Jumping on the bandwagon of post-'Turn, Turn, Turn' fics, though this is set seven months in the future. Really loved the plot twist and can't wait to see where they go with it! Anyway, I hope you like it! x
Explosions rocked the building, causing the walls to shake and clumps of concrete to fall from the ceiling. Skye flinched as a lump fell not far from where she was standing, crushing a computer terminal similar to the one she was using with a sickening crunch.
"Skye? We have to evacuate now. Skye! Do you copy?"
May's voice sounded more frantic than she'd ever heard it. Skye didn't respond, her nimble fingers flying over the keyboard in front of her as her eyes scanned the lines of code scrolling across the screen.
"Skye? Report, Agent."
Coulson's voice was sharp with worry but still she didn't reply. She had to do this, had to finish it. As soon as she had uploaded the virus the Hydra network would crash, leaving its operatives blind and vulnerable to the SHIELD units poised to strike.
So many had died, so many good men and women; what was her life in the grand scheme of things if her sacrifice meant the war might finally be won?
She heard FitzSimmons' voices in her ear, heard their pleas, but even as tears stung her eyes, she remained silent. There were letters to each of them in her bunk, last words she needed them to know but had known she might not be able to say in person.
More explosions, accompanied by gunfire. Hydra were fighting back but SHIELD had taken them by surprise. She bit her lip, hard enough to taste blood, when she heard the pounding of footsteps in the corridor outside, the door shaking as someone tried to get in and realised it was locked.
Finally, the confirmation she'd been waiting for flashed up on screen. The satisfaction she felt was bittersweet, the triumph she felt tinged with regret.
Backing away from the terminal, pressing her back to the wall, Skye activated her comm. link. "Mission accomplished," she reported, her voice calm and even despite the thundering in her chest. "Get out now."
"Not without you."
"There's no time." The steel in her voice surprised even her. "Get out, get it done. Save yourselves. Please."
A moment of silence, then Coulson gave the order, his reluctance at leaving her behind audible over their radios.
"Stay alive," he ordered her brusquely. "We'll come back for you."
"I know." Just as she knew all they'd find was her body or, at worst, a shell of the woman she used to be if the Hydra operatives beating at the door found her alive. "Good luck."
No one said goodbye, and for that she was grateful. She made herself as small as possible as bullets bounced off the door, squeezing her eyes shut as the sound of fighting resumed.
There were grunts and muted cries, the sound of flesh pounding flesh and bones being broken.
And then there was silence but for the sound of her own breathing and her heart forcing blood through her veins at a dizzying rate.
A single gunshot and a click preceded the creak of the protesting hinges as the door was pulled open. Skye braced herself and lifted her head, determined to face her killer and look death in the eye.
The dark eyes of Grant Ward looked back.
Deja vu, Skye thought. Ward coming to her, beaten and bloody, when she'd been locked in a room listening to the sound of fighting outside.
Only last time, Ward had come to her as a friend – no, as more than a friend. As her SO, as the man she'd kissed not more than ten minutes before.
Now the man who stood before her was the enemy, a traitor, the man who'd broken her heart seven months ago.
The man who –
"What the hell are you doing here? Damn it, I told them not to send you here."
- looked furious enough to kill.
"You told who?" Skye asked after his angry demand sunk in. "Garrett? The great and all knowing Clairvoyant?"
The look on Ward's face was no less angry but confusion was beginning to shine through. "I told Hand not to send you here. I told her it wasn't safe. If he sees you –"
"Agent Hand is dead." It was Skye's turn to be confused. Was he delusional? Had he forgotten? Or was he trying to trick her? Fitz had theorised that their teammate might have been brainwashed so maybe it was faulty programming and the nickname she'd given to her SO had been apt all along. "You killed her, Ward. You killed her when you betrayed SHIELD."
Ward blinked. "I – I didn't –"
The door being opened again interrupted him. He moved towards her; Skye flinched back, certain that this was it, that he was going to kill her, only to find herself pushed between the wall and his body as he stood between her and the newcomer.
His back was to her, his gun pointing towards the door.
Protecting her? Or was it all an act...?"
Skye's brow furrowed as she struggled to make sense of it. Surely it was a trick; he was lulling her into a false sense of security. But the hope that began to blossom in the cracks of her wounded heart was undeniable and she found herself wondering, wishing, praying that maybe, just maybe...
"You found her. Good." John Garrett, otherwise known as the Clairvoyant, smirked at Skye as she glared at him over Ward's shoulder. "Coulson's gone, took the other members of his team with him. Grab the girl and we'll go."
"No." For a moment, Skye thought she was the only one to make the protest but the arched eyebrow on Garrett's face confirmed her suspicion that Ward had said it, too. "She's not going anywhere with you."
"C'mon, son. I know you're sweet on the girl but you know the plan." Garrett's smirk dropped as his expression hardened. "If she cooperates, you can maybe have some fun –"
"You're not going near her." There was an edge to Ward's voice that Skye had never heard before. A note of anger, of pure hatred, that reminded her of when he'd touched the Berserker staff but was somehow more than that.
"But the plan –" Garrett's eyes showed his confusion. "You know why we need her. Ward. Put the gun down and get the girl. That's an order. We can talk out your issues later."
Ward shook his head. He was so close to her that Skye could feel the heat of his body against hers, could feel as well as see the slight tremble in his arm as he held his gun with a surprisingly steady hand, aiming it directly at his SO.
It was fear that made him tremble, at least not fear for himself. It was anger, rage. Emotions he'd kept contained for seven months, emotions he was finally free to show.
"You're choosing her?" Garrett stared at his rookie in disbelief. "But you chose your side already. You swore your allegiance to Hydra. You killed Agent Hand!"
"I followed orders," Ward intoned, his voice flat. Robotic. Skye shivered at the thought and resisted the urge to press herself against his back to prove to herself that he was human. "I'm good at following orders."
"You –No. You betrayed SHIELD. You've helped us take them down." Garrett shook his head. "This isn't real. This is an act to impress the girl. Okay, you don't want her dead. If she cooperates, I promise, no harm will come to her –"
Skye saw his hand move, calling out a warning as Garrett moved swiftly. "Grant!"
A gun went off seconds before she could shove him to the side. She felt more than heard his groan as his back fell against the wall. Feeling no pain herself, Skye pushed away from him and checked frantically for injuries but found none.
She followed his gaze, a gasp escaping her as the unseeing eyes of the so-called Clairvoyant stared back.
The bullet hole in his head was perversely neat, with only the smallest trickle of crimson dripping down his face, his stunned expression frozen in death.
"You killed him." Tearing her gaze away from Garrett, Skye looked at Ward. "You really killed him?"
There was no remorse on Ward's face, no anguish or regret in his dark eyes. She felt her heart break for him afresh; whatever he'd been through at Garrett's hand over the past seven months had obviously put paid to any affection or loyalty he'd once felt for his former SO.
"I have my orders," Ward said after a long moment of staring not at Garrett but at her, drinking her in as though committing her to memory all over again. "Now we've gotta get out of here. The whole place is rigged to blow."
He reached for her hand and she didn't flinch from his touch, letting him take it instead. The feel of his fingers wrapped around hers was both familiar and strange, comforting and kind of terrifying.
Together, they made their way out of the Hydra base and towards home.
"You weren't supposed to kill him. Not if it could be avoided." It wasn't so much of an accusation as a resigned statement. Agent Victoria Hand, once thought dead, crossed her arms over her chest, her suit concealing the scars of the gunshot wounds she'd sustained in the line of duty.
Gunshots wounds she'd ordered him to bestow upon her.
"Skye wasn't meant to be there." Ward didn't glance towards the woman in question though he was keenly aware of her listening to every word of his initial debriefing, just as he was aware the other members of his team – former team? – were standing with her on the other side of the one-way glass.
"She's the best we have." It was said a little grudgingly, though the corners of Hand's mouth quirked upwards when he lifted his head to glare at her at what he perceived to be an insult. "Coulson and his team believed I was dead, Agent Ward. I couldn't ask them to hand over the mission to someone else without revealing that that wasn't the case."
Her answer did nothing to ease the tension in the room. "They were supposed to know. By now, you should have told them."
"Director Fury disagreed." Hand shrugged a shoulder, though her expression was vaguely apologetic. "If their reactions weren't convincing, you could have been compromised. If that were to happen, Garrett would have killed you."
"And you needed to keep me alive to keep feeding you intel." Ward's expression was more of a grimace than anything else; he wasn't fooling himself into thinking he was special, he knew he was as expendable as any other agent but his connection to Garrett had been unique, a way in that they'd had to take advantage of.
The plan had worked; he'd got SHIELD the intelligence they needed on Hydra's bases. Maybe it wasn't enough to win the war but, combined with Skye taking down their network, might just be enough to turn the tide in SHIELD's favour. The fact that doing so had cost him the trust of the team he'd come to think of as family, and had caused all of them no shortage of misery and pain was of little consequence in the grand scheme of things.
Except it was.
To him, it was.
Being separated from them, having to help the very people he'd sworn to himself he would protect them from, and having to listen to Garrett's plans to break the people he cared about apart... It had sickened him, hurt him. The man might be dead but his words would live on, the images of what he'd planned to do to all of them, especially Skye and Coulson, would no doubt be haunting Ward's nightmares for years to come.
And to know now that they'd believed the lie, that they'd hated him, called him a traitor... To imagine how they must have reacted, what Skye must have thought of him...
... That made him feel just as sick, and it was only sheer force of will that kept him vomiting right there on the floor at Hand's feet.
She must've hated him, must've thought he'd lied to her, that their kiss had meant nothing...
"Is there anything else?" He needed to go. Needed to get out. The grey-blue walls of the room were closing in on him, making it hard to breathe.
Hand gave the tablet in front of her a cursory glance. "That will be all for now. There'll be a full debrief tomorrow and, of course, the usual checks."
'Usual checks' meaning psychological evaluations and standard medicals, Ward knew, and acknowledged it with a nod.
"It's good to have you back, Agent Ward." She got to her feet, and held out a hand when he did the same. "Welcome back to SHIELD."
"I wasn't aware I'd left." He looked at her hand but didn't take it, striding out of the room without a backwards glance instead.
She'd been told to give him space, give him time. Coulson told her he'd seek them out when he was ready, May assured her they'd see him at the full debriefing scheduled for the following day. FitzSimmons were as confused – and relieved – by the turn of events as she was and had no words of wisdom or comfort to offer.
So Skye followed her instincts and sought him out, finding him in one of the gyms pummelling a poor punching bag.
"I'd ask who you're picturing but I don't think I want to know." It was meant to be a joke but somehow didn't feel like one. Ward stilled for a moment but resumed punching a few moments later. "You can ignore me if you want but I'm not going away."
"You don't want to be around me now, Skye." It was an honest warning, but there was no anger in it. Certainly no anger directed at her.
"I beg to differ." She bit her lip and took a step closer. "I've spent seven months not being able to be around you. That's seven months too long."
"You've spent seven months thinking I was a traitor." His punches grew vicious as his voice grew bitter. "Seven fucking months thinking I'd betrayed you. Seven months spent hating me."
Skye shook her head and took another step. "I never hated you." It was the truth and that was painfully obvious. "I could never hate you, Grant. Not even when I thought I really should."
Her words had the desired effect of making him turn away from the punching bag to face her. His eyes were anguished, his expression incredulous – and more than a little lost.
"How can you say that? How can you not hate me?" He ran a hand through his hair, the cuts and bruises on his face standing out starkly against the pallor of his skin. "As far as you knew, I was working with them, Skye. I was one of them. They tried to kill you – were going to do worse – how can you not hate me for being part of that?"
"Even when I thought that was true, I didn't want to believe it. And I couldn't hate you, not when every day you were gone, I woke up wishing you'd be there and we could go for that damn drink." Her eyes stung with tears but she blinked them away, refusing to let them fall. She'd cried enough, she decided. She'd shed too many tears for what had been, what might've been and what might still be. "Even if it was true, even if you'd betrayed us and were part of Hydra, I could never hate you, Grant. I think you do enough of that for both of us."
His eyes widened as if she'd struck him, and he hung his head in silent acknowledgement of her words and the truth within them. His self-hatred and the guilt and shame he'd carried all of his life, stemming from his childhood, had made him a prime candidate for Garrett's cause. His former SO had taken advantage of Ward's horrendous past, manipulated the child the man had been and tried to mould him in Garrett's own image.
He'd failed. Thankfully, he'd failed, but Ward knew that if hadn't been for Coulson bringing him onto the team and all that had come after it, Garrett might have succeeded.
If Coulson hadn't chosen him – if May hadn't chosen him as a potential recruit, if the team hadn't accepted him, if Skye hadn't managed to get through the wall he'd built around his heart... He would have blindly followed Garrett along any path he took, regardless of the consequences, and he hated it.
He hated knowing how close he'd been to losing everything, to losing himself.
Skye wasn't sure if he knew he was crying. The tears slid silently down his cheeks as he stared at her, finally letting her see everything he'd tried so hard to conceal for so long. She thought about his words to her before their brief kiss, about how maybe he deserved to die, and felt a shiver dance along her spine.
That wasn't going to happen, she told herself, closing the gap between them to wrap her arms around him. His head dropped to her shoulder and she felt his tears soak through her shirt to her skin as he returned her embrace just as desperately.
He'd come back to her against the odds, and she'd be damned if she let him leave her again.