Author's Notes: Many thanks to everyone who read, reviewed or favorited! Special mention goes out to Princess PrettyPants who guessed that Ellis was the President in Iron Man 3. No guess on Henry Hayes though :~)
This one goes out to See Me As I Am 101 for their prompt about Ward getting hurt protecting Simmons. I hope you enjoy Crimson.
The whole thing went sideways in a right hurry.
One minute, she had been having a genial conversation with a few of the locals. It was quiet, fairly normal. They were even stateside.
But in the next second, it became chaos with screams, squealing tires and the roar of gunfire. Someone, a male voice, hollered her name just before what felt like a brick wall tackled her to the ground and pinned her there.
"I got you," That voice; rough, male and familiar, came again, this time breathless and right in her ear, "You okay?"
"W—Ward?" She managed to stutter, curling beneath him, sticking her arms back behind her and over his shoulders to cover both of their heads, "What—what's happening?"
"Ambush," Ward's voice croaked, huddling them both closer to the ground.
The gunfire seemed to drone on and on forever, and at the same time be over all at once. Voices started calling out – voices she recognized – people trying to gauge the extent of the damage. Simmons shuffled under Ward, but he didn't move. Instead, the specialist released a pained groan.
"Ward?" Simmons yelped, that split second of relief gone as the vise was back around the pit of her stomach, "Ward, are you hurt?"
He didn't answer, instead dragged himself off of her with what sounded like a great, terribly painful effort, only to collapse on the ground beside her. Simmons sprang up and turned to crouch over Ward, to find her teammate gasping with his torso soaked in blood.
"Ward!" Fighting back a cloying panic, Simmons instinctively pressed both hands over the still spurting hole just below his ribs. He grunted at the contact, the sound deepening as she applied pressure to the wound, and though she watched his face – heavy lidded and pinched—she cried out for the others, "Help! Ward's hit!"
Ward gasped out a heaving breath, clenching his entire face to ask, "You," He had to pause to catch his breath, "You okay?"
As he panted the last syllable, that vise inside her squeezed tighter and she sobbed, "I'm okay," His head dipped in what must have been supposed to be a nod and his eyes slid shut, and Simmons screamed, "Help!"
The medics had to peel her away from Ward so they could work on him, and once they had him on the stretcher, they left her rooted to that spot on the ground, staring at the pool of that awful red. The noise around her fell away, as if it was at one end of a tunnel and she at the other. All she could do was stare at the horrible puddle. That liquid that should be keeping Ward alive, leaked out onto the mud.
Two hands landed on her shoulders, shocking her out of her stupor, "Simmons?" Skye shook her to get her attention, until the hacker spotted both the blood on the ground and the blood all over Simmons, "Jemma!?"
Simmons yanked herself out of Skye's grasp, curling her arms protectively around herself, "It's not mine. It's Ward's."
Ward was immediately whisked into surgery, and the team gathered in the waiting room. They looked up hopefully at each person in scrubs that went by, until Skye lost the little bit of patience she possessed, and demanded answers from a passing nurse. Fitz managed to pull her back, dodging swinging elbows and trying to quiet her obscene litany of curses before he could get her to take a seat again.
Simmons sat on a chair a few paces away from the rest of them, plucking at the stray thread in the hem of the scrub top one of the hospital personnel had given her to wear. May had taken one look at her when they'd arrived and gently instructed that the biochemist might want to clean up. Once alone in the bathroom, Simmons had looked at herself in the mirror, red streaked everywhere, and nearly began to hyperventilate. Staring at her hands in the sink, even with the water rushing over them, she could still feel Ward's blood pouring through her fingers, hear every shuddering breath he took and before she knew it, Simmons had used the entire dispenser full of liquid soap to scrub her hands raw. May had caught her at that too, but the pilot hadn't said a word. She had simply laid the bundle of clothing on the counter, turned off the facet and wrapped rolls of paper towel around Simmons' hands, patting them dry.
They sat, waiting, for a long time. An agent arrived at one point, motioning to Coulson. The two of them stepped away from the team, talking quietly. That agent left moments later and Coulson returned to the team. He told them that it was a drive-by, some kind of local beef that had brought the guys with guns to the party. It was so inanely, so disgustingly pedestrian to everything else they'd faced that she can barely wrap her mind around it. Of all the things that could have taken them down, of all the things that have already tried, it was a gang-banger in a rundown, pea-green GTO that does it.
Hours go by before a doctor finally came looking for them. His mask hung from two strings around his neck, and he held his skull cap in one hand. He found himself met with a line of grim faces as he asked, "Grant Ward?"
They all looked up, and Coulson stood as he answered, "He's ours."
The doctor, a soft spoken, middle aged fellow who introduced himself as Dr. Downey, explained that Ward had been exceptionally lucky, the bullet tearing through his diaphragm and missing his internal organs. All it would have taken was a few centimeters in either direction, and they would be having an entirely different conversation in that hallway. Dr. Downey gave them a kind smile as Fitz and Skye clamored to be able to see Ward, saying that he had lost a lot of blood, he needed his rest. Coulson spoke up, bargaining to get at least a glimpse of their specialist. Dr. Downey eventually relented, holding up an index finger,
"One person in the room. The rest will have to settle for seeing him through the window just now," Both Fitz and Skye began to argue, but the doctor interrupted them, "Your friend needs his rest. One person for now."
The doctor stepped away to give them a moment to discuss it between themselves, and it ended up that May was the one to make the call.
"Simmons goes," She instructed in her quiet way and Coulson agreed quickly. For once, both Fitz and Skye were quiet.
Dr. Downey led her to Ward's room, but left her to enter in her own time. Eventually she made her way into the room, even more time passing before she grabbed the lonely chair from across the room and wheeled it up to his bedside.
"Hi," Her voice broke over the nearly silent room, her first word in hours, and she laid a hand on top of his wrist, staying on the side of him that wasn't strung with wires and tubes and the like. He wore an oxygen mask over his mouth and nose, but that was much preferred over his being intubated. His breath sounds were great strides better than the wheezing noises he'd been making back in the mud. Looking at the monitors, Simmons could tell that his stats were improving; slowly but improving.
Still carefully holding onto his hand, she lowered herself to sit in the chair, forcing herself to breathe normally. Ward looked so different, so helpless and pale and so far away from his norm that it frightened her to see him like that. Slowly, Simmons slid her hand down and entwined her fingers between his, growing a watery smile as she inspected the difference in size and texture from his hand to hers. She sat there for a long time, not saying a word, just listening to him breathe. Letting the steady rhythm of his inhale then exhale and the continuous drone of the monitors lull her back to some form of equilibrium.
She never could stomach that shade of red again.