gave her a grateful smile. “Maybe tomorrow?”

“Sound good, man. Sharon, you up for the range?”

“Damn right I am.”

Skye rolled her eyes. “You two and your damn guns, you’re almost as bad as these two with their beakers.”

“Oh, honestly Skye, there is more to science than-“

“Don’t care,” she mumbled as she shoved another donut into her mouth, hugged her comforter around her tightly, and got up to go back to bed he presumed.

He watched her go sadly.

“Don’t mind her, Ward, it takes her a few days to get used to having to actually wake up in the morning and do things. She’s like this every year; sleeps all day during summer and destroys her sleep schedule.”

“I don’t-mind it, I mean,” he answered awkwardly. Jemma gave him a knowing smile but said nothing. He stared down at his juice bashfully. His ears were red hot and he was sure he looked like a tomato.

“Well, I will join you for the marathon after my therapy session; Ward, want to walk with me? I can show you around a bit before you meet Coulson.”

Grant gave Fitz a smile. He wasn’t sure if he and Skye had teamed up to look out for him or if they were both doing it on their own but he was grateful. “Sure,” he answered as he wolfed down the rest of his juice. “I’ll see you all later,” he said as he stood and followed Fitz out of the dining hall.

“Thank you,” he said once they were out alone in the hall. “I um…I just-“

“I get it, but they won’t care once they know, Grant.”

He believed him. They hadn’t even blinked an eye when Fitz mentioned his session. He wasn’t sure if it was just their little group or if he’d stumbled into some new universe where people were actually tolerant of other people’s problems; either way, he was grateful.

“Do you actually have a session or were you lying?”

Fitz smiled. “No, I do. I don’t need them as much as I used to but with a whole summer of not seeing him, my therapist insisted on seeing me before classes resumed.” So Fitz’s therapist was a man. Grant wondered if that was some S.H.I.E.L.D. tactic to help him by giving him a male figure in his life.

Yeah, Grant wasn’t the most mentally stable person in the world, but he was smart, and he knew better than to think they didn’t manipulate everything. He was appreciative for everything they had done for him and would do but he wasn’t an idiot.

“Are you nervous?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know…I don’t really like talking…I mean, you know-“

Fitz nodded in understanding. “I know but it’ll be good for you. It’s not healthy to keep things bottled up or to ignore them. The only way to get through them and move on is to deal with them.”

Grant smiled. “You’re really into this, huh?”

He nodded.  “It doesn’t work for everyone, I mean…look at Skye or Trip or Sharon, they’re uh…they…well they’re more vocal about things so talking about their problems is easier for them, they don’t need a professional to do it. But you and me? We’re more…we hide from unpleasant things.”

“How do you already-“

“See right through you?” Fitz shrugged. “You’re easy to read, Grant.” He motioned to a door. “Here you go, my session will probably be shorter than yours so I’ll see you back in our room later. Do you know how to get back there?”

“Yeah, I’ll figure it out.”

Fitz gave him an encouraging smile and disappeared into the office. Grant watched it with trepidation. After a full minute he sighed and reached for the handle; he had to get this over with.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Twenty minutes later Grant sat awkwardly gripping the couch for something to do.

“Grant, I understand this is difficult but the only way I can help you is if you cooperate.”

He frowned shyly. “I’m not trying to be-I just…not used to uh…I’m not good with words,” he finally got out before glancing down to his lap with a blush.

Dr. Sousa was nice, she gave off this motherly vibe which he knew was to get him comfortable and willing to talk to her but did therapy really work when you could see through all of their tricks?

He had no doubt she wanted to help and he wanted her to help him but why couldn’t he just pretend the old Grant was dead and this was a new him with a new life and he could just move on and be happy? You know, without having to relive all of his trauma.

He didn’t even know where to begin.

She set her pen down and gave him a smile. “Okay, how about this? Why don’t you tell me about how your first day went? Did you meet any new people? Have you made any friends?”

This he could talk about. He smiled. “Yes.” He’d never really had friends before. His family scared any that he made off or he had to push them away when they began to ask questions. It was bad enough his teachers knew and had tried to get social services involved, he didn’t need other people to know. He’d mostly kept to himself. No one dared bully him at school because they feared Maynard, having no idea he feared him too.

“What are their names?”

“Um, well Fitz and Trip are my roommates. Trip is nice. Fitz is…he reminds me of-“ He didn’t want to talk about Edwin so he changed the subject. “He and I understand each other a lot. It’s nice because it makes me feel less…”

“What?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know, like I don’t belong?”

“Do you feel that you don’t?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never had friends before and school was hard for me because I never could study at home,” he whispered, ashamed.

“Are you worried you won’t be able to catch up to them academically?”

“No, Skye has offered to help he catch up,” he said, not meaning to stare off and think about how pretty she was while he did so.

Dr. Sousa smiled. “Is Skye also your friend?”

“She’s…” everything. “Yes.”

“Tell me more about her.”

He blushed and reached up to toy with his hair. “I don’t-she’s pretty and well, I mean, I don’t just like her because she’s pretty! She’s also smart and nice, well, I mean, yes, she’s nice, she’s just…she’s louder than I’m used to, but that’s okay! I like that she says what’s on her mind and her smile makes me feel like everything will be okay and-no, wait, I didn’t say that. I just…” he smiled sheepishly..

The doctor stayed silent so he could continue.

“She’s Coulson’s daughter so she knows…I mean, she doesn’t know everything, but she knows I was in Juvie and she’s still nice to me and I don’t know, I just...she’sniceandIlikeher,” he mumbled

“You have a crush? It’s okay to have a crush, Grant. In fact, I’m surprised you’re even capable of it considering what you’ve been through. That shows incredible resilience, Grant. This is a good thing; it’s typical teenage behavior. You have to remember that no matter what you’ve been through, you’re still a teenager; enjoy it.”

“I don’t have a…I mean, it’s nothing.”

“Why do you say that? Is it because she’s Coulson’s daughter? Do you feel it’s inappropriate?”

“A little? He’s been really good to me and I mean…let’s face it, she can do a lot better,” he mumbled, knowing his crush would never go anywhere. He was going to enjoy it while it lasted and hopefully it wasn’t long because he really was looking forward to just being great friends with her.

It was going to be hard though, she smelled really nice and she was so pretty, even when she had just rolled out of bed. It wasn’t fair.

“Grant? Can you explain what you mean?”

He chuckled nervously. “Look at me. I’m just a poor white trash kid with a record and a screwed up family. It’s a miracle I’m even here. And she’s beautiful and smart with a good family and a real future. She doesn’t need someone like me coming in and ruining that for her. I’ve seen what happens when good girls date guys like me, it never ends well for them. I’m never going to put someone through that.”

She closed her notebook and peered down at him. “Do you want to know what I believe?”

He nodded. Wasn’t that why he was here?

“I’ve read your entire file, Grant, and you’re right. Most people would right you off as being a bad seed but that’s not what I see when I look at you. I see a brave young man who has survived more in his short life than most people could even comprehend; who keeps surviving by continuing to get up every morning and who’s sitting in front of me wanting to make a better life for himself.

You’re not a loser, Grant. I don’t think you see yourself clearly yet and that’s okay. I’m hoping that with time I’ll be able to help you get there.

The fact is you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t think you had a future. You took a big step when you decided to take Agent Coulson up on his offer and in the process you helped make sure your siblings were safe-“

“That wasn’t me, that was Coulson-“

“If you hadn’t burned that house down, they would still be there, wouldn’t they?” He glanced down, ashamed. “I don’t agree with what you did, Grant, but I understand you were trying to protect them. Wanting to protect people is a good instinct and you will learn how to do it the right way in your training.

We all make mistakes; you are not your past. As long as you acknowledge your mistakes and choose to make up for them and be better, then you’re growing. That’s all we can do, Grant; keep growing.

And you’re right; it is too soon for you to be in a romantic relationship. You need to learn to love yourself first. Having friends is a good first step, Grant. But I don’t want you to rely on them for your happiness, it’s not healthy. I want to help you process what you’ve been through so you can understand none of it was your fault. And when we get there, you’ll be able to want things for yourself because you’ll feel you deserve them.

And Grant?

You do deserve to be happy.”

He glanced up at her anxiously. “What if I can’t get there?”

“Do you want to get there?”

He nodded timidly.

“Are you willing to work with me to get there?”

“Yes.”

She smiled. “Then you will.

You can accomplish anything with hard work.

Here’s what I want you to do. I want you to start keeping a journal. It can be in a notebook, on a computer, anything; and you can do whatever you like with it after: burn it, delete it, it doesn’t matter. I just want you to write down your feelings every day. Find a way to verbalize them, even if it’s just for you. And in time, if you keep doing that, these sessions will become easier for you.

And I know discussing your parents and brother will be difficult, but you need to understand none of what happened was your fault. You were abused and manipulated and forced to do things against your will. You’re not a bad person, they were. You are not responsible for their actions; you’re only responsible for finding a way to move past them and to not let what they did to you define you. Do you understand?”

“No, but I’ll try?”

She smiled. “Try is good.”

Grant found himself smiling.

“I will see you Thursday and then Friday. Next week we’ll do Monday, Wednesday, Friday sessions, okay?”

He nodded.

She smiled. “Good. And Grant, I want you to think about the things you’d like to work through. I’m here for you. When you’re in this room my only concern is you. No one will know what goes on in this room except you and me. I want you to remember that.

Also, when we meet for our next session I feel it would be beneficial for you to do the talking. Tell me how you feel, any fears you might have about classes starting, how you’re adjusting, anything you want to talk about. Understood?”

He nodded again.

“All right, get out of here; enjoy your last few days of freedom. Explore the campus, be a teenager, eat all the baked goods because once your training starts you won’t be able to touch them.”

“Thanks,” he muttered shyly before awkwardly making his way out of the room, miraculously without knocking anything over. He did however bump into someone on his way out of the main office and smiled when he realized it was Coulson.

“’Morning, sir.”

“Grant…how are you?”

He knew he was checking in on him and he was thankful. “Good.”

“You’re settling in? Finding where everything is?”

He nodded.

“Good, come, walk with me.”

“Okay.”

Grant walked alongside him with his hands in his pockets.

“Did your first session go well?”

Grant shrugged. “I don’t know; I don’t have anything to compare it to.”

Coulson smiled. “Do you feel good about it at least?”

“I guess. She’s nice; I just don’t know how to do any of this.”

“You’ll learn; you’re smart, Grant; smarter than you give yourself credit for. You’re going to be fine.” Grant wasn’t sure if Coulson was saying that last part for his own benefit or for Grant’s.

“So…Agent May and I are heading back to D.C. I know we haven’t had much time together, there’s been a situation in the Middle East and every agency’s been busy trying to neutralize it.”

“It’s okay, sir, I understand.” Grant was glad they’d had any time together even if he would like more. He could do a lot worse than Phil Coulson as his role model.

They stopped in the entry way and Coulson gave his shoulder a squeeze. Grant did his best not to flinch but he did it anyway. There was something he could talk to his therapist about: his aversion to touch.

“Sorry, son,” Coulson whispered as he pulled away, realizing he’d forgotten.

Grant shook his head. “It’s okay, sir, it’s not you.” He tried not to think about the fact Coulson had called him ‘son’. Coulson was everything he ever wanted his own father too be and it was too sad to think about; what his life could have been like.

Coulson nodded.

“Well, this is where I leave you. Skye is coming home this weekend to visit Buddy, you should come with her. I don’t like her driving down to D.C. alone. I don’t like her driving, period, but her mother says I’m too overprotective and well, you’ve met her, you don’t tell her ‘no’.”

Grant smirked. “Is that an inherited trait, sir?”

He nodded grimly. “I’m sorry to say it but you’re doomed, son.”

Grant shifted uncomfortably. He knew Coulson had caught on to his crush and he didn’t want it to be weird. “About that, sir-“

“Grant, if you’d met the boys I’ve seen chase after my daughter then you’d understand why I don’t care. In fact, I’d be happy if she dated someone like you, but it’s not going to happen.”

He glanced down, feeling sick to his stomach.

“Listen, you’re going to hear things, stories, about her mother and they’re mostly exaggerated, but they do tend to scare off friends and boyfriends, the latter I’m fine with, but you shouldn’t take them too much to heart.

And I’m guessing this your first crush?”

He looked up in confusion. Wait, Coulson wasn’t about to tell him there was no way Skye would be interested in a loser like him?

Grant nodded awkwardly; this was her dad after all.

He smiled dreamily. “I remember my first crush…I was a bumbling idiot. That’s normal. Of course, most men tend to grow out of that phase; mine returned back when I met Melinda. I still have no idea how I got a woman like that to marry a schmuck like me.” Coulson smiled and for the first time Grant realized that her parents really loved each other. His therapist was right, he had no clue what a loving relationship looked like or how to be in one and Coulson knew that.

He was looking out for him and…he looked away, choked up.

“Anyway…you’re very…innocent, Grant, and Skye is…” he sighed. “I know my daughter and she’s not smart enough-no, that’s not right. She’s too rebellious to date someone like you, at least not yet, which is a good thing. You don’t need to worry about girls. They’re a terrible, frightening, painful part of growing up and I think they’re the one thing you can wait on.

Let’s get you better before we let some girl destroy you, yes?”

It took a moment for Grant to realize Coulson was joking.

God, he was a socially awkward mess.

“Did Agent May destroy you?”

“Every day of my life; but it’s worth it. She gave me Skye and I love her. All relationships are hard work but it’s worth the payoff. You’ll get there, someday, Grant.

I want to say…I’m proud of you. You’ve already bonded with your roommates and Skye and her friends and that’s a big step. In a week or two when you’re more used to being around pretty girls and can talk to them I hope you’ll let Skye introduce you to more people.” Grant knew full well what he meant: once you stop looking at my daughter like a lost puppy and be her friend like a normal person she can show you off to other people without scaring them off.

“What is this I hear about me destroying you?”

Grant glanced up and blushed when he realized Agent May had joined them. Coulson put an arm around her and pulled her closer. “I was just explaining the birds and the bees to Grant here.”

She rolled her eyes. “Well then, he’s screwed. Don’t listen to him; he doesn’t know anything about women.”

“I landed you, didn’t I?”

“Only because I felt sorry for you; and you got me pregnant.”

Coulson glanced his way and shook his head. “She wanted me bad; don’t let her tell you any differently. She all but dragged me down the aisle.” He teased as he pressed a kiss to her temple. “Besides, Skye came years later,” he whispered fondly. She smiled and it was the first time he’d seen her do so. It was frightening; everything about her scared him, even when she was being normal.

Shit; Coulson was right. There was no way in hell he’d be brave enough to date her daughter. Everything made sense now; no one wanted to date Agent May’s daughter because they valued their life.

Grant had never put much value in his; this might be a problem.

But at least he wouldn’t have to see Skye dating other guys, right? At least until they got out of here and that was assuming they were still friends and wow he was getting ahead of himself.

“Hurry up, we’re supposed to be saying goodbye to your daughter.”

“Why is she always ‘my’ daughter? You gave birth to her; she’s half yours.”

“Before noon she’s yours; that child is insufferable in the mornings, she didn’t get that from me.”

Coulson frowned. “No, but she did get that beautiful face from you.”

“Yeah, yeah, save it for when we get home.”

He smiled and kissed her quickly before turning back to Grant who was now blushing bright red. “Grant, I will see you this weekend, yes?”

He wasn’t sure Skye would want him along but he nodded anyway.

May raised one brow. “What now?”

“I’ve invited him to come home with Skye this weekend.”

She looked him up and down and he was so very, very afraid. “He’s going to be with my daughter, alone, in a car, for six hours?”

He gulped and found what little courage he had. “Yes, ma’am?”

She smirked. “You poor boy; wear a helmet.”

Grant’s eyes went wide.

“Don’t worry, she’s not that bad of a driver; she just…has a heavy foot,” Coulson assured before giving him a wink and following his wife.

He stood in horror for a moment, wondering what in the hell had just happened. He couldn’t even begin to process this day and it wasn’t even eleven a.m.

Grant made his way towards the dorms and stopped in the quad when he saw Skye with her parents. She was beaming and the sunlight was hitting her hair, making it shimmer and…he sighed. There was no way she didn’t know he was madly in crush with her; everyone else seemed to. This was going to end in disaster; he needed to find a way to make it stop before it got him into trouble.

He watched them, curious. He wasn’t used to parents who loved their child and it was clear Coulson and May loved Skye a lot. Skye’s arms were wrapped around her mom’s middle and it looked as though she was trying to convince her to stay (didn’t most teenagers want to be away from their parents?). Coulson had both arms wrapped around the two of them and kept trying to kiss May who kept turning her head, probably because she didn’t want to engage in PDA, she didn’t seem the type. Grant was surprised he’d seen any at all.

Skye’s laugher filled the air as her dad reluctantly handed her what looked like a set of keys. She looked triumphant. They both kissed her good-bye and she waved to them sadly, not wanting them to go.

He felt just as sad as she looked. He’d never had that, even with Gramsy. Everything had always been too complicated to enjoy her. He was glad she had it though, she deserved it.

She turned and met his eyes. She waved in his direction, giving him a smile. He moved towards her but before he could reach her Sharon was there, whisking her off. She glanced back at him, smiled, and then followed her friend.

He sighed, wanting to spend more time with her. Maybe if he did he would feel less…entranced?

Grant made his way back to his room, knowing he needed to do a whole hell of a lot of studying if he didn’t want to seem like the dumbest kid in class.

Who was he kidding? There would be no ‘seeming’ he was already the person who was furthest behind. He needed help and lots of it; luckily his roommate was a child genius and he planned to use that to his advantage; if Fitz was okay with it, of course.

Chapter Text

Skye stumbled into her room, ready for a nice, long nap. The moment she hit the mattress let out a groan and threw the comforter off her head; she wasn’t alone.

“Hi, mom.”

She glanced over to find that her mother was indeed there, perched on Jemma’s bed with her arms crossed, just as she’d sensed. Well, at least she wasn’t lurking in her usual corner.

“Daughter,” she greeted with her eyes settled on the nest that was Skye’s hair.

Skye smiled sweetly and shrugged in what she hoped was a cute and charming ‘don’t yell at me’ way. “I may have gone to bed with it wet.”

“You don’t say?”

Her mom hated when she did that but it never stopped Skye from doing it.

She stood and crossed the room, taking a set on the Skye’s bed. Skye sat up and dug around for her lost hair tie which she found inside her pillow case. She shrugged, not caring how it got there, and pulled her hair into a messy bun before hugging her knees to her chest. She tried to stifle a yawn and failed, earning her a disapproving glare from her mama bear.

“You can’t stay in bed all day.”

Me? In bed all day? Of course not, I was just going to shower,” Skye lied as she yawned again.

Mama bear gave her the ‘I know you child’ look and Skye leaned over to kiss her cheek. “Hi, mommy,” she crooned, hoping to get that grumpy look off her face.

She narrowed her eyes. “You know, even after twenty years of marriage your father can’t detect me in a room but somehow you can. If you would sleep less and focus more you could be an amazing field agent,” she scolded as she reached out to push back a stray strand of Skye’s hair.

Skye groaned. She was not in the mood for this. She was a hacker. She liked computers. Guns? Hand-to-hand combat? Danger? Not such much. She’d seen first-hand how that kind of work could ruin a person. Yes, her mom had endured but Skye never wanted to see the kind of horrors she had nor was she anywhere near as resilient.

“Mom, I’m not cut out for that-“

“I’m not saying be the next Romanoff, Skye. I’m just saying you’re selling yourself short. You’re more than capable and you’d be good at it. Look at your father, he does field work, helps with the welcome wagon, works special missions; it doesn’t have to be dangerous. You’re far too smart and talented to be stuck in a control room for the rest of your life, Skye.”

Skye rested her chin on her knees. “Is that why you went back to the field? You got sick of sitting in an administration building all day?”

She sighed. “No…well, yes, but I don’t miss the combat. I’d like less combat,” she whispered with that same haunted look in her eyes that Skye had grown used to.

“Do you like working in the field with dad?”

A smile tugged at her lips. “I do. I’d forgotten it but we make a good team. I’d like to do more of it but Fury’s…well, he’ll come around’ I’ll see to it.”

Skye highly doubted that. The man was pretty stuck in his ways.

“Knock, knock,” her dad announced as he cracked the door open. ”Can I come in?”

“See, he asks,” she teased. Her mom was always lurking or surprising her, trying to keep her on her toes no doubt. “Come in, daddy!”

Her mom snorted. “He didn’t spend thirteen hours in labor. You came into this world covered in my blood, child, don’t forget that.”

Skye rolled her eyes. Her mom’s default argument for everything was ‘I gave birth to you; top that.’ It was getting old.

Sometimes she hated being a miracle baby.

“Thanks, mom, now I never want my own daughter.”

“Good, I don’t want some bratty kid calling me ‘grandma’.”

“Hey! That’s my bratty kid you’re talking about! And it’s going to call you mee-maw just to spite you.”

‘Mee-maw’ raised a brow. “Do you have something to tell me?”

Skye groaned. “No. No one will even date me, let alone get me pregnant!”

Mama bear rolled her eyes.

“As your father, I don’t mind that,” A.C. teased as he leaned over to kiss the top of her head before giving his wife’s shoulder a squeeze.

“Of course you don’t, if it was up to you I’d just stay your baby forever.”

He smiled. “I seem to remember a little girl who wanted to marry her daddy so she never had to leave him.”

She groaned. “Dad, I was like five! When are you going to forget that?”

He sat next to her and pulled her against him into a tight hug. “Never, princess.”

She whined as he plastered her with kisses. “Daddy! Stop!” She squealed as she squirmed in his arms. “I also wanted a pony! I never got a pony! I don’t remind you of that every chance I get!”

“No, but you’ve never shut up about wanting a dog,” her mom reminded her.

Skye pulled away from her dad grumpily, embarrassed. She was seventeen. She couldn’t be caught letting her dad treat her like she was five!

Even if she did still love daddy hugs.

“Where is Buddy?” Now that she had her puppy she wanted him around at all times. She was going to miss the big furball.

“I told you, your grandmother took him home with her.”

Skye whined. “I know, dad, but I thought maybe you decided to keep him with you,” she said with a pout.

“Well, you can come home this weekend and see him.” Skye’s eyes lit up with excitement. “Your mom and I are leaving Tuesday and I don’t know when we’ll be back so it’ll be your last chance for a while.” She was suddenly no longer excited. “Your grandmother will have him until we get back.”

Skye sighed poutily. She didn’t want them to go. She hated when they were gone. She worried; a lot. Having agents for parents was extremely stressful; always awaiting that dreaded and inevitable phone call and it never go any easier.

“Hey, we’ll be back,” her mom assured as she wrapped an arm around her shoulder.

“One day you won’t,” Skye whispered, trying not to cry. She could never handle losing either one of them, let alone both of them together, and things were more dangerous now than they’d ever been. Their country was at war which only added fuel to the dangers that were already present in the intelligence community.

Her parents met each other’s eyes and Skye knew they couldn’t lie to her. They all knew someday she was going to lose one of them and no amount of comforting was going to change that.

“Princess…everyone has to die someday, nothing can change that. But I promise you, neither one of us is ever going to leave you without one hell of a fight, you got that?”

Skye allowed him pull her into a hug but it wasn’t helping the dread she felt.

“I want to go check on Grant before we leave. Why don’t you shower and meet me downstairs in thirty minutes? Your hair looks terrible.”

“Dad!”

He chuckled and kissed her cheek as she shoved him away. She reached up and frowned. Okay, maybe her hair did look terrible. She mumbled that he was mean and he kissed the top of her head.

“Sorry, baby, but it’s horrible. Maybe that’s why you can’t find a boyfriend-“

“Daddy!

Mom! He’s being mean to me!”

She chuckled. “Sorry, baby girl, but he has a point.”

Skye groaned and hid her face in her hands. Sometimes they were terrible but she still loved them. It was hard to engage in typical teenage ‘I hate my parents’ behavior when she knew that there were kids like Grant who didn’t get to have the same kind of home life she had.

“What’s wrong, Skye? I was just kidding; you’re beautiful, sweetheart.”

She looked up and realized she’d allowed her face to show off how bad she felt for Grant.

“No, it’s just…I was just thinking about Grant. His parents weren’t good to him, were they?” Her dad didn’t answer. “I know you can’t tell me but…I can just tell.” She suspected that was why he didn’t like being touched. “I’m glad you brought him here. It’s not fair that everyone doesn’t get to have parents who love them.

Loving your kids and being good to them should be a part of the job description.”

Her mom took her hand and gave it a squeeze. “I know but not everyone gets the memo.”

“There should be a test or something. I don’t know. Assholes shouldn’t be allowed to be parents.”

Her dad frowned. “I know, baby, but we’re going to help him. Your family doesn’t always have to be the one you’re born into, after all.”

She knew that. S.H.I.E.L.D. was widely divided between people who were born into this and people who came from terrible backgrounds with a few scattered in the middle. And no matter where you fell on the spectrum the people you worked with tended to become your family.

Skye launched herself at both of her parents and gave them a huge bear hug. “I love you guys.”

“We love you too, princess.”

A.C. pressed a kiss to her temple before releasing her. He stood and held his hand out for his wife.

“Melinda?”

“I’ll meet you there.”

Skye shook herself off and wiped her eyes quickly. She shoved herself off the mattress and headed to her closet. “Why? Want to babysit me in the shower?” She joked.

“No, but I could braid your hair; it’s been a long time.”

Skye cheered up immediately.

Sure, they looked cute on her, but that wasn’t why she liked braids; it was because she loved the way it felt when her mom fixed her hair. It made her feel safe and protected and who didn’t like someone else doing their hair?

“All right, you girls have fun,” her dad teased before leaning down and taking her mom’s face in his hands. Skye scrunched up her nose while they kissed. She didn’t mind the kissing. It was cute. Her parents were disgustingly in love and shit and they saved the PDA for private but the kissing sounds.

So gross.

“Get a room you two.”

“We’re in a room,” her mom muttered as she grabbed A.C.’s tie.

“Eww, not my room! This is a sex-free zone, agents!”

Her mom stood and walked over to her so she could kiss the top of her head. “It better stay that way.”

“Don’t worry, Mel, there isn’t a boy stupid enough willing to risk his life by touching your daughter.”

She half-shoved him out the door. “That’s right, none alive anyway,” she teased with a wink before kissing him one more time and closing the door behind him.

Skye rolled her eyes and didn’t bother to mention that Trip was still alive. She pulled out a cute red plaid dress that she threw onto her bed while searching for a pair of shows. She could feel her mom watching her and she glanced back at her mom warily because she was giving her that ‘mom’ look. Skye never liked it when she had that look. Unlike everyone else Skye preferred Agent May to her aggressive mom mode. She never knew what to expect when her mom was in one of her moods. Sure, her mom was loving and funny and amazing but there were times when she just did things that were so shocking it made Skye want to hide under a rock; like the sex-talk.

Oh God, she wasn’t going to give her another one of those, was she?

Skye still couldn’t eat a banana to this day.

“Mom? Why are you looking at me like that?”

Her mom sat perched on the corner of Skye’s desk watching her with a sad smile.

“Nothing, I just realized that that you’re a grown-woman now. Soon you’re going to be a legal adult and able to do what you want and I might not be able to protect you anymore.”

Skye scoffed. “Mom, please, I could be forty and you’ll still have Seal Team Six tailing me everywhere I go.”  

“Don’t be ridiculous, Skue; it’ll be the S.T.R.I.K.E. team, the Navy isn’t good enough to protect you, baby.”

Skye rolled her eyes so hard she was surprised they didn’t roll out. “And yet you want me out in the field?”

Her mom smiled and Skye got a weird feeling in the pit of her stomach.

“You know…what your dad does is a lot less danger and a lot more saving people like Grant. He works with people in trouble; specifically ones with abilities. Even the ones from good families have to deal with the fear of those around them because they don’t understand them. It’s not easy suddenly being considered a freak and there has always been a stigma attached to anything society doesn’t understand. If you’re different you’re automatically labeled a threat and with that comes danger. Not to mention you have these news powers you don’t understand; it’s terrifying.

And then there are the bad seeds; the ones who use their powers to do bad things and we need to protect people from them. Not just the public but the people closest to them.

You would be very good with them, Skye. With the kids S.H.I.E.L.D. saves. You have a lot of compassion, baby girl. People are drawn to you. They trust you, they confide in you.  You could even work to help find the cracks in the system that permits kids like Grant stay in their abusive homes. There is no one thing that S.H.I.E.L.D. represents. We’re here to help everyone that we can and there is so much that you could do in this world, Skye.”

Skye hugged her robe to her chest. “You really want me out there, don’t you?”

“I want you to reach your full potential and you have the potential to do and be so much more than you think you do, Qiaolian.”

Skye wasn’t sure about that but…

She thought about Fitz and Grant and all of the other people she’d met around here who had been used as someone’s punching bag and she felt…angry.

The system was incredibly flawed; it was why she’d started hacking.

Maybe her mom had a point. Maybe she could really help people, the way her dad did. Maybe she could really do this.

“I’m already set to graduate early, mom, I mean…I’m basically taking one class at a senior level, everything else are actual Communications classes.”

“Which means you’ll have time to specialize in Communications and Operations and still finish with your friends.”

Skye toyed with her robe. “I’m not exactly…physically fit enough to-“

“So you train. You don’t need the level of training that Trip has, Skye. If you start now you can be as skilled as your father is. You just need to be able to defend yourself; not take someone out.”

Skye tucked her hair behind her ear. “Dad’s not going to like this.”

“He’ll be fine with it. Your father…” She stood and took Skye’s face in her hands. “You brought us both back to life, baby. This job is hard; we’ve never lied to you about that. And we were both…well, I was…” She got that far off, haunted look again. “You start to forget what’s important and why we do this and you gave us something to fight for,” she said as she met Skye’s eyes.

“He knows you’re more than capable of doing anything you want he just worries about you because he still doesn’t see it.”

“See what?”

She smiled and caressed her cheek. “That you’re not a little girl anymore,” she whispered as she ran a hand up her face and over Skye’s messy hair. “You’re still young but you’re almost a woman and he still thinks of you as that little girl wearing a Captain America princess dress that used to force him to re-enact Disney movies with her.”

Skye glanced down with a blush. She was such a nerd back then. Okay, she was a nerd now, but still…

“Your father just doesn’t want anything bad to happen. I think if you were ever hurt he would lose his mind. He loves you more than anything in this world and he just wants to keep you safe. He believes in you, baby, he just wants to keep you in a bubble. And the only way he’ll stop seeing you as a child is for you to show him you’re not one.”

Skye looked up timidly. “Can I have time to consider it?”

Her mom nodded. “You don’t have to make any decisions now. You could even finish your Comms training before you start Ops. Just do what you feel is right for you and don’t let yourself believe you can’t do something. I don’t care what you decide, mǒ de ài, as long as you’re happy. I just want you to explore every option because they’re all open to you and you can do anything you set your mind to, baby.”

“Jesus, mom, I think this is the most I’ve heard you talk ever,” she teased with a small smile.

She smirked. “Yeah, well, your dad does enough talking for the both of us; it seems to be a Coulson family trait.”

Skye withheld a chuckle and nodded before moving to the door.

“Before you go; one more thing. Come, sit.”

Oh God, here it was; the sex-talk part deux.

She followed her mom to the edge of her bed and did her best not to show how horrified she was.

“So…” Skye muttered as she took a seat.

“Look, sweetheart, about Grant-“ Skye’s stomach dropped. “I know he’s good-looking and a very sweet boy and with all he’s been through to still be as kind as he is shows incredible strength but-“

“You don’t want me dating him?”

“It’s not that I think he’s bad for you. But he has gone through a lot and he needs time to heal, Skye.” Her mom took her hand and squeezed it. “Baby, you love so much and so hard and when you’re a teenager the first time you fall in love it’s always intense and life-changing and for most people they go on to have that over and over again but I know you, Skye. When you fall in love it’s going to forever. And you’re still so young.

He will still be there when you’re both really ready. I don’t want to see you get hurt and that poor boy-it wouldn’t be fair to him to get hurt on top of everything else he’s dealing with.”

Skye glanced down sadly. “What makes you think I even want to date him?”

Her mom snorted. “Because, Skye, I know you. Your father, he knows nothing about being a teenage girl but I so. And you lived inside of me, I can just sense things. Sometimes I think I can still feel you growing. Your grandmother used to joke that I was sucking away her youth and sometimes I think you’re doing the same to me. Your dad loves you baby, but you’re literally a part of me.

I hurt when you hurt, I’m happy when you’re happy, and the way I saw you looking at that boy over dinner…give it time is all I’m saying. I’m terrified you’re going to run off and marry the first boy you fall in love with and I’d prefer it if you did that when you’re much older.”

Skye wasn’t sure what was worse; that fact that her mom had a point or that she agreed with her.

“You ran off and married the first boy you fell in love with,” Skye pointed out.

She smiled. “Yes, I did, which is why I know I don’t want that for you.

I love your father; a lot. But we were stupid; twenty years old and breaking protocol to run off and get married. We didn’t know anything about life then. And when things got hard, and they did get hard, Skye, we didn’t know how to deal with it. To your dad’s credit, he tried so hard. I don’t think any other man could have tried as hard as he did with me.

What happened didn’t just break me, it broke him.

We fell apart, baby; and it was because were just a pair of kids who didn’t know how much work marriage took. And this world we live in, this job, it takes so much out of you. We couldn’t handle both. I don’t want that for you. You should be a functioning adult when you decide to get married and the person you marry should be there too.

I want you to have time to grow into the person you’re supposed to be, not to be forced into it.”

Skye toyed with her mom’s wedding ring. “But…you guys got through it; enough to make me at least,” she whispered as she glanced up to meet her eyes.

“I admit, you were the reason we decided not to give up and the day he found out that you existed, that day he became a father…it was the day he really became a man. Before that he was just a boy with a badge faking his way through adulthood.

You don’t just become an adult the day you turn eighteen, Skye. It’s hard enough for most people, being thrust into the real world, with no idea how to navigate life, but for you…

Baby, you’ve lived you whole life protected by S.H.I.E.L.D. I want you to go out and see the world and discover who you are without us and to live your life before you join it with someone else and make me a grandmother; because Skye, the moment you do that, there’s no turning back. Your life will no longer belong to you; you’ll have a responsibility to that life you’ve made until the day you die.

You’re beautiful and impulsive and passionate and I just want you to experience the world before you settle in; don’t throw your life away, baby.”

Skye was beginning to miss the sex-talk.

“Mom, I think you just don’t want to be a grandma before you’re fifty,” Skye said, trying to lighten the mood.

“Qiaolian, if you make me a grandmother before I’m fifty I will send you out of this world the way you came into it.”

Skye chuckled. “Don’t worry, mom, I’m not ready for any of that.”

Her mom was right. If she chased after him she would only hurt him more and that wasn’t fair to him. Because if he wasn’t the love of her life she’d break him and if he was they’d both be too young to make it work and it would still break him.

And it wasn’t even about Grant Ward.

Skye wanted so desperately to experience love and romance and sex now, while she could, because she knew she had the time to do it now. Maybe she could take her time with her education, move out of the dorms after primary school and while she worked on her degree, even take some time off before her first assignment to travel.

She hadn’t been sure her parents would allow anything but dedicating her life to S.H.I.E.L.D. the way she had but maybe she just never wanted to let them go. And being here, dedicated to the organization they loved so much, that was their family, was her way of being that little girl in the red, white, and blue princess dress forever; just with better toys.

The rest of her life was just around the corner and it was slightly terrifying and shit; was this what growing up actually felt like?

Skye faked a groan. “Fiiiiiiine, I will wait until he’s ready to make out with his face.

And you’re wrong about me, mom,” Skye whispered with a genuine smile. “I’m not going to marry the first good-looking guy I fall in love with; I’m going to marry the one who’s just like dad.”

It was meant to be a joke but she was completely serious; her standard for a life partner was Steve Rogers and since he was dead someone like her dad was the next best thing. She couldn’t do any better than someone as selfless, kind, and nerdy like him; though if she could fine one with Captain America’s hot bod she wouldn’t complain.

“Is that supposed to make me feel better?”

Skye shook her head and kissed her mom’s cheek. “I’m going to be fine, mom. You’re just like dad; you worry too much.”

“When you have a child and she’s just like you you’re going to understand the hell I have to go through raising you,” her mom called as Skye left her room to shower.

She sighed with a roll of her eyes; raising parents was really difficult sometimes.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“There you are, all done,” he mom announced as she pressed a kiss to her cheek. Skye whined before looking into the mirror; she didn’t want her to go.

Skye inspected her braid with approval before turning to hug her mom around the middle. “Stay here. You could teach and never leave me ever,” she mumbled grumpily. She didn’t care if she’d literally see her mom and dad in three days; she hated being separated from them. If she could just spend her life stuck somewhere with them it would be great.

In fact, living with them forever would be preferable. Chinese tradition was that you took care of your parents when they got older. Whomever she wound up with would have to accept that she could not stray from her duty as their daughter to stay with them; she was going to work with them and live with them forever and no one was ever going to stop her.

Oh, who was she kidding? She never wanted to grow up; couldn’t she just be Peter Pan?

“You do this every year and then by the weekend you’re getting caught pulling pranks and having the time of your life; you won’t even miss us.”

That was complete and utter bullshit. “But you’re the prank master; maybe I need you around to help me. Did you ever think of that?”

Her mom knelt to her level. “Skye Qiaolian Coulson, I know I taught you better than that. When engaging in a prank war we do not lose and we do not ask for help from our mothers. This is a matter of pride and honor in the May family; just because I let your father give his last name does not change the fact that you are a May at heart.

You prank the hell out of your classmates and you do it with things you came up with yourself and then you strong-arm your friends into helping you pull them off; got it?”

Skye pressed her lips together to keep from grinning.

Ah yes, this was her favorite side of Melinda May; cool mom.

“Aye, aye, sir!”

She straightened up. “Good. I expect you to be called into Avery’s office by the end of the first week; if I don’t get at least one stern phone call telling me that my child is going to be kicked out if she doesn’t behave herself I’ll be concerned that you’re not really my daughter; pod people are real you know.”

“Seriously?”

That was so cool-oh, her mom was joking, right.

“You’re still my child, crisis averted,” her mom teased as she kissed the top of her head.

“Aliens are totally real, okay.”

“And when you discover that in your field work you can spend your life saying ‘I told you so’.”

Skye hadn’t thought about that part of field work…

“Finish getting ready and I’ll meet you downstairs; I need to check on something before your father and I leave.” Skye pouted. “Don’t give me that.”

“Fine, but I’m still not happy about you leaving.”

“Tough shit, life isn’t always about you being happy,” she reminded her as she left.

“I liked you better when you were being emotional mom!” She called after her with a huff. Okay, that was a lie; she was so used to her sassy as fuck parents that if her mom started getting emotional on her all the time she’d be convinced the body snatchers had arrived.

Skye slipped into a pair of ladybug flats and checked her hair in the mirror again. She smiled; she was adorable.

And she really did already miss her parents. She didn’t care how needy that made her seem; she was a mommy and a daddy’s girl through and through.

She found her parents out on the grounds being complete dorks; they were so embarrassing sometimes. Why did she let them go out in public?

“Stop, dad, if you keep this up people might think she loves you and if they find out she’s not a robot the world will implode,” Skye teased. Her mom was so not about the PDA; when people knew your weaknesses they could exploit you. It was why agents never wore personal jewelry like wedding rings. Of course, everyone in S.H.I.E.L.D. already knew they were married with a child so Skye didn’t think holding hands was a big deal but she did and Phil Coulson was a little shit (a trait Skye had inherited) and loved to test her.

He was currently trying to take her hand and every time she gave him the ‘don’t even Phillip’ look he would then try to kiss her cheek.

She looked ready to kill him; or bang him into submission.

Skye made a face.

She’d already been traumatized enough by their sex life she didn’t need to think about it willingly.

“I have a surprise for you, sweetheart-“

“A pony?”

Her dad smiled. “No, but your test scores came in; congratulations, you now have level two clearance.”

She knew squealing wasn’t very lady like but she wasn’t a lady. She hugged them both. The day she’d gotten a badge was still the best day of her life and now she had one-upped both Sharon and Trip. She couldn’t wait to rub it in their faces especially since they loved to tease her for her advanced placement classes.

Skye kept hold of her mom while her dad held them both and resumed his attempts to make-out with his wife.

“Dad, gross, I’m right here. I’m just a sweet, innocent child; I don’t need to see this.

Plus, you’re embarrassing mom.”

He scoffed. “Skye, please; how do you think you were made?”

She groaned. “Dad, please, I don’t need to relive that trauma.” The sex-talk debacle had begun when she’d caught them banging on the sofa; she hadn’t been the same since.

Skye wasn’t sure which was worse; finding out her dad was a bottom or the time she and Trip had caught them dry-humping and she’d nearly died of embarrassment.

This was why she no longer made unannounced trips home on the weekend.

“I want you to relive it every time a boy tries to put his hand up your-“

“DAD!”

“Phil, if you don’t stop your hand is never going-“

“Oh my God, now I do want you both to go.”

Her mom released her. “All right, if you ins-“

“No!”

Skye hugged her again and buried her face in her shirt. “Never leave me. If you don’t leave me you can’t get hurt in some desert somewhere.”

“Princess, your mom is not going to let me get hurt; the only people getting hurt are going to be the ones stupid enough to mess with your mom.”

“Oh Phil, you’re such a romantic.”

“Hey, I’m not ashamed to admit I need my wife to protect me; in fact, it’s super-hot.”

“Yeah? Well, you’re not too bad either, Agent Coulson. Come by my place later, my husband won’t be home; it’ll be our little secret.”

This time she let him kiss her.

Skye couldn’t help the giggle that came out of her mouth, even though her instinct was to groan at how disgusting they were. “I swear to God, guys, how do I not have like a dozen siblings? You’re so in love it’s gross.” And so unattainable; it wasn’t fair to have these two idiots as her relationship role models; she was never going to find that balance or connection.

“We thought it best to quit while we were ahead,” he dad answered while her mom said “handling you is enough torture for one lifetime.”

Skye rolled her eyes. “Stop pretending I’m not the best kid in the world, mom. No one’s around; you don’t have to put on the ‘I’m Agent May and I can kill a man from a hundred yards away with a stare-blindfolded’ show.”

“She really can, I’ve seen it. That was the moment I knew I had to find a way to make myself hers.”

“You’re such a nerd, dad.”

Skye knew the real reason she’d never gotten a sibling was that they couldn’t. Her mom had gotten hurt bad in Bahrain. Sure, she’d inflicted a lot of damage, but that didn’t mean she’d gotten out of it physically unscathed. The doctors had told her having children was out of the question but less than a year later Skye had decided to surprise them; she was a stubborn little shit that way.

It was probably a good thing her mom had been in such a vulnerable stage in her life when she’d gotten pregnant; Skye wasn’t sure if her mother would have kept a kid before the trauma. She’d been so focused on her career then that it probably wouldn’t have fit into her plans but after? When she wasn’t sure if she could do the job anymore?

Skye was the only good thing to come from that whole nightmare.

She wasn’t even sure if her mom would have wanted more; once Skye was old enough to walk and talk she was back to work; juggling raising her and being a living legend flawlessly.

Skye was often in awe of her.

Now her dad on the other hand…well, there was a reason he’d pseudo-adopted most of her friends; he was just born to be a dad.

Skye was glad it was just her. She’d never felt she’d lacked siblings; she had Trip and Sharon and then Fitzsimmons; it was enough for her. And it meant she got them mostly to herself which she really liked; being the center of their universe was everything to her.

Her mom cleared her throat. “Phillip, isn’t there something you need to give her before we leave?”

Skye perked up. A present?

He sighed and reluctantly pulled out a set of car keys. She was only allowed custody of the Prius during the school-year; students were allowed to go home on the weekends if they were accompanied off-campus by a parent or if they got approval. And since A.C. was Fury’s man Skye always got approval. She didn’t even mind that it had a built-in tracking device because it meant she got to visit home a handful of times during the school year.

Sometimes the missing them got to be too much and she had to make sure they were still there with her own two eyes; phone calls and cam-calls weren’t enough for her.

Skye reached for them but her dad pulled them away. “You can come home this weekend and you get one visit to your grandmother’s to see Buddy, so use it wisely. No coming home until Christmas; and then we’ll be the ones picking you up.”

“Wait…Christmas? Are you guys going to be gone that long?”

“No,” her mother assured. “But we’ll come visit you once we get back. We don’t like you making that long drive alone.”

“Then what is the point in finally letting me get my license?”

Her dad smiled. “Because, little girl, you wouldn’t stop crying about how unfair it was that you didn’t have it and now that you do it comes with conditions.”

Skye huffed but still eyed the keys greedily. They’d have to let her drive it every few days to keep the battery running which meant taking it out on the course and that could be a lot of fun. “Fine,” she agreed, “now gimme!” She snatched the keys from her dad’s hand and cried out triumphantly; she’d gotten one over on her old man.

“Someone needs to work on his reflexes.”

“I let her have them.”

“Sure you did, Phil.”

He pouted and Skye threw her arms around him. “Thanks, daddy!” She said as she pressed a kiss to his cheek.

“Just remember, while you’re here, I get to play with Buddy more than you do.”

“Dad!”

“Phil, you’re worse than she is.”

Skye shook her head and kissed her parents good-bye. She tried once more to get them to stay but it was in vain.

As they walked off she watched them sadly, feeling a gnawing ache in her chest.

Please don’t let this be the last time I see them, she prayed. She didn’t even believe in God, but just in case, she always said one when they left.

Skye felt eyes on her and she turned to find Grant, expecting to find him watching her with that goofy look of his only this time it was sad. She sent a smile his way and waved.

She wondered how his session went. Maybe she should try to ask him about it. He needed a friend he could talk to; someone who had a vague idea about his past. Her mom was right; he needed help.

And even though he was super adorable he was also someone who could use a good friend and Skye happened to be a very good friend. She’d just have to get over her desire to kiss him and she’d be fine.

“Hey, there you are; Avery’s looking for you.”

Skye groaned. She hadn’t even been here long enough to get in trouble yet.

“She wants you to secure the firewalls before everyone starts arriving this weekend; something about the new IT guys being incompetent.” Skye doubted they were but compared to her everyone was; she wasn’t even sure why they bothered to pay people to do it when they always wound up coming to her anyway.

She glanced back at Grant sadly, seeing he was headed her way. She allowed Sharon to lead her to the administration building but she wasn’t happy about it.

He’d been coming to her, on his own; that had to be a big deal for him.

When she was done she’d go find him and let him know she was here if he needed her.

But first she needed to get on Avery’s good side; it was always beneficial to have the agent running the school owe you a favor, especially when you had a penchant for trouble.