Missing Scenes, FZZT
DISCLAIMER: Doesn't belong to me.
SUMMARY: Missing scenes, FZZT. Ward POV.
- Thank you to everybody who has been reading and reviewing. I intend to respond to as many reviews as I can (those with an email address or a account) when real life allows. For Ward fans, another FF, his POV. Ward is not my favorite character (Simmons is, then May or Coulson), but I find his emotional constipation easiest to write. That does not say good things about me.
- "FZZT" made this show for me. I hadn't planned to watch and only did because of Gregg and Wen; then, the next episode was "FZZT." It's still my favorite episode so far - I'm with the critics who called it best of the first 6, with io9 who says it's the best of the first 10. Great May/Coulson interaction (May's totally different with Coulson than with anybody else - more human) and Bear McCreary's great score. And the clincher: Elizabeth Henstridge. The comedy (imitating Ward, the nose wrinkle when she tried to dupe him) - great comedic timing; the frustration and anger as she fought with Fitz; the quiet resignation, planning, and determination when she realizes all hope's gone. Amazing. New EH fan, right here.
- I am the great ship-killer. Out of all the couples I've shipped in the last decade and a half, only one of the couples I shipped before the show ended actually made it. Normally somebody buys the farm, the show gets cancelled, the show takes a WTH turn for the worse... Case in point: I finally started watching "Person of Interest" THIS FALL...!) So save yourselves...
When Coulson summons everybody down to the lab, Ward thinks nothing of it. When he hits the stairs, though, and sees Simmons sitting inside and Fitz sitting outside, there's a twist in his gut. He tells himself it's because Fitz hates weird smells and dead bodies; this isn't the only time Fitz has locked himself outside the lab before. Still, the way both of them sitting, and the quietly detached look on Fitz's face, make him uneasy.
He half-hears what Coulson is saying. Skye and May both respond. Skye is understandably upset; Simmons has been the one closest to her since the incident with Chan, the first one to reach out, and the two have become good friends. It even demonstrates the depth of May's feelings for the biochemist that she expresses that sentiment - "She's just a kid," the other woman murmurs. He, though, is numb. He just hears "Simmons" and "infected" over and over again on his head. He expresses no feelings about the matter. He just sees that navy blue sweater, that white Peter Pan collar, that chestnut ponytail. She has barely a few hours to live. Intellectually, he knows she's dying, which means she'll be gone, which means when he goes down to the lab she won't be there. It means he'll be wearing another black suit, standing on another grassy field, watching another box lowered into the ground. He's done this so many times, it should be routine now.
His heart, though, is in a daze.
He is the first one to leave when Coulson finishes speaking. Without a word, he walks past them, past Fitz. Doesn't stop to tap on the glass or talk to her, and she doesn't turn around. He can feel Skye's eyes on him, and what sounds like an indignant muttered protest from the hacker, and then Coulson's whisper, "No. Let him go."
The other three don't come upstairs for almost half an hour. He knows because he sees, on screen, out of the corner of his eye, the precise moment that they disappear from behind the lab's glass doors; he sees the time listed in the corner. It's surprising to him how he remembers the side details when he isn't paying attention to them. His focus is elsewhere.
She looks so small. She IS small. He's the tallest on the team; she's the smallest, just slightly under May's height but not quite as muscular. She walks around the lab table alone, moving from her small centrifuge to where her petri dishes are laid out. He is sure that her steps are less quick, less sprightly. Her dark blue sweater and the sad way it hangs on her thin shoulders are burned into his mind's eye. She brushes some hair out of her eyes with the back of her gloved hand.
He can't bear to be down there by the lab; he tells Skye it's because they don't need an audience, that she and Fitz don't need the added pressure of him pacing around. The truth is, for himself, watching her work in person makes everything feel even more real to him. The same joy and amusement he used to get from watching her work in the lab, watching her when he was supposed to be working out with the punching bag, become now a real twist in his gut, a nasty nausea in the pit of his stomach that makes him crazy. Watching her in person, he can't tell himself her paleness is because of the camera, the hollowness in her eyes a trick of the light. The monitor gives him a little more disconnect - but not enough, he believes. He's watching her die slowly, and there's nothing he can do - he's not even allowed in the lab to be with her.
Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Coulson and Skye running towards the stairwell to the cargo hold, and he exchanges looks with May, who has just appeared from the cockpit. In tacit agreement, they follow closely behind.
When he gets down there, he can barely stand to watch. Skye, Coulson, and May are glued to the glass, but he treads woodenly behind them, looking everywhere but at the lab. The few times he chances a look through the glass at her and Fitz, he has the urge to punch something, so he turns away, pacing nervously. His legs feel at once like lead and like tightly wound springs.
When Fitz finally administers the anti-serum, he doesn't have enough willpower not to watch. There is near disbelieving hope as the mouse continues to move about. He is watching when there is the flash of blue light, and the mouse's body slowly floats up. He stares, his face impassive. His entire body feels numb.
He just stares at the three mice, seeing but not seeing. He vaguely registers her voice, so calm, so sad; he vaguely registers her request, asking that her father be informed first, and all he can think of is that she is dying - dying, and she is thinking of somebody else. He feels Coulson's words are offered half out of duty, because she's run out of time, and they all know it. He is the first to turn away when she asks for time alone with her best friend. He hasn't been able to look her in the face this entire time.
Upstairs, he feels almost disconnected, as if what happened downstairs was a vague nightmare he's awoken from. May is all business, and he latches on to that. He can do all business. He can compartmentalize. It's familiar, it's easy, it's comfortable. He can talk to Blake, he can work out missions ops. These are the things he has trained for.
They're barely into their discussion when the alarms begin to blare, and he has a moment of complete paralysis. He distantly hears May's voice: somebody is lowering the cargo hold bay. His brain is sluggish, and it feels like forever although it's mere seconds as he dashes out of the briefing room, through their living area, towards the cargo hold. He hasn't prayed in ages, but all he can think is, "God, please please please let me be on time let me be on time let me be on time please please please - "
He's well aware of the fact that even if he is on time to catch her, there's no guarantee that she has found the solution to her illness. In fact, what she's doing signals that she hasn't found a solution, and this is the only fix she can think of. And whatever contagion that's now escaped, now that she's left quarantine, can latch onto him; and if she dies, he's doomed, too, because who else will make a anti-serum after she dies? Yet all these warnings don't slow his speed.
He jumps from the ledge overlooking the hold, seeing Fitz with the same tazer-type device he saw earlier, and his shoulder half in a parachute. Fitz might not have had the wisdom to take off his tie first before jumping, but the normally flustered engineer has the foresight and the calm to shout all the information he needs even as he's running for the open cargo bay doors.
He doesn't hesitate.
There's a million things he's doing wrong - he knows it. There's a million things he's doing right now his SO would kill him for. He shouldn't be jumping without the proper suit and without the proper head gear and without the proper eye protection and without the chute properly on and without the anti-serum injector properly latched on. He shouldn't be opening his eyes and he shouldn't be trying to catch a flailing human being and he really shouldn't be carrying such an important injector in his hand, in case it flies out from his grip. All he can see is her, falling out of his line of sight, the clouds closing over her.
She is frightened - for all her bravery, she is still frightened. She is dying, she is falling, she has no idea what she will hit, she doesn't know if she'll be fortunate enough to die before she hits the ground or if the impact will kill her, or if she'll hit water so hard she won't survive. Even in the sound of the wind roaring in his ears, he believes he can hear her soft cries of desperate panic.
He narrows his body, streaking through the cloudline and reacquires his target. He shoots straight for her, trying to figure the best angle to come in. He grabs her as gently as he can, then plants the device as hard as he can against her thigh, injecting her through the denim. Fitz's device is as strong as a tazer, and he hears her gasp in pain, feels the shudder of her body when he administers the anti-serum. As he tosses the now empty injector, he yanks the ripcord and opens the chute; he wraps his arms solidly behind her back, gripping her tightly to his chest as the chute furls open, abruptly jerking them out of their free fall, nearly knocking the breath out of him.
They settle into a gentle fall, a mere twenty miles per hour rather than the five, ten times faster they had been going before. She is dazed for a moment, staring at him for a moment as if she doesn't recognize him; when she does, she frantically tries to push him away, but he refuses to let go; he's got an iron grip on her waist and her legs, which are wrapped around him. "It works - the anti-serum - " is all he manages to get out when she suddenly jerks hard, and it's all he can do to hang on to her as her head is thrown back and her eyes roll up into her head and her body stiffens.
The release of the electrostatic charge actually slows their fall even more. For a full ten seconds they don't move at all, the force of her rising body counteracted by his heavier body pulled down by gravity.
He can feel the cold fingers of dread creeping over him when she doesn't wake up. He shakes her gently, pats her cheek. Nothing. Suddenly her body loses its rigidity, and he quickly slides his hands up her back, pulling her against his chest. The soft breaths against his neck, the heartbeat he feels against his own - an overwhelming sense of relief settles on him, and he gives silent thanks for making it in time.
It's a long way down. Most skydivers come from a plane a lot closer to the ground: thirty-five hundred, four thousand feet up, not from ten times that at thirty-five, forty thousand feet cruising altitude (and they're really, actually above sea level this time). Once the chute opens, they're falling so slowly, he's got a good fifteen, even twenty minutes to figure out what he'll do next. He does a quick check: the electromagnetic pulse put out his earpiece, and he suspects it would do the same to any other communication device either of them might still have on their persons. He then forces his mind to figure out exactly what he's going to do when they hit the water, running a few scenarios on how he wants to play it if she wakes up in time and if she doesn't.
When he's all set, he looks down, and he sees the water still pretty far below them. He is really feeling the chill from the air now and just gives silent thanks for the providential fact that they just happen to be closer to the warmer latitudes, rather than farther north. He rubs her back and her arms and her legs, trying to keep her warmed up. She sighs a little, her head still resting on his left shoulder, her soft, hot breaths against his neck. He tightens his hold on her; she doesn't wake. He tucks his head to the side slightly so he can look down at her face, and there's quiet repose there now. He gently touches her stray locks, torn from her ponytail during her fall, and tucks them behind her ear.
He stares out over her shoulder, both of them swaying slightly in the wind. It's oddly peaceful: the beautiful blue sky all around; the dark, rich blue waters below them; his arms wrapped around his sleeping teammate, curled against him; no electronics, no beeping, no way for anybody to cut in on his thoughts. No fear of crazy infections slowly killing those he's come to care about. He knows this moment will be over in a couple minutes when he hits the water, but for the right now, he savors the peace he gets so little of in his line of work.
("Weirdo," he's sure Skye would call him if she knew what he was thinking.)
They hit the water with a gentle splash. Once in, he quickly slides the pack off and cuts the strings of the parachute free so nobody gets entangled in them. The water is a fast wake-up call, and soon she's wide awake, even if not entirely physically well enough to help him. He discovers quickly that she does indeed know how to swim, though nobody really anticipates swimming in such open water in a sweater and jeans and sneakers. He gets her shoes off and kicks off his own. He helps her float on her back, which helps to reduce the strain on both her and him. He waves off her apology for dragging him into all of this.
As they attempt to float, with him gripping on to her tightly, they see a big black speck above them: the bus, having turned around once it could, now hovering over them. It's as comforting to her as it is to him.
The Moroccans come pretty quickly. The only real problem they have once on board is over the fact that there are no female officers on board - and no, he barks in Arabic, he is not going to wait for the Moroccans to bring some out to help get her situated. No, he continues to override the captain, the captain's going to get them blankets and dry clothes right NOW so he can get her changed before she catches pneumonia. When the rather offended captain glares at HIM and mutters all kinds of epithets under his breath, and the crew stares at him, gaping, he does wish he had the foresight to tell them that she's his sister, but quite honestly, he's never thought of her in a sisterly way and by the time that thought occurs to him, it's too late. She is thankfully too exhausted and dazed to ask him what's going on, her teeth rattling, her lips turning blue, her hands trembling - from the cold or the "adventure" he doesn't know. He barely hears her whispered 'thank you' for how hard her teeth chatter and her body shakes.
He glares the crew away from them and slams the door to the cabin shut. Within a couple minutes they're both in dry clothes and warming up, thanks to two big, warm blankets and two strong mugs of coffee the chief of the boat provides. He rubs her hands in his own, the normally slim, nimble fingers blue and stiff and shaking uncontrollably, no matter how much she tries to stop it. He holds the mug for her to sip, slowly feeding her bit by bit. Gradually, her trembling slowly subsides; still, even as they leave the boat, he keeps her tucked securely against his side, his right arm protectively around her thin shoulders, the bag of their wet clothes in his other hand.
When they hit shore, they find officers from the Moroccan office waiting for them. They are whisked away to the head office and given more fitting clothes and warm showers. In the hallway, as they're walking down to the offices, she catches his sleeve. He smiles warmly at her, and that's when she says in a quiet, sheepish voice that she's going to need some help. She pulls him into a private room, and then she pulls up her pants legs and her sleeves, even he can see she's having an allergic reaction to the anti-serum - it DID contain alien cells, after all - not only at the injection site but in general. He stares for a moment, feeling his heart fall through the floor. It never ends, does it?
He heaves a deep breath, runs a hand through his hair. She watches him warily. He approaches her, feeling his breath constricting in his chest. He reaches for her wrists, gently lifting her hands up so he can see the damage: the smooth, porcelain skin spotted with hives and rashes. He runs his fingers over the red, angry splotches and grits his teeth. He isn't sure she can take much more drama today. He isn't sure he can take much more drama happening to her today.
She hastily assures him that it's all not really that bad, because she doesn't feel her throat closing up and she's not having trouble breathing, and that's all quite good, really. He stares at her incredulously, and she backs off slightly, and the only thing that plays in his mind is her voice, asking Coulson to break the news of her death to her parents gently; her swift decision to save her teammates by throwing herself out of the cargo hold...
He grabs her by the elbow and pulls her out of the room, flagging down the first person he sees. It's not long before they at least get the right people in the conference room, the ones who can help her. Still, it's a mess: he barely knows the English names of all the materials and drugs she needs, much less the Arabic ones (and the circumstances aren't helped by the dialect spoken there). Then there's the matter of locating all the items. Still, they make it through in a mix of Arabic, French, and English.
He watches silently as she whips up what he assumes is some sort of corticosteroid-slash-antihistamine. To him, it seems all a little heart-stopping: the crazy sets of bottles on the table in front of her, the hypodermic needle that would be big enough to put out an elephant (the only size they have on hand). Even the Moroccan officers there are a little horrified. The female officer winces and one of the male officers wrinkles his nose, his mouth agape as they watch her; he sees the other male officer dry retch as the small biochemist stoically fills the hypodermic with a little of the solution and, before anybody can offer to help, sticks herself in the arm, gives herself the shot, and then cleans up after herself as though she'd just made a sandwich.
He is, despite his angry protests, separated from her for the debriefings. A SHIELD agent is on hand to scan them both over, especially her, and to conduct the proceedings. He keeps demanding to see her; they finally give him one concession after he continues to raise such a stink, and he's allowed to watch her on a monitor. To him, it just feels too eerily like earlier, when he was watching her die slowly in her lab. Still, beggars can't be choosers. He has to remind himself that she's OK now.
They are finally reunited in the jeep ride over to the bus, and the entire trip is silent. She has recovered enough from her little dip in the ocean to know she's going to be in trouble, and she picks at the lint on the clothes she's wearing. He can't offer much comfort on this ride. Coulson is going to kill them both - but her first.
He thanks the driver as they pull up by the back of the bus, and she gives the driver a silent, watery smile of gratitude. They get out of the jeep and head towards the ramp of the cargo hold, just in time to see Mom and Dad looking down from the top of the stairs overlooking the hold. His eyes slide to his right, towards her, just to see how she reacts, and he can tell the frightened, nervous expression on her face. She is terrified of May - perhaps more of disappointing May - and the implacable expression on the older woman's face tells the young biochem tech she is in deep trouble. Coulson, however, is the scarier one this time: the look on his face as he bites off the words: "Office. NOW." Both of the older agents walk away, leaving the two of them still staring up at the now-empty staircase, both standing right at the spot from which they had each jumped hours earlier. She gulps.
Grant reaches across, giving a warm smile, and squeezes Jemma's small hand in his own.