Sparring feels weird, lately.
Skye can't put her finger on it, but it's not a dance anymore, not the one-and-two-and-three-and-four May has trained into her muscles over and over until they slide through movements all quick muscle memory. Skye stutters, blocks when she should dodge, misses easy hits. She doesn't understand why.
"Fuck," Skye hisses, dances back and rolls with May's punch. May raises an eyebrow, aims a kick fast and precise.
"Come on, Skye, you're still holding back on me," she says, frustrated, and she's wrong but she's not wrong.
"I'm not doing it on purpose," Skye snaps, takes a moment to try and center herself and then moves back into formation. "Let's try again." May nods, settles into position, and for a moment it works, it's punch-and-block-and-kick-and-roll and then Skye dodges right instead of left, straight into May's open hand, takes a hit to the side of her head that leaves her ears ringing. "Ow," she says, bending to rest her elbows on her knees, "just... give me a minute, okay." May frowns, casts her gaze out into the gym.
"Director!" she yells, and Coulson pauses the treadmill, pulls out his headphones, looks quizzical. "Get down here on the mats. I want to test something."
"Oh no," Skye says, because this is a terrible idea. "I'm not- he's not-" Coulson's already joining them on the mats, making a neat pile in the corner with his towel and ipod and water bottle. His t-shirt is damp; he's already been working out for a while. Skye tries very hard not to stare. "May, seriously," she tries again.
"Hey, who do you think trained together in the Academy?" Coulson asks, and May smirks.
"I could put you flat on your back in three seconds, Director. But I want to see how this goes. You up for it?"
"Sure," he says, casual and amused. "Agent Johnson?"
"You're still... I don't want to hurt you," Skye says, her eyes going to his prosthetic almost unwillingly. He flexes his fingers, looking thoughtful.
"It's been six months and Dr Cho's work is exemplary. It's fine. You're not going to hurt me from a little sparring. Especially because she reinforced the fingertips with vibranium alloy."
"Fine," she sighs, "fine, let's try it, I can't be any worse than I have been with May." May snorts, steps off the mats. And then Coulson's throwing a punch, easy and telegraphed, and Skye dodges, grabs his wrist, pulls him in and rolls back out, following his movement to spin, land a kick. They settle into a rhythm, moving around each other easy as dancing.
"Push it," May says, stern, and Skye quickens her pace, watching Coulson watch her every move. They're objects of mass and force and velocity, action and reaction, and the hits get harder, faster, punches that land and land again and roll into the fall and pull back up. This is it, this is what Skye's missed, and she doesn't think she just keeps moving in the flow state, letting her muscles and her reactions work and stretch and fight. She's breathing hard, they both are, and Coulson has her briefly and then she's flipping him, hard. She lets him slam breathless onto the mats and without thinking she's pinning him there, straddled across him, a forearm pressed across his throat, her fingers wrapped around one wrist and her knee pushed hard into the other. He blinks, his pupils dilating, and she comes back into herself with a shock, scrambles away, offers him her hand to pull him to his feet. She doesn't know who's more surprised, him or her.
"Good work," May tells her. "Whatever it is you weren't doing before, you were doing it just then."
"Maybe I'm just overthinking it," Skye offers, drinks from her water bottle and definitely doesn't watch the way Coulson's towelling himself off.
He's still got her finger marks red around one wrist.
Skye still misses their Bus, but a really great thing about the Playground is the gym has a tiny, kind of old sauna that doesn't even have steam, is just a hot dark box with a tiered bench seat in it, but is nevertheless the best thing when she's overtired and can't get to sleep because every muscle hurts. She pads down to the gym in a singlet and shorts, fills up her water bottle and grabs a towel, and cranks up the heat. It doesn't take long until she's deliciously, meltingly warm, and she turns down the lights, stretches out, lets the heat fill her up.
The door opens and she opens her eyes, squints into the light. "Hi," she says, drowsy.
"Skye, hey," Coulson replies. "I didn't... sorry, I really didn't think anyone would be up." He seems indecisive, standing in the doorway, and she smiles lazily.
"Come in or stay out, but either way, make up your mind, you're letting out the heat." Coulson pulls himself together, steps inside and pulls the door closed. Skye shifts over on the single bench to make space for him to sit down, surreptitiously checks that her camisole hasn't shifted too low. She's been in the sauna with other people before, of course, but... She puts it out of her mind, sips her water, closes her eyes again. She can feel Coulson's presence, though, a vibration fluttering at the edge of her awareness.
She drags her eyes open, looks him over. He's sitting back, hands resting on his knees, seemingly relaxed and drinking in the heat as much as she is, but she gets the sense he's waiting for something. She shifts sideways, pulls her feet up onto the bench, rests her back against the wall. "Good sparring today," she ventures, and he smiles back at her.
"You thought so too? God, I haven't trained like that with anyone in years. I forgot how much of a hardass May is," he jokes, and she grins.
"Feeling sore, Director?" she asks cheekily, and deliberately stretches out a foot, pokes him in the knee with her toes. He grabs her bare foot, runs metal fingers up her instep, raises an eyebrow when she shrieks with ticklish laughter. "Hey! Not fair, not fair, I capitulate. This is revenge, right? For pinning you today?"
"Oh sure," he replies, and stills his fingers. His flesh hand is still wrapped across the top of her foot, fingertips curling into the arch, and he lifts it onto his lap, shifting his position so her heel is resting on his thigh. Skye's suddenly holding her breath, because this is deeply unexpected.
Coulson runs fingers down from her ankle bone light across the top of her foot, and then flexes it gently back, presses thumbs into the muscle of the arch and drags them in slow circles outward. "Oh," Skye says, "oh fuck, that's good," and she'd be blushing if she weren't already flushed with heat, but it is, it feels incredible.
"Never had a foot massage before?" he asks casually, continuing to gently knead the muscles in her foot. It's making her feel loose, jelly-limbed; she thinks she might float into her bunk.
"No," she manages, "never had a massage at all, actually. Not really in my budget while I was living in my van."
"Pity," he says. "I know it's just- implanted memories, and all, but the physical therapist in Tahiti was really something." He lets his fingers trail across each toe, just enough pressure that it doesn't tickle, and then he tucks his fingers under her heel, shifts it slightly up his thigh, and reaches for her other foot.
"Oh god," she groans, closes her eyes because she can't watch his face. He makes a noise that she can't identify; amused, maybe, or teasing. "If this is the kind of service the Director of SHIELD provides," she says lightly, eyes still closed, "I should have signed up years ago."
"One time offer," he replies, and yeah, she can hear the amusement in his voice. "As thanks. For sparring. I was kind of feeling like a porcelain doll. Nobody's willing to take me on, anymore, it's infuriating. I'm not an invalid."
"No," she agrees. "But we could fight again. Train together, I mean. May's right. Whatever it is I'm not doing right, it doesn't happen when I'm sparring with you."
"Okay," Coulson says thoughtfully. "Sounds good." He hits a spot on her arch and she moans, just a little, tries to stifle it with a cough, because the Director of SHIELD giving her a late night foot rub in the sauna is one thing but making sex noises while he does it is something else, okay.
From the way his hands stall out, just for a second, she thinks she probably didn't really stifle it all that well.
"I should, uh, I should get to bed," she says hastily. "Probably been in too long, actually. I'm super hot." Great, she thinks, that- great. Good work. Coulson laughs, finishes up his ministrations, and she swings her feet down, trying really hard not to think about how she could have just shifted a little more, could have pushed her heel lightly down into his lap.
"Sleep well, Agent. Don't forget to drink more water," he tells her, and she smiles, flicks him with her towel.
"You too," she says, and she could swear, she catches him looking just a little at the way her sweat's beading along her collarbone, running down between her breasts. It makes her flush again, as she pushes the door open. The cold air is a shock, and she doesn't feel relaxed, she feels on edge in a way that's all about Coulson and whatever it is that's brewing between them.
It's probably nothing, she thinks. Just some unresolved sexual tension thanks to having shared a bunch of stressful experiences. It'll fade.
The next time they train, Skye tries not to pin him, avoids making too much contact, pulls hits where she knows May would tell her to land them. Coulson plays along for all of five minutes, watching the way she's moving, and then feints, ducks around her and pulls her into a sudden chokehold. His whole body is pressed against hers, and she stills, waits for him to move.
"Land the hit, Agent," he says gruffly, his lips so close to her ear she shivers, imagines him pressing a kiss to her neck (but that's not what this is, she thinks, quickly). "We talked about this. I'm not fragile."
"That's not what I- fine," she replies, brings her hands up to grab his forearm, bends her knees and drops her bodyweight to flip him quick and sudden over her head and onto the mat. "Better?"
"Much," he huffs, lets her pull him up and moves straight into a quick succession of jabs that make her work to dodge them. As soon as Skye stops thinking about where to not touch him, lets herself trust the way they move together, their fighting style fits together as easily as it did the first time, and she finds herself laughing with exhilaration, pushing herself harder until her muscles are burning.
He flips her, this time, pinning her flat with a knee balanced between her shoulderblades, and she presses her face against the mats for a second, waits for him to relax. Then she tenses, flips fast enough that she knocks his knee outward off her back, pulls him overbalanced and down and rolls smoothly into a grapple hold.
"Fucking hell," Coulson breathes, and Skye feels like it's the first time she's ever heard him swear (or maybe it's just the first time he's sworn all breathless and solid between her thighs). She grins sharp and hard down at him, slides sideways until she's lying on the mats too. "Need a breather?" he asks, and she laughs, shakes her head and jumps to her feet.
"Maybe this time you'll actually keep me down," she teases, dodges the playful swipe he throws at her.
"Yeah, yeah, I didn't realise I was fighting with Agent Romanoff here," he grumbles, and that makes her grin harder, because she knows she's not the best but she thinks she's kind of getting there.
Their sparring becomes a fairly regular thing, May still coaching them both to work harder, push harder, land the hit. It's a struggle sometimes for Skye not to use her power, to hold back from pushing the air at him in a blow as fast as a punch, but he can't see it so it feels a bit like cheating. She uses it for non-attack purposes though, pushes herself back to her feet that little bit faster, lets her sense of air vibration track where he's moving behind her. It's an advantage, okay, the same way his metal hand gives him that extra bit of strength, an extra power in his punches (and there's a regular set of bruises that don't fade, now, in the shape of his fingertips, trailing down her right side where he's grabbed and thrown her. If she said anything, he'd pull his punches, she knows - this isn't about hurting - but she kind of likes how it feels. She kind of likes that he's leaving his marks on her.)
Skye thinks sometimes that Coulson knows what she's doing, but he doesn't ask, and she doesn't tell, until one day he grabs her wrist hard with metallic fingers just as she's pushing off an air current, and the vibration fades so abruptly that she loses her balance, almost goes down flat on her face, and it's only Coulson's grip that keeps her upright. Her shoulder wrenches, hard, and she sucks in a breath, regains composure.
"Sorry," he says immediately, looking concerned. "Is it alright?" She rolls the joint out, shrugs loosely a few times, shakes her arm.
"Yeah, it'll be fine," she replies. "I'll go sweat it out this evening, that'll help." Coulson nods, once, settles back into position, and they get back to it (but she can't help but wonder, whether he'll join her in the sauna again. It's intimate, she thinks, doesn't know whether that's strictly a good thing).
When she goes back, late in the evening as always, it's already heated up, and she pulls the door open to find him there. "Oh hey," she says, companionable and just a little pleased. "Mind if I join you?"
"Not at all," he replies, moves his towel for her to sit down. They fall into silence, enjoying the heat, and Skye can feel her muscles relaxing almost immediately. She sighs in contentment and Coulson smiles, wipes his face.
"How's the shoulder?" he asks, and she rolls it out again.
"A bit twinge-y," she says, wincing a little, "but it'll be fine, seriously, it's nothing major."
"I am sorry," he tells her sincerely, and she shrugs.
"Seriously, sir, not your fault, I just got... caught off-guard, I guess."
"The vibranium in my hand blocked your power flow when I grabbed you, right?" he asks, and she looks up at him, startled.
"How'd you know?" she says, before thinking better of it, and he grins.
"You're fighting with an advantage. I noticed. You don't use it against me, though. What's with that?"
"I'm afraid I'll hurt you," she admits. "I have control, in that I'm not causing earthquakes all the time, but it's still a concern in hand-to-hand. I don't want to let loose on you." Coulson raises his eyebrows in what she thinks is acknowledgement but not necessarily agreement, shifts a little on the bench.
"Mind if I check? Your shoulder, I mean," he clarifies, and she shrugs, moves closer, turns sideways. He puts his robot hand on her shoulderblade, tentative, takes her wrist in his other hand and gently rotates her arm, pressing his fingers against the muscles and joint. "I don't think anything's seriously wrong," he says, sounding relieved, "but the muscles are pretty tense. I think it's a strain, more than anything else." He leaves his hand pressed against her back, trails his other hand from her wrist up the outside of her arm to her shoulder. "I could probably get some of that tension out, if you'd like?"
"Uh, sure," Skye replies, because the way Coulson's touching her feels really nice, and she remembers the foot massage. She's kind of glad he can't see her face, actually. Coulson lifts the strap of her camisole, hesitates.
"Is it okay if I..." he says, and she nods, feels him gently push it down so it's hanging in a loop over her upper arm. He presses his fingers into the knots of muscle around her shoulder, obviously being careful with his metal hand, and she feels like she's going to melt under his hands almost immediately. Her skin's slick with sweat; his fingers slide easily across it, skating up the side of her neck and down into the curve of her shoulderblade.
"Oh," she says, again, just like last time. "Right- there, oh fuck that's so good." Coulson laughs, softly, pushes a little harder. "Yeah," she groans, "you can- harder is good, actually, harder is great."
"Lots of tension," he says, working at the muscle. "You need to relax more, Agent."
"Oh, like you can talk," she teases back. "You're not exactly loose, sir."
"No," he agrees thoughtfully. "I guess I'm not." He moves his fingers down to the hollow under her collarbone, digging into the front socket of her shoulder, and she can feel her shoulder loosening, hear tiny noises as the knots work out. It's painfully good, meltingly good, and she relaxes into it, hoping he'll move to the other shoulder, maybe.
He does, and then he slides his fingers up the muscle of her neck to her hairline. It's just as good, and she can't help it, she leans back into it, letting her body go lax. "Comfortable?" he asks, letting his thumbs work circles at the base of her neck.
"Yes," she breathes, closes her eyes. This is new, she thinks, this is something. "You're touching me a lot more than you used to, Director." His hands go still on her shoulders, and he takes a breath.
"Is it- too much?"
"No!" she replies, wriggles her shoulders impatiently, and he gets the message, picks back up with the gentler pressure. "Just- different."
"Yeah," he says. "It is." There's a pause, where she thinks maybe he's not going to continue, and then he takes another breath, widens the circles. "I spent a lot of time not touching, in general. Buttoning myself up behind the suits and the compartmentalization and the professional demeanor. And then this happened," he tightens his metal fingers briefly, "and I just, I felt regret that I'd spent so long avoiding that contact, and now I'm never going to know what it's like, again. To hold someone with both hands. To give someone a really great shoulder massage, or hold hands, or fight hand-to-hand. I'm lucky, I know, I've got a top of the line prosthetic, but still, Skye, regret."
"Well," she replies, after a beat. "From where I'm sitting, you still give really great shoulder massages." He laughs, slides his hands down to her upper arms. She whines in the back of her throat, can't help it, because she wants more.
"If I do any more, you will literally dissolve into a puddle," he tells her, mock-stern, and she relaxes back further, leaning into him. He's sitting at an oblique angle, not square behind her, but she can still rest against him, and the contact feels good. She tilts her head back, lets it fall against his shoulder, and again he makes a noise she can't identify, lets his right hand slide down further to rest lightly on her forearm. He's not quite holding her in his arms but it's a close thing, Skye thinks.
"I like it," she tells him, because she does, and she thinks he should know. "The touching. I like it. You should keep it up."
"Yeah? It's good?" he asks, sounding a little breathless.
"Yeah," she agrees, wonders what this means (she thinks she knows).
"I've been thinking I could get an upgrade," he says after a while, running a finger lightly up and down her arm. She can feel that his t-shirt is damp against her back, doesn't know if it's from his sweat or hers. She thinks, briefly, of pressing more skin against him, of their bodies sweat-slick and muscled and tense.
"An upgrade?" she asks, because it's a safer topic than 'I think I'd like to do some more things that involve touching, sir'.
"More vibranium, with the same alloy Simmons used in your gauntlets," he explains. "I think I could probably block vibrations directed at me, then, instead of having to touch you to block it. You wouldn't have to worry about hurting me, if you let loose. Could make training more interesting."
"Could," she says, and where she'd usually worry, she feels nothing but relaxed and intrigued at the idea. "Could be worth a shot. Like a failsafe."
"Mmm," he agrees, sounding pleased.
"The Council would like it," she murmurs. "Me having an off-switch. They probably wouldn't like it so much that you're the off-switch, though."
"Why?" Coulson asks, and she can hear tension sudden and sharp in his voice.
"Because you wouldn't use it at their say-so," she sighs, "so you're the only one I'd trust, actually, with that kind of power."
"...Oh," Coulson replies, breathless again, and tender. She wonders if he heard what she wasn't saying. I'd like to kiss you, she thinks, like, a lot, and his fingertips moving up her arm become his whole hand, sliding up to her shoulder and pulling her gently upright. "Come on, Agent," he says softly, "you're actually a puddle, time to sleep."
She still wants to kiss Coulson, all through her quick shower and her sleep that night and breakfast the next morning. She thinks she's wanted to kiss Coulson for a long, long time.
Coulson keeps touching her, after that, in ways that are simultaneously intimate and impersonal. A hand rested light and brief on the small of her back as he passes her. Their shoulders brushing together, swaying toward each other in briefings. His fingers brushing against hers as he hands her a cup of coffee. It contrasts with the way they're sparring, more full-contact than ever before (although she always winds up pinning him, pressing him breathless to the floor). It's driving her crazy.
Skye guesses Coulson must make inquiries about his upgrade, but vibranium's not cheap or easy to find, and they have other priorities. She gets sent on one of the other priorities, her first solo mission to reach out to a potential powered person, and although she has Coulson on the other end of the comms line, it's not the same as having him reach for her hand in the plane or sitting next to her in the SUV or solid and reassuring at her back.
He talks her through it though, his voice all warm wry humor in her earpiece, and she thinks the mission's going pretty okay, actually. She feels pretty good about it.
Of course, that's when the girl she's bringing in panics, pushes out an EMP charge that sends Skye sprawling dazed in her front yard. And when she shakes her head clear, tells Coulson not to freak out, the comms are dead in her ear. Fitzsimmons can repair them remotely, Skye knows, but not while the electrical pulses are continuing.
"Ashley," she calls, getting painfully to her feet. "Ashley, honey, I know you're scared right now. I need you to take a deep breath for me." Ashley's eyes are wide with fear. She's very young, Skye thinks, and it makes it worse. Afterlife would never have let her go through the change this early.
"I can't make it stop," she sobs. "I can't make it stop. I'm dangerous, you can't- don't come any closer!"
"I know what it's like," Skye tells her, and Ashley shakes her head. "I do. It happened to me. It's scary, I know. Like you can't control yourself, your new ability. I can help, I promise."
"Nobody can help me," Ashley cries. The pulses are getting worse; Skye can feel them flickering over her skin, creating static electricity charges. She's going to short out the whole block, the whole city, if they can't get things under control.
"There's a way I can sedate you," she says, keeping herself very deliberately calm. She can feel the quakes threatening, her fear vibrating under her skin, and that's not going to help anyone. "I promise it won't hurt you, Ashley, it's called an ICER." She pulls the gun from her holster, holds it out to show the girl. "It looks like a gun, but they're not bullets, I promise. When I couldn't stop, when I was too afraid, I used the same thing on myself. You'll go to sleep, and when you wake up, you'll be in a safe place. But I don't want to use it without you agreeing." Skye hates the way SHIELD shoots first and explains later, has hated it since they shot Hannah with the night-night gun and let her wake up alone in a metal cage. It's one of the things she's most adamant about changing.
"It'll make it stop?" Ashley sniffs.
"While you're unconscious," Skye says. "When you wake up, there'll be people who can help you understand how to keep the power under control."
"Okay," Ashley says, and Skye sights, fires, aiming carefully for her shoulder, somewhere that won't sting so much when the ICER round hits. Ashley slumps, and Skye goes immediately to her, checks her pulse, gathers her gently into her lap. It feels like a long time before her comms line crackles back into life.
"Skye," Coulson says, urgent, and Skye breathes out a long breath at the sound of his voice.
"I'm here, Coulson, it's okay, we've got things under control. Can you bring Simmons and come collect us? I used an ICER, Ashley's unconscious. But we're okay, I promise."
"On our way," he tells her, "just sit tight, we'll be with you soon, Agent."
"Coulson," she says, very tired, leaning her head against the picket fence. "Just- talk to me, alright?"
Coulson's voice is quietly familiar in her ear for the next hour and a half, keeping her centered and grounded and at least four breaths away from a panic attack, which is important, because causing an earthquake is not an option here. And then he's there, gathering her up, sliding them into the back of the SUV along with Ashley, and he doesn't say anything when Skye puts her hand on his, just wraps his fingers around hers, holds her hand tight the entire way back to the plane.
While they get Ashley into a bed in the new plane med-bay, and Simmons gives her another sedative shot, checks her vitals, Skye sits beside her, holds her hand the whole time, and Coulson's there, still at her back. Simmons tells them Ashley will be fine, gives Skye a sympathetically concerned look and leaves them to it, and Skye turns to him, tightens a fist around his shirt and presses her face against his chest. Coulson lays a hand solid and comforting on her shoulder, runs his other hand softly over her hair, and she draws a shuddering breath, sobs a little into his shirt.
"I thought-" she says, eventually.
"I know," he replies. "But you're fine. Ashley's fine. I've got you. I thought-"
"Yeah," she says, shakily. "Yeah." He cups her face in his hand, wipes the tear away from her eye with his thumb, and it's such a familiar gesture she can't help smiling. She wants to turn her face, press a kiss into his palm, but not here, not next to an unconscious girl who's too young to be tied up with all this. "We can help her, right?" she asks instead, because she needs to focus, right now.
"You can help her," Coulson says. "You and Lincoln. Good work, Agent."
"You know me," she says, deliberately light. "I'm the best."
"Yes," Coulson replies, very quiet. "You are." His hand's still on her shoulder, and he strokes his fingers lightly across the back of her neck, almost as if he's not aware he's doing it. Skye closes her eyes. She's exhausted, and she wants to freeze this moment, take it out and examine it later when her mind's working faster. Instead she just sighs, leans into his touch, lets him gentle her into being less of a mass of terrified stress and more of a person again.
When they get back to base, it takes Skye about twenty four hours to notice that Coulson is so tense she's surprised his shoulders haven't started physically creaking. "Sir," she says, interrupting him late that night, looking pointedly at how he's hunched over paperwork. "When was the last time you actually physically relaxed?" He sits back in his chair as if he's surprised to see her.
"I-" he starts, sounding tired.
"Because I know we haven't sparred since before I went on mission, and you haven't left your office since we got back, which means you've been sitting at that desk for something like eighteen hours, and this isn't acceptable, Director."
"I'm busy," he tries, and she crosses her arms, shifts her weight and stares at him. "Insubordination, Agent," he says, but quirks a smile, stretches his shoulders and tilts his head to the side. His neck makes an alarming noise.
"Coulson," she says. "I know you've got paperwork to deal with for Ashley. I know you're busy. But you're beginning to look like alien carvings Coulson again. May's off base right now, which means it's up to me to bully you out of that chair, and believe me, I will." He sighs.
"Okay, okay, I believe you. I'll go to bed, are you happy?"
"Will you sleep?" He winces.
"How did you-"
"Please," she says. "You don't look as if you've been sleeping. Sir."
"Well then, what do you..."
"Go change," she says. "I'll meet you down in the gym." She goes to the gym, flicks on the sauna, grabs two bottles of water. Coulson appears, looking a little less like a shambles now that he's out of his creased and rumpled suit and has changed into workout gear.
"I think it's a bit late for sparring," he tells her seriously, and she snorts.
"Neither of us are in a state for that, Coulson. We're going to sweat it out." The sauna's heated; she opens the door, pushes him in with a hand pressed to his back. He sits down, leaving careful space for her. Skye waits, quiet, because she's not sure he's ready to speak, but she knows something is bothering him. The heat is as good as always; she's not just doing this to get him to relax. She needs it too.
Eventually Coulson settles, stretches his back and rolls out his neck again. His shoulders and neck make the same crunching noises, and Skye frowns. She stands up before she can overthink it, climbs up to sit on the upper tier of benches. "Sir," she says. "Come here."
"Skye..." Coulson says, sounding unsure, and she tilts her head, indicates the space between her feet.
"Just... come sit, okay?" He shrugs, moves over until he's sitting between her legs, careful not to touch her. She puts her hands on his shoulders, very light and purposeful. "A while back you mentioned implanted memories, from Tahiti. If this... if it triggers something, tell me to stop, okay?"
"Yeah," he agrees, and she starts to massage out his muscles. It's hard, over the t-shirt; she thinks her fingers would slide better against his skin, would press out the tension more easily.
"You should take your shirt off," she tells him, and it feels easy, in the dark heat. He pulls it off without a word, tugging it over his head, and she starts back up, working gently at first, until she thinks his muscles have warmed up to her touch. Then she digs her fingers in harder, traces his musculature down between his shoulderblades, into the knots around his spine.
"Fuuuuuuuuuck," he sighs, leans into her touch until her thighs are pressed against his sides. She keeps going, thinking of how he'd massaged her back, her shoulders, trying to imitate it. Her fingers seem to know what to do, anyway, where to press to make him groan and sigh and melt under her touch. It's making something coil hot inside her, but she pushes it down. This isn't about sex, it's about touch, about comfort, about something they both need. She slides her hands down over his shoulders, his biceps, picks up his arms and places them resting lightly across her thighs. He wraps his fingers around her knees, immediately, grips hard.
She runs her fingers up his neck, into his hair, scrapes her nails lightly across his scalp, and he makes a noise so good that she makes one in return, something high and breathy.
"Is that... is it good?" she asks.
"Skye," Coulson breathes, his voice low.
"Do you like it?" she asks again. "You know I like the touching thing. Me touching you? Do you like it?"
"Yes," he says. "Yes." She brushes her fingers down the sides of his neck, slides them along the delicate spot of skin just behind his ear, and he makes that noise again. She leans into him, spreads her thighs a little wider. Maybe it's a bit about sex, Skye thinks, because having her hands on Phil Coulson is maybe even better than having his hands on her.
She starts massaging at the knot of muscle at the base of his neck, pushes a hand back up into his hair and gently pulls his head back until he's leaning against her. "Oh god," he sighs, relaxes into her all at once in a rush. "That- god, Skye."
Do you know what we're doing here? she wants to ask, because she's curious, she's so curious, she wants to know (and she wants, she thinks). She bites it back, asks instead, "Feeling more relaxed?"
"Yeah," he says. "Yeah. I was worried. The mission. Losing contact. I was terrified, actually. I can't compartmentalize it anymore, and that's terrifying too, when you've been an agent as long as I have."
"Me too," she tells him, honest and open. "It's a compromised position, right?"
"Yeah," he says again. "But it's been that way for a while." He's silent, for a moment. "The upgrade was approved," he says. "I can't help but feel - well, if I'd had it, maybe it would have blocked Ashley's power too. Maybe the ICER wouldn't have been necessary."
"That'd be good," Skye agrees, because anything that means she doesn't have to shoot more terrified tiny pre-teens is good, is excellent. "Perhaps we'll be a Welcome Wagon duo."
"Welcome to SHIELD, I'm the Director, please excuse me while I block your power with my weird metal hand," Coulson snarks, and Skye laughs. He strokes a thumb across her knee, and despite the fact that they're pressed against each other already, the touch vibrates through her. "I'm going to Korea tomorrow," he says quietly. "I'll be gone a few days. I'd ask you to come with me, but-"
"I need to be here for Ashley. Lincoln and I talked about it, he thinks it's a good idea for me to be her transitioner," she says, matter-of-fact (but proud, too, that Lincoln agrees with her on this, can see that SHIELD's trying better than it did before. She wants SHIELD to be better than it was, for people like her).
"Yeah," Coulson agrees. "When I come back, we'll spar again? Properly?"
"Sure," Skye says. She's pretty excited, actually.
"No holding back," Coulson tells her, and she actually shivers at the thought, the implications. He shifts, stands up, turns to face her, and Skye realizes she can see his scar, still livid across his chest. She reaches out without thinking, stills her hand just in time. "You can," he says. "Touch it, I mean. It's okay. It's good." She doesn't touch it; instead she trails her fingers down his chest, over his stomach, until she reaches the bone of his hip, and grabs his waistband, pulls him in closer. He closes his eyes, steps into her space, and she leans forward, brushes her lips lightly over his scar, traces the shape of it. Coulson makes a shocked noise, pulls in a loud breath, lets his hand fall onto her shoulder.
Skye can taste salt on her lips, and she wants to keep going, wants to stand up and kiss Coulson properly, but she's wanted that for so long, now. She can wait.
He's gone longer than she expects, almost a full week, but she's busy with Ashley, helping her understand the change, and the time passes quickly. Ashley's practicing in the hangar, since it's a safely huge space, when Skye hears the Quinjet, and her heart jolts in her chest.
"We'll leave it there for today," she says, pats Ashley on the shoulder, and then Coulson's off the jet, looking tired but pleased, impeccably buttoned up in a dark grey suit. Skye can't help it; she stares, takes in every detail of his face. It feels suddenly like forever since she saw him last (half undressed in a sauna, her brain says, and she sighs a little at the thought). She wants to hug him, to press her face into the crease of his neck, but May's there, Mack too, not to mention Ashley, so instead she puts it all into her smile. "Hey, Director," she says, carefully casual, but the way he looks back at her, she thinks he knows.
"Agent Johnson," he replies, smiling much more easily. "Is this Ashley?"
"Yeah," Skye says, pride coloring her tone. "Ashley, this is Coulson. Director Coulson. He's who came to get us, when I picked you up."
"Oh!" Ashley says. "Hi!"
"How're things..." Coulson asks, flicking his gaze back to Skye, and she grins wider.
"We've got a future Agent in training, right here. A bit too young yet though, right? But she's picking up control really quickly, and I think she'll be ready to go home in another week or two." Ashley smiles, shy but happy.
"I want to be just like Agent Skye," she tells Coulson. "She's awesome."
"Yeah," Coulson agrees. "She really is." Skye blushes for what feels like no real reason, makes eye contact and then drops her eyes to his new hand, raises her eyebrows. "It went well," he adds, in response to her unasked question. "Interested in trying it out?"
"Sure," Skye says, because yeah, she's definitely interested in trying no-holds-barred sparring for once. "Right now? I'm dressed for it, but, uh, your suit's a little constricting."
"Very funny, Agent," Coulson replies. "Give me half an hour, yeah?"
Somehow, when they get to the gym, it's suspiciously full of people. "Skye's fighting the Director," she hears Fitz say to Mack, "it's gonna like that scene in the Matrix where Morpheus and Neo take each other on."
"Fitz," Skye says dryly. "One, sparring's not a spectator sport, as you well know, and two, it's really not going to be like that scene. And three, also, you know we've been training for months, right?" Fitz flushes, stammers, looks abashed, and she relents, pats him on the shoulder. "Whatever," she says, because she doesn't care that much. "Stay. You might learn something."
Coulson frowns, when he steps onto the mats. "Didn't think we'd have such an audience," he quips, and she smirks.
"Apparently it's going to be a "Matrix level fight". Don't ask me why. All these rubberneckers want a show."
"We'd better get on with it then, right?" he asks, begins their warm-up, and then Skye throws a low kick, tries to sweep his feet out from under him, and it's on. They move like always, hit and block and kick and block and flip and block and hit, and then Coulson raises an eyebrow, flicks his new metal fingers, and Skye grins, pushes her vibration at him in a way she hasn't done before. He blocks with his hand, jabs a punch to her ribs, and she spins out, balances against air, lets her mind empty of distraction and her body move. Coulson grabs her, pushes her off-balance by blocking her power, and she knows it's coming so she rolls into it, pushes back up, hits him again with a surge of vibrating energy.
"Whoa, is she..." she distantly hears Mack ask.
"Yes, look at these readings, they're incredible, I'd love to get the dwarves in and map this properly..." he replies, and Skye sucks in a breath, tunes them out, moves with Coulson's next move. It's incredible, fighting like this. He blocks just enough, letting her quake while trusting he won't get hurt, and it makes their moves quicker, harder, sends her breathless not just with how hard she's fighting but with the sheer joy of using her power like this. She thinks, very briefly, that he might have the advantage - his hand hits harder, pushes her into another roll and he grabs her wrist - but she flips him down over her and springs herself back up in a push-pull reaction that has her muscles screaming.
"Yield!" Coulson says, before she can pin him. "Yield, hell, Agent, you're something." Skye grins, pulls him to his feet.
"Good fight," she tells him, sincerely, and he grins too, hard and wild. She doesn't think she's ever fought like that. Her blood's singing and she can feel her power like an earthquake deep in her bones.
Skye showers, dresses again in a soft flannel shirt and comfy leggings, tries to calm herself down, but it's impossible. She can't think of anything else. She does paperwork, badly, and chews her pen until there are teeth marks in the plastic. Hacks some of SHIELD's files for fun, and realizes she's absently shredding the hem of her shirt. She gives up, goes to Coulson's office. He's back in his suit, going through the stacks of files that have built up in his absence, and she closes the door behind herself loud enough that he looks up, pushes himself back in his chair. She comes over to his desk, perches on the edge, runs a finger along the file he's been working on. Coulson's watching her very intently.
"So," she says, because she's done waiting. "I've been wondering. Do you fuck like you fight?"
"Jesus Christ, Skye, I thought you'd never ask," Coulson growls, crowds her in against the desk and slams his mouth on hers so hard she thinks it might bruise. Which is fine, which is fucking great, because she's kissing back just as hard, clinging to him, her fingers digging painfully into his upper arms.
"God, you, you're back in a suit," she says, breaking away to tug his tie off, unbutton his collar so she can get her mouth on his throat. Coulson makes that noise she likes so much, a moan that burns hot and tense inside her, and he pushes up closer against her, gets his hands up inside her shirt. "A suit," she says again, bites at the tender spot behind his ear, wraps her legs around his waist. "Like you're this relentlessly professional Director or something and not the guy who's been driving me crazy with touching for months." Coulson gives her a look, his eyes dark and full of heat, and instead of unbuttoning her shirt he just lifts it straight off over her head, kisses her again, grazes her lip with his teeth.
"Like you can talk," he breathes against her mouth. "That, in the sauna, fucking hell, I just wanted to touch you everywhere."
"You like me touching you," she whispers, gets his shirt all the way unbuttoned and pushes it off along with his jacket. "You like having my hands on you. Tell me what else you like. Do you like touching me?"
"Fuck," he groans, "yes. So much." He cups her breast, rubs a thumb across her nipple, and it hardens even through the lace of her bra. Coulson growls again, very low, and bends down to nip at her through the fabric. Skye makes a noise that's loud, and he looks up at her, his eyes darkening even more.
"You need to take me to bed," she manages, "or fuck me right here on your desk, I don't care which." Coulson appears to consider his options then picks her up, her legs still wrapped around his waist. He carries her a few steps into his bedroom, closes and locks the door behind them. His bunk's not huge, but it's big enough, Skye thinks. She tugs his t-shirt off, struggles out of her bra, moans at the feeling of his skin against hers. She feels like she's full of heat, like they're going to burn up from the inside.
She brings her feet down to the floor, considers the sparring move she could use to get Coulson pinned, presses up against him instead and kisses him long and hard and breathless, pushes him up against the door, and slides to her knees. "Skye," he gets out, as she unbuckles his pants, pushes them down. His cock's long and thick and hard, and she pauses for just a moment, looks up at him, because she wants to see his face, wants to know what he feels, wants. When she wraps her mouth around him, he groans loudly, throws his head back against the door, tangles his hand into her hair. "Skye, I can't, fuck, I, oh god," he gasps, and she gives him a filthy look, sucks him in deeper. His fingers tighten almost unconsciously in her hair and it makes her moan around him, a noise that gets him pushing his hips up into it. He pulls her back to her feet, kisses her wet and dirty.
"You wanted to know how I fuck, I think," he says, and he sounds wrecked but still manages to give her a teasing look. "The answer is, comprehensively."
"Prove it," Skye replies, hooks her hands in her leggings and pulls them smoothly off. She's not wearing any underwear. Coulson looks at her for one long moment, then picks her up again, kisses her hard and carries her to the bed. She gets her legs around him, grinds down against his cock, makes a breathy noise at how fucking good it feels, and he pushes her down onto the bed.
"Do you know how wet you are," he murmurs, presses a hand between her legs and rubs a finger hard over her clit, lowering his head to get her nipple in his mouth again, and she cries out, arches up into his touch. "You, god, Skye, you're so wet, it makes me just want to-"
"Do it," she says, "fucking, just, don't you dare stop touching my clit, right there, fuck, fuck, yes, Phil, that's-" Coulson pushes two fingers into her, hard and deep, his thumb on her clit, and she thinks she comes on the spot. He fucks her straight through it, until she's shaking and gasping for breath, then pulls his fingers out, sucks them into his mouth. Skye's eyes widen and she pulls him down for a kiss, tastes herself on him, and decides that now, yeah, now's a perfect time to use that sparring move. She flips them, presses down on top of him, her hands on his wrists.
"Pinned you," she laughs, and he smiles up at her.
"Maybe I just liked having you on top all along," he suggests, with a raised eyebrow, and it's enough that she stops fucking around, just rubs against his cock and slides smooth down on it, all wet heat. It makes Coulson moan loud enough that it's almost a shout, and yeah, it's good, it's so good, he feels so hot and thick inside her, it's almost too much to handle. "Skye," he says, his eyes wide and pupils blown and black, and she starts rolling her hips, fucking him in earnest. She can feel her orgasm building again, almost immediately, but she wants more, wants to surrender into it, so she flips them back, rolling their weight with practiced ease.
"Comprehensive fucking," she tells him. "That's what you promised." And to Coulson's credit, he begins to thrust hard into her, hitting a spot that feels so good she can't stop making noise, just lets their bodies move. "Oh god," she pretty much screams, "oh, oh, oh fuck," and presses her wrist to her mouth, bites it, because she's pretty sure his quarters aren't soundproofed. Coulson pulls her hand away, wraps his fingers around her wrists and pushes them possessively down above her head, fucks her even harder, and she can't help it, she's coming again, arching up against him and screaming into his mouth. He moans sharply, comes in a final hard thrust, collapses against her. They're both sweat-slick and gasping for breath.
"That," she manages eventually, "that was, yeah, comprehensive, good job us." She runs a hand softly down his back, feels him smile against the side of her neck.
"You're okay?" he asks, pushing himself off so he can lie beside her. She leans over, pulls him in for another kiss, drapes herself across about three quarters of his chest.
"I'm so okay," she agrees, "I'm, like, the best, actually."
"You are," he says, runs his hand down her arm in a soothing motion. She's very sleepy, but there's something she has to say.
"Phil," she tells him, and he looks down at her. "I've waited for this for a long time. You know that, right?"
"I do," he murmurs, soft and tender. "I love you too."
"Yeah," she smiles, her mouth against his scar. "That's about the size of it." Coulson's her sparring partner, her backup, her Director, her failsafe, but mostly he's just Coulson. She feels very lucky, and very relaxed, and very happy. This has been extremely worth waiting for.