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you are the guide and the weight of her world

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(art by @direwolfees)


The building rumbles alarmingly beneath their feet. Ward actually stops breathing. Lara’s jaw is dropped wide open in shock.

What the HELL?” Skye and Ward simultaneously demand.

Ranger looks far too smug for someone who should fear their impending doom. “I have your marriage license.” He waves the folder as a reminder, though it really just has the effect of waving a red flag in front of a bull.

Skye snatches it away before Ward can ask. “Italy… yeah okay… We used the married cover all the time, no big deal.”

Lara is mutely freaking out, eyes darting between her parents in shock while Ranger takes the seat beside her on the couch, casually munching on popcorn. He tilts the box at her in question, but she’s too consumed with gaping to indulge.

Skye scans the rest of the contents quickly, finally turning to Ward in outrage. “You used our real names?!”

He’s busy reading over her shoulder and frowning at the date in memory, so it takes him a moment to catch up. “Wait a second. You’re pinning this on me?!”

“Sweet lord!” Skye explodes. “Since when do you use our real names on an op?”

“In case you don’t remember correctly, that was our last mission just days before you got shot,” Ward snarls, yanking up her sleeve to aggressively point out the scar on her arm. “You were hardly acting like yourself, so excuse me for being a little preoccupied at the time.”

“Where did you get this?” Skye harshly demands of Ranger, breathing heavily. “How did you get this?”

“I’m good with computers.” Ranger slings his arm around Lara comfortably. “Probably the best hacker there is now, considering what I found.”

Ward actually has to grab Skye to prevent her from lunging for Ranger’s throat.

“Skye, think.” Ward tips her chin up, forcibly narrowing her attention to zero in on his eyes. “It didn’t matter what names used. We blew up that chapel, remember?”

As one, they turn back to Ranger, who is the picture of innocence, already standing by with his hands in the air.

Explain.” Skye orders, the computer monitors flickering violently at her barely leashed command.

“So it turns out that chapel? They were pretty old school and had a serious vault —”

Ward groans audibly, throwing his hands up in the air dramatically.

“—Where they stored all records immediately after signing. They stayed there almost fifteen years until the owners’ descendants grew up and were enough to start the process of scanning the records into the cloud.” 

Skye is at a loss for words. Ward keeps looking down at the marriage license as if it is going to disappear into smoke.

Watching her parents get lost in their world of memories is almost too much for Lara to bear. “Let me get this straight. Does this mean that you guys have been married for almost twenty years?”

“It was actually just their nineteenth anniversary a few weeks ago, but...” The shit-eating grin on Ranger’s face is blinding. “Yes.”

“Oh my god.” Lara starts laughing because if she doesn’t, she’s hoenstly going to cry hysterically at the absurdity of it all. “I cannot believe this. My life is such a soap opera.”

“Well it’s not if they can have it annulled. I mean…” Ranger lifts his eyebrows at her pointedly. “There’s you. The physical manifestation of –”

“– OKAY, I think we’ve heard enough about that,” Ward cuts him off, clearing his throat loudly.

Skye is still mute, as she clearly does not know how to process the news.

Ranger presses a quick kiss to Lara’s temple, hopping up from his seat in a flash. “Meet me in the gym later for a surprise.”

“There will be no more surprises,” Ward yells, finally seeming to break out of his shock.

Skye distractedly puts a hand on his arm. “Not now, Ward. He owes her a date.”

Lara beams with happiness, darting up to kiss both her parents on the cheek. “I love you guys.”

After she leaves the room, Skye leans backward on the desk for support. “We... love you too.”

Ward makes a sound that can only be described as that of a dying whale. “Understatement,” comes his muffled reply. “But finding out you’ve been married for almost twenty years will do that to you.”

They slide down onto the floor in tandem, Skye leaning her head against his shoulder. He curves more closely around her in a move both natural and timeless. “Holy shit.”

Ward turns his head to meet her eyes and can’t help the smile that begins to grow into a low chuckle until they are both in full blown gales of laughter, sprawled out on the floor.


Kara is in the process of assisting Thomas with removing the shirt from over her head when Lara bursts into the room.

“They’re MARRIED.” She takes in the scene, physically recoiling. “Ugh, gross!”

Kara goes completely still. Thomas clears his throat rather pointedly. “Lara. Haven’t you heard about a particular concept called knocking on doors before you enter a room?”

She is equal parts squicked out and unrepentant. “You guys, come on.” She throws her hands up in the air. “MARRIED.”

By now, Kara has pulled her shirt back down and set herself mostly back to right. “Who, exactly, is married?” She fusses distractedly with her hair, trying to make it look less like they were just about to get down and more like, well, anything else.

Lara’s eyes gleam with unbridled glee. “My parents.”

Thomas reaches for the end table and misses by a mile, falling to the ground in shock.

Kara’s mouth drops open. “But...”

Saving Lara from having to explain further is Ranger’s sudden appearance at her side. He leans in, nuzzling her throat affectionately. “See? This is why I told you to wait before you barged into their room. Good thing I tracked you from the cameras...”

“Hands where I can see ‘em, Ranger.” Thomas growls, glaring hard at the younger man.

“Explain,” Kara sternly orders, pointing for them to go sit on the couch.

Ranger keeps his hands partially in view from where they rest on Lara’s waist, tugging her back with him to the couch.

Lara pretends to ignore the dark look on her uncle’s face and focuses instead on getting situated so that her boyfriend can tell fill them in without wasting any more time. This is becoming my favorite story.

I know. He squeezes the curve of her waist, eyes sparkling when he meets Thomas’s growl with a glimmer of defiance. Now let me tell it before your uncle kills me.

Lara laughs out loud and it has the effect of chasing away some of the dark shadows on her face.

Ranger smiles in satisfaction, warming to his audience. “Well it’s a funny story, but it all started back in a little village in Italy...”


Ward is in the middle of reviewing everyone’s reports for the week prior when Thomas comes flying through the doors, humming something loud and obnoxious.

He lifts his head slowly. “Thomas...”

“IF YOU LIKED IT THEN YOU SHOULD HAVE PUT A RING ON IT,” the younger brother wails, dancing out like a spaz until he finally comes to a stop in front of his desk. “Oh wait, that’s right. You already did.”

Ward sighs loudly, reaching for his phone to text Skye. [ they know. ]

“I can’t believe you’ve been married for nineteen years.” Thomas flops into the chair across from his desk. “I mean, on one hand, I totally can because splitting the two of you up was like the Universe’s biggest mistake --”

“-- I wouldn’t presume to bet on the Universe,” Ward mutters with feeling, wishing he were literally anywhere else.

“-- but the fact that after all this time you finally got what you always wanted!” He’s crowing loudly in triumph. “Do you know what that means?!”

Ward is more than alarmed by this over the top proclamation and wants nothing more than for his brother to leave him alone. He’s also feeling rather edgy, like Thomas is stupidly tempting fate right now. “What does it mean?”

“You’ve broken the family curse!”

Ward just blinks.

“C’mon, bro! Family curse. Blammo. OVER.” Thomas stands up, putting his hands on the back of the chair as if he cannot contain his excitement or all the restless energy prowling within. “We get to tell Rose that she can finally come home from wherever you shipped her off to.”

At the mention of their younger sister, Ward’s gaze sharpens considerably. “I don’t think it’s quite that simple.”

“Whatever, man. I’m inviting her to the wedding and you can’t stop me.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it.”

“By the way, can you make a note to ask Ranger to reverse the Rose Protocol?”

Ward lifts his head, sensing an opening at last. “Will you leave me alone if I do?”

Thomas tries, he really does, to keep the guffaw in.

“Get out,” Ward grumbles, giving him the finger. “I’ll see what I can do.”

“Thanks ever so much,” Thomas replies with a bright grin, “I’ll be sure to come your way when I need marriage advice later.”

He is almost not quick enough to dodge the paperweight his brother tosses at his head. It thuds against the door loudly as Thomas exits, whistling Here Comes the Bride.

Three emails pop up on his screen and it’s almost consolation enough to know that Thomas is going to have to sort out the mess that the analysts are combing through right now until the Rose Protocol is reversed.


[ they know. ] Skye gets the message and groans. She hears footsteps and immediately begins looking for an escape route, only to be stuck as said person arrives.

“So I guess this means you can’t be my maid of honor now,” Kara announces as she sails into the kitchen.

“Oh god.” Skye puts her head down on the counter. “You heard.”

“Heard?” She cackles with humor. “Your daughter is doing everything but take out an Iron Man suit and write it in the sky for everyone to see.”

Skye softens at the mention of Lara. “I thought her head was going to explode when Ranger told us.”

“How did Ward take it?”

Skye raises an eyebrow. “You mean after I stopped blaming him for using our real names?”

“...He didn’t.”

Skye nods.

Kara holds a hand up to her mouth in extreme disbelief and then dissolves into hysterical laughter. “Oh my god, that is incredible.”

“Not quite the sentiments I had,” Skye mutters under her breath, “But I am well and truly stuck with the idiot now, so...”

Kara’s bent double at the waist, hardly able to catch her breath. “I just wanted to tell you that I’d settled on a bouquet of cacti for the wedding but this is so much better.”

The idea of a cactus bouquet is actually perfect for Kara and is an idea that Skye badly wants to explore, but she knows there is absolutely zero hope of that happening based on the delight on the other woman’s face. “I’m never going to live this down, am I?”

Kara slides up on the stool next to her, slinging an arm around Skye’s shoulders. “Not on your life, pal.”


When Lara arrives in the gym, she’s met with quite a spread. There’s a picnic laid down in the center of the room, candles burning low between the plates of her favorite cheeses and fruit. Despite every detail loudly proclaiming his involvement, Ranger is nowhere to be found.

She glares at the camera in the corner of the room, folding her arms. “It’s creepy to make me eat alone.”

Just grabbing one last thing, he sends back warmly, causing a happy spiral to flutter low in her stomach. You’re so impatient

I am not.

Lara huffs dramatically, folding her legs neatly beneath her and snatching a few pieces of chocolate.

“I saw that,” Ranger teasingly reprimands as he enters the room, flashing her a quick grin. There’s something she can’t quite make out tucked under his arm.

“You leave me unattended and I can’t be held responsible for what kind of trouble I get into.” She shrugs, popping another piece of chocolate into her mouth.

“That logic seems to have a few holes in it but we’ll bypass it for now because I have something for you.”

Lara raises an eyebrow in slight amusement. “You discovered that my parents have been secretly married for my entire life. I’m pretty sure you win best boyfriend of the year award for like, eternity.”

Ranger smirks, leaning down to kiss her casually. “Mmm. You ate the salted caramels.” Before she can answer, he ducks back down, kissing her more thoroughly. When she’s breathing a little heavier, he pulls away and puts a large tube into her hands.

She stares up at him, clearly struggling to switch gears. “...Thank you?”

He reaches for the tube, popping the cap off smoothly and shaking looks what resolves to be a set of blueprints once unfurled across her lap.

“What am I looking at here?”

Ranger takes a seat next to her, pulling her easily into the vee between his legs. He takes her hand, using it to point to a spot on the plans. “This is your bedroom. And this,” he gently drags Lara’s pointer finger up, up, up. “Is the roof. I’m working on getting external access for you independent of the existing passages within the building.” 

For the second time that day, Lara’s jaw drops open.

She knows Ranger isn’t afraid of her; of what she can do. He never has been.

But this? That he isn’t stopping her to trying to slow down the progress of her abilities or hold her back, in any way -- this is beyond what she could have imagined. To have the freedom to retreat to the roof whenever it got to be too much for her and be able to push her limits or test her abilities whenever she saw fit without having to run into anyone else -- it’s so much more than she deserves -- and it’s everything.

He’s everything.

“You never slow me down,” She manages through the lump of emotion in her throat. “You don’t hold back. And you never let me make excuses for who I am or apologise for what I can do.”

“Be pretty unreasonable to think that I even could,” he murmurs, carding a hand through her hair. “You’re a force of nature, sweetheart.”

“I’m your force of nature.” Lara declares, boldly situating herself in his lap. “No one else’s.”

Ranger keeps his hands planted firmly on her thighs, fingers slightly tensed as prepares to relay the last bit of information. “Before he left, Thor said that there were some things he had to check on. About us.” Ranger lifts a hand now, cupping her cheek gently. “He hasn’t come back yet but I think it’s going to be heavier than we expected. I reached out to Dr. Foster and she hasn’t heard from him in weeks.”

Lara groans, dropping her forehead against his shoulder. “Why can’t anything ever be easy?”

“Because you’d be bored.” He sounds amused, keeping one hand on her back, rubbing the length of her spine until she begins to visibly untense from the movement.

“Ugh.” She tucks her face into the crook of his neck, breathing more calmly as he continues to hold her close. “I hate you.”

“No, you don’t,” he retorts, laughing softly. “You love me.” 

“I do,” Lara turns her face up, meeting him for a deep kiss. “I really, really do.”


The control room is bustling hive of activity.

Ward’s team of analysts know how to find answers and review information better than any of their peers and it is no secret that they’re anxious to get the answers to their boss as quickly as possible.

Their boss, however, still happens to be his young brother.

Right now there are at two dozen people vying for his attention at the moment and it’s clear that all Thomas really wants to do is scream.

“Okay, listen up.” He claps his hands together, commanding the rest of the room into attention. “I will personally take care of your concerns and sign off on your existing reports, but I am only one person and you have got to let me breathe.”

A slow, mocking clap comes from the corner of the room where Skye slouched against the wall, smirking.

He concludes the conversation with a sharp glare and makes his way over to her.

“Nice job, Boss.” Her eyes are bright with humor.

“Certainly helped to have picked something up from you after all these years, Sis.” The unholy gleam in his eyes means that confrontation is unavoidable (it’s Thomas, of course they’re going to talk about this) so Skye does the entire room a favor by clamping a firm hand around his forearm and dragging him from the room.

They wind up down the hall in yet another abandoned room, and Thomas rubs his arm dramatically. “Listen, I know I’m hard to resist, but you’re a married woman now and I don’t think my brother is the type to share --”

Skye doesn’t even think about it. She just spreads her fingers wide and pushes with just enough force to send Thomas sailing back and crashing into a chest of drawers.

“Ouch.” He grumbles, staggering back to his feet. “What is it with the women in this family constantly doing me bodily harm?”

“You heal quick,” she retorts, unable to keep from steadying him as he finds his proper footing.

“So I hear congratulations are in order,” Thomas drawls, tugging her close to his side for a hug.

Laughing at his blase delivery, Skye closes her eyes momentarily. “Can you believe it?”

He halts their progress towards the door. “Well, I certainly can’t imagine my fool brother this disgustingly happy with anyone else.”

The sentiment behind the sarcasm has her eyes burning suspiciously. “Thanks, I think.”

“Hey.” Thomas squeezes her shoulders tightly, drawing her in for a quick kiss to the forehead. “You know you finally made it. Everything you did back then, all the sacrifices you made --”

She cuts him off mid sentence, uncomfortably aware of things she has yet to tell Ward. “Let’s not upset the natural order of things by calling out the Universe.”

“Oh, I already did that in Ward’s office before. The family curse is broken!”

Dammit Thomas.” Skye lets her head fall onto his shoulder. “You should know better than that by now.”


After they had managed to get rid of Thomas and shaken Kara off (both activities that required enormous amounts of skill and maneuvering), Ward asked she could meet him in his office. Being that she had already planned on going there at some point before the day’s end, it wasn’t much trouble to tell him know she was on her way.

Skye walks in to find Ward at his desk, staring out the window, clearly deep in thought. It’s been so long since she’s had the opportunity to simply drink the sight of him in -- her husband -- that she feels perfectly justified in leaning against the bookcase, content to simply observe him.

He’s still the same gorgeous man she’d fallen in love with all those years ago. Cheekbones high and chiseled prominently on his face, jaw perhaps a little sharper than she remembers -- probably from grinding his teeth against the frustration of dealing with a teenage daughter -- hair sprinkled with a bit of gray threading through the dark strands.

Skye observes as those whiskey gold eyes sharpen and warm once he realises she’s arrived.

“Hi.” His voice is soft with wonder, like he can’t believe she’s standing there; like he expects her to vanish at any moment.

“Hi.” She feels the yearning deep within her bones to cross to his side, tugging him out of the chair. She leads him over to the couch (that she is rapidly beginning to think is their couch) with an easy smile. She perches on the arm of the couch while he sits beside without protest.

He still has that awed look on his face and she feels herself flush under the heat of his gaze. She needs to say something to break the moment before they wind up doing something stupid like christening the damn couch. “I probably owe you like nineteen years’ worth of anniversary gifts.”

“Well.” Ward clears his throat, eyes fond. “You got me Lara, so. Think we can call it even.”

Now she’s the one feeling awed and more than a little overwhelmed by emotion. “Guess I don’t have to be sad anymore about her officially becoming a Ward and leaving me behind.”

Understanding dawns on Ward’s face. “Is that why you were so upset before?”

“Do you think I’m proud of the fact that I was irrationally jealous of our daughter and that she’d get your name and I wouldn’t?”


“I didn’t say it made sense!” Skye protests, a half disgusted look on her face.

Ward tugs her forward until she’s forced to slide onto the cushions next to him or fall into his lap. The quicksilver grin on his face informs her exactly which choice he wants her to make and she laughs, allowing him to tangle their fingers together.

There’s a bottle of merlot within reach on the table along with assorted files of work that Ranger had dropped off earlier. He ignores all of it, giving her his complete attention. She’s forgotten how unnerving it can be to be the sole recipient of his considerable intelligence and laser sharp focus.

“So.” Ward pushes the bottle over to her expectantly, until Skye flicks her fingers at it, popping the cork free. He pours two very generous glasses of wine. “This stuff with Lara that we’ve been pretending to ignore... how bad is it, really?”

It should be eerie how easily he can read the stress in her body like fault lines in the ground as well as any seismologist, but if anything, it’s a relief to have it drawn out, now that the immediate threats have been neutralised for another day.

“I should be mad that you aren’t going to let this go,” Skye shakes her head, rubbing under her eyes tiredly. “It’ll be nice not to have to carry it alone anymore.”

With the exception of probably Natasha, no one else really knows everything.

“I’m not going anywhere.” He gives her hand a gentle squeeze. “Lay it on me.”

And this is it.

The moment of truth.

What she’s been hiding since before Lara was born.

The enormity of the moment, of being able to finally share this burden with the only person she had ever wanted to, for so many years -- it’s enough to make her throat close up and eyes fill with the absolution of it all.

“Start at the beginning,” Ward murmurs, accurately interpreting her hesitation. “We’ll figure it out.” 

She doesn’t even know where the beginning is. She casts about for any piece of information to expand on, and doesn’t even know what she’s planning to say until her gaze lands on the remains of Ward’s tactical gear on the far desk.

“I didn’t know Whitehall had a son.” She glances at him alertly, wanting to make sure he knows she’s telling the truth. “I guess it should have occurred to me that it was pretty insane we never met the man at the top, but honestly… I had my hands full with other things at the time.”

He grins wolfishly, this time taking no pains to remove the satisfied expression from his face. “You damn sure did.”

She rolls her eyes. “After I found out I was pregnant, I knew I had to leave. What Hydra could have done with our child as leverage... and I certainly didn’t trust SHIELD to be much better.” Off his smug look at the mention of their former employer, she smacks his arm. “Behave.”

“I didn’t say anything,” Ward innocently protests, chuckling. His animosity toward SHIELD is not exactly a secret but neither is it something Skye wants to waste time going over right now.

“There were only a of handful places I felt I could go. Even fewer people I could trust.”

Ward processes the information quickly, sorting it out against what he already knows. “Natasha and Bucky for protection. Tony, for the sheer technological support you’d need to keep yourselves off the grid. And Thomas.” He summarizes, nodding to indicate that he mostly understands the why and how of the people she’d reached out to.

“And the absolute last place I ever wanted to return; one you probably didn’t think about until recently.”


Skye nods slowly. “It was the only location I could be certain that she would be safe. I knew,” and her voice grows hard with the memory of the dark time, “That they wouldn’t take her away from me after she’d been born; In fact, I had no doubt that every single person there would be committed to protecting her.”

“So everyone at Afterlife knows she’s alive?”

He’s assimilating the information more quickly than she’d hoped -- and god knows there are details she’s omitting in favor of telling him everything as quickly as possible -- but she has to set him straight on this particular fact.

“No.” She squeezes his hand, leaning forward, as if wanting to impress upon him how important the next part is. “But they know of her.”

Ward blinks. “Skye, that doesn’t make any sense.”

Her lips curve ruefully. “Whitehall wasn’t wrong. Lara is special, and not just because she’s our daughter.”

Ward is the best at what he does because he remembers things that most people would have discarded as irrelevant information in the past and dismissed it for good. But she almost see the moment he recalls what she’d said about Afterlife on their way to rescue Lara and when the fire comes into his eyes, she knows he’s remembering what she said about people wanting Lara to lead a hypothetical rebellion.

“Because she’s capable of starting an Inhuman war?” Ward sarcastically retorts, drawing away with no small amount of irritation, which she can understand. She knows that he wants Lara to be able to live the life she chooses, not one that’s been laid out for her before she was old enough to know how to choose in the first place. That's what has driven her all these years to make the choices she had.

“Or ending one.”

He scrubs a hand down his face. “You’re talking in riddles.”

Skye lets out a heavy sigh, trying to find a way to summarize centuries of her people’s history in a few sentences. “The Inhumans have this… thing. It’s a prophecy of sorts. They believe there’s one girl chosen to bring balance to their world.”

“And they think it’s Lara.” Ward flatly states.

“They used to think it was me.” Skye’s raw confession is met with silence. “But then that whole disaster happened with my Mom sucking the life out of people and my dad had to kill her... which led to my making choices that knocked me out of the running.”

With the stark reminder of the dangerous time spent together in their partnership before Lara was conceived, Ward doesn’t offer any soft words or issue denial at her statement. The time for this has passed and they settled Skye’s demons and restless worry about the issues with her parents so many years ago. There are many questions in his eyes warring with the desire to know the rest of the story, and she watches with no little wonder as he firmly banks them down to allow her more time to explain.

She leans back into the couch, grounding herself with the feeling of his arm curled tightly around her shoulders. “I thought I could keep her hidden away. That if she never used her abilities, she’d stay off the grid. That they wouldn’t even think about her; that the things set into motion long before she was born would never come true.”

“...Rule number one.” Comprehension dawns in his eyes -- and it’s the same as it’s always been, watching him figure out where the pieces go in the puzzle. It’s the same rapidfire connection thought process behind his eyes and how does this still turn her on?

Skye decisively clears her throat, nodding. “Exactly.”

There’s a marked silence while he processes that and weighs it against the actions of Lara’s life for the past six months or so.

Suddenly Ward groans, dragging his free hand down his face. “Except when Lara came here, all she did was hone her skills until she used them to save our lives.”


“So they’re going to know exactly who she is.”

Skye’s pointed silence is answer enough.

“…Shit.” He drops the hand to stare at her directly. There is heavy remorse and grief in his eyes. “No wonder you were so pissed at me.”

Skye shrugs, dismissing the grievance without further issue. “It’s just... now there are things set into motion that even we can’t stop. People will go after her like nothing we’ve ever seen.”

“Well,” Ward inhales sharply, a determined look on his face, “Then we will just protect her.”

She smiles crookedly, feeling a rush of nostalgia-laced affection for him. Same old Ward. Ready to do whatever it took to defeat all of their problems, even if he had nothing other than sheer force of will at his disposal. “It’s not that simple.”

With Whitehall’s interference now, that has become more clear than ever. This is not a fight they can simply walk away from if they intend to keep any part of their family intact. The mental gymnastics of it all has a migraine building at the base of her neck.

“We’ll figure it out,” Ward insists, tugging her closer until she finally relents to meet his kiss. “I promise.”

Skye cups his cheek fondly, rubbing her thumb over his jaw. The familiar gesture fills her with comfort and has the added bonus of deeply soothing all the jagged parts of her that have remained achingly sharp over their years apart. “I missed this.”

“Glad you’re back.” Ward hoarsely replies, clearly content just to hold her.

And she is back. Finally.

She stays exactly where she is, savoring the moment and keeping herself firmly in the present. This is a gift, and one she doesn’t intend to take lightly.

Someone’s stomach -- they’re entwined so closely together right now it’s impossible to decipher who -- rumbles loudly, shattering the moment and causing her to laugh. “I’ll go grab something from the kitchen.”

Ward waits until she’s at the door before he calls out, “Yeah, wouldn’t want your husband to starve to death or anything.”

Her response is a silent raised middle finger.

“Hurry back!” He calls out after her, laughing. “Don’t think I failed to zero in on that ominous prophecy thing!”


Despite the high traffic it has seen today -- Ranger’s near-meltdown as he prepared for the picnic he and Lara were to share in the gym, Thomas and Kara’s usual taco Sunday dinner -- the kitchen is still, somehow, fully stocked. It reminds her of the days she used to spend at Avengers Tower, and how Tony would always complain that she was eating them out of house and home.

She discovers the remnants of a fruit and cheese platter half picked over and smiles to herself, knowing that Lara’s first “official date” had gone better than expected, especially once Ranger had sent her a quick shot of Lara’s blinding smile after revealing his blueprints.

Skye owes him so much, and finds herself a little staggered by how much she’s already come to care about Ranger. Perhaps even more annoying, Ward probably knows that she loves his protege, even if the thought of surrendering her title as the world’s best hacker -- despite being well and fully earned -- to Ranger, stings a little.

She makes a feast out of whatever she can get her hands on, sparing a fond glance back at the kitchen before she leaves. That particular room has seen so much (if Kara’s tale about how she and Lara had first met is anything to be believed) and she’s already envisioning a few touches -- some air plants and succulents, along with a StarkTech coffee machine -- to make it seem more like home. (Ward’ll probably have a fit when he sees the massive coffee maker arriving tomorrow, but that’s fine. She knows how to get around him.)

Skye’s got a tray in one hand and is concentrating so intently on not dropping any of the carefully sliced items on top that she doesn’t notice the other person’s sudden appearance in the hallway until she literally crashes into him.

“Lincoln!” She gasps, startling backward. “Jeez, you scared me. Listen, now is seriously not a good time. I have to finish telling Ward about the prophecy.”

“Skye,” he shakes his head, already reaching for her, “There is serious trouble with the Council because of what's happened. You really should have just answered the damn phone when he called.”

There is a brief shower of sparks as his powers build and then –

– they are gone.





BONUS: kara’s imagined cacti bouquet, and it's SAM (obviously, the kara authority) to whom i owe this idea.