She thinks she likes it here. Likes the way the team works together, likes the way they listen to her theories. Likes Agent Coulson's soft eyes, when he looks at her.
Skye hides anyway. Needs some space to herself, maybe, somewhere secret and enclosed and more private than her bunk. She's not used to so many people, not all the time, not like this. The back of the SUV's not as good as her van, not really, and she knows it's hardly going to shield her from anyone if they actually come looking. She doesn't really mind that much. It's dark, and it's quiet, and she sits there for hours, thinking about things.
"Me-time," she tells Coulson jokingly, swallows back I'm thinking about whether I can trust you. I'm wondering if I can tell you. Why I'm really here.
He won't trust her. She can't tell him. It's too important to risk, the information she might find, and Skye's never let anyone in. Even Miles thinks she's only infiltrated SHIELD for the Rising Tide. If she's being honest, she only infiltrated the Rising Tide to get better at hacking, to learn more about sifting through terabytes of data. Then fell sideways into the activism, discovered it was something she could do, something she could be passionate about.
She could be passionate about SHIELD, maybe. Coulson seems to be. Agent Coulson seems like he actually wants to help people. Maybe he could help her. It's too dangerous to ask.
He joins her, slides into the back seat at her invitation and shuts the door, leans his head back against the seat and looks at her so open and soft and easy. It doesn't make it any easier. She wants, more than ever. Did you know, AC. I have a secret. Want to hear it?
"It's nice in here," he says, as if he doesn't know she's got something on her mind, as if he just wanted to be around her. She murmurs something inane to cover herself, something about the quiet, and when the conversation peters out they sit in silence together, companionable. Skye can smell his cologne, wonders what it'd be like to touch him. She could reach out, take his hand. He probably wouldn't even mind. Perhaps he'd just think she's being friendly. Giving him nicknames, testing out vulnerability. (You value me, she'd told him, twisting her hands together in her nervousness, and Coulson had let her say it like it wasn't the hardest thing she's done in years.)
She doesn't want just to be friendly.
"Come on," he says after a pause. "I'm cooking for the team tonight."
No, she wants to say, stay here, hide with me, just for now. If she did what she wants to do right now, leaned across the seat and kissed Coulson like it was easy, maybe he would.
"Yeah," she says instead. "Okay, yeah. Got some secret recipes you're gonna impress us with, AC?"
"Hmm," Coulson hums, flashes her a grin. "Perhaps. You'll have to join SHIELD before I cook any of my secret recipes for you, though." His eyes sparkle with the joke, the teasing, and god, god, Skye wants to kiss him.
She can't, not with this secret held behind her lips. But she can hide in a back seat with him, close out the world for just a minute, and for now, that's enough.
The Bus is gone. The Providence base is gone. Eric Koenig is gone (Eric Koenig is dead, she thinks, can't stop thinking it now that it's safe for the thought to show on her face. Eric's dead, and Ward's gone too. Ward never existed.) There's nowhere left to run.
They wind up in a budget motel, one Coulson finds and pays for with a fake credit card and an embarrassed smirk at Skye when she sees the name on the ID. It's low-rent and shitty, all 70s carpet and panelling and plastic blinds, but it's not a plane with a Nazi murderer watching her every expression. It's a place to hide. It's somewhere they won't be found.
"The others are on their way," Coulson tells her, "they'll be here in a couple hours," and Skye nods, presses her lips together, looks down at her hands in her lap. They're pressed tightly together, knuckles white with the grip. She doesn't remember twisting her hands into fists like this. She doesn't remember-
She held his hand and he kissed her and he probably oh god he had Koenig's blood still on him and-
"Skye?" Coulson's asking, "Skye?" and rests his hand on her shoulder. His voice is gentle and his touch is gentler, like he's going to startle her, like she's a wild deer that should be approached delicately. She still jumps, shies away, and then he slides his hand down, lays his fingers over her hands. She doesn't know how long she's been sitting here, on the foot of this crappy motel bed with the orange bedspread and the springs that creak under Coulson's weight as he sits down.
"I- he- I should have let him die," she manages. "I could have- and I didn't, I didn't want to, Coulson, I-"
"Hey," Coulson murmurs, "hey, Skye, shhh, you did nothing wrong. You were so brave, Skye, and you kept yourself safe. That's what matters. You're safe. We're safe." He strokes his thumb over her clenched fists, so very gentle, and she feels herself begin to unfurl. Her hands ache with the tension.
"Oh," she chokes out, and her shoulders shake, and when Coulson pulls her into a hug that lasts for long minutes, she knows she's getting his shirt wet with tears. He touches her hair, tentative. She buries her face in the crook of his shoulder, clings to him and holds on, breathes him in, and in his arms this shitty motel feels like a place to hide, if only for a night.
Skye doesn't need anywhere to hide right now. They need somewhere safe from her. Somewhere to hide from her, from the monster she's become. Every time she closes her eyes she sees Trip's face, hears broken glass. Even in the vibranium cell she can feel the world shaking with it. It's her. She's doing it.
She slams the door closed as if it'll shut them out, as if it's not just shutting her in with herself. It feels like quarantine, but at least she's not in a glass box for everyone to watch. Thinks of Coulson's face through the glass, the way he'd looked at her so intently. He hadn't known the secret she was keeping even from herself. (She's had secrets before. He's forgiven her before. He'd forgive her now, she knows, if he thought there was anything to forgive, but-)
She tries to sleep, tries to stay calm, and after days, she can control it. Stop it before it starts. Coulson visits her every day, maintains careful distance like he's afraid to touch. It stings, just a little. Does he think she's so very dangerous? (She is. She might be. She doesn't know. Broken glass, and Trip's face.) The way he looks at her, though, Skye wonders if the space is about wanting to touch too much.
He cooks her soup, grilled cheese, makes gorgeous little jokes about secret ingredients, and Skye can't help but huff with laughter. Then he turns serious, asks questions she'd usually deflect, and in this space, nothing but the two of them, Skye finds herself speaking more honestly than ever. Feelings about her parents, things she's held back until now. Coulson's eyes are very soft.
"I can be back in the field in no time," she says, too hopefully, and catches the expression before he flattens it into neutral. There's something he's not telling her, something he's avoiding. He'll tell her, eventually. Skye's waited so far.
This, now, this isn't just Skye hiding. Coulson's hiding her, taking her off-base to a secret cabin she's not even allowed to know the location of. Isolated, and alone, and terribly, terribly lonely.
"I have to pull you from active duty," he tells her, and there it is, what she's been waiting for. It stings, again, and she can't help it, gets angry at his carefully neutral demeanor. Stop, she thinks, just stop, Coulson, please, and then he steps into her space, looks intently at her face.
She's one of the only people he knows he can trust, he says, like she should know that already, and it takes her breath away. She thinks about it while they're making sandwiches, while they're eating lunch, the few brief minutes they sit by the lake and look out at the water. Coulson's picked up on her quiet thoughtfulness, doesn't try to fill the silence. He's just present, and it's a comfort, even when she knows it can't last. She looks at the way he spreads his hands out against the table, how he traces the woodgrain with one finger. Wonders if she could just slide her hand into his, after all this time.
It's not the right time. He has to leave, she knows he does. He can't hide with her here, not now. But when he goes, Coulson's eyes look afraid, heartsick, and the way he hugs her makes her think Coulson knows what she wants, wants it just as much. It's unacknowledged, this thing they can't say.
This is Coulson hiding her like she's precious to him, like she's someone he can't risk losing. She's used to listening to the spaces in what he says, now.
(She wishes, much later, that she'd asked him to stay. If he'd stayed, maybe- maybe-
Her thoughts always stall out, and what it comes down to is Coulson's hurt, and it's her fault. Her mom's fault. The same difference, even if Coulson would forgive her the way he always does, like there's nothing even to forgive.)
She doesn't expect the call. It's just a Tuesday afternoon, quieter than usual, and when her phone rings she casts Dr Winslowe an apologetic glance, steps outside.
"I'm off-duty, AC," she teases, tilts her face up to feel the sun.
"Can you pick up some milk on your way back?" he asks, very easy, and Daisy stills, listens carefully to the tenor of his voice.
"Two percent or skim?" she replies. Coulson hums a little under his breath.
"Skim," he says in the end. "I'll see you soon?"
"Yeah," she agrees. "Okay, yeah." She hangs up, pulls out the sim card, crushes it under her heel. Abandons the SHIELD vehicle she'd driven there in, hotwires a car three blocks away.
She'd never thought the code he'd insisted on would be necessary, not even when the Registration Act passed. Not even with Inhumans going underground, day by day. The Playground's not safe anymore. Military on-site. Go to the Cocoon until further notice. Not safe for her, she knows, although they've only ever talked around it. She wonders if Joey and Yo-Yo got out in time, if they're waiting for her at the Cocoon. Wonders how close she'd come to being taken into custody.
The Cocoon doesn't feel like home. Daisy settles her people, her lieutenants, and tries to settle herself into waiting. Into hiding for what could be days or weeks or months.
When Coulson shows up four days later, Daisy can't breathe at the sight of him. She thinks of all the times they've looked at each other like this, all the times they've said it with their eyes and the tilt of their head and hands pressed cautiously against each other. All the times they've hidden what they want to say.
"How long?" she asks once they're in her office, once Daisy can drop her carefully guarded expression. "How long will we have to hide?"
"I don't know," Coulson admits, "Daisy, I'm sorry, I-" She doesn't know why he's apologizing. There's nothing for him to be sorry over, nothing that she needs to forgive him. It's not Coulson who did this, who drove her underground.
"Stay," she tells him, reckless. "If I'm here, then- stay with me, Phil, just for the night."
"Daisy-" he says, pauses, drops his eyes. A long minute goes by. Please, she thinks, reminded anew of all the times she's wanted to say it. Stay here, hide with me, just for now.
"I know what I'm asking," she says in the end, slides her hand across the desk to where his are resting. Remembers this gesture too, everything that's shaped them up to now. Touches the back of his hand, very lightly, with one finger. "Just stay with me, like we're hiding together."
He stays, and even when he leaves, he's there, with Daisy, like he's never been before. They hide in each other now, in the way they touch, kisses in the night, secrets whispered to each other as if they'll be found out somehow. A relationship built in twilight, and Daisy can't wait for their hiding to be done.
Daisy's tired, she knows she's tired, but it's not until Coulson leans against the door of her office, clears his throat, that she realizes how late it is.
"Hiding in here?" he asks her easily, and she pushes back from her desk, closes the ratification details, smiles apologetically.
"Just getting everything ready for tomorrow," she tells him, "sorry, I- time got away from me."
"You need your beauty sleep, Director," he teases, and Daisy laughs, wraps her arms around his waist, rests her face against his shoulder.
"Co-Director," she mutters, "you know Mack wouldn't be pleased if he heard you." Coulson just hums, kisses the crown of her head, lets her hug him for a moment longer. "Got your suit ready for tomorrow?" she asks into the curve of his neck, and he nods.
"Are you sure you want to- I mean, it's a bold move," he says, sounding a little unsure, and Daisy steps back, grabs his hand, looks up into his face.
"Yes," she tells him fiercely, "Phil, yes, I- I'm done hiding. We're done hiding." He rubs his thumb reassuringly over the band on her finger, smiles down at her.
"I know," he agrees. "Daisy, I know. I just wanted to check, is all."
"Yeah," Daisy says. "Yeah." It is a bold move. Tomorrow she'll be an international figure. Tomorrow she'll sign the documents, shake hands with the President, watch the ratification of the amendment that'll give her people protection under the law. Tomorrow she'll be Co-Director Johnson-Coulson, Inhuman, superhero, Quake. Tomorrow Phil will stand at her back, and they'll lace their fingers together, and every news camera will spot the gold bands they both wear. Tomorrow, there'll be nowhere to hide, and there'll be sunshine on her face.
But tonight, at least, she can curl in against him, take comfort from his warmth, and here, in his arms, that's enough.