He was struck by how beautiful she was, which was an absurd thought given the circumstances. He was technically her prisoner and that was the last thing he should be thinking. But despite knowing that, it felt like the world came to a halt as he stared at her. Had it only been two days since he saw last her?
Unconsciously, he approached the barrier to get closer to her. Concerned he might say something stupid if he opened his mouth, Grant decided to wait for her to break the silence.
It was almost anticlimactic when she did. “You didn’t eat your sandwich,” Skye observed.
“Well, I couldn’t be sure it wasn’t drugged.” Grant tried to sound flippant, but it fell flat.
“It’s not drugged,” Skye said tiredly. There were bags under her eyes and her slouched posture gave away her exhaustion. “Simmons made it for you. She’ll be upset that you didn’t even try it.”
“Sorry,” he bit out acerbically. “Torture really kills my appetite.”
Skye’s lips thinned in displeasure, but she did not comment on that. “I didn’t have anything to do with your capture,” she said instead. “I want you to know that.”
Grant had figured that out already, but he was not feeling all that charitable at the moment. “Really? SHIELD just happened to capture me right after I ran into you and Fitz and crossed off my own partner for you.”
“Yeah,” she said simply.
There was no bite in Skye’s reply, and Grant was almost disappointed that she did not take the bait. He wanted to hold onto his anger rather than risk giving into the despair lurking in the back of his mind with all the memories that machine had conjured. He could feel the pressure of those recollections, waiting for a chance to devour him if he let them.
“Coulson sent me off base as soon as I got back from my mission,” she continued. “I only found out you were here when I heard your screams.”
Grant could not help the instinctive flinch. He immediately cursed himself for giving away his vulnerability, but the confirmation that Skye saw him like that was too much. Grant tried to disguise it as a brush off as he turned away from her to walk back to the cot.
“Oh, yeah? And what are you going to do now that you know?” Grant wondered challengingly over his shoulder. He did not think she would actually do anything, she was too loyal to SHIELD for that and had proven before that she would choose them over him any day.
When Skye did not say anything for a couple moments, he turned back around and stopped short upon seeing her expression.
She looked heartbroken. She clutched her stomach like she was adrift and was trying to anchor herself. Skye’s gaze was hazy as if lost in her thoughts. Her face was scrunched up tightly like she was trying not to cry, and Grant stupidly wished the barrier between them was gone, so he could give into the instinctive urge to hold her.
But it was there, so Grant did nothing.
Skye took a shuddering breath and opened her mouth as if to speak but did not utter a word. Grant waited patiently for what she wanted to say, but in the end, she just shook her head.
Whatever she had been planning to say, Grant was sure it was not what actually escaped her lips.
“Garrett doesn’t deserve your loyalty,” she said harshly. Her words dripped with barely concealed rage and contempt. She trembled a bit as she ripped her hands away from her stomach to ball them into fists but did not elaborate- or give any indication on whether she was angry with him or John or both.
“What do you know about why I’m loyal to John?” Grant countered. She was loyal to a man that just had him tortured, drugged and locked up. What right did she have to judge his loyalties at the moment?
“I know enough,” Skye said dismissively. She did not let him question that before she kept going. “He’s like Bond Villain level evil.”
That insult was so Skye that Grant almost allowed himself to be distracted by her amusing antics. But the fury was still there when he snapped, “You’ve never even met John.”
Skye’s eyes widened with incredulity. “He had me shot,” she cried indignantly.
Grant had no argument for that. In fact, the thought of Skye on the brink of death still made his blood boil, so he redirected the conversation.
“So what, you want me to betray John and join Team Self-Righteous?” Grant asked sarcastically. “Because that’s never going to happen.” He made a show of looking around the cell contemplatively, “But this is an interesting recruitment tactic. Tell me, has the memory machine torture ever successfully won anyone over. I’m curious.”
“Be serious,” Skye said with a frown. Grant was just glad that the conversation had chased away that miserable expression she had been sporting.
“Oh, I am,” Grant insisted. “Why the hell would I tell SHIELD anything? Why would I help them at all?”
“You don’t even give a crap about Hydra,” Skye accused.
Grant was too caught up in the argument to notice what he gave away when he retorted immediately, “I don’t give a crap about SHIELD either, especially now.”
Skye looked away and pursed her lips but did not argue that he should care about SHIELD.
Grant narrowed his eyes suspiciously. There was something off about this whole conversation. Skye was not an idiot, there was no reason she should push for him to help SHIELD after what just happened. He was missing something, or maybe this was about more than earning intel for SHIELD.
“You can’t possibly expect me to help the people who just drugged me and forced me to relive my worst memories,” Grant said slowly trying to gauge her reaction to his words. “What’s this about? Did they put you up to this?” He said as he indicated to the camera in the cell.
“No,” she said at once. Grant did not think she was lying. “No one sent me here. This is all me because I’m just so,” she made a noise of frustration as she searched for the word, “Sick of this!”
“Sick of what?” Grant asked.
“Sick of a lot of things actually,” Skye muttered. “But right now I’m sick of you just being so goddamn apathetic about everything!”
Grant scoffed. “Not wanting to help people who tortured me is apathetic?”
“No,” Skye said. “You having the power to help people and doing nothing with it is what’s frustrating me!” Skye got closer to the barrier. “You have all this information and all these abilities to help put a stop to Hydra, and you just do nothing! You said yourself that the base housing the gifteds could be shut down with an inside man. I mean, do you agree with what Hydra does?”
Grant said nothing. He did not actually support Hydra’s goals of world domination or whatever, that was never why he joined, but to say this to SHIELD was something he could not do. Luckily, Skye was not waiting for an answer.
“You’re in a position to save a lot of lives and do some good if you just did something about it,” Skye concluded emotionally.
“Why do you care what I do?” Grant demanded. She was asking him to betray John, and he could not do that. Not even for Skye.
“Because I think you’re capable of being better, because I want you to be better,” Skye spoke heatedly.
Grant did not want to hear more. It hurt to have Skye beg him like this for so many reasons. He could not remember the last time someone believed that he could be “better”. It reminded him of the little kid he once was, the one who desperately wanted to be a hero.
But Grant Ward was not a hero, and if he could have become one once upon a time, he supposed he would never know.
“What do you want from me, Skye?” Grant questioned tiredly. “To forget that SHIELD and your precious Coulson had me tortured and betray the only person who has ever given a damn about me?” She had to know how ridiculous all this was.
But Skye just scowled at his response. “You’re wrong. Garrett doesn’t give a damn about anyone but himself, but I-“ She hesitated so briefly that Grant wondered if he imagined her fumbling for words. “I care about you!” Skye declared passionately. Her voice had steadily rose in volume until she was shouting the words at him almost accusingly.
Grant forgot how to breathe momentarily. He watched her deflate and collect herself after her outburst for several torturous seconds where he could not think of what to say.
Skye took a calming breath before asking quietly, “Is that worth nothing?”
Grant could not find the words to answer her. It was worth so much more than she could possibly imagine. He had known that she was attracted to him and had some kind of feelings for him, yes, but this felt greater than what he assumed. Grant could not help but think of how she was saying all of this while her fellow SHIELD agents likely looked on.
She waited for him to respond, but Grant could not. He wanted to just agree to anything she asked, he wanted to devote himself to her and be the type of person she deserved. He wanted that more than anything.
But John… Some debts were greater than personal desires. His mentor needed him, and Grant could not turn his back on him.
When he said nothing, he worried Skye would just walk away while he was powerless to stop her. Instead, her eyes lit up with the stubborn fire he knew so well. She straightened up and stared him down.
“I want you to do the right thing,” Skye said firmly. “I know you’re capable of caring for people and doing good. You could make a difference if you can recognize what Garrett did to you and stop throwing your life away for him.”
With the topic of her feelings for him put aside for the time being, Grant found himself able to speak again.
“The right thing, making a difference,” he mused with a sardonic smile. “You can’t save everyone, Skye. People are abused and killed everyday, and a dozen vigilantes in a basement can’t stop that.”
“Just because you can’t save everyone doesn’t mean you shouldn’t even try to save anyone,” Skye argued. “That’s the apathy I’m talking about. Or maybe it’s just cynicism you use to convince yourself not to do anything.”
Grant ignored that. “And SHIELD does the ‘right thing’, really? Coulson just had me tortured, I’ve seen you kill people. SHIELD, Hydra, it’s all the same in the end.”
“No, it’s not,” Skye said aghast. “I don’t even think you believe that.”
Grant thought about it and wondered what he really believed. Months ago, the answer would be simple: Grant would have insisted there was no difference. Now, he was not so sure.
Skye, Fitz, Simmons, they all genuinely wanted to help people and do the “right thing” as Skye put it. He had shot those civilians back before he captured Fitz and Simmons because he had known that at least one SHIELD agent would risk themselves to save them. That was why he had thought to place Kara in their protection weeks ago. He had known that Kara would continue to be abused in Hydra but that Skye, Fitz and Simmons would want to help her.
The thought of Kara had him clenching his hands into fists. Noble goals did not change the fact that SHIELD were a bunch of self-righteous hypocrites who did not even care about one of their own that they betrayed. SHIELD was why John was dying, too. SHIELD played favorites, and if you were not one of the director’s, then your life was worth nothing.
That was why Skye could not see what he was trying to tell her. She was Director Coulson’s surrogate daughter and could not fathom what SHIELD was capable of. Maybe she did not even know about what Coulson did to Kara just like she had been kept in the dark about his capture and torture.
“So selling out your fellow SHIELD agents, leaving them to a fate worse than death, is that the right thing?” Grant snarled. He let the bottled fury wash over him and drown out the memories still in the back of his mind.
Skye shifted uncomfortably sensing the change in him, but her eyes were blazing when she confidently answered, “No, that’s what Hydra did. You guys were the ones who pretended to be on our side and then planted a knife in the back of every SHIELD agent you could.”
Grant was sure that the smile on his face was a terrible thing to behold. “But SHIELD is above that, right? You would never betray one of your own for intel or something else and then abandon them to torture and brainwashing.”
Skye swallowed. “You know we wouldn’t. What are you getting at, Grant?”
Grant gave a slightly hysterical laugh as he crossed his arms and leaned against the wall. “You’re wrong. SHIELD did sell out one of its agents, to Hydra no less, for brainwashing.”
“What?” Skye jerked back. “No, maybe the old SHIELD-“
“No, Coulson’s SHIELD,” Grant insisted without giving her a chance to argue. “SHIELD sold out Kara only a year ago after the Triskelion fell.”
Skye’s brow furrowed skeptically, but Grant noticed that her breathing had increased. “Agent 33? She’s brainwashed.”
“Her name is Kara,” Grant corrected. He did not know why he did, most everyone besides him called her by her codename. Of course that would be how Skye would know her.
“You’re a liar,” Skye accused heatedly. Grant watched as she backed away from him and her posture turned defensive. She did not believe him, and that stung more than he wanted to admit. Still, he held onto his anger and used it to say all that he had wanted to say for so long, ever since he learned what SHIELD did to Kara. There was a camera in the ceiling corner, and Grant hoped that there was an audience for this.
“I am,” he agreed readily. “But not about this and never to you.” He stepped closer to the barrier to the point where it lit up, and he was forced to stop. “You see that, don’t you? That I never lie to you?”
“Then you’ve been lied to,” Skye said at once. “No one at SHIELD even knew that Agen- Kara was brainwashed.”
Grant shook his head. “Hydra has loyalty tests to ensure that the people who join are committed. They’re designed to be something that a person can’t come back from, something that would destroy their previous loyalty.” At least, that was what Grant thought they were.
“Such great people you work for,” she muttered sarcastically. “And what was your test?”
“I didn’t have one. John vouched for me, and he was trusted in Hydra by the time I was recruited by him.”
“Well then what was Garrett’s test for you?” She wanted him to go off topic, Grant could tell. Maybe it was fear of what he would say.
At her words, the image of Buddy came and went from his mind, but Grant refused to pause his explanation, unsure of how much time he had until Coulson or the Cavalry interrupted him. They would not want him poisoning Skye’s head with the truth now would they?
“A SHIELD agent infiltrated Hydra almost a year ago.” Grant saw Skye’s lips thin and was sure she knew who he was talking about, even though Grant himself did not know which operative it was. “One of their loyalty tests was to give the location of a SHIELD safehouse that Hydra did not know of. After the Triskelion fell, Kara had no one and did not know who to trust and took refuge there. Your agent led Bakshi and some of Whitehall’s men there and abducted her.”
Skye’s face had grown considerably paler during his story, and despite everything, Grant wanted to comfort her. He was trapped in a cell though, and maybe she would not even want his comfort.
“Kara had always been very loyal. The report said it took Whitehall days of the Faustus Method to break her down,” Grant’s voice had turned bitter as he fought a scowl. “Apparently she said that she would rather die than work for Hydra at the start of the process, but she found that ‘compliance will be rewarded’ in the end,” Grant sneered. “The SHIELD agent was around for several more months before they took off. Without Kara, of course, who still gets tortured and has her mind messed with regularly. But SHIELD would never betray one of their own, right?”
Grant became lost in his own dark thoughts. With him stuck at SHIELD, what would become of Kara? The second he thought that, Grant wanted to curse himself. It was not like he had ever been much of a help to her anyway.
Skye was apparently thinking the same thing. “If that’s true, why didn’t you do anything for her?”
Grant knew she was deflecting, maybe still in denial about her organization’s involvement, but Skye had always been able to get under his skin, and she had struck a nerve this time.
“And what could I do?” Grant wondered incredulously. “Whisk her away and right all the wrongs? I don’t know anything about brainwashing, and I can’t even bring it up to Kara without her getting confused.”
“So you just let it happen,” Skye confirmed.
Grant clenched his jaw but found he had nothing to say in his defense. He had been letting it happen for the entire time he knew Kara, finding it easier to ignore her mistreatment than get involved and risk worsening relations between John and Whitehall.
“This is what I’m talking about,” Skye said when he did not immediately respond. “I want you to be better because I know you’re capable of it, but you don’t even try. I mean you obviously are upset about what happened to Kara, but you talk yourself out of doing anything about it!”
“I think you’re missing the point with SHIELD-” Grant began before the energy barrier turned opaque again and cut him off from Skye.
He stood frozen for a moment hoping that Skye would return before giving up. Mindlessly, he returned to the cot and slumped onto it. Grant looked down at his arms, and all he could see were the cuts and bruises marring the skin.
He was alone in the dark with the voices of the past haunting him again.
“What the hell?” Skye exclaimed. She spun around to see Coulson standing in the doorway with the electronic controller.
Coulson’s face was hard as he beckoned her to come with him. When Skye hesitated, he barked, “Now, Skye!”
Skye hesitated for a moment before choosing to follow him out of the vault. It was not like Grant was going anywhere, and she had to know something first.
She sidled up to Coulson as they walked hurriedly towards his office. “Did you know?” Skye demanded at once. He must have watched her conversation with Grant. She knew he would understand what she was asking.
He looked over at her solemnly and shook his head. Despite the recent betrayal of trust, Skye believed him. She let out a shuddering sigh of relief. She had not meant to doubt him, but she had. She had believed- if only for a second- that Coulson would sell out a SHIELD agent to gain an edge over Hydra. Skye felt guilty for even considering the possibility.
As they rounded the last corner before entering Coulson’s office, Skye whispered the other question she had but was almost too afraid to ask. “Is it true?”
Coulson’s tight and pained expression was all the answer she needed.
Skye stopped short in horror as they entered the office, which had erupted in chaos since she left.
At the center were Bobbi, Trip, Fitz and May arguing. Trip and Fitz were condemning Bobbi’s choice while she justified herself and May defended Bobbi.
Simmons stood to the side watching the altercation. She looked to Skye when she arrived but did nothing but bite her lip and return her focus to the others. Simmons was closer to Bobbi than Skye was, so she must be especially disturbed by the revelation of what the other woman had done.
“I made a hard call,” Bobbi declared.
“You betrayed one of us! Left her for Hydra!” Fitz yelled.
“You think I don’t know that? I didn’t know anyone would be in the safehouse when I told Bakshi-“ Bobbi began.
“But you knew afterwards,” Trip said angrily. “And if you had just told us, we could’ve helped her! When we raided that base in Pennsylvania, I fought Agent 33 and won. I could’ve rescued her then if I had known.”
Trip’s face was torn between disappointment and guilt. Skye could not imagine how he must feel. Trip was very compassionate so to know that he inadvertently left a brainwashed SHIELD agent for Hydra to torture some more must have devastated him.
Skye could at least know that she had never had a chance to save Agent 33- Kara, she corrected to herself- even if she had known her condition. That reminded Skye though, Trip was not the only one to recently have a chance to help the woman.
She scanned the room for Hunter and found him standing quietly on his own. Skye was surprised, Hunter usually jumped at the chance to call Bobbi out on her secrets.
With a shock, Skye realized that she misjudged Hunter. Everyone always laughed about Hunter’s comical accusations towards Bobbi, but now Skye wondered if this was what he meant by them. He was not joining the debate because Hunter did not enjoy being right in the end. Maybe he had been secretly hoping he was wrong all along.
Skye knew the feeling of caring so much for someone that even when you knew their obvious flaws, you still wanted so badly to be proven wrong. You could not ignore what was right in front of your face, but still you hoped more than anything that they would give you a reason to overlook them or explain them away.
Skye remembered finding out that Grant had killed Eric Koenig. She had been distressed in no small part because even though she had known all along that he was Hydra, she wanted it to all be justified somehow, and Eric’s murder seemed to kill that naive wish.
Except it did not. Skye still cared for Grant even after she knew, and she kept falling into the trap of hoping Grant would do the right thing as though that would reassure her that her feelings for him were okay. But more importantly, she hoped Grant would change so that they could actually have a shot at being together.
It was silly. Skye did not even know if Grant wanted to have a relationship with her, it was not like he had ever had one before, but Skye still hoped- and felt like an idiot every time Grant turned down her pleas to do something.
Skye figured that was how Hunter must feel about Bobbi selling out Kara. It was the confirmation of his fears he so desperately did not want to have. But Hunter still loved Bobbi and continued to hope she would change, and Bobbi still loved Hunter despite her never ending secrets.
What a terrible realization, to know that you can love someone unconditionally, and it did not change a damn thing.
Skye bit back a scream of frustration. She felt so hopeless and powerless. If Bobbi and Hunter could not work out their differences, then Skye did not know how the hell she and Grant ever could. At least Bobbi worked for SHIELD and by and large did good things, Grant was pathologically loyal to a man who almost had her killed and was actively abusing and manipulating him to keep control.
Skye had some satisfaction in knowing that she could understand Grant better now. It did not change everything, but it had sparked some faint hope in her.
Grant did not care about Hydra, which made her feel better because she did not want to be so attached to someone trying to take over the world. But it also meant that if Garrett died, which was looking more probable given her discovery, Grant would have no ties to Hydra anymore and no reason to do such terrible things.
Grant’s history also helped her reconcile some of what he did. There was no excuse, but it was nice to know he did not serve Hydra or Garrett because he liked hurting people or was just this evil asshole.
Given all she knew about his past, Skye could see how he had come to be the person he was. She wondered what she would have done in his position, what choices she would have made.
Skye almost laughed to herself. Fitz was right in the end, not only had something happened, but Grant’s choices were a form of brainwashing- albeit probably not what Fitz had in mind when he suggested that.
Maybe Skye could still change things. Garrett had forced Grant to hold the Berserker Staff as punishment for helping Skye and Fitzsimmons at Futurepharm, and Grant still protected not just Skye but Fitz, even in front of and to the detriment of Hydra agents.
Grant let her in, cared for her more than he would admit. Garrett did not control all of him even if both Grant and Garrett thought so. If Skye could get through to Grant…
She would still have to convince her other loved ones to give him a shot. Well, Skye had never been one to back down from a challenge. What was it that Coulson always said? You can save someone from themselves if you get to them early enough. She would just have to remind Coulson of that.
And then she could try to muddle through the mess of SHIELD’s recent decisions. Coulson and most everyone had not known about Bobbi’s choice, and Skye knew that at least Fitzsimmons had been aghast at the use of the memory machine. Coulson had not defended the choice after the fact either.
Maybe it was naïve to hope that she could change things, but Skye was not ready to give up on the home she found and the potential they still had to do good.
And she was not ready to give up the man she loved either, messed up as he may be.
Grant tried to be patient, but that ability was rapidly slipping out of his reach. He had been claustrophobic as a kid when his mother used to lock him in closets, but he had long since gotten over that. Or so he thought. Skye had been gone maybe a couple hours, and he was starting to feel like the walls were closing in on him.
It was ridiculous. Grant had spent much longer periods of time in solitude before. There was no reason this should be affecting him so much. It was likely a side effect of the memory machine and just the fact that his recollections of the past had been pushing at his mind since he woke up.
At least Grant knew none of his inner turmoil showed in his expression. He did not want to give the SHIELD agents watching anything.
But the cell was bare and with nothing to distract him, Grant’s thoughts were reduced to his past memories, his present confinement or his battered body, none of which were appealing.
When the barrier turned transparent again, Grant looked to it hopefully but was bitterly disappointed at the sight of his visitor.
Grant scowled at Phil Coulson but said nothing. Talking would gain him nothing, and he would not give the man the satisfaction of thinking he achieved something by using that damned machine.
Coulson sat in the chair that faced the cell and observed him soundlessly for several moments. When he broke the silence, Grant was more than a little surprised.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
Grant froze for a beat and then scoffed. “You’re sorry for torturing me? Because it’s a little late for apologies,” he said scathingly.
“No, not for that,” the director replied simply, which made Grant furrow his brows in confusion.
Coulson’s face was a mask, but Grant thought his eyes looked sad. They looked that way when he was putting him in the memory machine though, and Grant was not fooled for a second by the fake display of regret.
“Sixteen years ago, Garrett and I were working together more often than not,” Coulson continued. “Everything he did then was right under my nose. I could have stopped him, I should have stopped him, but I didn’t see what was happening.”
Coulson’s gaze was searing into Grant. It was discomforting, made him feel like he was on display and being judged by the sanctimonious bastard.
“I’m sorry I missed the signs and let it all happen,” Coulson spoke heavily. “I wish I could have saved you.”
Grant was struck speechless for a second in his bewilderment. He was not even sure what Coulson was talking about or what he knew, but it had to be some kind of play. Grant reminded himself of his earlier conclusion that SHIELD was trying the “carrot” approach after the “stick” had failed.
“I didn’t need you to save me. John did.” Grant made sure his tone left no room for argument even as he felt the beginnings of doubt. He wished Coulson would just stop looking at him like that.
Coulson sighed at his response, and if possible, his posture slumped even more in the chair. And his eyes… Grant realized why the look was bothering him so much. It was pity, the man pitied him.
Grant wished he could say that the first thought that occurred to him when he recognized the look was that he could exploit that to escape. That was what his first thought should have been, but it was actually his third. First, Grant felt his breathing quicken at the knowledge that whatever he had said while in the memory machine made the SHIELD director pity him. Second, Grant was consumed by blind panic because Skye had been there and heard everything, so if Coulson found him pathetic after witnessing his reaction to the memories, Skye probably did, too.
He recalled the brokenhearted way she stared at him hours ago, was that pity, too?
The nausea Grant had been fighting all day came back with a vengeance, and he was very glad that he did not touch that sandwich when he tasted bile in his mouth.
He had to pull himself together. He had too much pride to fall apart and show his weakness to Phil Coulson, especially after what the man had done to him.
“Well, you’ve said your apology. You can leave now,” Grant said stiffly, falling short of reaching the unaffected tone he was aiming for.
“I wanted to say I’m sorry, but that’s not why I came down here,” Coulson said.
“I’m not telling you anything,” Grant growled. “So you can stop wasting your time.”
“That’s not why I’m here either,” Coulson said as he stood up from the chair. “I’d rather leave the interrogations to the professionals.” He gave a benign smile, “Agent Morse would be disappointed if got a head start without her.”
“Then why are you here?” Grant demanded impatiently. He was sick of the older man’s games.
Coulson still had that bland smile on his face as he blatantly assessed Grant. “I want to know why three of my most trusted agents have been defending you to me.”
Grant did not know what to say to that. To confirm any sort of relationship with Skye, Fitz and Simmons could go badly for them considering who he was, but it sounded like Coulson may already know more than Grant assumed, and Skye was hardly subtle earlier.
But Coulson was not waiting on an answer from Grant. “Most of my team thinks that whatever may have happened to you in the past and whatever motivates you now is unchangeable. They think you are the person Garrett made you to be, and it’s too late for you to leave the path you’re on. That nothing will get through to you at this point.”
Grant did not understand what Coulson was saying. It was obviously some strange manipulation tactic by a man desperate for intel, but Grant’s chest felt tighter listening to the words. Obviously he said something about his family while he was in the memory machine. He gritted his teeth past the discomfort at that thought.
“I don’t know what drugged up confession you think you got from that machine,” Grant growled. “But you don’t know a damn thing about me.”
Coulson did not comment on that. “But Skye and Fitzsimmons disagree,” he continued as if Grant had not spoken. “Skye in particular implored me to offer you a chance to change.”
“I’m not telling you anything,” Grant said for what felt like the tenth time. “So you can give up this pathetic attempt to trick me.”
“This isn’t a trick, Ward, though I understand why you might think that given your experiences,” Coulson said steadily, which only annoyed Grant more. He wished he could rattle the older man. “I know you’ve been taught to never trust anybody.”
Grant thought that was an odd thing to say. Spies rarely trusted anyone, but it felt like a pointed comment. Strangely, it made him think of John’s words the day he broke him out of juvie.
“But Skye’s pleas reminded me of a promise I made when I became director. SHIELD was founded on the principle of protection. Whether it’s one man or all of mankind, the belief that drives us is that they’re all worth saving.”
“Really, everyone’s worth saving?” Grant scoffed. “You’d risk your agents over some nobody?”
“Nobody’s nobody, Ward,” Coulson said with absolute conviction.
“If you actually believed that, you’d never have abandoned Kara,” Grant argued bitterly. He wanted the man to shut up already. He was a hypocrite and a liar who was just trying to get to Grant to hurt John. “She was one of you.”
“I didn’t know about Agent 33,” Coulson said calmly. “But now that I do, I plan to help her in any way I can.”
What an obvious attempt to save face. Did Coulson honestly expect Grant to believe he had been clueless? He probably sold the same lie to Skye, and she likely believed him, too.
Grant was about to call him out, but the sound of the metal door opening stopped Grant from responding.
Skye made it two steps down the stairs before she drew to a halt. “Coulson, what are you doing here?”
“What are you doing here?” Coulson said. “I told you not to come down here without permission again.”
“I need permission to walk around the base now?” Skye fired back. “Am I an agent or a prisoner?”
Coulson gave her a look. “It’s just the vaults that you temporarily don’t have access to, and you know why. Besides, you should be sleeping. You’ve barely gotten any rest in the last couple days.” Coulson looked her over concernedly.
“Maybe you shouldn’t have sent me on a wild goose chase of a mission if you’re so concerned about my sleep schedule,” Skye mumbled petulantly as she crossed her arms.
They were arguing, and Grant could clearly read the strain in their words and body language, but mostly what he saw was two people who cared about each other. The paternal way Coulson chastised her was obvious, as was Skye’s almost rebellious daughter act.
It might have been amusing to watch if it were not just another confirmation of how Skye was clearly loyal to the man who had him tortured and was his mentor’s enemy.
Skye would never betray Coulson, no more than Grant would John. They were family.
Likely the only reason Coulson reached out to Grant at all was because Skye said something that made Coulson want to see what it was that Skye saw in Grant- assuming it was not a trick. Well, Grant could not help Coulson with that one, he did not know what the hell Skye saw in him either. All he knew was that it was not enough to betray SHIELD for.
They continued to bicker. Coulson wanted Skye to return to bed and insisted they could talk about her visiting the “prisoner” in the morning. Skye argued that she could not sleep anyway and was Coulson going to try to dictate her sleeping habits now, too?
The two of them were so caught up in their fight that the missed the suspicious noises that Grant caught. He brushed off the sound of booted feet above the cell at first, but then he realized there were too many of them to be SHIELD members that happened to be awake.
Carefully angling his face and body away from the camera just in case, Grant called out to Skye.
“Don’t look at me,” he instructed when he saw her about to turn towards him. “Just answer, how many SHIELD agents are there here on base?”
“Don’t answer that,” Coulson said at the same time Skye replied, “About twenty.”
That was what Grant thought. “Listen. Do you hear that?” The sound of stomping had grown louder and was at least twenty people as far as Grant could tell.
Skye looked alarmed as she grabbed the electronic tablet. She pressed a few buttons and gasped at the screen. “Hydra.”
Coulson took the tablet from Skye and stared at it with a grim expression. His grip tightened at what he saw.