AN: Here is the conclusion to this story. It contains spoilers for Agents of Shield 2X01. Please enjoy.
The calm before the storm
She had fed him her blood.
He had spat on and betrayed everything she stood for. She should have let him die. Should have been able to let him die. But she remembered what it was like, to beg Bill to love her because she might be a monster, but she was still her. She remembered Damon making her feel worthless. She remembered how Loki left her feeling helpless and impotent. She had a hundred ghosts that still lived in her heart, and she could see them reflected back at her in Grant Ward's eyes.
So when he sliced open a vein with a button, when she smelled the rush of blood, she forced her blood down his throat without another thought. She healed him and sat against the wall of their shared cell as he spat curses at her.
The HYDRA traitor and Loki's pet vampire, that's what people called them.
Those people were fools.
When May came to take her for questioning, she left him a piece of paper and a crayon. She shouldn't have.
Grant Ward died with Caroline's blood in his system while she was being peppered with questions she had either already answered, or had no answers for.
After the news came, she was returned to the cell and sat at his side, while Coulson, May, and Antoine Triplett, all heavily armed, stood watch solemnly outside the clear barrier that stood between them.
"Do you plan on shooting him upon awakening, or are you letting us give the man a choice?"
Caroline sighed heavily with relief. Enzo hadn't been imprisoned, because she had steadfastly refused to point the finger at him. He didn't know, and if he said otherwise, then he was lying to protect her. She had been spewing bullshit through her teeth, of course, and they all knew it. But there was no proof that Enzo knew about Loki's survival, and so he was allowed to remain an agent, although he told her he often got the side eye.
He stood outside the cell, holding a familiar cooler, and Caroline stood when he pulled out a bag of blood.
"We can't let a traitor become… them," May stated in the stoic way that made Caroline grit her teeth, because after two weeks of being on the receiving end of that cold distrust, it was grating on the nerves.
"Then you let a traitor die," Enzo replied just as coldly. He went to the wall, where they were able to slide food, and blood, through to the other side. Triplett stepped up to stop him, and Enzo turned, hissing, making the other man take a startled step back. "Not today, Agent. None of you know how this works. We do."
"How did this happen?" Coulson asked Caroline, his eyes dark with distrust. "Why turn him into something like you?"
"Tell me, Director Coulson, how does one make a vampire?" Caroline replied coolly, and Coulson just stared at her, making her give a smile void of humor. "Exactly. You don't know. Director Fury didn't know. My own father doesn't know. Ward wanted to die. That he's in transition now is a side effect of my blood and his attempt at suicide, not some nefarious plot."
Behind her, Ward groaned, and Caroline turned back to him, ignoring the agents outside the barrier.
"What happened?" Ward demanded, struggling to sit up. Caroline didn't reply, simply watched him. She saw the exact moment the thirst hit him, the flash of confusion as he caught the scent of the blood bag in her hand. She saw him look around, not understanding what was happening. His gaze landed on Caroline, and that's when she saw the understanding come. "What did you do to me?"
"I didn't do anything," Caroline replied, taking a seat next to him. "I saved your life, with my blood, after your first attempt at suicide. Your second one occurred with my blood still in your system."
Ward simply stared at her, not understanding what was happening, and Caroline sighed, looked over at Enzo who rested his hand against the barrier.
"You're in transition, Grant," Caroline said softly, reaching out to touch his hand, and he recoiled, making her sigh again. "You're becoming a vampire."
"That's impossible," he said almost mechanically. "I was supposed to die."
Because Garrett was dead, and what did Ward have to live for, without Garrett? God, but Caroline could practically read the dark thoughts in the other man's expression.
"And I could let you," Caroline replied, echoing words spoken to her so very long ago, but she didn't think that promises of art, music and culture would keep Ward alive, would make him decide to stay alive.
"Fitz struggles every day to remember things that used to come so easily," Enzo said, his voice cutting across the distance, drawing both Caroline and Ward's gazes. "Simmons is gone, she says it's so Fitz will recover, but it's because she feels guilty. She's fine, and he's not. And Skye? She doesn't trust anymore, and every day she becomes a little colder. You did that."
Caroline glared at him, because they were supposed to convince Ward to turn, not to die. Enzo ignored her, speaking directly to the ex-agent.
"I get it, you know. You live for so long under the thumb of a monster, you become a monster yourself. My monster was Augustine, it was being trapped in a life with no hope. I would follow the person that released me from the monotony of a hopeless life to the ends of the world" – his gaze cut to Caroline, and his lips quirked in a tiny smirk – "I do follow that person to the ends of the world. I'm lucky, my saviour is a good person. Yours wasn't though, was he Ward?"
Ward didn't reply, looking anywhere but at Enzo.
"You don't have to answer, you know. Garrett used you, but you felt you owed him. And the loyalties, they were tough… it's easy, to just stay loyal to what you know. But the truth, Ward? That's not living. It's just another prison. And none of that excuses what you did, but if you don't drink that blood? You'll die as Garrett's lapdog. That will be the last memory Skye has of you. Fitz will come to hate you. And eventually your memory will fade into nothing but a footnote in the history of the second uprising of HYDRA." Enzo let that picture of Ward's bleak future sink in, before speaking once more. "Or you can drink the blood. You can choose to transition. And maybe you can do something to fix what you've done. It's your choice."
Caroline held out the blood bag as Enzo finished speaking.
"I love SHIELD," she said very quietly. "It's what I made myself, after Loki made me feel like nothing."
"It's betrayed you," he replied, finally meeting her gaze. "You lied, and so you're here, because they won't believe that there aren't more lies."
"Maybe," she agreed. "SHIELD is what I made myself… but it's not all that I am. Garrett isn't all that you are, Ward. But if you die now, you'll never know what else you could have been."
"I could be a monster," Ward pointed out. "I'm not a good man."
"Insecure, neurotic control freak," Caroline replied, making Ward frown in confusion. "And strong, beautiful and full of light. Two sides to the same person. You're a coward, a traitor, and quite possibly a monster. What's your other side?"
Ward took the blood bag, spun it around his hands, and looked at his ex-teammates.
"All this will give me is an eternity in here. Grant Ward was bad enough. Grant Ward, vampire? I'll never be free."
Caroline looked into the distrustful gazes of the SHIELD agents, then over at Enzo who gave her a tiny smile.
"Drink and find out," she suggested.
The agents, except Enzo, had been AWOL for three days, probably in a panic over now having two vampire prisoners. Caroline hardly noticed it, though, too busy with a baby vampire.
Ward went through blood bags like mad, and it made Caroline nervous. She recognized the signs, the insatiable nature of a Ripper, and she wasn't sure what news like that would do to Ward's already fragile psyche.
"A Goddamn Ripper," she murmured darkly as he tore into another bag.
"What is that?" Ward asked after draining the bag, and Caroline shot him a sharp look of confusion. "A Ripper? What's a Ripper."
"A Ripper… is a vampire that is insatiable. They often end up ripping their victims apart, often turn off their humanity, because the guilt of their actions becomes too much."
"You think I'm a Ripper," Ward replied, his voice void of emotion as he stared down at the ravaged blood bag. "Of course I'm a Ripper. Even to the monsters, I'm a monster."
"Hey!" Caroline replied sharply, poking Ward hard in the shoulder. He cursed, because Caroline could poke hard, and rubbed the shoulder. "I'll have you know that one of my best friends is a Ripper."
"What?" Ward asked, and his rubbing slowed until it finally halted while he stared at Caroline in surprise. "I thought you were one of the good guys. A Ripper doesn't seem like the good guy type."
"Stefan is a good guy. The best of guys. He taught me how to control myself, after I turned. I know that sounds weird – a Ripper teaching control? But the only vampires I knew were Stefan, Damon and Katherine. Katherine is the one that killed me and Damon…" Caroline trailed off, because how did one describe Damon Salvatore and the part he played in her life? She never talked about him, except that one brief time, with Enzo. He was… "Damon is Damon," she said at last, lamely, making Ward raise a brow, but she didn't feel like explaining the meaning of it to her HYDRA baby vamp. She felt bad for Ward, would teach him to be a vampire, but that didn't mean she trusted him. "Stefan is the only one of them that wanted to save me. Katherine wanted to use me, did use me, and Damon tried to kill me. But Stefan stood by me. I couldn't stick to his bunny diet, but still. He was there for me, when I was alone and terrified and couldn't tell my parents what I had become."
"Why not?" Ward asked. "Why couldn't you tell your parents?"
"My mom is on the council – vampire hunters, basically. We've come to terms with what I am, and we're good now, but back then she would have killed me. Did try to kill me, honestly. My step father was every bit as bad. And Dad… Dad was separate from it all. He was in New York and just finally starting to act like a grown up, and I didn't want to bring him into this. So I didn't."
"Until New York," Ward said.
"Until New York," Caroline agreed.
"Why did you keep Loki a secret?"
"Why are you asking so many questions?"
"If I'm asking questions, I'm not thinking about blood."
Caroline's ire had been rising at his questions, but that statement made her pause. Hadn't she done the same thing, but with food? If she was eating, she wasn't thinking about murder. If Ward was talking to her, he wasn't thinking about murder.
"I thought I was strong," she said, rather than biting his head off as she had planned. "I had been abused, in my past. I had been used. I was a clueless idiot and shallow. But I wasn't anymore. I was a vampire, and strong. Then Loki came, and he kidnapped me and called me his pet. He made me feel weak" – she bared her teeth in a snarl, just remembering those days before New York making her want to find him, to rip his throat out – "he kept talking about the potential I had, how I was squandering it. And he was right, as much as I hate it, he was right. I was spending my life following Elena Gilbert around. I decided I didn't want to do that anymore. I wanted to save the world."
"SHIELD isn't a group created my saints," Ward pointed out, his jaw stiff. "Not everyone in it is a hero."
"No," she agreed. "They're not. In fact, step back and look at our groups side by side and there's really not much different. Both are heroes in their own mind. But with SHIELD behind me, I could be a hero, Ward. I could make myself one. I've done things that aren't good… but they were in the name of a good cause. Maybe I'm not a hero, maybe I'm just a murderer, but it doesn't feel that way."
"They turned on you quickly."
"Loki killed Coulson," Caroline replied with a shrug. "I might not be super forgiving after that, either."
They lapsed into an uncomfortable silence, broken only once Grant began to tear into another blood bag. She knew he was trying to convince himself he wasn't a monster, that he had done the right thing with HYDRA. Caroline could help him learn to feed, but she couldn't help him come to terms with his actions, or where his future led.
That was entirely up to Ward himself.
It was a week after Ward had been turned when she heard the disturbance. She recognized the sounds, the shots, and got to her feet. The door crashed open, and she smiled when she saw the figure standing there.
"Hello, Captain," she said with a mock salute. "How did you get roped into rescue duty?"
"Your father asked," replied Steve Rogers. "But Natasha didn't give me much of a choice."
"Rumor has it you've been busy," the Black Widow said, stepping out from behind Steve and holding up a pad. She pressed a couple of buttons, and the invisible wall between them went down. Caroline reached out, and there was nothing between her and freedom but air.
"Coulson isn't going to reinstate me, is he?" Caroline asked, hating that her voice sounded so small, because she wasn't small, not anymore. But she had been hoping that her record would stand for itself, that she would become Agent Forbes again.
"No," Natasha admitted, pity in her eyes, and Caroline had to look away, because she hated that that pity was there. "He's not. Not now, anyway. Maybe… maybe someday? You didn't tell me about Loki."
"I didn't tell anyone except Enzo," Caroline replied. "And even him… he saw something he shouldn't have."
"You should have told us, Caroline," Steve said, resting a hand on her shoulder. "We would have helped you get through whatever it was that was going on with him. We still can."
"You can't help me with that, Steve. It's my demon to carry, but thanks. There is something else you can help me with though." She looked back at Ward, then at Natasha and Steve.
"Damn," Steve muttered, looking back at Ward and then away, because HYDRA was his enemy more than any other, and what Caroline was asking wouldn't be easy.
"Really? " Natasha replied. "He's a traitor."
"According to Coulson, so am I."
"That's a personal issue. It shouldn't be, but Loki always seems to be personal. He was John Garrett's lapdog."
"Well, now he's my baby vampire," Caroline replied with crossed arms.
All three gave Ward glares had him holding up his hands and sitting back down.
"I was alone when I turned, Nat. It was horrible and terrifying, and that was even with my monumental control issues. Ward… he's going to need help. I can help him, and I know others that can as well."
"We're bringing the damn agent," interrupted Tony Stark's voice. He stepped into the room in full Iron Man regalia, steering Coulson by the shoulder, Enzo at his side. "Agent Agent here is going to sign him over to our tender care."
"Dad," Caroline breathed, and she hadn't thought of him, hadn't focused on why he wasn't there, but now that he was?
She crossed to him in four long strides, and clung to him in a tight hug. It didn't matter that the suit was uncomfortable to hug, just that it was her dad and he was there.
"Hey, hey," Tony said, stroking her hair. "I'm here, sweetheart. I heard that you got yourself a vampire kid. He looks a bit older than you."
Caroline chuckled, but it was heavy with the tears she refused to let fall as she looked up at him.
"Age is relative. I know someone who's a thousand and was a cheerleader."
"Well then, that must have been one hell of a sight. Sorry it took me so long. This place was surprisingly difficult to find."
"That's okay. You're here now. I'm not a SHIELD agent anymore. I'm not sure who I am."
"SHIELD was never who you are, Care. It was just part of who you chose to be. I know you wanted to make it on your own, but you have Sweetie. Even though you have an alarming propensity to keep secrets. Sort of like Agent Agent, who is looking very alive for a dead man."
"Rumors of my demise were greatly overstated," Coulson replied somewhat dryly.
"Obviously," Tony replied, just as dryly.
"Ward is the only source of HYDRA information we have, Stark. I can't just let him go."
"I'll give you everything you need or want to know," Ward said, and everyone turned back to look at him. He was still sitting, staring at his hands. "Everything I have. But only if it's Skye asking."
"You really don't get to make deman-"
"She won't talk to you," Caroline cut Coulson off, looking at Ward with sympathy. "She… you hurt her, Ward. Betrayed her. A girl like Skye? She won't forgive that easily."
"I don't want forgiveness," Ward replied simply, looking up at her, meeting her gaze steadily. "But she's the only one I'll talk to. And eventually they'll need the information badly enough that she will."
Caroline thought of days in Mystic Falls and playing the pretty blonde distraction. Ward was right. Eventually it would be serious enough, and Skye would come to him, would ask him the questions.
"Trading in Garrett for another master, no matter how much you may care about her, won't change that it's just another master, Ward."
"I don't know any other way," Ward shrugged, and leaned back.
"He'll come with us," Enzo said at last, stepping up to her side. "We'll get him a ring and teach him how to survive. We'll introduce him to your good friend Stefan and they can commiserate over their issues. And when Skye needs answers, you'll know how to find us. Keeping him locked up here won't do anyone any good, Coulson."
"He's a traitor, Agent."
"Not Agent anymore. I resign. And as far as you're concerned, Caroline is a traitor, too. Yet she's going to walk through that door. And so is Ward. He needs to figure out who he is as a vampire, and who he is without Garrett. The boy can't do that locked in the dark all the time. We won't let him touch any tech that may connect him to HYDRA, never you worry, Director."
"Enzo is right, Coulson. We'll keep an eye on him."
If it had been anyone but Steve to say that, Coulson likely would have continued to argue. But it was Steve, and he couldn't argue with his hero. So Caroline walked free, and so did Ward. They walked by the rest of Coulson's team – May and Trip and Fitz, who Ward couldn't look at. Then it was Skye, who watched with anger, and Ward looked like he wanted to pause, to say something to her. Caroline touched his shoulder, felt it sag with defeat as Skye whirled on her heel and stormed away.
But there hadn't just been anger there, there had been hurt, and Caroline thought she could commiserate very easily with Skye and being half in love with someone capable of doing terrible things.
"It will be best for her," she said to Coulson as Enzo and Ward left with Steve. Tony and Natasha waited for her, but she had to get this out. "Skye, I mean. She was falling in love with him. And that's hard, to know that you can love someone who… who does bad things. I was lucky. I had a chance at the whole world and a life of my own, while he was in New Orleans. Skye has that too, but she wouldn't have, not with Ward living beneath her feet every day. Ghosts are very hard to forget, Director, when they live in your closet."
Coulson didn't say anything at first, and Caroline gave a small nod, because he was still angry, and began toward Tony and Natasha.
"I hope you can stop him," he said, making Caroline halt. "Loki. I hope you can stop him and remove that ghost from your closet. And I'm sorry, that it had to end this way. But SHIELD was built on lies…"
"And now you need a fresh start," Caroline finished, closing her eyes and smiling a bittersweet smile. "I get it, Coulson. I really do. But that doesn't make it easier."
"Good-bye, Agent Forbes."
"It's not agent," she replied, opening her eyes again and looking forward, because what could she do but move ahead? "It's just Caroline."
And then just Caroline walked away from SHIELD.
AN: And that's it. For this story. The crossover will continue in an as of yet untitled multi-chapter story that will finally have the anticipated Klaus/Loki showdown, how Ward deals with his new status, and, of course, plenty of Carenzo partner shenanigans. Because just because they're no longer SHIELD doesn't mean they'll be unemployed. Tony Stark is out to privatize global security, after all. And he's their biggest fan.