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“I want to go back.”

Coulson looked up from his desk, furrowing his brow. Skye was standing in his doorway, looking a bit nervous.

“Back where?” He asked. She didn’t step into the room, which concerned him a little. This was a topic that she thought he wouldn’t like.

“The diner.” Skye said. He raised his eyebrow, silently asking her to clarify. “The diner where I met Mike the first time.”

“Why?” Coulson wondered. Skye sighed and shifted her feet.

“I like that diner, but… my recent memories of the place aren’t so good.” She admitted. “I’d like to replace ‘em, you know?” She was trying to speak as if it wasn’t that big of a deal, but he knew better.

“Ward.” He muttered; old, heavy anger curling in his gut.

“Can we go? Just the two of us? Please.” Skye asked. Coulson hadn’t realized that she had such a connection with the place. “There aren’t very many places I allow myself to feel… at home in, you know? But that diner… I’d been there a couple times before. When I would get enough money to eat out. And they were always kind to me.”

Coulson’s gaze softened, and he leaned back in his chair.

“Of course,” he said. I would do anything for you. “But it might be a little difficult,” he warned her. “There are still people after the both of us.” She nodded.

“I can throw together some false ID’s.” Skye assured him, and he grinned.

“Something better than Pablo Jimenez, I hope,” He joked, and she laughed.

“I don’t know how you got along without me, before.” She shook her head, still appalled at the name he had come up with for himself.

“I don’t know either.” Coulson told her, and she smiled at him, a look in her eyes that she usually reserved for after hours. He gave her the same look in return, for just a moment. “Tomorrow for lunch?” He suggested, and she nodded.

“Sounds good. Thanks, AC.” She said sincerely. She disappeared down the hall, and he immediately called Fitz.

“Fitz. Do you have anything for the Icers that I can easily conceal?”

“Conceal? Well, usually we don’t need to hide the fact that we’re armed…” Fitz replied.

“Yes, well, now we’re branded as terrorists, remember. I can’t just flash my SHIELD badge and get away with having a gun on my hip anymore.” Coulson reminded him dryly.

“Of course, Sir…” Fitz said, disappointed. “Are we doing an undercover op? It’s been a while, right? You and May at that lab had been the last time.”

“Not an op, Fitz. Something personal. I can’t have May or Trip backing me up, so I’d like to be armed. Just in case something happens.”

“No backup? Sir, you’re the Director. You have to have backup!”

“I haven’t forgotten,” Coulson said dryly. “This is personal and it’s not a mission. I’ll be in a populated, public area. I won’t be in any excess danger.” Coulson broke out his Director voice, “Fitz – concealed Icer?”

“Alright,” Fitz sighed, “I’ve actually been working on a Walther PPK,” he admitted. “James Bond gun; classic vigilante weapon.” He began to get more excited as he spoke, and Coulson smiled. It was nice to hear Fitz getting back to his old self. “It’s black, of course. It’s a little heavier than normal, which I’m still trying to work out. But it fires great, according to Agent Triplett.”

“Excellent. I’d like to borrow it for tomorrow, if you don’t mind.” Coulson said, then added in a careful warning tone, “Were you going to tell me about this project? You know how I feel about secret weapons projects.”

“Of course, of course Sir!” Fitz said hurriedly. “Don’t worry, I’ve kept our agreement about the Coulson’s Revenge.”

Coulson sighed heavily, pinching the bridge of his nose with his fingers.

“I’m still not sure how I feel about having a gun named after me.” He muttered.

“It’s awesome.” Fitz said for the hundredth time.

“Alright Fitz,” Coulson said, “I’ll come down to the lab tomorrow just before lunch. This stays between us, got it? Don’t even tell Simmons.” Fitz was silent for a moment.

“Sir, are you sure you won’t need backup?” He asked quietly.

“I’m sure, Fitz. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. See you tomorrow.”

Coulson hung up, and hoped that Fitz would keep their agreement. His team had become very protective over him lately, and while he was appreciative and touched by it, it was a little frustrating at times.

And it made it a little more difficult to get off of the base once in a while with Skye. They had decided to keep their relationship just between the two of them, for now. They liked the privacy, and it had also been a safety thing. Certain people like Quinn and Reyna already knew how important they were to each other – hell, they knew before Skye or Coulson had even admitted it. That was dangerous enough, and had already been used against them. If their enemies discovered just how much they were important to one another, Coulson could imagine just how high the threats would go. And now… now, more than before, he would move heaven and earth to keep her safe.

It was a weakness – but it also made him stronger. God help the next time he saw Ian Quinn.

And after Skye had confided in him some of the things Ward had said to her – Coulson was only glad that he was being held somewhere far away. What May did to him, and what SHIELD’s IA was currently doing to him, was not enough. It would never be enough. It was bad enough to threaten Skye’s life – but to threaten her mind? Her body?

“Phil… you okay?” May’s careful tone made him jump, and he realized he’d been squeezing his pen so hard it had snapped. Ink was running down his hand and dripping all over his notepad. At least it hadn’t gotten on the desk.

“Damn,” He muttered, and gestured for May to enter as he stood and tossed his ruined pen in the trash, snagging a handful of tissues to mop up the mess.

He could see her watching his movements warily, and he could only imagine the expression that had been on his face.

“What is it, May?” He sighed, balling up the tissues and throwing them away.

“I was going to suggest testing, for Skye. I think she’s ready. I like how she’s been handling herself during the missions, and she’s been spending a lot of time in the lab with FitzSimmons.” May sat down across from him. “I know that right now there isn’t exactly enough of SHIELD for us to be worrying about Levels, but… she wants this. Even though she hasn’t brought it up, hasn’t said anything, I know she wants to earn her keep.”

Coulson’s expression softened, and he smiled a little.

“You should let her see Mama-Bear May.”

“Absolutely not.” May said with a steely frown.

“She has, by far, earned her keep a long time ago,” Coulson said softly, and May teased him,

“She never had to earn anything from you, Phil. You’ve always approved of her since the first time you listened to one of her ridiculous podcasts.”

Coulson frowned indignantly, but May raised her eyebrow, challenging him to argue with her.

“This will be good for her,” May said softly. “She made Agent, and then the Company fell down around us,”

“I think the CIA may have copyright on that nickname,” Coulson interrupted her, and she gave him one of her ‘I don’t put up with your sass’ looks.

“She needs reminding that she’s still an Agent. I think we all do. And I’m sure Simmons would love to throw a little party…” May sighed with loving exasperation, and Coulson chuckled.

“She would,” he agreed. He didn’t need to think about it – if Skye let him bend the rules for her, he would have promoted her to Level Five months ago. “I’ll talk to Koenig and Triplett about it.”

“I’m not technically her SO; I could – ”

“Skye knows the guidelines, and she wouldn’t agree to that. No, the two of you aren’t officially regarded as SO and student, but she sees it that way regardless.”

May smirked.

“Our little rebel wants to stick to the rules, huh?” She teased, and Coulson rolled his eyes.

“At least when it comes to this,” he muttered, and May looked amused.

“You tried to promote her before, didn’t you?” She guessed, and Coulson hated that she could read him so well sometimes. “That explains her digging her heels in these past few months.” She mused.

“I’ll talk to Koenig and Trip,” Coulson repeated, wanting her to leave before she began reading him too  much. He felt a little bad, having chewed her out for her past relationship with Ward, and he could only imagine her response to he and Skye.

“Do you want to talk about it?” May asked, and Coulson sat heavily in his chair, resting his hands in his lap so she couldn’t see him nervously squeeze his fingers.

“Talk about what?” He asked carefully, hoping his tone sounded neutral. May gestured toward the ink stained pages in front of him.

“That.” She said. Her look told him that she wouldn’t push, although she was worried about him.

“You going to run to Fury, tell him he made a mistake nominating me Director? Tell him I’m turning into the new John Garrett?” He snarked, and May glared at him.

“Don’t even hypothesize about that,” she warned, “or I will shoot you.”

“Sorry,” Coulson sighed, leaning back into his chair and rubbing his eyes again. “I can’t think about Ward without wanting to rip his head off.” He admitted.

“That makes two of us.” May replied, and he gave her a serious look.

“I mean it, May,” he said, a little twinge of worry in his voice. “I imagine myself hurting him. Horrifically.”

“Like pulling his rib out and stabbing him to death with it?” May said, raising her eyebrow. Coulson only blinked, and he saw her swallow. “Well… let’s be glad that he’s far away.” May said, knowing that Coulson would hate himself if he ever did anything so needlessly violent.

“The things he said to Skye…” Coulson said quietly, and May leaned forward, dark concern on her face. Coulson caught himself, and looked a little ashamed. “I… She told me in confidence. I’m sorry.” May leaned back, accepting that.

“You’ve always been rather protective of her,” May said softly, and his eye twitched.

Dangerous territory. Abort. Abort.

“She’s like a daughter to me, too. FitzSimmons as well. I understand.” May told him gently, and he knew he had an incredibly disturbed look on his face. May looked a bit affronted. “What, now I can’t be ‘Mama-Bear May’?” She grumbled, and he shook his head quickly.

“No, no, of course that’s not it.” He said, carefully putting his stoic look in place.

I know I hadn’t been very secretive about flirting with Skye in the beginning. How the hell has May picked up paternal in that? He wondered incredulously. Granted, he couldn’t complain too much. That misunderstanding was probably what saved him from a whole lot more teasing.

“Well then what is it?” May wondered suspiciously, her eyes narrowed.

I can’t do this conversation right now.

“I’m too young to have a daughter Skye’s age,” Coulson said, and he knew it sounded lame. May rolled her eyes and sighed.

“Oh Phil, you and your vanity, sometimes…” May stood, and Coulson let out a little breath of relief. “Will you let me know what Koenig says about testing? So I know what to have her focus on for our next sessions?”

Coulson nodded, and sat very still until she left the room. Once he was sure she was gone, he dropped his forehead to his desk.

“May’s going to kill me.” He groaned.

-----

After acquiring the gun from Fitz and ignoring any questions pointed in his direction, he pulled Lola out to the north end of the base. There was an entrance that led out here that was unfrequented by the rest of the team, so he and Skye used it whenever they had a chance to sneak out. Granted, that had usually been under the cover of nightfall.

Luckily, Skye was the one in charge of electronic security, so she could easily make the two of them disappear from any footage.

“Hi,” She opened the car door and slid in, and he took a moment to admire her dress while she buckled in. When she turned to look at him, her eyes lit up in surprise and she brushed her fingers along his jaw.

“Scruffy today,” She said approvingly, and he smiled, slipping his sunglasses on.

“Thought it would help,” he replied, and she reached into the glove box for her own sunglasses. “Since this is the first time we’ve done this in the middle of the day.”

“Are you nervous?” She asked, and his smile widened as he put the car into gear.

“Not at all,” He said honestly. “I’m excited.”

She laughed, and rested her hand on his thigh as he drove.

“You’re such a guy. You want to show off.” She teased, and he gave her a coy look.

“Maybe.” He said, and once they got far enough away from the base, he flipped on the VTOL system. Skye laughed again, and he rested his right hand on top of hers, weaving their fingers together.

They sat in comfortable silence during the trip, and it didn’t take them very long to reach LA. Coulson was a little worried how Skye would react upon first arriving at the diner, but he was looking forward to telling her about the conversation he’d had with May about testing for a promotion. He was sure it would make her really happy.

They parked, put their sunglasses away, and sat still for a moment.

“Ready?” Coulson asked softly, and Skye took a deep breath and nodded. Her smile was genuine, and she held his hand as they walked down the sidewalk.

Daughter, Coulson remembered what May had said, and he frowned, suddenly feeling a bit self-conscious. Skye must have felt him tense, because she leaned over and pressed a kiss against his cheek, whispering,

“Don’t worry. People are looking because those jeans make your ass look fantastic.”

The tips of his ears burned. So that’s why she said these were her favorite pair.

Her favorite booth by the window was open, and he sat facing the door, and the rest of the room. He could feel her watching as he cased the place. Satisfied, he returned his focus on her to find her smirking.

“Sorry,” he shrugged, “habit.”

“I don’t mind.” She said seriously. “It makes me feel safe.”

He smiled. Old girlfriends in the past used to always tell him he was being paranoid. Granted, they had also thought that he worked in accounting. Remembering the glasses in his pocket, he quickly slipped them on. Skye watched him with a raised eyebrow. She was giving him that look again, and he quickly winked at her as a waitress approached the table.

“Mary!” The waitress exclaimed toward Skye, “it’s so good to see you! It’s been too long!” Skye smiled, genuinely pleased to see the other woman.

“Hi, Amy. It’s good to be back. I’ve missed this place.” Skye replied, and Coulson watched Amy carefully. By her reaction, no one must have recognized Skye when she had been here with Ward.

“And who is this?” Amy said with interest, eyeing Coulson. He smiled politely, glancing toward Skye. “Are you here on a date? Well, he’s quite the improvement to that other guy you brought in here. What was his name? Miles?” Amy turned back toward Skye, and Coulson felt his ears go red, again.

“Yeah, Miles.” Skye rolled her eyes. “You have no idea how much of an improvement.” She said to Amy, but looked at Coulson. He smiled warmly. “Amy, Paul. Paul, Amy.”

Coulson held out his hand, and the waitress giggled a little before shaking it.

“Good to meet you,” Coulson told her, and she shot a grinning look toward Skye.

“It’s very good to meet you, too.” She said, eyeing him again.

“Hey,” Skye said warningly, but she was smiling.

“Sorry, Mary,” Amy laughed, and pulled out her pad of paper and a pen. “What drinks can I get you?”

“Water for me, please.” Coulson said, and noticed her grinning as she scribbled down their order.

“I’ll take a root beer.” Skye said, and Coulson raised his eyebrow, amused.

“Those’ll be right out,” Amy promised, and she gave Skye’s shoulder a companionable squeeze before leaving.

“Root beer?” Coulson teased, and Skye pretended to be affronted.

“What? We never get root beer at – home.”

She almost flubbed that, but she caught herself nicely. And hearing her say ‘we’ and ‘home’ made a warm feeling fill his chest.

“And don’t flirt so much.” Skye pretended to scold him, and he gave her an innocent look.

“I was just being nice.”

“Yeah alright, charm school.” Skye grinned at him, and he smiled back.

“I can’t believe the team hasn’t noticed anything,” Coulson admitted, and Skye gestured around them.

“We’ve been careful,” She pointed out.

“Yeah, now. But while we were on the Bus?” He said, and her grin was a little dirty, sending a spark of excitement through him. Man, he had it bad.

“We were a little ridiculous, weren’t we?” Skye mused, and laughed.

“May thinks I see you as a daughter,” Coulson said incredulously, and Skye raised her eyebrows in surprise.

“Well, I suppose she hasn’t seen much of us together except when we’re working together.” Skye shrugged, then frowned. “Though, she had been there when I found you in Reyna’s machine. She’d heard you saying my name just as well as I did.”

“Probably attributed it toward the fact that you did just save my life. I was relieved.”

“You were repeating my name like it was the best thing you’d ever – ”

“Here you go!” Amy set their drinks on the table. “Ready to order?” She pulled out her pen and pad again.

Coulson ordered first, and then he sat there and just looked at Skye, not really listening to what was being said between her and her friend. When Amy walked away, Skye took a drink of her soda and then looked back at him. After the silence stretched on for a bit, she smiled nervously.

“What? You’re staring.” Skye told him.

“Yeah.” He agreed casually, continuing to stare. He watched her try to fight the smile off of her face, and she ducked her head, as if she were embarrassed. Doesn’t she know how wonderful she is? She had to at least know that people thought she was beautiful. He’d seen her use that to her advantage during ops, multiple times. But whenever he gave her real compliments, she was always very humble – Well, when she’s not being cheeky.

He quirked a smile at her, and she bit her lip. He knew she was thinking about kissing him. He was thinking about kissing her, too.

-----

They hadn’t noticed him enter the diner, which he had been very surprised about, at first. For the first few moments, he thought they were playing him, but he quickly realized that they were in their own little world.

He asked for a water from his waiter, and settled back into his chair once the guy left. He’d managed to grab a table in the back corner, in perfect position to see them without too easily being seen by them.

Of course, if they did notice him, he wouldn’t be able to get out without a fight.

He was okay with that. In fact, he was hoping for that.

He admired how relaxed Skye looked, how easily she smiled. She held herself confidently, strongly, and he found himself feeling proud of her.

When their waitress walked away again, he caught how Coulson was looking at Skye, and he scowled. He always had hated how immediately Coulson had preferred Skye over him. Sure, he might be a little prickly, but he worked his ass off to earn Coulson’s trust. Skye walks in and Coulson just offers it?

Ward frowned when Skye noticed Coulson looking at her. She didn’t react in the way he expected.

You should be disgusted, Ward thought, He’s your commanding officer and he’s blatantly leering at you. If Ward was honest, he’d admit that it wasn’t leering coming from Coulson’s side of the table. It was that same stupid soft look he always gave her.

Skye dropped her head down to hide her blush, looked back up to Coulson with a smile on her face.

“Fuck.” Ward said to himself. “How the hell did I not see this?”

He recalled Coulson’s freak-out when she almost died. The look on Coulson’s face when he had handed her the SHIELD badge. The threat the fake Clairvoyant had tortured Coulson with, and Coulson’s response. Ian Quinn mocking Coulson ‘when she means so much to you’, Coulson noticing the blood, Coulson losing control and smashing his gun across Quinn’s face.

Coulson had been the one to take her away from him. And he had come alone.

Ward growled quietly and clenched his fists under the table.

I’m better than him,” Ward scoffed at Skye. She and Coulson were still just staring at one another with those dumb looks on their faces –

Ward’s knee jerked into the table as he refrained himself from attacking.

His eyes had trailed down Skye’s legs, and he had seen how her foot was rubbing slowly against Coulson’s leg.

Fuck!” Ward cursed quietly, then glanced at the table nearest him. They were giving him disgusted looks, and he tried to smile apologetically. “Hit my knee,” He told them in a lighter tone, rubbing his hand against his knee for emphasis. They turned back toward their own table without comment.

-----

“Skye,” Coulson said quietly. “We’re in public.” Not that he didn’t enjoy what she was doing. He just enjoyed it a little too much.

“What?” She said innocently, though stilled her foot. She crossed her legs so that her calf pressed against his, however. “I’m not doing anything other people don’t do at diners.”

“Perhaps not, but it has been a while since… we’ve been… able to…” He couldn’t figure out a gentlemanly way to put it. And he supposed he could pull his own leg away from hers.

She knew that, too, and she smiled knowingly.

Their food came, and they ate in silence for a few moments.

“Is anyone expecting you back?” Skye asked, and Coulson frowned with disappointment.

“I don’t think we’ll have time to get a room,” He said uncertainly, and Skye was silent as she thought. He saw the mischievous look right before she spoke. “No – ”

“We could always park the car in a field somewhere,” she said suggestively.

“It’s Lola,” Coulson said, appalled, and she grinned, raising her eyebrows.

“I know.” She said, and he swallowed. Too many thoughts were flying through his head for him to figure out what to say, and she leaned toward him. “C’mon, AC, don’t tell me you’ve never thought about – ”

“I don’t think there’s any room,” he said to interrupt her, and then mentally punched himself.

“There’s room on the hood.” She pointed out, and he froze as she continued to eat. Her lack of hesitation told him that she had considered –

He rotated his jaw slowly, trying not to show her how aroused he’d become, and with careful movements he began to eat again.

-----

Ward didn’t know what to do. He was pissed beyond belief, sure. But even if he did beat the shit out of Coulson, he could see the way Skye was looking at him.

She would never willingly run off with him. And seeing how happy she was with Coulson, he wanted her to look at him that way. She never would. He would have to force her to love him, and she would never look that relaxed, that content.

Fine. He’d move on. Like he usually did.

But he was still going to beat the shit out of Coulson. Especially now.

Not today, though. They were looking tense, and were eating faster. They might have suspected they were being watched. He hid further into the shadows when Coulson searched for their waitress.

She spoke to them for a short bit, handed them their check, and took their plates. Coulson didn’t even look too closely at the cash he dropped on the table, and the two of them were up and out the door without a second glance.

Ward scowled at how they reached for one another’s hand without looking, finding each other easily as if it were the most natural thing in the world. He could see through the window that Skye was laughing at Coulson practically dragging her down the street.

“I should have had that.” Ward muttered to himself, old familiar hate curling in his stomach. “I found you once. I’ll find you again.” Ward promised, relishing the image of snapping Coulson’s neck.

-----

It didn’t take Coulson any time at all to find a large, empty field to land Lola, and Skye wondered how long he had known about this place. As soon as the engine was off he was getting out and tossing his sunglasses and the keys into his seat.

“Out of the car,” He ordered her, and she quivered a little at his tone. God, she loved him. And it had been a while since they’d been able to get away for long enough to do this. Unfortunately, they still didn’t have all the time in the world. She knew that Coulson could easily get away without being seen for hours at a time, but she couldn’t. She was only alone for a couple of hours at most, and could easily be found either in the lab with FitzSimmons or training with Trip. Someone would even know to look in Coulson’s office for her, whenever she would sit on his couch and work from her tablet.

Skye quickly met him around the front of the car, and he immediately had his hands on her hips and was pushing her back against it. It was the perfect height for him to push his hips into hers, and she hummed happily, wrapping her arms around him, pulling at his leather jacket. He quickly slipped it off and laid it open on the hood of the car behind her.

“God, I love you,” She said, kissing him deeply, grasping onto his shirt to pull him down with her as she lay back on top of the jacket. His hands pushed at her dress, pooling it up around her waist, and she wrapped her legs around his waist. He lifted her up a little, sliding her higher up the hood, his hands warm behind her knees. She toed her shoes off so she wouldn’t hurt him, and fumbled with his belt buckle as his hands slid up her thighs. He tugged at her panties, and she shifted so that he could pull them off. He shoved them into his pocket for safe keeping, whipped his belt off, and tossed it into the car over the windshield as he leaned in to return to kissing her. Skye groaned and hurriedly tugged the edges of his shirt out of his jeans. She opened them and pushed them away from his waist as his hands roamed all over her, his tongue in her mouth.

Everything was rushed, and even though she loved making love with him, this fast-paced clothes-half-on thing was something she loved almost just as much. She kind of loved anything she did with him, honestly.

“Mmf, this is easier when I’m wearing suit trousers,” He muttered against her lips, and she laughed, palming his erection through his briefs. He groaned and shoved his hips against her, trapping her hand between them for a moment. She squeezed him and he nipped at her shoulder, his hands pressed flat against the car. She managed to get her hand free to push down the waistband of his briefs, and he didn’t wait before shoving himself into her.

“Nng, Phil!” She gasped, wrapping her fingers around his arms as he moved over her. Usually it took a little more persuading on her part to make him move faster.

“Alright?” He asked tightly, and she nodded quickly.

“God, yes, don’t stop,” She gasped.

-----

“Have you seen Skye, today?” Triplett asked, poking his head into May’s office. She looked up toward his frowning face.

“Not since Tai-Chi this morning.” She replied, and his frown deepened.

“I haven’t either. Usually I can find her in Coulson’s office, but he’s not there either.”

This actually surprised her. Coulson was almost always in his office during this time of day.

“Have you checked the lab? Maybe they’re talking with Simmons about the serum.” May suggested, and Trip shook his head, taking a step into his office.

“I wouldn’t make a big deal about it, except that I went in there, and FitzSimmons both said that they hadn’t seen either of them since breakfast. The thing that made me suspicious was Fitz’s reaction.”

“What did he say?” May asked carefully, a wary feeling filling her gut.

“He suggested that Coulson was ‘getting some shut-eye’, and he was completely lying. Also, we all know how little he sleeps at night – no way would he take a nap in the middle of the day.” Trip told her, and she stood.

She made her way toward the lab, Trip on her heels, and she narrowed her eyes toward Fitz with no warning.

“Where is Coulson?” She demanded, and Fitz stammered. Simmons looked confused.

“What’s the big deal? He’s probably in one of the storage rooms, helping Skye sort things out. You know he doesn’t like to be stuck in his office all the time.” Simmons said, and May folded her arms as Fitz continued to flounder.

“He… might be doing something personal,” Fitz said hurriedly, quietly, wincing when the three of them gave him serious looks. “He ordered me not to tell! I’m sorry! He insisted he wouldn’t be in any danger – ”

“Skye’s probably with him, Fitz. They might be going after Quinn.” May admonished him, and his eyes grew wide.

“Ian Quinn? On their own?” Simmons said dubiously, and May gave her a look.

“They have a bit of a personal vendetta against him; I’m sure you recall why.” May said pointedly, and Simmons bit her lip. “Come on, Trip. Let’s hope they took one of the SHIELD vehicles. We can track them.” May headed out of the lab, and Fitz called out an apology again. May didn’t stop walking.

“I’ll forgive you once our Director is back on base,” She said, and Trip glanced at them apologetically before hurrying after her. “Trip, get on comms in the Bus. I’ll take the drone. I want you ready to come after me should I need firepower. Got it?”

“Yes ma’am.” Trip said immediately. “What should I be expecting?”

“If they’ve gone after Quinn? Anything.”

-----

“I’ve got Lola on radar. I’m at too high of an altitude for a visual. I’ll try thermal imaging.” May informed Triplett over the headset. May frowned as she looked at the monitor. “It looks like there’s only two people. Probably Coulson and Skye, since we couldn’t find her on base, either.”

“There’s no one else?” Triplett said, surprised.

“No one for miles.” May confirmed.

“Where is he; in the middle of a field or something?” Triplett wondered, confused.

“Actually, yes.” May said, and she looked closer at the monitor. Particularly, how the images seemed to be moving.

“Oh. Well, maybe they just wanted to get off base, for a while.” Triplett mused. “Of course, I don’t know why he wouldn’t let one of us go with him. We could have hung back far enough not to be a disturbance, if he wanted to be alone.”

“Damn!” May exclaimed, looking away from the thermal imaging and straight ahead out the window, turning the plane around, her jaw set.

“What? What is it?” Triplett asked, on alert.

“Nothing. I’m headed back to base.” May said darkly.

“Well, wait, if you’re already out there, shouldn’t you provide him some cover? I don’t see why he didn’t let somebody shadow him – ”

“I’m sure he can manage on his own,” May said between her teeth, trying to will the image out of her head.

“Okay,” Triplett said after a moment, realizing that May was frustrated. “I guess we can just keep an eye on Lola on the radar, now that we have confirmation he’s with her.”

“I’ll see you on base.” May said, cutting off her headset so Triplett wouldn’t hear her. She let out a heavy breath and shook her head slightly. “Damn it, Coulson. What the hell are you doing?” She pictured the obviously sexual movements of the body signatures and blinked tightly, pushing the image away. She clenched her jaw again and hit the thrusters on the drone to their highest setting.

-----

He was sitting in his office, smirking to himself, when May suddenly appeared in front of him. She didn’t look happy, and he immediately schooled his features.

Damn, I thought we snuck back in without getting caught.

“Have a good lunch?” May asked testily. She didn’t sit. There was tension in her body that told Coulson he’d better choose his words carefully.

“Yes…” He said, watching her. He rolled his chair back from his desk and stood as well, too uncomfortable by the way her gaze bore down on him. He stood back, however, so he wasn’t coming across as threatening.

She was definitely taking care of that.

“Get everything done you wanted to do?” She asked, and he waited a beat before nodding slowly. Her lip twitched, and he didn’t have time to block the punch aimed for his face.

He took half a step back and immediately brought his hand up to his nose, trying to keep blood from dripping everywhere.

“What the hell, May!” Coulson yelled, his voice muffled through his hand.

“I should be asking you that question,” May growled, raising her voice slightly. “What were you and Skye doing in the middle of an empty field?”

Coulson grabbed a handful of tissues and pressed them against his nose.

“God! I think you broke it!”

“Good! Answer me!” May retorted.

“We were talking!” Coulson said, focused on trying to get the bleeding to stop, or at least slow down.

“Was that before, after, or during sex?” May snarled, and Coulson froze, staring at her.

“May,” He began carefully, his voice sounding horrible with his nose the way it was.

“What the hell prompted this?” May asked incredulously, and Coulson closed his eyes and leaned back heavily against his bookshelf behind him.

“I wouldn’t say it was necessarily prob’ted,”

Don’t play with me,” May warned, and he quickly continued,

“It’s been happening for ‘bonths.” He opened his eyes, giving her an apologetic look. She stared at him for a few moments.

“Months,” She repeated carefully, her tone much less acidic. He didn’t relax any, though, and shifted the tissues so a cleaner section was pressed against his dripping nose.

“Yes.” He sighed. “The first tibe – time” he was getting frustrated with the how ridiculous his voice sounded, “was the hotel. After I saved her from Ward.”

“So this is just some… heroic fancy, then? Phil, you know better than to take advantage of that – ”

“I’m not taking advantage!” He interrupted, and her frown had a softer, sadder look. At least she wasn’t pissed off, anymore.

“Phil…”

“I love her, May.” Coulson said seriously, giving her a tired look. May finally took a step away from his desk, and sat down in one of the chairs across from him.

“Oh, Phil,” May started, and he glared at her, standing up straight.

“Don’t feel sad for me,” He said angrily. “This isn’t some after-life crisis. She loves me, too.” May put her hand over her eyes, pinching the bridge of her nose.

“I didn’t know… I haven’t seen…”

“Of course you haven’t! We didn’t want anyone to know!” Coulson yelled. Now he was the angry one, and dammit, his nose hurt.

“I’m sorry.” May said sincerely. “I just… I thought it was just sex, and I do see her as a sort of daughter, and…” She trailed off. “Well, that explains that face you made, yesterday.”

“What?” Coulson snapped, pushing the tissues harder against his nose, even though it made it hurt worse. It was still bleeding rather profusely.

“When I implied that you saw Skye like a daughter. You made this face, like you were disgusted.” May looked up at him. “I’m sorry.”

He took a deep breath, understanding May’s reasons behind punching him in the face. Understanding did not take away the anger or the pain, however, and he pointed toward his door.

“Please, leave. And don’t tell anyone.” He wasn’t asking, he was ordering, and she immediately complied. When she got to the door, he called out her name to stop her. She turned toward him, her body language the complete opposite from what it had been three minutes ago. “I understand why you felt the need to come in here and speak to me.” He took a deep breath, willing himself to speak calmly and professionally. “I appreciate your concern. But I am angry with you for reacting without thinking. For disrespecting me as your Director, and particularly for implying that I would ever take advantage of Skye’s affections.”

May looked down at her feet, and he turned to face his fake window, a silent and obvious gesture that the conversation was over. She disappeared without a sound, and Coulson pulled away the tissues, groaning. They were soaked with blood. He threw them angrily into the trash and grabbed some more, holding them against his face as he stalked down the hall toward the lab.

“Director Coulson! What happened?!” Simmons exclaimed upon seeing his bloodied face tilted upwards toward the ceiling.

“I need you to set ‘by nose,” He said as clearly as possible, avoiding Fitz’s open-mouthed stare. Simmons immediately dropped what she was doing and pulled off her gloves, moving toward the cabinets to pull out gauze and a new pair of gloves. She snapped them on quickly and patted the table. He hitched his hip onto it and slid on carefully, trying not to jar the tissues so much. They were soaked with blood, and so far he had managed not to drip any on his shirt. Simmons made a disgusted face and grabbed a trashcan, holding it toward him.

“Put those in here,” She said, and he obediently dropped them in. “Alright, this isn’t going to be pleasant,” She warned him, already seeing his nose swelling. She placed her thumbs on either side of the bridge, and he nodded to show her that he was ready. She began pressing slowly, and when he didn’t jerk back, she pressed harder, and there was a crunching sound as his nose shifted back into place, and Fitz bolted from the room. Coulson squeezed his eyes shut tightly, wincing and clenching his jaw. He grunted, but managed not to swear, and Simmons quickly made sure his nose was aligned correctly.

He could feel it bleeding again, and she quickly rolled up small pieces of gauze.

“Grab the towel and blow into it,” She told him, and he did his best to ignore the pain as he did so. “Clear, yet?” She asked, and he sniffed lightly. He winced, and then nodded, and tilted his chin up so she could see better. “Good,” She said approvingly, and carefully stuffed the gauze up his nose. “You’ll probably want to change these out in a half hour, or so. I’ll get you some ice.” She stepped away from him, pulling off her gloves and tossing them in the trash.

“Simmons, why in the world is Fitz throwing up – ” Skye stopped in the doorway, staring at Coulson with wide eyes. “What the hell happened to you?” She wondered incredulously, stepping in front of him.

“Broken nose,” He muttered. At least he didn’t sound too much like an idiot, anymore.

“Yeah, that’s gonna look great, by tomorrow. You’re already getting a black eye.” Skye peered at him, and he saw her hand reaching up. He quickly grabbed at it and stopped her.

“I’ll probably look like a raccoon,” He admitted, holding onto her hand.

“Well, good thing we went out before you got punched in the face.” Skye whispered teasingly, and she immediately leaned back with a serious look on her face. “Oh. No.”

“Yep.” He said.

“Did May see us?” She whispered very quietly, and Coulson closed his eyes, letting out a resigned sigh.

“Yep.”

He opened his eyes to see Skye put her hands over her mouth.

“And she punched you?” She was still whispering. She sounded horrified. “I’m gonna die.”

“No, Skye,” Coulson reached for her hand again, reassuring her. “She was angry at me. She thought I was… taking advantage.”

“Taking advantage of what?” Skye asked incredulously, in a normal tone of voice.

“My heroism.” Coulson replied dryly.

What?” Now Skye sounded angry, and Coulson couldn’t handle so many of the women in his life being angry around him. He squeezed her hand, tugging her toward him a little.

“We talked about it. She understands, now. And I told her to keep it from the others.” Coulson told her softly, and she peered at him again, worry creasing her brow.

“That looks like it hurts,” She brushed her thumb across his temple with her free hand. He leaned into her touch a little, appreciating the gesture.

“Here we are, Director Coulson!” Simmons reappeared from the back, and Skye jumped away from him. “Oh, hi Skye! Our boss seems to have gotten himself into a bit of a scrap,” Simmons grinned, and handed the ice to Coulson. He frowned at her but accepted it. At least she had thoughtfully wrapped a towel around the bag so he wouldn’t have the direct coldness against his face.

“I can’t see.” Coulson muttered after pressing the ice against his nose. He felt a hand grab onto his again, urging him to stand. He recognized it as Skye’s, and held on tightly.

“I’ll help!” She sounded all too happy, and Coulson groaned inwardly.

“You should probably help him get to his room, Skye,” Simmons advised. “I suggest a bit of a rest, and headache medication. Something with ibuprofen in it to help fight the swelling.”

“Thanks, Simmons. I’ll make sure he gets what he needs,” Skye promised, and Coulson felt himself being led out of the lab.

“I swear to God, if you make me run in to something or someone…” Coulson threatened, and Skye squeezed his hand.

“So, you don’t want to go see what Trip’s up to, then?” She asked cheekily, and he growled at her, pushing the ice toward her. She squealed –  ‘direct hit; booyah’, he thought – and she smacked his arm. He chuckled, winced, and pressed the ice back against his own face. He felt her shift her hand to thread her fingers through his, and he allowed her to lead him down the hall.