So it turns out that Coulson is an insufferable coffee snob. Skye figures this out approximately three days after joining the team, when she brings him a cup of coffee from the Bus kitchen's perfectly decent coffee pot, and he takes one sip and makes a face.
"Sugar? Creamer?" she asks, drops a couple of sugar packets and some coffee creamer on his desk. He shakes his head, sets the cup down.
"I'll pass. Thanks. God, we've got to get a better coffee machine. How long's that stuff been brewing?" Skye shrugs, empties three sugars and two vanilla creamers into her own coffee. It tastes fine to her. Better than a lot of diner coffee, that's for sure, and definitely better than the Sanka instant coffee she'd turned to when things got really bad and she didn't even have two bucks for diner coffee and wi fi. Sometimes she didn't even have sugar, and instant coffee with no sugar is pretty damn gross.
"...You're still in my office," Coulson adds, looks quizzically at her, because she's settled down in a corner next to his desk with her cup of coffee and her laptop.
"Oh, do you... should I leave?" she asks, flashes him a grin, and although she fully expects him to say yes, he looks appraisingly at her for one long moment, shrugs, and goes back to his files. Skye sips her coffee, wriggles down into her armchair, and enjoys how companionable it is.
When she finishes her cup, she sets it aside, reaches for his untouched one, because waste not, want not, and it's totally reasonable coffee. Coulson looks up, frowns when he sees her adding more sugar and creamer.
"I've drunk from that, you know," he says. Skye stirs the sugar in, lifts it to her mouth.
"So? You've taken, like, one sip, and I doubt you have any major cooties. Oh my god, do you have major cooties I should know about?"
"Go on, get out of my office," Coulson replies, but he's holding back laughter, Skye can tell. She takes his coffee - her coffee - with her.
Skye's not usually a morning person, but the 6am training sessions are kind of changing that. She still hates mornings; she's just awake to hate them now. Which means that even though Ward's given her this morning off, she wakes up early anyway, lies in her bunk for just long enough to know she's totally not getting back to sleep. She sighs, pulls on jeans and a flannel shirt, and thinks maybe she'll take the opportunity to make the team pancakes instead. Pancakes will cheer her up.
When she gets to the kitchen, Coulson's already there, already in a suit (and how, is he a robot or what, she wonders) and he's going through some kind of incredibly complex procedure to make what should really be a very simple cup of coffee. He has his own beans, and his own glass pot, and Jesus the man has his own grinder, what even.
It smells really good, though. The fresh-ground beans are rich and earthy, just a hint of bitter chocolate, and Skye sighs a little at the aroma. Coulson doesn't jump, because he's a consummate professional (robot spy agent) but he turns around, looks surprised to see her.
"You're up early," he says, his voice questioning, and she sighs again, shakes her head.
"Ward's got me up every morning training, I think he's trying to kill my ability to sleep in," she explains. "Figured I'd make pancakes. You want?"
"Sure," Coulson agrees. "You want a cup of coffee?"
"Yeah, please," Skye groans, fervently, expecting him to fill up the filter pot and switch it on. Instead, he reaches over and fills the electric kettle Fitzsimmons use to make their tea, unfolds a paper filter and tucks it into the mouth of his glass flask.
"It's a Chemex," he says conversationally. "Pourover coffee is really great, actually, but there's a bit of a method to it." Skye slides up onto one of the bar stools, hooks her ankles around the legs, rests her chin on her hands. She's still not that awake, actually, and watching Coulson make arcane snob method coffee sounds like a great time. He pours hot water onto the paper filter until it's soaked, pours out the water from the flask, carefully adds coffee grounds, then adds more water, pauses, checks his watch and sets a timer.
"This is really involved," Skye observes. "Like, really involved." Coulson smiles, and it's not fair that his smile makes her a bit breathless. She must still be half asleep.
"I like good coffee, what can I say. Audrey bought me this in Portland, actually. It's a fair trade organic Ethiopian roast." The timer goes off, and he starts pouring more water over the grounds, very slowly. Recognisably black coffee drips down through the filter into the flask, just like a drip pot, and Coulson sets down the kettle, waits for the water to finish filtering through, then throws away the paper filter and grounds, swirls the flask a few times, pours coffee into two cups, and slides one across the bench to her.
"Black," Skye says, skeptical.
"Try it," Coulson replies, blandly. "You might be surprised. Pourover really highlights those floral and fruit top notes." Skye sips it, wrinkles her nose, because yeah, it's alright black coffee, but it's black coffee.
"Pass me the cream?" she asks. "And the sugar?"
"Heathen," Coulson teases. "No taste at all."
"I just like things sweet," Skye shrugs. "Still want pancakes?"
"Yeah," he says, and she narrows her eyes.
"Then pass me the cream and sugar, and you'll actually get some." Coulson watches her dump cream and sugar into her cup, winces a little, but to his credit, he doesn't say anything, just flicks on the coffee pot for the rest of the team.
The pancakes, at least, they agree on.
Skye and Coulson are on a stakeout, and she's really trying not to fidget but to be fair, they've been sitting in the SUV for something like nine hundred hours, and she's both exhausted and wired. She needs to stretch her legs. She really needs to pee.
She yawns, and Coulson sighs, flicks a glance over at her. "Tired?" he asks, and she shrugs.
"Not really. Just... I didn't know stakeouts were so boring," she admits, and he laughs.
"Yeah, it's not all action." He yawns before he can stop himself, grimaces. "Ugh, you've got me going now. Fitz didn't pack any more of those energy drinks, did he?"
"No," Skye says, and grimaces too. "To be honest, I dunno that they'd be, uh, a good idea right now. I gotta use the bathroom, sir, and let me tell you, I'm not going in the back of an SUV to pee in a water bottle like Ward suggested." Coulson looks aghast.
"Oh god, no," he agrees, shifts around a little and pulls his wallet out of his back pocket. "You think there's any place near here open at 4am that sells coffee?"
"Starbucks, two blocks south," she says promptly, and then, "what? I like their frappucinos!"
"I bet you do," Coulson agrees darkly, pulls out twenty bucks and hands it to her. "Go get us some coffee, will you? Use the bathroom while you're there."
"Sure you'll be okay while I'm gone? What if, uh, the suspect shows up?"
"I am fully armed and I have backup a radio away," he reminds her, and she stops arguing, tosses a quick salute at him, because she's got to be honest, taking a walk and peeing and buying coffee sounds like such a great option right now.
"I'll be right back," she promises. "Any requests?"
"Just... I don't know, nothing froofy," he tells her, looking pained. "And not their regular coffee, they always burn the shit out of it."
"Not froofy and not regular, right, I'm sure I'll find something right in between those two," she teases, pulls up her hood.
When she gets back, though, she thinks she's done fairly well. She hands him a paper cup, digs in her pocket for the change while balancing her own cup carefully in one hand. It's very large.
"What is this?" Coulson asks, sounding a little suspicious.
"I dunno, it's, like, a flat white? It's something new they're trying out, the barista said something about how it's the hip new thing for all the third wave coffee snobs. Something about artisanal beans, microfoam, it sounded like your sort of fancy thing," she says, distracted by her own drink. Shit yeah, it's really good.
Coulson takes a sip, makes an interested face, sips again. "Hmm, that's not bad, actually. And what are you drinking, I hesitate to ask."
"Venti quad-shot two-pump caramel four-pump white mocha latte with chocolate sprinkles and extra extra whip," Skye tells him, with satisfaction. He frowns.
"You know you're drinking a candy bar, right?" he replies.
"It's really good," she argues, offers him her cup.
"No, thank you, I am so fine," he says, flatly. Skye shrugs, because more for her. She pulls the lid off, rummages in the glove box for a spoon so she can eat her whip. Coulson gives her an odd look.
"Do I... have I got whipped cream on my face, or something?" she asks, because that's the only reason she can think of for that look. He shakes his head, blinks, and she sighs in satisfaction as she takes another mouthful.
"Hey Coulson," Skye says, leaning in the doorframe of his office. "Coming down? I think the team's about to start singing carols."
"No," he replies, looking distracted and busy. "I... wait, what are you drinking?"
"Uh, it's a, um, mint stick mocha? May made it, she said it's her secret recipe." She takes a sip. "It's pretty good, actually." Coulson stands up, pulls his tie loose, and doesn't quite run over to her, but it's a near thing.
"Can I-" he says, takes the mug from her and inhales deeply then takes a gulp. "Oh yeah, that's the good stuff."
"Sir, you hate froofy drinks. What even," she asks, takes her cup back from him and notices how she has to pry his fingers loose. This is significantly more difficult given they're his metal robot fingers.
"I do," he agrees. "With one exception. Melinda May's homemade Christmas mint stick mochas."
Half an hour later, Skye finds herself leaning up against Coulson, feeling very pleased with the world in general.
"You know what we could be doing right now?" she tells him, and he raises his eyebrows. "I bet there's mistletoe around here, right? Sir?"
"Mistle- Skye, how many of those have you had?" Coulson asks, looking a little concerned.
"Uh, one and... one quarter?" Skye guesses, leans against him a little harder. "You know, you're very warm, Director. It's... nice. I can feel your vibrations, did you know that? They're all... vibrating." She peers up at his face, which feels blurrier than it should be. "You have a very nice face too, sir. Did you know? I like your face. It's very nice." Coulson takes the mug off her, very delicately.
"May, you didn't doctor this any harder than usual, right?" he asks, and May shakes her head.
"Still not sharing my secret recipe, but it's Kahlua and peppermint schnapps, just like always," she says. Coulson frowns.
"Come on," he tells Skye. "Time to go visit Doctor Simmons."
"My guess would be that her Inhuman biology doesn't metabolize hard liquor the way it should," Simmons says, shining a little torch in Skye's eyes. "Professional opinion? She's just really drunk. Sir." Skye thinks that's totally unfair, because Jemma has been drinking mint stick mochas too. She bets Jemma is really drunk. She just feels great.
"Congratulations, you're a superhuman lightweight," Coulson tells Skye. "No more mint stick mochas for you. I'll make you a plain hot chocolate." She frowns.
"Aww, mint stick mochas, no," she says, sadly. Coulson does an odd double take.
"Just to clarify, you don't know Barton, do you?" he asks, way more suspiciously than is warranted.
"What, Hawkeye? Yes, I'm totally secret friends with one of the Avengers," she replies, rolling her eyes. "I've never met the guy. That's more your field of expertise, remember?"
"Just... checking," Coulson says. "Let's get you a hot chocolate, okay?" Skye nods, a bit miserably. She can feel herself sobering up, and remembering that she just told the Director of SHIELD that she likes his vibrations and his nice face is a Christmas gift she could really do without.
She spends the rest of the night drinking her boring, plain hot chocolate and scowling every time Coulson gets another cup of mint stick mocha. It is very unfair. The next morning she remembers her comment about mistletoe, and that's even worse. She's never going to look at Coulson again.
Turns out Skye has to look at Coulson again, because he's her partner on the Caterpillar missions, and so her choices are to remain in a world of awkwardness viz-a-viz mint stick mocha-induced drunken hitting on, or pretend it never happened and treat things mostly like normal. She goes with the latter. But because the universe is apparently testing her, their current mission involves sitting in a very nice restaurant, pretending they're a normal sweet couple on a normal sweet dinner date, and Coulson keeps giving her that smile that makes her breathless. She's pretty sure it was the smile that made her tell him his face was nice, too.
Skye's wearing a black dress she borrowed from Jemma (turns out Jemma owns a dress, which surprises Skye, because she'd assumed Jemma was basically born in a blazer and a lady tie and great pants) and it's not too over the top, doesn't make her too uncomfortable, but it's a lot shorter on Skye than it is on Jemma. She's glad the tablecloth hides her bare legs. She's wearing red lipstick though, something Bobbi and Jemma had both told her looked great, but enh, she's not so sure. It's not really her. She guesses that's the point.
They make it through dinner without the target showing up, and Coulson raises an eyebrow at her.
"Uh... no, I'm fine," she says, and he frowns.
"Really? I've never known you to pass up the opportunity for sugar. Well, we've got to stay a bit longer and see if he shows." He asks the waiter for espresso, and Skye sighs. Now she wishes she'd ordered dessert.
The coffee shows up in ridiculously tiny cups, with ridiculously tiny almond cookies balanced on the saucer along with a teaspoon, and she eats her cookie slowly, raises her cup to sip and makes an involuntary face.
"No good?" Coulson asks, and Skye sighs again.
"No, it's just... it's stupid, actually. Don't worry."
"Wishing you'd gotten dessert?" he teases, taking an appreciative sip of his own coffee.
"Yes, actually, but... I don't know. I'm just not... you're used to places like this, right?" You're used to dates with, I don't know, women who know how to enjoy fair trade espresso and tiny cookies and candlelight, she doesn't say. Coulson sees it on her face anyway.
"Are you worried that I think less of you because you don't like fancy coffee?" he asks in mild disbelief. "That's- ridiculous, Skye, seriously. Anyway, your love for impossibly sweet coffee is extremely endearing."
You think I'm endearing? Skye doesn't say, again, but her coffee tastes a little sweeter after that. Actually, no, it really doesn't, but Coulson flags down the waiter, asks for the dessert menu after all, and while Skye eats white chocolate mousse with raspberry praline, Coulson takes her coffee and drinks it too.
When he puts down the cup, he has a smudge of her lipstick in the center of his lower lip - it must have transferred off the rim of the cup, she thinks - and she can't quite hide a smirk when she sees it.
"You, uh, you have..." she says, and Coulson looks confused, licks his lip, but it doesn't catch the tint. Skye reaches out, before she can think better of it, and wipes it away with her thumb. His tongue brushes accidentally against her thumb as she does, and she sighs again, goes back to her dessert, doesn't think about leaning across the table and kissing lipstick properly onto his mouth.
When they leave, Coulson helps her slide on her jacket, presses his hand attentively to her lower back. He looks a little flushed, and she can feel through the minute vibrations in the air that his heart is beating a little faster. She can't tell whether it's because of her short dress or the thing with the lipstick or the fact that he's just drunk two cups of espresso. Probably it's the latter. That's a lot of caffeine, she thinks.
Skye's new secret base is really something, and she loves it especially because it's hers, but she has to admit, it gets lonely when she's on assignment and there's nobody else around. So when Coulson turns up to go over their briefings, she's maybe a little more excited to see him than she otherwise would be.
When it turns out he's brought groceries to cook her dinner, she's definitely more excited to see him. She remembers the grilled cheese he made her, and Jemma still talks about the time he cooked fancy steak and organic kale. (Skye might have asked her to tell the story a couple of times. It's interesting, okay.)
He makes linguine, arugula salad, grilled chicken, and Skye doesn't mention the freezer dinners she's been living on, because she has some pride. He probably knows already. She gathers up their plates when they're done eating, rinses them under the faucet before stacking the dishwasher, and Coulson leans against the kitchen bench, watching her thoughtfully. She spirals water at him playfully, and he jerks backwards, more indignant than surprised.
"Hey! Mind the suit!" he says, except that he's dressed down to his shirt and slacks, so she smirks wide at him.
"You can help with the dishes or you can get wet, those are your options."
"What if I make us dessert?" he asks, and she gives him a hopeful look.
"Dessert would be... acceptable," she tells him, and he grins, then turns to tinker with the espresso machine. "Hey, you do remember I'm not a fan of espresso, right?" she adds hastily, and he grins a little more. Breathless, she thinks, super breathless, why, Phil, why do you do this to me.
"You'll like this," he says confidently, and she shrugs, because Coulson's usually pretty right about things Skye will like.
"I knew you'd come visit eventually," Skye says. "Why else would this base have a super fancy espresso machine, huh?"
"Oh, you noticed that, did you?" Coulson asks, deep in concentration as he pulls a shot of espresso. His tongue's sticking out a little. Skye finds it probably more endearing than she should. She definitely doesn't want to lean in and distract him right now. (She totally wants to do that. She's had a while to get used to this concept of her hopeless yearning crush, okay.) "Hey, can you grab that ice cream out of the freezer?"
"I didn't even know we had ice cream," Skye replies as she reaches in to grab it, opens the silverware drawer for a teaspoon. "Another one of your supplies? It must be, it's the fancy shit." Coulson gives her a very serious look.
"It's just vanilla bean, Skye, that doesn't make it fancy, that just makes it good quality." She snickers, pulls the lid off and steals a bite straight from the tub. Coulson gives her another look. "I don't know why I bother sometimes," he sighs dramatically, takes the ice cream off her and spoons a neat scoop into a small bowl. Then he pours the espresso over it, hands her the bowl. "Here," he says. "Try this. Coffee snob, meet sweet tooth." Skye gives him a look of her own, scoops off a small spoonful and tries it a little dubiously.
It's perfect. The ice cream is just beginning to melt under the heat of the coffee, and it's all cool creamy vanilla sweetness offset by the rich bitterness of the espresso. She wants this, like, forever. She eats another bite, bigger this time, and groans a little with joy. "Oh my god, Coulson, what is this, how do you not eat it all of the time," she demands, with enthusiasm. "Seriously, you've gotta try it," she tells him, scoops up a spoonful and holds it to his lips. He accepts it, pulls the spoon slowly into his mouth, and Skye realizes they're both holding eye contact very intently.
"It's good," he agrees. "That's why I made it." He has a drop of melted ice cream and espresso on his bottom lip, where she's accidentally wobbled the spoon. Skye stops thinking, leans in, licks it off his mouth, and Coulson sighs into it, brings his hand up to rest lightly against her waist. Skye pauses for a moment, her lips close to his, and then goes for it, presses her mouth properly against his. She kisses Coulson thoroughly, the way she's wanted to for so long now. He tastes bittersweetly of vanilla and espresso and sugar. It's perfect.
The ice cream melts. Neither of them care.
Coulson and Skye are on a mission out in the tiny back blocks of the Midwest, and Skye doesn't care because it's a gorgeous day and they're in Lola with the top down and Coulson's letting her drive. (She might have made out with him until he was breathless enough to agree. It's a good tactic.) She's thinking of stealing his sunglasses.
"Ooh, Circle K, can you pull in?" he says suddenly, and she squints at him but pulls the car into the tiny parking lot. The convenience store is pretty run-down, faded advertising hanging in the windows.
"You... urgently want some junk food?" she asks, confused.
"Got a coffee craving," he says, and she squints harder, because she's really confused.
"Coulson, you won't drink anything that's not brewed with fair trade beans. Any coffee from here will be... not that."
"Yeah, I know, don't worry, it's just... a thing," he replies, vaguely. "You want anything?"
"Snickers," she says, considering. "And a Coke." He leans over, brushes a kiss to her cheek, and goes inside. When he comes back out, he's carrying a paper cup full of coffee, and as he gets back into the car, Skye catches a whiff of it.
"Coulson, I'm pretty sure that's the worst coffee I've ever smelled," she says, takes it from him and tries a small sip because she clearly makes bad decisions. She's actively revolted by it. "Yeah, that's, like, tar. What is wrong with you."
"I like it," he says blandly. "It's fine."
"It- sir, you judge me for my frappucino obsession, but there are some depths to which even I, connoisseur of Starbucks syrup, will not sink. It's basically battery acid. And you're drinking it black. What are you doing." Coulson shrugs, takes the cup back and downs a mouthful. "I cannot believe I ever felt judged by you about my coffee habits," she mutters, and starts up the car.
Coulson keeps drinking his coffee as they drive over vast cornfields, and Skye watches him out of the corner of her eye, because he cannot be serious about this. When he finishes the cup, she catches him shudder.
"I saw that," she says. "What even, Coulson. Why did you put yourself through that." Coulson's silent for a moment.
"When I was a kid," he says eventually. "My dad would take me on road trips, occasionally. Whenever we stopped at a convenience store, he'd get a cup of coffee. We didn't drink it at home - I mean, he'd have Folgers, watery and milky and sweet, but not proper, strong coffee. After a while he'd buy me a cup too, even though I was way too young to drink it often. Felt a bit like a grown up, drinking convenience store coffee strong and black and bitter. They're some good memories to have, I guess." Skye pulls the car down, parks it in the middle of a meadow, because that's the sweetest thing she's ever heard, and she has to kiss Coulson right now.
"That's the sweetest thing I've ever heard, and I've got to kiss you a lot right now," she tells him, undoes her seatbelt and climbs into his lap. He smiles against her mouth.
"Ugh," she says. "That coffee, though. I can still taste it in your mouth."
"Sorry," Coulson apologizes.
"I'm not," Skye replies, kisses him harder. "I love you and your stupid coffee feelings. Sir."
"You love me?" Coulson says, very quietly, and Skye has to kiss him again for a long time.
"Did you have any doubt?" she says. "Phil, I- like, forever, seriously. You and your face and your smile that makes me all breathless."
"Oh," Coulson says. "Oh. Fuck, Skye, you should have- Skye. We could have had so long already."
"Well," she replies. "We got there eventually, right."
"Yeah," he agrees, sounding breathless himself, and Skye thinks of the rest of their lives stretching out in front of them, of sweet kisses and Coulson's mouth on her skin and sleepy, contented mornings with pancakes and syrup and good coffee. It's a great promise to have.