"When I was little, I dreamt I was special, you know?" She laughed, self-depreciating and breathy. Her bangs moved across her forehead with the motion, tickled her skin, and she ran her fingers through them to stop the sensation as much as to right them.
"You are special," he insisted, but only smiled when she rolled her eyes.
"Real special, like, I don't know, special-special, if that makes sense," she tried. She didn't pace, but there was so much energy, so much momentum wrapped up inside her that she was tempted. "Like there was something more to me, that I was different, but in a good way?"
"Mystical Magical Skye?" he guessed.
"Mystical Magical Mary," she corrected, but her lips quirked to match his own. "I wasn't Skye until I was much older. Broke free, named myself, made myself - all that corny stuff that's supposed to be meaningful and life changing and sound good on the jacket of your memoirs."
"A: You're still just a kid. B: Did it work? Did you change whoever and whatever you were to whoever and whatever you are?" He didn't ask if she became whoever and whatever she wanted to be, and she thanked him for it. He already knew the answer to that question.
She gave in and shifted her feet, restricted herself to just that for now. The rhythmic press of toes and heels into the ground steadied her. She thought about it, what he asked, and had to say yes. She had gone from unwanted wretch of a schoolgirl passed from family to family to a self-made hacker changing the world from the bench seat of a rusty van to a bonafide SHIELD agent, kicking ass and taking names and having the aching muscles and bloodstained shirts to show for it. She had changed. For better or for worse, she had changed. She couldn't take it back, and didn't know that she wanted to. She had a purpose now, helped others the way others had helped her all those years ago without her knowledge, made the world a better place just like they had made her life better without ever asking for recognition of the act, just like she would never see her name in headlines or up in lights.
But he knew that. He knew that and more. So she gave him the answer she knew he wanted, and said, "Well, I never grew sparkly fairy wings to soar through the clouds with, or talons to rip my supposed enemies to shreds with, so I'm going to have to go with a no on that one."
He chuckled like she knew he would, and promised her, "Sweetheart, you've always had talons. We've grown to count on them. You sink them in and hold on until you decide they can be used to tear something new to pieces, usually saving our asses in the process." It was a fair analogy, so she went with it. She thought he was done until he added, "As for the wings, they don't always have to be sparkly and gossamer and they don't have to be all feathery and soft either. They just have to lift you up, take you to a new vantage point, show you a whole new view of the world."
"You saying I already have them?" she asked. She held her arms out to the side and made a show of looking at the plain and simple skin visible beneath her short sleeves. She saw a few scrapes, a bruise or two but no scars, not there, not yet. She almost wished the wings he spoke of were visible, something tangible that she could see and rely on, not a thought or ideal or some hopeful turn of phrase that slipped through her fingers while it slipped across some random lips and eloquent tongues.
He stepped closer, into the wide circle she had created, and pressed his lips lightly against her forehead, a touch as light as the supposed feathers she didn't need. "You got your wings when you joined this team," he told her, breath a ghost against her skin. "Now you have something even more."
She felt the tear slip free and leave a trail down her cheek and across her chin, drip onto the soft cotton of her shirt and soak her to the bone. "I'm going to miss you, Trip," she whispered. She tried to tighten the circle, to close her arms around him and keep him close, sink those talons in and never let go.
She knew he was gone before she even opened her eyes.
Her dreams never changed, not when they mattered. Maybe a color or a shape, an image in pastels instead of neon, but the core of them, the message they held was still there. Wings or family or a friend who understood her better than she did herself, some part of them always remained. The world was changing around her, her world was changing within her, and she needed something to lift her up so she could take it all in. She knew she had it, even as she knew it, like her, was just as likely to take flight.