The first week they work with Hartley's team, one of the new guys -- big, shoulders wide like a doorway, voice deep like a bass guitar -- doesn't call her by her name once; she doesn't like him. It's weird, because everyone likes Mack, from Coulson to Trip to probably May. In her opinion, it's easy to like Mack when the other point of comparison is Hunter, and Hunter -- well, he grates on everyone's nerves and seems proud of it being his superpower. It's just harder for Skye to jump on the wagon of being a fan of Mack, for a simple reason.
He doesn't call her by her name. Even after running checkpoint on a dangerous mission to take down HYDRA operatives, even after she proves time and again that she's badass and deserves to be on the team, it's still a fond, condescending "Nice job, rookie," she gets out of him, at best.
And she's not chasing, okay. She is perfectly fine with not having a best friend in everyone on the team, but apparently Mack is like her new May, now that Agent May is her S.O. and kind of probably likes her.
Trip notices it. The disgruntled shrug Skye directs at Mack when he compliments her latest successful mission with a "not bad, rookie". Trip has a way of doing that, taking one look at her and reading her like an open book; he's not a Ops planner, but she thinks he could be, and be a goddamn good one at that. If the ops he had to plan had anything to do with picking up on Skye's moments of feeling inferior.
"That's just Agent Mackenzie being fond, you know," is what he tells her, placating her glare with an open bottle of beer he hands her. "Don't hold it against him, girl, he's been around SHIELD, doing what we do, probably as long as you've been computers. You'd call me a rookie if I tried to pick up hacking, wouldn't you?"
Yes, but she wouldn't sound all condescending about it, she thinks to herself. "Fine, mom, I'll play nice with the other kids," she grouses, and hides her smile in the beer bottle when her attitude makes Trip laugh.
She still doesn't think she likes Mack.
She watches from her little glass cage while Mack is being checked and discharged from quarantine. He looks like he's lost a piece of himself down there, under the city of San Juan, and that's the only reason Skye stares, when she's aware she's staring. Now this makes them three; herself, Coulson, and Mack. All of them, affected by whatever happened down in the underground city. All three of them having lost pieces of themselves to the Kree.
Some of them, big pieces; shaped like a wonderful man with a heart of gold and eyes that were constantly smiling, the sort of man who'd make himself a part of your heart in the blink of an eye, and leave you empty. She fills the Trip-shaped hole in her soul with guilt, and I could have, and it aches, and aches, and aches.
The chair in her quarantine box rattles a little, and she jumps. She jumps a lot lately; everyone thinks it's because of what happened down in the tunnels, some sort of PTSD she's going through, recently developped claustrophobia, whatever. In reality, Skye is terrified of what's happening inside her, of what she's become.
"Agent," comes through the plexiglass, in Mack's deep voice. He makes himself heard from across the room, even when his voice is shaky; how she can tell so specifically that his voice trembles, she doesn't know, but it scares her. She looks up at him, in expectance, but he leaves it at that. No 'rookie', no 'Skye', none of the cute little nicknames he's been giving everyone else lately; just Agent.
She has to remind herself that Trip was his friend too, and if he blames her for his death, well -- he's not wrong. Everyone else is pussyfooting around her about it, but she knows that's the truth. She killed her best friend, intentionally or not, and she'll carry that with him for as long as she lives. The grim nod she gives Mack takes effort.
"I'm sorry for your loss," he says, just as grim back at her, and then looks away and focuses on what the doctors are telling him.
Skye tries not to use his words as an anchor. She fails.
What shocks her the most when she wakes up, is finding who it is actually who's sitting in the chair next to her bed.
She expects it to be Cal, but it wouldn't make sense at all, would it? Why would Cal be allowed out of restraints, he's on eggshells with SHIELD enough as it is; she doesn't know what went on at the Playground while she was in Afterlife, but she imagines whatever truce Coulson managed to strike with Cal happened because of her. It aches to wake up and realize that her father, the monster she believed him to be, is not so bad, and she won't ever get to discover that.
Mack's leaning forward in his chair as soon as she opens her eyes, and the way he says "Hey, Tremors, welcome back," makes her smile, loopy, because of painkillers and because his voice is deep and the vibrations of it tickle. She can't remember the last time she's felt tickles.
"Is that gonna be a thing? Tremors?" she manages to ask, and her voice is raspy but she tries to make it sound amused. Focus on this, on one step at a time, and nothing else. Like how her mother is now forever dead; how it was her fault.
"You don't like it?" Mack asks, and there it is again, the tickles down her skin, she's focusing too much on his voice; 'pull back,' she imagines Jiaying saying, 'try to get the ensemble feel, don't get overwhelmed'. "We can find a new one."
So, Skye thinks, maybe this was what it would've taken this whole time. Betrayal and then working together as the two-people team to take back control of an entire ship. Tremors and Mack. She lets out a feeble little laugh. "You need one, too," she tells him, and looks up at the ceiling. Inspiration is dry, like an old forgotten well. "How about the Dude?"
He lets out a dry chuckle; again, tickles. "Why don't you sleep on that?"
After they get Jemma back from her trip into Kree weapon territory, that's when Skye picks up the folder for CATERPILLARS again, and makes her request to Coulson. "I want Mack in on it."
Because he's in charge of all weird alien-related things on the base, because Skye is the biggest one, because he is big enough he'd probably be able to knock her out in case of an emergency, and more importantly because Tremors and the Dude could really catch on, she thinks.
He gets brought in on it, and of course he doesn't appreciate the secrecy but that's why he's needed on the team. Skye's subjective when it comes to Inhumans now, and she is so scared of making choices that would jeopardize either SHIELD or her people that it could make her choke. Mack, having experienced it all with his own brand of acceptance, seems like the best fit to tell her when she's being brash.
He insists on needing a better codename, but she tells him, "You called me rookie for half a year, so suck it up."
Things don't always go smoothly, with their secret missions. The media has made sure to sully the image of SHIELD, and a couple of viral videos online have alerted more than enough people towards her existence that she doesn't expect a warm welcome from every Inhuman they go visit in the hopes of offering them protection and a safe environment in which to harness their gifts.
Some Inhumans are, unfortunately, toolbags.
"I could've gotten away with millions if it weren't for you - you - Mulder and freaking Scully."
The one currently holding them at gunpoint with a horrific looking gun that she suspects he got from the new HYDRA worms crawling about, for instance, is a major toolbag.
She turns towards Mack, who is keeping pressure against the bullet graze on his shoulder, and instead of letting her heart fill with worry as it wants to, she says "Am I Scully or Mulder?"
"Don't be silly," Mack tells her, like no he's not bleeding out in this bank thank you very much. "Of course you're Mulder."
Toolbag makes a sound in front of them, like he's indignated they won't cower in fear or whatever, and she thinks Mack and her make a good team; they've gotten rolling their eyes at toolbags in synch down to an art.
"Hey, toolbag, guess what," she finally says, turning towards their friend with the gun. "Aliens are out there." She enjoys the way he screams like a girl when she makes his gun dissassemble in his hands. She sends a wave of air at him that makes him slam against the vault door, and he drops like a bag of tools that he is.
"Yeah," Mack grits out, finally betraying that the wound hurts. "You're definitely Mulder. Scully would never scoop down to bad one liners."
"Oh, shut up, Dana," she huffs, fondly, and helps him get up from the floor.
The CATERPILLARS project gets a base of operations that, for now, only hosts two people; she tries to feel bad that nobody they meet really wants to join a team of secret superheroes that save the world, but fails to. The truth is, she'd rather the small team with absolute dedication and a good moral code on them, than a base full of people who resent her for making them be warriors when all they want to be is left alone.
Every now and then, they'll have some people on base, but they're all temporary at best, there while she guides them through their powers. It's the closest she feels to her mother, in those moments. Helping people, often teenagers (too often teenagers), accept who they have become, embrace it and grow comfortable in their skins; that's surely what Jiaying used to do, before losing her drove her mad.
It's been almost half a year since she last visited Cal -- Don -- when she makes the decision. She's sitting in the common area with Mack, screens shut down after their latest conference with Coulson, plane tickets freshly acquired to take them back to the Playground. They're going all out with celebrating their return to the rest of the team this time. Mack brought out the kiddy champagne, it's pretty cute.
"I've been thinking," she finally breaks the comfortable silence, and looks at him from under her lashes in a way that means this will be important. "Of changing my name, officially."
Mack hums. "I don't think Agent Skye Tremors is going to catch on."
She snorts, and makes the drink in his glass ripple before settling back into her big armchair. "No," she corrects, soft and fond and weirdly hesistant. "To Daisy Johnson."
He looks at her quietly for a minute or so, because there's history; they have history with a lot of things, if she comes to think about it, but she can't remember the last time she trusted a person with her life as much as she does Mack. (Yes, she can. He followed her into an alien temple and died trying to save her life, and she thinks about that everytime she makes something tremble.)
"You'll need a better codename, in that case," Mack finally say, his gaze drawn down to his glass and his voice low. She wonders why his voice never makes water ripple in glasses,.
"Well, I'll leave that up to you." They share a smile, so she has to ruin it. "Seeing how you're my sidekick,you can go ahead and give yourself a cool one too."
The people they've been getting in contact with respond better to Agent Daisy Johnson than Agent Skye, so on the mission it's never been hard to assume that name. It's a name she chooses to take as her own, in the end, just like Skye was the name she chose for herself when she'd really needed to feel like she could make choices.
The team takes a while, but she still responds to being called Skye by the people she cares about, the ones that knew her from the beginning, and it's not that big of a deal. It's a slow process. And then, there's the other part.
"You know, you rarely call me by my name," she brings it up with Mack, while he's checking the straps on her new suit (damn, Coulson has a sidejob lined up if being the Director of SHIELD ever falls through for him). They're a couple of minutes away from the dropzone, as Bobbi just informed them over the radio a couple of minutes ago, and though he's rushing he's still being extra careful. He's always extra careful when it comes to making sure she'll be safe, nowadays; it gets funny, when she reminds him that she's the muscle, remember?
"You change it like you change socks," he tells her, quick and upbeat, tugging on a strap and making her have to hold onto something not to crash back into him. The muscle, right, that's her for sure.
"What, so like three times in a lifetime? Ew." She likes the way his laugh carries, how she can focus and tune into just the vibrations of his voice like they're her favourite radio show. But she's still having her moment. "No, for real, not that I don't appreciate your talent with codenames, I mean -- I'm growing really fond of the latest one--"
"Quake is a very distinguished secret superhero name," he protests, amused.
"But," she cuts in, half a smile on her face when she turns around to stare him in the clavicles. She looks up -- and up, and up -- into his eyes. "I think you're using them as a shield." At her eyebrow waggle, he rolls his eyes, because really? That pun, Daisy? Really. "Say my name."
He lets out a very fond sigh, and she has to marvel at it really; one year ago, she was pretty sure he didn't like her one bit, and now? Now she has the odd feeling that she's his favourite person. And it must be hard for him, really, given that she's not entirely human and he has his history there.
His hand, his big and heavy and warm hand, comes up to rest on her shoulder, like a comrade in arms giving her the pat for courage just before she jumps out of a plane. (With a parachute, for the record; she's not Steven Rogers, okay.) "Agent Johnson."
She rolls her eyes, and pokes him in the chest, and if she pushes at the air to make it harder and less forgiving, well; it's a delight to find out, from his barely concealed snort, that Alphonso Mackenzie is ticklish. (Get in line, she thinks, and catch up.)
"Daisy," he corrects himself, hands up in surrender. Her name trembles in his voice, she thinks Oh. "Skye," he adds, and slaps the helmet down on her head. "You're up."
Yeah, she's up. She's up on her toes, dropping a kiss to his cheek as best as she can given that he's, you know, a tower. His heartbeat says it all, but she won't tell him that until later. For now, the mission; she bounces over to where the gate's been lowered, and turns around one last time to catch Mack looking at her like he's been saying her name in his head for ages now
"Hey, you like shawarma? Because there's a place near our base, and I thought maybe we could take Lola out..."
"Are you asking me out, Tremors?"
She laughs. "Well someone's gotta make the first step," she points out, and walks backwards towards the lowered ramp. "We can't have nine seasons of people wishing Mulder and Scully hook up already."
"What about the movie?"
"Thai and movie is it, then," she shouts, over the roaring wind, as she takes the jump.
"Ohh, I got a good one, okay?" She props herself up with her elbow against his chest, and resist the urge to lift her legs and twirl her ankles like she's a teenager reading Cosmo for the first time.
Mack gives her a very patient look, though he doesn't stop twirling her hair around his finger. With her hair as short as it is now, it makes his finger brush against her jaw with every twirl, and it tickles, but she likes it.
"Trembly," she declares, because - well, he just was.
He laughs, from somewhere deep and secret within his chest, and it makes her shake a little on top of him, and she thinks wow, what an earthquake. "Why don't you stick to kicking ass for now?"
"Rude." She leans her face into the hand he cups her cheek with, and instead of hiding her big goofy smile into his palm she decides to just let him see. "I'll get you one day."
"Oh." He raises his eyebrows this time, and rolls them over with her laughter echoing around the room. "I think you did."
And yes, that pun, really. She knew she's always liked him for a reason.