"How long are we going to do this to each other?" he rasped.
The shadows beneath his eyes were deeper than she remembered. It's all she could think as she watched him move. The tension in his body was still there, the watchfulness the same, but the look in his eyes was haunted.
Like looking in a mirror.
She let herself sink into his gaze, searching the depths. "What are we doing to each other, Ward?"
He laughed, bitter and brittle. "I don't know, Skye. A mating ritual? Torture? How many times do we end up like this?" He pressed his forearm tighter to her throat.
Her answering laugh was glass breaking. "It's Daisy." She licked her lips. "You know I could throw you off with a thought."
"I know. So do it." He closed his eyes. "Come on."
"No," she whispered. "You want it too much."
He barked a laugh. "God, Skye..." He leaned in and kissed her hard. "You can't possibly be Daisy, not with that fire in you." He released her and stepped back. "Go. Get the hell out of here."
She advanced on him instead. "No. Not this time." She shook her head. "What are you doing, Ward? Why are you here?"
He smirked. "I'm trying to make sure I stay your number one baddie, of course." He shrugged. "I need your undivided attention. It's a problem, but I'm learning to live with it."
She shook her head again. "Nice try. Not buying."
"What does it matter to you, Skye?" His gaze shot to the door behind him. "Well, we're about to have company."
"Daisy," she repeated as she shrugged. "Yeah, and?" She jerked her head to the side.
He shrugged in return. "If you insist." He moved away from the door.
She exhaled as the troops burst through, sending a wave of force towards them.
Ward dropped anyone left standing and turned towards her. "Skye!" He lunged towards her, knocking her out of the way as an ATCU agent raised his gun from the floor.
"Daisy," she corrected again, snorting as he slumped in her arms. "You're that desperate to get close to me, Ward?" She frowned. "Ward?" She looked down at him, suspicion trumping sarcasm."Ward!" She wrapped her arms under him and lowered him to the floor, an all too familiar crimson pooling beneath him. "No, no, come on..." She hit her comms. "Coulson, it's Ward, he's here, and he's down - he's down after saving me."
The silence was deafening until a whisper. "Okay." Coulson repeated it. "Okay, extraction team, get to them. Main server room."
"Simmons, I need you to prep for a GSW, two to the abdomen," Daisy barked. "And no vest this time," she muttered. She tapped his cheek. "Don't you die on me, Ward, damn it. I'm not gonna owe you my life again."
He coughed lightly. "Skye. You're -"
"Shh, I'm okay." She leaned towards him with a tight smile.
"Never -" He coughed again. "- turn -" He made a strangled noise and went limp.
"Never turn..." She shook her head as she realized. "No, no, no, no, come on, Ward, no. No." Daisy shook him as Mack charged into the room, Simmons close behind.
Simmons winced as she took in the location of the wound and the pool of blood. "Daisy, you have to - you have to let me take him."
Daisy looked up at their field medic, setting Ward down gently as she stood. "Simmons -"
Simmons brushed past her and stabbed a syringe of adrenaline directly into his heart.
Ward gasped and seized, his eyes flying open.
Simmons nodded. "I'm going to field dress this, but Mack is going to have to carry you out, Ward. Don't fight us."
Ward shuddered as Simmons probed his side. "Don't - can't trust -"
Daisy moved into his line of sight. "I'm here, Ward. You took care of me. I'll watch your back." Ward's eyes searched hers and her heart raced. "Trust me," she whispered, and took his hand.
Simmons finished taping him and gestured to Mack.
Daisy squeezed his hand, and stood. "I've got you."
Ward squeezed back and passed out again.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
Ward kept his eyes closed and breathing even, registering the sound in his ears as his heartbeat. He took slow inventory of his body, all his limbs and muscles sore but functional. His right hand twitched, cramped.
Daisy blinked awake as Ward's hand flexed on hers. "Ward." She grinned and looked over. "Hey, you awake?"
"Skye?" He opened his eyes slowly, squinting. "Gotta be dreaming."
"Daisy," she murmured. "Good to see you awake."
He flinched as he looked around. "SHIELD. Damn it. I'm gonna - I've gotta -" He tugged at his hand. "Please, Skye, I can't - I can't let them lock me up again."
"They're not going to lock you up," she whispered.
"Do you know that or are you just really hoping so?" Ward shook his head. "If I'm all patched up -"
"You lost a lot of blood and that was after you took a beating from half the ATCU agents in there." Daisy squeezed his hand. "Don't hurt yourself anymore, please. Just rest."
He gave a short nod. "Thank you for...staying with me," he managed. He gave a weak smile. "Can almost pretend you don't hate me," he breathed, before letting the pain meds drag him under again.
Coulson cleared his throat from the doorway behind her. "Daisy, now that he's stable -"
"No." She stood and turned to face him. "DC, he saved my life. That's the only reason he got shot. And he's fighting the ATCU, same as we are."
"The enemy of my enemy is my friend?" Coulson asked. "Come on, Daisy. This is Ward, bad guy, head of HYDRA. Ring any bells?"
She bit her lip. "Is it? Is he really the bad guy?" She looked at Coulson pleadingly. "He was letting me go, he told me to leave, and then it was too late for me to get out safely. He had my back when he could've just let me get killed."
The director sighed. "Daisy..."
She shook her head. "He's out cold, DC, there's no way he could do anything to anyone right now. Just leave him here, I'll watch him."
The director pursed his lips. "Fine, but once he's really recovered - "
Daisy nodded. "Fine. All bets are off then."
Coulson eyed her suspiciously. "I didn't expect you to agree so easily."
She shrugged. "I've learned when to argue with you and when I'm better off standing down by now."
He raised a brow. "Huh. Never thought you would." He gave a short nod. "Good night, Daisy."
Daisy gave him a smile. "G'night, DC." She waited until the door closed before she shook Ward. "Ward. I know I told you to go to sleep, but you have to wake up." She shook him again. "Ward!"
Ward came awake with a start. "Skye. I knew that - it had to be a dream." He blinked and struggled to sit up, groping for the leads and the monitors.
"Hey!" Daisy grabbed his hands and pressed him back. "I'm here, but you're right, you can't stay." She grabbed a tablet, hacking into the med lab's monitoring easily. "Here, your vitals are looped. Let's go." She helped him with the leads, tossing his pants toward him. "Your shirt is pretty trashed, and so is that jacket."
Ward winced and shook his head. "I'll take whatever you've got."
She rummaged through the drawers, pulling out a sweatshirt and a white tank top. "This looks to be it."
He sighed at the SHIELD logo but hauled them on. "Why are you helping me get out of here?"
She shrugged. "You had my back, and I told you I'd have yours."
He scoffed. "Or do you want to haul me in after my attempted escape so no one questions your loyalty to the cause?"
She frowned at him. "You think I would do that?"
He shook his head as he pulled the hood up. "I don't know anymore."
She sighed and grabbed some antibiotics before she led him out of the room, stopping to retrieve an ICER and a pack with water and MREs.
Ward frowned. "You really are helping me."
She grimaced and nodded. "If you didn't stop to help me, they never would've gotten to you, and we both know that."
He looked away. "I couldn't just..." He shook his head. "I wasn't going to leave you to that."
She shoved the pack at him. "I know." She opened the door and sighed. "I wish I could give you some keys, but -"
"But if you want it to look like an escape, I'm gonna have to hotwire a car," he murmured. "I get it. Thank you for the headstart."
She blew out a breath. "It would help sell it if I had a bruise or something," she whispered.
A look she couldn't fathom passed through his eyes and he shook his head. "No. I won't do that to you."
He held her eyes. "I would never do that to you."
She searched his gaze. What did I miss? "I - Ward -"
He looked around and reached out to grab her, kissing her roughly before releasing her. "Thank you," he murmured, and ran out the door.
Daisy exhaled before turning back the way she came.
There was a jailbreak to fake, after all.
Three months later
Ward lowered himself into the armchair, easing the heat pack over his shoulder. Damn thing never stopped aching, and if it weren't so ironic he'd wonder if it was all in his head. Like the weight of hoisting the gun, the knife, were all suddenly too much to bear.
He froze at the knock on the door.
No one is supposed to know about this place. He thought about and quickly dismissed the only person who might know enough to find him. He tossed the heat pack aside and pulled out the ICER, easing his way to the door.
This is a mistake. She turned to go when the door was wrenched open.
"Skye?" Ward reached out to grab her, hauling her inside. "What are you - how did you -"
She held up his leather jacket. "I - we were in New York, and I saw this leather repair place...I'd cleaned it myself, a while ago, but I couldn't figure out what to do about the holes. So I brought it in because the reviews on Yelp said they were the best, and they were right, because it's gorgeous again and I just...I thought you might want to have it." She held it out. "Here."
"Thank you. That's very thoughtful of you." He took it and threw it onto the couch. "Now why the hell are you here, and how did you find me?"
She gave a small smile. "I, uh...I never thought you'd pick an alias like that, Mario Poots."
He winced and shook his head. "I didn't. But I made the mistake of drunkenly telling someone that story, and here I am." He eyed her. "And here you are."
"I -" She looked around, and the shadows under her eyes were deeper than he remembered. The haunted look and slumped shoulders were all too familiar.
"Come on." He ushered her over to the couch, sitting her down while he grabbed his Scotch and two glasses. "What's going on?" He filled the glasses and handed her one while he sat on the coffee table across from her.
She looked at the glass and up at him, tears springing to her eyes. "Is it too late to have that drink, Grant?"
"Oh, Skye..." He took the glass out of her hands and grabbed her, wrapping her in his arms. "Talk to me."
She shook her head. "It's someday," she whispered. "Oh, God, Grant, it's someday and I understand and I'm so - I'm so sorry..."
He froze. "Skye, what happened to you?" He leaned away to look into her eyes. "What happened to SHIELD?"
She exhaled shakily. "It's - Coulson let me have my own team, let me have powered people who would help us deal with...with everything. Free rein to recruit, to lead my own missions..." She shook her head. "Except he never intended for us to be in the field, he just wanted them to trust SHIELD when we indexed them." She swallowed hard. "When we took their blood and judged their lives. He wanted me to be the face they associated with it, Jiaying's daughter, so they would know we would never hurt them." She gave a broken laugh and reached around him, draining the Scotch he'd poured in one long gulp. "But I was the one who got my mother killed, I brought death and destruction to my people, my family...I ruined everything I wanted so much." She dropped her gaze to her hands in his. "My touch is poison, my choices bring catastrophes, and all because I keep trusting the wrong people and letting their idea of what's right substitute for my own."
Grant closed his eyes and shook his head. "Skye. I'm so sorry." He leaned his forehead to hers. "I never really wanted you to understand. I hope you know that."
She nodded, reaching out to cup his face. "I know. That's why I came to find you. Because you were the one person I needed."
He sighed and tucked her to his chest, kissing her hair.
She shuddered and clutched at him. "I stole a van to get here," she whispered. "And it felt so strange. To be on the run, and to be on my own..." She shook her head. "I don't know what happened to me, Grant. What happened to Skye?"
He rubbed his hand up and down her back. "Isn't it Daisy, now?"
She clutched at him tighter. "That's when I lost myself," she whispered. "I want to feel like Skye again. I want to feel free, and funny and...fearless."
"That's how you should always feel," he whispered in return. "That's who you are. So wherever you lost yourself, I'll help you find your way back, if I can."
"I know," she murmured. "Thank you."
He kissed the top of her head again. "Of course."
She eased back to look at him. "Grant?"
He froze under her scrutiny. "Yeah?"
"Did you - that alias, you didn't -" She shook herself. "Were you - were you hoping..."
He cleared his throat. "I told you I would always be there for you, Skye. I knew you could find me." He shrugged. "But maybe I didn't try too hard to be invisible to you."
She gave a watery smile. "Thank you," she whispered.
He shook his head. "Thank you, for saving my life, for setting me free." He took a deep breath. "For trusting me."
She squeezed her eyes shut. "I - I just knew you didn't deserve to be punished for saving my life. And now, now that I understand..." She looked up at him. "Grant, we were cruel, we were horrible, we didn't -" She shook her head. "No one even tried to talk to you, but even after all that, you still...you still care."
He exhaled shakily. "Not...not necessarily about everyone. Just the person who matters, the one who made the real difference for me."
She swallowed hard and searched his eyes. "Grant..."
He let his heart fill his eyes. "Skye..." He shook his head. "You know, maybe you lost Skye because - because I took her with me. You were - you were the measure of everything I was doing. Would Skye think this is the right thing, would Skye be proud of me."
She flushed and looked down. "You - that's not -"
He picked up her hands to kiss them. "I know, that's not what you intended or wanted, and honestly, it's not that I did either, but..." He squeezed her hands. "You never sugar coated things, you were never content to wait until someone told you what they thought you should know. Fearless, like you said."
She ducked her head.
"Hey." Grant sought her eyes. "Yeah, you feel like you lost it, but that's because..." He gave a short, harsh laugh. "You went Robot and I went rogue."
She chuckled. "Yeah. Maybe we did."
He reached behind him to refill her Scotch glass, passing it to her before picking up his own. "To finding ourselves again." They toasted and drank, his gaze on hers.
Skye plucked the glasses from their hands and put them aside. "To being ourselves again," she whispered, leaning towards him until her lips found his.
Grant swallowed a groan, kissing her carefully.
She reached out to grab his collar, pulling him closer.
"Skye..." he whispered against her lips. "Skye..."
"Yes," she whispered back. "Always. Always with you." She urged him onto the couch with her.
He followed her mouth, hands carefully finding her shoulders.
"Grant, please," she murmured, kissing him more urgently. "Please..."
He let the groan go this time, tossing his jacket across the room and lowering her down.
"Yes..." Skye whimpered as he moved his mouth to her neck. "God, Grant, please..."
He kissed her again, his hands burying themselves in her short hair.
She shifted beneath him, moving until her hips cradled his. She moaned as she felt his heat and length against her even through their clothes.
"Skye..." He leaned up, a broken laugh escaping when he realized the movement only pressed him closer. "We don't - we don't have to do anything tonight."
She nodded slowly, palms cupping his face above her. "I know. But I want to, Grant. I want you." She wrapped her legs around his waist and lifted herself towards him.
He growled and lowered down to her again. "You tell me to stop, I will, but..."
She shook her head and slipped her hands under his shirt. "I drove straight here from New York City. I want this."
He groaned again when she pulled the shirt off, her palms smoothing over his skin.
"Too many scars," she murmured, kissing the ones she could reach.
His hands slipped under her t-shirt, mapping her own battles. "I'm not the only one," he whispered. "Skye...I never wanted this for you."
She tugged the shirt off and tossed it aside. "But it brought me to you," she answered quietly. "And that's enough."
He shuddered and leaned down to kiss her again.
The rest of their clothes were tossed aside, the low light from the bedside table in the motel room casting both light and shadow over their bodies as they found each other again.