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there's no i in team (but there is in S.H.I.E.L.D.)

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Skye looks around and tells herself she doesn’t know how they keep getting themselves into these messes. She’s always been good at lying, especially to herself.

She’s painfully aware of exactly how they got into this mess– it starts with S and rhymes with FIELD – but right now she’s not in the mood to be rational.

She’s not in the mood to be much of anything, sitting here locked in a transport freezer full of meat, at sub-zero temperatures, wearing nothing but her underwear, and if Ward makes one comment about the polka dot pattern – well, he’ll live to regret it, that’s for sure.

“Are you okay?” Ward asks, for the third time, and she changes her mind and wishes he had teased her about the polka dots after all, because he’s the one bleeding from the head and strung up next to a beef carcass, and right now she’d be hard-pressed to distinguish which looks worse, Ward or the side of beef.

She decides she’s a vegetarian from this moment on, and then changes her mind, because she knows that no matter how gross it looks at this stage of the process, hamburgers will never cease to be delicious.

“I’m fine,” she belatedly replies to Ward, and her answer is almost the truth, because she’s sure when Ward asks if she’s fine he means physically and not emotionally. Physically she’s fine. Emotionally she’s a basket case. Meat locker. Underwear. She’d ask how it could get worse, except she’s learnt that it’s only a matter of time until it does, and there’s no point in jinxing it.

May is there too, which would normally be a relief as she is nothing if not scarily, scarily competent – except Skye wonders if there’s anything May can do, when she’s trussed up even tighter than Ward.

Skye isn’t restrained at all, and she’d be insulted about that if it wasn’t so convenient. “Seems they didn’t think I was worth tying up,” she says, trying to stop her teeth from chattering.

It’s freezing. Which makes sense. It is a freezer.

Ward is looking at her oddly again (although, it’s Ward, he always looks at her oddly, so it’s the same look he usually gives her, just turned up to eleven), which means she’s probably rambling. Again.

Half of Ward’s face is covered in blood, and there’s red on his teeth when he tries to smile at her. He looks beat to hell, and she hates that. For all that she teases him about being a robot, it’s clear that he’s achingly human.

“Relax,” he says, “I’ve been through a lot worse,” and it may be the truth but that doesn’t mean she has to like it. He misinterprets her expression, as usual.  “Seriously,” he says. “I’ll be fine. Head wounds bleed a lot, that’s all, but at least the cold will slow down the bleeding.”

“He’s embarrassed,” May says crisply. “Those goons shouldn’t have got the jump on us.”

“I didn’t even see them,” Ward says, and it’s not an excuse – he says it like he doesn’t even believe it himself.

“None of us saw them,” May said. “Otherwise they wouldn’t have got the jump on us in the first place.”

“Guess those reports of the invisibility cloaks weren’t just something out of Harry Potter, huh,” says Skye.

“Guess so,” May says serenely.

“Wait,” Skye says, still processing. “You’ve read Harry Potter?”

May’s eyes don’t even flicker.

“Slytherin,” Skye says, testing. May doesn’t react, which is a reaction in itself.

Skye points to Ward. “Hufflepuff,” she says, and there’s a split-second where May almost smiles, and it’s pretty much the best thing that’s happened to Skye all day.

“You’re a secret geek,” she crows. “I knew it.”

“Huffle-what?” Ward says, sounding aggrieved at being left out of the conversation.

“Harry Potter, dumbass. You should try it sometime.”

 She decides to give Ward a required reading list. She’s seen how quick he can read through mission briefing notes: he could knock off the Harry Potter series no sweat, and she is convinced he’d secretly love it. After all, they basically work in the Department of Mysteries themselves, the Unspeakables have got nothing on them.

Skye,” May says, cutting her off, because apparently she’s rambling again.

“Sorry, not sure if you’ve noticed, but I’m not so good with the whole, y’know, zen thing,” Skye said, making a vague gesture intended to encompass the concept of patience in its entirety.

Skye checks their bonds again. It’s frustrating. “I can’t untie you,” she says.

“Try again,” May says. “Go as slow as you need.”

“If it’s so easy, you do it!” Sky says. She hates that her hands are shaking.

“I would if I could,” Ward grits out.

"What’s that,” says May, and she points with her chin to a glint of metal in the corner. Skye pounces on it.

“It’s a busted cell phone – it’s broken, and the battery’s gone but I think I can wire it anyway to get a signal off it, maybe ping our location back to the bus.”

“Do it,” May says.

Skye suspects that May is just encouraging her as busy work, but she’ll take it as a reprieve from trying to untie bonds she is rapidly becoming convinced cannot be undone.

Skye’s been fiddling with the phone for about half an hour, when May calls her name and she looks up, startled.

“Ward’s going into shock,” May says. “Skye.

And Skye knows what May means. “Chill,” she says, and winces at her unfortunate word choice. Sometimes Skye suspects she was born with her foot in her mouth.  “I was going to do it anyway.”

She walks over to Ward and throws her arms around him in a bear hug.

“Huh?” he asks, sounding a bit dazed.

“Shut up,” she says. “And stop shivering.”

“Yes, m’am,” Ward says, because he’s always obedient at the wrong times, always pulling when she needs him to push, and just when she thinks she’s figured him out there’s another layer to discover.

She wishes he was a robot: Skye gets robots, she understands computers, programming.

She’s not used to seeing Ward like this: still. Whenever she thinks of him, he’s usually in motion.

“C’mon, Ward,” she says, and she’s proud that her voice doesn’t shake, not even a little bit. “You’re my supervising officer, isn’t this the part where you say something encouraging?”

“Fishing for compliments isn’t a good look on you, Skye,” says Coulson as he pulls open the truck door– and she’s never been more pleased to hear anyone’s voice in her entire life.

“The cavalry’s arrived,” Skye announces, unnecessarily.

May gives a snort of amusement from behind her, and Skye mentally retraces her thoughts and quickly amends, “The other cavalry.

“We traced your signal,” Coulson says, and he hands her a jacket and a pair of jeans. “You did good, kid.”

Skye beams at him, shucking on the jeans and pulling the jacket tight around her. She’s feeling warmer already. “You hear that, Ward? AC says I did good.”

“Did you miss the part where he called you a kid?” Ward says. “And can we please not mention AC, I’m freezing.”

Skye punches him on his uninjured arm, neatly sidestepping Simmons, who is fussing over Ward with a scanner, checking his injuries. “I’m younger than you, old man,” she says, although she does grab a space blanket from Simmon’s bag and throws it over Ward’s shoulders. His face makes a little spasm which she decides to chalk up as a smile.

“Nice work, team,” says Coulson, and Skye is about to make a quip when she looks around her – Ward is rubbing his wrists, getting the circulation back; May is in the corner on a walkie talkie;  Fitz and Simmons are flitting around checking that everyone is okay. 

They are a team – her team.