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All The World Save Thee And Me

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It's been a long time since Skye has lived, full time, with neurotypicals. She's had her squats, and her van, and her occasional passing hookups with guys and girls that never got beyond the 'bringing a toothbrush' phase before she cut and run.

(She's not relationship phobic, or anything. She just likes her space, and having a roommate or a full time fuck buddy just always seemed like it'd be too much of an imposition on that.)

But now, she's anticipating her first group accommodation situation since the orphanage with a degree of trepidation. Coulson doesn't look a thing like Sister Agnes, but Skye knows from experience that that doesn't mean anything.

(At the orphanage, she'd been thought 'a funny little thing' and 'touched' by the nuns that liked her, 'headstrong', 'rude' and 'possessed' by those who didn't.

“Look me in the eye when I'm talking to you, girl!” Sister Constance had said, her bony fingertips digging into Skye's chin, and she had looked away, away, away over her shoulder...

The nuns all called on her, whether they liked her or not, whenever the order's handful of aging IBM compatibles refused to co-operate. Skye'd coaxed them back from the brink more times than she could count.)

After saying goodbye to her van with reluctance, she wanders up onto the Bus casually, like it doesn't matter. She smiles though her fear, and she's shown into her bunk. Rather than the glorified hammock bolted to a wall she expects, it's a private, ergonomic pod snugged up to the ribs of the plane. The lighting is soft and indirect, and with the door closed, it's womb-like and welcoming in a way she hasn't found outside of her van and the hiding place in a linen closet that the nuns never rumbled her from.

“Oh,” she says softly, and suddenly, settling in doesn't seem like a daunting thing to do, rather, something that she's begun automatically.

*

It takes under an hour spent in their company before the portmanteau Fitzsimmons makes perfect sense to Skye. Fitz and Simmons orbit around each other verbally, mentally and physically in an intricate, complex and, frankly, adorable dance that Skye admires even as the actual content of their conversation goes over her head after only seconds.

(The words are words that generally she recognises as English, but they're strung together in an order that doesn't hold any real significance for her besides blah blah science blah.)

She thinks that maybe their fluttery awkwardness could just be the product of being the smartest people in the room since they could talk, but it's more than that. Their partnership is more than just friendship, more than a meeting of minds, it's a care-taking dynamic.

Simmons is sweet and excitable and obviously lacking a measure of confidence that Skye learned to fake years ago. She's got an enthusiasm that's downright contagious, and Skye can't help smiling when she talks, just because she so passionately loves what she's doing and every new thing she gets to dissect. Biology and its derivatives are her all-consuming interests, and she's living the rare dream of actually getting to get paid to do what lights her up rather than being told that she's being obsessive, or boring, or perseverating. No one's broken her spirit, and Skye's both warmed and envious to see it.

Fitz is a different matter. He's a natural outsider who probably would have been happy in a basement engineering workshop for his entire life, provided he was given his head and allowed to leap from project to prototype at his own speed with unlimited resources and gentle praise. Outside of that sheltered cocoon, he's vulnerable in a way that hurts Skye a little every time she sees it. He's dependent on whatever semblance of a routine he can cobble together, and when it gets disrupted, he struggles to compensate. Skye's caught the odd nervous flap of his hands, his fingers splaying out on his thighs, at his sides, down where anyone who wasn't looking for it wouldn't see.

Skye wonders if anyone ever caught his hands, held them, tied them down, or if Fitz is just self-conscious about them.

If Skye'd met Fitz on his own, she doesn't know if she'd have let him be, or tried to build him up a bit. As it is, though, she's not needed. Rules and structure make Simmons almost as happy as science, so she's ideally suited and situated to stabilise Fitz and give him something to cling to when things get rocky. Simmons runs expert interference, makes him food, talks him down, and gives him a safe person that he can just be himself around. In return, Fitz is unwaveringly devoted to Simmons and has a faith in her that he bolsters her up with whenever her confidence in herself takes a dive. They're a perfect matched set, each complimenting where the other struggles. They're proof that the pervasive myth, that neurodiverse and eccentric people are doomed to be forever alone, is a lie. Though Skye's not looking, hasn't yet felt the need to look, doesn't know if she ever will, she finds it comforting all the same.

When they're out in the field together for the first time as a trio, Skye suggests they label the van 'the Short Bus', because she's self aware enough that it makes her laugh inside, and making Coulson sigh like he does every time he has to say it just makes her laugh all the harder.

*

The first time she sees Coulson's nerd cave office properly, with its painstakingly collected memorabilia, all labelled and mounted and.... lacquered, or whatever it is you do to stuff like that, she thinks he's probably pretty self-aware too.

*

Skye's usually a fairly good judge of people, and Ward just annoys her for the longest time. He's prickly and aggressive and seems to be offended by her, personally, and that just makes her want to push, harder. She comes around to him, inch by inch, as he teaches her skills and how to handle herself and seems to give a little of his history away, enough for her to maybe look inside what he tells her for an answer.

Maybe he just never had anyone be kind to him, she thinks. Maybe figuring people out was something he discarded in favour of getting in the first punch to protect himself.

After all, Coulson seems to have built a team of people who all happen to suck at neurotypical interaction and socialisation. Ward's had a hard life, not a sheltered life, or a nurtured life, or one with scholarships and STEM workshops and accelerated training. He's had to fight, and maybe fighting is all he really learned to do.

Turns out, it's possible for that to be true but also for someone to be a colossal Nazi-mantra-worshipping bag of dicks at the same time, so, on the whole, Skye feels pretty justified in the end about her initial impressions of him.

*

It takes Skye the longest to even get a peek inside May. She's like a mirror smooth pond with nothing visible below the surface, and Skye's half-convinced she's a robot before they're on the run, holed up in a motel with nothing but a suitcase full of antique spy kit and a plan that's almost certain to come unstuck long before they expect it to.

“I'm up most mornings at five,” May says, and Skye feels like she's found a hidden door that could lead to the next stage of her own evolution.

Achievement unlocked, she murmurs to herself, before setting her morning alarm for four-thirty.

*

“So, you guys, you're kinda...” Tripp waves a hand in a slow circle in the air. His fingertips are salty, a little pile of empty chip bags beside him.

“Wacky?” Skye prompts, hoping she's not about to be critically disappointed in another human being. Again.

“Fun,” Tripp concludes.

“Yeah,” Skye says, a smile curving on her face. “We are. Well, except for that whole Nazi mole thing.”

“Could happen to anyone,” Tripp says, grinning back.

“Totally,” Skye agrees.

The silence spools out comfortably into the evening, the pool filter chugging away in the background.

“The kinda fun you like, or the kind where you're calling us crazy in a month, and not in the semi-good way?” Skye ends up asking, because Tripp's got this whole calm, laid-back thing where it's hard to tell what he's really thinking.

“I like it,” Tripp says without hesitating, and Skye believes him. “There's this... joy in all of you. You really care about each other and work as a team. Working for SHIELD, that's... that wasn't the usual dynamic. There was a lot of competition, a lot of backstabbing. Sometimes literally. Even like this, when you're trying to fix what's broken with nothing to support you... you're different, that's all.”

“We're lucky,” Skye says, even though it seems weird to say when Hydra is literally trying to take over the world.

“As for the month, well, let's just try and get through the next few days, and then we'll start planning long-term,” Tripp says with an easy smile.

“We'll break you in gently,” Skye says.

“I don't think it's gonna be anyone's definition of gentle,” Tripp laughs.

“We're worth it,” Skye says.

“You know, I think you might be right about that,” Tripp says, and raises his can of soda to tap against hers.