Title: There Are No Strings On Me
Written for: Silver Spoon
Written By: Little Angry Kitten
Prompt used: A photo of rusty iron handcuffs.
If you would like to see all the stories that are a part of this exchange visit the facebook group: Fanficaholics Anon: Where Obsession Never Sleeps, or add the C2 to get all the stories direct to your inbox.
A/N: Don't even ask why that photo gave birth to this because even I don't know! The original myth of the Kanima was borrowed by the show Teen Wolf but I twisted it around a bit to fit what I needed more. I think it's pretty well explained so you don't need to search that. Also if you don't get the tittle reference I'm judging you!
To my amazing beta CrazySue05 and LPlover93 that's posting for me, a big, big thank you.
"I'm just saying that it's been two years. You need to start living at some point." Trip said as they walked down the dark passage. Scouting, Coulson had said. They were only to take a look around the underground military base and get the hell out.
Talbot had been all up on Shield's ass now more than ever and it was starting to piss off people. Coulson tried to play nice but the government didn't. A war between them was not what they needed right now.
It was two years after the Hydra fallout and Shield was finally starting to gain her status as an agency again. Stark's money and Coulson's team had managed to make it work. They wouldn't lie, they went to hell and back, the government wanted nothing to do with Stark and they were glad Fury was off of their case but Coulson made it work. They were a private organisation now but they were still the ones to handle everything alien related and that was enough.
Their only problem was Talbot, like any typical alpha male he couldn't accept that someone else was pulling the strings on this one. He did want to be the one in charge of Shield after all. He had raided a few of their previous bases and Coulson was trying to get what was stolen back. Some weapons were not meant to be in the hands of the military. Some weapons were not meant to be in anyone's hands period. So far their missions on retrieving were going just fine.
"Drop it." Skye hissed as she took a look around the cemented walls. They were thick enough to withstand an earthquake or a bomb falling on them. "You know very well that living a normal life right now is not an option, Trip. We have more important things to worry about." In her mind they did, Skye refused to even acknowledge the mess that was her love life. She had never signed up for something like this, there were moments where she wondered if she was bound to carry tragedy with her until her death.
"Hey, don't shoot the messenger!" He teased trying to turn their conversation around, it was going down a road that he suddenly didn't want to travel. "I'm just worried, that's all." Skye offered him a tight smile but said nothing. The dot on her phone blipped as they reached the end of the hallway.
The door they stopped in front of was a standard military one with fingerprint recognition and all. Nothing she couldn't get past though, she worked in silence as Trip stood guard over her. For such an important base, their security was awfully lacking; but then again Talbot did have a big idea about himself and how untouchable he was. "We're in!" She breathed a few minutes later. The door slid open to reveal another set of twists and turns and she looked down at her phone again to the dot that would lead them to where they wanted to go.
"Man! I do not want to be those poor guards when they wake up." He said as they walked side by side. This chit chat thing was starting to bother her if Skye was going to be honest. In any other day she would have joined him and joked around too but not today. "Fitz has really gone all out on the bullet doses for the ICER."
"Antoine," She hissed trough gritted teeth. "I love you and you know it but if you don't have anything useful to say please shut up." If looks could kill he would have been dead by now. He raised his hands in surrender and shut up.
"This is it." She said as they stopped in front of another door. A few more moments of tinkering around and it opened to reveal an interrogation room but what took her by surprise was what was in the room. Skye moved inside and took a closer look of the tall, dark figure that was chained to the wall with a pair of iron cuffs.
"Uh, Houston." Trip mumbled into his ear piece. "I think we have a problem." He breathed trying to process what he was seeing. Skye moved towards the man before Trip could stop her.
"Grant?" She murmured and placed her hand against his cheek. "Can you hear me?" She shook him lightly and his eyes snapped open to reveal two pools of golden, they looked strange as if they belonged to a snake and not a man. A moment later they turned back to their usual soft brown colour.
"Skye?" He choked up before slipping back to unconsciousness.
"What the hell is that in there?" Simmons exclaimed pointing to the monitors. The creature that for some weird reason looked a lot like Ward was huddled in the corner of the room shying away from the light. "Because it's not human!" Coulson shook his head, eyes still trained on the screens. The thing had tried to attack one of the guards that brought it food a few minutes ago. They barely had time to pull the poor man out of the cell before it knocked him out.
"I have no idea." He breathed turning to face May as if she held all the answers. Coulson had seen some very weird things in his short life but nothing like this. Fitz stood at the corner of the room, his eyes focused on the screens too as his mind worked a thousand thoughts a minute.
"Sir?" His voice was cold, calculated as he looked at his boss. "Ward is dead. We saw the body, we buried him two years ago. We mourned him!" He sounded detached, trying to find an explanation to what he was seeing.
When they first captured Ward, General Talbot had demanded they turn him over to the military in order for Ward to stand trial. Coulson foolishly did it trying to get on the General's good side, only it wasn't that easy. Three months into Ward's stay in federal prison Talbot sent word that the ex-agent had killed himself.
Since no one else on the team wanted anything to do with him at the time, Fitz was the one to take care of the whole mess. The day he laid Ward's body to rest, Leo felt like he had truly lost a brother, no matter what he'd done. Ward was and would always be a brother to him.
"Correction." May finally said. "Talbot wanted us to think he was dead." It almost sounded like she was pissed to Fitz's ears. Which wasn't the case he knew, May couldn't care less if Ward was dead or alive.
"Where's Skye?" May asked as Simmons placed a cup of tea in front of her. She hadn't see the younger woman since she and Trip had been back from the mission and she was growing antsy.
Melinda would never admit it but in the few years she'd known Skye, the girl with no name had waken something inside of her. Something Melinda thought would be sleeping forever. Maternal instincts weren't really her forte but when it came to Skye it couldn't be helped.
"She's resting." Melinda arched a curious eyebrow as Simmons sat opposite her, tablet in hand.
"You're trying to tell me that you convinced her to go to sleep willingly?" A lot had changed the last two years, and first and foremost, Skye. After Hydra and Ward's betrayal she was never the same.
Long gone was the hacktivist that liked to question everyone and everything, insisting that information should be given to everyone. She was replaced by a cold and heartless soldier that knew how to follow orders perfectly. She was turning into a new May and that was the last thing Melinda wanted.
"What I meant was that I slipped something in her coffee and put Trip to guard over her. She hasn't slept in twenty eight hours, I know she's having a hard time but I refuse to stand aside and watch her waste away."
This war they were in had cost all of them very much; for her and Phil it cost their entire life, everything they ever believed in went up in smoke in mere minutes. For Fitz and Simmons it was their friendship, after Fitz's injury nothing was the same. As for Skye? It cost her Ward, the only thing she'd ever believed in.
"Have you found anything?" Coulson tapped his foot impatiently.
"Not really." Fitz shook his head. "The only thing I do know is that he's indeed human, meaning that Ward was never dead. He appears to be in some kind of catatonic state. Ward looks more like a puppet than an actual human being." Something twisted inside of Fitz as he looked at the man that used to be his best friend. He looked...empty, soulless, and it made Fitz sick to his stomach.
What the hell did Talbot do to the poor man?
Skye hated the new Shield base, it felt foreign. She missed the Bus and her bunk. She missed late nights playing Battleship and Scrabble, or watching Doctor Who even when they had training early in the morning. Those days seemed so long ago, actually she felt like those days were a part of another universe, one that she hadn't lived in. God, how did they fuck up their lives so much?
She rubbed a hand over her face willing the migraine to finally go away. Simmons had deemed it psychological, there was nothing wrong with her body physically. But every time she would pressure herself a little more than she could handle that horrible pain that felt like her head was about to split in two came rushing back.
Early on she discovered that alcohol numbed the pain, among other things of course. So that's why she was drinking her problems away in a shitty conference room, turned kind of den, away from everyone else.
Her mind drifted back to what they'd found a few hours ago. She just couldn't wrap her head around the fact that he was alive. She had cried so many nights, for everything he'd done, for everything they never got to live, for every single thing they lost. She cried until there were no more tears to shed and all that left was cold numbness spreading over her body.
Skye couldn't remember the last time she truly laughed or smiled for that matter. Make no mistake, she put up a great show for the team. But it was just that, a show. He broke her. He fucking broke her and Skye could never forgive him for it. Never!
"I thought you were asleep." Fitz's voice startled her as he sat down beside her on the couch. He took her glass from her hand and downed what little of her drink was left.
"Did you really think that Jemma was so good with hiding the fact that my tea was laced with a sedative?" She smirked as she filled her glass again. "Come on, I'm smarter than that." Fitz laughed bitterly taking the bottle from her hands.
They sat side by side, drinking in silence for a while. It was nothing new for them, out of the entire team Skye and Fitz were the ones closest to Ward and the ones that should be mad at him the most.
Problem was that they felt anything but anger! There was rage, of course, not for what he did but for what he didn't do. For not coming to any of them with his problems, not asking for help. They could've done something.
"Do you think things would have been different if we were more careful? If we had paid attention to the signs?" She asked curling into herself. What would have happened if she had pressured Ward into telling her all about his family? What would have happened if she had showed him that she could put him back together? That two broken pieces could make a whole one? She was light and he was dark, they could've made it work.
"Maybe." He said shaking his head softly. "Maybe not, no way to know though." The scotch burned down his throat, warming his insides. "Ward is in there!" He whispered throwing his hands in the air desperately. "The man we thought dead, the brother I buried is in there and he looks nothing like him. He might physically look like Ward but he's broken, Skye! Sodding broken!"
Jemma could never understand how Leo could forgive Ward after what he'd done, after throwing them into the sea. Frankly, Leo gave up on trying to explain to her that as fucked up as it sounded he understood the other man. Skye had dug up some very interesting things on Ward, things that both wished to forget, but it was hard to. Things that told a lot about the man they thought they knew. His life with Garett wasn't as fun as they'd like to believe.
"I feel lost." She confessed and rested her head against his shoulder. Fitz wrapped an arm around her and pulled her closer. "What are we going to do?"
"Nothing for now." He murmured kissing her forehead. "We can do nothing until we figure out what's wrong with him." Skye snuggled closer to his body and wrapped her arms around his waist in return.
Fitz was the only one she truly trusted anymore, the only one she felt safe with. After Ward, Fitz was the closest thing she had to a family. A brother from another mother, she held no shame over seeking comfort from him. "Get some sleep, Skye. There's a long day ahead of us."
"Where did we go wrong?" He asked raising his cup to his lips.
"I really don't know." She answered quietly as they stood side by side watching Ward. "Maybe it wasn't our mess to fix and we didn't catch up to it until it was too late." And for that Melinda felt guilty.
They should have been more careful with Ward, Shield did not recruit normal people. Their ranks were full of men and women that carried tons of baggage. People from broken homes, orphans, the loners of this world. Ward was no different, it was no secret between them that they all had read his file.
All the hurt and the abuse, yes she was fucked up after Bahrain too but at least she had some happy moments in her life. Sunday dinners with her family, road trips, Christmas mornings, sunny days with her sister, birthdays, Ward had nothing of that. Hell the poor thing didn't even go to high school! He'd never had a normal life.
"I swore to hate him forever you know." She said after a while. "When I learned he played me like that I hated him with every single fiber of my being. Doesn't seem so easy anymore."
"Forever is a long time, Mel." Coulson smiled sadly, it was a long time indeed.
Jemma wasn't surprised to find Antoine sleeping. She was however surprised to find him sleeping in Skye's bed instead of the woman herself. Jemma had tried her hardest to help Skye through all this the last two years but her friend wouldn't let anyone inside.
She had gotten closer to Fitz to everyone's delight but even Leo couldn't pull Skye out of her moods sometimes. "Antoine?" She whispered as she ran her fingers over his cheek softly. "Antoine, wake up." His eyes fluttered open and he rolled to his side.
"What time is it?" He mumbled burying his face against the pillow.
"Late." She said as her fingers slipped toward the back of his neck, kneading the tight muscles. "Where's Skye?"
"In her bed I guess." His eyes fell close again and he let a relaxed sigh out.
"Kinda hard." Jemma smiled despite herself. She was a step away from shoving a sedative down Skye's throat on her own but she couldn't blame Trip because their hacker refused to get some much needed rest. "Since you are currently sleeping in it instead."
"She changed our cups again didn't she?" Skye had a habit of picking up on the signs every time Jemma tried to play something like that. She switched her cup with someone else's in order to avoid Jemma's shenanigans.
"We need to do something about that." Jemma said as he pulled her down to lay beside him. "I'm worried about her." Trip placed a soft kiss against her neck and wrapped his arms around her.
"We all are, princess." His voice sounded muffled as he buried his face in her hair, breathing her in. "Get some sleep." She closed her eyes and willed herself to rest but her brain wouldn't let her. A lot of things had changed since the fall of Shield, her relationship with Fitz being the main one.
He wasn't the same after he woke up and Jemma didn't expect anything different. The lack of oxygen in the moments they were underwater left him with a few problems to solve. He got past most of them but there were still moments where his brain would get stuck on something and he wouldn't be able to remember it, resulting in him getting upset over it.
Jemma herself wasn't much help either because instead of staying by his side like every other time she got lost in her own pain. That coupled with the fact that Fitz seemed to have forgiven Ward drew a void between them. She was ashamed to admit it but they were falling apart and she didn't know how to stop it.
Somewhere in there, her relationship, that wasn't exactly a relationship, with Trip was born. She needed someone and Antoine was there. That didn't mean she didn't love Fitz, but right now something between them would be catastrophic and they both knew it.
A loud bang and voices running up and down the hallway woke Skye up abruptly. Throwing the blanket Fitz had draped over her away she shot up to her feet and grabbed the ICER she had hidden under the table at all times and made her way towards the source of the noise. For all she knew they were under attack and a visit from Talbot was the last thing she needed right now.
Opening the door slowly she stuck her head out to check what was going on. Skye took a moment to assess the situation and moved towards the noisy crowd. Her heart raced inside her chest as if it was ready to fly out as she got closer to the cell where they'd put Ward. She wasn't ready to see him again, she just wasn't ready for something like that.
"What the hell happened?" Her voiced boomed, bouncing off of the walls of the small room and everyone turned to face her. Coulson was laid against the floor unable to move while Simmons was fussing over him. Taking one good look at him Skye checked for injuries and when she saw that there was no blood other than the small scratch on his neck she put her gun away. "Where's Ward?"
"He escaped!" Simmons hissed as she checked Coulson's pulse.
"What do you mean escaped?" Skye bit back with as much venom as she could master.
"I mean that he turned into an enormous lizard and beat it out of here!"
It took them a while to explain to her that Coulson went in to interrogate Ward only for the ex-agent to turn into a flipping lizard and make a run for it. Three years ago she wouldn't have believed them but after what she had seen, people turning to lizards didn't look so weird.
"So that thing might not be Ward after all." Simmons sighed taking a sip from her tea, hands still trembling.
"No, that was Ward. He knew my name, he recognised me when Trip and I saved him." Skye shook her head lightly as if to clean her mind.
"Skye's right." Fitz butted in. "He's human, I ran tests on him multiple times. Physically everything was as human as possible. If there was an anomaly in his DNA our computers would have showed it to me."
"Well, he was human until he turned into a lizard!" Trip sing songed from beside Simmons, rubbing a hand up and down her back. Just as Skye was about to say something May walked into the room.
"How is he?" She asked, she and Coulson might have hit a few rough bumps lately but Skye still cared for the old man. He was the closest thing she'd ever had to a father.
"He's fine, just resting." The fact that May was calm put her mind at rest. "Simmons, what was that gooey thing on Coulson's neck?"
"It was a neurotoxin that paralyses the muscles, trapping the pray. Usually it's a characteristic common in serpents and amphibians." She explained in her let-me-teach-you-a-few-things voice.
"What the hell is going on, May?" Trip was the first to voice the question that'd been eating them all up.
"I have no fucking idea!"
Melinda May hated being out of loop, that being said, being out of loop was a regular procedure the last two years for her. Sometimes she regretted joining Shield, she thought how her life would have been if she'd joined FBI or CIA like her mother had wanted. But then her mind would wander to Phil and all they had gone through the last thirty years. They were kids when they joined the organisation, stupid kids that thought they could change the world.
It took her a while to discover that that wasn't the case. Now she was trapped within a situation that she had no idea how to deal with. She had to stay by Phil's side and take care of a family she never thought she'd have. Because if she was being honest, she'd come to see all the young people in her team like her kids.
Checking on Phil once more she made her way to the base's lowest level. She had to pay a visit to General Talbot and she was pretty sure neither of them would be happy about it. She itched to get her hands on the man. He had rubbed her the wrong way since they'd first met and Melinda just wanted to tear him apart. What he did to Ward, whatever that was, was something vile. Of that she was sure, and no matter how much she disliked Ward she would never wish a fate like that upon him.
She wasn't too keen to the idea of torturing someone, but if it came to it Melinda would do it. She wanted answers and she wanted them now. Talbot had two choices, either to give them up willing or to get them beaten out of him. Though she did like the idea of some action, being Phil's second in command had its drawbacks, meaning field missions were not a thing anymore. Then again, she would hardly take any pleasure in beating up a chained opponent, there was something about an equal fight that made winning feel even better.
"General Talbot." Her lips pressed into a thin line as she took a seat opposite him. "Ready to talk yet?" She had two guards stationed outside the interrogation room and another two inside with her. Not that she couldn't neutralise the threat by herself but better safe than sorry.
"I have nothing to talk with you about." He growled and pulled against his bindings. Not that Melinda had expected anything different, but she'd kind of hoped that it wouldn't come to this.
"You really want to test my patience, don't you?" She smiled and his face fell, there was a coldness in it that made even the most feared people inside Shield back away from her. She had discovered a dark side of herself after Bahrain and she wasn't afraid to use it if it meant her loved ones were protected.
"Do your worst." He said cockily and Melinda shook her head. Men and their stupid ideas of being superior to women. She could reduce him to nothing more than a broken shell if she really wanted to, do what he did to Ward and enjoy it. She motioned to the guard behind her and he carried a small case to her.
"This," She explained opening it and pulling a gun from inside it. "Is QMB-T16. It's the top-shelf martini of sodium-pentathol derivatives. It's a very fast-acting and extremely potent truth drug."
"Things like that don't exist." He snorted and sat up straighter.
"Wanna bet?" She stood and walked around the table, standing right beside him. "I'm offering you a choice, give me what I want and I'll let you walk away unharmed."
"No." The word came out with an air of finality.
"Very well." If this was how he wanted to play then so be it.
'Senator Jonathan Ward was found dead in his office early this morning. An announcement from his family said that he died from natural causes, though a source from the inside says that things are not as smooth as they want us to believe.'
Fitz muted the TV and turned to face Skye.
"You knew Ward's father was a Senator?" He asked peering over her shoulder at her computer screen.
"I didn't know about Ward's family, period. His file never said anything about them, all there was were medical records and the files I stole from Garrett." She replied typing furiously on the keyboard.
Within forty minutes she had everything they needed to know. Unsurprisingly what she found was something she would have been just fine without knowing. It pissed her off to see the things some people could get away with just because they had power.
On the outside the Ward family was picture perfect. Jonathan Ward came from a powerful political background, went to Harvard and studied law and much like the rest of the men in his family got into politics. When the time came he married little miss perfect Margaret Rise, a rich heiress.
Together they had four even more perfect children, three sons and a daughter. Fate though took two of them when one was seven and the other sixteen. Their daughter was hospitalised after her older brother's sudden death. She never recovered from it. Skye felt bile rise to her throat, lies, they were all a bunch of lies!
"Do you think he was the one who killed Senator Ward?" Fitz prayed that it wasn't, because if Ward really did he wasn't sure if they could save him.
"I hope not, Fitz." She said shaking her head as she dug up more and more dirt on the not so perfect Wards. How could have no one seen these before? If they did why did they let it go on?
"Briefing in five." Trip called from the doorway and they both shot up to their feet following him.
Skye loaded what she'd found into the new holo-table courtesy of Tony Stark- and pulled the files up for everyone. "What's this?" She asked as two agents stepped in after May carrying four boxes filled with files.
"That's a ton of paperwork I'm not gonna do." The older woman snapped as they took their places around the table. Coulson joined them a moment later looking much better. It took the neurotoxin only an hour and a half to leave his body and after that Simmons checked on him again making sure that he was fine.
"Mind if I give a little background before we start?" Skye's eyes traveled around the room and when no one protested she went on. "I did some research and what I found will not be something you'll like." With a twist of her hand the files came to life and articles from papers scattered around them. "As you can see the Ward family is well known within politics and, in my opinion way too perfect. Jonathan Ward, a well-respected Senator that helped pass a lot of noble bills and some not so much. His wife is known for her charity work, an ex-debutant that shits rainbows and drinks tea with unicorns." She explained farther. "As for his oldest son? He's following in his father's footsteps in every way possible!" She growled as she flipped through more articles and pictures.
"I'm guessing you are not done yet." Coulson raised a dark eyebrow and Skye's frown deepened.
"Nope." She bit out. "The Ward family has, or had four children, two died, one at the age of seven and the other at the age of sixteen. Not much is written about the incidents other than that they were mere accidents. That left an older brother and a younger sister that's been hospitalised since she was eleven for reasons unknown to the public." Swiping her screen clean she pulled up what an old friend had sent her. "I called in a few favours with some people from the Rising Tide and this is what they sent back to me." She shared the files with all of them by sending them to their tablets. There were a few moments of silence as they all read the information.
"Laundering money, bribing, mail and wire fraud." May read aloud. "Ties to gangs? How is it that he's still out of jail?"
"He's too smart." Fitz offered. "He makes sure to clean up after himself, never leaving a trace."
"That's not the worst of it." Skye shook her head as she pulled another file up. "I hacked into the hospital they; have Ward's sister and they stole her file, among other things." She said as a video popped up on their screens. It came alive as soon as Skye pressed the play button.
The rooms filled with heart-wrenching screams from a teenaged girl that was tied to a surgical table. Skye averted her eyes from the image, this could have been her at some point. If Shield had caught up to the fact that she wasn't human she could have been in that girl's place. They all watched in horror as the doctors experimented on the poor thing mercilessly. After what seemed like an eternity but was only a minute or two, the girl's body seized, her back arched off of the table, pulling at her binds, before falling down as she blasted the people that tortured her away from her.
"What was that?" Jemma breathed, eyes wide still staring at the blackening screen.
"That was magic." May stated simply like it was the most normal thing.
"I just can't believe it." Jemma insisted flipping through the files they'd received from Talbot. "Magic is a fairytale. It just can't be real!"
"Seriously?" Skye raised a curious eyebrow. "We've seen aliens, fought with gods, talked to a person that turns into a green raging monster and we work for a workaholic billionaire that has a device on his chest to keep him alive. Still you find magic impossible?"
"All those things can be explained through science whereas magic cannot." Jemma explained as she flipped the pages in her file, her eyes scanning for information. "Magic has nothing to grab on to. You can't see it, you can't touch it, you can't study it the way I studied those samples of DNA Dr. Banner gave me."
May and Coulson left them to do all the dirty work while they tracked down the older Ward brother. Not that it would be too hard to find him but still, you can't just march into a Senator's office and demand to see them. So Skye and the Scooby Gang split the boxes they got from Talbot between them and got into it. They had quite a few theories on what might be going on and no matter what they'd seen the last few years it was still hard to comprehend the truth.
"Keep your mind open, Jems." Fitz flinched at the nickname Trip used. Fitz had come to terms with Simmons' and Trip's relationship for the most part but there were times that he just couldn't handle it. Like now for example when Trip called Simmons what Fitz used to call her back when they were still one entity. Skye caught Fitz's eye briefly but let her observation slip. They would have time to talk about it later, right now they needed to find Ward.
"Old habits die hard." Simmons shrugged going back to her reading. "I think I found something." She murmured as she raised the page closer to her eyes. Why this wasn't digitalised was beyond Skye. Then again, even she wouldn't do something like that, the files were supposed to stay secret.
So far they had worked out what Ward was supposed to be - a vengeance-wielding monster. According to all the books they had read and sites they had gone through, such a monster was called a Kanima. The files described it as a spirit possessing a human thus giving them shape shifting abilities.
The possessed human usually took the form of a jaguar or a wolf to serve justice. However, a Kanima's form was a reflection of themselves according to the files. "The reason Ward turned into that crossbreed of a lizard and a snake was because that's how he viewed himself." Simmons finally said as Fitz leaned over her shoulder to get a better view of what she was seeing. "It says here that inner turmoil or narcissistic outward behaviour can lead the person to transform into something more dangerous and considered evil."
"So basically the shape a person takes is up to them." Fitz offered sitting back down.
"I think so." Simmons nodded. "The first time the spirit was called was by a priest in South America. According to the legend his village was full of murderers and he took it upon himself to clean it by calling the Kanima. The spirit possessed a young man close to the priest which bonded the two of them, turning them into Master and Servant. With time, the bond grew stronger to the point where the Master's will became one with the Servant's. Whoever the Master deemed unworthy the Kanima served his vengeance."
"Do you think Talbot tried to tie Ward to him?" Trip asked after a few moment of silence. "I mean a supernatural creature like that, with the abilities Ward has, would be a mind blowing weapon. It would be able to cross off even the hardest target and without even questioning its orders. Get where I'm going with this?"
"It's not so easy though." Skye cut in. "It says here that a Kanima chooses its own Master and it's irrelevant who cast the spell in the first place. The priest had a solid reason to do so, hell, he probably had lost someone and wanted justice. Talbot just wanted a weapon."
"So we can safely say that Talbot is not Ward's master." Simmons wrote something down on the notepad resting between her and Fitz and then looked up to them again. Skye was happy to see that this was bringing the two of them closer together in some twisted way. "Great! So we basically set free to the world a weapon of mass destruction in need of a master with a thirst for revenge. Yay!" She exclaimed sarcastically.
"Well when you put it that way, it sounds bad." Skye joked halfheartedly as she leaned back against her chair. She was too tired to do this, too tired to fight another losing battle. She just wanted to go to sleep and pretend this whole thing never happened.
"What else do we know about it?" Trip asked, handing out coffee. It seemed like they'd been doing this for hours.
"In general a Kanima has enhanced abilities, agility, good reflexes, speed, strength, everything is turned up to superhuman. Their way of thinking is reduced down to basics, a feral mind and the instinct to kill." Fitz explained as he wrote down on Jemma's notepad what they'd found. "Also it looks like it has regenerative healing, meaning it can't be killed by normal guns."
"Supernatural through and through." Trip nodded.
"What are you two writing down?" Skye snatched the notepad away from Fitz and scanned the page. "What is this?"
"It's a diagram." Simmons huffed snatching it back. "We used to make diagrams when we were back at the academy to help us study or solve problems. In case you haven't noticed Ward is a big problem right now!"
She kept the lights off afraid that someone would actually see them and she didn't plan on going back to that hell hole again. Never. It was getting dark as the minutes ticked by and it wouldn't be long before they could go out again. The darkness was good, it felt familiar, it was safe, she had spent half her life in it. Sophie wasn't afraid of it, she loved it.
If she closed her eyes she could still feel what they had done to her. The torture and pain she'd had to endure all those years! She felt it stir inside her again but she pushed it back down. The creature curled around her feet and hissed at her distress but Sophie soothed it by stroking its scaled head.
She was ten when she'd first touched her gift, felt the power running through her veins. It was intoxicating, the ability to wield something so strong, she had no idea what it was but she knew she could keep her big brother safe with it. There were little things at first, freezing Christian for seconds so Grant could get away, slipping between them and shielding Grant from any blow before Christian could deliver it.
Sadly her parents had caught on to it quickly and before she knew it she was shipped off to 'a special place' for people like her. That's where she spent the next seventeen years of her life, locked in an institute Hydra was behind, being experimented on. No one wanted to listen about her powers, that it wasn't something you could re-create, it was a precious gift.
Grant found her a few times and tried to break her out but Hydra'd had a tight hold on her. She stopped expecting him when she caught wind that the organisation was falling apart. But for some reason they did everything possible to keep her. Until a few hours ago when her brother had found her again. She didn't know how and didn't question the fact that in order to break her out he had to turn into a big lizard, she was just grateful her torture was over.
"Soon, my sweet brother." She whispered, breaking the silence and Grant reverted back into his human form, golden eyes boring into hers. "Soon, they will all pay."
And they would, starting with her dear older brother the kind Samaritan. Christian Ward would be ridden from this world once and for all. He could burn in hell for the rest of eternity for all she cared.
"I've scanned every single surveillance camera in D.C ten times now but I can't find him anywhere." Skye admitted defeat after the fourth hour of searching for Ward. She had even asked JARVIS for help but nothing came up. Ward was a very skilled specialist, he was trained to avoid being seen, of course it wouldn't be easy to find him.
"Patience is a virtue." May murmured sitting beside her. "He'll have to come out eventually." They had returned back to the base an hour ago with what Skye could consider good news, kind of. Coulson found Christian with a little help from Tony and told him a story about someone having a bounty on him which wasn't a lie per se. They had agreed that Shield would shadow him the next few days in order to keep him safe. Skye wasn't comfortable with the plan but there was nothing she could do.
"So what? We sit around and wait?" Skye asked rubbing her eyes tiredly.
"Pretty much." May shrugged and took a sip from her tea. Years of experience told her that sometimes things had to be done slowly.
"May?" Skye's voice was barely audible as her gaze met the older woman's. "What's gonna happen with Ward's brother after we are done?" It was eating her up inside, Christian Ward was a powerful man that had done some terrible things. He couldn't keep living his life normally because of that power, he had to pay for what he and his father had done. "He won't get away with it, will he?"
"I don't know yet, baby girl." May answered honestly, it wasn't something they had talked about. Coulson took the situation a step at time, one could not be careful enough with politics. They had to keep a low profile or else they could very well start a civil war. "But I know that neither Coulson nor Tony will let it go so easy. Especially Tony, he has a thing for making the government uncomfortable and this is an opportunity he wouldn't pass on." Skye was about to say something when her surveillance systems zeroed on a dot that appeared to be Ward on her screen.
"I think we found him." She said sending a quick text to the rest of the team alerting them.
"Where?" May shot up from her chair and leaned over Skye's shoulder.
"In Christian Ward's house." She breathed.
It felt like yesterday since the last time she'd walked those halls. It wasn't hard for Sophie to break into the house like she did when she was a child. It was stupid of her family to never fix that door in the back of the property or the loose window on the basement. Then again the door was so far away from the house they probably had forgotten about it and no one ever went down to the basement. Not after Thomas' death anyway.
She stopped abruptly in front of the huge oak door, behind it lay her father's old office that now her brother occupied. Grant tensed beside her and she reached to stroke his head again. Her father was an easy enough target to take down, Grant had done it before she could even think about it. Her older brother though, he was a whole other story. Sophie wanted him to suffer, for what he'd done to Grant, for how he killed Thomas without even feeling remorse all these years. She wanted him to suffer the same way she did.
His death wouldn't be easy or merciful. Pushing the door open she stepped inside the dimly lit room.
"Marie, I told you-"
"Hello, brother." She sneered as she watched Christian's eyes grow wide in surprise.
It was the first time in the last two years that Skye saw a strike team assembled so fast. In less then forty minutes since she'd located Ward, Coulson and May had a plan worked out and a team already trailing behind them as back up. They didn't want a spectacle so only one person was going in while the others surrounded the property.
"Please, AC! You know I'm the right person for that!" She begged as they came to a stop. He wanted May to go in but Skye knew she was a better choice. Melinda was good in many things but the welcome wagon was Skye's cup of tea. She was born to do shit like that, literally! A while back Simmons finally worked out Skye's 084 status. Her powers were a good mix of high intelligence and empathy. Granted she didn't use either to its full extent but when it came to life or death situations like this one, it was needed.
"Phil," May placed a hand on his arm and he turned to look at her, his expression soft. "Let her do this. We know she can." Coulson seemed to think about it for a moment, contemplating her words and then turned back to Skye.
"Alright." He said finally with a defeated sighed.
"I love family reunions." She laughed softly. "Don't you? I mean it's been so long and I bet you have so many exciting things to tell me. No?" Sophie said sarcastically as she draped herself over an armchair. Her eyes pinned on Christian's paralysed form, one small swipe of Grant's tail and it was enough to render their big brother unable to move. "But seeing as you can't talk right now I think I'll go ahead and catch you up on how amazing our lives have been." She clapped her hands in mock excitement and watched as fear flashed through Christian's eyes.
No matter how much you try to escape the past it will come back to bite you in the ass eventually and Christian knew this. He knew that all the pain he caused was going to be the end of him at some point. All the times he hurt Grant, Thomas' death, her torture inside that thing they called a hospital, everything. He was going to pay for them tonight. Grant circled around them, his golden eyes flicking all over the room checking for any threats. She didn't know what he was exactly but she knew he wouldn't let anyone hurt her. Not anymore!
"Should I catch you up on my fabulous life or Grant's first? Should I tell you how he was beaten to the ground and molded into a mindless war machine? How John Garrett finished what you couldn't?" Grant's tail snapped quickly and the sound echoed into the spacious room as it hit Christian's chest, splitting his shirt in two. Something settled inside her as she watched the blood seeping off of her older brother's wound and she closed her eyes basking in the feeling of justice. Grant repeated the action twice more and Christian cried out in pain biting down on the cloth that muffled his voice. "Oh, please!" She sneered at him, her eyes cold. "That's nothing compared to what they did to me. Have you ever been electrocuted, brother dearest?"
That's something the Hydra scientists, if you could call them that, rather enjoyed doing. They would hook her up to wires and measure all kinds of things while playing with the switch. They found that after a certain amount of electricity was passing through her body her powers would weaken and if they turned it a little higher they would stop working altogether. But that wasn't the worst of it.
"They tried to breed me, you know." She averted her eyes from him as memories came rushing back. When the Hydra operatives saw that they couldn't figure much out from her they tried to force a child on her. She lost count of how many times she had to fight off Hydra soldiers that wanted to play hero to their superiors.
At those moments she thanked her lucky stars for her gift. Her magic kept her safe many times and finally they gave up after she killed the latest male they'd sent. "When they saw there was nothing they could figure out they tried to force someone on me." Her voice was soft, but it carried something dark and twisted.
You can never be the same after that kind of treatment. Torture she could handle but having the will taken from you like that? It was something she couldn't get past easily even though the men never succeeded in following through with their orders. She wasn't some damned animal that they could push around, Sophie had limits and she would die before she'd let something like that happen. Grant moved closer to her sensing her distress again, hissing lowly.
She needed a moment. Sitting up she stretched her legs and turned to move towards the cabinet where her father kept the alcohol all those years ago when her eyes fell on the female figure by the door.
"I'm not going to hurt you." The younger woman said holding her hands up in surrender. She should feel threatened but something in her eyes put Sophie at easy.
Skye held her breath as her eyes focused on the tall woman, she couldn't be much older than Skye herself. She shared the same characteristics with her older brother, the same square jaw, the same doe eyes and Skye suspected the same emotional scars.
Something in her made Skye uneasy though, she felt it in the air as they locked gazes. Assessing the situation she averted her eyes for a moment to check on the older Ward and then looked at Grant standing between herself and his sister. She couldn't help but notice that even in his animal form he was beautiful. His tail twitched and snapped in front of her warningly. She took a step away and her back hit the door.
"Again," She repeated slowly. "I'm not going to hurt any of you, Grant." She put emphasis on his name just like Fitz suggested and breathed a sigh of relief when she saw him cocking his head to the side. That meant that he indeed recognised them and who he was to some extent. Simmons had suggested that maybe she could break the spell that way but Skye doubted that something so strong could be broken by something so simple.
"Who are you?" Grant's sister glared at Skye, her voice holding a tone of hostility.
"I'm Skye, Sophie." She offered calmly and tried to move closer. "I used to work with Grant and we were close friends." She explained, further trying to calm the other woman down. She wasn't sure how powerful Sophie was and what she could do with her powers. Add the videos she watched in the equation and one wrong move could kill all of them. "I want to help you."
"You can't." Sophie growled. "I came here to do something and I'm leaving only after I put my older brother where he belongs." A dark shadow fell over her face as she spoke, twisting her futures. "Six feet under." She hissed and the older Ward whined from his chair still very much paralysed. But Skye knew that wouldn't last for long, the neurotoxin was bound to run thin in his bloodstream at some point.
"You don't want to do this, Sophie!" Skye took a few steps closer forcing Grant to back away from her and closer to his sister. "I know you want him to suffer the same way you did, and believe me, I want nothing less than that. But using Grant like that, it will destroy him when he comes back to be himself. You want to be different than John Garret and Christian, right?" Sophie nodded slowly and Skye could see her breaking. She was getting through to her. "Let me take care of Christian and you can take care of Grant. I promise, your older brother won't get out of this so easy." By now she was standing right in front of Sophie with Grant curled around his sister's legs, hissing warningly. "So, what do you say? Will you let me help?"
Sophie's arms fell to her sides lifeless and she slammed back against the bookshelves behind her. "Alright." She breathed and closed her eyes as Skye wrapped her arms around her.
"I want you to set Grant free, sweetie." She begged and placed a kiss on Sophie's forehead, willing her to stay calm. "Can you break the spell?"
"I don't know how." Sophie murmured hot tears running down her cheeks, finally her emotions taking its toll on her. "I'm not even sure how I did it."
"You didn't do this, Sophie." Skye assured her rubbing her hands up and down the other woman's arms reassuringly. Grant tried to wrap his large body around his sister's legs even tighter trying to blend in with her. It looked like their bond had formed quite nicely and what Sophie felt he felt it too. And right now Sophie was very much afraid from what Skye could tell. "But I have faith in you. I know you can set him free." She could see Christian trying to move. "We're running out of time. You need to do this now, Sophie. Reach deep inside you and break the bond!"
Sophie closed her eyes and concentrated on Skye's voice as she searched inside her. She'd done this quite a few times when she first started using her gift. The only difference was that back then she knew what she was searching for. "What am I supposed to look for?" She asked desperately.
"Something that ties you to Grant." Skye explained. "There's a bond, it's like a thread connecting you to him." She wasn't sure if she was making sense at this point but that's how the books explained it.
She watched in rapt fascination as Sophie's face scrunched up in a frown and she clutched a hand over her chest. A moment later Grant fell at their feet shifting back into his human form.
"All clear." She whispered into her ear piece and breathed a sigh of relief as the swat team filled inside the room. In no time they had wrapped up everything and they were headed back to the base.
She was the one to escort Sophie out of the house as soon as the paramedics took an unconscious Grant away. The other woman followed Skye back to the base willingly and without much fuss. Skye explained to her that they would have to place her in a cell for the time being until Skye could make a statement.
Taking a deep breath she stood up and tried to clear her mind. She grabbed a chocolate bar and a bottle of water and made her way towards the cell they kept Sophie in. She had talked with Coulson about their next move and they both decided that someone like Sophie could be very useful, it's not like Shield never had gifted people in their ranks before. Granted none of them could wield magic but there was always a first time. She opened the door and stepped in quietly.
"Hey!" Skye said and Sophie whipped around to face her. "I'm sorry it took me so long. They needed me." She explained placing the chocolate bar and the water bottle in the middle of the table. "Here, I brought you a snack. I'm not sure what you'd like but Grant seemed fond of them so..." She trailed off pushing the food towards her.
"Thanks." Sophie took the peace offering and tore into the bar. "So, what's gonna happen to me now?" She asked through a mouthful of chocolate. "Are you going to send me back to Hydra?" She asked grimly, Sophie would never admit it but that was what she was scared of most and something she wouldn't allow. She was prepared to fight her way out of here and die in the process rather than go back to that hell. That wasn't an option.
"About that..." Skye said slowly. "What would you say if I asked you to work for us?" There was no better way to go than honesty in these kind of situations, Skye knew that. If she wanted Sophie to trust her she would have to tell her the truth. Secrets and lies did anything but good and what happened to Grant was a perfect example.
"Define work." Sophie bit her bottom lip nervously.
"I want you to join our team and help Shield make this world a better place." Skye offered simply. "I'm not saying it's going to be easy, I'm not saying we're always going to make the right moves but I can promise you a family here. People that will understand you and respect your boundaries. Fitz and Simmons would like to run some tests on you of course but not if you're not okay with it."
"Fitz and Simmons?"
"Two of our brightest scientists." Skye explained. "But as I told you that's only an option if you let them. You have to see a doctor if you choose to stay here though, and that's not up for discussion." Sophie nodded in understanding.
"Can I think about it?" She asked hesitantly, running a hand through her thick hair.
"As long as you want." Skye smiled warmly and silence fell over them. She wanted to ask so many things, about Sophie and Grant and what happened to them all those years but she knew it wasn't her place to do so.
"Skye?" Her gaze snapped up to meet Sophie's tired ones. "Christian..." She trailed off her eyes darkening.
"We took care of him. He won't be able to hurt you anymore."
Shortly after their talk Skye moved Sophie to a room next to her own and introduced her to Fitz and Simmons. She reminded Jemma to go easy on the other woman, she wasn't a lab rat nor was she here to be studied. Her mind traveled back to Grant as she made her way to the medical bay.
Jemma had checked on him a few times since they came back but everything seemed fine. Apparently magic didn't leave any physical evidences other than fatigue as soon as it was gone and Skye was okay with that. He woke up briefly when they'd brought him in but slept through the last nine hours.
Coulson wanted to bring him back to the team, Skye wanted him to be happy and she honestly believed that couldn't happen here. Sophie wasn't meant to be an agent anyway, they would use her as a consultant the same way they used Skye and Tony. They could both move into a nice house in the suburbs, Skye would make sure that everything the Ward family had would be passed down to the two siblings. Grant would be able to finally get that dog he wanted so much and some much needed help from a doctor.
She honestly wanted anything but to bring him back to the hell field work was. He was fragile and Skye wasn't sure how much more he could take. Even she couldn't handle it at times and Skye had been dead inside for the past two years. But she was coming back to life little by little, she hoped that her relationship with Grant hadn't been destroyed beyond repair.
She hoped that if they couldn't be involved romantically they would at least be able to be friends. He could use a friend and so could she. Lost in her thoughts she realised a little too late that someone else was inside Grant's room too. "You are the last person I thought I'd see here." She whispered lowly, careful not to disturb the sleeping man.
"Makes two of us." May shrugged turning to face her. "Simmons says he's fine."
"Looks like it but we won't know until he wakes up fully." Skye explained. "He seems to be healthy or as healthy as a tortured man can be at least."
"He's a survivor. I know that now, I should have seen it sooner." May sighed fixing Skye with a warm look. One that remind her a lot of the look only a mother would give to her children.
Both Coulson and May had made a lot of mistakes, especially where their team was concerned. Skye was happy they finally started owning up to them and trying to fix them. Because May being here? That was her way of acknowledging the fact that she wronged Grant. Maybe, just maybe they would all come out of this as better people.
"That he is." She nodded as May hurried past her.
Twenty four hours after they brought him in and Grant still hadn't woke up. Skye was worried about it but Simmons put her mind at ease, the magic had just left his body exhausted. He was taking his time to recover from it all. She stayed with him most of them time, Sophie dropped by a few times and Skye was glad to see that she was getting along with the others just fine, Fitz especially. Something that surprised everyone.
She thought a lot about what she would say to Grant when he finally woke up. Skye wrote a thousand speeches in her mind and deleted every single one of them. Somehow saying sorry just wasn't enough but what do you say to someone that went through so much and yet kept loving you even when you hurt them with every chance you got? What do you say to someone that tried to kill themselves and you just asked them why they didn't try harder?
"Skye?" Her eyes snapped up to finally meet Grant's sleepy ones. Relief flooded her insides as his head lolled to the side searching for her. It wasn't the first time he'd called her name since they came back. Every time he did it she thought he came back to her and every time his eyes stayed closed her heart clenched painfully inside her chest.
"I'm here." She whispered rushing to his side. She reached out and pushed the hair away from his forehead, placing a soft kiss against his skin. "What do you need?"
"You." He said, eyes dropping close.
"You have me." She smiled sadly. "I'm here. I'm not going anywhere."
"Good." He mumbled and went back to sleep.
Skye paged Simmons a moment later. His vitals were stable and the fact that he woke up again was a good sign. With the news Jemma sent Skye to get some much needed sleep and catch up on her work a little. There was a report she had to write and it was going to be a long one. Grabbing a snack from the kitchen she went back to her room, took a quick shower and a short nap then headed back to Ward's room. She wasn't surprised to find Fitz and Sophie there whispering to each other.
"Hey." She said softly as she flopped down on the chair beside Grant's bed. "How is he?"
"He asked for you again but we didn't want to disturb you." Fitz's face fell as soon as he saw her expression.
"He was the one that didn't let Leo wake you." Sophie was quick to add, backing Fitz up.
"Just this once." Skye muttered to herself and reached over to smooth Grant's hair back. He looked so fragile, nothing like the man she remembered. But then again that man was a lie so she didn't miss him much.
"Yes?" She turned to face Fitz again.
"Now that you're here we're going to head out." He said tapping his foot nervously.
"You need my permission?" She asked sarcastically rolling her eyes. "Get lost!" She teased, finally a smile splitting her face in two. They hurried out of the room and she picked up the book she had left earlier. She had finally gotten around to reading "Matterhorn" and she had to admit that the book gave you a new perspective of war.
She wasn't sure how much time had passed but when she put the book down her gaze met a pair of eyes she had missed. At that moment it dawned on her how empty her life was after he was gone, she had been so focused on compartmentalising everything that she had turned into the new May without even realising it.
This stiff person dressed in black wasn't her, she liked colour and laughing. She liked to mess around with laundry by putting her purple shirts with Grant's white undies turning them lilac. She made bad puns out of everything and thought that no matter what there was always a way to make things around you brighter.
"Hi." He finally muttered after a few moments, his eyes looking anywhere but her.
"Hi." She said back awkwardly. The silence was so heavy Skye could actually feel it pressing down on them. "How are you feeling?" She asked finally after what seemed like forever.
"Like shit." He answered honestly. "My head hurts a little."
"I can page Simmons to come and give you something for the pain." She offered weakly. "If you want to, I mean."
"I don't." He shook his head and Skye could see the battle raging inside of him. "What happened? Why am I here?"
"You don't remember?" She moved to sit beside him on the bed, her fingers unconsciously reaching for his. His face scrunched up in concentration.
"A little." He admitted a deep sigh escaping him. "Bits and pieces but I can't remember anything fully." Skye took a deep breath and delved into what had happened the last few days. She told him about what Talbot did, about his father and Sophie and finally about his big brother. "Where's Sophie?" He asked trying to sit up and pulling IVs and other machines along with him.
"Settle down." She pushed against his shoulders softly and he laid back. "Sophie is safe and you need to stay here. She's with Fitz now doing God knows what." She rolled her eyes as she saw his body relax visibly.
"What about Christian?" His face darkened at the mention of the person that had made his childhood a living hell.
"Your older brother won't see the light of the day for the rest of his life." She explained coldly. Tony was having a field day dealing with the whole thing. He ruffled a lot of feathers within the government and the press seemed to love him just a little bit more after the scandal he uncovered. Both Christian and Jonathan Ward were in too deep and America loved nothing more than good gossip. "Tony took good care of him. He can't hurt you or Sophie ever again." Something seemed to settle inside him and Skye watched as his face softened a little.
"What about the others?" He whispered quietly and she didn't need to ask who he meant.
"A lot has changed for all of us, Grant. Two years make a great difference and put things into a completely new perspective. Losing Shield and then losing you?" She shook her head as if trying to clear it. "We have a lot to talk about when you get out of here. That is if you want to talk of course. None of us were kind to you after you followed Garrett and we're not expecting you to come marching back."
"What about you?" He laced their fingers together and squeezed lightly.
"Are you asking me if I finally understood you?" He nodded and she smiled sadly. "Some of it I did, some I didn't. Right now I can't be sure where I stand, too much information in such a little time left me more confused than ever."
"I know what I want." He offered sincerely.
"I don't think we can jump back to being lovers so easily."
"I don't think that either. But we can be friends, we can start over." He explained and she pondered it for a moment, turning the idea around.
"Yeah, I think we can be friends." She nodded but a knock on the door cut whatever she had to say. Sophie stepped inside a moment later and Skye walked out of the room discretely leaving the two siblings alone. They had so much to say.
She could wait a few more hours. After all what were a few hours when you knew you had your entire life ahead of you.