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I Bet You Kiss Your Knuckles Right Before They Touch My Cheek

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‘’As you can see those Picture Windows are lovely aren’t they? And the view is just breath taking’’.

 

Skye glances over to the wide clear glass, the sun gleaming onto the hardwood floor beneath her boots. The windows might as well be walls since they take up the entire length from floor to ceiling, but the realtor behind her isn’t wrong about the view. Outside rests a meadow as far as the eye can see, a creek resides somewhere along the property as well. It’s a beautiful day, a perfect day. Warm but not too much, a nice light breeze to take away the heat of the coming spring.

 

Birds take flight from a nearby tree, Skye watches them soar and climb far away from here. Wishing she could follow. Arms crossed she stands at the windows, let’s the silence wrap around her. This house is too big, too flashy and impractical. She doesn’t need six bedrooms or five baths, there’s no need for the huge backyard or three car garage. Skye has no use for all the extra space and rooms upstairs, she’ll probably never venture up there anyway. And the kitchen, well she’ll hardly use that at all.

 

She doesn’t need this house, not really. However she finds herself turning away from the windows to look at the realtor, a small woman with graying hair and bright red lipstick. Who looks terrified at being in close quarters with Quake, but is trying very hard to hide it. ‘’I’ll take it’’. Martha plasters a smile on her face, ‘’perfect! I’ll get the paperwork ready. Champagne?’’ Skye almost says no, a habit she has no use for anymore. Catching herself she nods, Martha heads toward the kitchen to collect the bottle.

 

Glancing out the window again her reflection stares back at her, black clothes and a leather jacket, combat boots and dark circles under her eyes. The same way she’s looked for years now, though the hair is different this time. Long still, curling down her back, but blonde now. It’s a subtle blonde, lighter on the ends but still maintaining some of her natural brown in waves. Running a hand through it Skye sighs and expects the weight of this decision to come rushing into her ribs.

 

But she feels nothing at all. Just like she didn’t feel anything when she dyed her hair a few months back, the feel of suitcases in her hands as she walked into Stark Tower a year ago. She’s just numb, cold and empty. It has nothing to do with the PTSD, panic attacks or nightmares she’s had over the years, in fact Skye’s mental health is better than it’s ever been. The suffering she’s been through since she was eighteen is finally nothing more than a trauma from her past. It no longer hinders her everyday life.

 

And it only took nearly twenty years to recover from.

 

Life it seems will never give her a break. It’s been a year since Thanos came and destroyed half the universe, and the Avengers are nowhere close to figuring out where he is or how to save everyone that was lost. Steve and Tony still aren’t on speaking terms unless absolutely necessary, and Natasha spends her days alone in mourning. Clint is still retired and Thor can usually always be found in Stark Tower down in Tony’s lab searching for an answer to all this madness. He’ll probably never find it.

 

Skye looks down to see that her hand has moved on its own accord to rest against her belly, snatching it away she turns around to face the living room, licks her lips, feels the ghost of the pain from a year ago start to lick up her spine. Martha pours the champagne in the kitchen but the thought of it begins to make Skye sick to her stomach. Traveling up the stairs to the master bedroom Skye takes a deep breath and opens the white door, steps into an empty room save for a king-sized bed and a dresser.

 

There’s a wide window here too free of curtains, the sun brightening the cream-colored carpet. She can’t take her eyes off the bed, it’s just a mattress, bare no sheets or pillows. It’s here Skye is reminded how alone she really is. Standing in the bedroom only she will enter, staring at the bed only she will sleep in, the bathroom tucked into the corner only she will shower in. Skye hasn’t been alone in nine years, hasn’t slept alone, eaten breakfast alone. It’s an adjustment she still can’t get used to.

 

She could easily change this new course of her life, pick up the phone and apologize, cry and beg for things to go back to the way they were. It wouldn’t even take five minutes. But there are some things, some pains you can’t get over. Nothing will mend it, nothing will make the throbbing loss any less difficult. A pair of arms won’t heal this wound inside her chest, there’s nothing anyone can say or do to help her. Even now a year later Skye can feel the crushing weight of it.

 

Dragging her down into those icy depths where nothing exists but death and cold. Getting up in the morning is still hard, but living, breathing, is easier. Time is helping, but it can’t heal. All time does is make the sadness fade into the background, you’re alive but no longer whole. You’re just half of the person you were before this tragic thing irrecoverably changed you. Skye has accepted this, but she’s never felt so isolated. The Avengers aren’t enough to ease the sting of loneliness, it’s like a second skin to her now.

 

The wound is all she can feel these days, and the cold, the numb. Skye can’t even remember what warmth feels like, what happiness is bubbling inside her chest. She stopped seeing her long-time therapist Paul, who would probably be able to help in this situation, but Skye can’t bear to look at his face. There are so many things she can’t bear lately. Before the sadness can swallow her whole and she’s tempted to let it, a noise, a vibration in her palms comes to life. Turning around she sees Tony Stark leaning in the doorway.

 

Assessing her carefully, arms crossed as he watches. She must be wearing her heart on her sleeve because he looks so distraught for a moment, before crossing the distance between them and pulling her into his arms. Skye curls into the warmth of his embrace, wants to stay here and never come out to face the world. But unfortunately, that isn’t an option. She’s reminded of this when his phone vibrates in his pocket. It’s ignored, and just goes off again and again.

 

‘’You don’t have to do this’’.

Skye sniffles, ‘’I know’’.

‘’You can live with me forever, you don’t need to move out’’.

But they both know why she is.

Stark Tower holds too many memories and she can’t handle it.

‘’I need my own space, besides Stark Tower is too far away from the Playground’’.

‘’You can always quit, being Director of Shield can’t be that great’’.

‘’I can’t’’.

Being in charge of Shield is the only thing that has kept her sane this past year.

Throwing herself into work, into missions and Inhumans has kept her alive.

‘’When was the last time you slept?’’ Tony asks, pulling away and holding her face.

Skye doesn’t even care what he sees anymore, there’s so much evidence from lack of food and sleep all over her face.

The pain is like a coat, wrapped around her skin, her body every single morning.

‘’A couple days ago and before you freak out and say anything, I’ve become a master at naps’’.

‘’That does nothing to reassure me. Do we need to start sneaking sleeping pills into your food again?’’

He’s being serious.

There was a dark chaotic time where Skye lost her mind, too blinded by grief to do anything at all, sleep or eat, breathe or move.

‘’No’’.

He cocks his head to the side like he’s about to call Nat, not trusting Skye’s judgement.

‘’I’m fine Dad’’.

He drops his hands to her shoulders and squeezes, ‘’if you’re not’’-

Knowing where he’s going with this she rips out of his hold and stands by the bed.

‘’You are not calling him’’.

He is a subject forbidden to discuss and Stark is fully aware of this.

It’s only brought up as a threat when she’s too far gone and Nat isn’t around.

‘’If you could have seen the look on your face when I walked in here, you wouldn’t be saying that’’.

Skye throws up her hands on the verge of tears again, ‘’I’m doing the best I can’’.

Tony looks guilty and oh so sad but Skye can’t deal with anyone else’s emotions anymore.

‘’I have to try to move on and this is the first step. I’ve never lived alone’’.

‘’But you don’t have to’’.

‘’But I need to’’.

He glances at the empty bed, ‘’what if you have a nightmare?’’

 

In the last nine years someone has always been there to wake her from the horrors she sees when her eyes close, but no longer. And in this past year one of the Avengers always had to sleep in her bed because she couldn’t fall asleep otherwise. This is the first time in nearly a decade that she’ll be alone when the lights are off and the moon is out. She’s been at the Playground for months now and she’d either fly to Stark Tower to sleep, or just go for days without rest and eventually crash, too exhausted to care if she was alone or not.

 

‘’I’ll be fine. And if I’m not, I can call you right?’’

He hugs her again and she allows it, ‘’of course’’.

 

By the time all the contracts are signed and Martha leaves, Skye stands in the middle of her new living room and cries. Tony is in the kitchen pretending like he can’t see or hear her, knowing she doesn’t want comfort. The next day the sun is shining as all of her things are moved inside. The house is on private property, no neighbors. Tony would have built her one if she asked, but Skye had no desire to wait months for it to be finished.

 

There isn’t much to move, Skye notices this for two reasons. One, there was no need to hire an actual moving company, so it’s just her team of Inhumans moving about. And two, there’s only three boxes to be moved from Stark Tower. One is filled with clothes that wouldn’t fit in the rest of her suitcases, and the other two just consist of a few pictures, books, random knick-knacks she’s collected over the years.

 

It’s sad. In her late thirties now, Skye figures she should have more to her name, she should have so many things to fill this house with. But it’s just her, a dresser and closet full of clothes, and memories in frames that do nothing for her. She’s standing in the middle of the driveway arms crossed, watching her team pretend that they aren’t looking at her. Victoria, Lincoln, Yo-Yo and Jackson are the only Inhumans who came back when she became Director of Shield.

 

Skye can’t blame the rest of them. Half of the Inhumans she started out with all those years ago either wanted no part of her plans in New York, the other half went running the second Ian Quinn starting kill off their kind. They’re all still required to keep in touch, but Skye has never forced anyone to be apart of this life if they don’t want it, and she’s not about to start now. Tony and Natasha are standing by his dark blue sports car, not hiding the fact that they’re staring at her.

 

Not in the mood to talk she turns to face her new home, it’s wood paneling instead of brick, the roof a sleek black, there are only two windows in the front of the house. The back and side of the house is where all the glass is. Here she is in another season of her life, still changing, evolving. There was a time when Skye thought she was done with all that, that she’d settled down quietly, retired and ready to live an easy uneventful life.

 

But things never work out the way she planned, clearly. That loneliness threatens to swallow her alive again, she can feel the despair starting to slip into her lungs. Her body isn’t used to not having another one beside it, and it probably never will be. No hand to hold, no chest to curl in, no one to wipe her tears or dance in the middle of the kitchen at three in the morning. Skye has no clue how to go back to a life without love, without sharing your soul, your breath with someone else.

 

It’s been a year and she’s still at a loss on how to live without him. He would hate this house, that’s all Skye can think about as she continues to stare at it. He’d hate the windows, the curved driveway, the three-car garage (he’d say it was unnecessary, a waste of space) and he’d despise the glass wall she admired yesterday. ‘’Too much open space’’ he’d tell her in that stiff controlled tone of his.

 

She can just see it now, him standing the sun next to her looking up at this house with a small scowl. Maybe that’s ultimately why she chose this place, because so many things he would be annoyed by are wrapped up in wood and glass. Eyeing the front door which is a pale brown color, Skye nearly smiles and catches the movement, he’d definitely want to paint that as soon as possible. The sound of a car driving up pulls her out of her thoughts, turning she catches sight of a black SUV parking behind Tony’s car.

 

The windows are too tinted to see who’s inside, but Fitz and Simmons step out and Skye sighs in just a small bit of relief. Simmons has her hair tied back and is carrying a small potted plant, Fitz has a large cactus resting in a red pot. Fitz stops to say hello to Tony and Nat while Simmons heads straight for her, expression concerned, so concerned as if Skye is just going to fall to pieces at any moment. In the past year she and Simmons have grown closer than ever, she’s become a dear friend.

 

‘’Gorgeous house’’.

Skye kicks invisible gravel below them, ‘’it’ll do’’.

‘’Fitz and I brought you a few house warming gifts’’.

Simmons thrusts the small plant in her hands, explains what it is, how much sunlight and water to give it.

‘’Thanks’’.

 

Nat and Clint gave her a bottle of scotch, Tony set up a brand-new flawless security system. Yo-Yo comes up on Jemma’s other side, a sight Skye never thought she’d see again. It’s so nice to have her team back, most days it’s the only thing that keeps her going. The best part is that as Director of Shield, no one has any say in how she handles Inhumans or her team, it’s a loophole Nick Fury gave her that will never be taken for granted.

 

When they were first all back together again, it was like no time passed at all. They just picked up right where they left off, as if years hadn’t flown by without contact or working together. They all flow well together just like it’s New York again and they’re all standing in the lobby of the Inhuman HQ, waiting on orders or getting ready to train. Things are different of course, Skye is forever changed and they are all down their favorite Supervising Officer.

 

Fitz walks up the drive and hands her the cactus, starts rambling about everything she needs to do to take care of it, Skye tunes out half of it. Distracted by the phone lighting up in his hand, a message alert. Knowing she’s not the only Avenger he’s friends with, it makes the back of her neck sweat. The monitor on her wrist beeps in warning as her heart rate accelerates, it takes a second to calm down. Nat catches her eye across the way and raises a brow, Skye just subtly shakes her head, she’s alright.

 

‘’Lincoln couldn’t make it?’’ Fitz asks, looking around the yard, ‘’He’s working, Jackson and Yo-Yo are the only ones here. Victoria couldn’t find a baby sitter’’. Adding her team into the fray of Shield agents wasn’t an easy transition, many objected to people with powers joining the ranks. Skye is still feeling the cold shoulder from some agents over this, not that she cares.

 

‘’Boss’’. Jackson walks over to her, a smile on his handsome face. He’s rougher around the edges than when they first met four years ago, not the young man with bright eyes she remembers. His blonde hair still curly though longer now, same green eyes, still tall but not overwhelmingly so. According to Fitz, Jackson is still very much in love with her, but Skye can’t see it. Besides anyone who knows her knows that there’s only one person on this entire planet for her.

 

The man she gave every single piece of herself to, but not even that mattered in the end. Nearly ten years together couldn’t save them when everything came crashing down. Skye isn’t sure she’ll ever see him again. Locking those thoughts in a box she returns her attention to Jackson who apparently has been speaking this entire time, and she didn’t catch a word he said. He pulls something out of his back pocket, seemingly nervous as he shows something to her.

 

‘’I saw this the other day and thought of you’’. Glancing down he places an object in her hands that immediately causes a smile to begin to form. A small hula girl bobbles in her hand, grass skirt shaking as the wind blows. No one catches Yo-Yo’s eye roll or the elbow Jackson throws into her ribs.

 

He nervously rubs the back of his neck, ‘’I can take it back if you hate it, it’s fine’’.

‘’Shut up I like it’’.

(He bought the bobble in California years ago and kept it in his apartment because for some reason it reminded him of Skye, but she doesn’t need to know that.)

Skye pockets it and squeezes his arm in thanks before Tony joins them.

‘’I have to get back to New York’’.

‘’Okay’’.

‘’Wow, okay? That’s all I get? Fine, I’ll just leave’’.

Skye rolls his eyes, Stark is dramatic as always before pulling him for a hug.

He runs a hand through her hair and whispers, ‘’I’m just a phone call away’’.

‘’I know’’.

With a kiss to her cheek and sharing a look with Nat, he’s gone.

Tony would have stayed here for days, had it all planned out and everything, but Skye forbade it.

She can do this by herself, doesn’t need him to hold her hand.

 

After keeping her company for a few hours with wine and the scotch Clint gave her, everyone slowly begins to leave as well. Fitzsimmons and her Inhumans slowly start to walk out the door, promising to see her in the morning. Skye nods in goodbye, on her third glass of scotch and not the slightest bit feeling the effects. Soon it’s just her and Nat laying on the couch in the living room, wine bottle and glasses between them.

 

Lights are dimmed low, the staircase dark and Skye imagines that they’re laughing at her because she’s afraid to walk up them. Nat shifts and starts running her hands through Skye’s hair in the hopes of relaxing her, it doesn’t work.

 

‘’I can stay if you need me to’’.

‘’No. I need to do this’’.

‘’You don’t have to’’.

‘’I’m aware’’.

‘’You can live with Tony for’’-

‘’He already gave me this speech, and you said the same thing last month when I mentioned moving out’’.

Skye sighs and sits up so they’re facing each other.

Quake looks to her best friend of almost twenty years, the one who knows her better than anyone.

‘’I have to prove to myself that I can live alone’’.

The Black Widow raises a brow, ‘’yourself or someone else?’’

Skye grits her teeth, ‘’don’t’’.

Nat tucks a piece of blonde hair behind her ear, ‘’I’m worried about you’’.

‘’You always are’’.

‘’That wasn’t a compliment’’.

 

Skye can’t be too hard on Nat though, there was a brief period when no one trusted her to be around anything that was classified as a weapon. Rising from the couch Skye takes a few stray glasses and washes them in the steel sink, sets them on the smooth marble counter to dry. The moon is shining brightly now, looming like a threat to what she’s about to face. That pressure starts to stir in her chest, her limbs already feel heavy, weighing her down.

 

Feels Nat come up beside her, ‘’I have to do this. I’m not eighteen anymore Natasha, you don’t need to take care of me’’.

‘’It’s different this time around’’.

‘’I’ll be fine’’.

Romanoff sighs, not happy with this plan but will give Skye what she wants.

After another twenty minutes Nat leaves, and Skye is finally alone.

 

Skye pads along every dark hallway with bare feet, opens every door, each reveals a bare room that will always stay empty. She turns off the lights, presses a few buttons on her phone that draws out a panel to cover the glass walls and windows. Once everything is shrouded in darkness Skye takes a hot shower, that is the one thing she’s finally grown used to, showering by herself. Her bed has fresh sheets and a quilt, Skye slips inside after setting Jackson’s hula girl on the windowsill.

 

She stares at the ceiling in the dark, a sheen of sweat already building on her forehead. There’s another reason she hates sleeping these days, and it has nothing to do with there not being a familiar body next to her own. It’s the dreams, more heart breaking than they ever have been. Skye closes her eyes, feels the pull of sleep trying to drag her off. But that pain has a stronger grip and it starts to eat at her. Sinking its teeth into her skin until blood seeps into her heart.

 

The only thing that keeps her from curling into the fetal position is her thumb drifting along her ring finger, still weighed down by her engagement and wedding band, the diamonds cool to the touch. She couldn’t bear to take them off, not after all this time, probably not ever. Right hand over her flat belly, the pain is too great to fight. It crashes against her in hot searing waves, knocking the breath from her chest, the monitor on her wrist now beeping out of control.

 

Grasping the sheets, sobbing into the quilt, the material scratching her cheeks. Body heaving, shaking, a scream builds up in her throat but when she opens her mouth, nothing comes out. This lasts for what seems like hours, the absence of body heat next to her own bringing on another round of hysteria. Eventually she cries herself to sleep, which provides no escape. The dreams take over in violent flashbacks.

 

A red light that turns green.

 

The smell of gasoline.

 

Headlights bright in the windshield.

 

A sudden impact against the car.

 

Metal crunching, the sound of an ear-splitting crash.

 

Smoke trapped in between the steering wheel.

 

And blood, so much blood.

 

The smell of it, the sight of it all over skin.

 

A flash of white and then a hospital bed.

 

A warm hand holding a cold one, it’s pulse steady, slow.

 

Skye wakes to sweat pouring down her back, her breathing heavy. Suddenly feeling ill she races to the bathroom and is violently sick. Laying her head against the toilet, hands shaking, she wishes she were dead.

 

It’s the same game every single night.

 

And she isn’t sure how long she can survive this particular chapter.

Chapter Text

 

Bar-tenders shouldn’t be allowed to cast judgement. That’s all Skye can think about as she orders another glass of whiskey and the bar-keep’s eyebrows shoot up in surprise, throwing a twenty beside the register clears his expression though. He pours the second glass and slides it over to her, glancing at the clock as he does so. Like she isn’t aware it’s seven a.m. and she’s the only one in this crap bar. He doesn’t comment on the time, but he does not so subtly snap a photo of her when she looks at her phone.

 

This bar is right between the Playground and her house, like it was made just for her to drown her sorrows in at whatever time of day. She’s already answered every email and phone call the world wants to throw at her, she has no meetings today, no missions. It’s quiet, which is why instead of staying home or sitting in her office in the dark, she’s here. Mentally pouring all her problems into this glass and ignoring this asshole of a bar-tender, who won’t stop staring at her.

 

 

Skye is on her third glass when the front door swings open. Knowing only alcoholics or lonely people drink this early, she doesn’t turn around to see who has wandered in. Until they sit right next to her, even push the stool closer so their leg brushes against hers. She’s about to physically shove them away, maybe even throw a slap to the face for dramatic effect, when familiar cologne fills the air. The anger vanishes and she takes another sip from her glass, the burning liquid warming her chest.

 

 

Clint Barton orders a club soda and takes off his jacket, throwing it around her shoulders. Up until now she hadn’t realized she was shaking, even with a sweater on. Hawkeye says nothing, just drinks his soda in silence, waiting for her to speak. Skye rolls her eyes, already tired of the Avengers hovering over her like she’s a doll, or a monster that could explode any second. They haven’t coddled her like this in years; it’s both charming and annoying as hell.

 

‘’Don’t you have a job, should you really be drinking this early?’’

“Should you be worried about what I’m doing?’’

“Kid, I’m always worried about you’’.

Skye takes a drink, ‘’story of my life’’.

“How’s the new house?’’

She’s only been living on her own for a week and so far all of the Avengers have been on her back.

She hasn’t even been alone for the entire week, Thor showed up and stayed with her for three days.

Skye finally kicked him out a couple days ago and he still won’t stop bitching about it.

“Don’t act like you don’t already know’’.

Clint half smiles, caught, ‘’I’d rather hear from you than Tony’’.

“Its fine, I’m fine. I’m tired of everyone acting like I’m going to go postal any minute’’.

At this the bar-tender gives her a wide eyed stare and she glares at him, ‘’relax. If I was, it sure as hell wouldn’t be in this shit-hole’’.

“I don’t think that reassured him at all Quake’’.

“Don’t care’’.

Clint orders another soda before saying, ‘’can you really blame us for being worried? After everything that happened’’-

Skye grips the glass in her hand so hard it cracks slightly and she clenches her jaw, ‘’don’t’’.

He throws up his hands in surrender, ‘’all I’m saying is we don’t want you to suffer, especially alone’’.

“Well I’m fine’’.

A moment passes where she’s almost calm, the crushing darkness kept at bay when Clint reaches across and puts his hand over her own.

“Have you talked to him recently?’’

Barton is the only one who doesn’t respect her forbidden topic rule.

Skye drains the last of her drink before replying, ‘’you know I haven’t’’.

“I think you should’’.

“Don’t really give a shit what you think Clint’’.

“Ouch’’. He doesn’t take the comment to heart, none of the Avengers do. They know how she thinks and operates.

“Talking to your husband might help’’.

“It won’t’’.

“How do you know? You haven’t spoken to him in a year’’.

She fully glares at him now, ‘’you should quit while you’re ahead’’.

He smiles, ‘’you don’t scare me’’.

Ruffling her hair he continues, ‘’he’s the only other person who knows what you’re going through’’.

“I’m aware. But Ward doesn’t want to talk to me’’.

His name burns her throat on the way up, much worse than the alcohol.

 

Skye blocks out every memory attached to the name, all nine years tangled together with warm hands and a soft smile. She was young when they met, twenty five and had already seen so much of the cruelty this world had to offer. Grant was a light in every dark place that crawled inside her. He healed so many parts of her and now that he’s gone she’s not sure what to do. They’ve been separated before but nothing like this, not for this long.

 

But Clint is right, Ward is the only one who understands how she feels. Mentally Skye is sound, but emotionally she’s crippled. The loss she suffered too great for anyone to soothe, even the love of her life. He of course feels the same, she knows at least this for a fact.

 

‘’I seriously doubt that’’.

 Skye sighs, ‘’I told him I didn’t want any contact between us and he hates me for it’’.

“Ward does not hate you, jesus’’.

 The last time she saw her husband’s face flashes through her mind, heart break evident, all over him.

He wanted to work through this tragedy together, she did not. 

“Grant hating you would be like Romeo hating Juliet, impossible’’.

“They die in the end Clint’’.

“You’re missing the point’’.

“Don’t compare us to Shakespeare’’.

He taps her nose, ‘’you said us, there’s still hope’’.

Skye rolls her eyes, ‘’bite me. Look what do you want me to say? That I love him? I do. That I miss him? Every day, I still don’t know how to live without him’’.

Eyes filled with tears she orders another drink.

Clint is quiet for a long time before asking, ‘’do you regret leaving him?’’

She sucks in a sharp breath, chest throbbing before replying, ‘’yes’’.

 

The sunny Sunday afternoon where she packed her bags and left their home flash through her mind. How desperately Ward tried to make her stay, the tears on his face in the review mirror as she drove away. That image will be forever ingrained into her brain; she sees it even in dreams.

 

Seeing the pain on her face Clint pulls her stool as close as it can get and puts both arms around her.

 

‘’It’ll be okay kid. We’re here for you’’.

 

For a moment, just one sweet blissful second, Skye pretends a different set of arms are holding her, her face pressed into a different chest. It’s the only thing that keeps her sane the rest of the time at the bar.

 

Clint drives her to the Playground even though she’s not anywhere near being drunk. When they walk inside Coulson is the first to greet her, next to him are Jackson and the newest recruit, Caitlin Snow.  She’s been a part of Skye’s Inhuman team for three months now, already has great control of her powers. Which are being able to freeze anything, produce ice and snow from her fingertips, they’re currently working on channeling those into a weapon.

 

Caitlin is a lot like Skye, they share the same sense of humor. Only she knows when to stop and Quake does not. Caitlin becoming Inhuman (or mutant as some would say) was a tragic event. But aren’t they all? Nearly every person Skye has met with powers always has some kind of sob story attached to them. Caitlin was a scientist studying in Antarctica when a group of agents (who have now been confirmed as Hydra) attempted to steal her research and kill her.

 

Survival instinct kicked in and she found a Terrigen Crystal, the rest is history. Shield has since raided the lab she was in and gathered the research and crystals, they’re all in a secure location. Caitlin flips her short white blonde hair over her shoulder, smiling at Quake, Victoria appears from the nearest hall and hands Skye a steaming mug of coffee. 

 

‘’Morning boss’’. Jackson says, frowning at the smell of smoke and booze on her skin.

“She looks like shit, we’re all aware’’.

Clint gets an elbow in the ribs from Skye, ‘’I do not’’.

“You kind of do’’. Snow chimes in but follows it up with a wink, ‘’but if anyone can make it look hot, it’s you’’.

“Sucking up to the boss won’t earn you special treatment’’. Victoria tells her.

“Yes it will’’.

 Is all Skye replies, not giving into their banter as she walks to her office.

“Any missions for today?’’

“Not yet’’.

 

Victoria updates Skye on her schedule for tomorrow since nothing is going on today as of yet. Quake half listens, knowing if she misses anything Victoria always sends her an email of it later on. Sitting at her desk Skye turns on the computer monitor and laptop, tosses her bag and jacket onto the chair across from her. This office is bigger than the one she had at Inhuman HQ all those years ago, the desk too.

 

Quake didn’t change much when she moved in. Though the couches are now soft black leather and the video monitor is wider than the last. Besides throwing out all of Coulson’s Captain America crap and Maria Hill’s Shield handbooks and motivational posters, everything is the same as it’s always been. Two pictures that rest on the end of this desk are the only personal items Skye brought with her. The first one is of her and all of the Avengers on the roof of Stark Tower, before Thanos, before the Sokovia Accords.

 

The second one even after a year without him, never gets any easier to look at. Skye isn’t even sure why she keeps it here, self-inflicted torture perhaps, wanting something she can’t have. Reminding of her of simpler times that she could so easily go back to, but no matter how many times she picks up the phone and dials Ward’s number, she can’t make herself call. The image trapped in a black frame is one she’s stared at for nine years now.

 

It’s set on the roof of Stark Tower, Skye and Grant’s arms wrapped around each other, zoomed in on their faces. His eyes are closed as he kisses her forehead while she’s looking up at him with love and adoration. This is probably her favorite picture of them, besides the wedding photos. Which are more than likely spread out across the house they used to share, Skye has no idea if Ward even lives there anymore.

 

She’d like to think he’s happy wherever he is. Though she can’t say she’s happy without him, so who’s to say he’s not in a similar state? They were together for nearly a decade, it’s hard to go back to life without the person you went through so much with. Skye has no idea who she is when Gant is not by her side, it’s something she’s still trying to come to terms with. Skye only notices that the chatter around her has died when a fresh cup of coffee is placed by her hand and someone clears their throat.

 

Tearing her eyes away from the past she looks up at Victoria, who is holding a tablet to her chest and frowning.

‘’What?’’

Jackson and Caitlin have also gone quiet and moved to the couches.

‘’Do you want anything to eat?’’

Skye sighs at the not so subtle way Victoria is using to remind her to eat.

‘’I’m fine’’.

The frown is back.

‘’Boss’’-

‘’Don’t you three have something better to do? Caitlin I know you have training today with Lincoln, why don’t you start early?’’

Snow rises into a standing position, ‘’on one condition’’.

‘’The condition being I kick your ass if you don’t do it?’’

‘’Good one, I was thinking more like you spar with me later. Blow off some steam’’.

Skye scrapes dark blue polish off her nails, ‘’maybe’’.

She moves closer to the desk, ‘’come on please? I’ll buy you dinner and a drink’’.

Before she can respond Clint walks through the door, ‘’do not buy her a drink. God she’s a borderline alcoholic’’.

‘’Am not’’.

He places a sandwich wrapped in saranwrap in front of her, ‘’eat’’.

‘’Don’t tell me what to do’’.

‘’I’m coming from a place of love when I say this, but I swear to god I will shove this down your throat if I have to’’.

‘’Back off Barton’’.

‘’I will if you eat’’.

Unwrapping the sandwich and taking a bite Skye hides a smile, its Fitz’s favorite; prosciutto and buffalo with a hint of homemade pesto aioli. Simmons made this for her.

Satisfied, Hawkeye takes a seat atop her desk and doesn’t say a word as everyone begins clearing the office.

 

Coulson walks in an hour later alone, May is no longer allowed in here after an incident a couple months ago. She and Phil were unaware that Skye was in hearing distance when they were discussing Ward. Melinda made a comment that he deserved Skye leaving him, and Skye lost it. The only reason the Calvary is still standing is because Steve Rogers was here to hold Quake back, and Natasha was able to defuse the situation.

 

Since Skye was sent to an alternate timeline years ago and she and Phil became friends, it’s been easier to be around him. They’re friends she supposes, actually work well together. She can go to him for advice, to keep her in check to make sure she’s running Shield as efficiently as possible. He would say Skye has done a fantastic job so far, and she’s made headlines as the first Inhuman Director of Shield. It’s a title she loves even if she won’t admit it.

 

Being Inhuman and in a place of power is also making better strides for her people, the media and overall world have a long way to go before accepting them into society, but they very rarely paint mutants or Inhumans as criminals or monsters. It’s the best progress they’ve ever seen, Skye is very proud of this fact.

 

Coulson stops at her chair, phone in hand. ‘’Have you seen the news?’’ Without answering Skye switches on the monitor in front of them, putting her feet up on the desk. The most reliable station begins to play a feed, the footage from Asia. It’s not an Inhuman situation though, it’s Hydra. An all too familiar enemy that Skye has tried for years to bring down, but no matter how hard she tries it just keeps on standing. It pisses her off. She’s one of the most powerful people on the planet and Hydra refuses to die.

 

It appears the organization attacked a classified meeting with top security. After ten minutes Skye shuts off the news and stands, Barton wanders off to call Nat.

 

‘’Bobbi and Hunter are ready to go. Who do you want to bring from the team?’’

Skye grabs a gun from her desk, ‘’Lincoln and Jackson. Everyone else has pissed me off today’’.

‘’Fair enough’’.

 

Fourteen hours later she’s sitting in front of Jemma Simmons, who’s scowling as she begins applying stitches to Skye’s right cheek. The dull tug and pull of her movements has Quake fidgeting, and that brings on another round of scolding. ‘’Honestly Skye you must be more careful out in the field, you’re too reckless’’. She’s heard this too many times to count from other people, but coming from Simmons holds a different morning, more weight for some reason.

 

The mission was a success more Hydra members are either behind bars or dead, a win-win all around. But someone did manage to get one too many punches to her face, he was wearing a ring, hence the stitches. Bobbi suffered a sprained wrist and Jackson has a black eye, other than that they all got out alive. The high of the mission hasn’t faded just yet, Skye can still feel a small amount of adrenaline running through her veins.

 

Knowing one of the two options she has to blow off steam is available, Skye is grateful yet again that she converted one section of her massive garage into a home gym. Fitz is behind them talking with Mack about a new weapon he’s creating, Yo-Yo is sitting beside them and Skye doesn’t have to look at her fellow Inhuman to know she’s making googly-eyes at him. She and Mack have been together for a few weeks now and even though they want to keep it quiet, Skye knows.

 

She pretty much knows everything that goes on in this underground bunker, it’s both a blessing and a curse. Simmons is nearly done patching her up when the glass doors to the lab open, revealing Tony Stark who’s smile fades when he notices her bandaged face.

 

‘’What are you doing here?’’

‘’Answer what the hell happened to your face first’’.

Skye crosses her legs, ‘’mission, bad guy, fist to my face’’.

‘’You’re hilarious’’.

‘’I try’’.

He pulls up a spinning office chair and sits next to her, directs a question to Jemma, ‘’how bad is it Doc?’’

‘’Besides the wound that required ten stitches she’s fine, a few minor scrapes and bruises, nothing too terrible’’.

‘’I’m sitting right here and I’m not a baby. Dad this is not the first time you’ve seen me injured’’.

He dramatically clutches his chest, ‘’and it kills me every time I see you bleeding’’.

‘’What do you want? I have work to do’’.

‘’You do not, you liar. I checked with Victoria your schedule is clear for the rest of the night. So I’m making you dinner’’.

She raises an eyebrow, ‘’you can’t cook’’.

He sighs, ‘’fine I called in take out. Let’s go’’.

Stark offers her his arm and after locking up her office and making sure no one dies while she’s away, Skye heads home.

 

An hour later she’s sitting bare foot on her couch, dressed in sweat pants eating Italian food. Tony is across from her laughing at the old sit-com they’re watching, a blanket draped over him. It’s a perfect ending to another shitty day, the only thing that helps is a large glass of wine, and her father figure keeping her company. Skye may complain how much the Avenges hover but she wouldn’t have made it through this year without them.

 

She’s on her second glass of wine when Stark speaks up, ‘’I got you something by the way’’. Putting down the wine she looks over at him, ‘’gimme’’. The Avengers aren’t known for their gifts, in fact they are terrible at picking them out. But Tony usually does a decent job. He pulls out a small white box, judging by the trim and overall appearance of it, it’s expensive. This is Tony Stark so she’s not surprised. ‘’It’s something I should have given you sooner, but I finally found the perfect one’’.

 

Removing the lid, nestled in ice blue velvet is a sterling silver necklace that glimmers in the low light, Skye recognizes the pendant immediately. Saint Raphael, when she was a child the nuns made sure she remembered every Saint and Apostle in the bible. Raphael is known for healing the mind and body, people often wear these in the wake of tragedy, or so she’s heard. The necklace itself is rather small, oval shaped and cool to the touch as she gathers it in one hand.

 

Tears in her eyes because this is something so thoughtful and exactly what she needed, Skye leaps off the couch and hugs Tony. Demands he put it on, promises to never take it off.

 

She’s lying in bed later that night stroking the jewelry around her neck, the moon shining brightly through the open curtains, when Skye starts praying for the first time in many years. Doesn’t even know exactly who she’s praying to, but she asks whoever is listening that they help heal the gaping bleeding wound in her chest. She asks the same for her husband, and that one day they may find their way back to each other.

 

Because spending the rest of her life alone is not something she wants anymore, none of this was her intention when she left Ward a year ago. Turning more to face the window, staring at the moon, she can’t but wonder if her husband is doing the same and if he misses her just as much as she misses him.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Skye stares blankly at her dark blue painted toe nails. They shimmer slightly in the bathroom light against the warm water. The claw foot tub she’s laying in is filled to her chin with vanilla scented bubbles, her phone is softly playing Berlin Song by Ludovico Einaudi as it rests on the bathroom counter. She should be relaxed, should be closing her eyes and basking in the quiet, the warmth. But instead her hands are shaking and she can’t stop tracing the scar on her hip.

 

It’s new, a year old. Skye is no stranger to scars, she has more of them than she can count. But none of them have caused her pain afterwards, they’re just another mark, evidence that she survived something terrible. This is the first time she’s wished the ending was different, that she didn’t live and have the scar to prove it. A year later and it still tears her to pieces whenever she sees it, a physical reminder of everything she’s lost.

 

Skye washes her hair and body quickly, the song on her phone changes to something brighter, happier. Knowing this type of melody doesn’t exist on her playlist, it reminds Skye that even though she feels lost and isolated, she’s not. The Avengers are still here, no matter how hard she pushes them away because everything inside her feels like a warzone, they won’t leave. Tony changes the song again on her phone, something pretty and light with a beautiful violin solo at the end.

 

Running her fingers over that scar again, Skye sinks under the water until she’s fully submerged. Eyes closed, limbs loose and light. It’s always easier under water, silent, nothing hurts, reality is so far away. Her brain travels to places she’d rather not visit. A house with a red front door, a pair of arms that always felt like home as they wrapped around her. It was safe there. They never should have left those walls, ever since Thanos happened the world spun out of control and hasn’t stopped.

 

Lungs screaming for air, head begins to throb, Skye doesn’t breach the surface. Just a few more seconds of bliss, of pretending like this past year never happened. Skye lies to herself and says she’s back home in the bathroom that she shares with someone else, any second now a hand will appear to help her out. Those arms will hold her close, share the sadness she feels, tell her everything is going to be okay. But it never happens. Fingers don’t reach through the bubbles to get her out.

 

Skye heaves her body out of the water and gasps for sweet breath and rubbing her eyes free of soap. She doesn’t realize she’s crying until her lips taste like salt as she brushes her teeth. Dressing quickly Skye heads down to the kitchen to start a pot of coffee, switches on the TV in the living room to watch the news. The world isn’t ending yet this morning. She starts the coffee and leans up into the cupboard to grab a mug.

 

There was a time when a body would press up against her own, grab the cup with larger hands and longer arms, but all she feels is the cool breeze of the A/C as it brushes her back. It isn’t until the coffee is done brewing and she reaches for the pot, that she realizes why the counter in front of her looks so strange.

 

The second coffee mug stares back at Skye as if it’s mocking her. The cup itself is nothing special, white with a few pale orange designs. Even after a year Skye still puts out a second mug whenever she makes coffee, as if someone is going to join her for this daily caffeine consumption. Heart heavy and trying to fight off this harsh wave of longing, she places the mug back in the cupboard. Swallows a burning sip of coffee to get rid of the lump that’s formed in her throat.

 

Glaring down at her fingers, the weight on her left hand seems heavier today than usual, like the rings she’s worn for years are finally starting to weigh her down. The diamonds sparkle in the rising sun, distracting her for a moment. Barton and Banner have both suggested she take them off in the hopes that it’ll make things easier, help her move on. But that seems like giving up, it would make all of this so real, like there’s no hope.

 

If she were to remove the rings that would mean her marriage is truly over, and Skye wouldn’t be able to handle that.

 

Hours later she’s laying on the couch in her office, hands covering her face as the lights shut off. After four conference calls, a meeting with the President, a mission where Jackson nearly got himself killed, and a press conference discussing Inhumans and how they need to be protected, Skye is exhausted. It’s only three in the afternoon but she’s already longing for her empty house and bed. She’s become a pro at cat naps so her eyes are closing when Victoria opens her office door.

 

Knowing the protocol for when Skye passes out from exhaustion and there’s not an emergency, Quake is expecting Victoria to just walk back out. But she lingers in the doorway and after a few seconds clears her throat. Sighing Skye sits up and rubs her face, ‘’somebody better be dying’’. Opening her eyes Vic is standing there with a steaming mug of coffee, it’s the only motivation that has Skye getting up and crossing the room to take it.

 

 ‘’You forgot about the meeting didn’t you?’’

‘’What meeting?’’

‘’The one I emailed you about this morning with the ATCU. Rosalind Price is waiting for you’’.

 

The ATCU has been a pain in Shield’s ass for the last year. They’re an organization the President put together (which means Skye had no say in it, and can’t destroy them when they piss her off) they track and monitor Inhumans, and any Inhuman activity. Which is basically what Skye has been doing for years now and is perfect at, but the President didn’t want to hear it. Quake has been told many times they are not the enemy, but she just can’t see it that way.

 

This is the first time Rosalind Price, the Director of the ATCU, and Skye are meeting. The President saw no reason for this to happen sooner, apparently he just expected Skye to automatically accept these people into her world without a problem. It’s been an ongoing argument for months now and Skye has been forced to accept the fact that she can’t control the ATCU or the President. She’s going to have to deal with them until they screw up and are shut down, or they’ll just have to work together forever.

 

‘’Can’t Coulson just handle it?’’

Sometimes he’ll fill in with her if she’s in one of her moods.

Victoria shakes her head, ‘’she’ll only meet with you, Ms. Price is in the lobby’’.

Gripping the mug a little tighter Skye groans and heads out the door, down the hallway.

‘’How’s Jackson?’’

‘’Resting. Lincoln said his shoulder will be fine in a few weeks’’.

Skye winces in sympathy, she knows how painful a stab wound can be.

Caitlin runs into them just as they’re about to enter the lobby, ‘’that Rosalind lady is a real piece of work’’.

‘’Did she say something to you?’’

Skye would do just about anything to protect and defend one of her own.

‘’Calm it down Mama Bear, no. She just looks mean, be prepared for judgement eyes’’.

‘’She’s nothing I can’t handle’’.

No one needs a reminder that Quake has stared down worse foes.

Skye walks into the lobby and looks back at Victoria, ‘’tell Lincoln that I’’-

Words are cut off as she looks away from her long time assistant and out into the lobby of the Playground.

 

It’s like time and everything on the planet freezes. All movement is paused, nothing breathes or speaks in this second.  Air is filtering in and out of her lungs harshly as if something heavy is in the atmosphere. There are no words, nothing to say as she stares at Grant Ward a few feet away from her, like she conjured him out of a dream. The numbing chill that has made a home inside her bones for so long now begins to thaw, almost as if her body was waiting for him to come back and bring warmth with him.

 

Those whiskey eyes she’s drowned in for so many years pin her to this place, this endless second where the world seems so still and quiet. It’s in this moment right here that Skye is reminded once more that Ward is everything. He’s all that’s ever mattered to her, the only man who was able to silence the demons inside her head instead of abandoning her over them. The rings he placed on her finger so long ago on their wedding day feel like dead weights now, her hands are shaking violently.

 

Skye isn’t aware she’s breathed his name until he shows a small reaction. He was stone still this entire time, no expression on his handsome face. But his jaw ticks, his right thumb twitches against his side, but that’s the only response he allows her to see before shutting down again. Grant looks the same as the day she left him, minus the tears in his eyes, the heartbreak he wore like a second skin. That day flashes through her mind in a tidal wave of pain, so intense it nearly brings Skye to her knees.

 

Before those drag her under, happier memories flood behind her eyes. His smile in the early morning light, his laugh as snow fell, the dreamy expression on his face as she walked down the aisle to promise him forever. Countless moments spill over too fast to grasp and shut them away, a thousand places with hands on skin. Sheets crumpled, his legs tangled with hers, lips and teeth on her neck, the feel of his safe strong arms around her at night.

 

Ward was always her rock in the middle of a storm, the person constantly on her side, her husband who would do anything and everything for her. The one who took her sadness and nightmares, put them on his own shoulders. Ward would have carried her forever, cherished her until the day he died. And if there was some way to still do that after death, he’d find it. Skye knows this, the universe knows it too, perhaps that’s why he’s here.

 

Has fate finally decided they’d spent enough time apart? Skye comes back to her body, head clears, reality sinks in and the white noise in her ears burns off. Ward is still standing there dressed in all black, stubble on those perfect cheekbones and jawline that could cut glass. Always drawn to him her legs move of their own accord to go to him, as if they know their perfect match is just a feet away. Skye is dimly aware of other people in the room, but she couldn’t give a shit about anyone else.

 

Someone is speaking to her, a phone is ringing somewhere, but all of that is lost in comparison to Grant’s eyes on her. He takes a step to her and her heart beats faster, the near silent beeping of the monitor on her wrist seems so loud, so out of touch with her erratic breathing. She has to count to ten slowly, flex her fingers to calm down. Ward must see this because he doesn’t try to come any closer, if this was two years ago she’d already be in his arms pressed into his chest.

 

It’s the only place she’s ever felt truly safe, warm.

 

Fingernails digging into her jacket has Skye remembering where she is, that there was some meeting she had to get to. Looking away from her estranged husband is harder than it should be, almost as if she’s been trapped in an endless night for a thousand years and he’s the sun, shining brightly in every hollow space inside her soul. She never should have left him, it’s a thought she’s had often over this past year. But this time Skye truly realizes it, and it causes her chest to collapse.

 

The only thing that keeps her from falling apart is the feel of Ward’s gaze on her, and the pressure on her back from Victoria’s hand. Her assistant starts to speak just as a woman with short black hair comes into view, in a beige paint suit and heels, her dark eyes drinking in Quake.

 

‘’Boss this is Rosalind Price, Ms. Price this is Director Skye’’.

Rosalind holds out a hand, ‘’so nice to finally meet you. Do you prefer Director, Quake or Skye?’’

She takes Price’s outstretched hand, skin clammy, and shakes, ‘’Skye is fine’’.

Her voice sounds scratchy like gravel, trembling like it’s been unused for so long.

This is not the first impression Skye wants to have with anybody, let alone a potential enemy.

But Grant as he so often does, is putting her off balance.

He steps up and Skye is about to ask what the hell he’s doing here, she’s confused and antsy, when Rosalind gestures to him.

‘’And this is my second in command and head of security, Grant Ward. He told me you two worked together once upon a time’’.

 

Confusion amps up even further when Ward holds out his right hand like he expects her to shake it. They’ve never shook hands in all their nine years together. He’s putting on a fake smile, acting as if she’s not his wife, ‘’it’s nice to see you again Quake’’. Skye doesn’t understand what is going on, he’s wearing a mask but why? For what purpose? And working with the ATCU? Doesn’t he know they’re basically Skye’s enemy? Of course he does, he knows exactly how her brain works.

 

‘’I’d like to discuss security protocol with you if that’s alright, perhaps in your office?’’ Ward tips his head to the side, silently gesturing for a private moment. They’ve never needed words to communicate, at least that is still intact. Skye nods and turns, Victoria is staring between them with wide eyes, Coulson and May walk into the lobby and gape at the pair, then at Ward who doesn’t even glance in their direction.

 

Skye feels like she’s floating but not in a good way as she heads down the hall and into her office. She can feel Ward at her back, a respectable distance between their bodies as he follows. Skye is sweating by the time they make it into the room, her hands are shaking so badly it takes three times to lock the door with her phone, she nearly drops it once. She leans against her desk for support otherwise her legs may give out, and looks at Grant.

 

He’s standing in the middle of the office looking around, seeing the couple changes she made. Ward has this way about him, he takes up space in a room now, that’s something else that hasn’t changed. When they first met Ward would walk in somewhere and it was as if he was apologizing for his presence, as the years passed he grew more confident both inwardly and outwardly. Skye had the privilege of watching that happen, and she’s still so proud that he manages to draw all the energy in a room still.

 

She’s about to make some comment when the day that she’d been trying to push away all this time comes back harshly like a slap to the face. The car accident, the hospital, how she sobbed in Tony’s arms a couple months later after leaving Grant. It was what she needed to do at the time, what was best both physically and emotionally for her, Skye wouldn’t have survived in that house with Grant. They were slowly killing each other with their pain and she could no longer stand it.

 

Skye leaps over to grab the small trash can on the floor and vomits into it. After years of seeing her sick Ward can’t help but rush over and hold her hair back, it’s habit, something he’s done so many times it’s drilled into him. When she’s done Skye braces her hands on her knees, catches her breath. Doesn’t even realize Grant’s fingers are in her hair until they twitch against her scalp, like he’s trying to fight the urge to run his hands through it like he used to.

 

The feel of his skin on hers keeps the darkness at bay, a far cry from a year ago when she didn’t want to look at him. Now it seems he is all she wants to stare at, to soak in his strength and never leave his side. It’s incredibly selfish. She broke his heart by leaving, is this how he felt after coming back from leaving her those two times? The guilt hurts her stomach worse than the vomiting, how did he cope with it? The knowledge that he’d hurt her to deeply, the possibility of her hating him for years to come.

 

Wiping her mouth with the back of her hand Skye stands, Ward’s hands leaving her abruptly as she gets a water bottle and a stick of gum. By the time she turns back around he’s put distance between them again, but his worried gaze leaks through as he assesses her from head to toe. It’s then Skye remembers her hair color, that it’s one of his triggers and she’s immediately putting it in a ponytail, her hands frantically covering it as if he hasn’t already seen it.  

 

Blondes have been a turn off since the Chelsea incident all that time ago, it’s nothing he needed a reminder about and there Skye went with bleach and tears in her eyes. At the time she didn’t think she would ever see him again, so. ‘’You dyed your hair’’, he says without anxiety in his tone or panic in his eyes. It’s either true or he’s just playing her, Skye hates that even after nine years together she still can’t tell, that she still has to question this.

 

She fingers the strands, ‘’I’m sorry I didn’t’’-

He waves her off, ‘’it doesn’t bother me anymore’’.

‘’Oh, okay good’’.

The awkwardness is so tangible.

There’s a void between them now that was never there before and neither one of them know how to cross it.

So Skye does what she does best, ‘’what the hell are you doing here? Working with the ATCU? They’re the enemy Ward’’.

He puts his hands on his hips, ‘’they are not. And even if they were, they’d be your enemy Skye. Not mine’’.

Her chest hurts, he’s clearly making it obvious on where they stand now; on opposite sides.

A position they never thought possible, an outcome neither one could have ever predicted.

‘’So why are you working with them?’’

Ward shrugs, ‘’that’s all you want to know after a year apart? Fine. They offered me a job and I took it’’.

Skye licks her lips and hopes he doesn’t read into her follow up question too much, ‘’when did they offer it to you?’’

But of course he does.

‘’Six months ago’’.

At her silence he looks away for a moment and then back to her, ‘’no contact Skye that’s what you wanted, I honored that’’.

‘’I know’’.

She swallows the lump in her throat, ‘’but why the ATCU?’’

‘’Well Shield wasn’t an option, the Avengers are still broken up, and you know I was never loyal to Hydra. This was the next best thing’’.

‘’Why work for an organization at all? I mean’’-

‘’Did you think I would spend an entire year in that house waiting for you?’’

His question is harsh, tone even worse, and tears fill her eyes.

 

Because selfishly, yes, yes she did. Even if it wasn’t fair to him or right. Skye may have eventually found her way back to him, and there he’d be in their home with open arms, ready for her return.

 

‘’It’s what I did for you every time you left me’’.

She didn’t mean to say that aloud, but Ward winces, shakes his head. ‘’This was different’’.

They lost their son.

And both Skye and Ward found different ways to cope with it.

‘’Why did you act like you barely knew who I was back there?’’

Ward crosses his arms, ‘’it’s better if the ATCU doesn’t know our full history’’.

Realization dawns at his blank and controlled tone, ‘’you don’t want them to know we’re married’’.

‘’Are we?’’

The question knocks her back a step.

She only has one response because nothing else would make sense, ‘’of course we are’’.

Thumb traces the rings on her finger and she looks to Grant’s left hand just to check, but he’s buried it in his pocket.

Skye cocks her to the side as she thinks of another problem, ‘’Ward I don’t know how to act like I’m not in love with you’’.

It’s been a long time since they were nothing more than friends, she doesn’t want to go back to that.

He clenches his jaw and something passes through his eyes, but it’s gone before she can see what it was.

‘’Are you?’’

‘’Don’t be an asshole, god’’.

 

The world spins when Skye thinks he may want something different, she feels sick and sweaty, like everything is about to end. Her voice is small and barely audible when she asks the love of her life, ‘’do you want a divorce?’’ It hurts, the question hurts so much she may die from it, pain is tearing her in half, burning everything up inside like she’s on fire. His head snaps up at that, allowing his own pain to reflect in his eyes, but he says nothing.

 

Skye fists the bottom of her shirt in her hands, ‘’I mean I would understand if you did, I know I hurt you’’.

It seems like an eternity passes before he speaks again, ‘’I don’t want that’’.

Hope fills her bloodstream; a sigh of relief tumbles out of her lungs.

‘’But that doesn’t mean I’m ready to forgive you’’.

This is new, their positions have switched and Skye has no idea what to do. It’s not like she can ask Grant how he dealt with her pain and anger every time he came around after leaving.

So she looks up to the ceiling and nods, ‘’okay’’.

She’s expecting more of his robotic empty words but instead gets a more familiar side.

Emotional.

‘’After you left and the ATCU offered me a job, it was the only way I could keep my head above water. Which is why we can’t do this yet’’.

He gestures between them.

Grant means they can’t sit down and cry about everything, not here not now, there’s no time.

Skye runs her hands down her face, the floodgates of her heart feeling as if they are about to burst.

‘’Okay’’.

As if on cue a knock on the door sounds and Skye throws the nearest object at it, ‘’I swear to god if no one is bleeding out on the floor’’-

‘’Boss, Ms. Price is asking for you and um, you and Ward. You’ve been in there for half an hour, she’d like to get the meeting started’’.

Anger burns off the sadness, ‘’I’m sorry Victoria is Rosalind Price in charge here? No. Tell her to wait or to come back I don’t know, never’’.

Vic sighs, ‘’she’s being a real bitch and we need you to come put her in her place’’.

Quake feels a smile pull at her lips, that’s one of her favorite things to do.

Ward moves around to unlock the door and Victoria jumps back in surprise before smiling, ‘’it’s good to see you again Ward’’.

Grant trained every Inhuman for years, they were all so close to him, having him back is like everyone finding their equilibrium again.

He gives her a polite nod in return, ‘’you too Victoria. How are Joshua and Lacey?’’ (Her kids)

‘’Great. I can show you pictures later’’.

‘’I’d love that’’.

‘’Ward’’.

Skye lingers by the door throat burning when she says his name, having not used it in what feels like forever.

He turns, the blank mask back, his hands twitch in his pockets.

Giving her a look that says, ‘we’ll talk later’ he walks out.

Victoria is clutching her arm worriedly, ‘’I’m not going to ask if you’re alright because I know you’re not’’.

Skye chokes out a half laugh and a sob, wipes her eyes and takes a deep breath.

‘’Do me a favor and call Nat, update her on the situation’’.

‘’Already did, she’s on her way here’’.

Accepting the fresh cup of coffee she offers Skye shakes her head, ‘’tell her to go to Stark Tower’’.

‘’Yes ma’am. Do you need anything else?’’

Walking out and shoving Ward in a tight box she heads into the nearest conference room, ‘’a time machine’’.

 

By the time the meeting is over between Shield and the ATCU, it’s three hours of pretending like she and Ward aren’t meant to be, and Coulson giving the former Specialist shocked looks. Rosalind and Quake come to an agreement to both keep monitoring Inhumans and sharing that information, but Skye takes the lead on extraction and bringing them to a safe location. As Rosalind leaves Skye decides to put on a show of her own and pulls the other woman aside, looking pointedly over at Grant.

 

‘’Is Cheekbones over there going to be a problem?’’

It sounds less personal to Skye that way.

 Less than, ‘’I gave my heart and soul to that man for almost ten ears, he still has them both in the palms of his hands and won’t give them back. Now he’s here acting as if we’re strangers’’.

 Rosalind laughs, ‘’Cheekbones? I like that. No, he’s good, he’ll stay out of your way’’.

‘’Perfect’’.

Grant follows the Director of the ATCU out, not looking at anyone else.

 

Skye sinks back into her chair at the head of the table, puts her head in her hands. And the dam breaks, the one she’s been trying to hold back with more rocks and cements, the water still pours out destroying everything. Skye thought she was done sobbing over Grant Ward, that they were done hurting each other. Apparently not. She sits there alone, or so she thinks, until Phil Coulson’s voice is shushing her and his hand rubs her back in uncomfortable circles but she doesn’t pull away.

 

Another hand is on her shoulder and she smells Jemma’s floral perfume along with a steaming cup of tea. If Skye thought being around Ward would be easy, she’s proved wrong just a day later. After spending the night at Stark Tower and crying into Nat’s shoulder, Skye is at a charity event with Tony on her arm. She’d much rather be brooding at home alone, but this couldn’t be ignored. Her Inhumans are somewhere around, Quake enters the building in a black dress and five-inch heels.

 

Skye is complaining about the ATCU being here as well to Iron Man when a familiar set of shoulders comes into view that she’d recognize anywhere. Dressed in a black suit Grant Ward looks like a million dollars with his sharp jawline and wide smile. They’ve been in a setting like this before countless times, only they were a team back then, now they’re not. Tony is asking if she’s alright, if she wants to leave, when Skye spots something that makes her stomach roll.

 

A woman with honey brown hair slides into Ward’s personal space, and he doesn’t back away. Instead of pulling out of her grasp when she wraps her arms around his bicep, he draws her closer and kisses her. And for a second time, the world stops spinning for an entirely different reason. If she thought seeing him cold with her hurt, it’s nothing compared to this. Skye assumed she and Ward could survive anything together and recover holding hands, but not this.

 

Apparently there are some wounds too great for someone else to heal, isn’t that what she’s been preaching for a year now? A hand to her mouth Skye runs out the door into the night, her heart and body having no idea what to do with themselves now that the one they gave themselves to is so far out of reach, that they may never come back.

 

Skye feels like she’s been hit by a category five hurricane, her heart has wind damage, is ripped to shreds barely hanging on. How is she supposed to make it through something like this? How could her husband do this? Does Skye not hold his soul as well? How can he just give it someone else when she’s been clutching it in her bloody hands for nine years? They were supposed to be together until death, why is he changing that?

 

When did Skye stop being his always? Did she really ruin them that much?

Chapter Text

 

 

‘’Did you know that Angelfish mate for life?’’

 

Skye is walking backwards a grin on her face, the dark blue lights of the aquarium, the bright coral and clear water shaping her face in colors. They’re alone in this small enclosed tunnel with water and fish concealed by glass on both sides of them, Skye is holding both his hands as she looks from his eyes to the aquatic life surrounding them. She may be distracted by their adventure of the day but he can’t stop looking at her.

 

Her pregnant belly that she caresses every now and again, he can’t help but smile whenever he thinks about their son and how he can’t wait to meet him.

 

Ward focuses on his wife and responds to her question, ‘’do they?’’

‘’Yup. One mate for life, that’s one of the only things I remember from high school before dropping out’’.

 

Before he can respond she stops and wraps her arms around his shoulders, molding her body perfectly against every inch of his. Her expression serious, eyes dancing from his shoulders to his lips. Ward folds his arms around her waist and kisses her forehead, about to say something cheesy and romantic because she loves it, when Skye beats him to it.

 

Her mouth brushing against his own when she breathes, ‘’we’re Angelfish babe’’.

 

He laughs and kisses her deeply, she’s right.

 

There will never be anyone else in this world for him but Skye, his only love.

 

They had no idea at the time, that this was one of their last good days together.

 

 

*

 

 

Grant Ward wakes before the sun, his bedroom dark and quiet. Blinking slowly he rolls onto his side, back to the door, intent to rest for one more second before he has to get up and face the world. It’s a new habit, prolonging getting ready for the day. In twenty plus years he’s never felt the need to pause, to dwell before rising from his bed. Ward has always been one to get up and go, no reason to linger. But things are different now, things are harder.

 

Automatically his hands glide across cold sheets, searching for the body to tuck into his chest to ward off the morning chill. But she’s not there and probably never will be again. One year hasn’t made it any easier, living without someone you gave your soul to.

 

Nobody tells you how to live with grief. Nobody tells you how to move on when the love of your life leaves you, no one prepares you for the heaviest moments that life throws at you. Grant thought he was done saying goodbye to the people he loves, he naïvely thought that death wouldn’t steal his child away when it had already taken so much from him over the years. He got comfortable in his life, thought he and Skye would be able to tackle anything together, but even that proved false.

 

Grabbing his phone and pressing a button, the curtains open, the sun is just beginning to rise, spreading rays of orange and soft yellow across the almost blue sky. Pulling his mind away from the aquarium memory he dreamt about, he attempts to focus on his schedule for the day but it’s no use, Skye is in the forefront of his mind once more, not that she ever really left in the first place. For the past nine years she’s always been there, like a second skin or limb, apart of him always.

 

Not even this year of separation could change that, he’s missed her every single day since she left. Grant can’t say he blames her for it, there was so much pain inside both of them it was a struggle to even look at each other most days. However he wanted to work things out as a couple, try and get through this massive grief in their hearts together, but she didn’t. So he had to adapt to this new reality; life without his wife, it hasn’t been easy.

 

Grant was trained all those years ago to adjust to any new change in a split second, transform himself to be okay with anything and everything, never let a thing affect him. Just solider on until the job is done, until you get to the end. But he couldn’t dismiss his life with Skye so easily, they were together for almost a decade. He can’t just brush that off and pretend it never mattered, that moving on was the easiest thing he’s ever done. It’s been the hardest, he wouldn’t wish this loneliness on anyone.

 

There’s a hole in his chest that refuses to be repaired or filled. It aches nearly every day, and while he’s an expert at hiding it, it throbs still. So here is again, a new season of his life, a new place, adjusting once more to a life alone. It’s not something he ever thought he’d be doing again. Before the waves of fresh pain can drag him under Ward jumps out of bed and begins his morning routine, the same one he’s had for so many years now.

 

Showers alone, the water ice cold to help get his head on straight. He moved into this apartment six months ago, it’s close to his new job at the ATCU. Another change, another job, another gun strapped to his hip, more violence and bullets. Once upon a time he was done with this kind of lifestyle, happy and retired. But all that’s gone now, just a memory that’s tainted with death and sorrow. Ward bends his head down the water covering his ears, his face, running down the drain quickly.

 

He tries not to think about how everyone he’s ever loved is gone now.

 

The kitchen is sterile and basic, the living room too. This apartment holds no value for Grant, it’ll never be home. Home is brown eyes and a warm smile, cheesy punchlines and a laugh that lit up his world, but that slipped through his hands too fast to try and get back. He’s making coffee and answering emails, getting a mug from the top shelf. It isn’t until he’s poured the coffee and taking a sip that he realizes what he’s done, what’s staring at the counter top back at him.

 

A second mug rests beside the pot, steaming coffee filled to the brim with sugar and milk, the spoon still swirling after he stirred it. Sighing he braces both hands on the counter, sighing heavily it takes a moment to compose every emotion bursting inside his chest. After a few seconds of gritting his teeth, muscles clenching in his arms, he calmly pours out the coffee, washes the mug and puts it back on the shelf. There’s no one beside him anymore to drink it, no one is going to kiss his cheek in thanks for the beverage.

 

The drive to work is filled with traffic and right lights, the only thing keeping his mood up is the classical music coming from the radio, set on a popular station. The ATCU building is bigger than the Triskelion is, the only difference is it’s not made of glass, just plain gray bricks. His office is on the very top floor next to Rosalind’s. If he thinks about it Rosalind is the best boss he’s ever had, ranking her above Garrett and Coulson wasn’t too hard though.

 

She’s strong and stubborn, but easily bends when intimidated, that’s where Ward comes in, they work well together and she always respects his privacy and space. However this is an organization that Shield considers an enemy and even if it’s because their Director has personal feelings involved, Ward doesn’t get too comfortable. Besides this is a job, it doesn’t hold any real value to him, though nothing does much these days.

 

The second Ward unlocks the door and steps inside he can tell something is wrong. That the office he left yesterday is not exactly as it’s supposed to be, he can sense another body in the room. Though they are breathing almost silently, he can still hear each quiet inhale and exhale. The lights are off still and Ward pulls out his gun, heartbeat even, ready to tackle whatever threat sits inside this room. He takes another step and the small lamp on his desk comes to life.

 

The sight before him throws Ward back just like it did yesterday, causes his eyes to burn, lungs to expand sharply as if there’s something sharp between his rib cage. That hole in his chest begins to throb so intensely, and if he could Grant would take a knife to his own heart just to make it stop. But just like he learned so long ago when John died, hurting himself doesn’t make the pain go away. It just makes it worse, makes that long dark endless stretch of the abyss called his life, even longer.

 

Besides the hurt swimming through his bloodstream, there’s also hope and the warm embrace of love that curls around him as the woman at his desk stares back at him. The woman he gave everything to, the one who holds his heart and soul in her hands, the same one who tried to give them back a year ago and it nearly destroyed him. Ward finds himself choked up at the sight of Skye in front of him again, he thought for so long that would never happen, that his wife would never return to him.

 

As always with her, love and pain comes hand in hand, this time the latter outweighing the former. Which hasn’t happened in years, they’ve never had this space between them in a long time, and they haven’t been on opposite sides since after they first got married. Putting the gun away Grant finds himself at a loss for words, Skye says nothing but he does notice a bowl in her hands and a spoon. He’s about to ask what she’s doing here, the words thick on his tongue, when she says, ‘’nice office’’ and starts eating what looks like cereal from the bowl.

 

He knows she literally just brought the food in here to make the setting even more dramatic, that’s just who Skye is.

 

His office bland and tasteless just like his apartment, white walls and a window, a private bathroom. There’s nothing personal, it looks just like any generic basic office. Ward is always ready to pack up and go at a moment’s notice, something that hasn’t changed in over twenty years. Ward looks back to his wife with her blonde hair, something that used to be such a trigger for him but now holds no weight. In fact seeing the color gleam under the fluorescent lights of the office causes the lingering ghosts of his past to disappear.

 

Before he attempts to ask what she’s doing here, Skye speaks up. Familiar fire in her brown eyes, it’s then he notices she’s wearing makeup. Skye hardly ever wore makeup unless it was necessary, and Grant remembers telling her often she was beautiful no matter what. Memories float from the corner of his mind, Skye in her wedding dress, the feel of her skin against his own as they slept. Her face in the morning light, her smile, her laugh in his ear late at night, thousands upon thousands of memories of their life together longs to come to the surface.

 

Skye was everything; his best friend, partner, the only love he’s ever known, the only person he’d ever want to face this world with, and she left. While Grant understands her reasoning behind it, he just can’t justify it. He finally understands how Skye felt when he left her those two times, the anger, the hurt, the bitterness in his bones that refuses to lift. He didn’t even realize how angry he was with her until yesterday, it bubbles back up now as she puts her feet on his desk, boots scuffing the wood.

 

How did she recover from this and take him back after he left? It’s not like he can ask how to love someone while simultaneously resenting them. He’s never had to use the ‘tough love’ act on her before, but it’s the only solution he can come up with so he doesn’t either fall apart at her feet, or yell. To tell her that she isn’t the only one who lost their son, that he’s suffering too, that his pain and hatred is just as valid. But Skye already knows that, she’s just too wrapped up in her own grief to acknowledge his.

 

‘’Did you have fun at that charity event last night?’’ The way she asks this causes his defenses to rise, the harshness of her tone has him reeling. Why would she ask? She wasn’t there. And then he realizes as he looks at her face, how the makeup can’t hide the puffiness of her eyes, the fact that she looks so defeated and lost, drifted out to sea and can’t figure out how to get back. As if she’s just lost everything and has no hope in getting it back.

 

Everything that occurred last night flits through his head in chronological order. The event was put on by the ATCU, he’s attended countless ones like it before so it was easy as breathing. A ballroom filled with champagne, tuxes and ball gowns worth thousands upon thousands of dollars. Nothing out of place, everything went smoothly and without issue, it’s part of his job to guarantee that everything works out perfectly for Rosalind Price and her organization.

 

Ward’s stomach falls, he can feel his face drain of color as a sick feeling spreads through him. It’s rare he can’t control his body and it’s reactions, but this knowledge starts spiraling like a madness inside of him. Skye was there, he just knows it. How he missed her isn’t important, but it’s one of the loudest thoughts screaming currently. He’s always been able to feel Skye whenever they’re in close proximity, even if everything else has changed that’s something he always thought would be a constant.

 

This means she was there to see him in this new role and everything that comes with it. Which was never supposed to happen, Ward planned all of this perfectly so she wouldn’t have to witness anything, but apparently she still has a habit of getting under his skin and throwing everything off balance. If this were a normal situation he’d shake his head and chuckle about Skye always being Skye, always turning his plans, his world upside down.

 

But this is anything but normal; their lives are catastrophically different now, there is nothing amusing about what’s currently happening. He and Skye may not be together anymore but her pain has always been his, and he can feel it ripping through him, shredding his insides. Ward has never wanted to hurt her, he’d rather shoulder all of her suffering onto his shoulders than leave her to deal with it, Grant never wanted to ever be the source of her pain.

 

But he is. And that kills him; it’s a knife in his back that lodges deeper and deeper, blood running down his crisp white shirt. Ward finds himself unable to speak, words escaping him as his brain tries to rally behind the knowledge that this is his fault, he’s the reason for Skye’s suffering this time. He never wanted any of this.

 

Here’s the thing; Ward was trained at an early age to adapt and survive no matter the situation, if that means doing something that doesn’t necessarily make sense to the outside world, who cares. If doing something out of character as to not let this dark water inside choke him every night, then that’s what he has to do. Six months ago it was agonizing just breathing every morning, that isn’t the case anymore. It still hurts, living without his wife and son still tears him to shreds every day.

 

But the pain isn’t eating him alive anymore, and that’s clearly not the case with Skye. He thinks of her face yesterday when they saw each other for the first time, her wide-eyed stare like he just came back from the dead, the hope shining on her face as if he appeared out of a dream to rescue her from this harsh new reality apart. But he didn’t, because the last time he tried to do just that, she left.

 

Skye didn’t want anything to do with him, and he understands that. But there were different paths they could have taken besides the one she chose without him. While he doesn’t fault her for leaving, because that pain was eating them both alive in the house they shared, he just can’t justify it. They’re partners, supposed to go through everything together like they always have. Are some losses just too great? Some grief just so large and consuming nothing can survive in its wake? Not even them apparently.

 

Every time something drastic happens between them Skye always had a habit of dying her hair, and it guts him that he’s been the cause of the length and color of her hair, because that’s how she deals with a change in their relationship. Grant has had issues with blondes ever since an Inhuman named Chelsea years ago brain washed him into killing Skye, the color used to be such an issue for him. But seeing his wife with the lighter shade didn’t throw him into a panic attack, and over the years it hasn’t really bothered him anymore.

 

She looked a tad healthier than the last time they were in the same room together, she’s not skin and bones but she’s not the weight she was before all this happened. Skye now wears the loss of their son all over her, it covers her entire body, the set of her shoulders. She wears the tragedy like a large wool coat, swallowing her whole. Skye is drowning in it both inwardly and outwardly, it’s obvious. Seeing her again was like a punch to his ribs, draining all air from his lungs, stopping his heart. Not just because of the sorrow, but she still has that effect on him.

 

Like there’s nobody else in the world but just them, everything faded from view and all he could focus on was her deep brown eyes. The fact that she’s still wearing her wedding and engagement rings speaks volumes, it’s still unfurling something in his chest that he’s been pushing away. Hope is a dangerous game that he can’t afford to have, not with Skye, not this time. He glances at her left hand, those rings sparkling slightly under the lights.

 

With numb legs he walks over until he’s standing next to her, hand on the desk. Skye’s eyes settle on his fingers and she sucks in a sharp breath, hurt shattering all over her face. And it’s then he remembers that the wedding ring she placed on his skin years ago is now on his right ring finger instead the left. He moved it about six months ago, right before he started working here. He was in a dark place and didn’t think she’d be coming home, he never switched it back to his left hand.

 

Grant is about to explain this when without warning Skye suddenly tosses the cereal she’s been eating in his face. Milk and sugar blind him for a moment, sweet cornflakes in his nose and hair. Coughing for a second Ward wipes his face, feels her leave the desk as he rubs his eyes. Knowing she’s not going to leave he grabs a towel from the private bathroom and walks back into the office to find her pacing the carpet, arms crossed, hands under her armpits so he can’t tell that they’re shaking.

 

After removing all traces of the milk and cereal Ward takes a deep breath, his chest throbbing as he looks at his wife, ‘’I can explain’’.

Skye is using her ‘Quake Ice Cold Attitude’, it’s a defense mechanism that he’s seen so many times before but never thought it would be directed towards him.

‘’Go ahead’’. She scoffs, ‘’I’d love to hear how you justify this one’’.

He shrugs, ‘’I can’t’’.

She cocks her head to the side, ‘’elaborate’’.

Ward sighs, stuffs his hands in his pockets.

‘’I met Alison six months ago she’s Rosalind’s daughter, my original position was her bodyguard. We got close, one thing led to another’’.

 

Every single word slices through Skye, it’s all over her face like he’s cut her open and she may start bleeding onto the carpet at any moment. Tears fill her eyes and she bites the inside of her cheek, ‘’how can you say it like that?’’ His tone was blank, emotionless, as if he was explaining how to take a gun apart and put it back together. Grant is shoving his own emotional response to this deep down, he has to in order to have this conversation, to stand here in front of his wife as she breaks before him.

 

Because all he wants to do is hold her and apologize, no matter how selfish that may be. He just can’t stand the fact that he’s responsible for putting that look on her face, like he’s just taken her heart from her chest and tore it in half. She runs a shaky hand down her chin, ‘’god I don’t even know who you are right now’’. Skye shakes her head and paces once more to the window, the desk, back to the window again. The death of their son and her leaving has changed him, and sometimes he can’t even recognize his own face in the mirror.

 

 

‘’How can, how can you stand there and admit all of this to me like you don’t care?’’

Her expression is flabbergasted; mind can’t make sense of the fact that Ward is the one causing all of this pain inside her.

‘’Of course I care’’.

‘’I don’t believe you’’.

He takes a small step towards her, gravity seeming to pull them together always, he couldn’t stop it if he wanted to.

‘’Skye’’.

‘’I can’t, I don’t even, god. What is this?’’ She gestures madly to the office, the desk, his suit and tie.

‘’Did I really ruin us beyond repair that you just decided to screw the first girl you saw?’’

He’s insulted, does Skye really think so low of him after all this time?

‘’That’s not what I’m doing’’.

But she’s not listening, ‘’so am I just supposed to wait around until you get bored of your new girlfriend? Who looks eighteen by the way’’.

‘’I’m not expecting anything from you anymore, much less waiting around for me. You made it perfectly clear where we stood the day you left’’.

She throws up her hands, ‘’what was I supposed to do Grant? I was dying in that house’’.

‘’And I wasn’t? We could have worked through it together but you just left, you gave up on our marriage’’.

She reels back like he’s slapped her, his chest burns.

Skye is beginning to lose her carefully constructed composure, the computer and phone on his desk begins to tremble.

‘’You’re going to stop working with the ATCU’’. She says, her tone steel, not be argued with.

But Ward isn’t one of her lackeys or agents, he doesn’t have to do a damn thing she says.

‘’Excuse me?’’

‘’I didn’t stutter’’.

He crosses his arms, there’s the Quake he knows, the woman he encountered yesterday who threw up in her office is gone.

Grant puts his hands on his hips, a disbelieving smirk on his lips, ‘’I don’t take orders from you, you’ve never given them before, don’t start now’’.

‘’I’m the Director of’’-

‘’I don’t care what you are. That title Nick Fury gave you doesn’t mean a thing to me. I’m not going to do what you want me to’’.

There was a time he would have said yes to her demand without a second thought, just to wipe that look on her face off.

He’s digging the knife he put in her chest last night even further into her heart, his own feels as if it’s breaking inside him.

But so many things changed the second she walked out their front door.

‘’So I’m just supposed to watch you prance around with her and act like it’s okay? How would you feel if our situation was reversed? Would you be happy for me?’’

He has to answer this one carefully.

This is not the first time he’s had to consider this option, a conversation he had with his therapist Paul years ago comes to mind.

‘’I’d want her to be happy, even if that happiness no longer includes me’’.

Ward takes a deep breath, ‘’if you were happy with this person, I would try to let you go’’.

She’s crying openly now, her shoulders shaking. ‘’And that’s what you want, for me to let you go?’’

Grant doesn’t even notice he’s crying as well until he tastes salt water on his lips.

''So I’m just supposed to stand by and not fight for us?’’

She asks, not wanting to acknowledge the fact that he didn’t answer her earlier question.

‘’Oh there’s an us now? You didn’t care about fighting for that a year ago’’.

She puts a hand to her head, ‘’I couldn’t care about anything a year ago!’’

‘’And now you do? Or is it just because you can’t stand the fact that I could be with someone else besides you?’’

He’s half right, he can tell by the flare of her nostrils and the way she angrily wipes under her eyes.

While he understands where she’s coming from emotionally a year ago, she can’t just all of a sudden decide she wants him so no one else can have him, that’s not fair.

‘’You left’’. He reminds her.

‘’You’re coping with what happened in your own way and so am I’’.

Skye rolls her now dry eyes, ‘’so I throw myself into work and you sleep with an eighteen-year-old, nice, jesus’’.

‘’She’s twenty-five and I’m not sleeping with her’’.

Alison is the same age Skye was when they first met, it wasn’t intentional.

‘’Is that supposed to make me feel better?’’

He tries to take another step to her but she backs up and gives him a warning look.

‘’Skye, I wouldn’t do that to you’’.

She crosses her arms, ‘’oh so you’ll stick your tongue down her throat but screwing her while you’re still married is out of the question, nice to know there are some lines you won’t cross Grant’’.

Fighting is getting them nowhere, they’ve been yelling so loud someone is bound to hear eventually.

Ward puts this all in a box and calms himself down, inhales deeply and closes his eyes for a second.

It takes a few minutes before he’s able to speak again.

 ‘’When I came to work for the ATCU I was heartbroken. I met Alison and she helped’’.

Skye narrows her eyes, ‘’she’s your coping mechanism’’.

‘’She helps. And I’m sorry that that hurts you. This wasn’t supposed to happen’’.

He then explains how he never intended for the two of them to cross paths.

Skye sits back down in his chair, runs both hands through her hair, ‘’so you were never going to tell me any of this’’.

‘’I would have, eventually. And I wouldn’t have let you find out about Alison the way you did last night’’.

She winces and puts her head in her hands. Ward stands on the other side of the room, hands on his hips, unsure of where to go from here.

 This entire confrontation has left him winded and feeling exposed.

Skye looks up at him with raw eyes and smeared mascara, ‘’so that’s it then? This is how you want to end things between us?’’

Now it feels like she’s scraped him across a hot bed of coals, his skin on fire and raw.

His wife just looks defeated, arms wrapped around her midsection like she’s trying to hold herself together.

End things?

‘’Skye I don’t, I don’t want that’’.

She gives him a confused look, ‘’yesterday you said you didn’t want a divorce, but today all it sounds like is that you do. Pick one Ward’’.

 

He clenches his fists, fighting with two voices inside his head; the first, the loudest, wants to hold her and tell her he loves her, the other just wants her to leave. Grant isn’t sure which one he wants to listen to. It turns out he doesn’t have time to respond because his office door handle rattles, it’s locked but he doesn’t recall doing so. One look at Skye and he knows she hacked into their system both to get in here undetected, and to get into his office.

 

‘’Unlock the door’’.

She glances to the top of his head, ‘’you have Frosted Flakes in your hair’’.

He removes the remaining cereal, ‘’well if you wouldn’t have thrown your breakfast at me’’-

‘’you deserved it’’.

‘’Unlock the door Skye’’.

‘’Make me’’.

 

They’ve both shelved the hurt and anger of this conversation to dwell on later, now they’re just two people with a past who are being forced to work together. The stand-off continues for another minute, a knock on the door sounds, and then Skye sighs heavily and types something on her phone. The lock clicks and his assistant Mary walks in, surprise on her face when she notices he isn’t alone. Mary is young with three kids, she organizes meetings and takes all the phone calls he doesn’t have time for.

 

She nervously tugs at her short red hair when she notices Skye in his chair, ‘’oh my god you’re’’-

‘’leaving’’.

Skye gets up and glares at Grant, ‘’we’re not done here’’.

‘’I’ll see you soon’’.

She shoves his shoulder so hard it’ll leave a bruise as she passes.

‘’Everything alright boss?’’

Ward puts on the persona everyone here expects him to wear and smiles at Mary, ‘’everything is fine. Is Rosalind here yet?’’

‘’She just walked in, would you like me to tell her to come see you?’’

‘’Please, we had a security breach this morning that she needs to be aware of’’.

‘’Yes sir’’.

 

Eight hours later after multiple meetings and attempting to set up another appointment with Skye, who refuses to answer the phone and none of her agents will let them talk to her, Ward is finally heading home. He’s just dropped off Alison at her place, but her dreamy smile and the way she kissed him doesn’t linger as he parks the car and heads up the elevator. Instead it’s Skye and all the pain in her eyes, how their marriage is even more in jeopardy now than it ever was.

 

Honestly underneath all the bullshit of this past year, Ward is still holding out hope that one day he and Skye will find their way back to each other. It’s why he doesn’t want to get a divorce, why the thought of never being with her again feels like claws are splitting open his insides and he can do nothing to stop it. He’s unlocking the door to his apartment in need of a drink, not looking forward to another night or morning alone, when for the second time today he pauses in the doorway, on alert, sensing something just isn’t right.

 

The lights turn on and he immediately relaxes when he sees who’s sitting in the recliner by the TV, Natasha Romanoff watches him with her cool assessing gaze; Ward hasn’t seen her in six months.  Putting away his gun Ward walks into the kitchen without saying a word, he knows why she’s here, and grabs a beer from the fridge. She says nothing as he takes a seat on the couch and removes his jacket, lets the day wash away for a moment and leans back into the cushions.

 

‘’I’m really sick of you two doing this’’.

Nat doesn’t need to ask what he’s talking about, no doubt Skye has already filled her in on what happened today.

‘’You look terrible’’.

Ward pinches the bridge of his nose, ‘’it’s been a long day’’.

‘’Skye does have a beautiful tendency to emotionally drain a person’’.

‘’Why are you here Nat?’’

‘’Alison Price isn’t your type’’.

‘’You don’t know what my type is Romanoff’’.

She raises a brow, ‘’I know it’s not Rosalind’s daughter’’.

He takes a long sip of beer, ‘’I’m not in the mood, just tell me what you want’’.

She studies him closely, ‘’god you’re insufferable without Kebo’’.

Grant hasn’t seen his best friend in half a year, when he began working for the ATCU so many things changed, that being one of them.

‘’Cut the bullshit’’-

‘’Skye came into Stark Tower last night a complete mess. She sobbed in Tony’s arms for hours until she finally fell asleep’’.

‘’If you came here to make me feel guilty about that, I already do. Try again’’.

‘’Skye has been a wreck for this past year, she’s not handling anything well’’.

‘’And what would you like me to do about that? She doesn’t want me Nat’’.

‘’When you lie to yourself does it makes things easier or harder?’’

‘’Skye made it pretty clear when she left that she wanted nothing to do with me, I’m not insane’’.

Romanoff shakes her head, ‘’you two are a mess without each other. Look I came here to check on you, didn’t want you to be alone after today. You okay?’’

Grant can feel that tidal wave of emotion beginning to wash over him.

‘’She hates me’’.

‘’Skye does not hate you, she’s just upset, and you know how she gets when she thinks with her heart and not her head. Did she slap you?’’

Ward has been around Nat long enough to know why she asked this, ‘’which did you bet on?’’

‘’I bet she’d throw something at you, so did I win?’’

‘’A bowl of cereal’’.

‘’Dramatic as always’’.

Ward laughs about it with her now even though it’s far from funny.

‘’Do you mind if I crash on the couch tonight? It’s a long drive home’’.

Grant easily reads between the lines, Nat want to stay to make sure he’s alright, Skye must be with either Tony or Clint.

‘’You can take my bed, the sheets are clean’’.

The Black Widow smirks, ‘’thanks’’.

He goes to grab a blanket from the spare closet when Nat lightly grabs his wrist, he doesn’t flinch.

‘’You know everything is going to be okay, right? We’re here for you, and Skye will get over herself eventually’’.

‘’She has every right to be pissed’’.

‘’Oh of course she does, but she loves you, and someday she’ll find her way back to you’’.

 

Later on that night he’s lying on the couch, his thoughts with Skye, always Skye. God, he loves her. He just, he does. That’s all he knows, that’s all that makes sense and ever will make sense. Nothing could change that. Not time, not heart break or miscommunication. Hell, half the universe disappeared in less than a second and it didn’t change the space in his heart which Skye occupies. It’s always been her. It will always be her until the day he dies, and if there’s anything after this life he’ll love her there too.

 

Everything is just so messy, it all fell apart so fast that by the time Ward recovered and looked around, his life was on fire and he was burning. Once he put out the last of the flames he was alone, the world a dark and strange place once more. He falls asleep, dreaming of Skye again.

 

Natasha leaves the following morning after Ward makes her a cup of coffee. She’s halfway out the door after giving him a hug and says, ‘’this new version of you, he’s a real dick by the way’’. Smiling Ward opens the door the rest of the way, she turns back around, ‘’I’m just a phone call away’’. She reminds him and shuts the door.

 

Grant looks around at his now empty apartment and has a feeling his life is about to be turned around once again, and he has no idea how he’s going to handle it this time around.

Chapter Text

 

 

Love is a funny thing. It can bring someone to your door when you least expect it, change your entire life in a second, turn your world and everything in it upside down. Love is supposed to last forever, at least that’s what it promises when it enters your heart and soul uninvited, with warm words and an electric current swimming through your veins. Love isn’t supposed to hurt as much as it does, but it’s the deadliest thing there is, it breaks more hearts than anything else in existence.

 

When love hands you a soulmate they’re supposed to stay, but what happens when they leave and burn down the home they’ve built inside your chest? What do you do with the embers, the black bricks and broken windows? How do you not let those pieces travel throughout your body and kill you slowly? How are you supposed to live after that?

 

Skye thought she was done asking those questions years ago, that there was no possible way on this planet Ward could hurt her, at least any more than he already had those two times he left. Skye trusted that he’d never crush her heart beneath his heel ever again, that he couldn’t even the stomach the possibility of doing so. She was oh so wrong. Those times he loved and then left her don’t compare to this new pain, the kind that makes her entire body ache with each passing minute.

 

She never considered the idea when she walked out their front door a year ago that he’d find someone else. It just never seemed possible that he’d want anyone but her, not after everything they’ve been through together, every display of love they’ve shown and said. Skye understands finding a coping mechanism in the wake of tragedy, it’s normal. She threw herself into work however, not another body, another pair of lips to kiss goodnight, another hand to hold.

 

Years ago Bucky Barnes was her way to cope so Skye understands using someone to heal, to distract your heart from its cracks. But the difference between her back then and Ward’s situation now is that they weren’t married when she was sleeping with Barnes. But they’re married now, he’s her husband and he has no right to find anybody else until they’ve legally divorced. She’d let him go if that’s what he truly wanted, but he’s told her twice now that’s not the ending he’s looking for.

 

So does he expect her to wait around until he’s done crying into this girl’s hair? Until he’s screwed all the heartache out of his system and comes back to her? How is that fair, how could he even think she’d want him after that? Skye looks down at the tablet below her, Alison Price’s face staring back at her with a wide bright smile and long honey brown hair. She’s young and pretty, has an impressive career at a young age. Twenty-five with the world at her fingertips, there are no shadows in her eyes.

 

She hasn’t seen the harsh reality of this life, what lurks in the darkness in the middle of the night. Alison is in charge of several charities overseas as well as here at home, she worked as a teacher for special needs children until the ATCU was created. Her job there is PR/damage control, finding a happy solution for every type of situation the organization could possibly run into. Skye is surprised she hasn’t met her yet, especially considering the fight she put up with Rosalind in the beginning to work together.

 

Skye has been researching the other woman all morning and has come to one conclusion; Alison Price is a beacon of light, which is the kind of person Ward has always been drawn to, someone to snuff out all the demons inside him. Putting her feelings aside and approaching their relationship logically, Skye can see why Grant fell into her green eyes. Alison is calm and controlled when presented with a problem, that much is obvious in the interviews and press conferences about the ATCU she’s watched today.

 

Alison is also an advocate for Inhuman rights, she’s been recorded saying several times that she admires everything Quake is doing for Shield, there are even a few magazine articles where she states that she supports Skye as Director and believes she’s the best the organization has ever seen. In any other situation Skye would like this woman, but everything inside her just burns whenever she looks at her face. Imagining those arms wrapped around Ward, those hands in his hair.

 

Shutting down the tablet because she’s growing more frustrated and angrier by the second, Skye looks up at the paper target and grabs a gun. Fires several rounds, reloads, and does it again for over an hour. By the time she’s done her arms ache and she’s sweating, takes off the protective ear plugs just as the sound of shoes coming down the hall catches her attention. Tony Stark rounds the corner in a Rolling Stones shirt and dark jeans, smiling when he catches her eye.

 

The numerous targets are sent up close so she can see how she did, a perfect kill shot every time, never missing the mark.

Tony whistles at her aim though not surprised, ‘’nice shot Cupcake’’.

She shrugs one shoulder, ‘’I imagined they were all Ward’’.

He places a hand on her shoulder in sympathy, ‘’how are you feeling?’’

‘’Like I want to punch him in his perfect face’’.

She’d never do that though no matter how angry, it only happened once and that was before she really understood all of his trauma.

Ward has always associated something he does wrong with violence because of the abuse he suffered at the hands of his family and John Garrett.

Skye never wants to add to that.

‘’I can punch him for you just say the word’’.

Skye covers his hand with her own, ‘’it’s fine, there is one thing you can do for me regarding him though’’.

‘’Hit me with it’’.

‘’I need you to get rid of him’’.

‘’You mean kill him?’’

‘’What? No’’-

‘’More of Nat’s style but I can swing it’’.

Quake cracks a smile and he beams in response, ‘’I need you to convince Rosalind that bringing Ward on every trip here or on a mission isn’t necessary’’.

Tony nods without hesitation but gives her a look, ‘’are you trying to pimp me out to get what you want? She can’t afford me’’.

She laughs which was his intention, ‘’don’t tell Pepper’’.

He bops her on the nose with his free hand, ‘’it’ll stay between us’’.

 

Resentment is a funny thing. It starts out slowly and quietly, so subtle you hardly notice it’s there. But it builds and builds before spilling over, and you can’t remember who you were before it took root. Or how you felt about the person that caused these feelings, this fire in your blood whenever you think of them. Skye has been angry at Grant plenty of times, but nothing ever like this. She just can’t fathom how he can look at anyone else and want to hold them, touch them.

 

Imagining herself doing that makes her stomach sick, Skye would rather be alone than be with someone else. Ward is it for her, he’s the only man she’s ever going to want. Knowing she’s going to have to work with him now since he’s apart of the ATCU makes her stomach churn, she’s not ready to face him any time soon.

 

Not after yesterday when they argued and she threw cereal at him. When he seemed to be such a different person than the one she married. Did she ruin him beyond repair, is the man she loves just gone? Skye can say she’s forever changed from losing their son, knows that is displayed in every move she makes. But is it the same for Ward? Did he have to become someone else in order to deal with it?

 

There was no lingering sadness in Ward, unless he only let her see what she was supposed to. Unless he’s just putting on a front so no one is able to tell how much pain he’s in, perhaps that’s the only way he can make it through the day. Whatever the reason Skye has no desire to go back to acting as if they’re strangers, like they didn’t spend nine years in each other’s arms. Grant is just cold now, he was only like this when they first met.

 

And the last thing she wants to do is go back to how things were before they were together. That would feel like taking a huge step backwards, like the years they spent together never even happened, that’s not something she can do. It might kill her, she can feel sharpness cutting through her ribs, lungs constricting. What if this is it for them? What if it’s really over, despite Ward saying he doesn’t want a divorce?

 

Never hold him again, hearing him laugh in the mornings before the sun rises, holding his hand in the car, how can she just let all of that go forever? Skye never considered when she left that this would be the outcome, always thought someday they’d find their way back to each other, but what if they don’t? How is she supposed to live the rest of her life without her other half? How is she supposed to breathe in that harsh new reality?

 

The day she met Grant Ward flashes through her mind, how he walked into Stark Tower and changed her life. He’s older now of course, holds more confidence in his shoulders, darkness doesn’t seep from his skin, he hasn’t been haunted by John Garrett or what he did to Shield in years. Skye can’t help but wonder if he knew everything that was going to happen between them when this all started, would he have ever kissed her that first time in Cancun?

 

If he knew beforehand the pain they would cause each other, would he have taken her hand anyway? Or just walked away, thinking no amount of love in the world could possibly outweigh all the sadness he’d feel? Would she? Looking back at everything they’ve been through together, would she had ever told him she loved him? Twisting her wedding ring around Skye knows that answer has already been carved into stone; yes. She would do it all again if it meant loving Ward in the end.

 

She and Tony are heading back to her office when Skye gets a message from Victoria, reminding her of the business meeting/dinner she agreed to last night with Rosalind. At the time Skye was very drunk and left unsupervised, no it’s no surprise she agreed to something so ridiculous. It’s tonight and Quake sighs in annoyance, she only has a couple of hours until it starts. After grabbing a dress and heels from Stark Tower Skye heads to the suggested restaurant and sits face to face with Rosalind Price.

 

After being led to a private dining area and ordering drinks, Rosalind is distracted by her phone ringing, when she glances at the screen a smile lights her face and she stands, ‘’I hope you don’t mind I invited two other people to our meeting’’. As if she summoned them from thin air, the door opens.

 

Skye looks up from her glass of red wine to find Ward walking through said door, eyes glued to her own. And it’s not just seeing him again that causes blood to drain from her face, it’s not breathing the same air as him once more after not doing so for so long that makes it feel as if her ribs are cracking open right now. It’s the woman hanging on his arm in a white dress, looking so infatuated with the man next to her.

 

The lights in the room seem to dim, a cold sweat drips down her neck as the reality of this situation sets in. Skye is going to have to sit here with her husband and his new girlfriend as they discuss Shield matters with this organization that she still views as Enemy Number One. The deal she struck with Rosalind won’t last forever, and the sooner she can prove to the President they’re all wolves in sheep’s clothing the better.

 

Alison is tall and doesn’t has to stretch to reach Ward’s cheek that she plants a kiss on. That’s all Skye can think about, their height differences. Alison probably doesn’t have to stand on her toes to kiss him, Ward doesn’t have to lift her on kitchen counters or dressers so he doesn’t have to bend to reach her lips. Brown hair gleams under the lights, there’s a small lipstick stain on his cheek when they part, which she wipes off while still smiling as if he’s her whole world.

 

Skye recognizes that look, she knows exactly how it feels to be loved by Grant Ward. To have him focus on nothing but you, to gaze into those whiskey eyes and see all the answers you’re looking for staring back. Skye never thought it was possible for him to look at anyone else that way, that she would be his first and only love.

 

Skye can’t help but wonder if he touches Alison the same way he did her, if he whispers soothing words in French late at night in her ear, if his fingers cause her to fall apart in no time at all. Alison’s fingernails are a bright red and Skye tortures herself even further as she imagines them running along Grant’s body, in his hair, his arms. The same body she slept next to for years, the one she knows better than anything or anybody, that if she were blind she’d still be able to find him.

 

This is her fault, that’s the only thought on a loop now. She’s the reason Ward is taking comfort in someone else’s arms, why he’s with the ATCU. This is the new reality they’re in and Skye would love to close her eyes and cover her ears as to not be in it, this moment in particular, but no matter how hard she wishes, pulling a disappearing act isn’t an option. So there she sits watching the love of her life with someone else, that familiar cold sensation flooding her chest as tears prick her eyes.

 

 

It’s easy to fall into the persona the world has created for her, to sit in the backseat and let Quake take over. Hiding behind sarcasm and inappropriate remarks is Skye’s personality in general, but she’s snarkier in uncomfortable situations. And this is most definitely an uncomfortable situation, Skye would rather hear Daniel Whitehall brag about how he killed her parents than be here. Watches as Grant pulls out a chair for Alison and sits next to her, how she scoots as close as possible to him.

 

Skye would pull the same move, hell she has so many times before. Would move her chair so close to Ward’s so she could put her legs in his lap, wrap herself around him. The empty chair next to her seems to represent everything she’s lost; Skye is alone and can’t confidently say she enjoys it anymore. Grant won’t meet her eye but Alison does, a bright smile on her face before it fades as her brain catches up to exactly who she’s sitting across from.

 

‘’Skye this is my daughter Alison, Alison this is’’-

‘’The legendary Quake, it’s such an honor to finally meet you’’.

Alison holds out a hand to shake but Skye can’t get the image of Ward holding onto it, so she stares until the other woman drops it.

Grant says nothing, not looking at her anymore as he surveys the small private room they’re in.

‘’He never relaxes’’. Alison comments smiling fondly up at Grant, bumping his shoulder with her own.

‘’Honey we’re in a secluded room, nothing is going to happen’’.

Skye takes a large sip of wine, ‘’he’s always been paranoid, there’s no sense in trying to turn it off’’.

Ward shoots her a look from the corner of his eye, not entirely sure what she’s playing at.

Alison smiles, ‘’oh that’s right you two worked together a few times, you have to tell me what he was like back then’’.

This time Ward fully looks at her, a warning in his gaze, Skye ignores it as she drains the rest of her wine.

‘’Ward has always been a dick, hopefully that’s changed in the past few years, though I doubt it’’.

He flashes her an arrogant smirk, ‘’you were never a walk in the park either’’.

Grant seems as if he’s just teasing but there’s so much hostility in Skye’s gaze that Rosalind can’t help but ask, ‘’I thought you two were friends?’’

Quake cocks her head to the side as the waitress refills her glass, ‘’are we friends Grant?’’

She feels the edge of his shoe lightly press into her shin under the table, a clear warning to knock it off.

‘’Sure, as long as you promise not to throw anything at me again’’.

‘’Don’t hold your breath’’.

There’s a tense moment of silence before Alison speaks up, ‘’you know you’re much prettier in person’’.

Skye keeps her expression blank, ‘’and meaner, so I suggest you three tell me why I had to fly all the way to New York for this meeting. I know it wasn’t just to eat shitty lobster and have a stranger tell me how pretty I am’’.

Whatever image of Quake Alison had built up in her head shatters in this moment, Skye can see it plain as day all over the other woman’s face.

Not the first time she’s disappointed a fan, probably won’t be the last.

Ward, so used to how short Skye’s fuse is, takes command of the situation.

‘’We’re here to discuss Shield and the ATCU working together, we need to make sure everyone is on the same page’’.

 

Skye is perfectly aware at how amazing Ward is at hiding his emotions, compartmentalizing his feelings in order to get something done. She’s seen him do it countless times, but never thought she’d be on the receiving end of his skills. But she’s not some mark, not a target he has to eliminate at the end of the night. She is his wife, the one he promised forever to in front of God and all of their friends and family. The woman who’s held his shaking body after a panic attack or a nightmare, the same woman who has loved him more than she’s ever loved anyone or anything else.

 

How is it so easy for him to turn all of that off? How is he not dying right now at the sight of her? How can he talk about all of this crap like she’s just someone from his past and they have no connection at all? Grant has always been flawless at putting on a mask, she came face to face with that fact years ago after meeting Agent Grant Ward on the Bus. But the man in front of her she doesn’t recognize at all, he might as well be a stranger.

 

He looks the same; same dark stubble on his cheeks that she used to run her fingers through, how the feel of it against her skin would cause her shudder. His hair is a little longer, he used to keep it short because it was easier to manage. Why did that change? So many questions and no time at all to get answers, is this part of her penance for leaving him? Watching him move on and get a brand new life, a fresh start, while she suffers in the past? Is that what they deserve?

 

Skye has always fought for Grant to have the best life possible, after everything he’s been through he’s earned it. She just always thought she’d be apart of that future, not watching it unfold without her. The only solution Skye can come up with to get through this meeting, to stop these thoughts from circulating, is alcohol. Lots and lots of alcohol, and the waiter is not shy in granting her wish.

 

She also sends a text to Tony updating him on the situation, which he then turns into a group chat between them, Nat, Clint and Bruce, who all ask if she’s alright, if they need to fake an emergency to get her out of there. She tells them no, but knows that Tony is back in New York so he may not listen to her and walk in uninvited. He would most definitely cause a scene and she can’t afford his dramatics right now. Ward pulls her back to into the conversation at hand with his foot on her leg again.

 

‘’The President has ordered that every piece of intel Shield gathers on an Inhuman that they update Rosalind or myself immediately and we all work together as one to handle the situation’’.

‘’I’m aware, and what do you mean by handle the situation?’’

Ward knows exactly how protective Quake is of her Inhumans so the ATCU has to be careful on the subject.

‘’That if the subject is too dangerous we’re to escort them to ATCU Headquarters, process them’’-

Skye stops him mid-sentence, ‘’process them? Sounds more like jail to me’’.

‘’Well’’-

‘’Here’s what’s actually going to happen since I know more about Inhumans than anyone else at this damn table, whenever I get intel about a gifted induvial I send a team to apprehend them and they come directly to the Playground. That was the agreement Rosalind and I came to the other day’’.

It’s Alison who speaks next, her hand clenched tightly on Ward’s arm, ‘’plans have changed, we have direct orders from the President’’-

‘’Does it look like a give a shit? I can’t change what he wants but I can choose the process in how we handle Inhumans. And I can assure you they’re going to trust me a hell of a lot more than any of you. No one likes an asshole in a suit. I can handle any situation, no one has to worry about it being too dangerous’’.

Ward is not at all surprised by her declaration, but Alison is.

‘’Look I don’t know who you think you are’’-

‘’I think I’m the Director of Shield and an Inhuman, therefore I know exactly how to handle that type of situation. This is not an argument you’re going to win sweetheart, might as well stop before it gets ugly’’.

Rosalind speaks up next, ‘’we don’t exactly have a choice here and neither do you. We’re just trying to do our jobs’’.

Skye finishes her third glass of wine, ‘’you know you’re not the first organization the US government has sent to work with me, it didn’t end well for him’’.

‘’Is that a threat?’’

‘’Just stating a fact is all’’.

‘’We get it’’. Ward responds, his tone and expression steel, like it’s supposed to intimidate her.

 

But she’s never been afraid of him and that won’t start now. Alison leans over to whisper in Grant’s ear, her hand grazing his chest and Skye clenches her glass harder, everything about seeing them together hurts. Right now the pain is being held at bay by the anger of this conversation, but when she’s alone, Skye isn’t looking forward to that dam breaking. They part and Alison keeps hold of one his hands on top of the table, Quake has to fight the urge to rip him out of her grasp.

 

‘’What if we compromise?’’

Skye takes a bite of shrimp off her plate, ‘’let’s hear it’’.

‘’You get to grab the Inhuman and locate them to the Playground, we fill out all the paperwork and any other technicalities you’d rather not handle, you can be the judge as to what’s dangerous and what isn’t, call us if you can’t handle it’’.

Skye reads in between the lines, ‘’and the ATCU would get all the credit for taking a powered individual off the streets’’.

Skye has never cared about publicity and that hasn’t changed since she became Director of Shield, but the way the ATCU could go about it rubs her the wrong way.

Alison rubs her bright red lips together, ‘’in a way yes, but that’s in our job descriptions regardless’’.

Quake assesses Alison carefully, with her perfect hair and flawless complexion.

‘’You would have been perfect in politics’’.

‘’Why’s that?’’

There’s Ward’s shoe in her shin again, he knows where she’s going with this.

‘’You think people will be distracted by your pretty face and even prettier words so they can’t tell that everything coming out of your mouth is complete bullshit’’.

Alison tries to respond but Skye isn’t done.

‘’I’m not some asshole in a suit that you can manipulate into doing whatever you want, the Inhumans are my people, they trust me to protect them and I’m not about to let anyone swoop in to try and destroy that’’.

‘’That’s not what we’re trying to do’’.

‘’I guess only time will prove otherwise’’.

Ward grits his teeth, ‘’so do you agree with these new terms or are you just wasting our time?’’

She winks at him, tension slowly draining from the table, ‘’both’’.

 

The main course is served and the conversation has been put to rest, but Skye has lost her appetite. She pretty much tunes out what Rosalind is saying until Alison’s annoyingly high voice cuts through the fog. ‘’Your husband didn’t want to join us?’’ Stomach dropping Skye refuses to look at Ward, the feel of his fingers placing the rings Alison is currently staring at runs through her mind. Grant says something to his girlfriend and this time when his foot is against her leg it’s to provide comfort.

 

Skye runs her thumb along the wedding and engagement rings, fights off tears as she glares at Price’s daughter.

‘’Alison, do you hear me asking about your personal life?’’

‘’No I’m so sorry I didn’t’’-

‘’Because I could ask you if Ward is good in bed or how big his dick is, but I already’’-

Ward abruptly stands from the table and has a hand on her arm, ‘’we need to talk’’.

She eyes her plate, ‘’but I haven’t finished my food yet’’.

Instead of just whisking her off he actually grabs her mushroom ravioli and takes it to the bathroom with them.

Which is kind of gross but Skye doesn’t complain as he locks the women’s door and faces her.

She sits on the counter and kicks off her shoes, scoops up a piece of ravioli while he composes his thoughts.

‘’What part about me saying the ATCU didn’t need to know about us was unclear?’’

‘’It was clear until I met Alison, she’s a real piece of work babe’’.

He puts his hands on his hips, ‘’don’t do that, don’t pull your Quake act with me’’.

‘’Why not? You’re pulling off the ‘I don’t give a shit about my wife or her feelings’ perfectly. You’re playing a part why can’t I?’’

‘’This isn’t a game Skye’’.

Her stomach leaps into her throat, it’s tight and sounds strangled when she responds, ‘’so you really don’t care. God I really messed you up didn’t I?’’

Grant runs his hands down his face, ‘’that’s not what I meant. Of course I care, I will always care about you, but this is my job. And I need you to cooperate’’.

‘’Why?’’

‘’Because I’m asking you to’’.

‘’And that’s supposed to mean something to me? You have a girlfriend Ward, you stopped earning my respect the second I knew she existed’’.

He walks up to her slowly, those whiskey eyes trapping her, leaving her spinning, caught up in his warm gaze.

‘’And I am so sorry about that, but I need you to do this for me. I need this job, and one of the only ways I’m going to be able to keep it is if you bend to what the President is asking you to do. Alison and Rosalind are just following orders’’.

Skye crosses her legs, her knee grazing his thigh, notices his pulse jump slightly.

‘’And that’s all you want from me?’’

‘’Yes’’.

She looks up to the man who promised to always be there for her, who put her needs before his own every time, but can’t find that version of him at all in his eyes.

After a moment of consideration and downing another piece of ravioli Skye sighs heavily and looks up to the ceiling.

‘’Fine. Guess I owe you that much’’.

Grant frowns, ‘’that’s not why’’-

‘’I know. I’m still pissed at you by the way’’.

His lips nearly lift in a smile, ‘’I’d expect nothing less’’.

‘’And I’m not sorry for throwing cereal at you’’.

‘’I know’’.

‘’And I swear to god if Alison says one more thing to me about’’-

‘’I know, I told her not to ask anything personal. She didn’t listen’’.

‘’That’s one of the qualities you like in a woman’’.

It’s easy to pretend that things are back to the way they once were, that they’re still happy and joking around, finishing each other’s thoughts and sentences.

Because the actual situation is not something Skye wants to face.

‘’Do you love her?’’ The question burns on the way out, her stomach rolls.

Ward inhales sharply and backs away, still keeping that carefully constructed mask in place.

He looks at her from head to toe, hands hanging loosely at his sides.

It feels like an eternity before he replies.

‘’No’’.

It’s still not good enough for her though.

‘’Could you love her eventually? See yourself growing old with her, having kids. You know the whole shebang’’.

Skye is shaking but manages to keep her cool, even though every part of her is screaming to shut the hell up and just apologize for leaving, ask him to take her home and forget this past year.

Ward looked like he was going to be ill when she mentioned kids, she’s not the only one trembling out of sadness and grief.

‘’No’’.

She tosses the now empty plate into the sink, ‘’that’s it? That’s all I get?’’

‘’What do you want me to say? That I’ll never love anyone else but you?’’

If this were two years ago he’d of already said it, pulled her into his chest and swear she was the only person on this planet he’d ever picture growing old with.

‘’Well that is what you promised when you gave me these rings’’.

He runs a frustrated hand through his hair and closes his eyes for a second, ‘’you’d think after ten years I’d be used to your mood swings but you still manage to throw me off’’.

‘’It’s a talent’’.

His mask cracks just a little as he approaches her again, ‘’a year ago you didn’t want anything to do with me, and now that I’m trying to make a life outside of you you can’t stand it’’.

‘’That’s not’’-

‘’You’re jealous and that’s fine, but you can’t walk back into my life and expect me destroy everything I’ve built just because you realized you made a mistake. You left me, and you can’t take that back’’.

Skye wipes the tears off her face while Ward pretends not to notice them.

‘’You said once you’d always forgive me’’.

That was mistake, she can tell that’s exactly what he’s thinking right now.

It was something he never should have promised her, it was a naïve statement that they both should have known better than to believe.

‘’This was different’’.

‘’I forgave you after you left me, not once but twice’’.

He sighs, ‘’I never said it was unforgiveable, just that I’m not ready for that yet’’.

‘’So have I really lost you forever?’’

She can hardly stomach the idea, if he says no Skye isn’t sure what she’ll do.

Ward leans in and puts a hand to her shoulder, the contact after not having it for so long leaves her so homesick and longing for everything she left behind.

‘’Not forever, just for right now’’.

He’s given her hope that she doesn’t deserve, Skye nearly bursts into tears.

Ward has no reason to show her kindness, but there he is, being the man she fell in love with if only for a moment.

‘’And I know I have no right to say that especially with Alison, but’’-

Skye puts a hand to his mouth, ‘’shut up and don’t ruin the moment’’.

She removes her hand after a second and Ward is about to say something when someone bangs on the door.

‘’It’s occupied!’’

The knock sounds again and Skye knows that’s their cue to leave.

They’re halfway to the table, Ward’s chest at her back when he says, ‘’I can tell them you had an emergency’’.

It’s painfully obvious Skye isn’t going to able to hold it together for long, she nods in thanks, doesn’t feel like arguing and slips out the back door.

 

It isn’t until she’s back at home that her composure drops. She’s in the shower the water as hot as it will go, making her skin red and irritated. She sobs into her hands, slips off her wedding rings and tosses them across the bathroom floor. She lets out a scream of frustration while washing her hair, thinks of drawing up divorce papers while shaving her legs, then decides against it as she steps out of the shower. Bending down to where the rings lay on the tile, Skye debates over picking them up for fifteen minutes.

 

Hates herself just a little more as she falls asleep a few hours later, rings back on her left hand.

 

The next morning she’s just finished her morning workout about to head to the Playground when an incoming message from an unknown number with a set of coordinates, Skye pauses in the middle of her kitchen, knowing who this is from, that this is the only person she communicates with this way; it’s Ward.

 

Is he ready to talk about everything, is she? Does she really want to face him after last night? This day was going to come regardless if she was ready for it, Skye knew this conversation was bound to happen sometime. But that doesn’t make it any easier to breathe as she boards a quinjet and forwards all phone calls to Victoria, any issues to Coulson. Ward wants to meet at a park close to the ATCU headquarters, but far enough away that his coworkers won’t pass by and see them.

 

Once again their roles have reversed. Normally it’s Ward bending to her rules, Ward doing the chasing, her doing the running. When she reaches said park Skye can’t tame the shaking of her hands or the anxiety curling into her chest, making it tight and hard to breathe. She spots Grant almost immediately, sitting alone on a bench, he too is wearing sunglasses, his hands folded in his lap. She hates this, hates that they were once everything to each other and are now practically strangers.

 

If she knew this would be the outcome when she left him, Skye can’t say she’d make the same decision now. And it’s not because he has someone else and she’s jealous, it’s because she took a piece of his soul from him and crushed it, it wasn’t easy to tell before but it is now. When she thinks about yesterday and the day before, looking at him now, he’s still suffering. What she can’t figure out is if he’s finally letting her see this, or his perfect façade is cracking.

 

Grant doesn’t look up as she approaches, eyes hiding behind dark lenses just like her own. He says nothing as she takes a seat next to him, glances around the near empty park, the sun high in the blue sky. ‘’Aren’t you a sight for sore eyes’’. She comments trying to crack the ice, make this less awkward. It has the opposite effect, Ward’s body tenses and he runs a hand down his face, clearly not finding her antics amusing as he once did.

 

She crossed her legs, ‘’I’m assuming you didn’t ask me here to offer me a job at the ATCU. So spit it out’’.

They never really got around to talking about what happened so she’s surprised when he says, ‘’when I found you in that car my world stopped, I thought you were dead. I’ve never been so terrified in my entire life’’.

Skye remembers that day well, she relives it every single night. The smell of smoke, gasoline and blood, Ward screaming her name, his hands slick and warm against her face.

 ‘’I spent eight hours not knowing if you were dead or alive, and then’’-

 

He can’t finish the sentence but he doesn’t have to, Skye can fill in the blanks. While she was in surgery the doctor told Grant they lost the baby because of the accident, their little Anthony Steven Ward, gone before they ever met him. It’s not something either of them will be over in a year, or two or three, this will stay with them for a lifetime. It’s changed them in different ways, Skye isn’t sure they will ever truly recover.

 

Her chest cracks open, the breath leaving her lungs in an audible gasp.

‘’Grant’’-

‘’And you couldn’t cope with that living with me, you wanted no contact between us because it was too hard. I understand Skye, I do’’.

This is a far cry from the emotionless robot act he’s given her the past couple days.

‘’But here we are a year later being forced to work together by forces we have no control over, the ATCU is going to be involved with Shield a lot more than you’re ever going to want’’.

Skye puts her legs up, pressing both knees to her chest and wrapping her arms around them, ‘’and?’’

He’s still not looking at her.

‘’I need to know if you’re going to be able to put aside the past between us and get the job done’’.

Her chest feels like it’s cracking even further.

‘’And if I can’t? If I don’t want to?’’

‘’Then we’re going to have a problem’’.

She tenses at this, ‘’what the hell does that mean?’’

‘’It means that you need to put your emotions aside for however long this is going to last, or’’-

‘’God, so this is who you are now? This is what I turned you into’’.

He shakes his head, ‘’you didn’t turn me into anything. I’m just trying to do my job Skye’’.

If this was two years ago Grant wouldn’t give a damn about a job if the result was leaving her in pain.

Which is why she asks, ‘’since when do you care more about your job than your wife?’’

He doesn’t miss a beat, ‘’when she walked out our front door’’.

Skye inhales slowly, let’s that go, ‘’I thought we agreed last night I’m in, mostly’’.

‘’I just need to be sure, I need you to honestly tell me that you can handle us working together. Because if not I’ll ask for a transfer and someone else will take the lead on this’’.

Skye nods and comes to the same conclusion she did last night, ‘’I can do it. I promise’’.

 

Because having him around is better than not having him at all, she knows that now. Even if it means watching his happiness unfold with someone that isn’t her. Plus if working with the ATCU helps her Inhumans in the long run (she doubts but they could surprise her) that’s all that matters. There’s a moment of silence before Ward reaches over and grazes his fingertips across her knuckles, ‘’thank you’’.

 

He must know how much this hurts her, how she’d rather walk through fire a thousand times over than come back together this way. But she’s doing it because he asked, maybe there’s a light at the end of this long dark tunnel after all. Maybe one day they really could find each other again, but it won’t be today. Skye leaves a few minutes later after Ward says he’ll see her soon, no dramatic parting words were exchanged or declarations of love.

 

It isn’t until she’s driving into the Playground that Skye realizes what will help Ward even more, sort out the mess in his head and heart, and she can’t believe it took so long to think of. She picks up the phone and dials the number, it rings six times before a gruff voice finally picks up.

 

‘’What?’’

Memories flood her and Skye blinks back tears, ‘’it’s Ward, he needs you’’.

‘’I’m on my way’’.

 

She may understand why Grant is doing all of this, but that doesn’t mean she approves.

Chapter Text

 

Ward takes Skye’s cold bandaged hand in his own, by her appearance and body temperature alone she could pass for a corpse. The lifeless look on her face as she stares up at the ceiling makes his heart clench even further. Grant hasn’t understood pain until this very moment, has never felt suffering or sorrow this suffocating in his entire life. It’s crushing him, drowning his lungs, breaking bones, causing everything inside to scream out, beg to end this torment, asking if this is all a dream.

 

Because this can’t be real, this shouldn’t be happening.

 

Skye swallows loudly, the cuts and scrapes on her cheeks would normally cause fire to light his blood, but he can’t feel anything besides cold. Like someone poured ice into his veins and it’s slowly draining all life from his body. He’s dying right here in front of his wife and neither of them care, she just keeps staring up at the bleached white ceiling tiles in silence. The doctor in front of her bed repeats his previous statement as if she didn’t hear it before, and it slices through Ward just as badly as it did the first time the doctor told him.

 

‘’I am so sorry’’.

‘’Get out’’.

 

Her voice is scratchy and thick with un-shed tears, she won’t cry in front of a stranger. The doctor leaves, the door closes softly and Skye still won’t look at him. Grant has no idea what to say or do, he doesn’t even feel like he can move from this chair, from this spot. Like he’ll be forever stuck in this moment for the rest of his life and this agony he’s in will never stop. All of his training, the therapy, the years of self-discovery and falling in love can’t help him, he’s spiraling down a pitch dark rabbit hole with no rope.

 

‘’Skye’’.

His voice sounds broken, as if it’s about to reach a hysterical point it won’t be able to come back from.

Skye turns her head slightly to look at him, hair splayed out onto the hospital pillow and a single tear rolls down her cheek onto the pale pink blanket.

‘’It’s not true’’.

His heart breaks at the look on her face, how she’s shaking her head and biting her lip so hard it’ll bleed if she doesn’t stop.

He stands and hunches over her, hands on her shoulders.

‘’Baby’’-

‘’It’s not true Grant, it can’t be. Our son’’-

 

She cracks and takes a deep breath, shuddering violently underneath his fingers. He kisses her forehead, wanting to be the strong one, to be her anchor in this violent storm like he always is. But Ward isn’t sure he can be this time, not after this.

 

It feels like they’ve both fallen overboard and are stuck out in the middle of the ocean, salt water rushing down their throats, choking them, and no one is going to throw out a life preserver.

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

Ward can feel his eyes burning and it takes calling on every ounce of self-control he’s ever learned to not burst into tears right now. Sometimes that memory comes out of nowhere, he could be eating breakfast or running in the morning and it will assault him without warning. Each time the pain of that day both fresh and new is so strong it will bring Grant to his knees if he’s not sitting. Skye’s face when she finally accepted the fact that they were leaving that hospital without their son haunts him.

 

He tries to tune it out, Skye’s anguished screams into their bathroom the day they came home are here to stay, they’re so loud in his ears it’s like he’s reliving it all over again. He makes a mental note to call his long-time therapist Paul, especially since he hasn’t been sleeping well. Thoughts on a loop that say all he has ever done is hurt Skye, making up for it with a wedding and promises of forever that didn’t last.

 

Their last conversation comes to mind, how he told her that she needed to accept things the way they were or he’d transfer, never seeing each other again. It was a low blow, Ward has never liked ultimatums and he’s never given Skye one before. That was the only way this would work, he needs Skye to play along in order to continue what he’s doing here. Selfish? Of course. Ward is very aware he’s handling this situation terribly, but he didn’t plan for Skye to ever find out about his association with the ATCU.

 

He never wanted to hurt her, none of this is going the way he planned. Skye shouldn’t have to put up with seeing him with Alison, seeing any of this. And she’s only going along with his demands because she feels guilty for leaving, if she didn’t her attitude would be very different, the ATCU would see Quake on her worst behavior.

 

Grant was trained at an early age to adapt to whatever situation he’s in in order to make it out alive, but he just can’t seem to get a hold on this one now that Skye is involved. She’s slipping through the carefully crafted bonds he’s built, Skye has always been an unknown variable in his life and ten years later that still hasn’t changed.

 

Ward is no stranger to the woods. Having spent five years surviving amongst the trees and freezing rain, it’s like a second home. The shadows and cool wind do not intimidate him, the fear of the unknown lurking behind rocks or fallen rotten tree trunks does not exist inside him. His boots are silent as he walks down a familiar path, sunlight peaks in between the branches as summer begins to approach. It’s not quite an unbearable heat wave yet but that will come, sweat and warm air and sunburns.

 

Last summer everything was different, his life the exact opposite than it is now. There was overflowing love, so much so that sometimes it felt unbearable. Ward was happy, at peace and content every morning he woke with Skye in his arms. Happiness greeted him at nearly every turn and now there’s just nothing. No joy, no quiet laughter as the sun begins to rise, just this empty dark void that he can’t escape. Grant is alone and he hates it.

 

Years ago that lifestyle didn’t bother him, Ward could spend years with just himself and not care. But after nearly ten years of being with one person, one family that built each other up instead of tearing one another down, it’s hard to move on. A lot harder than he thought it would be, this is the first time in nearly a decade he has no one watching his back. Grant has no problem relying on himself but he’d rather not, loneliness swirls deep inside his bones and no one can see it except his reflection.

 

Seeing Skye again however has started shining light back into him, even if they’re not together and she hates him for what he’s doing. Just being around her again makes all of the demons that still haunt him quiet, they always have in her presence. Which Ward knows how tricky that can be, ignoring the fact that he loves his wife, he can’t rely on her to save him from this sadness, especially since she can’t save herself at the moment.

 

However he’d heal her if he could, take all the pain she’s feeling and wrap it inside himself just so she could be happy. Eyes burning he steps over a pile of twigs and checks the remainder of the perimeter; all clear. An hour later after making sure everything is still safe and secure as when he left it six months ago, Ward steps out into the break of the trees and faces the back of his old home. The one he bought as a surprise for Skye, her dream home, her safe haven away from the world.

 

Ward comes back every few weeks to make sure no one has ignored the Private Property signs he has posted and stumbled upon it. He also mows the lawn, chops firewood and stores it in the shed out back just like he used to, he also cleans the inside. Keeps everything just the way he and Skye left it, in case she was ever to return. She would see their home the way it was, full of life and love. Instead of opening the front door to find a graveyard covered in dust, smelling abandoned and empty.

 

It was hard living here without Skye for those six months, Ward couldn’t sleep in their bed. He stayed with Kebo in the cabin they built, only walking through those rooms if it was absolutely necessary. After he joined the ATCU Ward didn’t walk through that front door for two months, and the first time he did it brought him to his knees. He refused to look at the pictures on the mantel, the clothes Skye left behind in their closet, all of the small things on dressers and counters she walked away from.

 

Grant mechanically washed sheets and fluffed pillows, swept and mopped without thinking about anything. It wasn’t until he was making a cup of coffee after he was finished, the silence all around him, when he realized that Skye may never come back. Only the birds and deer witnessed his breakdown in the kitchen, a secret they’ll never share. Once he picked himself up off the floor Ward promised himself that he wouldn’t sell this place, he couldn’t bear anyone else living here.

 

This home represents the life he and Skye built together, all of the love they shared inside this space. Besides if Skye ever decided to speak to him again, she would be pissed if he allowed someone else to reside in their home. So here he is once more, six months after he left, unlocking the door and walking inside. It still hurts when he crosses the threshold, when he dusts the coffee and kitchen tables, wipes down the counters and sweeps the floor.

 

A couple months ago he put away all of Skye’s things that she left out. Hair brush in the bathroom, ponytail holders and bobby pins on the nightstand, favorite brand of shampoo and conditioner, razors and shaving cream in the shower. It’s all shut away inside drawers so when he walked in he would have no physical reminder of his wife. But that didn’t help, she’s everywhere, in everything he sees.

 

 In the kitchen where they slow danced so many times in the middle of the night. The living room where they curled into the couch together, arms wrapped around one another as a fire blazed. Their bedroom where so much love was made, where they found solace in sleep beside each other. It strips Ward bare every time he comes here, opens windows to let a breeze in. But he can’t just abandon this house, there’s history here that he can’t just ignore and pretend never happened.

 

Ward has never been a sentimental man mostly because he never had anything to be attached to, that he wanted to hold and never let go. Until now, this home is something he will own and treasure for the remainder of his days. Even if he never lives here again, even if Skye never sleeps in their bed or brushes her teeth in their bathroom for the rest of his life, he’ll still come back every three weeks like clockwork. Once he’s done cleaning and opened up every window, he heads back outside.

 

Mows the meadow around their property, pulling out weeds and making sure everything is neat and in order. He does the same thing to Kebo’s small cabin, lets the summer breeze air out the small rooms. Straightens up the liquor bottles his friend left behind, puts fresh sheets on the bed and cleans the one bathroom. Doesn’t think about how badly he misses his best friend, how he would love to talk to him about everything that’s been going on.

 

How Ward thought moving on and joining the ATCU would help the hole in his heart, but he’s starting to realize perhaps that just numbed it. When all the work is done Ward showers quickly and grabs the clothes he left here. Black shirt and jeans, dark leather jacket, he’s grabbing his gun about to lock up when the light catches his wedding ring. He knows it should be on his left hand, never should have moved it, can’t even imagine how much it hurt Skye to see that.

 

He’s locked the front door and starting the car when his phone rings, hooking it up to the speaker system he answers while driving down the familiar road to head back to the jet he came in on.

 

‘’Hello?’’

It’s Rosalind and she sounds upset, ‘’Quake is here early’’.

Skye has a meeting with the ATCU today, he’s not surprised she showed up unexpected it’s what he’d do.

‘’I didn’t even realize she was here until I walked into your office, she was sitting at your desk like she was waiting for you’’.

‘’I’m sure she wasn’t’’.

‘’Anyway who the hell knows when she actually got here, cameras didn’t pick up anything but that doesn’t mean a damn thing. They were probably hacked into, can you check on that when you get in?’’

‘’Of course, I’ll be there soon’’.

She sighs, ‘’everything inside of me is saying not to trust her’’.

Ward makes a sharp turn, ‘’you shouldn’t trust her, she views the ATCU as a threat. And Skye deals with threats the same way every time; she eliminates them’’.

 ‘’But the deal she made with us’’-

‘’Skye doesn’t do anything unless it benefits her in the long run, the deal we made with her won’t last forever, she’ll be looking for any small thing to target us. And if that happens we’re all as good as dead’’.

‘’So what do you think we should do?’’

‘’Try not to screw anything up, she’ll be watching for that’’.

’it’s not like we’re murdering Inhumans in the basement’’.

Grant winces and replies, ‘’don’t say anything like that around her’’.

‘’It was a joke’’.

‘’Skye won’t see it that way’’.

After all those years with Skye he knows her better than anyone, knows how she reacts and responds to situations.

And she won’t stay on his side of things for long.

‘’I’ll be there shortly’’.

‘’Hurry, we lost sight of her again’’.

Grant doesn’t even realize he’s smiling until his cheeks hurt from the gesture.

 

He walks into the ATCU to find it busier than usual, there’s a buzz that hasn’t been here before, a nervous electric energy in the atmosphere as he walks into the conference room he knows Rosalind is in. She’s not alone, a few agents along with Alison sit beside her, everyone looks uneasy and on edge. The source of their discomfort sits across the table with her legs propped up, boots leaving scuff marks already.

 

Skye may be pissed at him but she lights up when he walks in the room, it’s obvious even though she tries to hide it. Hope isn’t something he’s used to in this year of his life but it fills him all the same, he honestly can’t tell if she’s screwing with him or her reaction is genuine. Phil Coulson of all people sits next to her and gives Ward a nod in acknowledgement, but that already fragile relationship is strained once again, it’s clear in Phil’s eyes as Ward takes a seat next to Alison.

 

The former Director of Shield has clearly picked a side between Skye and Ward, and it’s not Grant’s. Alison gives him a smile and covers his hand with her own as he gets settled, her long red nails irritating his knuckles.

 

Seeing Skye for the first time after one of visits to their old home is gutting him. Pain radiates from his abdomen to the tip of his skull like a physical wound, looking at her and seeing who she is now as compared to who she was when they first moved in, the difference is so obvious he aches. Aches for her, for who they used to be, the life they shared. None of this is fair to her, Skye deserves to be happy always, living the life she wants. Even if it’s not with him, even if she no longer wants him after this.

 

‘’Now that the party’s here can we get started?’’ Skye asks in a cold tone as she pulls open a pack of sour gummy worms. Ward recognizes her favorite brand, having run into gas stations and grocery stores many a time to grab them. Rosalind is about to respond when the door opens and Steve Rogers walks in wearing dark jeans a gray t-shirt, his beard still present. Skye beams at his clearly unexpected appearance, a bright smile on her face like she hasn’t seen him in months.

 

A gasp sounds about the room as everyone realizes Captain America is really here in the flesh, even Coulson looks a little star-struck. Skye rises from her chair and hugs him, Steve clutches her tightly and spins her around, they’re both smiling widely. It’s the first genuine one Ward has seen from his wife in a long time, normally he’d express how happy he is that she’s happy, but he can’t do that here. Rosalind stands looking a little unsteady, Alison appears as if she can’t form a sentence.

 

 

‘’Captain Rogers, I, I’m sorry but how can I help you? I didn’t know Skye invited you’’.

Steve sets Quake back on the ground, ‘’she didn’t’’. Is all he responds before looking over at Ward.

‘’It’s good to see you again Grant’’.

He stands to shake Steve’s hand but is instead pulled into a quick hug and a sharp slap on the shoulder.

No one comments but Skye’s narrowed eyes at the other Avenger speaks volumes.

‘’Don’t look at me like that’’. Steve tells her in French, no one else in this room speaks it besides Ward.

‘’Don’t hug him’’.

‘’He’s my friend just like you’’.

‘’But we’re mad at him’’.

Steve rolls his eyes but smirks at her fondly, ‘’he’s still an Avenger whether you like it or not, we don’t abandon one another’’.

‘’Save the family bullshit for when I’m in a better mood and don’t have to stare at his stupid girlfriend’’.

‘’Be nice’’.

‘’Bite me. What are you doing here anyway?’’

He runs a hand through her blonde hair and she leans closer into him, ‘’I couldn’t leave my best girl to the wolves now could I?’’

 

Skye’s grin lights up the entire room, it’s a shock to everyone Ward can tell, seeing a side to Quake many never do.

 

Rosalind requests they switch back to English and Steve relents, Skye just glares at them all while chewing on a red gummy worm.  Alison is still in awe as she turns to him with wide eyes, her hand shaking against his. ‘’We’ve been together for months and you never introduced me to Captain America?’’ ‘’I don’t exactly have him on speed dial’’. Well he doesn’t anymore, ever since Thanos came and wiped out half the universe Steve is harder to get a hold of, lost his own grief and anger.

 

‘’We’re here today to discuss the growing Hydra threat and how they affect our everyday lives and the lives of the Inhumans we’ve been tasked with protecting’’.

No one misses Skye rolling her eyes but Rosalind presses on.

‘’The ATCU has only had run ins with Hydra once or twice, I think they’re making a move against us now that we’ve started working with Shield’’.

Ward figured that would happen and warned Rosalind about it a few days ago.

‘’And I’m supposed to care about that why?’’ Skye asks, looking around the room like this is a giant waste of her time.

‘’I didn’t ask the President to create this dumb ass organization, I didn’t beg to work with any of you. If Hydra comes after you all that’s his problem and the ATCU will have to deal with the fallout’’.

‘’We’re in danger because of you’’. Someone speaks up and Ward nearly pinches the bridge of his nose, this is going to end badly.

Quake glares at the male agent, ‘’please explain to me how it’s my fault they’re coming after you? The President ordered that we work together, I had no say in it. If you’re looking to blame someone, blame him’’.

‘’Doesn’t Hydra hate you? Why would you become Director of Shield and put an even bigger target on your back?’’

‘’That’s none of your goddamn business’’.

Rosalind holds up a hand, ‘’this is not a meeting to attack Quake, we all want the same thing. To protect Inhumans and eliminate the Hydra threat’’.

Skye chuckles, ‘’good luck with that’’.

It’s Alison who responds, ‘’I don’t find this situation funny at all’’.

Steve answers, ‘’we’ve all been after Hydra for years, it’s a very complex situation. You cut off one head and another takes its place, they already have a new Director’’.

Rosalind nods and pulls up a picture of Kimberly Santos, who has a personal vendetta against Skye that the ATCU doesn’t know about.

‘’I forgot she was the Director’’.

Skye whispers to Coulson who speaks up next, ‘’Shield is going to do what we’ve always done, protect the world from a threat. Even if Mrs. Santos has it out for Skye’’-

He cuts himself off abruptly with a small hiss of pain, Skye probably kicked him under the table.

Rosalind reels, ‘’why does she have a personal issue with your Director?’’

Quake sighs dramatically and ignores the warning look Steve gives her, ‘’because I killed her husband. She wants revenge’’.

A murmur goes about the room and Alison asks, ‘’why?’’

‘’Not telling’’.

 

Ward does not need a reminder of why Harold Santos is dead, can’t afford to think about that right now. The wound he received in a particular moment in that fight suddenly burns slightly, as if it knows what’s being discussed. Skye catches his gaze and for a moment the anger at him fades, her eyes soften as she glances down, like she’s trying to remind him of the scar on his lower back for when he was stabbed protecting her and their unborn child.

 

Steve ends up taking command of the meeting while Skye sits next to him and fumes, adds every once and a while an unnecessary rude comment or sending a scalding glare in Ward’s direction. Grant can’t help but daydream for a bit what this meeting would be like if he and Skye were together and on the same side still. In this second he’s hit with a wave of longing, can imagine her feet in his lap as she sat next to him, whispering things in his ear to rile him up.  

 

Skye would eventually get bored, turn to him for amusement or her phone. He misses her every day but today just seems heavier, living without her hasn’t gotten any easier and he can’t imagine it ever will. Ward shakes his head and gets back to the conversation at hand, knowing there’s no use in dwelling on things that are long gone. Ward lets a small bit of annoyance pass through his features and Skye cracks a humorless smile.

 

‘’I still want to punch you in your perfect face’’.

She tells him in German, again he’s the only one in this room that can speak it.

‘’I see your still pissed at me’’. He replies back.

‘’Clearly’’.

‘’You know jealousy’’-

‘’shut up Ward I’m not mad at you just because I’m jealous. I am your wife and seeing you with someone else is killing me. I’m mad at you because I love you’’.

 

Grant never doubted that Skye still loved him, that was never in jeopardy. He just isn’t sure she’ll be able to forgive him if that moment ever comes. But to hear those words come from her lips after everything they’ve been through this past year, the distance between them now, it chokes him up. Keeping his familiar mask of stone he doesn’t reveal any emotion, but his hands are shaking and it takes longer than it should to get them back under control.

 

Alison asks what they’re talking about but Ward shakes his head and continues to listen to Steve. Who comes up with a fairly reasonable solution that even Skye agrees with. If Hydra becomes an issue for the ATCU Skye can send aid, she doesn’t have to deal with the issue directly unless she wants to. Her team of Inhumans and Shield agents she sends out have full control of the situation and are allowed to deal with it as they see fit.

 

After another half hour of Skye being difficult just because she’s upset with him, the meeting finally comes to an end. She pauses on her way out the door and gets this look in her eye that Grant knows well, Steve too because he stands behind her with his arms crossed just waiting to see what she’s going to say. Quake turns to the Director of the ATCU and cocks her head slightly.

 

‘’Rosalind before I forget, if you ever betray me I’ll bring this entire damn place to the ground and lock you and your shitty daughter inside. So word of advice, just don’t even think about it’’.

Alison shakes with barely contained anger next to Ward, her mouth slightly ajar, and then she finds her voice.

‘’How dare you’’.

Skye gets that gleam in her eye that he knows means violence, braces himself and tells Alison to stop but she doesn’t listen.

‘’We all want the same thing, to protect people! How about you get off your bitter high horse and open your eyes? I get it, you’re this damaged bad ass that doesn’t need anyone, well guess what? No one cares about your childhood trauma, get over it and grow up. We don’t tolerate empty threats like that’’.

No one has stood up to Skye like this in a long time, and the last person who did wound up bleeding out below her, Alison looks smug but she’s still shaking violently beside him.

‘’That wasn’t an empty threat’’-

Steve pulls her out of the room before she can continue, knowing the last thing they can afford is a fight.

 

Ward trails after her to make sure she doesn’t break anything on the way out, he finds her in the lobby standing next to Steve. She watches him watch her, arms crossed as he comes down the stairs.

 

‘’You’re staring’’. The comment throws him back to a hundred memories, a hundred moments between them saying this phrase to one another, an inside joke that turned into something intimate and lovely. She said it on purpose to trip him up and it’s working, she also said it to test him. See if he’ll respond in familiar fashion. But he doesn’t want to taint something so special with something bitter, not in this place, not when all of this unsettled weight rests between them.

 

Instead as he feels Alison reach his side Ward says, ‘’Kimberly Santos isn’t going to hurt anyone from your side or mine’’. What he really means is, ‘’she isn’t going to hurt you’’. And since they’ve never needed words to communicate Skye sees that and tension drains from her shoulders, a little bit of light creeps into the corners of her eyes. Steve is telling him goodbye when the alarm on Ward’s phone goes off, Skye’s does as well.

 

Before anyone has time to react multiple red dots appear on Skye’s skin, all perfect kill shots for sniper rifles they have trained on her. This does not bother her, it’s happened far too many times to mean anything. But Ward can’t stop his heart picking up speed or the way he starts thinking of a way to get her out safely, not caring about anyone else in this room. It’s the same reaction he’s had for the last decade whenever she’s in a dangerous situation, not easy to shut off.

 

She’s about to make some sarcastic comment while Steve shifts closer to her, the whole room is holding its breath as Rosalind tells everyone to get down. Skye meets his eye and sees the decision in his face, she doesn’t approve. Knowing him as well as she does Skye lightly shakes her head, ‘’you’re not going to have time Superman’’. The nickname sends a wave of nostalgia through him but he doesn’t have time to dwell on it. He exchanges a glance with Steve and then makes a leap for Skye, just as bullets start flying Ward has her around the waist and is dragging her behind a concrete pillar to safety.

 

Grant doesn’t even have to think about his movements, it’s an automatic response drilled into him after so many years. Covering her body with his own, his hands atop her head, tucking her face into his shoulder as gunfire rains down around them. If anyone were to ask Ward could say he’d do this for anyone, this was the way he was trained, to protect anyone if they were a target. He’d be lying of course, that’s simply not the case here.

 

Sure he would try to save anyone in Skye’s position but he wouldn’t put his own life at risk to do so like he did with her. There’s a moment of silence and Ward glances down to make sure she’s alright, still in one piece. It’s then he registers her fingers digging into his shoulders, and he just gets lost in her brown eyes for a second. Time, like it so often has before when he looks at her, stands still, holds its breath so he can absorb this moment, the feel of her underneath him.

 

It feels as if nothing has changed, as if this is another dangerous mission and they’re still together, he’s still protecting her even though she doesn’t technically need it. The bands of her wedding and engagement rings are cool against his skin as her hand moves to his neck, lightly clutching the back of his head as she checks him over for injury.  Ward can’t help himself, can’t control the urge that washes over him while having the love of his life back in his arms if even for a moment.

 

‘’You love me’’. He says like it’s the first time he’s heard it, like they are ten years younger and brand new, their love a fragile flower about to bloom. Skye’s hands move down his chest, fingers twitching against his heart as her eyes fill with tears, ‘’always’’. The sound of bullets has him holding her tightly once more, her face buried in his neck. This is everything he’s wanted and needed for the past year, and it’s the wrong time to get it.

 

They part for a second and Skye is looking up at him, smiles at whatever burning look he’s giving her. ‘’take a look at that smolder’’. He almost laughs and then bullets hit the ground again, interrupting whatever the hell moment they’re having. It seems like an eternity later that Skye speaks again. ‘’Ward they stopped shooting at us’’. Skye whispers, lips lingering at the shell of his ear. He didn’t even notice, the absence of bullets seems so loud now as he stands and helps her up.

 

She walks out from behind the pillar gun in hand, Ward follows to find the lobby a mess of broken glass and blood, bodies on the floor. None of them belong to ATCU members though, it’s obvious who was behind this attack, Hydra.

 

Skye follows his train of thought and looks over to Steve, ‘’I really wish you would have destroyed them eighty years ago’’. He removes a bit of glass from her hair, ‘’you and me both. You two alright?’’ They nod and Ward slips back into his own role, looking for Alison and Rosalind who appear unharmed. Alison rushes over to him nearly knocking Skye over but Steve pulls her out of the way. While holding someone else and assuring her he’s alright, Ward can’t stop from looking over at Skye.

 

Who turns away to talk to Coulson, her arms wrapped around herself. Hydra could have only known Skye was here if they were tipped off, Ward is explaining this to Rosalind, and Skye who’s always been on the same wavelength as him calls out, ‘’you morons have a traitor in your midst. Coulson loves those don’t you?’’ Neither Ward nor Phil is amused by her comment, but at least it doesn’t have the same effect it used to.

 

Steve shakes his head, ‘’you’re not as funny as you think you are’’. She gives him a lazy smile and holds onto his biceps, ‘’you adore me’’. ‘’On occasion’’. After making sure everyone is alright Skye, Steve and Coulson leave and Ward spends the next couple hours cleaning up the mess Hydra made. None of the living Hydra agents stuck around so Skye wasn’t able to torture any of them for information on Kim’s whereabouts, she did not try to hide her disappointment.

 

Hours later after being buried in paperwork and reports, Ward is finally home. He’s drinking a beer, Alison in the living room watching a program and as he sits down beside her she looks over to him. Moves her hair onto her right shoulder, a tell that she’s nervous.

 

‘’Do you think I went too far today with Quake?’’

Ward throws an arm over the back of the couch, ‘’no’’.

‘’It’s just, she can’t get away with threatening us like that’’.

‘’That’s Skye for you’’.

‘’Was she serious?’’

‘’Yes’’.

Alison huffs in annoyance, ‘’what did she say to you earlier in German by the way?  I didn’t know you could speak German’’.

Grant feigns confusion, ‘’something about some mission we did back in the day, couldn’t remember exactly which one. The details are fuzzy’’.

 

She believes him so effortlessly, sometimes it still amazes Ward how easily people believe his words, his lies as they roll smooth off his tongue. Alison is about to nod off on his shoulder when Ward hears something, he perks up and instincts tell him to head for the door. Grabbing a gun and telling Alison to head to the bedroom, he walks up and listens closely, hears footfalls coming near silently down the hall. Two sets of shoes, one heavier than the other.

 

They pause at his door he’s about to swing it open when Skye’s voice suddenly and unexpectedly sounds.

 

‘’You’re the one who left him unsupervised’’.

The voice that responds is one he hasn’t heard in months, and a wave of homesickness spreads through Ward.

‘’I’m going to ignore that stupid comment. Don’t worry Quake, I’ll go in there and kick Ward in his dumb ass head’’.

 

Just for that Ward opens the door and lowers his gun, Kebo’s surprised face greeting him. Skye stands with her arms crossed dressed in all black, acting as if she hasn’t got a care in the world.

 

‘’What are you doing here Kebo?’’

His old friend raises an eyebrow, ‘’you haven’t seen me in six months and that’s the first thing you say to me? Wow, you know I’m not even surprised, you dick’’.

They let themselves into the apartment, Skye pauses over the threshold, doesn’t walk all the way in.

Kebo turns to Ward, ‘’a concerned friend called me and said you were being a douche. And if anyone can pull your head out of your own ass, it’s me. Let’s talk brother’’.

‘’Nothing to talk about’’.

‘’Really? That why Skye looks like someone ripped her heart out and you look like complete shit?’’

Ward tells him to keep his voice down and then turns to Skye, ‘’you called him?’’

‘’Someone has to screw your head on straight, clearly I don’t do it for you anymore’’.

 

Grant sighs and looks over to Kebo, the person who’s been with him through everything from the start. He’s always been the one Ward can lean on, talk to no matter what. He relaxes and Kebo pulls out a beer from the fridge, ‘’pour your little soul out to me and then I’ll kick your ass’’.

 

This is not a conversation he wants to have while Alison is nearby, but Kebo isn’t going to give him much of a choice.

Chapter Text

 

‘’You ever miss it?’’

‘’What?’’

‘’Home’’.

 

Ward looks away from Kebo and out the window, the moon high in the sky. His friend already knows the answer of course, just asked it to attempt to ruffle a few feathers and get him talking. And he isn’t necessarily talking about the home Grant shared with his wife. Because it’s never been about four walls or bedroom doors with him, it’s always been about the woman in his arms who made him feel like he had a place in the universe.

 

For the past year Ward has felt out of place, drifting along aimlessly trying to find out who he is without Skye. He’s made a mess of it, hurt the one person he never wanted to again. Which is why she brought Kebo to his apartment , he’s always been there for Ward when no one else is. But this time Kebo can’t pour a drink and make some grand speech until three in the morning to make him feel better. His best friend can’t repair whatever is broken inside him, no one can.

 

‘’You know I do’’.

 He replies while Kebo takes a long sip of beer and looks around the apartment, ‘’this kitchen is too small’’.

 ‘’You’ll survive’’.

They’re alone, Skye and Alison long gone.

‘’So would you like to tell me all about your girlfriend or are you going to make me guess?’’

At Ward’s silence Kebo sighs, ‘’guessing then, alright. How about this, Skye broke your fragile tiny heart when she left you and you’ve been searching for a way to repair it ever since’’.

He’s not wrong.

 ‘’Working with the ATCU I get, it’s another fight, missions with bullets and bombs all of your favorite things. It’s familiar to you, and you needed that after what happened’’.

Grant clenches his jaw, knowing he can never get anything past Kebo.

‘’But here’s where you lose me, Alison Price, who is not your type at all’’.

 ‘’Why does everyone say that? I don’t have a type’’.

 Kebo tosses a salt shaker at him, ‘’why are you being so difficult tonight? You’re lucky I even answered when Skye called me after the shit you pulled six months ago’’.

The last time they saw each other Ward had just learned about the ATCU job, and he told Kebo they needed to take a break, he didn’t handle it well.

 ‘’Your type is obviously Quake, you know your wife. Who is rude, selfish, extremely annoying at times, violent, cocky, has entirely too much of Tony Stark’s humor’’-

‘’I get it’’.

Kebo’s tone grows softer, ‘’and she’s the only woman who’s ever given a damn about you’’.

Ward pinches his eyes, ‘’I know’’.

 ‘’So why are you doing this? Because the Grant Ward that I know would never hurt Skye the way you’re doing right now’’.

 ‘’Maybe I’m not that guy anymore’’.

The pepper shaker comes flying at his face next, ‘’you trying to convince me or yourself that? Because I was there after you two came back from the hospital’’-

Grant tenses up, ‘’don’t’’.

Kebo backs off but still says, ‘’I’ve known you since we were twenty years old, do you really think you can sit there and lie to me?’’

 If there’s one person on this planet Ward can’t pull wool over their eyes, it’s Kebo.

 He sighs and looks up to the ceiling, ‘’she wasn’t supposed to find out’’.

Ward has already explained the AT CU situation to his long-time friend.

‘’But she did and here we are.  So are you going to continue to bullshit me or explain to me how you can look into your wife’s eyes and tell her you’re happy with someone else? Which you’re not by the way’’.

 ‘’Don’t tell me’’-

 ‘’Grant you look like shit. It’s painfully obvious you’re not doing as well as you’d like everyone to believe. So we have all the time in the world, lay it on me’’.

Ward steals the rest of Kebo’s beer before taking a deep breath.

 ‘’Thanos destroyed half the universe, I lost my son and my wife a couple months later. How am I supposed to move on after that? I’m trying, Alison and the ATCU have helped but’’-

‘’Everything coming out of your mouth right now makes me want to slap you’’.

 ‘’Kebo’’-

 ‘’Look I believe you about the ATCU thing, I get it. Don’t really care about that, what I do care about is Alison Price and how that happened’’.

Grant shrugs, ‘’it just did. I can’t explain it’’.

 Kebo studies him slowly before grabbing a beer and sitting back down.

‘’So you just let Skye go and started dating someone else? Who are you right now?’’

Ward traces the edge of the beer bottle, eyes burning and replies, ‘’I lost everything Kebo. Anybody would be different after that’’.

 ‘’I’m going to let you keep spinning this story because I have nothing better to do, but when you’re ready to tell me the truth I’ll be waiting’’.

 ‘’I’m not’’-

 ‘’You’ve heard that saying when someone tells a lie so much they start believing it themselves? Is that what’s happening right now?’’

 ‘’I’m not lying’’.

Kebo raises an eyebrow, ‘’let me rephrase, you’re sitting there telling me half-truths. Something you are so perfect at, but you can’t fool me Grant’’.

Ward is quiet for so long that Kebo cracks on the tough love act for a moment, ‘’look there’s no judgement here, you know that. But you’re killing Skye, poor bird looks like you ripped her soul out’’.

He winces and Kebo reaches across the table to give his arm a reassuring squeeze, ‘’you don’t have to handle this alone anymore, I’m not going anywhere’’.

That careful mask Ward has super glued to his face over the past six months begins breaking apart as he looks down at the table.

 ‘’My son died. It’s been a year and I still don’t know how to live with that’’.

Kebo walks over just in time as Ward starts crying into his shoulder.

 Holding him tightly Kebo responds, ‘’you won’t forget, but it’ll get easier’’.

Hours later Ward dives more in depth into his situation with the ATCU and Kebo just shakes his head.

‘’Looks like it’s just you and me against the world again’’.

Ward just lies on the couch and closes his eyes, though Kebo being here complicates things, he’s glad to have his friend back. He’s always better when Kebo is around.

 

 

 

*

 

 

 

‘’Skye honey I love you, but you have to get up eventually’’. Ignoring Tony she buries herself further into these impossibly soft sheets and even softer blankets, never wanting to leave this warm cocoon she’s wrapped herself in. Stark’s bed is way more comfortable than anything she’s ever slept on, the pillows firm and smell like fresh dryer sheets. Its noon but you wouldn’t be able to tell in this bedroom, the windows are covered so no sunlight gets in, it’s nice and cool, she could fall asleep.

 

Tony leans against the bedroom door and Thor sits on the mattress beside her, he keeps picking at a loose string on the back of her shirt. Skye came to Stark Tower around three a.m. after she left Ward’s apartment, Pepper and Tony were awake and down in his lab, so she collapsed in their bed and hasn’t left since. There are a few things keeping her brain active, like how she and Kebo arrived at Ward’s apartment and before a serious conversation could take place, Alison stepped out of his bedroom.

 

Kebo took one look at her and asked, ‘’who’s this bitch?’’ 

To which Skye replied, ‘’Ward’s girlfriend’’.

He choked on his beer, fixed his shocked gaze on Skye, ‘’his what?’’ Then to Ward, ‘’your what?’’

 

Skye left shortly after that, not being able to handle Alison Price in the same space where Ward retires at the end of every day, a place where he relaxes and unwinds. His apartment is where he’s most vulnerable, where he sleeps, showers, gets ready for the day. The fact that he trusts Alison to be included in that, it means a lot, especially to someone like Ward. He used to be a spy, his motto was never to trust anyone, John Garrett drilled into him never get attached to anyone or anything.

 

Her being there in his personal space feels more like a betrayal than anything else. It must have been all over her face because Grant attempted to explain, but she hardly let him open his mouth before leaving. Whatever conversation happened between he and Kebo Skye will find out today, when she picked him up from the airport yesterday he promised to tell her everything that’s said word for word. Skye didn’t know how he and Ward wound up not in each other’s lives this past year, but now she’s not in the dark.

 

Six months ago before he joined the ATCU Ward sat Kebo down and told him he needed a break. (Skye would make fun of this endlessly because it sounds like Ward was breaking up with him, but nothing is funny about this situation.) So Ward packed up his things and left their home, got an apartment close to the ATCU, but Kebo didn’t give up so easily. Ward changed his number however and basically fell of the face of the earth, he didn’t want to be found so Kebo didn’t stand a chance.

 

He’s spent the last six months traveling and was in Costa Rica when Skye called a couple days ago. It’s so strange to Skye how the three of them spent the last ten years together and all it took was one horrific tragedy to break them apart. She thought Ward and Kebo could survive anything, that their friendship could withstand all of life’s curveballs. Apparently just like her marriage, that’s not the case. Skye hasn’t slept in two days, her eyes grow heavy as Thor starts running his hands soothingly through her hair.

 

Skye has a thousand things to do today and can’t afford to be lying here abandoning the responsibilities appointed to her, but she just can’t bring herself to move. It’s warm here, safe from the world, all the pain and suffering can’t hurt her here. Not yet anyway. Her phone has long since stopped vibrating on top of Tony’s dresser, he shut it off a few hours ago when she started crying. Normally Skye isn’t one to feel sorry for herself, but today is turning out to be a bad one so she’s going to stay in this pity party for a while.

 

Eyes heavy she closes them and curls deeper into the fluffy blankets about to fall asleep, Thor’s breathing comforting. It feels like only minutes before someone is shaking her shoulder and bright sunlight fills the room. Groaning she tries to put a pillow over her face but Thor’s strong hand pulls it from her grasp. Cracking an eye open he’s standing in front her, massive arms crossed, blue eyes shining as he looks at her.

 

There’s a moment, just a second that passes between them. Of another time years ago his sweat soaked skin against her own, the feel of his fingers pressing into her ribcage. It’s no secret that Skye used to drown her problems with men, Thor being one of them, and she can feel that long since dormant emotion spark up inside her chest. The pull to turn it all off and forget for a second, to lose herself in a pair of hands, lips, a body tucked inside of her own.

 

Skye hasn’t felt that kind of want in years, but it’s suddenly there pulsing and it’s all she can focus on as she eyes Thor’s muscles. When Quake was a teen and fresh out of the hell Hydra put her through she used to spend many nights in hotel rooms with strangers, anything to make her feel like she wasn’t a terrible monster. But now all these years later Skye isn’t that person, not some damaged sad girl looking for acceptance in all the wrong places.

 

After everything Thor has been through recently she knows he would normally have no objection in burying his own sorrow into her. But the rings on her hand mean something, even if her husband has disrespected their vows in every sense of the word. Skye is pretty sure Thor would shut down her advances if she made them, and the thrill of finding out if she’s right or not has her sitting up slightly and propping all her weight onto her elbows.

 

His blue eyes follow each movement, remembering exactly how Skye looked whenever she wanted him. She hasn’t been with anyone else in almost ten years, the thought always makes her sick. However she just has this need suddenly for a connection, for someone to look at her like she’s a person again and not a basket case. To press their mouth to her skin and ignore the scar on her hip, to treat her as if she didn’t lose both her husband and baby in a matter of months.

 

Thor takes one step closer, she can feel his body heat as he leans down and hovers over her, his overwhelming presence causing her breathing to hitch. They’re so close now she can see every detail of his flawless face, feel his breath against her cheek. His hands are now on either side of her hips, caging her to this mattress, chest brushing against her own. Everything about this is familiar, her body knows what to do what it wants and needs.

 

His blonde hair glimmers in the sunlight, blue eyes sparkle as he glances at her lips. ‘’You’re married now’’. He tells her, voice low and husky. He presses closer though both hands on her thighs, drifting up her ribs. Skye closes her eyes as his mouth inches closer to her own, ‘’he doesn’t want me’’. Fingers dig into her hips applying perfect pressure, Skye inhales deeply and says, ‘’make me feel something, I just need to forget’’.

 

Surprising her because Thor is one of the most moral people she knows besides Cap, he kisses her hard, both hands tangle in her hair as he presses her into the mattress. The weight of another body atop her own makes all the pressure in her chest float away, brain is fuzzy as he kisses her and kisses her, fingers lifting up her shirt and clutching warm skin. Thor’s hair isn’t as soft as it once was, that’s all Skye can think of as she runs her hands through it.

 

Skye loses all sense of time and loss. It’s just hands cupping her breasts, teeth nipping her hipbones, tongue running up her neck and the across the length of her collarbone. Eventually the reality of what she’s doing catches up to her as Thor’s fingers dip below the waistband of her sweatpants, and it just clicks. This is wrong, wrong hands pulling her hair, wrong set of lips on hers, wrong body between her thighs.

 

She tells him to stop and Thor immediately removes himself, they’re both breathing hard and Skye throws herself back into the pillows to pull herself together. Once her heart is beating normally she buries her head in her hands, ignores Thor as he apologizes. The guilt and self-hatred wedges itself into her chest, sharp as she grasps what almost just happened. She’s not Ward, she can’t just be with someone else and not care.

 

Opening her eyes Thor is standing by the bedside table, apologizing again. She’s about to say he’s not the one who should be sorry when Tony walks into the room. Even more repulsed by herself now because this is the bed he shares with Pepper, and who knows what would have happened if she and Thor hadn’t stopped, Skye stands and adjusts her shirt. Stark looks between them suspiciously but doesn’t comment as she practically runs out of the room.

 

Goes into her old bedroom and jumps into the shower. Clicking on the light and flicking on the water, she turns the knob as hot as it will go and strips out of her clothes. Her reflection is wearing a strong frown in the mirror, blonde hair a mess, cheeks flushed not with heat but shame. Wiping away smeared mascara Skye hops into the shower, so hot she curses but doesn’t adjust the temperature.

 

Let’s the scalding water turn her skin red, the steam cloud up the glass, the roaring pressure pounding against her back drown out all noise. Turning her face up towards the spray Skye runs her hands down her lips, her neck, grabs a bar of soap and scrubs at her skin. Like she can wash away the feel of another man’s hands on her, even of that man is not a stranger, even though they’ve been intimate in the past. It’s not the same, she’s not the same person she was back then.

 

Years ago when she and Thor first started sleeping together Skye wasn’t in love with anyone else, she wasn’t married, didn’t have someone to call home. Now the rings on her finger feel like they weigh a hundred pounds, dragging her down into a pit of self-hatred. Skye wants to tell herself that it’s okay, it wasn’t any different from what Ward has been doing with Alison these last six months. If he can find peace in someone else, why can’t she?

 

Why can’t she forget about him for one moment? The hot water continues to sting and Skye’s pep talk to herself doesn’t do a thing. She still feels horrible, like she betrayed her husband on an irreparable level. The water is long cold by the time she gets out, skin wrinkled and pruned. After changing and another round of tears she walks into the kitchen to find Tony waiting for her, no sight of Thor. The guilt hits her again for what could have happened in Stark’s bed, it was way past inappropriate.

 

‘’You alright Cupcake?’’

Skye shakes her head and Tony pulls her in for a hug.

‘’No news on Thanos?’’

Tony strokes her wet hair and tenses, ‘’no’’.

Everyone was effected by Thanos destroying half the universe, but Tony holds all the responsibility for that on his shoulders. Like he was the only one who failed.

No matter how many times Skye and Pepper have told him differently, he doesn’t listen.

‘’I still have my meeting with Rosalind tomorrow’’.

Skye leans back to look up at him, ‘’thought I asked you to cancel that?’’

She told Tony that she’d rather have Ward around even if it hurt, he didn’t like that.

‘’I didn’t listen’’.

‘’Dad’’-

‘’It’s not about Ward so you can calm down your murder eyes’’.

‘’Why are you meeting with her then?’’

‘’They’re interested in making a deal with me, I’m curious and have nothing to do tomorrow afternoon’’.

‘’What kind of deal?’’

He bops her on the nose, ‘’not telling’’.

She narrows her eyes, ‘’you know how I feel being left out of the loop’’.

‘’Oh like how I was when you failed to mention Steve was at your meeting with Price?’’

‘’That was different, I was sparing your feelings’’.

‘’Consider the favor returned my favorite natural disaster’’.

‘’You are so annoying’’.

‘’This is where you get it from’’.

‘’I hate you’’.

Stark smiles and kisses the top of her head, ‘’you love me’’.

Skye of course would never deny it.

‘’You ever think about the horrible life choices you made and hate yourself a little more for them?’’

Tony looks down at her and frowns, ‘’every day’’.

Fondly cupping the side of her face he says quietly, ‘’you get that from me too’’.

Iron Man isn’t the only one who blames himself for Thanos and everything else that went wrong.

 

After being called in for a meeting with the President, a mission that went well but resulted in Skye breaking her wrist for the hundredth time, she sits in her office waiting for Kebo to call. Redoing the dark blue polish on her toes Skye doesn’t look up as Jackson enters the room. Her injured hand rests atop the desk and he lightly traces the outline of her office phone. ‘’Did you need something or are you just going to stand there like an idiot?’’

 

‘’The ATCU found the agent that sold you out to Hydra, Ward brought him in. They’re on the way here because Rosalind doesn’t let him torture people at their building’’. There are multiple things wrong with that sentence but the one Skye finds amusing is someone ’not letting’ Ward do something. It’s strange to hear because as long as she’s known him he’s never had to follow anyone’s orders but his own, and occasionally hers but that’s in a different context.

 

‘’Did Rosalind ask to bring him here or did they just assume I would let Ward in without a problem?’’

At the mention of Grant Jackson gets this annoyed look on his face, it’s ignored.

‘’Boss about Ward’’-

‘’Don’t start’’.

‘’I just don’t understand how you can love him after everything he’s done to you, especially now’’.

Skye told everyone who knew about her and Ward being married to keep it quiet and regrets it now.

‘’It’s really none of your business’’.

Those pretty eyes flash, ‘’bullshit’’.

‘’Jackson’’-

‘’It’s the team’s business when you walk around here barely eating, hardly sleeping, putting yourself in dangerous situations just to try to feel something again’’.

Quake thought she was keeping that secret well but obviously not.

Jackson runs a hand down his face and looks down at her in sympathy, ‘’what happened to you was awful and I can’t pretend to understand what that feels like. But you deserve better than Ward treating you the way he has been’’.

Skye clenches her jaw, stubborn to end, ‘’don’t talk about the situation like you know a damn thing’’.

‘’I know it’s killing you being around him, I know seeing him with someone else is tearing you up inside. Why do you put up with it? Why are you still wearing your wedding ring when he clearly doesn’t feel the same anymore?’’

All great questions, the same ones she asks herself every night and still can only come up with one answer.

She shrugs like it’s the simplest thing in the world, ‘’I love him’’.

‘’Don’t you think you deserve a better love than that?’’

 

Skye chews on that, a hundred moments with Ward passing through her mind. He loved her in way no one else ever had. Grant wasn’t perfect but he was pretty damn close, always protected her, respected and cherished her, listened to everything she had to say, always honored her choices. Saw the trauma she’d endured, the monsters in her head and instead of being afraid, he embraced them, embraced her. She couldn’t find anyone else like him if she tried.

 

But that was then and this is now, when their lives are split apart perhaps beyond repair, when the resentment for his most recent decisions grows by the day. If he were to walk in here right now and drop to his knees tell her he loves her, that he’s sorry, would she forgive him? Would he be ready to forgive her for walking away? Can the beautiful past they have be enough to fix their broken present? Skye runs a hand through her hair, unsure of it all.

 

Looks up to Jackson and sighs, ‘’I know you’re just trying to convince me to abandon Ward because you want to sleep with me’’.

An embarrassed flush spreads up his neck but he doesn’t deny it.

‘’But I can’t just get over a ten year relationship in a year’’.

‘’I’m not asking you to. How about this, if you ever find yourself ready to move on, come and find me?’’

God Lincoln was right, poor fool is in love with her.

Skye is about to tell him that getting involved with her would be the worst mistake of his life, that people she cares about tend to die, when a voice sounds from the doorway.

‘’Am I interrupting something?’’

The two Inhumans spin around to face Caitlin Snow who’s wagging her eyebrows at the pair and making snowflakes on her palm.

Skye stands and makes sure her feet are dry when replying, ‘’no. What’s up?’’

‘’The hot guy with the amazing cheekbones and jawline that was here the other day is back with some dude in handcuffs. Do you know if he’s single by chance? Because’’-

‘’He’s not’’.

Is all Skye replies before walking out, leaving them pouting and whispering amongst themselves.

 

Skye thought seeing Ward would get easier, but it hits her like a punch to the gut still when she spots him standing by one of the interrogation rooms. The events from this morning travel up her throat and all she wants to do for some reason is grab his face and confess it all. Tell him she’s sorry, that she loves him, that maybe if they just sit down and talk it out she could come home. But that feeling dies when he glances at her, the lines of his face hard and unforgiving.

 

Kebo steps out from behind him and waves, Skye shoots him the middle finger for not calling, he gets the message and moves slightly behind Ward. Who’s holding an ATCU agent just like Caitlin said, a young man with dark blonde hair and brown eyes.

 

‘’Next time call first before you just randomly show up’’.

She tells Grant who raises an eyebrow, ‘’maybe you should follow your own advice’’.

‘’Maybe you should choke’’-

‘’Oh god you two are so fun, I missed this’’.

Kebo says, throwing his arms across both their shoulders which they shrug off almost immediately.

‘’You were supposed to call me’’.

Kebo gestures over to Ward with his thumb, ‘’this idiot told me the same bullshit story that he told you’’.

‘’Oh good then we can be mad at him together’’.

‘’I’m trying to straighten him out don’t worry’’.

‘’You know I’m standing right here’’. Ward comments, dragging the suspect into the interrogation room.

Kebo turns back to Skye, ‘’I’m going to ask you to do something and I need you to just do it and not pull any of your usual crap’’.

‘’Squishy’’-

‘’Be patient with that fragile moron okay? He loves you, he’s just a little lost right now’’.

Skye wiggles her bare toes, ‘’and I’m not? I’m just supposed to stand around and watch him be with someone else?’’

‘’Did I say that? No. You do realize why he’s with Alison right? She’s the exact opposite of you in every way’’.

‘’That does not make me feel better’’.

‘’Think of it like some twisted compliment. You ruined him so much that he has to be with someone who’s so unlike you it’s like summer and winter’’.

Skye studies him closely, ‘’are you drunk right now?’’

‘’A tad but that’s not the point. Just cut him some slack alright?’’

She almost punches him.

‘’I’m sorry you want me to cut my husband some slack for dating another woman while we’re still married?’’

‘’What did I say about pulling your usual crap? But basically yes, trust me it’ll pay off in the end’’.

Kebo is always going to be loyal to Ward even when he’s wrong; it’s never been more obvious than it is right now.

‘’I hate both of you’’.

He pats her cheek, ‘’just hang in there you tiny little bird’’.

 

After Ward has set up the interrogation he Skye and Kebo are facing the one-way mirror, watching the agent begin to sweat and ask for water. ‘’I had to tell Alison we slept together a few times to explain why you showed up at my apartment last night, why you act the way you do towards me, so thank you for that’’. Grant says with his arms crossed and Skye brushes against him, using her Quake persona makes all of this easier to deal with.

 

‘’Think it was more than just a few times’’. She replies, looking up at him in the way he used to respond to immediately. But instead of pressing her into a wall and kissing her until she can’t remember either of their names, he just stares down at her expressionless. ‘’Don’t look at me like that’’. With that she heads into the room and the agent’s eyes widen when she walks in. Skye says nothing as she sits on the edge of the table beside him, drums her nails on the steel.

 

‘’Your name is Brain right?’’ He nods and Skye thumbs through the file Ward gave her before tossing it across the room. It’s not important. Before Grant can barge in here like an animal and ruin everything she locks the door, only her code can unlock it which Ward doesn’t know. Brian starts sweating profusely his face turning red but it’s not out of guilt, fear is plain in eyes. Did he really think he could betray her and get away with it?

 

‘’Why did you sell me out to Hydra?’’ Her tone is soft but threatening, she’s really not in the mood for games. ‘’I don’t know what you’re talking about’’. An elbow to the face hardly loosens him up, so Skye asks again. He gives the same answer, the dynamic lasts for about ten minutes before Skye stops playing around and stands. He follows her every movement, blood on his face. ‘’One more time, why did you sell me out?’’

 

Silence. Skye puts her hands on his shoulders giving them a tight squeeze before saying, ‘’this may hurt just a little’’. Her powers sink into his skin instantly, the feel of his heart accelerating in her palms as his agonized screams fill the room. Quake feels absolutely nothing at all, no thrill, no remorse, just that familiar void in her chest that appeared a year ago and throbs every day. She’s staring blankly at the wall not even realizing Ward somehow is inside until he’s pulling her away.

 

One hand on her waist as he braces her against the nearest wall, pinning her to it with his body weight, other hand clutching her wrists. He’s telling her to stop, that if Brian is dead they won’t get any answers. Skye fights his hold and snarls, ‘’you know how I feel about being manhandled’’. A second later the feel of being airborne hits her and she’s suddenly on her back, Ward hovering over her. Legs braced on both sides of her hips.

 

It’s a familiar position but this time he’s not protecting her from bullets or seducing her, so this is not a time where she can appreciate it. Ward tells her to calm down his voice like velvet, face so close to her own that she can smell the mint of his gum, his cologne and a mix of gunpowder. Somehow Grant always manages to smell the same, something she’s always loved. But instead of this being comforting it just makes her sad. Has the resentment and anger finally gotten the best of her?

 

Emotions must flicker across her face because she sees a spark of something in Ward’s eyes, his hold loosens a tad. But it’s gone before she’s able to process it, but it does give her the opportunity she’s been waiting for. Arching her back slightly causing Ward to freeze for a moment, she says, ‘’I know you enjoy this position, but I know which one is your favorite’’. With a twitch of her legs Grant is now on his back, her legs sprawled on either side of his hips.

 

Skye takes his wrists and pins them above his head, ‘’this is better’’. And there’s the reaction she’s looking for even if he tries to hide it. Breathing grows just a little heavier, eyes darken as he leans up to her face a tad. He may not even be aware he’s doing it but Skye is, her fingers twitching against his skin. It’s in this moment she realizes she can’t touch him the way she used to. No more absentmindedly running a hand down his back, through his hair, holding his hand just because.

 

Someone else does that now. Another set of hands all over his body, offering comfort in a way that Skye can’t anymore. ‘’Off’’. Ward tells her his voice gruff, Skye obliges a second later and looks over to Brian. Who is watching them with curious eyes but keeps his mouth shut, Ward glances between them. ‘’Don’t kill him’’. ‘’Don’t tell me what to do’’. If they were still together he wouldn’t particularly care if Brian died, but since he’s an ATCU agent and important to Rosalind and possibly Alison, Ward won’t let it pass.

 

‘’Last time Brian, why did you tell Hydra where I was?’’ He eventually breaks after Ward takes a turn, turns out Hydra threw Brian a lot of money and he didn’t refuse. Simple, easy, people will do just about anything for money. Skye checks his bank account to find a hundred thousand dollars recently deposited, so he’s not lying. Annoyed because Hydra once had a hit on her for millions of dollars, Skye pockets the phone and turns to Ward.

 

‘’Sorry’’. He hardly has time to blink before she lifts her hand and he’s thrown out of the room, the door closes hard along with him. She only has about a second before he barrels back in here so Quake moves over to Brian and puts her hands on his neck, ‘’you picked the wrong side buddy’’. With a flick of her wrist he slumps lifeless in the chair and Skye walks out, comes face to face with a pissed off Ward. Alison is right next to him and all that anger just flows out of Skye.

 

‘’You weren’t supposed to kill him’’. She says.

‘’Oops’’.

There’s new dislike for her in Alison’s eyes and it’s easy to guess why.

Skye gestures between herself and Ward, ‘’is this going to be awkward for you now that he told you we fucked a few times? Not that I care about your feelings’’.

Kebo’s booming laughter sounds behind Ward, ‘’oh god I missed you Quake, so much’’.

Alison sputters her eyes wide, perfect eye makeup smudged in the corners.

Skye doesn’t have to be looking at Grant to know he’s pinching the bridge of his nose at the moment.

‘’You can’t just walk around hurting people!’’ Alison says after recovering.

‘’Who’s going to stop me? You?’’

Ali looks over to Ward and Skye chuckles, ‘’he isn’t strong enough to stop me’’.

Skye takes a step to the other woman, reminded of what said to her yesterday in front of everyone, Skye doesn’t hold back.

‘’By the way if you ever talk to me again like you did yesterday, what you just saw me do to Brian will be nothing compared to what I’ll do to you’’.

There she goes again looking to Ward to keep her safe and it makes Skye’s blood boil further.

‘’Your little boyfriend over there won’t be able to protect you, he doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to keeping the woman he cares about safe’’.

Skye can practically feel Ward stiffen, it was a low blow.

Alison pales slightly and suspicion lights her eyes, ‘’what does that mean?’’

Quake begins walking away, ‘’oh you’ll find out soon enough I’m sure’’.

 

She’s halfway to the front door grabbing a pair of shoes, about to head to the bar for a much needed drink, when the back of her neck prickles and she feels Ward’s approach. ‘’Don’t you have better things to do than chase after the wife you can’t get rid of?’’ The hand on her arm is soft though and when she turns to face him there’s no anger to greet her, just sorrow.

 

‘’Is that honestly what you think of me? That I failed you, that I want to live without you?’’

There he goes piercing her heart with another arrow on top of all the others.

‘’I don’t know what to think about you anymore’’.

His expression seems almost frightened like he’s about to lose her all over again.

‘’This hot and cold vibe you’ve been giving off lately was appealing ten years ago Grant, but I’m not twenty five anymore. I’m not the same broken girl asking you to glue me back together’’.

‘’I never’’-

‘’You’re sorry I get it, you didn’t expect me to find out about Alison or the ATCU. But I did, and now you’re asking me to play along with whatever you’re doing or else you walk. How is that fair?’’

‘’You agreed to it three days ago’’.

She looks up at the man who she gave every single part of herself to, ‘’do you have any idea how hard this is for me? If Alison makes you happy great, but what about me? How am I supposed to do this?’’

Ward looks around the empty hall and swiftly pulls her into the nearest room which happens to be a small janitor’s closet.

‘’Why are we in here?’’

He looks so sad in between the bottles of bleach and disinfectant spray, doesn’t even seem to care that this small space reeks of dirty mop water.

‘’Do you think I know how to handle this? I’m trying my best’’.

‘’Your best is shit’’.

 

They’re so close, shoes overlapping one another, his chest pressing against hers. She gets distracted by that for a second. How many times has she slept on this chest, laid her ear over his heart just to hear it? It seems like too many to count, so much thick history between them it would take years to wade through. Skye and Ward have been tangled together for so long that when they separated it had a disastrous effect on both their hearts and souls, neither are sure of just how much damage there is.

 

Skye aches to wrap herself around him, touch him the way she used to. But instead of warmth flooding those whiskey eyes there’s nothing, like staring into an empty abyss. This version of her husband is like he was when they first met, and Skye is not happy to see him again. Haven’t they been through too much for him to act this way? Even if it is a front, shouldn’t he try at least try to appear he cares? That she’s not this inconvenience he can’t toss aside in this new life he’s trying to build?

 

He’s about to say something when the need to know if he still feels something, anything, digs into her brain and won’t let up.

 

‘’I tried to sleep with Thor today. Do you even care?’’

 

Guilt slams into her the second his face falls and drains of color, he sucks in a sharp breath and lets the hurt over her words pass over his face. Tears fill her eyes when Ward puts a hand to his mouth and turns away from her. That hot resentment tells her he deserves this that it’s really not that different from what he probably does with Alison on a regular basis. But the part that loves him, the one that regrets leaving him and just wants to see him happy again, wishes she could take it back.

 

After a few minutes he turns to face her, his eyes oh so sad and Skye wants to hold him, apologize. ‘’God how the hell did we get here Skye?’’ He lets out a humorless laugh and turns away from her again, bracing his hands against one of the shelves. Skye used to be able to read his mind but now she can only guess, Ward was never an overwhelmingly jealous person, but his wife trying to sleep with another man has to rattle him a little bit.

 

‘’Tell me you don’t love me’’. His head snaps up at that, eyes red, he’s breathing hard.

‘’What?’’

‘’Tell me that you don’t love me and I’ll let you go’’.

 

Every single word guts her, Skye wraps an arm around her torso like that’s the only thing keeping her together. Ward has always been a mountain, never moving, strong enough to withstand everything. But he’s crumbling right before her very eyes. He takes a step to her and puts a hand to her face, the contact sends a thrill throughout her body, goosebumps irrupt along her arms. She’s never seen Grant so torn emotionally before, like he wants to both scream and hold her at the same time.

 

‘’Never ask me to do that’’. He says, tone serious leaving no room for arguments, it rattles her bones.

 

And then Grant, her Grant finally shows his face, leaves the shadows and comes back to her side. She watches the change happen, the mask fall away as his eyes flood with emotion and Skye starts crying at the sight of it. There you are, she thinks, I’ve missed you, I’m so sorry. Ward cups her face with both hands, wipes away her tears and Skye nearly sags against him. All that fire and anger inside stops at the look on his face, the one she hasn’t seen in so long.

 

Skye hangs onto his biceps like if she doesn’t he’ll fly away, never to be seen again. Hands against her cheeks, thumbs brushing her hair back Ward says, ‘’I love you’’. His tone so strong, so powerful, not leaving room for one small inch of doubt. A sigh leaves her like she’d been holding her breath for this entire year since the last time he said it, and now she can finally filter air through her lungs properly again.

 

Skye moves her hands to his face, clutching it tightly, she’s hardly able to make out any of his features through the thick haze of tears. In this moment Skye has full view of what she really wants, what she needs, and it’s not pushing him away anymore. She has an epiphany right there in his arms, in the grand scheme of things isn’t their love worth it all? Can it not survive this road block just like all the others? A year ago Skye didn’t think so.

 

A year ago she could hardly sleep or move or eat without the loss of her son ripping her to pieces. It’s still that way but it’s easier to deal with, time has healed her and she didn’t even realize how much until now. That a part of the healing process should have been spent with Ward, and while she regrets leaving him, at the time it’s the only way she could survive. If anyone can understand that it’s Grant, he’s had more than his fair share of doing questionable things to stay alive.

 

She tells him this and then she’s not the only one who’s crying.

 

‘’So be with me, love me’’.

 

Ward appears to be burning in front of her, that’s the only way she can describe it. His hands are shaking against her cheeks, the love she thought was dead flows through his eyes and it nearly brings her to her knees. They’re a trembling sobbing mess only staying afloat by anchoring themselves to one another lest they drown. Skye has never felt this desperate to keep him close before, maybe it’s the grief she doesn’t want to wear alone anymore, maybe it’s the fact that he admitted he still loves her.

 

Whatever reason Skye finds herself wrapping her arms around his neck and he doesn’t protest, instead pulls her closer and buries his face in her hair. ‘’Why are you doing this to me?’’ He asks, the anguish palpable in his voice. He gives her no time to question this because he’s facing her again, tears rolling down his handsome face.

 

‘’I love you’’. He says again, stepping back and inhaling deeply.

‘’I am always going to love you, but I’m not ready to forgive you yet. And I can’t be with you until I do’’.

Her famous attitude comes out as her heart tries to protect itself from another break, ‘’which means when you’re done with this current relationship, do you really think I’ll take you back after that?’’

‘’I don’t know what to think Skye’’.

She wipes her eyes with both hands, ‘that’s reassuring’’.

If he planned on saying more it’s cut off by his phone ringing, shattering the moment completely.

Glancing down he looks at the door then back to her face, that blank mask covering every emotion he just went through.

‘’I have to go’’.

Ward’’-

He cuts her off with a kiss to the forehead, and then he’s out the door, gone again.

Leaving Skye trying to put herself back together beside a broom and cleaning supplies.

 

Hours later she’s in her own home, every room empty, quiet and dark. Bruce left an hour ago with Tony and Nat is on her way over. Skye lays in the middle of her bedroom floor a fresh bottle of wine in hand that she has every intention of finishing. Minutes pass before the front door unlocks and near silent footsteps travel up the stairs, eventually reaching the bedroom. Nat says nothing as she lays next to Skye and takes a sip from the bottle.

 

‘’You were right you know’’.

Romanoff runs her hands through Skye’s hair, ‘’about what?’’

‘’Love is for children’’.

 

Skye sobs into Natasha’s shoulder and wonders just how many times she and Ward are going to rip each other to shreds.

 

Chapter Text

 

Ward watches the sun begin to set, red and orange melting into the soft blue sky. The ocean is calm this evening, the tide won’t come in for a little while. For now the waves lap at his feet, sand between his toes. The beach is almost empty it’s still not warm enough for summer vacation, no families in mini vans with ice chests and sunscreen walk along the shore yet. Grant would be jealous of them, but he can’t afford to think about what he doesn’t have right now.

 

Beaches for Ward used to mean fond memories, he could look out at the ocean, think of sand between toes and sunburned noses and smile. But now tan-lines and the sound of ocean waves reminds Ward of his honeymoon, something that just brings pain these days. He doesn’t need any more reminders of his slow failing marriage but the universe won’t let up, the dull throbbing of his knuckles if he moves his hand the wrong way from an all-day appointment with a punching bag a few weeks ago are physical proof enough.

 

They were split open and raw, despite being covered in antiseptic cream and bandages. All they do is bring back a conversation he had with Skye weeks ago, where the mask he’s been wearing for the past six months fell away and he was just Ward again. Her husband that loves her more than he’s ever loved anything, Skye made him realize once again that she’s everything, the person he’s always trying to get back to.

 

‘’I tried to sleep with Thor today. Do you even care?’’

 

Her confession gutted him to the point of actual physical pain, stomach twisted as if he would be sick in that janitor’s closet. A small part of him that always resembles John Garrett, said he deserved it. That he’s hurting Skye and she’s allowed to react however she wants to the Alison situation. He deserves that act of revenge, her anger, all of it. But a much larger part attempted to convince Grant that Skye was in the wrong, that they both are.

 

This predicament he’s put them in isn’t getting any easier, and it’s only a matter of time before Skye snaps, and god help them when she does. The reason his knuckles were bloody and bruised is what happened in result of that conversation, he got back to his apartment later that night and released every emotion out onto the bag. It calmed him down but it still stings, imaging someone else’s hands on his wife, lips touching the same ones he has for so many years.

 

But for the first time he can see exactly how Skye feels whenever she looks at Alison; it’s not pleasant.

 

 

‘’Tell me that you don’t love me and I’ll let you go’’.

 

Grant has never experienced a heart break like that. Not when she left last year, not when Shield forced her to forget him all that time ago, not when Chelsea brain washed him into almost killing her. The way Skye looked at him after saying that like she was clutching onto his dead body never wanting to let go but knowing she had to, it’ll stay with him. Drift into day dreams, hang on whenever he tries to sleep. In the ten years he’s known Skye, all the tragedies they’ve been through, he’s only seen her look that way one other time. But he won’t think of that right now.

 

It’s why he told her he loves her. Because it seemed like Skye would die then and there if he didn’t, and she needed to know the truth for once. That he’s always been in love with her and a year apart couldn’t change that, nothing ever will. He just can’t stop digging himself deeper in this hole, and Skye seems to be standing above him shovel in hand, burying him deeper every time they’re around one another. They’ve never been this destructive with each other, Ward can’t help but wonder when all of this is over if there will be anything left of their relationship.

 

Or if this coupled with losing their son has broken them beyond repair and there will be nothing left to find. A world without Skye is not one he ever wants to live in, but that just might be the price, karma coming after him one final time for all the things he’s done. His long time therapist Paul would disagree, would say that no cosmic being is out to ruin his happiness just because of the awful things he did while under the influence of John Garrett.

 

Grant can’t help but feel that’s exactly what’s happening even if logic rules otherwise.

 

He’s putting sunglasses back on when he feels someone approach from behind, the sand bending and sinking below the weight of bare feet. Grant doesn’t turn because he already knows who it is, the back of his neck prickles in awareness as a body sits down beside him. Skye says nothing for a few minutes just grabs piles of sand and lets it run through her fingers, staring out to the sunset just like he is. It’s been a few weeks since they’ve seen one another.

 

Each time the ATCU has a mission with Shield she either sends in Team Bus or her Inhumans, Skye claims each time her absence is noticed that she’s just too busy. But Ward knows the truth, she’s avoiding him and he can’t say he blames her. That day in the janitor’s closet he was so ready to drop to his knees and apologize for everything, beg her to take him back, to forgive him, that the pain of her leaving would pass eventually.

 

He just wanted Skye back in his arms, to forget all the heartache this past year has given him. But if he’s learned anything over the years masking your pain with sex or just another person in general isn’t healthy, he can’t rely on Skye to save him. He may have in the beginning of their relationship but he knows better, you have to save yourself. The best thing a person can do for you is love you and stand with you no matter what, and Skye did that.

 

‘’I doubt our targets are in the middle of the ocean’’. Skye says eventually, not looking at him. ‘’They come this way on their evening jogs, we’ll grab them’’. Sitting here with her watching the sunset is a painful reminder of many evenings spent just like this on their honeymoon, it’s seems like that happened in another life. Like it all some parallel universe and this is reality, harsh and painful, unforgiving. They had a moment of happiness and just like that it was gone, never to return.

 

Skye must be thinking the same thing because her body is tense, strained next to his own. ‘’You seem sad’’. She whispers, scooting back a little so the salt water doesn’t ruin her black jeans. Grant can’t afford to break and let his guard down with her, but Skye is the only one who’s ever managed to bring out sides of him he’s never shown to anyone else. That hasn’t changed and probably never will. Even if they never find each other again, he’ll always be grateful for her and the love she’s given him.

 

The fact that she’s still able to care about his emotions after what he’s put her through these past weeks just proves how good she is, how he sees a piece of her that no one else ever has. The world has always been wrong about Skye, she’s not the psychotic Inhuman Tony Stark took in or a dangerous individual who goes around mindlessly killing anyone who looks at her the wrong way. There are so many layers to Skye, there was a time Ward wanted to learn each and every one, it would take more than ten years to do so.

 

But that opportunity seems to be shrinking with each passing day, no matter how long he wants to hang on, it may just be almost gone. That’s what keeps him up at night, even a year later living without her is something he can’t get used to. Maybe he never will and he’ll just go about the rest of his life wandering aimlessly, hating himself for wasting every chance Skye held out to him, letting the bitterness of watching her walk away consume him until it was too late.

 

Ward takes a deep breath, ‘’how did you forgive me for the times I left you?’’

Skye turns her head slightly and rests her chin on her shoulder, knees resting against her chest.

‘’Depends who’s asking, am I talking to my husband or an ATCU agent?’’

The lines have blurred between the two so much and that was never supposed to happen, so what could one more honest conversation hurt?

Grant drops the persona he’s been wearing and relaxes, Skye parts her lips and inhales a shaky breath as he does so.

She recovers quickly and replies, ‘’the first time was easy because we both agreed that you leaving was what we both needed. But the second time I was so angry with you I thought it’d take me years to get over. But ultimately I forgave you because I love you, and I’d rather be pissed off and still have you in my life, rather than nothing at all’’.

 

Ward knows she didn’t say that to try and convince him that he should do the same, their reasons for leaving each other were very different. Something even more tragic played a part in Skye abandoning their life together, something neither of them are close to letting go of. But there are more factors at play here that she isn’t aware of, and he can’t just take her back with open arms yet. The sun frames her face just right, a cool breeze ruffles her hair and Ward swears in this moment he’s never seen anyone so beautiful.

 

‘’I didn’t say that so you’’-

‘’I know’’.

She gives him a smirk, ‘’always reading my mind with your Jedi powers’’.

He just bites back a laugh and shakes his head, stares out at ocean again.

‘’So what does your girlfriend think about you being here with me?’’

‘’Alison knows I’m here on business’’.

He doesn’t have to be looking at Skye to know she’s rolling her eyes.

‘’That conversation wasn’t exactly business professional. Come on Ward do you really think you’re going to get the best of both worlds here? Your wife and a girlfriend on the side?’’

‘’Of course not’’.

‘’So what are you playing at? You can’t tell me you love me and then go home to someone else. I deserve more respect than that. I understand the circumstances are delicate in our situation but still, I would never do this to you’’.

He runs both hands through his hair, ‘’you’re right’’.

‘’You admitting what I already know doesn’t do anything for me. I need something Grant I need to know that I’m not waiting for someone who’s never coming back, that I’m not wasting my time here’’.

He’s about to respond when all the softness melts from her face and anger shines through, an emotion he’s very familiar with when it comes to her.

‘’So you either man up and get your shit together and start working on whatever you need to in order to get your wife back, or just divorce me. Decide before I make the decision for you’’.

Ward glances over to her sharply, she’s dead serious.

 

That’s when their targets decide to make an appearance. Two bodies head towards them in a slow jog, a man and woman. They’re married and have been lurking around the ATCU recently, not dangerous per say but they are Hydra, so Skye won’t be taking any prisoners when she interrogates them later.  She’s never cut anyone slack who’s ever associated with that organization, except for one. Skye stops leaning into him, something she didn’t catch but he did, and sits a little straighter.

 

The couple is just passing by them when Skye whistles and calls out, ‘’hey beautiful’’.

The man stops first and asks jokingly, ‘’were you talking to me or her?’’

Skye stands and dusts the sand off her jeans, ‘’her obviously’’.

It’s over pretty quickly after that.

 

Ward walks into the Playground towing Mrs. Adams along while Skye has the husband, who hasn’t stopped cursing up a storm since they threw him into Skye’s SUV. May, Coulson, Lincoln and Jackson are waiting by the interrogation rooms, Alison steps out from behind Phil and gives him a warm smile. Skye pretends not to notice while Grant returns the gesture. Samantha Adams is placed in one room while Joseph is in another, both hand cuffed and given a glass of water.

 

Skye is observing Samantha in front of the one-way mirror, file in hand, when Alison approaches her.

‘’Two months ago I admired you so much, in high school I used to have posters of you on my wall. The infamous Quake, so strong, nothing could ever break her’’.

‘’Creepy’’.  Is all Skye responds, not looking up from the file.

‘’But you’re so different from what I imagined’’.

‘’Yeah well never meet your idols sweetheart, they only disappoint’’.

‘’That’s obvious, all my respect for you is long gone’’.

Skye grins and tosses the file onto the nearest table, turns so her back in against the door as she pushes it open with her foot, ‘’so the Alison Price hates me. Oh how will I ever sleep at night now?’’

The door is closed and everyone can hear Skye still chuckling.

 

They all watch from behind the glass as Skye takes a seat across from Samantha and puts her feet up on the table, ‘’how long have you been married?’’

Quake eyes the diamond ring on the other woman’s finger, giant and glittering madly underneath the fluorescent lights.

‘’Why am I here? Let us go you psychotic freak!’’

Skye keeps her composure, all ice and stone.

‘’It would be easier if you just cooperated Mrs.  Adams, you know exactly why we arrested you, you know exactly who Shield’s enemy is’’.

The woman pales and looks hastily around the room, ‘’I don’t know what you’re talking about’’.

‘’Yes you do’’.

 

It takes another thirty minutes but she cracks, they always do. Samantha spills everything, that Kimberly Santos wants Skye dead and now that the Inhuman is working with the ATCU they all have targets on their backs. She also claims that Joseph is the one who got them into this mess, that a man in a suit showed up one day and promised to pay off all their debts if they helped his organization with a few things. Samantha didn’t want to do it but Joseph didn’t give her a choice.

 

When Skye questions why she didn’t just leave him Samantha replies that she had nowhere else to go, that her husband controls all their finances and she had nothing of her own. She breaks down at this and confesses that Joseph isn’t a faithful partner either, that she just found out he’s had a mistress for the past year. Ward can see the second Skye decides to make this personal, she gets up from the chair, opens the door and tells Lincoln to grab a box of tissues.

 

Grant tries to stop her but Skye isn’t listening, barges into Joseph’s room where May has been questioning him and demands the agent to leave them alone. Once that happens Skye locks the door so no one can get in, and this time Tony Stark isn’t answering his phone to let Ward inside this time, so he just has to watch as Skye walks behind Joseph with her arms crossed and he begins to sweat. Alison stands next to Ward and asks why Quake looks so upset, but neither he nor Coulson responds.

 

‘’Do you love your wife Joseph?’’

He glances at her in outrage, ‘’I don’t see how that’s any of your business’’.

‘’Just answer the question’’.

‘’Now hold on a minute’’-

His words are cut off by Skye slamming his face into the table.

After wiping blood from his mouth he finally replies, ‘’yes I do’’.

Quake scoffs, ‘’bullshit’’.

‘’I’m sorry?’’

‘’You don’t love her. Because if you did you would never hold everything she owns hostage in order to control her, to make sure she never left you’’.

‘’I don’t see what my relationship with my wife has anything to do with Hydra’’.

Skye lands a punch to his jaw, probably imaging it’s Ward in that chair and says, ‘’call it curiosity now what kind of man goes out and gets a girlfriend while his wife is waiting at home?’’

Grant swallows and shifts his weight from the left leg to the right, knowing where this is going.

‘’You don’t know the whole story, I love Samantha okay? I swear I do it just wasn’t enough’’.

Skye leans over his shoulder and places both hands on the table, ‘’you mean she wasn’t enough’’.

‘’Maybe, I don’t know. It just happened. Sam is the love of my life, I never wanted to hurt her’’.

Skye covers his hand with her own, the Playground starts to shake and Joseph lets out one high pitched scream after another after another.

Once he recovers Skye keeps at it while glancing towards the glass.

She’s about to make this entire interrogation about her relationship with Ward, and he doesn’t have to reprimand her for it, she knows what a rookie move it is.

‘’She can’t be the love of your life, because if she was you would have never gone after another woman, you wouldn’t dare. How in the hell can you tell your wife you love her while you’ve been kissing someone else? How can you even look her in the eye? What the hell is wrong with you?’’

Joseph swallows loudly as tears fall down his face, ‘’what do you want me to say?’’

Skye throws up her hands and starts pacing again.

‘’I want you to tell me it was a mistake! That you had a weak moment and you regret even looking at this other woman, that you were looking for someone to make you feel alive again for five seconds! Anything to make me think you aren’t a spineless coward who doesn’t deserve your wife leaving and never speaking to you again’’.

 

On the outside Grant appears calm and collected, relaxed even as he stands arms crossed, expression blank. But on the inside guilt is cutting into him like there’s a knife in his gut, Skye’s pain floods his heart as she grows even more emotional.

 

‘’I want you to tell me that the woman in the other room isn’t in love with false promises and half-truths that you’re so good at telling. Because otherwise you should let her go, she deserves far better than a piece of shit like you’’.

Joseph lets out a panicked laugh trying to appear indifferent, ‘’are you going to kill me if I don’t?’’

‘’I might’’.

 

Skye comes out a moment later and tells May to keep laying into him, Quake passes Ward and he lightly grabs her arm. She spins around her lips twisted into a frown, pain her eyes, ‘’you don’t want to talk to me right now’’. Before he can ask if she’s alright she’s yanking away from him and heading into the kitchen. Comes back out with two beers and locks herself inside Samantha’s room again, leaving everyone holding their breath, knowing all they can do is watch and wait.

 

Quake opens a beer and hands it to Samantha after removing the hand cuffs.

‘’Shield lets prisoners drink now?’’

Skye sits on the table next to her, ‘’I’ll allow it this once’’.

It’s clear that Skye doesn’t see Samantha as a threat, just a woman who was treated poorly by her husband and got wrapped up in a bad situation.

Sam puts her brown hair up in a bun and takes off her wedding ring, ‘’I love him’’.

‘’I know you do’’.

‘’But he’s so different from when we first met, god I don’t know how we ended up here’’.

Both Skye and Ward can relate this, she follows Grant’s train of thought and glances at him where he stands on the other side of the glass.

A few minutes of silence passes before Skye speaks up, taking them all by surprise.

‘’I’ve known my husband for ten years and we separated last year’’.

‘’I didn’t know you were married’’.

‘’Most people don’t. I don’t exactly like to advertise it, Quake having a husband could mean someone views that as a weakness, I can’t afford to have those’’.

‘’Why are you telling me this?’’

Skye acts like Samantha isn’t even in the room, her gaze far away.

‘’I left him and we hadn’t spoken in a year, a few weeks ago he shows up out of the blue with a new job and this new life like what we had together never even mattered. I tried to understand but it turns out he’s dating some eighteen year old who probably doesn’t even know how to shoot a gun or defend herself. She’s the exact opposite of me in every single way imaginable, and maybe he wants that you know? Maybe I ruined his life for ten years and this is how he’s recovering’’.

 

Grant thought he kind of cleared the air in that janitor’s closet, but perhaps he just made it worse.

 

‘’And I keep hoping that one day I’ll wake up and he’ll be asleep next to me like none of this ever happened, that he doesn’t hate me for leaving him. He told me he still loved me not too long ago and I fell for it, thought he was making his way back to me. But he didn’t, he’s still with her and I’m alone. Now I can’t stop thinking that I’m better off alone, he’s better far away from me where I can’t hurt him anymore. Maybe I’m the toxic person in his life, wouldn’t be the first time’’.

 

Ward is struggling to keep his emotions in check, every cell in his body is screaming to walk in there and tell Skye she’s wrong, she’s been the most positive influence in his life, she brought light and love to him for the first time. She was the first one to ever love him so completely, to accept all of his ghosts and scars, she’ll be the only one he dreams about every night. But that’s not what she needs right now, right now Skye needs to vent to this stranger and have a drink. He doesn’t interrupt.

 

‘’He’s the love of my life, I’d go back to him in a second if I could. Look Sam my point is that Joseph is a shitty person and you deserve so much better, you deserve a happier life’’. The door unlocks and stays open as Skye tells her, ‘’so go out and find it’’. Coulson and Alison spring to life and try to stop a confused Samantha as she stands, but Skye just takes her by the arm and starts leading her towards the front door. Not making eye contact with Grant.

 

Right before Sam steps out the door after giving Skye a hug who was stiff and awkward throughout the entire exchange, turns back to the Director of Shield and gives her a sympathetic smile, ‘’hey Skye?’’

‘’Yeah?’’

‘’I hope your husband comes back to you’’.

Skye twirls her wedding and engagement rings, ‘’yeah me too’’.

‘’And he’s a stupid son of a bitch if he doesn’t’’.

Quake laughs, ‘’I couldn’t agree more’’.

‘’Thank you’’.

‘’Don’t make me regret it’’.

‘’I promise you won’t’’.

 

With that Samantha is escorted out of the Playground and Skye watches her go, shoulders tense and eyes sad.

 

Grant tries to talk to her alone but Skye refuses, just ignores everyone’s surprised expressions and locks herself in her office, Elena and Caitlin Snow trailing after her. Ward is pulling out his phone when he feels eyes on him, looking up expecting it to be Alison, but it’s Jackson. An Inhuman Ward has never gotten along with because he’s been in love with Skye for years now. Judging by his facial expression and body language that hasn’t changed, and he’s clearly pissed off at Ward.

 

Not wanting Alison to hear the conversation that he suspects is about to take place Grant walks into the kitchen, Jackson as expected follows. Mack is sitting at the table eating a sandwich and nods to the former Specialist, doesn’t pay any mind to the Inhuman currently giving Ward a nasty glare.

 

‘’Whatever you want to say to me’’-

‘’You’re a real asshole Ward, you know that?’’

‘’I’m aware’’.

‘’You walk around here as if you couldn’t give a shit about your wife’’.

‘’It’s a bad idea to talk to me about things you don’t have all the information to kid’’.

Jackson’s face scrunches up at the patronizing nickname, ‘’you’re killing her. Do you even care?’’

Ward doesn’t let anything pass across his face, his body is relaxed, not showing any weakness.

But yes he does care, more than anyone here realizes.

‘’Skye still loves you and frankly I can’t figure out why after everything you’ve put her through. She’s been a mess for an entire year and it’s only gotten worse since you showed up’’.

‘’It’s none of your business’’-

‘’Did you forget I was around when what was it, the second time you left her? You destroy Skye time and time again and for some reason she keeps coming back. Why is that?’’

Mack gets up and stands next to Ward, ‘’come on man back off, do you know what Quake would do if she heard this conversation? Shut up before he kicks your ass or she does’’.

Jackson crosses his arms, ‘’I’m trying to protect the woman that I love’’-

‘’No you’re just trying to sleep with her’’. Ward corrects, ‘’you don’t really care about her, you would never commit to Skye for a long period of time’’.

‘’You don’t know anything about my feelings for Skye’’.

Grant’s job has always been reading people, and he’s been around Jackson for a long time.

‘’You don’t deserve her Ward’’.

‘’And you do? Skye doesn’t need you to protect her by the way’’.

‘’Someone should, from you’’.

Before Grant can comment Simmons appears in the doorway and offers Grant a small smile before turning to Jackson, ‘’Lincoln is asking for you’’.

With a final hate-filled glare at Ward, Jackson leaves.

‘’I never liked that guy’’. Is all Mack says before exiting as well, leaving Jemma and Grant alone.

‘’You shouldn’t listen to him Ward’’.

‘’Wasn’t planning on it’’.

‘’How are you? It’s been a while since we’ve seen you around’’.

Grant shrugs, ‘’I’m fine, always am’’.

She lets out a small laugh, ‘’yes I suppose that’s true. For what it’s worth I hope that Skye comes back to you’’.

He lets the shock cross his face and she winks, ‘’what? You thought I’d be on her side of things?’’

‘’There aren’t sides, but yes, I thought you’d agree with her’’.

‘’If soulmates really do exist, I think you found yours. And I don’t know all the details but Alison Price couldn’t possibly compare to that’’.

Ward just nods and squeezes her shoulder as he leaves, ‘’thanks Simmons’’.

‘’Of course. Oh stop the lab and see Fitz on your way out? He asked about you’’.

‘’Will do’’.

 

The next time he sees Skye is three days later. He gets a text from Clint Barton to come to Stark Tower sooner rather than later. Kebo is already asleep for the night and Ward is all caught up on paperwork, so he arrives in New York a couple hours later and walks through the elevator of Stark Tower. Clint is the first to greet him with a pat on the back and a smile, Ward hasn’t seen him in months. Skye is sitting on the kitchen counter legs crossed, Tony at her side a frown on his face, both have phones in their hands.

 

‘’Oh my god he’s like Candyman’’. Stark says and Skye rolls her eyes, they must have been discussing him.

‘’How the hell did you get in here?’’

Ward nods to Clint and both Tony and Skye type something on their phones.

Barton looks annoyed, ‘’are you two texting?’’

It’s Tony who answers, ‘’it’s a group chat and you’re not in it because you’ve now been shunned’’.

Stark glares at Grant next, ‘’and you, you have a lot of nerve showing your face here’’.

Ward is not intimated, never has been.

‘’Tony I came here to talk to my wife, not to fight with you’’.

‘’Oh she’s your wife now? Must have missed that part when I heard you had a girlfriend’’.

Iron Man then spends ten minutes calling Ward every foul name under the sun, how he’s the worst person and Skye should have divorced him years ago.

 

Skye heads over to one of the windows and looks out to the bright city, the moon shining high in the clouds. Barton has dragged Tony down to his lab to give the couple some privacy. Ward swipes a bottle of whiskey before joining her, sees her glance at it from the corner of her eye as he stands beside her. New York has always been beautiful especially after the sun sets, he can admire it now.

 

He holds out the bottle while turning to face her, ‘’so I was thinking you and me, wrong foot. Can I buy you a drink?’’

She clenches her jaw at the words, remembering the same thing he is no doubt. That day nearly ten years ago when he said this exact thing, when they stopped being enemies and started becoming friends.

Skye is stiff as she pulls the bottle from his grasp and takes a huge sip.

‘’You can’t keep showing up uninvited Grant, it’s not fair’’.

He sighs, ‘’I know’’.

‘’Look I miss you, I’ve missed you every single day since I left. But things are different now’’.

She takes a deep breath and the feeling of dread rips through his stomach.

‘’I love you, but if you don’t reach a decision even after whatever you’re doing with the ATCU is over, I don’t want to see you anymore. After these missions and Shield’s agreement with your organization ends, that’s it. I want to be your wife, your family again, or nothing at all’’.

 

It feels like he’s free falling, even though he suspected she’d give him an ultimatum like this it doesn’t make it hurt any less. Ward didn’t think they would ever end, but that’s exactly what’s been happening this entire year. Skye has been slowly slipping through his fingers, and he pushed her away altogether after Alison, his association with the ATCU.

 

‘’I don’t want to lose you’’. He manages to choke out, feels like he’s being set on fire and drowning all at once.

Skye gives him a sad smile and pats his shoulder as she walks away, ‘’I think you already have’’.

 

Then she’s gone and he’s left staring out into the city. Alone.

 

He may always be alone now.

Chapter Text

 

Skye once had a dream that the house she and Ward shared caught fire in the middle of the night. Everything went up in flames, their bed, all their pictures, the living room and kitchen; it all just vanished in a cloud of smoke and ash. They made it out alive and in one piece but all physical proof of their life together was gone like it never happened at all. When she woke up covered in sweat reaching for Grant, he soothed her worries and she never thought about it again.

 

Until today. The image of her home burning to the ground is in the forefront of her mind as is the last conversation she and Ward had.

 

Skye can’t honestly say she’s done with him completely, that she wants a clean break and to never hear from him again. But if that’s what she has to do to protect her heart if all he’s going to do is keep on scarring it, then that’s the choice she’ll have to make. She called Tony yesterday and asked him to draw up divorce papers because Skye wasn’t stable enough to do it herself, she spent four hours crying and wrestling with that decision before reaching out to Tony.

 

It feels wrong like she’s ripping out a part of herself and throwing it into the ocean, watching as it sinks to the bottom and disappears forever. But if this is the path Ward is going to continue to go down Skye can’t follow, she can’t sit here and put his feelings first just because she feels guilty for leaving him. It’s not fair and he never should have taken advantage of her emotions in order to get what he wants. The Ward she knew would have never done this, the Ward she knew wouldn’t be hurting her like this.

 

Maybe he really is different and her husband is gone for good, maybe despite what he claims, she really did ruin him. Maybe nothing can fix what’s broken between them, maybe they just survived something so horrific but it turned them into different people, people that can’t be together.  The idea of living the rest of her life without Grant puts her in state of panic and sadness so intense she had an anxiety attack after talking to Tony and it took half an hour to calm down.

 

That being said even after what she told him the other night, if Ward were to walk through that door right now and tell her he made a mistake, that he ended things with Alison, the ATCU and he wanted her back, Skye can’t confidently say she’d kick him out. He would have to grovel and they’d need to go to couple’s counseling immediately, but Skye doesn’t see him doing that. So unless he steps up and attempts to change their current predicament this is how it’s going to stay.

 

Twisting her wedding ring around Skye never thought their relationship would come to this, living apart, on the brink of losing each other because they lost their son. She thought Grant would always fight for her and maybe she’s part of the reason why he hasn’t in the past year, but it seems like all the fight has been sucked right out of him. Like he stopped caring, maybe that’s her fault too. All of the Avengers know about the divorce papers and Skye is nervous to bring to up to Ward.

 

Because then it will be real, not some idea floating around in her head. Living without Ward forever will be a living breathing thing, something she doesn’t exactly want to face yet. It’s such a fragile thing and Skye is going through so many different emotions it’s hard to pin what she wants deep down. On one hand she hates Ward for putting her through this, but on the other he’s still everything to her, still the same person she wants to sleep next to, tell about her day, the one she wants to raise children with, grow old with.

 

‘’All I’m saying is you don’t have to hand him the divorce papers, I’ll do it for you’’.

Skye walks along the dark road lined with trees on either side, hardly any street lamps out here.

‘’Can we not talk about this right now Dad?’’

‘’I’ll throw them at his stupid face how does that sound?’’

Tony and Ward have never gotten along in the nine years they’ve known each other, ever since Stark found out about Alison Price he’s now a constant passenger riding the ‘Hate Grant Ward’ train.

Skye is still half on half off that ride.

‘’As much as I love your enthusiasm on the devastating state of my marriage, can we save this for when I’m not on a mission?’’

‘’Depends’’.

‘’On?’’

‘’If you’re alone or not’’.

Not even a second passes before Tony sighs loudly through the phone, ‘’you do realize you have hundreds of agents at your disposal and a team of Inhumans right? There’s no need to do this alone’’.

Skye shrugs and stops in the middle of the road, the cool evening air brushing across her face.

‘’You know me, I love putting on a good show’’.

‘’I hate that you still view fights as a fun time’’.

‘’How else am I supposed to look at it? I get to make grown men cry’’.

‘’Dramatic as always’’.

The sound of tires speeding down the street catch her attention, ‘’I learned it from the best. I have to go’’.

‘’Be careful’’.

‘’Always am. Love you Dad’’.

Stark pauses for a moment no doubt to compose himself, he always gets choked up whenever she calls him this.

‘’Love you too Cupcake, always. Call me when you’re done’’.

 

She hangs up and slips the phone into one of the many pockets on her Quake suit. Tony made her a new one and this is the first time she’s worn it out in the field. It’s pretty similar to the last one though she did convince him to take out the purple. It’s just all black with various compartments for weapons, bullet-proof, silver gauntlets on her wrists that gleam slightly in the moonlight. Leather lace up boots and a new heart monitor strapped to her wrist courtesy of Bruce, she’s ready for anything.

 

Anything being Hydra in this case who are just about to turn the corner and come face to face with one of the most powerful people on the planet, they never stood a chance. LED headlights nearly blind her as six armored vehicles speed around the bend if they notice her they don’t stop, she doesn’t really give them a chance anyway.  Quake holds out a hand and in half a second the vehicles are knocked back by her powers, crashing and tumbling yards away.

 

The sound of metal screeching, tires popping, glass breaking and a few screams should send her into a fit of hysteria. But it’s easy to overcome panic when there’s adrenaline in your veins and you’re currently cutting away at the organization that ruined your life. Once the smoke clears Skye wastes no time in opening a door to the closest vehicle, shooting whoever remains inside. She’s no stranger to death, to ending life, it doesn’t even bother her anymore.

 

It probably should, there was time she was more concerned about it, but that’s gone now. Now she can’t feel anything.

 

When she gets to the final truck the only passenger is a large man with a beard who starts laughing as soon as she swings the door open. Blood runs down his chin as he clutches the item Natasha told her about this morning, a small flash drive no bigger than a thumbnail.

 

‘’Don’t really see how dying could be funny to you’’.

Skye leans her hip against the frame of the car like she’s got all the time in the world.

‘’I may be dying tonight but you’ll follow shortly after’’.

Skye pretends to shudder, ‘’god I’m so scared. Is your big bad boss going to send agents after me to avenge your death?’’

He laughs again and chokes on his own blood, ‘’you have no idea what Kimberly Santos has in store for you’’.

‘’Hydra Directors have never impressed me, I’m not too worried about it’’.

‘’You should be the plans she has for you’’-

He’s cut off by her pulling the trigger, Skye takes the drive and puts it in her pocket.

‘’Why do bad guys always have to make the most annoying monologues? We get it you’re evil, no need to brag about it’’.

There’s no one around to answer.

 

Skye is about to head back to her own car and call Tony, intent on going straight home and taking a bubble bath when another set of tires heading towards her sounds. It’s either the clean-up crew or someone who’s about to have one hell of a story to tell their family later. She hops up onto one of the wrecked hoods and plays Candy Crush on her phone while the vehicle stops but keeps their headlights on.  She’s just beaten Barton’s high score when people step out of the car and onto the road.

 

‘’Oh my god’’. A sigh would not be enough to express how annoyed Skye is at the familiar voice. Looking up she finds Alison Price and Ward observing the wreckage around them. Lincoln sent a message a while back that they informed the ATCU of what she was doing but she forgot, but why is Alison here? She’s not an agent and sure as hell isn’t approved for combat in the field, she’s a liability. The thought comes and Skye has a hard time letting it go, is Alison Ward’s partner now in the field and out?

 

It makes her stomach sick, if that’s the case he really is doing everything he can to replace her. Ward having seen this kind of destruction before doesn’t bat an eye, just checks her over for injuries from where he stands. Alison however is looking around with wide eyes and a hand over her mouth like Quake just killed someone in front of her, Price’s flawless face is a light shade of green. ‘’If you’re going to throw up can you go far enough so I don’t have to hear it?’’

 

Ali puts a hand to her stomach and it makes Skye tense, it really shouldn’t though. That’s a pretty common gesture for people, but it just reminds Skye of round bellies and a person she never got to meet. Now Price isn’t the only one who might be sick, Quake hides her reaction by playing on her phone and bouncing her leg up and down. If Ward even follows the movement or cares Skye doesn’t catch it, his eyes are on Alison.

 

‘’They’re all dead’’. Alison states, eyes watering.

‘’Pretty much’’.

‘’Why?’’

Skye crosses her legs, ‘’bad guys, thought it was pretty obvious’’.

‘’We could have arrested them and put them in jail, it’s the right thing to do’’.

‘’Right and wrong got blurry for me years ago’’.

Is all Skye responds just as a sound comes from one of the vehicles, someone is still alive.

 

Quake jumps off the hood, pulls out her gun and ignores Alison who yells at her to stop. Ripping open the door to one of the SUV’s she comes face to face with someone she thought was dead but is still breathing. Skye gives him a tight smile, ‘’boo, you survived’’. He chuckles when she points her gun at him, ‘’pretty little girl who couldn’t defeat Thanos’’. Skye presses her heel into his wrist that’s beside her foot, ‘’interesting last words before you die’’. The only sound is the pull of a trigger and then silence.

 

She’s strapping the gun back to her hip when Alison gives her the most disgusted look anyone has ever given her, ‘’what is wrong with you?’’

‘’A lot of things, you want a list?’’

‘’Killing people is not a joke’’.

‘’Again they were bad guys who got what was coming to them’’.

‘’You don’t get to decide who deserves to die’’.

‘’In this case I do. So either get over it or go back to your perfect little desk job. Why are you even here? You’re of no use to Ward out in the field’’.

It hasn’t escaped her notice that Grant hasn’t said a word.

‘’My mother sent us to retrieve the flash drive, do you have it?’’

‘’Maybe’’.

Skye looks over to her husband who assesses her with a blank expression.

‘’Nothing to say Agent Ward?’’

‘’The ATCU needs that drive Skye, I have orders to bring it back’’.

For some reason Skye finds herself concentrating on his heartbeat, can feel it in her palms. the one she could pick out in the middle of time square, the same one that soothed her to sleep for nearly ten years. Her feelings regarding Grant are even more muddled than they were weeks ago.

 

It’s not like she hates him and wants to end things because they don’t love each other anymore. The hardest part is that the love is still there, but she’s watching it being sucked down a drain with every passing minute. Love can only go so far, Skye has come to the conclusion that it can’t solve everything. It’s just a firm place to land when the world gets too heavy, it’s a light to all darkness, what keeps us going year after year.

 

Skye still loves Ward with every piece of her heart and that’s what makes this so difficult. He’s pushing her away for reasons that make sense but also not, it’s like he doesn’t even want to fix things at all. Whoever this person is in front of her, it’s not her husband. This is not the same Ward who held her after every nightmare, who surprised her with slow dances in the middle of the night if she was sad, this is not the same man who promised on their wedding day to always be there for her.

 

She fully understands that grief can change a person, especially losing a child it can destroy a part of you forever. Skye is managing the loss better but it’s still the biggest scar against her heart, deeper than all the rest. Grant stands in front of her now wearing a leather jacket and dark jeans, but even with the familiar outfit he might as well be a stranger. They haven’t had a real conversation about losing their son and maybe that’s the issue, she isn’t aware of how deep his hurt goes.

 

Focusing again on the way Ward is looking at her it all clicks. Rosalind sent him to grab the drive by whatever means necessary, not knowing that Grant would never physically harm Skye. The idea that this standoff between them at the moment is fake, it makes Skye laugh. She pulls out her phone and updates the Avengers on the current situation in their group chat, ignoring Alison’s running commentary Skye composes herself and steps closer to her husband.

 

‘’Is Ward supposed to be the muscle? He won’t hurt me but let’s test that theory’’.

He doesn’t appear amused and that only goads her further, Skye finds herself grinning enjoying this and runs a lone finger up his arm, ‘’come on big guy, don’t you want to play with me?’’

There’s the crack in that cold exterior of his she was looking for. It’s subtle, Alison probably didn’t catch it but Skye did.

It’s gone as quick as it appeared and Ward clenches his jaw, ‘’hand over the drive’’.

Her chest brushes his own, ‘’make me’’.

The only one powerful enough to stop her would be Thor but he’s not here and there’s no way Ward would physically subdue her anyway.

‘’Unless you have my favorite God of Thunder in your back pocket there’s no way the ATCU is getting this drive, at least before I take a look at it’’.

 

Before Ward can respond a loud sound like a plane catches their attention, looking up just in time as a jet appears. Skye barely has time to question if its friend or foe before Ward is yelling to get down and dragging her to cover. So, clearly foe. Grant’s chest is pressed into her back, hand on her head, she can feel his breath against her neck. This is not the time to focus on that but her body does not get the memo, nor does it care that she’s still pissed off at him.

 

If they were in a good place and this were a normal mission, Skye would turn to him when the gunfire stopped and make some comment about finding the nearest motel and in an hour he’d be underneath her covered in sweat. She isn’t the only one who loves the high after a mission, there’s nothing like a brush with death and danger to get them in the mood. However times change and that’s never been more obvious when he pulls away from her to check on Alison when the bullets stop.

 

Instead of dwelling on that Skye pops out from the hiding space and with a curl of her fingers the jet is blasted back far enough that when it hits the ground and explodes they can’t feel it at all. ‘’Get in the car’’. Is all Ward commands and they run into his SUV, Skye takes the front, Alison is putting on her seat belt when he drives off. Both he and Skye are aware that probably wasn’t the only jet Hydra sent so they want to get ahead of the threat.

 

The car is quiet as they pull onto the highway, Skye checks behind them and sees Alison cowering in fear, nails clutching the seat and eyes wide. If Quake were a better person she’d tell her in a nice soothing voice that everything is going to be okay, that Ward isn’t going to let anything happen to her. But she’s not so Skye keeps silent and continues checking the rearview mirror. ‘’Is Hydra always trying to kill you?’’ Price asks and she nods, ‘’yeah’’.

 

‘’We have a tail’’. Grant comments a few moments later as he quickly switches lanes. Skye notices it five seconds later, another tan armored vehicle headed straight for them a couple cars back. She’s feeling pretty confident in Ward’s skills that they aren’t going to catch up to them until some idiot in a Mustang cuts them off causing the car to be boxed in. Ward swears once in English and then Russian, something Skye can’t help but find extremely attractive.

 

It’s always been sexy how he can speak multiple languages, even better when he curses in them. He catches her stare and smirks like he’s forgotten for a moment the people they are now and it makes her heart stop. Skye almost leans her arm across the top of his seat to set her hand on the back of his neck, run her fingers through his soft hair. It takes a lot of effort not to, she has to remind herself of Alison in the back and that makes all the warm fuzzy feelings die.

 

 

‘’They’re getting closer’’. ‘’I can see that’’. He speeds up and takes an opening in the left lane, floors it when no cars separate them from the long stretch of highway. It seems like they’re in the clear, Ward has more than enough experience in escaping and evading. Skye relaxes into seat, turns on the radio to her favorite classical station and closes her eyes. Trusting Grant to get them out safely comes automatically, like a reflex, she doesn’t have to think about it. It’s as easy as breathing.

 

This would be the time he’d put his hand on her thigh, she’d lean over and kiss him and locate a hotel on her phone. But instead she’s forced to listen to her husband talk to his girlfriend and then call Rosalind to update her on the situation. Skye is about to make a phone call so they have to listen to her conversation when Ward curses again, this time in Spanish. He so rarely swears in other languages so he must really been upset today, opening her eyes she sees why.

 

There’s an accident up ahead and traffic is coming to a stop and there are no other cars behind them giving their tail the perfect opening. There’s nowhere to go, no exit to jump, they’re stuck in the middle of the highway with a threat on their backs. Skye watches in the rearview as the SUV approaches them quickly, ‘’they’re going to hit us’’. A flash of fear enters her cold sweat breaks out on her neck, being involved in a car accident again terrifies her.

 

Not because of the act itself, but because it’ll remind her of what happened last year and she can’t afford a panic attack right now. Ward knows how her brain works and gives her a reassuring look, she tries to take comfort in his brown eyes but it doesn’t work. ‘’Get out of the car’’. He tells her, it’s the best option to keep her sane. Before she can even move to do so a force crashes into the back it shoves them forward, they hit another vehicle.

 

It’s all a blur of broken glass and a pain in her neck, the smell of blood and gasoline. One second she’s looking up at Ward his hands on her face and the next she’s stumbling out of the car and facing a Hydra agent. Skye struggles to stay in this reality and is able to overcome the flashback, gets her head in the game just as a gunshot goes off. The agent who hit him slumps against the steering wheel, dead. His accomplice in the passenger seat meets the same fate under Ward’s gun.

 

Unfortunately like it always seems to be where Quake is concerned, the fight isn’t close to being over. As she’s getting glass out of her hair and sucking in a deep breath to remain present, a helicopter begins to hover in the clouds. Skye doesn’t notice anything but that, not the people screaming and running, not Ward calling her name, not the pain in her thigh or a nearby phone ringing. Channeling her anger into fighting is something she’s always done and sees no point in stopping now.

 

Helicopters used to be a trigger for her ever since a tragic accident years ago, which was also Hydra’s fault. This time though no one else is dying but the people in that chopper. Skye squares her shoulders and faces the enemy like she has a thousand times before, the outcome of this will be the same just like all the others. She will win, they will lose, any other result is inconceivable. There’s an empty field a few yards away separated by the barrier, it’ll be a good place to send the helicopter so no one gets hurt.

 

Skye raises a hand above her ankle, rises to the perfect height so she’s staring at the pilot. Sunglasses and a headset on he has the audacity to give her the middle finger before the other agent swings around and begins to open fire. It’s over before they have time to blink, with a flick of her wrist the chopper lands in the field exactly how she planned, the explosion is large and rocks the area but no one is hurt. Smoke and fire spreads rather quickly and sirens begin to come from behind them.

 

Skye lands back on the ground and the wave she’s been fighting hits her so quickly it brings her to her knees.

 

Its pieces of glass digging into her cheeks.

 

Ward’s frantic voice in her ear, hands cupping her face.

 

It’s a hospital room where all of her happiness died, leaving her a shell of her former self.

 

Ward’s grief as he sobbed in the middle of the night thinking she couldn’t hear.

 

It’s remembering asking Natasha to kill her and lashing out when she refused.

 

It’s having to live without her son, something that never should have happened.

 

Skye can’t breathe or think there’s just pain choking her, filling her body like a poison.

 

Grief, Skye has learned is like an ocean. You step into it lightly at first testing out the temperature, not too cold not too warm. Toe in, ankle, your whole leg and then eventually without even realizing it, your whole body is suddenly submerged. Waves knocking into you, slamming against your chest, water pouring down your throat so rapidly you panic thinking you will choke and die. You sink and let the ocean swallow you whole, the darkness take over everything, you accept your fate.

 

That no one could possibly save you from something like this, so you sink and sink waiting to black out, for everything to just stop. Sometimes it does, sometimes light peaks into your closed eyes and a hand rests inside your own. But most of the time you’re alone trapped and not sure how to save yourself, your arms and legs don’t remember how to move in order to swim to the surface. So you wait for it to pass or end, Skye still isn’t sure which one she meets every morning.

 

Warm achingly familiar hands against her face pull Skye to the shore, she comes to with a sob and is light headed from hyperventilating. She’s no longer seeing a cold sterile hospital room or tears in Natasha’s eyes as Skye screamed at her, it’s just Ward with those whiskey eyes. He’s on his knees just like she is and is telling her everything is okay, he alternates between that mantra and whispering soothing words in French that she can’t translate right now but it works nonetheless.

 

As fast as the panic attack pulled her under it ends, leaves her shaking mess in the middle of all this chaos. Skye doesn’t care about the phones recording her or Alison standing the background, she doesn’t even care that Grant is holding her in his arms and running his hands through her hair. That hole in her chest throbs robbing her of breath, the loss that’s always in the back of her mind rears its head until all she can think of is the baby clothes they put in boxes, the books Ward tossed into the garbage.

 

She’ll never hold her son, he’s gone never coming back and that is near impossible to live with. She must say this out loud because Ward pulls her into his lap and she feels hot tears in the skin of her neck as he slowly rocks her, whatever he’s whispering into her ear eventually calms her sobs and causes the fingers that were clenching his shirt to loosen. For a second when they look at each other it’s as if nothing has changed at all, when he wipes under her eyes and his thumbs linger she can pretend everything is okay.

 

It seems she isn’t the only one imagining this because Ward gets this wistful expression as he’s touching her cheeks, the world disappears for them until all she can see is every single detail of his face, she’s memorized them all. How his eyes smolder light when the sun hits them, the scar on his chin, the one on his forehead. Every laugh line and freckle she knows them all, has touched them with her fingers and lips so many times.

 

When her body stops shaking Skye stands and shrugs off Ward’s hand trying to help her up. She turns around and takes a second to rearrange her face, wipe underneath her eyes. Police cars, firetrucks and ambulances are making their way over to the crash and to the wreck, it’s all a mess and people have started to yell her name. Either it adoration or anger, it’s so loud she can’t tell. Instead of waiting for Tony or someone from Shield to pick her up, and getting into a car with Ward, Skye creates her own exit.

 

Puts both hands to her ankles this time and rises high in the clouds, sucks in a much needed deep breath when she’s away from all the noise and lights. Makes a note to take out a plane later and jump out of it to feel alive again, before making her way back to the Playground. Hours later after six meetings, a conference call and ignoring all attempts of the ATCU trying to contact her, Skye is finally at home. Soaking in a hot bubble bath with vanilla scented candles and a glass of red wine, a decent ending to a dreadful day.

 

Eyes closed she groans in annoyance when her phone starts ringing, normally she’d let it go to voicemail but its Nat’s ringtone. Stretching before she can even answer, Nat starts talking.

 

‘’I can see why Rosalind didn’t want you to get your hands on this drive’’.

Skye hasn’t had the chance to look into it so she had Tony do it.

‘’The ATCU is making nuclear weapons, they store them in a facility overseas. What I don’t know is who they’re making them for’’.

It takes a second to grasp what exactly she’s saying and then Skye bursts into laughter, ‘’I knew it. I knew they weren’t this perfect shiny organization they wanted the world to believe. Do you think the President knows?’

‘’I can’t imagine he doesn’t. Only question is did he approve it or is he just waiting for the right time to expose them?’’

‘’I knew Rosalind was up to something’’.

Nat then brings up a point Skye isn’t concerned about but the Avengers most definitely are, ‘’what if they were created in an effort to stop you?’’

‘’That doesn’t bother me’’.

‘’It should’’.

After discussing more theories Skye has a plan, ‘’we should keep this under wraps for now’’.

Romanoff is not fooled for a second, ‘’you just want to right for the right time to expose them, embarrass Rosalind Price before throwing her in jail’’.

‘’And her daughter’’.

‘’If she knows about it’’.

‘’I’m sure she does’’.

Skye blows out a candle while Nat responds, ‘’and if she was in jail she’d be away from Ward’’.

‘’I mean that’d be a bonus I would not complain about’’.

 

An alert beeps through the call and Skye checks the security cameras, a car has pulled up the curb; it’s not one she recognizes. Still chatting with Nat about what to do Skye wraps herself in a white robe before heading down the stairs, when the person exits said car she almost drops the phone. Watches as Ward walks up drive and examines the house slowly, shaking his head a few times before stopping at the front door, looks right up at the camera before knocking.

 

‘’How in the hell does Ward know where I live?’’

‘’He’s there right now?’’

‘’Yes’’.

After today’s events she really doesn’t want anything to do with him.

‘’Open the door and talk to him’’.

‘’I’d rather die’’.

‘’Do it and call me later’’.

 

Nat hangs up and Skye sucks in a deep breath before taking her advice. Ward is clearly surprised she opened up but that’s not why the expression on his face shocks her. He’s standing on the front porch hands in his pockets looking as if someone just died, like she died. His eyes are rimmed red and swollen like he’s been crying uncontrollably, his entire body in fact is trembling and if she didn’t know better it would seem as if he’s about to fall over.

 

Thinking there’s only one other reason why he’d behave like this since she’s fine Skye asks, ‘’did something happen to Kebo?’’

Ward drags a hand down his face looking so distraught she forgets that she’s still upset with him.

‘’Can I come in?’’

She hesitates which he picks up on, ‘’or we could talk out here, whichever you’d prefer’’.

His voice is hoarse and rough.

 

After a beat Skye lets him through the door, locks it when he crosses the threshold. Ward doesn’t look around or check every exit and window like he normally would, instead he spins around to face her, heart on his sleeve, he allows her to see every emotion he’s currently feeling. Only one word comes to mind; shattered. As if before he came here every single piece of him was scattered onto a sidewalk and he hastily glued himself back together.

 

‘’We need to talk’’.

She raises an eyebrow, ‘’about how you’re acting like Kebo died or something?’’

‘’Kebo is fine’’.

‘’Is this about how the ATCU is creating nuclear weapons?’’

Skye knows that’s not it but she needs to throw that out there, better sooner than later.

That doesn’t even faze him when normally they’d have a long conversation about it, ‘’no’’.

‘’Does your perfect girlfriend know about this?’’

Knowing Skye isn’t going to switch topic until he at least acknowledges it he replies, ‘’no, I can’t imagine Alison knowing something like this and staying quiet’’.

‘’Let’s say she does, let’s say this entire thing was her idea. Would you be able to watch her being thrown in jail?’’

Ward is the kind of person who’d stage an escape plan and then disappear off the face of the earth to protect someone he cares about from being locked up.

It’s something he’d do for Skye, hell he broke her out of prison once.

She’s expecting some dramatic answer but all he says is, ‘’yes especially if these weapons were built to hurt you’’.

She hates his stupid face and the fact that he manages to sweet talk her while she’s still pissed off, and that he drew the same conclusion both she and Nat did.

‘’I didn’t come here to talk about Alison’’.

‘’So what do you want Ward? And how did you find out where I live?’’

‘’Clint told me’’.

‘’Right you and Clint are still best friends, did he also tell you what I had for breakfast this morning?’’

‘’He told me about you filing for divorce’’.

The floor falls out from under her and suddenly his mood makes sense.

‘’What I don’t understand is why you didn’t discuss it with me first, your husband’’.

Whatever sympathy she had for him dries right up.

‘’So your my husband again? Sorry must have forgotten that when you told me about your girlfriend’’.

He rakes both hands through his hair in frustration, ‘’before you move any further with that I need to tell you something’’.

She glances at the clock on the wall and pretends not to notice the tears in his eyes, ‘’you have two minutes before I kick you out’’.

‘’I should have told you a long time ago, I won’t lose you over this, I can’t lose you over this’’. He starts pacing, Ward is not a pacer and it spikes her curiosity.

‘’Lose me over what?’’

With one sentence he brings everything to a halt, ‘’you know what I used to do for a living, what John and Shield turned me into’’.

‘’What?’’

Hands in his hair again, ‘’I’m a good liar Skye, I have to be. But I never should have lied to you’’.

Grant Ward is the best spy since Natasha Romanoff, he’s perfect at transforming himself into someone else, perfect at lying, perfect at convincing people anything he wants them to.

‘’I’ve been undercover at the ATCU for six months. I found out they were plotting against you so I got took the job and have been acting like Rosalind’s right hand man ever since, trying to get close to figure out why they want you dead’’.

 

It sounds like a stupid thing he would do. And slowly ever so slowly inch by inch, her world that stopped spinning the second she walked out their front door, starts to move again.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

‘’He, who had done more than any human being to draw her out of the caves of her secret folded life, now threw her down into deeper recesses of fear and doubt. The fall was greater than she had ever known, because she had ventured so far into emotion and had abandoned herself to it’’.

 

Ward closes the book, puts it back on the small shelf with trembling fingers.  Annoyed with himself for picking it up in the first place his impatience for a cup of coffee now grows, even though the long wait is not the barista’s fault. The local coffee shop is crowded this morning the line out the door, so many people inside this small space it’s starting to make him antsy. Crowds in Ward’s experience only breeds chaos, chaos leads to panic, panic leads to violence.

 

An endless maddening cycle and he’d like to get out of here before someone makes a scene, before everyone begins squishing together and he has foreign hands touching his skin, strange elbows in his ribs. The poem from the book he just grabbed to kill time is like a swift punch to the gut, reminding him of Skye. It’s always Skye, his wife who left him over something so tragic, the same wife he’s been purposely lying to for weeks now.

 

And just like every other time she’s been hurt by him she runs, has been hiding out in the home they shared together for three days now.

 

Three days ago he broke down and told Skye the truth about his association with the ATCU, and it took all of four seconds for her to kick him out and lock the doors. She’s been ignoring him ever since, Shield went dark and just came back this morning, but they’ve refused any contact with the ATCU. 

 

Ward was never taught that telling the truth was a positive thing. As a child and his entire adult life lying was a way of surviving, of getting the job done, saving John Garrett. It wasn’t until after Shield fell and he looked into Phil Coulson’s face that he really understood the pain his actions inflicted upon someone else. Betrayal is nothing new to Ward, in fact he’s so used to it that after he told Skye exactly what he’d been doing these past six months, he braced himself for a negative reaction.

 

Because that’s all he’s experienced on the subject of his betrayal, Coulson threw him in a cell for six months for choosing Garrett instead of their team. Skye would be completely justified in screaming at him, hitting him, telling him she never wants to see him again. Grant thought going undercover with Team Bus was a challenge, but it’s nothing compared to this. Lying to Fitzsimmons, Coulson and May was easy, lying to Skye however nearly destroyed him.

 

Watching her crumble little by little every time he was around her these past few weeks, he lost count at how many times he nearly fell at her feet and told her everything. The only thing keeping him from doing so was the threat hanging over her head, that if he confessed she would be in danger. Rosalind Price is a good person on paper and television, but she has a dark side. The ATCU was built on a lie; it only claimed to protect Inhumans as a lure to get to Quake.

 

When in reality they want to burn down everything she’s built and her along with it. Ward just hasn’t figured out why yet, if they’re working with Hydra or they have a vendetta against Skye all on their own. In order to find out any of this information though he had to get close to Rosalind, and in order to earn her trust he had to do it in the simplest way possible. Alison Price is a nice person but all she is to Ward is a mark, and if necessary a means to an end.

 

However one of the rules when going deep undercover is one he learned so many years ago, tell as much of the truth as you can. And while the ATCU and Alison have never meant anything to him, he wasn’t exactly lying when he told Skye they helped him heal, something he wasn’t expecting going in. He’ll still rip the organization apart and feel no guilt afterwards, but something positive at least came out of all this, for him anyway.

 

For Skye though, he hates himself for putting her through all of this. None of what happened was supposed to go down this way when he took the job, Skye was never supposed to find out. Once his mission was complete he would break her ‘No Contact’ rule and tell her everything. But that didn’t work out and Ward pushed her farther than he ever wanted to. He thought he could destroy the ATCU without Shield getting involved, no luck.

 

The plan changed when Skye got involved, he was going to keep this cover until the ATCU was wiped from existence. Keeping her in the dark was the only way to keep her safe, because if he told her the truth she’d want to storm through the ATCU’s headquarters and kill Rosalind herself. This would do two things; one it would mean the emotional turmoil he put her through was for nothing, and two they could decide to unleash this threat they’ve kept stored away.

 

Ward was set on doing things his way until a few days ago. He was eating dinner and trying not to think about the panic attack Skye suffered in his arms when Barton called. One single sentence stopped his heart, the world stopped spinning, Skye filed for divorce. It was something he never thought would happen, selfishly Ward thought once he had to the time to explain it all she’d understand. But he finally pushed her too far and she had enough.

 

Grant broke down in the living room and not even Kebo running from the kitchen to console him could stop it. Losing the one person he loves most in this world wasn’t an option, so here he is. He’d rather her be pissed than signing those papers over something that wasn’t real, something he should have told her about from the start he realizes. But since he didn’t and he’s now inflicted all this damage onto her, she knows everything. He’d rather blow his cover and destroy the ATCU with his bare hands than lose Skye.

 

He finally gets his coffee and walks out the door, answers a few emails that pop up before unlocking his car. He’s about to step inside when a sleek black sports car pulls up next to him, the windows too darkly tinted to get a clear view of who’s inside. He doesn’t have to guess long because the window rolls down revealing Natasha Romanoff her blonde hair gleaming in the sunlight. She gives him a smile, ‘’hey handsome’’. Ward sighs and pockets his phone knowing exactly where this is headed.

 

Without a word he opens the unlocked passenger door and slides inside, locking his own car as she speeds off.

‘’Just because you force Skye to be in the same room as me does not mean she’s going to talk to me’’.

Nat rolls her eyes, ‘’this is the only thing I can think of to snap her out of hiding’’.

‘’She’s running from me’’. Ward corrects, ‘’that’s what she does best’’.

‘’Can you blame her for it this time? Look I get why you did it, any one of the Avengers would have done the same thing. Skye would have too if you were in danger’’.

‘’I know’’.

‘’I’m not judging you for what you had to do in order to get close to Rosalind, no one is’’.

‘’Except for Skye and Tony’’.

The Black Widow smirks, ‘’Skye is a spy too she understands this lifestyle better than anyone’’.

‘’Understanding is one thing, forgiveness is another’’.

‘’She’ll come around’’.

‘’And if she doesn’t?’’

Nat reaches across to pat his knee, ‘’you’ll survive that too. But Skye loves you, that has to count for something’’.

‘’I don’t know Nat, think I really screwed up this time’’.

‘’Have you figured out if Hydra is blackmailing the ATCU over the nuclear weapons, or are they making them for Hydra?’’

Grant finishes his coffee, ‘’not yet’’.

‘’What’s the hold up Romeo? Is Alison not giving up information as easily as she used to?’’

‘’Keep it up with the jokes Romanoff, you’re hilarious’’.

She winks at him before her expression turns serious again, ‘’I’m not sure Skye can survive an attack like that’’.

‘’We’ll never find out, they aren’t going to touch her’’. Ward promises.

She smirks, ‘’hope you’re right Casanova’’.

To make conversation and because he cares he looks over to Nat and asks, ‘’how are you?’’

It’s been a month or so since he’s had any contact with her.

‘’Fine’’.

‘’You know I can always tell when someone is lying right? Even you’’.

Nat is not amused when she replies, ‘’you don’t need to worry about me Ward’’.

But he does, it’s near impossible not to worry about someone he cares for.

‘’We’ll find Thanos’’. He says, believing it no matter how the odds look.

If the Avengers cannot defend the planet from a threat, everyone can be certain they’ll avenge it.

The Mad Titan will not get away with wiping out half the universe.

‘’That’s what I’m worried about’’. Romanoff confesses, merging onto the highway.

‘’Trust me I want everyone back and I’ll do whatever it takes to make it happen, but Skye doesn’t weigh the risks like the rest of us as you know’’.

He’s well aware.

‘’You know how much she wants revenge against Thanos, we all do, but Skye takes it to another level. She’d get herself killed trying to kill him, and that’s one sacrifice I’m not willing to make’’.

Grant does not have to ask if the other Avengers feel the same way, he knows without a doubt they do.

‘’We can’t stop her from going after him’’. He says quietly, the thought of her dying causes his eyes to burn.

‘’I know. Tony considered not telling her if we find him, go behind her back’’.

Ward almost laughs, ‘’let me know how that goes’’.

They sit in silence for another twenty minutes before she says, ‘’I need you to promise me something Ward’’.

He’s surprised because even if Nat understands his reasons for lying to Skye, they’re still on shaky ground.

She shouldn’t trust him with anything, but one look at her face it’s obvious nothing has changed between them.

They’re still friends, she still trusts him with her life.

‘’Alright’’.

‘’When we find Thanos, if the fight looks like it’s turning in his favor I need you to get Skye out of there. I don’t care how you do it, but she needs to live’’.

 

He mulls over this for a moment, wanting the same thing all of the Avengers want, that’s not the issue. The issue is that if he does that and they all die, Skye would never forgive him for pulling her out of that fight. Skye would rather die with the Avengers than live the rest of her life without them, Grant is terrified and always has been that if Natasha were to fall, Skye would follow shortly after. Another thing is that he’d be taking that choice away from her, fighting with her family or leaving them.

 

It’s not fair but he sees where the Avengers are coming from, Tony Stark forced her out of the fight between him and Steve Rogers as a result of the Sokovia Accords so many years ago. Grant would bet his entire inheritance that he doesn’t have access to anymore, that Stark is plotting something along those lines again for when they track down Thanos. It’s not rational by any means and they all know Skye would throw a fit if she found out, but Iron Man has always been overprotective of Quake.

 

However a world without Skye is not one he wants to live in, he knows the Avengers even if they were gone would want her to survive, they’d do anything to guarantee it. Another question follows, would Skye even want to live without any of them? It’s not a question if Ward was enough to sustain her, but could she exist on this planet without her family? Grant doesn’t know the answer, but he’s leaning towards a hard no.

 

‘’Nat you and I both know how Skye would react to that plan’’.

She switches lanes, ‘’she can be pissed off all she wants, but at least she’ll be alive’’.

‘’We can’t make that decision for her’’.

She gives him a sharp look, ‘’even if it’s life or death?’’

He sighs, ‘’if the roles were reversed and this was you we were talking about, would you want me to pull you away from that fight?’’

‘’No’’.

‘’Exactly. But no matter how selfish it is, I’ll do it. I promise I’ll get her out of there alive if I can’’.

Romanoff’s sigh of relief fills the car, tension drains from her shoulders.

‘’Thank you’’.

‘’And if she resents me for it in twenty years, that’s on you’’.

She cracks a smile, ‘’I’ll take the blame’’.

 

They don’t speak again until they’re sitting out in front of the house. It’s hard being back here knowing Skye is right inside, for one moment he can pretend that the last year didn’t happen. That everything is normal and when he walks through their front door she’ll greet him with a smile and wrap her arms around him. She had to figure out that someone has been cleaning and keeping up with the grounds since she left, how did she respond to that?

 

Did she walk each hallway and run her hand along the walls, remembering every moment they spent together? Did she pause in the kitchen and remember how he’d cook breakfast and she’d hop up on the counter next to him with coffee and kiss him good morning? Would she venture into their bedroom or keep the door closed because the memories are too painful? Did she recall every memory they ever made and think of how happy they used to be, wonder if they’ll ever get that back?

 

He imagines Skye sleeping on the couch for three days, locking herself in the tomb of their old life. How did she not drive herself mad? Grant lived here for six months without her and it nearly killed him, since he knows how Skye is, she’s either been getting drunk or crying herself to sleep. Perhaps both, the worry is enough to unbuckle the seatbelt as Nat pulls out her phone. ‘’She knows we’re here’’. It’s not a question, Grant knows where every single camera is around their property.

 

Knows Skye has full view of him in the passenger seat of Nat’s car, knows she’s probably not happy about it.

 

Grant takes a deep breath and walks through the unlocked door courtesy of Tony, since Skye wouldn’t do it herself. He’s expecting the living room to be a mess, pillows and food wrappers strewn about the floor, bottles of alcohol covering the coffee table and couch. The kitchen piled up with dishes he’ll end up washing, her boots thrown casually by the back door. But that’s not the sight that greets him; everything is in its place just as he left it.

 

The only change is Skye sitting in the arm chair facing the door wrapped up in a blanket, her phone and gun sitting on the coffee table. She watches him eye it, ‘’I’m not going to shoot you’’.

‘’Didn’t think you were’’. He folds himself into the couch across from her, stores every memory threatening to sink into his bones in the back of his brain.

He can’t think of how much love went into this house, how much he misses her.

Skye blinks twice before saying, ‘’do you remember what you said to me the first night we moved here?’’

Of course he does, but is she only asking to torture them further?

He’s about to respond when she says, ‘’you told me you wanted to die in my arms in our bed when you’re ninety years old, that you want to go first because you couldn’t possibly stay on this earth without me’’.

 

With that one reminder Ward feels like he just jumped into the freezing ocean without any way to get back to shore, he’s drowning suddenly water filling his lungs, and Skye is watching him sink to the bottom of the sea not offering a hand to save him. It’s not as if he doesn’t deserve all the bitterness she’s about to throw at him, but he’s hoping he can get her to understand his side of things if only for a minute.

 

‘’We should probably talk’’.

He tells her, Skye runs a hand through her hair and looks up at him.

‘’What should we talk about first? That the ATCU has been making weapons and you never said a thing to me? Or how you’ve been lying to me for weeks, letting me think you wanted to be with someone else?’’

‘’You have every right to be pissed at me’’.

‘’I know I do. So what’s the line Ward? What sweet romantic thing are you going to say so that I can fool myself into believing all of this is okay?’’

‘’No line, nothing I could say to you is going to make up for what I did. I know that, all I can say is that I did what I had to in order to keep you safe’’.

‘’I am not some fragile defenseless doll that needs your protection. Why didn’t you tell me what you were doing the second you came to the Playground the first time?’’

He thought about it that day, pulling her into his arms and confessing it all.

‘’What would you have done if I did tell you?’’

She doesn’t have to think about it for long, ‘’I would have walked in there and destroyed the place’’.

‘’Exactly, I couldn’t take that risk. If you destroyed the ATCU before I got these weapons under control who’s to say they wouldn’t retaliate? What if they made them for Hydra? Can you honestly sit there and tell me you can survive a blast from a nuclear weapon?’’

His hands are shaking and it takes longer than it should to make them stop.

She falters, ‘’I don’t, I don’t know’’.

‘’I was on a mission it wasn’t personal’’.

Skye runs a hand down her face, ‘’I know’’.

‘’It was never the plan to hurt you, you were never supposed to be involved’’.

He then tells her what the original plan was, how she was never supposed to find out any of this.

When he’s done she leans back into the chair and crosses her arms, ‘’so you did all of this because you love me’’.

There’s nothing sweet about her tone.

‘’Yes’’.

She cocks her head to the side, ‘’that’s not the entire reason. You told me the ATCU and Alison helped you heal, was that another lie to keep me away or were you being honest for once?’’

He’s thought about that a lot, ‘’both I think’’.

‘’Elaborate’’.

Ward feels like his chest is cracking open, ‘’after you left I didn’t think I was going to recover. Then I joined the ATCU, found a purpose again, a goal to help me focus all my energy and time on. I didn’t think it was helping until I was in it’’.

Even though Alison was a mark and she means nothing to Ward, in a strange way the ATCU helped when nothing else did.

‘’So your perfect girlfriend’’-

‘’Never meant anything to me, she was a target that’s it’’.

He leans in a little closer, ‘’come on Skye, did you honestly think I would ever want anyone else?’’

She narrows her eyes and lightly kicks his ankle, ‘’do not be cute right now. And don’t give me that look either’’.

 

Skye gets up and walks to the kitchen to stare out the window, he tries and fails not to think about the last time he saw her like that. Pregnant and glowing, happy. Now look at them, miserable and apart. Ward regrets many things in his life but the night of the car accident is one of the worst, no matter how hard he tries he can’t help but feel guilt. If he was driving that night maybe the accident wouldn’t have happened at all, or if it did he would be hurt and Skye would have walked away with cuts and bruises.

 

He could be holding his son right now and Skye would look over her shoulder at them her eyes full of love, but instead his arms are empty and all he sees when she glances back is sadness. Minutes pass and he’s at a loss on what to say, he can apologize over and over for the next seven hours and it won’t do any good if she’s not ready to hear it. So he watches her pace from his position on the couch, his eyes burning as the weight of all these emotions begin to weigh his shoulders down.

 

Can she feel it too? The memories tearing through the floorboards, early morning laughter from their still closed bedroom, all the love inside these walls? How is she not falling apart? Ward feels as if he’s being held in this moment by one single thin string and any second now someone or something is going to take a pair of scissors and cut it. Leaving him spiraling into a dark void alone, spinning and falling aimlessly until a force beyond his control stops him.

 

Skye runs a lone finger across the kitchen counter he pressed her up against many times before, ‘’how often do you come back here?’’

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the house is cleaner than it should be since no one lives here anymore.

‘’Every few weeks”.

She isn’t looking at him, ‘’surprised you didn’t sell it’’.

This takes him back, ‘’why would I? This is our home’’.

‘’Is it?’’

The fact that she actually filed for divorce is all he can focus on now, ‘’do you not want it to be anymore?’’

Skye’s back is to him when she replies, ‘’I don’t know anything Ward. I don’t know what you want’’.

‘’What do you want?’’

She finally turns but won’t meet his eye, ‘’a time machine. Or something to erase this last year’’.

They’re dangling off the edge of a cliff, this conversation could set up the way the rest of their lives go.

‘’You lied to me for weeks Grant’’.

‘’I know’’.

‘’The man who bought this house, who put this ring on my finger and promised me forever would never do that. What happened to him?’’

‘’He’s still here Skye, I’m right here’’.

She wipes under her eyes and takes a deep breath, ‘’are you? I understand why you did what you did, and Nat and Barton are right if our roles were reversed I would have done the exact same thing. But that doesn’t mean I have no emotions attached to this situation’’.

‘’I’m not asking you to’’.

‘’I mean I can’t just turn off my feelings like you’’.

He takes a step toward her, ‘’do you think this has been easy for me? Do you have any idea how hard it was, the sacrifices the decisions I had to make? But I made them because that’s what I do’’.

‘’Oh I’m sure lying to your wife and making out with a hot twenty three year old was so hard Ward’’.

Grant doesn’t feed into her anger it would only light a match to this already gasoline-soaked mess.

‘’I hate myself for hurting you but I lost my wife and son in the span of a few weeks, forgive me for making a few rash decisions’’.

‘’You don’t make those’’.

 ‘’I’m not perfect’’.

‘’Clearly’’.

Ward runs both hands down his face while Skye paces again, to the fridge, the cabinets, the front door and back again.

Ten minutes of silence passes before she asks, ‘’was there another reason you kept coming back here even after moving out?’’

Her arms are crossed now but that fire in her eyes has softened.

He doesn’t need to ask what she means, after so many years together he knows what she’s thinking.

‘’I hoped that one day I’d walk through that front door and you’d be here waiting’’.

She looks up to the ceiling in an attempt to keep her tears from falling, Ward’s own eyes fill.

‘’I forgive you’’. Skye tells him five minutes later, she’s leaning against the kitchen entryway and he’s standing by the fridge.

If he were holding something he’d have dropped it, shock runs through his veins, ‘’what?’’

She shrugs like she didn’t just fill up every piece of him with hope, ‘’we’re spies Ward and you didn’t tell me what you were doing because you were trying to protect me. I get it, any one of the Avengers would have done the same. How could I possibly hate you for that?’’

He’s waiting for the other shoe to drop because there’s no way it’s that easy, there’s no way he could hurt her this much and get away without a scratch.

‘’I’ve had a few days to think about it, and I know you Ward, I know how you think. You and I tend to do stupid things in the name of keeping each other safe’’.

The history between them flows, every stained piece of paper that is a chapter in their lives, every fight and hug, kiss and moment of laughter.

Is it possible to get everything they lost back? Get her back?

‘’But even though I understand, I need some time to work through everything else. I can’t just forget about Alison’’.

In Ward’s experience with betrayal he was always crucified, tossed aside and no one thought or cared enough to ask why he did what he did.

But this is not Phil Coulson or Melinda May standing in front of him, this is Skye, the woman who knows him better than anyone.

‘’Okay, take all the time you need’’.

Relief he doesn’t deserve spreads from his fingers to his toes, he still can’t fathom what the hell he ever did to deserve her.

‘’If I never left and you found out about what the ATCU was planning, would you still have taken the job?’’

It’s something he’s thought of over the past six months so he already knows the answer, ‘’yes’’.

‘’Would you have told me about it?’’

She’s not asking because they’d be living together and he would have had no choice but to, what she’s really asking is if one of the reasons he didn’t tell her was to hurt her the same way she hurt him.

‘’If the threat to your life was still as serious as it is right now, no I would still keep you in the dark’’.

Skye clenches her jaw, ‘’follow up question’’.

He nods for her to continue.

‘’All those times you told me you weren’t ready to forgive me for leaving, was that a lie to keep your cover?’’

‘’Yes’’.

Her face falls, the windows tremble slightly, her phone lights up on the coffee table with an incoming message but she makes no move to check it.

‘’You asshole’’.

He forgave her the second she got into her car that day.

‘’It was the only thing I could think of to keep you at arm’s length’’.

‘’You used my guilt against me in order to get what you want’’.

‘’It was the only leverage I had’’.

She glances towards their bedroom door before asking, ‘’what would you say if I told you I wanted to come home? Would you give up the ATCU?’’

It nearly causes his knees to buckle but reading her expression and body language it’s not an offer, she’s just curious.

‘’Yes’’.

‘’Just like that?’’

‘’I’d obviously still need to stop them from using the nuclear weapons whether it’s for you or something else, but yes’’.

She runs both hands through her blonde hair and shifts her weight onto her right leg, ‘’you’re going to need a new plan for them now that I know’’.

‘’I don’t see why’’.

Skye rolls her eyes, ‘’I’m obviously going to help you dummy, we’re partners remember?’’

Something warm spreads through his chest at the light back in her eyes, ‘’we are?’’

‘’Always’’. She whispers, thumb twirling the rings on her left hand.

Not even a year apart could change that, it couldn’t change most things it turns out.

There are two other elephants in the room they need to discuss but Ward settles with one he’d rather talk about, ‘’you filed for divorce’’.

Skye sighs, ‘’did you expect anything different?’’

He crosses his arms, ‘’I expected on some level for you to at least trust me. Was my cover good? Yeah but you know me Skye better than anyone, you didn’t suspect at all? After all the times I told you I loved you, we’re married for Christ sake’’.

‘’Oh so now it’s my fault for not guessing whatever game you’re playing with Alison Price? I’m sorry I wasn’t exactly in a perfect state of mind to assume there was some master scheme behind what I thought was your infidelity’’.

 ‘’I’’-

‘’Do not blame me for the shitty choice you made six months ago’’.

‘’That wasn’t what I meant, all I’m saying is how could you ever believe I would want someone other than you? You’re everything to me’’.

‘’I’m really not in the mood for one of your grand romantic lines that will make me melt at your feet. So if that’s all you have left to say’’-

She’s cut off by her phone ringing loudly, it stops and starts right back up again.

With a sigh she crosses the room and picks it up, ‘’I told you not to bother me Victoria. I swear somebody better be dying or you’re fired’’.

Ward’s phone also begins beeping, a message from Rosalind about an Inhuman sighting in Philadelphia, Shield also received the same alert.

Skye hangs up and looks back at him, ‘’I have to go’’.

‘’Me too’’.

She sighs, ‘’so how is this going to work now that I know about your stupid cover?’’

‘’It doesn’t need to change anything just keep acting like you can’t stand me, shouldn’t be too hard’’.

‘’And then what? What happens when this is all over?’’

 

They both pause by the couch so close together yet so far away, Ward can feel those scissors start to come for the string tied up between his shoulder blades and spine. Her dark brown eyes trap him for a second, the smell of her perfume and overall closeness especially in this house, this room, is starting to break him. She’s home but won’t stay, they’re on stable ground but only after he hurt her in what should be beyond repair.

 

His hand moves of its own accord to touch her face but he snaps it back at the last minute, Skye pretends not to notice and focuses on the space between his eyebrows, not really looking at him. How many times had he envisioned her standing here coming back to him over the past year? Their reunion in this house wasn’t supposed to go this way, there were supposed to be tears of joy and declarations of love. Not spewing words that sting, not leaving and continuing to live apart.

 

‘’What happens to us?’’ She asks her voice barely above a whisper, he jumps in surprise when her cool fingers run along the length of his wedding band.

She leans in closer chest brushing his own as he replies, ‘’what do you want to happen?’’

Skye has all the power here, she could make or break them.

One step closer and they’re nearly nose to nose he can feel her breath drift across his cheek.

The desire to hold her, to cry into her hair and say that he loves her beyond anything he’s ever known, that he’s sorry is almost too much to bear.

‘’What I want is to stay here with you and imagine the world outside doesn’t exist’’.

 

The breath leaves his body, air is sucked from the room he can’t breathe everything inside of him stills, freezes as if she holds the power of the universe in her hands. Those same hands find his chest and rest over his heart which comes alive after being silent for what feels like for so long. Skye doesn’t kiss him or make any move to touch but he can feel every curve of her body sinking into his own, her long hair brushes against the exposed skin of his arm.

 

Ward was never aware until he met her that you can be homesick over a person, that someone can be so apart of you that when they’re gone it feels like you’re going to die. It has nothing to do with sex or attraction and everything to do with the soul that’s meant to tie into yours for the rest of time. He has ached and longed for Skye many times before but nothing like this, not with the fear that she’s so close but could vanish like smoke in a second.

 

Skye glances at his lips before coming back to his eyes, flicks her stare to his shoulders before focusing back on his forehead. Grant holds his breath and keeps his hands to himself, not wanting to spook her with his hands on her skin. All he can see is her, all that matters is Skye in front of him throwing out a life preserver into this sinking marriage, their drowning love, and he grabs ahold of it, will never let it go again.

 

She inches closer closing her eyes and taking a deep breath, knees pressed into his as she stands on her toes, fingers glide up his chest as she leans her forehead against his own. Grant is holding his breath thinking he has to be dreaming, he doesn’t deserve this kind of treatment after lying to her. Skye should be in her car screaming how much she hates him, throwing those divorce papers at him and promising to never see him again.

 

He can’t fight it anymore, Ward wraps both arms around her and they both let out a sigh, of relief, of being away from each other for so long and finally finding the place they truly belong; in each other’s arms. Grant finds himself apologizing into the skin of her neck and she’s stroking his back with shaky hands, not telling him it’s okay because it’s not, just reassuring both himself and her that there is a light at the end of this tunnel and they may have just started reaching for it.

 

Their phones go off again shattering the moment and right before Skye starts to pull away he clutches her tighter to his chest, never wanting to let her go again. Cupping her face he looks into the eyes he’s achingly familiar with and strokes her cheeks, Skye is still holding on tightly to the back of his neck. ‘’I love you’’. He says voice thick with tears and she runs her thumbs along his skin. ‘’It’s true, and so will be every word I say to you for the rest of my life’’.

 

She breathes his name before releasing him and taking a step back, wipes her eyes. Mutters something that sounds like ‘’this goddamn house’’ before picking up her phone. Recovering quickly Ward locks up and makes sure everything is alright before walking out the front door after her, they don’t look back. Nat is still waiting in the car and Skye pulls on his jacket to get him to stop. ‘’By the way just because I forgave you it does not mean I’m going to take off my clothes and spread my legs for you’’.

 

Loud choking laughter comes from the trees to their left, Skye is the only one who is surprised when Kebo steps out of the woods carrying a beer and a small bag of chips.

 ‘’Crass as always Quake’’.

‘’Squishy what the hell are you doing here?’’

He nods to Grant, ‘’your husband sent me, apparently he thinks you need a babysitter or something I don’t know’’.

‘’Those were not my exact words’’.

Kebo turns to him, ‘’did she punch you?’’

Ward shakes his head as Nat steps out of the car, ‘’you owe me fifty bucks’’.

Fishing the bill out of his wallet Kebo glares at his long-time friend, ‘’you’re replacing that. So are you two good now or is there still underlying tension you aren’t dealing with?’’

All eyes turn to Skye who slips on a pair of sunglasses and heads over to Nat’s car, not saying a word.

‘’So still avoiding the main issue at hand I see, very mature’’.

Kebo’s only response is Skye giving him the finger as she closes the passenger door.

‘’You alright boss?’’

Ward nods and thanks Kebo for sticking close, ‘’you can thank me with alcohol’’.

They all start walking to their respective vehicles and Nat pulls him to the side, ‘’you should probably avoid Stark Tower for a while’’.

‘’I had no intention of going there anyway but thanks for the heads up. I’m not afraid of Tony’’.

‘’Still, just let things cool off for a while’’.

‘’Copy that’’.

 

Ward climbs into Kebo’s car towards the back and as they drive off he tries not to let these emotions get the best of him. Like how he and Skye left that house together this time instead of separately, that there’s still some spark between them that refuses to die. That maybe they could repair things between them with time, she’s not pushing him away anymore. If Kebo sees him staring off tearfully out the window he doesn’t say anything.

 

A team of ATCU agents are waiting outside a frat boy house at a popular University in the area, Skye is already inside with Lincoln and Caitlin. Ward walks through a mess of red cups, clothes, glitter and a strong smell of tequila and sweat. If he needs back up he’ll call but no one ever needs back up if Skye is on their side. Even though he just saw her a few hours ago it hits him differently now that she knows the truth, guilt no longer holds onto his shoulders pulling at him every second.

 

They have a long way to go and an even longer road to deal with after this ATCU mess is sorted, but for the first time in a year Skye wants to try, she’s no longer numb to everything. He follows the sound of someone sobbing into a dark hallway and enters a room, the house has long been empty save for a few police officers. Ward observes the bedroom with expert eyes, sees the drugs on a nightstand, the bottles of alcohol on a dresser, and the girl sitting cross legged on the bed crying.

 

Skye is crouched down in front of her in her trademark Quake suit, gun at the hip and silver gauntlets on her wrists. Whispering quietly to the girl who’s name is Caroline, Lincoln informs him. Ward is able to focus on multiple things at once which is how he catches Caitlin Snow’s stare from across the room. She’s standing off to the side and out of the way, timid, no weapon on her. Not that she’d need a gun anyway, an Inhuman is a weapon all on their own.

 

But the way she’s looking at him causes Ward to pause, instincts drilled into him so long ago flare up. She doesn’t notice him looking back but she perks up when Caroline starts dry heaving onto the sheets. Lincoln grabs a trash can while Skye holds back her brown hair and Caitlin gives him more information. Caroline is a freshman at this college and was invited to this party by her roommate who shortly abandoned her once the alcohol started flowing.

 

Thanks to peer pressure Caroline drank a little too much and a few guys took advantage of that and led her back here, once she realized what was going on her powers took control to protect herself. Caroline’s powers are being able to control and manipulate heat, she burned her attempted attackers and they ran screaming from the room. The police won’t touch her which is why Quake was called in, the parents of the boys who did this want to press charges.

 

Once the real story gets out and Skye gets more involved they’ll back down, everyone always does. Ward searches the room for any weapons and checks to see if anyone else is in the house, but it’s empty. Officers linger by the front doors but don’t come inside, a few college students are on the sidewalk trying to record a glimpse of the famous Quake. By the time he makes it back to the room Caroline is on her feet with Skye and Caitlin supporting her on both sides.

 

Skye looks at his phone and then to his face, saying he needs to find out who those assholes that did this are. Nodding he gets to work and locates them at a hospital twenty minutes from here. They take her out back and a few ATCU agents watch with hands on their guns. Ward shakes his head once but Caroline has already seen them and starts shaking in Skye’s hold. ‘’Tell your boys to back off Ward or they aren’t going to like what’s about to happen’’.

 

Paul, one of the rookie agents scoffs and Grant orders him to wait in the car. They’re just about to load Caroline in a Shield SUV when the sound of a helicopter drifts towards them, it takes only a second to realize it’s a news station and not Hydra. But it sets Caroline off anyway, one second she’s fine and the next she’s screaming like someone is hurting her. Skye curses and breaks her hold, Caitlin jumps away from the other woman and starts frosting her hands.

 

Knowing touch would mean harm Ward grabs an ICER when Caroline’s body erupts in a flash of red and orange. Her powers don’t take the shape of flames, instead it’s more of a mist as it covers her skin and creates a barrier around her and the rest of the world. She’s still screaming as the mist climbs up through the sky and wraps around the helicopter, smoke immediately fills the small aircraft and Caroline isn’t the only one screaming now.

 

One shot from Ward’s ICER ends it all as she hits the ground, the chopper finds a safe place to land. He checks Skye over for injury and he can tell her hands are badly burned but she pushes away his attempts to check them out. It isn’t until they’re all in the back of a van that she finally relents but it’s Lincoln who applies cream and bandages to her palms, and Grant finds himself responsible for Caitlin. Her blue eyes trouble him not because he’s afraid but he senses she’s hiding something.

 

‘’Boss says you’re taken’’. Caitlin comments as he finishes up.

‘’I am’’.

She nods to the ring on his right hand, ‘’wedding ring goes on the left hand, or does Alison Price not know her right from left?’’

Skye laughs loudly from behind them, ‘’probably not’’.

Caitlin leans in close smelling of smoke and cranberries, ‘’if you ever get tired of her I’m free’’.

‘’Caitlin don’t hit on him’’.

‘’Why not? Have you seen this Greek god in front of me? Why don’t you hit on him all the time boss?’’

When he and Skye were still together she spent a majority of her time flirting with him, something he found endearing and adorable, someone being genuinely happy with his presence.

‘’You know he’s sitting right in front of you, have some respect and try not to drool over him like he’s just a piece of meat’’.

Snow rolls her eyes but the fondness for Skye is there, ‘’always so serious, you don’t mind do you?’’

It’s almost as if she’s trying too hard and Ward says it’s fine just to get her to be quiet.

He gives Skye a look that says ‘be careful around that one’ and she just shakes her head.

 

After making sure everything is alright at the Playground and promising Skye they’ll talk later, Ward finds himself in his office at the ATCU finishing up paperwork. Alison is waiting at his apartment with dinner and not for the first time Grant struggles with the choice he’s made. Going home to someone you’re pretending to care about is not as easy as it once was, Skye has changed him in so many ways and this is one of them.

 

An alert pops up on his phone just as Kebo comes sprinting through the door, ‘’um I did a thing’’.

It has Ward standing at once gun at the ready, ‘’what did you do?’’

‘’Remember how the other night you said you wanted to find out if those weapons were created for Hydra to take down your dearly beloved?’’

‘’Yes’’. Ward replies through clenched teeth.

‘’Well Tony and I found out that they were and Hydra agents may or may not be outside right now about to break in because I’m a little drunk and wasn’t as careful as I could have been, Stark doesn’t know’’.

Checking the cameras Kebo is right, at least fifty agents surround the place.

But if the ATCU has them are they working for Kimberly Santos or is she blackmailing them?

Only one way to find out.

Grabbing his keys from the desk Ward throws them at Kebo, ‘’take my car and get out of here’’.

‘’You want to run those stupid words by me one more time Super Spy?’’

‘’Call Skye and tell her what’s going on’’.

‘’Again with the stupid words, I’m going down there with you’’.

‘’No you’re not’’.

Understanding dawns on Kebo’s face, ‘’don’t you dare let them capture you just to get intel’’.

It’s a move he’s done before, it’s the quickest and easiest way.

‘’I hate you so much right now’’.

‘’I’ll keep that in mind when they’re torturing me’’.

‘’It’s not funny Grant’’.

He passes Kebo and heads down the hall, ‘’I can handle it’’.

Kebo sighs and calls Skye, ‘’the love of your life is going to kick your ass for this’’.

Ward throws a smile over his shoulder, ‘’I know’’.

‘’Gross’’.

 

An hour later he’s pretending to be out cold as a few Hydra agents toss him into the back of a van and place a bag over his head. It’s no secret to the organization that he worked with Quake for many years to take them down, doesn’t matter that they aren’t a team anymore. Kimberly Santos knows who he is, and Ward has a feeling he’s about to be used as bait for Skye, which was another factor he considered. He’ll just have to get everything he needs before she gets to him.

 

Simple. He’s not the best since Natasha Romanoff for nothing.

Chapter Text

 

‘’Do you think this has been easy for me? Do you have any idea how hard it was, the sacrifice the decisions I had to make? But I made them because that’s what I do’’.

 

‘’I love you. It’s true, and so will be every word I say to you for the rest of my life’’.

 

Skye can’t get those words out of her head no matter how hard she tries, they’re on repeat like a scratched record replaying over and over and over again. It’s not the sweet lines or being in the home she and Ward once shared together that resulted in the divorce papers being set on fire and laid into her bathroom sink, it was Grant’s face as he explained exactly what he’d been doing these past six months. How sincere he was as he apologized and for the first time since this started, it was the one apology she didn’t want to punch him in the face for after he said it.

 

Honestly Ward going undercover to protect her is not something that surprises her, it’s such a Grant thing to do. The only reason she didn’t catch on is because he didn’t want her to, Ward let her see only what she was supposed to. And that was being with someone else, acting as if he wanted to move on because the pain of her leaving was too much to bear. Skye isn’t pissed that he lied to her about playing the ATCU, if the roles were reversed and he wasn’t on speaking terms with her for an entire year, she would have done the same thing.

 

It’s easy to forgive him for that, for Alison Price even though the thought of that woman touching Grant still causes jealousy and anger to run hot in her veins. But knowing Grant is doing it in the name of keeping her safe soothes some of the burn. Forgiving him for using her grief to get what he wants, for lying every time he said he wasn’t ready to let her off the hook for leaving him, that is harder to accept. Even though his intentions were good and he never thought she’d find out about it, it’s still difficult to wrap her head around the fact that he chose to willingly hurt her instead of just telling the truth.

 

Skye has always been able to count on the fact that Ward would never hurt her if it was in his power to go another route, he’d rather walk through hell than cause her pain. So she understands how hard it must have been to face her and pretend to be someone else, pretend that he’d rather have somebody other than her in his arms. The hot bath water does little to soothe her aching muscles, for once she can’t relax amongst the bubbles and lit candles.

 

This is the first time she’s been in her house in three days, after Ward’s confession Skye couldn’t breathe or think straight. Going back home, to the place where her life with Ward settled into something calm and smooth, seemed like the only place in the world she could make sense of everything. So she locked herself inside exposing her heart and soul to the all-consuming grief that followed as the turned every single light on. Walked barefoot on the waxed wood floors, opened up the windows and left their bedroom door shut. It seemed physically impossible to walk in there, like it would rip out her soul and leave her sobbing into the mattress shattered into a million pieces.

 

Memories with Ward unfurled in the span of those three days, every touch, every moment of laughter and sometimes tears, every late night slow dance in the kitchen. Every quiet afternoon spent on the couch, each time he pressed her into a surface and kissed her until she forgot her name. It all flowed through with each inhale, everywhere there was Ward with a memory attached, the echo of a whisper when he told her he loved her. But the love died by hour twelve and the despair took over, the loss, the hurt so deep inside her chest it’s a part of her like a second organ grew beside her heart, draining every good thing with its blackness.

 

Soon the happy memories became tainted with tragedy and instead of looking at the kitchen floor with fondness from the feel of Ward’s body underneath her own, it was Skye picturing herself sitting against the cabinet her bare legs on the cool tile a year ago, wanting to die than be on this earth without her son any longer. It was remembering the feel of a gun in her hands as she sat cross legged in the bath tub with the door locked, wondering if god exists and if he did how he could be so cruel. Sitting down on the couch brought a memory so painful it felt like she had just been stabbed in the abdomen.

 

Skye has only asked Natasha to kill her once a long time ago, right after she rescued her from the lab and attempted to repair the damage Hydra had inflicted. It was a low moment, one she vowed to herself would never happen again. Until nearly twenty years later when losing something hurt worse than anything she’d ever been through. The look on Natasha’s face both when Skye was eighteen and thirty three asking to end her life, will haunt them both forever. Romanoff refused of course and Skye lashed out just like she did back then, screaming and sobbing saying it was too hard to live in the world like this.

 

That was one of the rare days Ward wasn’t around, lost inside his own sadness off somewhere with Kebo. Nat just held her and promised one day it wouldn’t always feel like this, she was right but at the time Skye didn’t want to hear it. So for two days she lay on that same couch and tried to make sense of the mess Grant had gotten them into this time. Usually it was her who dived into crazy plans, who risked everything for an outcome that she would die to make happen. He was just trying to protect her because he loves her, Skye can’t hold that against him.

 

So another issue lies at their feet, what to do now that she knows about his involvement with the ATCU. If they’re working with Hydra to use these weapons against her or if Hydra is just blackmailing the organization into doing it, Skye honestly doesn’t care either way. The end results will be the same, destroy the ATCU and the nuclear weapons before they can hurt anyone. She just has to make sure Ward gets out of this unscathed, who knows what the ATCU will do to him if they find out that he’s been spying on them this entire time.

 

Skye sinks deeper into the tub the water up to her nose and glances towards the sink. It still smells like smoke in here but the candles help, the blackened bits of paper rest in a clump underneath the faucet, burning away all evidence of whatever doubts she had about her marriage. In the lifestyle she has led since she was eighteen Skye understands that sometimes in order to get a job done you have to do things you wouldn’t normally, things out of character, things that scar you long after they’re gone. It must have been so lonely for Ward, going home to someone he doesn’t love, all to protect the wife that wanted nothing to do with him.

 

How many nights did he lay awake hating himself, how many times was he disgusted with what he was doing whenever he kissed Alison? Did he get in the shower at the end of every day and try to scrub off the lies? Did he brush his teeth more than once to get the taste of Alison out of his mouth but no matter how hard he tried it wasn’t enough? Sympathy floods her just like it did in their living room hours before, she’s not excusing or condoning his behavior at all, but she understands why he did what he did. Why he’d rather have her pissed at him for a few weeks than buried six feet under as the alternative.

 

She has no idea where they go from here, if it’s as easy as picking up where they left off before the car accident or starting over, all brand new and shiny. She doesn’t know what that would look like though and is considering calling Paul, Ward’s long-time therapist to recommend a marriage counselor he trusts. Talking about losing her son with Ward makes her chest tight, causes everything to tense and sadness so deep and dark to take hold of her that it’s terrifying. So she doesn’t even want to imagine what it would feel like to talk about it with a complete stranger.

 

It’s also one of the major issues they’re having, not talking about the death of their son, she and Ward weren’t stable enough to do it after coming home from the hospital and she left before ever giving life to the conversation. So there’s a piece that needs to be filled, a void they need to claw through in order to get back to the other side, happy in love and as one. Skye has a feeling that one of the reasons she doesn’t want to discuss it is because then it would be real, not that she believes it’s not, her empty arms and lack of a crying baby is evidence enough, but if she breathes the words out into the world there’s no taking them back.

 

She will have to acknowledge the loss, the fact that she’s a mother with no child, that her heart has been broken by someone she never got to meet, never got to hold. But she can take comfort that she’s not in this darkness alone, Ward is there too. He’s been reaching for her this entire time never giving up, always holding out hope somehow someway she’d find her way back to him. A year ago Skye wouldn’t have been able to see that, didn’t care enough to wade through all the hurt and pain to find any kind of light. But now she can, she’s in a better place and with the knowledge that Ward didn’t abandon her, it makes breathing a little easier.

 

Submerging herself fully under water Skye holds her breath and looks up, the light dancing across the surface and screams. No one can hear, no one is around, it’s just her, this warm water and a familiar horrid thing wrapping around her organs asking to be released. When she finally comes up for air her lungs are burning, heart racing so fast it feels as if it’ll burst. Wiping her eyes Skye gets out of the tub and grabs a towel, wrapping it around herself.

 

She thinks about Caroline, a new Inhuman who Victoria just sent her a message about. She’s eighteen just barely starting out in life, and already the person she is has changed drastically, nothing will be the same anymore, her old life might as well be dead and gone. She was at a party a few hours ago when a few boys attempted to attack her, but her powers (she was born like this, not exposed to a Terrigen Crystal) defended her from harm.

 

The parents of said boys attempted to blame her for this like their sons weren’t the scum of the earth, but one visit from Skye changed their minds. It’s unclear if Caroline would want to go home or stay with Skye, after all she is young and may want something different.

 

For now all they can do is wait. She would be a good edition to the team, her powers are similar to an Inhuman named James but instead of flames from her fingers it’s just heat. James wanted no part in Skye’s crusade when she started this team all those years ago, he’s still required to check in every few months just like every Inhuman that asked for a normal life.

 

Skye dresses quickly and heads downstairs to make coffee, she still puts out two cups but this no longer makes her bitter. She still stands by her choice at leaving him even if regret threads through that decision now, but at the time she needed to breathe different air, needed space that Grant hadn’t already occupied.

 

The sun is just beginning to rise and she twirls the rings he put on her finger so long ago, thinks about the question Caitlin Snow asked her just a few days ago. ‘’How do you know when you’re in love?’’ Quake never talks about her personal life with the outside world but the Inhumans are special, they’re family.

 

It took a while for her to come up with an answer, having been in love for so long it just came naturally. The feeling was always present over the last nine years, something so solid gold she never had any doubts. Loving Grant was a constant thing, never ending, like a thread connecting them and nothing could stop it. Skye can’t imagine who she would be now if Ward never came to Stark Tower, if he never trusted her or held her hand. Love means promising yourself to someone through good and bad times, but it can also change who you are, sometimes for the best or worst.

 

In Skye and Ward’s case being together shaped them into better healthier people, it took the dark voids inside their chests and filled them with blinding light. It revealed sides to both of their souls that they’d never met before, an all-consuming love like that would be easy to lose yourself inside. Get so wrapped up in the other person you only care about them and forget about yourself, but Skye and Grant never let that happen. They could so easily live out the rest of their days alone and survive just fine, but it would be an empty joyless life, and those holes in their lives they worked so hard to crawl out of would return.

 

Some of them already have and Skye hasn’t done a great job at trying to bury them like Ward has, though they both have a reasonable excuse for letting the grief consume them. Having thought all that she looked at Caitlin and replied, ‘’when you find the right person you just know, and once you have them in your arms never let them go’’. Skye shakes off the ghosts and pours a cup of coffee, takes out her phone to have a long overdue conversation with Paul, when the cameras around the property pick up a car speeding down the road. It runs over the curb in its haste, slams on the brakes with a loud squeal as the driver’s door flies open.

 

It’s Kebo much to her surprise, who sprints across the lawn falls twice in the grass to make it to the front door, all the while screaming her name like he’s just been soaked in gasoline and set on fire. There’s only one reason that idiot would be acting this way, which is why Skye throws open the front door just as he runs up the porch steps. ‘’What are you doing here Squishy?’’ He takes a long moment to catch his breath but the full blown panic and anger in his eyes is impossible to miss, so is his shaky hands and the side arm strapped to his person.

 

‘’So Ward might have gotten himself a little captured a couple hours ago’’.

‘’He did what?”

‘’Tony and I found out that those weapons were being made to kill you, so Ward and his stupid self-decided to pull a Natasha Romanoff and get intel by infiltrating Hydra, find out if they’re working with the ATCU or just blackmailing them’’.

Of course he did, Skye can’t say she’s surprised. The problem is that Kimberly Santos knows exactly what Ward means to Skye and she could use that against Quake, she probably will. It’s what Skye would do, poor dummy is probably being tortured right now.

Right as Kebo starts telling her exactly what happened her phone starts going off, messages from the Avengers, the ATCU and Shield.

‘’Kimberly is going to use him as bait’’. Skye says as she and Kebo drive off towards the Playground.

‘’Not unless Ward gets the information he needs and escapes beforehand’’.

‘’Let’s hope that happens’’.

They drive in silence for a while before he pulls out a bag of chips and offers a bit, ‘’so are you and Ward going to be screwing like bunnies again or are you still pissed at him?’’

‘’He didn’t tell you our entire conversation over a bottle of scotch?’’

‘’Didn’t really have time’’.

Skye merges onto the highway, ‘’I can forgive the Alison thing I get why he did it, but lying about not being able to forgive me for leaving him? That’s not so easy’’.

‘’I still think he should have told you what was going on as soon as he joined the ATCU regardless of the stupid no talking rule you gave him’’.

‘’You’ve already voiced your opinion on my decision, I don’t need to hear it again’’.

‘’It was a dumb ass rule’’.

She changes the subject, ‘’when did you find out about him playing the ATCU?’’

‘’The night we came to his apartment, he poured his fragile little heart out to me like I knew he would’’.

‘’So that’s why you told me to be patient with him’’.

‘’Bingo. Quake the only reason I didn’t tell you was’’-

‘’to protect Ward I know. And you’d never do anything to put him in danger’’.

‘’He’s the only family I have left Quake’’.

She switches lanes and glances over at him, ‘’no he’s not’’.

‘’Ew. Can you be your usual emotionless robot self please? Ward is the over emotional one in your relationship’’.

‘’I’ll get him back don’t worry’’.

‘’Just let me kick his ass first that’s all I ask’’.

Skye slips on a pair of sunglasses, ‘’we’ll see’’.

They’re halfway to the Playground when they pass a popular fast food restaurant, ‘’would we be awful people if we stopped for tacos?’’

Skye debates for a second, ‘’yes’’.

Half an hour later they’re waking through the front door of the Playground when Kebo puts a hand on her arm, ‘’I know I’ve said this before and I’m sure you’ve heard it a thousand times, but I really am truly sorry for what happened last year, you didn’t deserve that Quake’’.

In an out of character gesture she pulls him in for a hug and squeezes, ‘’I’m not going to let anyone hurt Ward’’.

He pulls back and gives her a smile, ‘’I know, you have your Murder Face on’’.

 

Walking into her office Skye finds her Inhumans along with Coulson, Fitzsimmons and much to her annoyance Rosalind and Alison Price, all standing around looking at the video monitor in front of them. The atmosphere is abuzz with one goal; find Grant Ward, it’s what they all want. But the difference is Skye would die to make it happen, nobody else in this room besides Kebo would do the same. Quake takes control of the situation and pushes down the worry, she has confidence in Ward’s skills but she also knows Kimberly will use him to get to her, so she’s not going to kill him.

 

She calls Tony to help track him down and where Hydra could have possibly taken him, Fitzsimmons are a worried mess on the couch while Alison is a complete wreck. She won’t stop crying and it’s really pissing Skye off, why is she even here? Price can provide no useful information, she’s just in the way and she’s got nothing to offer in getting Ward back home safely. It hits Skye as she’s opening up her laptop that Alison is in love with Grant. Which makes sense who wouldn’t be? The thought still causes her throat to clench and an uncomfortable weight to settle onto her chest.

 

Even though Ward has no feelings for the other woman and she means nothing to him, it’s still awkward to see how much Alison cares for him. Skye wants to yank her by the shoulders and shake, tell her that none of this is real, that Ward is a married man who doesn’t care about her at all. But she can’t do that if she wants Grant to maintain his cover and keeping him safe far outweighs the feelings of a twenty-five-year-old girl. So she will continue to let that one sided love bloom until Ward ultimately crushes it under his boot, which Skye will watch with a small smile on her face.

 

‘’What does Hydra even want with Ward?’’ Rosalind asks as she paces a hole into the floor.

‘’To get information about the ATCU?’’ Alison offers and Skye is quick to shoot it down.

‘’That’s not why’’.

Price puts her hands on her hips, ‘’since you apparently know everything then why did they take him?’’

To piss me off, she thinks.

‘’He either has intel on them and they’re trying to do damage control, or they want revenge for all the times he worked with me’’.

‘’Wasn’t that like years ago? Why take a shot at him now?’’ Rosalind asks Ward’s association with Hydra is no secret.

‘’Maye this is the only time they had an opportunity to grab him’’.

The lies are so easily told, Rosalind and Alison don’t even question it.

Everyone else in this room knows the truth but Skye would eat them alive if they breathed a word of it.

‘’I just don’t understand how it could happen, I mean this is Ward we’re talking about’’.

Kebo snorts, ‘’he’s not a god’’.

Alison narrows her eyes, ‘’but he’s better than this, it was a fifty-man team he could have easily taken them out if he wanted to’’.

She’s not wrong, though fifty men against one is rather tough odds, it’s believable that they were able to capture Ward which is the point.

‘’Let’s stop focusing on the how and start wondering on the where, Skye if you were Kimberly where would you take Ward?’’

Coulson speaks up as Quake perches on the edge of her desk, ‘’somewhere remote where he couldn’t just walk out and find civilization, also somewhere heavily guarded and armed since they have to know I’ll come for him’’.

‘’Who’s to say they aren’t counting on that? What if this is a trap?’’ Fitz asks as he and Simmons both look at her with concern.

‘’What if Kimberly asks for a trade? You for him?’’

Skye glances over to Rosalind in her bright blue pantsuit and heels, ‘’if I have the opportunity to kill the Director of Hydra by giving myself up in exchange for Ward then that’s what I’m going to do’’.

It’s a half-truth one she swallows without question, but everyone else knows the real reason why Skye would sacrifice herself to guarantee Ward gets out in one piece.

Three hours later they’re following a trail that may lead to where Grant is when Caitlin walks in and sits beside Skye when her phone rings, it’s an unknown number.

Not putting it on speaker just in case she answers, ‘’what?’’

‘’Well well well if it isn’t the famous Destroyer of Worlds’’.

Skye has never met Kimberly Santos but knows this is her on the other line and she gestures for Fitz to track the call.

‘’Kimberly Santos, heard you took something that doesn’t belong to you’’.

A deep throaty laugh echoes and she responds with, ‘’you kidnapped my husband once and myself, thought I’d return the favor’’.

‘’That was a mistake’’.

‘’Your mistake was ripping my family apart and thinking you could get away with it. You have no idea what I’m capable of’’.

Skye has never responded well to threats which is why she replies, ‘’someday soon I am going to be standing above your body breaking every single one your bones one by one and you’ll be begging me to kill you, I want you to remember today when that happens and understand why I won’t. Why I’ll make you suffer’’.

‘’I’m not afraid of you Quake’’. There’s a small catch in Kim’s voice that proves otherwise, satisfying Skye.

‘’You should be, if you were smart you’d let Ward go and run. Try to disappear and have a normal life for as long as you could until I found you, because trust me I would’’.

‘’Speaking of Grant Ward he’s quite resilient, has held up quite amazingly to our torture techniques. Though I can’t say I’m surprised with his reputation and all. What does Shield always say about him? He’s the best since Natasha Romanoff?’’

Skye clenches her fists at the knowledge they are hurting him even if Ward can handle it, it doesn’t sit well.

‘’He won’t break’’.

Another dark chuckle on the other end, ‘’oh I’ve barely even begun my long process of getting him to talk, would you like me to describe it to you? Bamboo slits under the nails, electrocution is always effective, maybe take away his ability to have children. God knows the world does not need a human with half your DNA inside it’’.

That gets Skye’s attention real quick, causes fire and brimstone to settle and simmer in her blood, rage and ruin to make a home on her skin and in her chest.

The Playground rumbles, the coffee mugs on the desk shatter.

‘’If you even think about’’-

‘’Oh did I hit a nerve Quake? Are children a sensitive topic for you? How would it feel I wonder to be married to a man who can’t give you what he’s supposed to? Such a tragedy’’.

Skye has no violent or witty remark in response, all she can think about is breaking glass and the smell of gasoline, Ward’s tears in her hair in that hospital room.

‘’So here’s what I’m thinking a trade, you in exchange for your precious husband’’.

Quake doesn’t even inhale before replying, ‘’done. Name the time and place’’.

She does and Kim has a few parting words before they hang up, ‘’you killed my husband, one day I’ll kill yours and make you watch’’.

‘’Good luck with that’’.

Skye hangs up, tosses the phone on the desk and looks to Fitz, ‘’tell me you were able to trace that’’.

‘’No, the number was untraceable’’.

‘’Course it was’’.

She puts a finger to forehead as a headache begins to form while Caitlin asks, ‘’could Mr. Stark help?’’

As if he heard his name the phone starts ringing and Skye snatches it up, ‘’if you don’t have good news I will never speak to you again’’.

‘’I’m going to excuse that because I know you’re worried but just to be clear you would never be able to go the rest of your life without me. I found your stupid husband, Kimberly has him in an underground bunker in Spain, sending you the intel now’’.

‘’She wanted a trade’’.

‘’Of course she did and you were considering it weren’t you?’’

‘’Well now I don’t have to, thanks Dad’’.

‘’Don’t try to sugar coat it Cupcake, we’ll talk about this later, be careful’’.

‘’I will’’.

‘’Want backup? I can be there in an hour’’.

‘’I’m good thanks’’.

‘’Do I have to remind you that you have a team behind you? You don’t need to go in alone’’.

‘’Kebo will be with me, I’ll even take Caitlin if that makes you feel better’’.

‘’It doesn’t. Call me when you’re home safe’’.

‘’Sure’’.

It doesn’t escape her notice that he didn’t mention Ward being safe, those two may never see eye to eye.

 

After informing everyone what’s going on and how they are going to take the fight to Hydra instead of exchanging Skye for Ward, assignments are handed out. Coulson, Kebo and Caitlin will come with, Fitzsimmons will stay behind and watch the cameras, help locate Grant once they’re inside. The rest of her Inhumans are either on a mission across the world or working their regular jobs, there’s no time to call them into work. Skye is about to walk into the armory and change into her suit, grab a few weapons when Alison calls out to her.

 

‘’I’m going with you’’.

Skye nearly laughs, ‘’the hell you are’’.

‘’I need to make sure he’s okay’’.

‘’I don’t have time for your Hallmark movie feelings right now, you are not field trained so unless you know how to shoot a gun and defend yourself you’re staying here’’.

Alison stubbornly crosses her arms, ‘’you’ll be there, that’s all the defense I need’’.

‘’I will not protect you out there, it’d be in your best interest to stay behind’’.

Shock crosses her pretty face, ‘’you would let me die out there?’’

‘’Probably, now if we’re done with this conversation I have a moron to rescue’’.

‘’Promise me you’ll being back the man I love’’.

 

For a second just a small split second Skye feels sympathy for this girl, she’s in love with a phantom version of Ward that doesn’t exist. One day he’ll leave her and she’ll spend the rest of her life wondering why, but then the pity dries right up when she thinks about how Alison has spent the last six months with her hands on a body that doesn’t belong to her. Not that it’s her fault but still, Skye can’t help but hate her on principal. She looks at Price and nods, ‘’I will’’. Kebo is drinking when they settle into the quinjet and take off, Caitlin is putting an ICER in its holder on her hip.

 

‘’How many times did you want to punch Alison in the face?’’ Kebo asks.

‘’Every time she opened her mouth’’.

‘’Glad I wasn’t the only one. So boss Coulson says I should try to rein in my powers this mission, do I need to?’’

Skye glares at Phil who rolls his eyes, ‘’you weren’t supposed to tell her’’.

‘’Caitlin Coulson is not in charge, you do what I say and don’t listen to anyone else’’.

‘’Yes ma’am’’.

‘’And Phil next time Steve visits I’m not telling you’’.

He looks like he’s about to cry, ‘’no’’.

‘’That’s what you get for thinking you have any say regarding my Inhumans’’.

 

When they land Phil drives to the bunker Tony told them about, it’s been six hours since Ward was taken and Skye feels herself growing antsy. Since he’s made no contact it means he either hasn’t gotten the information he needs, or he’s passed out. Skye takes control of every camera in the area syncing up the feed to both Shield and Tony, everyone has coms in their ears and is armed with a weapon. ‘’Are we going in quiet or is this a party?’’ Caitlin puts her hair in a ponytail and grins at Skye’s response, ‘’let’s make some noise’’. With one hand the secret door is blown to bits and they climb inside the bunker.

 

The bunker is dark and damp, they walk in with caution but no one comes to investigate the fact that their doors were literally just broken to pieces. Skye makes a comment about how stupid everyone is as they walk to the first door in the long stretch of hallway before them. With a raise of her hand the door is blown off its hinges and the small space is filled with Hydra agents who are seated at a bar, drinking. They all let out sounds of shock before Skye holds out both hands, ‘’sorry boys it’s ladies’ night’’. They all fall victim to her powers just like countless others before.

 

‘’Don’t even know why you brought us’’. Phil mutters as they walk back down the hall. ‘’To get Tony off my back’’. Fitz and Simmons finally locate Ward who’s being held in the very last room on their right and there are fifteen Hydra agents with him. Kim is not here, choosing to observe the situation elsewhere but she has to know her stupid plan failed by now, Skye can’t wait to rub it in her face. She’s about to open the door when Kebo literally kicks it open and storms inside guns blazing, Quake follows and stops short for a moment at the sight waiting for them.

 

She’s seen Ward hurt a thousand times, has felt his warm blood on her hands and watched it run down a drain too many times to count. She’s watched his broken bones reset, heard the crunch and crack as dislocated shoulders and broken noses were put back together. This is not the first time he’s been captured this is not a new situation for either of them but it doesn’t stop her chest from caving in and her heart to quicken in both fear and rage.

 

Seeing him pain is not something she’ll ever get used to, physically or emotionally. While Kebo rushes over to him Skye focuses all her on the Hydra agents in the room, who either fire a weapon at her or try to take her down in hand to hand combat. They all lose and only minutes later the room is filled with groans of agony, the smell of thick blood and sweat in the air. Quake is about to walk over to Grant who appears sluggish and slow, his eyes closed.

 

When Caitlin calls her name and holds out a hand, glancing back a Hydra agent that was starting to stand is suddenly thrown into a wall, frozen solid. Snow’s powers create this cold blue glow and the atmosphere grows cold, Skye can see her breath and goosebumps raise on her arms. No one reacts to this except for Kebo who looks pale as if he’s seen a ghost. He’s stopped undoing the chains around Ward’s limbs, eyes are wide and entire body trembling.

 

In a small voice full of tears he falls back onto the ground legs splayed out in front of him and whispers, ‘’Lauren?’’ It’s then Skye remembers his girlfriend was an Inhuman who was able to freeze things, a very similar power to Caitlin’s but not quite the same. So Skye can see why he’d draw this conclusion and her heart breaks for him as his breathing accelerates and he puts a hand to his chest, the other clawing at the concrete floor.

 

Skye tells Caitlin and Coulson to be the look out before walking over to Kebo and crouching down to his level, putting one hand on Ward’s knee. Tears are streaming down his face now and he’s exhaling too rapidly and loudly for Skye’s liking, if he doesn’t get it under control he’ll pass out. He’s saying Lauren’s name over and over rocking back and forth, fingers clutching his shirt where his tattoo rests. ‘’Squishy look at me’’. It takes another three times of her saying that to get him to focus.

 

‘’Kebo that’s not Lauren’’.

‘’Her, her powers she has the same powers Skye’’.

He sounds so soft and childlike like he’s holding onto a long-awaited dream and doesn’t want to wake from it.

Skye grabs his chin to make him look directly at her, ‘’I cannot afford you to lose your shit right now’’.

‘’She’s dead, she died oh god she’s dead, Skye I, how does that woman have the same powers as my Lauren?’’

‘’She doesn’t, I’ll explain it all to you when we get back to the Playground’’.

He’s openly sobbing at this point and gravitates toward Ward, like his grief knows exactly where to go to seek comfort as he rests his face into Ward’s shin.

‘’Squishy’’-

‘’She’s dead and I wish I was too’’.

 

Skye would love to reflect on how surprised she is at his behavior since Lauren died over twenty years ago, but now is not the time. And who is she to measure how long a person’s sorrow is supposed to last? You can miss someone you loved for the rest of your life if you wanted, Skye is always going to mourn her son. ‘’She’s gone and I am never getting her back’’. Quake looks up to Ward who is conscious but seems to be having trouble opening his eyes.

 

His chest is bare and bloody as is his face, all exposed skin is soaking wet and so is his hair. A bad feeling curls into her stomach and pulls, they water boarded him. Ward isn’t afraid of water but drowning, that’s a different story. Ever since his little brother Thomas nearly died because of their psychotic brother Christian, it’s one of Grant’s fears and could cause awful flashbacks and guilt to flare up. She also sees two small holes in the veins of his arms which would explain the behavior, he’s been drugged.

 

The building shakes from the crushing weight of her emotions, Skye wants nothing more than to burn this place to the ground with everyone inside it, but her husband’s health and well being comes first. So she lightly grabs Kebo by the back of the neck as Phil walks back into the room. ‘’Squishy I need you to get it together’’. He’s still clutching Ward’s ankle like that’s the only thing keeping him on earth. ‘’You can cry later but right now Ward needs you, I need you. I can’t get him out of here without you’’.

 

She smacks his face lightly to get him to focus and his eyes clear, he makes choking sound and then nods. A look of understanding passes between them and he squeezes her hand before standing, unsteady on his feet as Coulson rushes over. Skye runs her hands up Ward’s thighs which he has no reaction to, he’s just sitting there struggling to keep his head up and mumbling. Checking his pulse her fingers linger on his neck, ‘’Grant can you hear me?’’

 

One bloodshot eye opens but then closes and something like a frustrated sigh comes out of him but that’s all she gets. Kebo finishes undoing the restrains just as both Caitlin and Fitzsimmons warn more Hydra agents are on the way. Coulson and Kebo support Ward’s weight between them, arms slung around his waist, his arms on either of their shoulders. ‘’Get him on the jet, if I’m not back in three minutes go without me’’.

 

Everyone protests to this and she waves it off, ‘’Ward needs medical attention, we have supplies on the jet to keep hi stable but we need to get him to Simmons. This is not negotiable, leave if I’m not back on time. I’ll be fine and Tony can pick me up if I’m here for too long’’. Kebo mutters how pissed Ward is going to be when he learns about this, but they heave him out of the room anyway after Skye puts a hand to his chest to feel his heart beat.

 

‘’You have weird friends’’. Caitlin tells her as they face off the Hydra agents that start pouring into the room. Skye snaps a few spines before responding, ‘’you have no idea’’. They make it to the quinjet with seconds to spare, Skye knuckles are bloody and she’ll have a few nasty bruises tomorrow but it was worth it. They take off and she walks into the small medical room they have that consists of a cot and a first aid kit. Ward is lying on said cot sweating, but his wounds have been cleaned.

 

Kebo is standing over him on guard, hand to his mouth.

‘’You good?’’

He shakes his head, ‘’they waterboarded him’’.

‘’They’re all dead, they can’t hurt him anymore’’.

‘’Good, I called Paul’’.

Skye drags a chair and sits next to Grant’s head, ‘’maybe you should talk to him too’’.

‘’Pass. I’ve never liked shrinks and I’m fine now, it was just a shock’’.

‘’Are you sure?’’

Kebo raises an eyebrow. ‘’would you like me to pour my soul out to you? Because I can. I can tell you how I fell apart on that floor and wanted nothing more than to be buried alive, but Ward is better at handling emotional conversation than you so I’ll save it for when he’s awake’’.

Skye strokes his cold dark hair, ‘’and to think we’re the ones that call him a robot’’.

‘’He better of gotten what he came here for or I am going to punch him’’.

‘’Get in line’’.

Now that Ward is safe Skye can breathe a sigh of relief, he didn’t suffer any physical damage, nothing broken or bruised.

They got to him just in time, no bamboo slits under his nails.

Kim’s warning about kids comes to mind and she swallows back vomit, ‘’Kebo’’.

‘’Yeah?’’

Her fingers drift down Grant’s face, ‘’when we get there I need you to ask Jemma about his penis’’.

‘’Come again?’’

She tells him about Kim’s threat and he turns pale all over again, ‘’Quake you don’t really think’’-

‘’She wasn’t lying Squishy’’. Tears fill her eyes at the thought, ‘’I can’t ask I need you to do it for me’’.

He reaches across Ward’s chest to squeeze her fingers, ‘’alright’’.

They watch over his body the entire ride to the Playground, Skye’s fingers tracing every scar she can reach, having memorized them all.

 

Grant is still out of it when they walk into the Playground and everyone is a blur until Skye reaches their destination; the medical wing of the building, Simmons is already ready at a bed, gloves and IV, a few other doctors beside her. Coulson and Kebo carefully lay him on the mattress and they take blood samples, run other tests for what feels like hours. Skye locks down the wing, no one else gests in or out, if someone has an emergency another station is set up across the hall.

 

Simmons is steady and calm throughout the entire ordeal, even brings Skye tea while they’re waiting on the test results to see if any damage was done to his body that they can’t see. When it comes back all clear Skye nearly falls into Jemma’s embrace, a sigh of relief she didn’t even know was trapped flows out. Grant is perfectly fine despite being given a few sedatives and being waterboarded for a couple hours straight, once the drugs are out of his system he’ll be perfectly fine.

 

Skye doesn’t leave his side, not to take off her suit or shoes, not even when they move him to a private room with a locked door and a bathroom. She just pulls up a chair and holds his hand, thinks about how many times they’ve been in this exact situation even when the roles were reversed. So many years between them so much love and heartbreak, but the joy, the golden deep love was worth it all in the end. Skye has never felt anything like she does with Ward with anybody else.

 

It’s around three a.m. when he finally comes to, outwardly there’s no change in his breathing or shift in his body to know he’s awake, but having spent so long sleeping beside him Skye just knows. Squeezes his hand and runs a finger down his arm, ‘’Ward it’s okay, you’re safe, Kebo and I are here’’. Now he opens his eyes and turns to her, relief flooding those whiskey irises when it’s clear she’s unharmed and in one piece.

 

‘’Skye’’. His voice is hoarse and quiet, she strokes his cheek, ‘’it’s me, you’re safe at the Playground’’.

‘’Bloody moron’’. Kebo speaks up and steps into his eyesight, ‘’I am so angry at you right now’’.

Ward clears his throat and sits up in a surprisingly swift move that both she and Kebo protest to.

But he remains upright keeping her hand inside his own and rubs his eyes.

‘’Bathroom?’’

Skye and Kebo help him up and look at each other as the door closes, ‘’he seems alert and coherent’’.

Ward never is one to stay down for long.

‘’Did you get the intel you were looking for or was this just a waste of time?’’

 

Kebo’s only answer is the sound of vomiting into the toilet and Skye rushes inside to find Ward braced against the bowl, sweating and trembling. Jemma, Fitz and Kebo appear in the doorway and Skye waves them off as she strokes his back and hair, wipes the sweat from his brow. He finishes and leans against the small shower stall breathing heavily, glances into the toilet for a second before flushing it and looking over at her, ‘’should have known you’d come for me’’.

 

She smiles, ‘’always’’. He tells her to wait for him outside as he leans over the toilet again, the sound of retching loud as she closes the door. He comes out five minutes later and Fitz and Kebo brace his weight against them both, ignoring his insistence that he’s fine. Ward accepts the cold water Jemma offers him and runs a hand down his hospital clad chest, asks Simmons how bad the damage is. Skye watches him carefully, he seems too calm, too normal.

 

Like he just took a stroll down the street and wasn’t tortured. Simmons has just given him the run down when he opens his hand and holds out a small device to the three of them, it’s a flash drive Tony designed the smallest and most effective one in the world.

 

‘’Please tell me that was under your tongue this entire time’’. Kebo says, backing away from Grant like he’s holding a bomb.

‘’I got the intel we needed’’.

‘’You swallowed and vomited it back up didn’t you?’’

Ward shrugs like this isn’t disgusting, ‘’I didn’t exactly have time to hide it and I didn’t have any pockets’’.

He’s not the first spy to do this, Skye has a feeling he’s done this more than once though on account of how cool he is about it.

It was part of the job, and as long as he gets it done the intimate details don’t really matter to Ward.

‘’Honey I love you but I cross the line at touching things that have been inside you, unless it’s a se”-

‘’Please do not finish that sentence”. Kebo mutters, grossed out while the tips of Ward’s ears turn red.

Jemma takes it after putting on a latex glove and plugging it into Skye’s laptop.

Grant didn’t disappoint, he found out that Hydra and the ATCU are working together to build these weapons.

All in the name of killing Skye.

‘’Son of a bitch’’. She complains, but pushes the anger down at the sight of Ward swaying on his feet.

With Kebo’s help they get him back into bed, ‘’you don’t have to pretend you’re okay’’.

Skye whispers as she sits on the edge of the mattress and traces his eyebrow.

He watches her with great interest, ‘’you’re being nice to me’’.

‘’You were just tortured, of course I’m being nice to you’’.

Before that hope can dim in his eyes she adds, ‘’yes I’m still mad at you for the ATCU thing but you’re still my husband, I don’t want to see you hurt’’.

‘’Paul is on his way’’. Kebo informs them and settles in a chair on the other side of the bed.

Grant breathes out heavily like he’s been holding his breath this entire time.

Skye doesn’t ask if he’s okay because he’s not, she does reach out to touch his chest gives him enough time to tell her no but it never comes.

Settling her fingers over his heart beat she whispers, ‘’you are an idiot, don’t ever do that for me again’’.

He covers her hands with his own, ‘’I’m fine’’.

‘’No you’re not. I know what they did to you’’.

Panic from old sins flash in his eyes, she knows he’s hearing Thomas scream for his help, seeing him nearly die and being powerless to stop it.

‘’Don’t want to talk about it’’.

‘’Okay’’.

She has never pushed him and he’s never been more thankful for that than he is right now.

Skye leans down to kiss his forehead, ‘’rest, I’m not leaving. No one can hurt you now, I’ll wake you up when Paul gets here’’.

He falls asleep ten minutes later, breathing even and steady.

‘’You think he’s pretending to be fine so we don’t worry?’’

Kebo asks as he turns off the bed side lamp.

‘’More than likely’’.

‘’That fool loves you so much sometimes it scares me’’.

Skye can’t agree, but Kebo has been known to be very over protective when it comes to Grant.

‘’So how are you going to handle this ATCU threat? I’m honestly not shocked they’re working with Hydra’’.

‘’I’m going to wait until Ward is back on his feet’’.

‘’Then what?’’

Skye looks up at him her eyes ablaze, ‘’and then I am going to rip their hearts out, every last one of them’’.

 

She did warn Rosalind after all never to betray her, now she has to pay the price.

Chapter Text

 

‘’Is this a free show or do I have to slip a twenty in your underwear?’’ Ward pauses dragging a towel through his wet hair and feels the tips of his ears turn pink as Skye flashes him a grin from the bed. You’d think after almost ten years together he’d be used to Skye hitting on him, but her comments never fail to gain a reaction. Grant thinks it’s because he spent his entire life not being loved and now that someone does his brain is still trying to grasp the fact, learn how to cope after thirty plus years without it.

 

The hospital room he’s been confined to the past two days is gray and dull, the bed is too small the sheets scratchy. Skye put the entire wing on lockdown no one goes in or out without her permission, it’s created a rift between her, Rosalind and Alison Price but she doesn’t care. In the past forty-eight hours without the ATCU or Hydra looming over them, this tiny bubble that he and Skye have created where they pretend everything is normal between them, is all that exists.

 

She’s hardly left his beside unless it’s to shower, she sleeps in the chair next to his head always rejecting his pleas to switch places. It’s as if this past year never happened and nothing changed, they’re happy and blissfully in love. It’s like Ward can see the Skye before the accident, before she lost herself in this grief. He makes her laugh again, that light back in her eyes. But sometimes it’ll hit them both exactly where their lives are at, and he can literally see the life flickering out her face.

 

Ward isn’t in that place anymore, he’ll never recover from what happened, never get over it. But if he’s learned anything in all his years, it’s that the world keeps on spinning no matter how much you beg it not to. If he could take on Skye’s pain he’d do it in a second just to keep her smiling, unfortunately though it doesn’t work like that. So he’ll continue living in this colorless wonderland with her until it inevitably ends, it’s what has helped get him through being water boarded.

 

The actual ‘torture’ Hydra inflicted on him doesn’t bother Ward, every torture technique known to man John Garrett would learn it first, practice it on Grant, and then teach him how to do it perfectly. When Grant went into Shield they also taught him many different ways to extract information out of a subject, after all that pain Ward found himself immune to torture itself both mental and physical it never took a toll.

 

Combine that with the ability to compartmentalize any situation, it’s how Ward’s reputation was born. He was a robot, a machine, nothing could hurt him nothing could touch him he was numb to it all. A block of ice that doesn’t melt, doesn’t break for anyone even in the middle of summer. But there’s one thing no matter how hard John tried to snuff out that wouldn’t go away completely. Torture by water, it’s not the act itself that bothered him, it was recovering from it later.

 

The memories plagued him, Thomas screaming, Christian’s threatening tone, their father’s face that night at the hospital. Over the years it’s gotten easier to deal with especially since waterboarding was hardly a technique used when he was rarely tortured by an enemy. Having Paul, Skye and Kebo as a support system all these years is something he’s always been grateful for, these last couple days especially.

 

But Grant is exhausted having everyone worried about him, he’d rather focus on Skye because it’s obvious she’s still suffering. He’s been able to see it in the weeks they’ve been working together but it’s painfully obvious to him now that they’ve spent so much time together in a confined space. It’s understandable he’s not blaming her, he just wants to help in whatever way he can, she wouldn’t let him a year ago but perhaps she will now.

 

They just need to sit and talk about what happened, how poorly they both handled it and go from there. He heads to the bag of clothes Kebo brought over and slips on a shirt, his body still sore but it’s easy to shove aside. Turns back to Skye who’s putting up their most recent game of Battleship where she beat him terribly, folds up the box before glancing up at him. ‘’Simmons says they’re releasing you today’’. The only reason he’s stayed at the Playground this long is because Skye and Kebo would have a fit if he tried to leave.

 

Hiding out here not having to worry about his cover that grows heavier every day, no Alison to plaster on a fake smile for and pretend he wants her hands on him, no Rosalind to act like a loyal solider for especially now that he knows her true intentions, it won’t be so easy to fake. He’ll do it though he’ll do anything to protect the person right here in front of him, even at the expense of himself. Skye stands and throws on one of Steve’s old leather jackets she tossed onto the bed last night.

 

He watches he glance around the room and then to the door, ‘’back to reality’’.

‘’It had to happen eventually’’.

She leans into him slightly, ‘’we don’t have to go back you know. We could just stay in this depressing room forever, have Fitz bring us food so we don’t starve to death’’.

‘’You couldn’t handle being in a small space with me for very long, I’d give it three weeks before you called it quits’’.

Skye rolls her eyes, ‘’and you would be perfectly fine right? Never get tired of me’’.

Testing the boundaries they’ve wordlessly laid in the past forty eight hours, Ward sets a hand on her shoulder, rubs his thumb along the split from her shirt to her collarbone.

‘’If you’re about to say something stupidly romantic I can’t be held responsible for my actions’’.

‘’I’d rather stay trapped in this room with you for the rest of our lives than go back out there’’.

 

She narrows her eyes but relaxes into his touch, her own hand comes to rest on his hip. It’s so natural so easy, falling back into this pattern, this life with each other. He’s still just as drawn to her as he was when they first met, he still wants to spend every day in her arms, he’d give up anything and everything just to keep her at his side. The fact that she doesn’t hate or resent him after what he’s been doing these last six months still shocks him.

 

Her hand traces the wedding band on the wrong finger as he says, ‘’I need to ask you something’’.

‘’Okay’’.

‘’On a scale of one to ten how much do you love me?’’

 

He woke up this morning thinking about it, how she asked him this same question once. Why it’s important why it matters to him so much in this moment, Ward isn’t sure. He just wants some footing perhaps before they go back into the real world, where exactly they stand once this bubble pops and they are forced to wear the masks he made. Skye doesn’t answer for a moment just looks into his eyes for all the reasons he can’t say, her hands come to rest on his biceps and he shudders at the contact.

 

‘’Sweetheart there’s no scale you could use to measure how much I love you, it wouldn’t be enough’’. She repeats the response he gave her and is smiling warmly, like things are exactly the same between them as they were two, three, even four years ago.  He longs for it, to wake every morning with her wrapped around him again, to laugh and cry together, to just have their life back. He knows it’ll never be the same after what happened, that they are forever altered by the death of their son.

 

But if there’s a shot, a chance they can heal from this together like they should have from the start, he’s going to take it. It’s why he pulls Skye into his arms, rests his face against her hair and closes his eyes, breathes her in, this moment, this pause between a dream and reality. Nothing has existed beyond this room in two days and he’d kill for it to remain that way, Skye wraps herself around him and sighs, relaxes her body against his own.

 

‘’I miss you’’. She says into his chest her hands fisting into his shirt. Ward pictures their living room, a fresh fire burning and Skye in his arms, everything is perfect and right, she never goes through any more pain and they are happy and safe far away from the world. It was supposed to be their future, could have been a reality if the world were fair and kind. Maybe one day they’ll get back there, maybe one day they’ll wake up and this will all just a be a small chapter of their lives.

 

Overwhelmed for a moment the history between them, that this person has loved him for nearly a decade without fail and pause, he cups her face in his hands like he’s done a hundred times before. Looking up at him Skye cups his wrists and strokes the scars he inflicted upon his skin so many years ago, they no longer bring him pain or shame. The man who did that was desperate and lost, had no place in the world, didn’t know how to live without orders or a gun in his hand.

 

Grant is so far away from that version of himself he can hardly remember what that kind of hopelessness feels like. Some of that is due to Skye herself who saved him in many ways, made him see the world differently. He’s never loved anyone the way he does her, can’t imagine he’ll ever want to be with anyone else, that he’s capable of giving away all the love Skye has only ever held and handing it to someone else.

 

‘’One day when this is all over, if you still want me, I promise we’ll go home. And if you don’t want to go back to that specific house I’ll build you a new one. It’s never mattered to me where we live as long as I’m with you, Skye you’ve been my home for the last ten years and you always will be’’. He’d never been a romantic person until he met Skye on account of never having anyone to expose himself to like he does her, but she just brings it out in him, a side of himself he never thought could exist.

 

Her thumbs are still running along the scars on his wrists something she’s done a hundred times before, he likes to think her touch erases the cruelty he inflicted upon himself all those years ago. Knowing this Skye presses her lips against one and then the other before resting the side of her head on his right arm, blonde hair soft against his skin. ‘’And I know it’s not fair to say that when I’m pretending to be with someone else but’’-

 

She cuts off his words with another kiss to his wrist, ‘’shut up and don’t ruin the moment’’. He presses her to his chest again just holding her, if this is all he gets, if she never comes back to him, this memory will be forever seared into his brain to pull out when he misses her so much it hurts. He can feel the ghost of that pain, living without her for this entire year is not something he ever wants to do again. But if he has to because it’s what she wants, he’ll grin and bear it to make her happy.

 

‘’You make it so hard to stay mad at you’’. Skye tells him when they break apart.

‘’You can stay mad at me for as long as you need to, what I did was unforgivable’’.

She rolls her eyes, ‘’cool it with the self hatred Turbo, we both know one day I’ll be ripping off your clothes back at home just like it used to be’’.

He’s still laughing minutes later when the door opens and Fitzsimmons walk in.

 

Fifteen minutes later he and Skye are walking down the hall when she finally lifts the lockdown on the medical wing and Simmons has given him a clean bill of health. The door connecting the wing to the rest of the Playground slides open and he’s ambushed by floral perfume and light brown hair. Alison flings herself into his arms, her own lock around his neck as she cries into his neck. Ward slips into the role of perfect boyfriend and ATCU agent easily, he doesn’t even have to think about it.

 

So he’s not looking at Skye who rolls her eyes, he pretends to be oblivious to the argument she and Rosalind get into, the ATCU was not happy about not being able to see him. Ward shushes Alison’s fears as she bawls into his chest about how hard it’s been for her being away from him, that no one would let her into his room. Victoria appears at Skye’s elbow and calms the situation, hands her a cell phone and he catches the gist of what she’s saying, there’s a mission.

 

Alison is still latched onto his neck when he shifts around to talk to Rosalind as Skye is absorbed into the screen of the phone, he gives her a rundown of what happened and is just starting to wrap it up as Skye looks over at him. ‘’How do you feel about shooting an old boyfriend of mine in the face?’’ Before he can respond she’s walking away in the direction of her office and beckons him to follow. The office is empty and dark as he trails in after her, the door closes and she locks it.

 

As the details begin pulling up onto the video monitor Ward walks around to her desk and pauses, picking up one of the frames by the computer. It’s by far one of the best pictures of the two of them, it used to reside on their dresser at home. It was nine years ago right after they first got together, so young and in love, having no idea what was waiting in the years to follow. Nat took this if he remembers correctly, the love so obvious between them even with his eyes closed as he kisses Skye’s forehead.

 

 He feels her eyes on him now just like in the image, ‘’if you knew ten years ago where all this would lead, what would happen between us, would you have ever kissed me in Cancun?’’ Grant tears his gaze away from the people they used to be can feel his eyes begin to burn as he walks up to her, cups her face once more as the words just pour out of him. ‘’I’m always kissing you in Cancun, nothing would ever change that’’.

 

‘’You’re being very cheesy and romantic today’’. She mutters her hands on the back of his neck. It’s so familiar the joking the laughing together, this position, Grant can’t help but get lost in the color of her eyes and the feel of her in his arms. He runs a thumb across her lower lip as she sucks in a breath, ‘’you love it’’. She always has and doesn’t deny it. Instead slides her hands down his chest, his hips and arms, before traveling back to his neck. Skye doesn’t have to voice what she’s doing, they both know.

 

Erasing Alison’s touch with her own, it wasn’t something Grant knew he needed until it was happening. He melts into her hold and leans down to kiss her forehead, eyes closed, knows her own are open. They stay like that for a moment before Grant remembers why they’re here, he’s met all of Skye’s ex-boyfriends so unless she was lying or just forgot about one, he isn’t sure why this person popped up on Shield’s radar.

 

Intel begins loading onto the screen, Ward releases her to catch up as she fills him in.

‘’I wouldn’t necessarily call this asshole my boyfriend but we do know each other in the biblical sense’’.

Ward crosses his arms, ‘’great’’.

‘’Are you pouting?’’

‘’No’’.

‘’Yes you are, that’s a pout right there’’.

He schools his face back to neutral as her amused expression ticks up higher.

‘’What did he do?’’

His name is Simon Greenwald, forty-five and wealthy, from Scotland and is in the US for business.

Skye stands next to him, ‘’I’ll give you a hint, he’s been talking to Rosalind Price the last couple of days’’.

It takes less than a second to reach a conclusion, ‘’she’s trying to sell the nuclear weapons’’.

‘’So far we know that she has five, two of which Simon is interested in. None of the others have popped up on the market yet’’.

Ward would have already known about this if he wasn’t lying in a hospital bed thinking about his childhood.

Skye knowing where his head is at squeezes his arm, ‘’even if you were able to get ahead of this Rosalind doesn’t know you know she teamed up with Hydra to make these. We’d still be in this exact situation, don’t blame yourself’’.

‘’Stop trying to make me feel better’’.

‘’I’m just giving you the facts. If I was trying to make you feel better I’d tell you to sit on the couch and take your pants off’’.

They haven’t been physically intimate in well over a year, after the accident neither of them even thought about it.

Which is why he doesn’t play into the comment, just runs a hand through her hair before kissing the top of her head as she continues.

‘’We can’t let him run around with weapons like these’’.

‘’What are you thinking?’’

She shrugs and types on her phone, ‘’I could just beat the shit out of him until he promises he won’t buy them, kill him which solves the problem indefinitely, or show some skin and convince him to walk away from Rosalind’’.

He likes every option except the third which Skye knows, she flashes him a grin and it’s obvious exactly how she’s going to handle this.

Caitlin and Victoria arrive minutes later carrying makeup and a couple of dresses, Vic smiles warmly at him as she hands Skye a dress.

Snow blatantly checks him out as he leans against the couch, ‘’you coming with us on this one?’’

‘’No’’. Skye answers for him as she chunks a pair of heels across the room.

‘’He was just released from the hospital this morning, he’s not going anywhere’’.

Caitlin frowns, ‘’bummer’’.

‘’Stop flirting with him and pick out a dress’’.

‘’Someone is in a grumpy mood today’’.

‘’I’m in the mood to punch someone in the face, keep it up and it’ll be you’’.

Snow bats her eyelashes and grabs a black dress from Victoria, ‘’you’d never punch me’’.

Skye doesn’t answer and Ward leaves the room to give them privacy.

 

Kebo comes into the hall looking as if he just woke up, ‘’what are you doing? Shouldn’t you be in bed?’’

‘’Doctors released me not too long ago’’.

He sits on the floor and Ward follows suit, declines the silver flask held out to him.

Kebo takes a large sip, ‘’how do you feel?’’

He’s hardly left Ward’s side since they brought him in, Skye kicked him out this morning to shower.

‘’Fine, a little sore but nothing I can’t handle. What about you?’’

‘’Oh just drowning in my own sorrow you know the usual’’.

Grant wasn’t fully conscious at the time Skye and Kebo got him away from Hydra, but apparently he saw Caitlin’s powers for the first time and thought it was his deceased girlfriend Lauren.

‘’What if she’s Lauren reincarnated?’’ He asks quietly and Ward puts a hand on his shoulder.

‘’She’s not’’.

Kebo glares at him, ‘’you’re just saying that because you hate Caitlin’’.

‘’I don’t trust her, there’s a difference’’.

‘’Stop trying to steal my joy you asshole’’.

‘’I’m trying to help you. Caitlin has powers similar to Lauren’s but they aren’t the same person, Lauren is gone Kebo and I am so sorry for that. I know how much you miss her’’.

‘’I dreamt about her last night’’.

Kebo’s eyes are rimmed red as he sniffles, ‘’I don’t know how to stop missing her, how to stop looking for her’’.

It’s been almost twenty years and while Kebo has been able to live without the woman he loves, he’ll probably never be over her death.

‘’Enough about me, how’s your tragic life going?’’

Ward studies Kebo to make sure he’s alright before responding, ‘’I don’t know how much longer I can keep it up with the ATCU’’.

‘’So it’s not getting easier now that Skye knows’’.

‘’It’s easier being around her but going to work everyday, being with Alison, acting like I respect Rosalind as boss now that I know she’s trying to kill my wife, that’s getting harder’’.

‘’You’re torturing yourself for no reason mate. Just quit and let Shield and the Avengers do all the work while you keep Skye safe here’’.

Ward opens his mouth but Kebo holds up a hand, ‘’but you won’t do that, mainly because you want to keep your dearly beloved out of harm’s way. I get it, but is she really worth what you’re putting yourself through?’’

He thinks about everything they’ve been through, ‘’yes’’.

Kebo shakes his head, ‘’you’re still the same idiot who fell in love with her nine years ago’’.

Ward can’t deny it.

 

An hour later Skye’s office is filled with Shield agents, Rosalind and Alison went back to the ATCU after Skye lied and told them this mission was personal and she only needed Ward for it. The suspicion in Ali’s eyes did not escape Grant’s notice, he’s going to have to repair that later. As for right now he’s leaning against Skye’s desk Fitz next to him and Kebo in her chair, watching the monitor as Skye and Caitlin arrive at Simon’s mansion where he’s holding a party.

 

 Caitlin could handle this mission by herself but Skye would never want anyone to put themselves into this kind of situation if she has the power to prevent it. And she’s doing it to push his buttons, the dress she’s wearing is on purpose as well. Dark blue and low cut, backless, Ward can hardly keep his eyes off her. It feels like five years ago when they used to do missions like these all the time, Skye would tag their target and lure him somewhere, wearing something Ward couldn’t handle.

 

He can almost pretend that nothing has changed, that she’ll come back from this party and undo his belt, laugh at his mood. It’s not the sex he misses, it’s the intimacy, the conversations, the sitting in silence just enjoying each other’s company. Lying in bed wrapped around her in the dead of night the rest of the world asleep, that’s what he misses. Belonging to someone, having someone to come home to that knows the real him.

 

So he stands in a place that doesn’t feel familiar and watches as Skye schmoozes and flirts with everyone that moves, occasionally winking directly at the camera for his benefit. She keeps an eye on Caitlin and tells Fitz to do the same, Simon walks into the party two hours later. The mansion is five stories, each one filled with bodies and alcohol. Simon has light brown hair and a beard, green eyes and has the attitude of someone who is aware he’s very wealthy.

 

Grant just wants to punch him in the face on principle. He picks Skye out almost immediately which is exactly what she planned, while Caitlin discreetly distracts his body guards and other personnel. Fitz zooms out when Simons heads to the bar to speak with her but Ward tells him to go back in, it doesn’t bother him. It’s a half truth, no matter how many missions they’ve done like this before he may never be comfortable with his wife running her hands all over another man.

 

Which is exactly what she does. She smiles widely and laugh loudly as an hour turns into two, drinks are poured and he grows bolder as they sit on a couch on the fifth floor. Runs his fingers down her exposed leg while she pretends to enjoy it, her comm has been off this entire time but with a run through her hair it switches on. The years apart clearly did not tone down Simon’s attraction to her, they slept together a few times when she was twenty-one and he clearly remembers every second.

 

Skye is wearing her wedding and engagement rings as a necklace and if Simon notices he doesn’t care.

‘’Heard a lot of rumors about you over the years Quake’’.

‘’They’re all true’’.

He hums as he squeezes her knee, ‘’so you really married a Hydra agent?’’

Skye doesn’t even blink, ‘’do you really care? He’s not here right now’’.

Simon laughs and takes a large gulp of champagne, ‘’who in the hell would marry you?’’

Since Ward knows Skye so well he’s able to see the flash of emotion in her eyes, it’s gone quick as it came.

But she’s here to play a game so pushes it aside and replies, ‘’an idiot’’.

‘’So what have you been up to since I saw you last?’’

Skye takes a sip of whiskey, ‘’it’s been what thirteen years? I didn’t think you’d remember me’’.

The look he gives her is filthy and Ward clenches his fists, ‘’I could never forget about you honey, so beautiful’’.

 

He brags about his business and how he came into all his money while Skye pretends to be interested, nods and smiles at the appropriate time. She’s come a long way since their first mission together when Ward yelled at her for being terrible at undercover. Simon falls into her trap like so many others before him, behind all the blood and death Quake is famous for people tend to forget she can be charming, still a little rough around the edges but Nat taught her how to reel a man in perfectly and blind him until it’s too late.

 

Caitlin is searching the house for any evidence of the deal Simon is working Rosalind while Skye leads him into the nearest bedroom, Ward knows she won’t actually sleep with him but the thought still causes him to burn. Her comm is still on so everyone can hear what’s going on, it’s too dangerous now especially if Simon is aware the weapons from the ATCU are designed to kill the Destroyer of Worlds. ‘’You remember what I like don’t you?’’ Simons asks and Ward is about to break something.

 

There’s the sound of sheets rustling and his breathing accelerating, Skye is quiet hardly making any noise.

‘’All you have to do is tell me one thing and we can do whatever you want’’.

Simon would probably agree to anything she says at this point, he must nod because Skye doesn’t say anything else for a second.

The next sound they hear is a scream of terror and Skye’s sweet slow tone is gone, ‘’what do you want with Rosalind Price’s weapons?’’

‘’I don’t, I don’t know what you’re talking about’’.

Another shriek of pain, ‘’lying is going to get this knife in your gut. Tell me what I want to know and I’ll let you live. Probably, maybe, I’m in a pretty good mood today’’.

She must draw blood because his muffled cries are all that fill the room.

The next time Simons speaks he sounds out of breath and terrified, ‘’she’s trying to sell two of them! I don’t know why she created them’’.

‘’Why do you want them?’’

‘’Power Quake, surely you of all people can understand that’’.

‘’Civilians should not have access to weapons of mass destruction’’.

‘’Tell that to her she’s keeping three for herself, my guess is to try to protect the world the next time Thanos stops by since the Avengers failed’’.

It’s a weak spot for Skye, being reminded of the only time the Avengers lost a fight.

‘’Iron Man, Captain America and the Destroyer of Worlds couldn’t protect us from that monster, can’t say I blame her for wanting to defend us since you didn’t’’.

‘’You have no idea what you’re talking about’’.

The world will never know just how much Skye put at risk to try to stop Thanos.

‘’I know that if aliens invade us again I’m using those weapons since I can’t rely on the Avengers anymore’’.

‘’It’s illegal Simon, I’m not letting you walk away with those’’.

He laughs, ‘’you’re such tough shit aren’t you? Pretty little Quake who couldn’t stop the Mad Titan from slaughtering half the universe, you’re an embarrassment, you don’t deserve to be an Avenger’’.

‘’And you don’t deserve to live’’.

Everyone in the room recognizes her tone, it’s final, no one could stop what’s about to happen if they wanted to.

‘’Wait’’-

‘’Didn’t you hear? Wherever I go death follows’’.

Grant freezes at that, an old lie Hydra told her when she was eighteen after they kidnapped her.

He thought she healed from that, but he’s guessing since the car accident and Thanos she might still be hanging on.

‘’Threat has been neutralized. Caitlin did you find anything?’’ Skye asks moments later as she exits the room clean of blood.

‘’A few laptops and a flash drive’’.

‘’Bring them’’.

‘’Yes ma’am. Hey can we stop for food after this? I’m starving’’.

They meet at the bottom floor and Snow hands her a bag, ‘’I’m feeling a cheeseburger’’.

Skye kicks off her heels and heads out, ‘’anything but the last one you suggested’’.

‘’Done’’.

 

Ward is pacing in Skye’s office by the time she gets back, still in that dress still barefoot holding a to-go cup and a greasy bag.

‘’You’re still here’’. She says as she lays on the couch and holds the cup out to him, ‘’got you a vanilla shake’’.

He doesn’t take it, instead sits on the opposite couch and clasps their hands together.

‘’We need to talk’’.

That gets her sitting up and earns him a hesitant glare, ‘’about what?’’

‘’I think you know’’.

She springs away from him panic in her eyes, backs away.

‘’Skye’’.

His tone is careful and soothing, body relaxed, it doesn’t do the trick like he’s expecting.

Face pale, hands shaking she sits in her office chair with wide eyes, ‘’if you want to talk about what I think you do, the door is right there. I’m not ready I can’t’’-

He gets on his knees in front of her, ‘’that’s not what I want to talk about, I know you’re not ready it’s okay’’.

Eventually they need to discuss their son, but it won’t be today.

Skye relaxes and puts her hand on his shoulder, ‘’what’s wrong then?’’

‘’What you told Simon, thought you didn’t believe Hydra’s lies anymore’’.

She winces and starts rubbing his shoulder for something to do.

‘’There was time I didn’t, but after everything that’s happened I just, it’s true Grant. You can’t look at my life and tell me that death doesn’t follow me’’.

‘’People die every single day sweetheart and it’s not your fault’’.

‘’I couldn’t stop Thanos’’.

‘’None of us could’’.

He sets a hand on her knee and squeezes she smiles in thanks.

‘’What are we doing Ward?’’

 She asks a few moments later her focus on the wall behind him.

‘’Talking’’.

She kicks his shin, ‘’you know what I meant’’.

He sighs, ‘’I don’t know Skye’’.

She runs a hand through his hair and he could sob, he’s missed her for so long.

‘’If I asked you to give up the ATCU for me would you do it? If I told you to take me home right now because nobody would ever find us and have the Avengers take care of Rosalind, would you do it?’’

It’s a fine line, a sacrifice would have to be made for that decision one neither of them would like.

‘’You don’t know how many times I dreamed of you asking me that in the past six months’’.

Her fingers trail down his cheek, ‘’would you?’’

‘’No’’.

She nods like she was expecting this answer and the pain she tries to hide in her eyes breaks his heart.

‘’But not because I wouldn’t want to. Skye if I would rather be with you than do anything else. But I joined the ATCU to protect you and I have to see that through’’.

Her fingers pause at his neck, settle on his pulse point, ‘’I know’’.

‘’Would you leave Shield if I asked you to?’’

She tenses at this and crosses her legs, ‘’I don’t know’’.

 

One of Skye’s vices is that she loves power, loves the thrill and high of it all. Being the Director of Shield and having a team of Inhumans under her command is the highest she can go. If the entire world didn’t know about Quake before they do now. He’s never been afraid she would choose that over him until now, so many things have changed between them in the year they’ve been apart. Skye turned to this job for comfort to get her through what happened, this was her coping mechanism, she’s grown attached.

 

It’s understandable, he won’t hold it against her.

Making a note to talk about it with Nat he places two fingers under her chin so she’ll look at him, ‘’it’s okay’’.

She nods and blinks back tears, he does the same.

‘’I don’t want you to kiss me’’.

Skye says suddenly as she takes a sip of the shake.

‘’I wasn’t planning on it’’.

She shoots him a look, ‘’you weren’t?’’

It’s been a while since she’s been able to fluster him and he scrambles, ‘’I mean I’m not thinking about it at the moment. Why? If it’s about Alison she doesn’t mean anything to me’’.

He rises from the floor as she gestures for him to move to the chair, he protests at first but she rolls her eyes and with a twitch of her powers he’s quickly sitting.

Ward hates when she uses them on him on the rare occasion she ever does, but the annoyance quickly fades when she curls up in his lap.

‘’Until your bullshit with the ATCU is over keep your tongue out of my mouth’’.

He places one hand on her thigh and the other in her hair, ‘’okay’’.

Not needing to ask why, they’ve always been on the same wave length, that hasn’t changed.

She doesn’t want him kissing her after he’s just kissed Alison.

‘’So where exactly do we stand?’’

‘’I burned the divorce papers’’.

He startles in surprise and this sigh of relief leaves him, he feels it in his entire body.

‘’You did?’’

Skye rests a hand over his heart, ‘’yeah. Didn’t really need them now that I know you’re not a cheating bastard’’.

‘’I really am sorry about that’’.

‘’You can make it up to me one day’’.

He kisses the space between her eyebrows feeling more settled and at peace than he has in a year, ‘’I will, I promise’’.

 

Hours later after a meeting with Rosalind back at the ATCU and a mountain of paperwork Ward is back at his apartment, freshly showered and eating dinner Alison brought over. She’s watching a medical show while Kebo is asleep on the couch, he’s about to start doing the dishes and attempting to get Skye out of his head when Alison mutes the TV and walks into the small kitchen. Asks how he’s feeling and if he needs anything, one look at her face and he can tell something is wrong.

 

Putting a wine glass up not in the mood for another emotional conversation he asks, ‘’something on your mind?’’

She puts her hair up in a bun, ‘’Is Quake in love with you?’’

Ward’s laugh is full of fake disbelief that she doesn’t notice, ‘’no. Skye detests me, she thinks I’m a monster’’.

‘’Grant the Director of Shield put herself in danger to rescue you from Hydra, why else would she do that if she thinks you’re a monster? Skye could have sent agents, her Inhumans to get you back, there was no reason for her to go as well’’.

‘’Quake loves a good fight and she hates Hydra, she can never turn down the opportunity to punch someone in the face’’.

Ali isn’t convinced, ‘’was she with you in your hospital room? Why did she lock me out for two days?’’

Ward puts down the dish rag and walks up to her, ‘’no. And it wasn’t just you it was everyone, I know things about Shield, she wanted to be sure I didn’t reveal anything to Hydra’’.

The way he’s looking at her, his hands curled on her shoulders the words finally sink in.

‘’I just can’t shake this feeling off’’.

‘’Love and hate are a fine line, trust me Skye is not in love with me’’.

Saying the words even if they aren’t true tugs at his chest and leaves a bad taste in his mouth.

‘’Why does she think you’re a monster?’’

Ward wraps his arms around her, this never fails to make his skin crawl.

‘’We didn’t end things well a few years back that’s all. You have nothing to worry about’’.

 

To keep his cover like always, he kisses her slowly and she keeps believing all the lies that spill from his tongue. Just like she’s supposed to.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

‘’Your office is so boring. I’m bored’’. Skye flicks a paperclip at Ward’s face, ‘’entertain me’’.

He doesn’t glance up from the paperwork in his lap, ‘’you really shouldn’t be here’’.

Skye swivels in his desk chair knocking over a cup of pens in the process, ‘’because I jeopardize your cover story?’’

‘’Actually yes, being undercover isn’t as easy as it once was. You’ve ruined me’’.

Deep satisfaction fills her and she grins, ‘’someone finally broke you, the Special Agent Grant Ward best since Natasha Romanoff. How do you feel about that?’’

He scribbles something on the paper for a moment then replies, ‘’I’m fine’’.

She tosses another paperclip at him, ‘’are you?’’

‘’Agent Ward is someone I don’t recognize or care to remember. If anyone was going to ruin that reputation and put my skill set on edge I’m glad it was you’’.

He looks up at her those whiskey eyes warm with love and adoration.

A moment passes between them, remembering every good thing that led them here.

‘’And my boss is trying to kill you, it’s not safe right now’’.

Skye snorts, ‘’I’m not afraid of Rosalind and Kimberly and whatever they are planning’’.

‘’Maybe that’s the problem’’.

‘’The problem is we’re going to be late if you don’t hurry up’’.

Ward focuses back on the paperwork again, ‘’the ATCU and Hydra joined forces to take you out, forgive me if I’m a little worried’’.

Skye shakes her head and stands, ‘’after everything I’ve been through you’re honestly still worried about me? I’m the Destroyer of Worlds, no one can kill me’’.

He stands as well and crosses the distance between them, eyes frantic like she’s going to die right here in front of him if he doesn’t say whatever he’s about to.

‘’Well the Destroyer of Worlds isn’t immortal’’.

‘’Did I say that? Unless Thor’’-

‘’Nuclear weapons Skye, the ATCU literally built nuclear weapons to kill you. I don’t want to test your theory to see if they work or not’’.

Last night she asked Bruce if he could build a weapon similar to what Hydra has and to see if she could survive the blast, it did not go over well.

‘’Grant I’m not going to die’’.

Knowing he’s only coming from a place of fear and she would be the exact same way if the roles were reversed, Skye puts a hand to his cheek.

Ward closes his eyes, puts his hand over hers and leans into her touch.

‘’We’ll get through this like we have everything else, Kimberly, Rosalind, they’re just someone else trying to hurt us and they won’t succeed. I’m going to survive Ward, I always do’’.

He moves closer until his chest brushes her own, ‘’and what if you don’t? What if’’-

He can’t finish the sentence, he’s screwing his eyes shut tightly, hands are shaking.

‘’Well you wouldn’t be so stressed out all the time if I wasn’t around’’.

Eyes flash open, ‘’that’s not funny’’.

She pats his cheek, ‘’you and Tony are going to give yourselves heart attacks over me. I’m fine, I’m always fine’’.

With both hands on her shoulders Ward presses a kiss to her forehead, ‘’that’s what I’m worried about’’.

Before releasing her and going back to his perch on one of the couches.

 

Whatever unspoken truth they reached a couple of days ago after Ward was tortured seems to still be intact and she’s not complaining about it. Skye can almost pretend everything is normal, that they are on another mission and get to go home afterwards, like this past year never happened at all. It’s nice being around Grant again without being annoyed every time he breathes, Skye still hasn’t forgiven him for lying about her leaving but a weight has been lifted off her chest.

 

Living in ignorance has never worked for her and eventually they will have to talk everything out, but for right now it seems Ward is content to play along with this act. Like nothing has changed and they’re still happy, together in all consuming love. Them ending up together is inevitable though, it’ll always happen, in any universe, any lifetime. Skye can’t imagine spending the rest of her days without him.

 

Making a note to finally break down and call Paul later, her mind doesn’t stray far from Ward and how different their lives are now. Retirement is the only thing that brought them peace and even though his words are sweet now and she believes them, how are they going to get that back? What if they don’t end up together in the end? Leaving this life behind alone is not something she wants, she wants her home in the middle of nowhere with Ward there to smile at her each morning.

 

 

She wants breakfast in bed with a warm body next to her own, a whispered I love you in the middle of the night, laughing at an inside joke with his arms around her. Six months ago she had no hope of that ever seeing that life again, but now that she knows Ward hasn’t moved on, he wants the same things she does, the hope that was gone for so long has started to fill her again. Clearly being apart hasn’t worked well for either of them.

 

It’s not about having someone in order to feel complete or whole, it’s about being unloved for so long and finally finding the other half of your soul who loves you despite your flaws and ghosts. Skye didn’t care about that a year ago, she couldn’t even care if she showered or ate every day. But time really does heal wounds and while she’ll spend the rest of her life mourning the life of her son, the world keeps on turning.

 

Knowing Grant feels the same way is something she couldn’t comprehend or care about last year, but now she understands. He’s going through the same thing and she should have gone through this grief with him, but he already knows all of this. However she can’t help but wonder if the reason she’s been feeling better lately is because of Ward being in her life again. The last thing she wants is to lean on Ward to heal her, neither of them would respect her if that were to happen.

 

Grant is a pillar of strength and always has been but the difference is she’s never relied on him to save her. Skye doesn’t want the reason for the guilt easing to be because she’s lost in her husband, they’re equals in this relationship and Skye doesn’t want to ruin that. She must be making some expression because Ward stops typing and asks if she’s alright. Looking at him now in a cover he wants no part in, in a dark suit and unfamiliar green tie, she longs for a time machine.

 

‘’Tell me you love me’’.

Just like every other time she’s demanded this he delivers without question or pause, a smooth promise, ‘’I love you’’.

Twisting the wedding band that’s still on the wrong hand he says, ‘’we should probably get going’’.

Skye checks her watch, if they want to make it to Stark Tower for this meeting Tony called with all of the Avengers, they need to leave now.

Locking up his computer and filing away paperwork Ward opens the office door for her just as his assistant Mary and Alison are about to walk through.

Price’s annoyance at Quake being in the same area as her does not go unnoticed.

‘’Oh Quake what a surprise, I didn’t know you were here’’.

 

Skye may know the truth about why Ward is really here but it doesn’t make things any easier. Alison with her shiny hair and perfectly manicured nails throws herself at Grant and his mask smoothly slides into place. Not for the first time Skye is amazed at how simple it seems to be for him to transform into someone he’s not, she can see why Garrett and Shield recruited him. He’s the best at what he does, he even fooled his own wife into thinking he wanted nothing to do with her.

 

She taps her watch, ‘’can you two hurry whatever this is up? We have places to be’’.

Alison pulls away from Ward and scowls, ‘’you two are going somewhere?’’

‘’Motel down the street’’.

Ward sends her a look but it’s ignored, ‘’I just can’t get enough of him you know? He’s pretty amazing in the sack’’.

Skye starts walking down the stairs and turns back to Alison, ‘’oh wait I guess you wouldn’t know that. Too bad you’re really missing out, he likes it rough’’.

The last thing she sees is Alison with her mouth hanging open and Ward pinching the bridge of his nose.

Skye is in her car sending a message to Tony when the passenger door opens and Ward sits down.

‘’Hi lover’’.

She grins when he gives an exasperated sigh, ‘’you just have to make this harder for me don’t you?’’

‘’Well it’s not like you don’t deserve it’’.

It was said as a joke but there is some truth to it, they both know it.

‘’You know I wish things could be different, I wouldn’t have done any of this’’-

Skye reaches over and squeezes his knee, ‘’I know’’.

Even after everything is pushed aside and she examines their situation at every angle, Ward did all of this because he loves and wants to keep her safe.

‘’Alison is jealous of you’’. He tells her when they’re stopped at a red light.

‘’Who isn’t?’’

‘’She asked me the other night if you were in love with me’’.

‘’What did you say?’’

‘’That you think I’m a monster’’.

She cringes, ‘’jesus Ward you didn’t have to be so extreme’’.

‘’She bought it’’.

‘’Still’’.

She glances over at him and frowns at the new shadows in his eyes.

‘’You’re not a monster Ward’’.

‘’I know’’.

‘’And I don’t hate you for joining the ATCU’’.

‘’You should’’.

His good mood from earlier it seems gone and she’d do anything to get it back.

‘’Okay enough with the pity party. One more negative remark about yourself and I’m shoving you out of this car’’.

When he doesn’t answer she snaps her fingers a few times but he just continues staring out the window.

‘’Oh my god do I have to take off all my clothes to get your attention?’’

This time he does look her way, even takes her hand, ‘’sweetheart you get my attention just by breathing’’.

Rolling her eyes she fights off a smile and loses, ‘’that was smooth, and cheesy’’.

‘’You love it’’.

‘’I love you’’. She reminds him just in case he forgot, the pressure he applies to her hand assures he didn’t.

 

According to Tony’s tantrum a couple weeks ago Ward is not allowed to step foot inside Stark Tower but since this meeting more than likely about the ATCU, he’ll get over it. The ride up the elevator is silent after Ward calls Kebo, who is hungover and trying to sleep it off at his apartment. When they step into the living room a conversation about Grant is in full swing and is just getting interesting.

 

‘’So Ward lies to Skye for weeks and you just expect us to forgive him for it?’’

That’s Tony.

Nat responds, ‘’Ward only lied to protect her, we all would have done the same thing’’.

‘’The difference is that we would have said something instead of keeping her in the dark’’.

‘’Ward had his reasons but we’re not going to crucify him for this, we’re not Coulson we’re not his family, he did all of this because he loves Skye and I can’t fault him for that’’.

Tony groans, ‘’every time you defend him my ears bleed a little bit’’.

‘’I’m just surprised no one figured it out earlier’’. Clint says from the couch.

‘’Ward didn’t want her to, we only saw exactly what he wanted us to’’.

‘’Come on Nat he told her he couldn’t forgive her for leaving even though he already did. He let her think he wanted to be with somebody else, practically threw that relationship in her face’’.

‘’I didn’t say I agree with his methods or the way he handled the situation but I understand the reasoning behind it. If he told Skye we all know she would have walked into the ATCU and destroyed it, putting herself in even more danger. Ward did what he thought was right’’.

Clint speaks up, ‘’you know how everyone is always saying Ward is the best since you Nat?’’

She narrows her eyes, ‘’don’t say it’’.

‘’Why didn’t you realize what he was doing, are you getting soft on us?’’

‘’Ward is convincing when he wants to be’’.

Barton smiles, ‘’was that hard to admit?’’

‘’A little’’.

Tony sighs as Skye comes into view, ‘’I’m not happy about any of this’’.

Skye raises an eyebrow, ‘’Tony Ward and I have been together too long for you to be saying shit like this, I understand why he lied and that doesn’t mean I’m okay with it. But I’m still going to be a mature adult and work with him’’.

He wrinkles his nose, ‘’becoming Director of Shield has made you more responsible, I don’t like it’’.

Banner smiles from the kitchen, ‘’our Quake all grown up’’.

‘’I hate all of you’’. Skye says as she wraps her arms around Nat who’s standing by the windows.

‘’Don’t expect me to act like everything is fine’’. Tony tells her.

‘’As long as you don’t hit him we’re good’’.

‘’No promises’’. Bruce says as he grabs a coffee mug.

‘’I am not some naïve girl that gets stars in her eyes every time Grant Ward walks into the room, I don’t need any of you to protect me from my husband. I can handle that idiot on my own’’.

‘’Can you?’’ Tony asks, worry in his eyes.

‘’You’re acting like I haven’t been with him for almost a decade’’.

‘’Ward has never done this, deliberately hurt you in order to achieve a goal’’.

‘’Keeping her alive’’. Nat corrects.

‘’Still, whatever trust I had for him is gone’’.

‘’I’m sure he’ll weep over that tonight’’.  Bruce says it as a joke but it makes Skye pause.

 

Ward has worked hard over the years to clean all the red from his ledger, working with the Avengers and gaining their trust was the first step in doing that. Losing that trust will mean something to Ward he had to have known what he was risking when he took the job at the ATCU, which means he sacrificed so much of himself in the name of keeping her safe. A rush of sympathy washes over, recalling what he said to her at their home.

 

‘’Do you think this has been easy for me? Do you have any idea how hard it was, the sacrifice the decisions I had to make? But I made them because that’s what I do’’.

 

‘’Ward already feels guilty enough for all of us in the room, don’t add to it’’.

At Tony’s annoyed huff she pushes, ‘’Dad I’m serious, do it for me okay?’’

‘’Fine. But I’m not happy’’.

‘’Noted’’.

When he glares she shoots him a wink, it hardly softens his resolve.

‘’You all know I’m in the room’’.

Ward says as he stands by the elevators arms crossed, looking like such an outsider around the team he once called family. It breaks her heart.

‘’No one could ever forget about you when you’re in a room Ward, not with that face’’.

Nat says with a teasing smile and it does the trick, breaks the ice and causes him to roll his eyes.

Clint is the only one who acknowledges Ward, they hug and talk quietly while Romanoff turns to Skye.

‘’They’ll get over it in time’’.

‘’This hasn’t been easy on Ward’’.

Nat runs a hand through her hair, ‘’hasn’t been easy for you either’’.

‘’I’m fine’’.

‘’You always are’’.

 

For obvious reasons Tony didn’t tell Steve about this meeting, but Nat is keeping him in the loop anyway by calling him when it starts and keeping the phone in her pocket. They all travel to one of the conference rooms while Barton is telling Ward he doesn’t have to be here, that Skye can catch him up on everything later. But he refuses, if this is a plan on how to keep her safer he’s not going anywhere. No one listens to her as she rants about how unnecessary this all is, she can take care of herself.

 

Tony is at the head of the table Skye and Nat beside him, James Rhodes, Banner, Barton and Ward all facing them.

 

‘’Well good morning to everyone except Ward’’. Tony starts earning a kick to the shin under the table.

‘’Everyone is up to speed on what’s going on right?’’

‘’Yeah the ATCU and Hydra think they can kill me’’.

Barton raises an eyebrow, ‘’can you survive a nuclear blast?’’

‘’I don’t know, I suggested testing it out but someone shot me down’’.

‘’Because it was a stupid idea’’. Bruce tells her.

‘’The goal is to either destroy both organizations before they decide to come after Skye, or get ahold of their weapons so they’re powerless. Since Ward has been working on the inside he’s the best bet we have on finding a weakness’’.

‘’And Ward is great at exploiting a weakness’’.

Skye sighs, ‘’Dad if all you’re going to do is take shots at Ward wait in the other room’’.

‘’I’m sorry who put you in charge?’’

‘’Tony’’.

Ward clears his throat and looks at every single one of them, ‘’we all have a common goal here and that’s protecting Skye. It’s why I joined the ATCU, I’m not going to sit here and justify the choices I made regarding my wife’s safety. I did what I did and now we have to move on’’.

‘’He has a point’’. Barton chimes in earning a grateful glance from Skye.

‘’So Rosalind and Kimberly have the weapons stored somewhere in this area’’.

Grant pulls out a map on a tablet and the screen surrounds them in blue and orange lights.

‘’We locate them and dispose of them properly, nothing to worry about’’.

‘’And then I kill both of them, easy enough’’.

‘’Cupcake you’re the Director of Shield now you can’t just go around killing people, maybe try putting them in jail?’’

She shrugs and picks at the muffin he brought in for her, ‘’it’s not as satisfying’’.

Tony ruffles her hair and tunes back into Ward.

‘’And what happens if we don’t get to the weapons in time? We need a backup plan’’.

‘’Hey maybe you could lock me up in a cabin in the middle of the woods again since that worked out so well last time’’.

Everyone glares at her, ‘’rude’’.

‘’Thor would be strong enough to take the heat off her if it came to that’’.

Banner speaks up and an awkward pause follows, Ward stiffens.

‘’What? Are we mad at Thor for something now?’’

Clint chuckles into his coffee mug, ‘’or something’’.

Bruce looks at Skye, ‘’what did you do to him? Why am I out of the loop?’’

Skye pops a piece of blueberry muffin in her mouth, ‘’I may have tried to sleep with him’’.

Ward is stoically pretending to type something on his phone.

‘’What? When? Why? Does Ward know?’’

Nat directs the conversation back, ‘’it’s not important. What’s important is how we’re going to stop those weapons if we can’t find them’’.

‘’Thor is our best bet. Where is he anyway?’’

‘’He wasn’t invited’’. Skye says, ignoring the way Ward is rigid and visibly pissed off across the table.

‘’I’m sorry but Thor is our best option? What if that doesn’t work?’’

It’s Tony who speaks up, ‘’safe house, somewhere no one would ever find or think to look’’.

Skye is about to comment how she’s not a piece of glass, that she can take care of herself when Ward’s warm eyes meet hers.

‘’We know a place’’.

 

The room disappears for a moment and she knows he’s thinking of sand and the ocean, lazy afternoons spent in bed with cool sheets. Fruity drinks and suntan oil, salt and sweat on their skin, late mornings filled with slow kisses and hushed dreams. The island they spent weeks on during their honeymoon where love was fresh and renewed, hopeful and beautiful. Skye has never been as happy as she was there, those days are looked back upon fondly.

 

‘’Or home’’. She tells him and sees the wheels in his mind spinning, they had a similar conversation not too long ago. Skye asked if he would give up the ATCU for her and go home, he said no but only because he had to see this through and keep her safe. But if keeping her away from danger means hiding out in the house they once shared, it’d be a win-win situation. Even though the thought of running away from a fight is laughable for Skye, she sees the appeal.

 

They talk for another hour on how to handle things, everyone brain storming ideas while Skye lets them think they’re in control of her fate, her choices. She’s staring out the vast windows, New York is a place she called home for so long but it doesn’t feel that way anymore. Tony is asking Barton if his house would be an option to ‘put her’ when Skye spins around to face the people she’s called family for so many years.

 

‘’If you’re all done trying to make decisions for me, here’s what’s really going to happen. Ward is going to expose Rosalind and her bitch of a daughter’’.

‘’Alison doesn’t know anything’’. Grant comments.

‘’Don’t care. Rosalind will be arrested, maybe, I haven’t really decided on if I’m going to kill her or not. The President can decide what to do with the weapons and then we can handle Kimberly Santos whenever she decides to join the party’’.

Nat suggested this earlier but Skye shot it down until she really started thinking about it.

‘’Which means you’re on a time crunch Romeo’’.

Grant doesn’t smile, ‘’how much are you willing to give me?’’

Skye crosses her arms, ‘’two weeks’’.

‘’It’ll get done’’.

‘’I know’’.

If there’s one thing she can always count on, it’s Grant keeping his word.

 

‘’So since I could be dead in two weeks, you wanna do it in your old bedroom?’’

No one is amused, Tony is so upset by the idea of her death he doesn’t cringe at the mention of sex.

‘’You’re not going to die Skye’’.

She looks around at the vacant seats, thinks of the friends that are gone now because of Thanos.

‘’Everyone dies Dad, you can’t protect me from everything’’.

He stands and takes her face in his hands, ‘’I can try’’.

‘’You’ve been trying since we first met and I love you for it, but it’s impossible’’.

‘’Cut the shit Skye’’. Nat tells her, tone not polite or friendly.

‘’No one is dying, you’re going to be fine. This is just another threat that we’ll handle like we always do’’.

‘’Together’’.

Ward speaks up echoing an absent Steve Rogers, everyone feels the weight of it.

 

An hour later after updating Shield on the new plan, Skye and Ward are back in the car after Victoria called and said a few high up members in Hydra had been spotted at a charity event not too far from the Playground. Throwing the dress in the backseat Ward is already dressed for the occasion distracting her from the road. All black suit and cufflinks, how is she supposed to keep her hands to herself? ‘’Sometimes I wish you weren’t so damn attractive’’. He laughs, running a hand through his hair, ‘’you and me both’’.

 

Both Shield and Garrett exploited Ward with his looks over the years, to soothe that sting she may have just brought back to life she reaches over and rests a hand on the back of his neck. It’s a familiar gesture one she used to do often, he kisses the inside of her wrist and it’s like nothing has changed at all. Eventually they’ll have to lay it all out, decide how things are either going to end or start again between them, but for now it’s a ceasefire and she’s never been more grateful.

 

The charity event is full of nothing but rich assholes in tight dresses and suits, alcohol by the plenty, and a few Hydra agents that don’t pay Skye any mind as she walks right through the front door. Ward went through the back after a perimeter sweep and declared it all clean, they should have a clean escape if it’s needed. Skye is at the bar ordering and answering a message from Tony when the heat of someone races up her back.

 

‘’Nice dress honey’’. It’s not Ward, but that would be obvious even without the unfamiliar voice behind her.

She doesn’t respond just sips her drink as the bartender clearly ogles her breasts.

It actually is a nice dress, color of champagne that reaches her knees, backless and low cut, Ward’s favorite.

‘’Hey honey I’m talking to you’’.

A foreign hand on her skin and Skye spins around, ‘’call me honey one more time see what happens’’.

He can’t be younger than sixty, cloudy green eyes, breath reeks of sour alcohol.

‘’Oh you’re feisty, I like that’’.

Not wanting to cause a scene just yet Skye goes on the defense, ‘’I’m married you gross asshole’’.

The older man grins and gives her a slow once over that makes her skin crawl, ‘’I don’t see your husband around’’.

‘’You do now’’.

Hands on her shoulders warm and inviting, curling into her skin and Skye nearly leans back into Ward’s chest.

With a glare he leads Skye away, ‘’you okay?’’

‘’As much as you coming to my rescue turns me on sometimes, it was not needed’’.

He chuckles hands still on her shoulders as they walk, ‘’dance with me’’.

Right now when she turns to glance at him with the way he’s looking at her, she’d agree to anything he said.

 

Leading her out to the wide dance floor just as a slow song starts playing, his hands go around her waist, her grip tight on his shoulders. And just like every other time they’ve done this the world fades, lights dim, it’s only Ward with his hands on her skin, his chest against her own, his heartbeat the loudest in the room. He’s got her sucked under his spell whenever this happens, he could kill her and she would not care. Late night slow dances in their kitchens come to mind, causing them both to smile.

 

‘’We haven’t danced like this since our wedding’’. She recalls, watches him think about this.

It brings a soft smile to his face, under the glow of the soft lights he looks like a dream.

Before he can say something stupidly romantic she asks, ‘’do you regret it?’’

Surprise jerks his body back but he quickly composes himself, lets the shock dim from his eyes.

‘’Are you asking if I regret marrying you?’’

She shrugs about to brush it off but he doesn’t let her, ‘’Skye’’.

‘’I’m not asking if you regret our relationship I know you don’t’’.

His words in her office come to mind, ‘’I’m always kissing you in Cancun nothing would ever change that’’.

‘’But you have to admit things went to shit after we got married’’.

He pulls away slightly to study her eyes, ‘’do you regret getting married?’’

One hand drifts up her spine before trailing down her arm to brush across her rings.

‘’No. I’m just saying maybe if we didn’t, the shit that happened to us might have not’’.

‘’Following that logic I could say a number of things wouldn’t have happened to me if we never met’’.

‘’You would be less stressed out that’s for damned sure’’.

Ward curls his hand into her own, ‘’I’d be alone without love, I’d probably be dead if it wasn’t for you’’.

They’ve stopped dancing altogether now, just standing wrapped up in each other.

‘’Would I change things that happened in our relationship? Yes. But I will never regret meeting you, being with you. You are the love of my life, you saved me, I’ll never wish those things didn’t happen’’.

‘’That’s not exactly what I meant’’.

‘’So what did you mean?’’

He knows, having spent so long with her it’s easy to understand where her mind goes.

‘’Would you have married me if you knew I would have a miscarriage years later?’’

Saying the word nearly makes her vomit but Grant clutches her closer keeping her heart in her chest, the tears from spilling from her eyes.

The cover has fully slipped now as he buries his face in her hair but neither one of them cares.

‘’When are you going to stop hating yourself for what happened?’’

She shakes in his arms, ‘’I don’t know’’.

Both hands are on the back of her shoulders, her fingers are resting over his heart, he smells the same, it gives Skye comfort in all this chaos.

‘’Skye nothing would ever stop me from marrying you, even if I knew what was going to happen to us. Losing our son didn’t make me love you any less, nothing could. Someday you’re going to remember that’’.

She’s quiet for so long he starts swaying again, moves flawless and controlled like they’ve always been.

‘’It’s hard’’. She whispers into his shirt.

‘’I know’’.

‘’I think about him every day’’.

Ward’s arms go around her now, ‘’me too’’.

‘’Sometimes I can’t sleep for days because all I can see is that night’’.

Grant acts like this is new information but she sees right through it, someone told him.

He takes a deep breath, ‘’tell me how I can help you’’.

This is not the first time he told her this, the last time she rejected his offer.

But she’s not the same person she was after the car accident, not so hopeless and dejected anymore.

‘’Can you ask Paul when he’s available next?’’

He plants a discreet kiss against her cheek, ‘’I can do that’’.

When they look at each other next something has changed, some bitterness has been dissolved and turned to dust.

Being in the same space isn’t as hard anymore.

 

Jackson and Yo-Yo arrived a few moments ago and Skye goes over to yell at them, saying they don’t need to be here for this. Jackson seems upset about something but she isn’t sure what and now isn’t the time to ask. Two hours later Quake and Ward make their move, all six Hydra members are in the back room smoking cigars and drinking brandy, it’s the perfect shot. Ward is leading, opens the door with his gun up as Skye steps in front of him her hand raised.

 

They all look surprised as Skye grins, ‘’oh good you guys didn’t start the party without me’’. It’s pitiful when they attempt to defend themselves, all six men are shortly arrested and thrown into the backs of Shield vehicles. Ward is talking to Rosalind on the phone while Skye kicks off her heels and Jackson approaches her, his body language tense, expression furious. ‘’What’s got your boxers in a twist?’’ He crosses his arms and inhales sharply.

 

‘’So you and Ward are back together?’’

The hostility in his voice causes her own to spark, ‘’first of all it’s none of your business and second of all check yourself Jackson, walk away before you piss me off’’.

His laugh is harsh and sharp, ‘’your husband doesn’t love you’’.

The wind begins picking up, storm clouds roll in.

Skye raises a brow, ‘’oh and you do?’’

‘’What if I did?’’

Lincoln was right and she’s never telling him about this.

‘’I’d feel sorry for you’’.

Jackson scoffs, ‘’he doesn’t deserve you Skye, he hasn’t even been here for you!’’

‘’How about you stop believing you know what’s best for me? Get your shit together Jackson’’.

Ward is openly staring at them, Yo-Yo and the few other Shield agents are at least pretending to be absorbed in something else.

‘’Where was he this past year huh? When you wandered around the Playground like a zombie at three in the morning because you couldn’t sleep? Where was he when you nearly drank yourself into a coma every night?’’

‘’Knock it off’’-

‘’Did he hold you when you were too afraid to fall asleep? Was it his shoulder you drunkenly sobbed on for hours on end? No it was mine. Did he drive you around for months because you were afraid to get behind the wheel? No I did. That was me, I was there for you when he wasn’t’’.

Ward takes a step to them but Skye waves him off.

‘’What do you want me to say Jackson?’’

He gets in her space, hands on her biceps as rain begins to fall, he hasn’t lost control of his powers like this in a while.

‘’I want you to tell me you love me’’.

And that’s when it really hits her, she led him on even though she never meant to.

He knows she’ll never love anyone but Grant, knew that when they first met.

‘’I was in pain!’’ She yells over the roar of the thunder that starts to sound.

‘’I was dying and I needed someone, you were there’’.

No one at Shield who knew about Skye and Ward’s history was informed of the reason why they separated.

Jackson’s fingers dig sharply into her elbows, ‘’tell me you love me’’.

‘’I won’t say something I don’t feel to make you happy’’.

 

His face twists in pain as rain falls harder now, so thick she can hardly see through it. She’s about to start in on her perfect tricks to get an Inhuman to calm down when he lunges for her. Expecting a blow Skye doesn’t brace herself correctly, instead of a fist to her mouth, Jackson kisses her. This was a long-lit fuse waiting to blow, apparently seeing her with Ward again set him off. Skye doesn’t move, lips stay shut, he gets the message and backs off.

 

Skye looks at him sadly regret pouring off them both in waves, she shakes her head both at him and Ward.

‘’That was your one free pass, kiss me again and I’ll break your jaw’’.

She can physically see the heartbreak all over him, his body sags under the weight of it.

‘’Skye’’.

Her name falls hoarse and broken from his lips, the rain suddenly stops.

Soaking wet and shivering Skye shakes her head, ‘’I can’t Jackson, you know that you’ve always known that’’.

‘’You deserve better than him’’.

‘’You don’t know that, you don’t know our relationship’’.

‘’I know I would never be with anyone else while we were together’’.

‘’That’s not the whole story’’.

‘’Are you seriously making excuses for him cheating on you?’’

When she doesn’t respond he backs away, ‘’this is it boss, you need to make a choice’’.

‘’A choice between you or my husband? Are you kidding?’’

He looks so sad and she hates herself for it, ‘’no. Between me staying or leaving Shield’’.

The air feels like it’s being sucked out of the atmosphere, ‘’what?’’

Skye doesn’t recognize her own voice, it sounds high pitched and childlike.

‘’Tell me to stay’’.

She reads between the lines easily.

‘’The only way you’ll stay is if I tell you I love you’’.

He nods and tears fill her eyes after a moment, ‘’Jackson don’t do this’’.

‘’I don’t have a choice anymore, you’re killing me’’.

‘’Jackson please, please don’t’’.

Pain takes over his entire face and she feels it too.

Skye says nothing and a tear falls from his face, he shivers violently before taking a step back.

‘’This is it then’’.

Yo-Yo comes up and whispers something but he’s too far gone, Skye can see it plain as day.

He’s leaving and nothing anyone says is going to convince him otherwise.

‘’I guess you better pack your stuff then’’.

Jackson wipes his face, ‘’you’re not even going to fight?’’

She shrugs, ‘’there’s nothing to fight for’’.

He clenches and unclenches his fists before spinning on his heel, walks the opposite direction of Grant before getting in a SUV and driving away.

Skye looks over to Elena who’s crying, ‘’what the hell just happened?’’

‘’No idea boss’’.

Grant comes over but Skye shakes her head, ‘’I need a minute to feel like shit over this, don’t try to comfort me’’.

‘’Skye this wasn’t your fault, you did nothing wrong’’.

‘’I didn’t do anything right either’’.

 

Hours later after a hot shower and informing the team of Jackson’s abrupt departure, ignoring Ward’s annoying phone calls because he was forced to go back to the ATCU, Skye stands in her office leaning against her desk. Sends a message to Nat before setting the phone by the computer, calls Jackson who doesn’t answer not that she thinks he would. He has every right to be upset, she used him not once but twice without any regard to his feelings.

 

The Inhumans are her family, and losing one hurts so much it feels like she can’t breathe. Jackson has been with her through so much, being shut down, losing Ward twice, she values him as a friend and a team member. But she also isn’t going to tell him something he wants to hear, you can’t force love and he never should have given her an ultimatum so she’d admit a lie. Pouring another drink just as her office door swings open and Caitlin Snow walks through.

 

‘’I am not in the mood right now’’.

Snow smirks and holds up a bottle of tequila, ‘’neither am I, want to drink about it?’’

‘’Alcohol is always the best solution’’.

‘’Knew we were friends for a reason’’.

Skye is on her third shot sucking down a lime when Caitlin speaks again, ‘’I’m sorry about Jackson’’.

‘’We’re drinking not talking, if you want to talk go find Fitz’’.

‘’Got it. One last thing though then I’ll shut up. Did Lincoln tell you about his mole theory?’’

‘’God I hate that word. Let me guess he thinks someone is going to betray me, a Hydra agent in disguise and our team will never be the same again’’.

Skye turns to grab her vibrating phone when Caitlin responds, ‘’something like that’’.

 

It comes out of nowhere. The pain so sudden white flashes across her eyes, the sharp twinge of a knife embedded into her skin is nothing new, but the agony of the injury is never something you can get used to. Skye is turned and comes face to face with Caitlin who has the bloody blade in her hands, Skye can feel herself slipping the edges starting to blur, shock fills her body. ‘’Never turn your back on the enemy, you taught me that’’.

 

Everything blurs as the pain takes over, Skye falls to the floor as the contents of her desk tumble down with her. There’s nothing just a watery pale image reaching for her, Skye feels around on the ground for her phone but she can’t feel her fingers. Thinks she makes contact with the screen, thinks she presses the emergency button protocol Tony had installed last year. All Skye has to do is press it and it sends an alert to all the Avengers, letting them know her location as well.

 

Skye feels the breath leave her, red and black dance in her line of vision before it all goes white. The last thing she thinks she hears is Tony’s voice, a spot of warmth coming from somewhere, a beeping, and then nothing.

 

Grant is watching a movie with Kebo in his apartment, trying not to think about Skye, Jackson’s confession or him telling her he loves her. It was obvious and Ward doesn’t know how Skye didn’t see it before, he knew the moment he saw Jackson staring at her. He gets up to grab a water while Kebo is throwing popcorn at the TV when the phone rings. Seeing it’s Steve Rogers Ward mutes the sound and answers.

 

‘’Captain’’.

There’s a long pause, a deep shuddering inhale and everything inside of Grant tenses.

‘’Ward’’.

There’s a heaviness in Steve’s voice that causes Grant to brace himself and reach out for Kebo, who grabs both his shoulders.

There’s only one reason Captain America would sound so devastated.

‘’Ward it’s, it’s Skye. She, you need to get to the Playground right now’’.

In the background he hears someone say, ‘’there’s no way to know if she’ll ever wake up again’’.

 

Everything inside him urns to dust.

Chapter Text

 

Here’s the thing about tragedy. It doesn’t completely touch you at first, just a brush of its fingers against your elbows, a whisper or two in your ear. You sit and stare, feel numb from it all and then it hits you out of nowhere. Where you were once afloat, on the ground, you now find yourself drowning in an ocean with choking waves and foreign hands trying to pull you down. You’re suddenly standing in the middle of a house fire with no memory of how you got there, flames consuming every part of your body.

 

You scream and shake and cry but no one can see you, hear you, no one can soothe the agony in your chest, no one could possibly understand the loss you feel. You’re in it now, the dark despair, the pit you will never be able to fully crawl out of. No one can save you from it, nothing can pull you away from this kind of grief. It hooks into skin and bone, bites into your very soul, swallows your heart and consumes your blood. You don’t even try to stop it once it starts.

 

Ward thought he understood exactly what loss felt like when it settled into his chest, when it stole emotions and made everything heavy and dark. But all of that, all of those memories of nearly losing his love, his family, it couldn’t possibly compare to this. This kind of hurt, this special brand of pain life decided to throw his way. Giving him a soulmate, granting him happiness only to strip it away, he thought the universe was done torturing him.

 

Which was a stupid thought, after everything he’s done he’s not surprised the cosmos have decided to take the one person he loves most in this world from him. Everything is cold. His hands this room the floor his chest, his bones, his eyes, skin, soul, his shoes, fingers, his heart, Skye’s hand in his own its just cold. He’s sitting here in the wake of chaos, in something that he suddenly found himself waist-deep in and suffocating, clawing and tearing at him from the inside out, and he can’t see or breathe or think.

 

Words around him are muddled, bodies blurry and unimportant, the smell of bleach and plastic doesn’t reach his nose, in the past year he’s been in this exact spot twice. Looking down at his wife in a hospital bed holding her as she’s so far from reach, not being able to save her yet again from harm. It all circles back to the same thoughts, ‘’I should have driven that night’’ and ‘’I should have stayed at the Playground instead of leaving’’.

 

When Grant fell in love with Skye he vowed to always protect her, keep her safe to the best of his ability. And since his skill set is by far better than most it should have been an easy promise to keep, but it’s been proven time and time again that he is a failure. As a husband, a man, she should have left him a long time ago. Maybe then they wouldn’t be here, maybe she could have had the child she wanted with someone else, someone better.

 

Skye could be happy right now if she never married him, if she settled down with someone like Lincoln or Jackson perhaps she’d have two or three children instead of one in the ground and a husband who’s never around. Ward would give up his own life right in this second if it was asked in order to save her, to take her place in that bed, this situation. If god himself came down and demanded a sacrifice Ward would plunge a knife into his own chest if it meant Skye could live.

 

But it hasn’t happened yet and it probably never will, no matter how many times he prays, sits here and begs someone he isn’t sure exists to save his wife, nothing has changed in four hours. She’s still in this bed connected to tubes and wires, her face pale and lifeless, eyes closed skin cold. Watching her for the third time lying here far away, life hanging in the balance as he’s helpless, can do nothing but watch and wait. Wait for her to come back to him, or to slip too far for anyone to find.

 

Tony sits across from him still covered in blood, a sight that made Ward vomit when he first saw it. Stark isn’t the only one lost in grief, all of the Avengers are. Each one of them sits in this sterile ice room wearing raw pain on their tear stained faces, each one holding onto a piece of Skye by their fingertips, asking her not to go. Not to drift off somewhere they can’t follow, but they are only met with the sound of a machine breathing for her and the heart monitor fooling them into a false truth.

 

Skye was stabbed in the chest just inches away from her heart, judging by the angle of the blow she must have shifted towards the end because it didn’t pierce that vital organ. The place where all of these people reside, where she stuffed Ward inside and never let him leave, the thing she trusted him the most with and he let her down time and time again. Cameras were down at the time but Tony easily got them back up to see what happened, Caitlin Snow did this.

 

She is the reason Skye is barely clinging to life, why the doctors said it’s was ‘touch and go’ if she’ll wake up again after complications in surgery to repair the wound. She flat lined three times, they didn’t expect her to survive. But here she is right in front of him, a machine breathing for her.

 

Coma is an ugly word, out of all the many horrendous and violent words, right now in this moment it feels like the most awful one in the entire human language. It’s an in between word, floating, offering hope but facing death at the same time, it’s a promise held out suspended in the air. A drifting maybe, probably, but perhaps not, a shot in the dark grabbing onto light but clinging to agony all in one. It could mean a loved one wakes up or stays forever in an half asleep state, it’s cruel and selfish and sad.

 

How many times could you nearly lose someone before it breaks you? Ward feels like pieces of his body are falling off in small chunks onto the floor, one after the other.  Blood all over the blindingly white tile floor like a river flowing out into the hallway, searching for something to stop this rapid scarlet current and coming up empty. He is shattering little by little beside this bed, parts of him already drifting off with each beat on the monitor.

 

For the last twenty two years Ward has been haunted by the subject of a weakness, John’s words even after he was gone didn’t fade completely. His dead mentor will always stay with him one way or another, looking at Skye now Garrett’s voice is loud and demanding behind the roar in his ears. ‘’That’s not a weakness is it?’’ Oh but she is and always will be, his wife who loved him when no one else had ever before, who saw the man behind the lies and betrayals and didn’t run.

 

He can’t lose her, she can’t go somewhere he can’t follow. A world without her laughter and crass comments, without her smile, her goodness and kindness that no one believes unless you meet her in person, how fiercely she protects those she loves. And the way she loves, it’s overwhelming and all consuming, pulling you into her hurricane and never letting you go, making you drown but keeping you alive when she touches you, kisses you.

 

A soul like that, a person like that, is rare. No one compares, are dull and black and white next to her. Ward could search the planet for the next fifty years and not find anyone who reminded him of Skye, she’s one of a kind, everything to him. Holding her cool hand like he has done twice before in different hospitals, he tortures himself even further, not able to turn off the last time he was in this setting. There were more bruises on her skin then, but death hung in the air clouding everything just as it does now.

 

The night he found Skye’s body half hanging out of the driver’s side window of her car will haunt him forever. The blood on her skin, the sounds of her screaming asking if their baby was alright, how she passed out in the ambulance asking for Natasha. How he felt so hopeless and empty like everything that made him human was shoveled out and thrown to the side. Are they destined to suffer for the rest of their lives? Is this really how their story ends?

 

If she truly never wakes up how is he going to move on? How is he going to live without part of his soul? Skye leaving him last year was easier than this, he’d rather go through that a thousand times than be where he is right now. That was nothing compared to looking at her pale form in this bed, it’s like she’s already gone and he’s crying into a corpse. The thought makes his stomach lurch, and Kebo who hasn’t left his side kicks a trash can to his feet.

 

Everyone looks over at him for something to do, to distract them from what’s really going on, to try and erase the sight of Skye slipping away from their minds. It’s the Avengers’ worst nightmare coming true, the one thing they have always tried so hard to prevent. Skye has always been the glue tethering them together, she’s the string that binds them, their love for her overpowering the rest of the world. If love were enough to save her she’d be awake and smiling right now, but it’s not.

 

Barton and Nat are curled up together on the couch beside Pepper and Tony, Steve is pacing outside in the hall with Rhodes, Thor is leaning against the far wall staring out the window. Bruce is sitting in a chair in front of said window, and Skye’s team of Inhumans are in the waiting area looking for an answer they may never find. Why Caitlin Snow decided to do this, if she’s working with the ATCU or Hydra or if she acted alone. Because of her everyone in this room is drowning, everyone could lose something they can’t live without.

 

If Skye goes, Ward honestly has no idea what the hell he’s going to do. That same desperation he felt when John died is slowly starting to creep up his back, slither into his neck, itching and scratching for his attention. He can recall the day vividly so many years ago, when he sat in Vault D and attempted to end his own life. Can feel the paper against his skin so sharp if you fold it perfectly with the right angels, how the pain seemed to end when the blood fell onto the concrete floor.

 

The second time was fueled with even more despair, more passion to end the person he was without John. Running at the walls to stop the endless agony over his dead mentor was all he had left, Ward’s own life meant nothing to him without Garrett, without a purpose. For some reason he survived and Grant never knew why that was until he joined the Avengers, met Skye. He’s here for a reason, but now he’s wondering if it was just to suffer even more.

 

To lose the one person he gave his soul and heart to, what was the point of everything? Ten years isn’t long enough with Skye, he can only have one lifetime and even that doesn’t seem like enough. He wants more time, more birthdays and Christmases, more after dinner walks and early mornings drinking coffee. He wants more thunderstorms when the lights shut off and they have to see by candles, more laughter in the middle of the night, more sitting beside her just feeling her presence in a room.

 

It’s not fair. Ward can rant and rave how life is never fair to anyone, he isn’t special for suffering, millions of people suffer much worse than him every single day. But this seems like the biggest tragedy in the history of the world, like no one will be able to live if she dies. As if the entire planet has to stop to mourn her and even when it spins it’ll never be the same, everyone will be scarred and hardened by her passing, no one will be able to breathe without thinking of Skye.

 

Of course that’s his own personal life he’s thinking of, the one that was black and white until Skye stepped in and lit everything up, made him believe in love, in life, that he wasn’t this terrible cursed thing who deserved to die for all the sins he’d committed. The grief he felt after John died is nothing compared to this, this is something so all consuming it feels like it’s choking him. But he can only sit here and wait for the love of his life to wake, or not.

 

Science says no so he’s begging somebody anybody for a miracle. Pepper’s whisper to Tony sounds so loud in this room as everyone looks over at the pair, Tony hasn’t looked away from the object in his stained hands. He’s the one who found Skye, who was the first one to rush in after she activated the emergency alert that was installed. Grant could hardly stomach the scene in his head after Steve told him what happened, how Tony thought she was dead because of all the blood.

 

He looks at his wife now who just hours ago was laughing and teasing him, holding his hand, telling him she loved him. Is he always going to say goodbye to the people he loves? Is his life just destined to suffer, are the moments of happiness between the pain enough to cancel the agony out? Is that all he’s worth? Just a tragedy, another sob story about the man who lived in constant emotional turmoil and darkness?

 

Is that the legacy he’ll leave behind? Grant Ward; the traitor, the double agent, the liar, the spy, the man who buried everyone he’s ever cared about, who has ghosts haunting him. Who lost his wife after just ten years and spent the rest of his years alone and heartbroken? Thinking of never being able to see Skye’s brown eyes again, hear her laugh, feel her hand in his own sends him into another fit of tears. He buries his face in the blanket on her bed and silently sobs, shoulders shaking and not even Kebo’s hand offers any comfort.

 

Grant was trained to never show a weakness to anyone, never let anybody see the real him. His father always said a man was never supposed to cry and if they did it was in private so by the time he pulled himself together no one would ever be able to tell what was going on inwardly. Grant never cried in front of Garrett not once, he knew better. But the Avenges share the same pain, the same despair as they fold in on themselves and sob quietly.

 

He has no idea how much time passes before Rhodes speaks up. Everything is numb and muffled sounding like he’s underwater but he makes out the sentence after a moment.

 

‘’You know the first time I met Skye she slapped me’’. He’s smiling at the memory, glances over at Nat.

‘’There was this girl trailing after you dressed in all black like a lost demented puppy, I made some comment and she slapped me right across the face’’.

Tony sighs before replying, ‘’you deserved it’’.

Barton adjusts a stone-faced Nat’s head on his shoulder before saying, ‘’she punched me in the nose for calling her tiny, I definitely deserved that’’.

Kebo squeezes Ward’s shoulder and declares proudly, ‘’she’s never hit me in the face, knew I was her favorite’’.

It’s Thor who speaks next as she pushes off the wall and gives them all an incredulous look, ‘’why are we acting like she’s dead?’’

Everyone winces at the word, Ward takes both her hands in his.

‘’She’s going to be fine’’. Natasha responds, she hasn’t said a word since Ward has been here.

‘’Skye is always fine, she’s going to wake up any second and yell at us for being so emotional over nothing’’.

But judging by the red rimmed eyes, the dried tear tracks on her face, Nat doesn’t even believe her own words.

‘’What if the doctors can’t save her?’’

Rhodes asks and receives heated glares in response but he back pedals quickly, ‘’I mean we’re the Avengers, we fought Thanos who had Infinity Stones, we took down gods. And you’re telling me we’re going to lose Skye over a knife wound? No, there has to be a way to save her, some pill or Jesus surgery, some kind of other worldly crap to heal her’’.

Steve walks into the room with sad eyes his hands shaking, ‘’we’re not giving up on her, we’re going to find something’’.

‘’And if we don’t?’’

Barton asks, Ward would love to punch him for it but he can’t move, can’t breathe properly or care about anything.

‘’Don’t you dare’’. Tony says through clenched teeth.

Pepper wraps an arm around his shoulder and takes a gleaming silver object out of his hands in the process.

‘’Tony we all need to prepare ourselves in case’’-

He jumps up and Ward blanches at the dried blood on his white shirt.

‘’She isn’t dying! Skye has survived worse, she’s going to make it out of this’’.

Ward can make out what Tony has been holding this entire time in between Pepper’s fingers, the Saint Raphael necklace he gave her weeks ago.

Captain Rogers walks slowly up to Stark, ‘’it wasn’t your fault Tony, there was no way you could have known what would happen’’.

Ward isn’t the only one who blames himself for what happened.

‘’Steve is right, this one is on me. I warned Skye about Caitlin but didn’t do anything about her, I should have been watching more closely, I should have known what would happen’’.

Rogers shakes his head at Grant, ‘’you are not responsible for her actions, you had no idea it would come to this. And Skye is the one who blew you off am I right? Didn’t listen when you told her you had a bad feeling about Snow? This is Caitlin’s fault, not ours’’.

‘’Skye was alone’’. Tony says quietly his voice hoarse and empty.

‘’She was all alone and I was too late’’.

Stark cries into Pepper’s shoulder as Steve stands by the edge of Skye’s bed and holds her feet, ‘’don’t go anywhere okay? Don’t leave us, what am I supposed to do without my best girl?’’

Grant just holds her hands and waits.

 

Three hours later he can’t stop thinking about John when it suddenly occurs to him. The comment James made about there being something out of this world that can save someone who’s dying, he could kick himself for not thinking of it earlier. In an adrenaline-fueled rush he jumps up and runs out the room to Fitz and Simmons, who are in the waiting room on the phone with Coulson, who is also someone he needs to speak with.

 

Barreling through the door Lincoln looks startled at his sudden entrance while Yo-Yo drops her coffee, Caroline, a fairly new Inhuman, sinks farther into her seat, Victoria is staring into the TV not absorbing the program at all. Simmons is sitting on Fitz’s lap as they both speak into the phone with Coulson, Jemma is the first to speak. ‘’Any news?’’ Ward snatches the phone from them.

 

‘’Coulson’’.

‘’Ward did you need something from me?’’

It could be comical his current situation, asking the man who tried to kill him once, who hated him with such a passion for help.

‘’Fury brought you back from the dead’’.

There’s a pause, ‘’yes’’.

‘’I need you to tell me where to get the serum that saved you and John’’.

Even after all this time both Fitz and Simmons stiffen at the sound of his name.

‘’Ward it’s not that simple’’.

‘’Don’t care, just point me in the right direction and I’ll take care of the rest’’.

‘’The GH-325 serum doesn’t technically exist and I hardly remember anything from the time they brought me back’’.

‘’Are you going to help me or not?’’

‘’I’ll try’’.

He grits his teeth, ‘’I need you to try harder, give me something anything’’.

‘’Ward’’-

He snaps.

‘’My wife is lying in a hospital bed in a coma! Nothing is going to save her but this serum so I need you to help me or stop wasting my time’’.

‘’I’ll do everything I can I swear to you, I’ll give you as much information as possible. So there’s no change?’’

Ward rubs his eyes, ‘’no’’.

‘’I was dead for days, if we find it it’ll save her. But I should warn you we don’t know the side effects of the serum’’.

‘’You’re fine’’. He points out.

‘’I am but everyone is different, and Skye’s DNA is different from a humans, we don’t know what this will do to her’’.

‘’As long as she’s alive we’ll deal with everything later’’.

‘’I’m emailing Fitz and Simmons my file, call me if you need anything else’’.

Grant hangs up and hands the phone to Simmons before he breaks it.

Turns to Lincoln, ‘’you need to be in there with her when I get this serum’’.

He turns to Jemma, ‘’you too’’.

She nods, ‘’of course, she’ll be alright Ward’’.

He takes a deep breath, pictures her smile, ‘’this stuff saved John and then he went completely insane but Coulson is fine. What kind of odds am I looking at here?’’

‘’Everyone is different we never knew why Garett reacted the way he did. But Skye’s DNA isn’t entirely human, she could go either way or’’-

Simmons cuts herself off and looks away but he presses, ‘’or what?’’

‘’It’s just a theory that came to mind, just a thought, it might not even be true and I don’t want to upset you’’.

‘’Jemma’’.

‘’Because of her Inhuman bloodline she could have an even worse reaction to the serum, we won’t know until after it’s been injected’’.

‘’It could kill her’’. Fitz whispers quietly and gives Ward a sympathetic look.

Gripping the bridge of his nose between two fingers he sighs, ‘’so I could lose her to the coma or the serum’’.

‘’It’s just a theory Grant, it doesn’t mean it will actually happen GH-325 saved Coulson and he’s perfectly fine’’.

The email comes through and Ward heads back to Skye’s hospital room, sits in his spot and reads.

 

With a hollow tone he tells the Avengers what’s going on, he found a way to save Skye. All they need to do is help find wherever this cure is being held and go get it. The research, the being able to focus on something else besides the room they’re in, banding together with one common goal to save the person they all love, it works. With Coulson’s help after six hours they are able to locate the warehouse that’s been in charge of keeping it from the public for all these years.

 

Hope though small and fragile flickers in his chest as all the Avengers look at one another. ‘’I can’t leave her’’. Tony confesses, now in a clean shirt and hands but still holding her necklace tightly. He’s sitting in a chair by her head holding one hand, the other over his eyes, Iron Man looks as if he’s aged twelve years in the past ten hours.

 

‘’Ward, Nat and I will go. Rhodes, Thor and Barton stay here just in case Caitlin was working with Hydra and they decide to pay a visit’’. Steve announces and immediately the words take effect, everyone sits straighter, taller, if Steve believes this will work it has to come true. Ward is beyond believing such a naïve thought but it’s there, tugging on that hope in his chest that Skye could be just fine in a few days. Romanoff nods and stands, a little light back in her eyes.

 

‘’Avengers, suit up’’. Rogers tells them as Ward is handed two guns and slips a knife in his boot. There are more weapons in the jet Tony is sending for them, it’s nearly here when Grant leans over Skye’s body. Kisses her pale forehead and brushes her hair back, ‘’I love you. I’ll be right back okay? Don’t move, wait for me’’. Pressing a lingering kiss against her brow he squeezes her hand and walks out without looking back, Kebo staying behind at his orders.

 

‘’This is going to work Ward’’. Nat tells him as they take off into the growing night.

He looks over at her, both wearing grief so black and heavy, ‘’I know it is, because I don’t know what I’m going to do if it doesn’t’’.

She squeezes his hand and gives what he assumes is supposed to be a reassuring smile but her teary eyes destroy the effect, ‘’me either’’.

The ride is spent contemplating a life where Skye is absent, but it’s unfathomable.

 

They arrive at a compound and Steve walks out first, they’re armed to the teeth just in case and it ends up being very needed. Whoever was assigned by Nick Fury to keep the serum safe never left their post even after these long years after Shield fell and Fury died. The doors end up needing to be blasted open, Ward takes the military grade gun in his hands and gets to work. The bullets, the blood, the shattered glass and sweat running down his back don’t mean a thing.

 

Nothing matters but getting what he needs, the thing that’s going to save his wife from death. There are only two guards here but they were trained perfectly for this type of situation. Not that it matters when the Black Widow, Captain America and Grant Ward are coming after you. Grant pulls the trigger and feels nothing at all, his heart and morals and everything else was left out there in the woods when he was fifteen, and the rest reside back home with Skye who’s barely hanging on.

 

So he doesn’t feel guilty when he and Nat set explosives throughout the compound while Steve starts the jet, he steps over the bodies of the men who probably had lives and families and doesn’t care. He feels nothing as the building explodes into fire and smoke, they were in his way, simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. He calls Kebo as they fly back to the hospital who informs him that Skye is just as she left them, no change. Grant holds the green colored liquid in a vile and holds it to the light.

 

Remembers when Raina injected this into John’s bloodstream and a monster was born, the person Garrett became post-serum wasn’t the same man he’d known. That person deserved to die, Ward didn’t see it back then but he does now. And he prays that the same thing doesn’t happen to his love, but knowing that even if it does he’d keep her safe no matter what. And if anyone got any idea to do the same thing to her that was done to John, they’d have to go through Ward first.

 

They make it back to the hospital and Ward sprints into Skye’s room, doesn’t even register the various beeping of all the machines, pushes his way past nurses and doctors to get to Simmons and Lincoln. Both of who are crying openly and it’s then he notices the one sound he never wants to hear. The heart monitor giving one long final thread of noise, her heart has stopped. On autopilot not grasping not caring, he shoves the vial in Jemma’s hand, ‘’do it’’.

 

Before anyone can stop her or the doctors question what’s going on, she injects it into Skye’s arm. Who almost immediately begins seizing, her back arching off the bed and giving a harsh strangled cry as if she’s choking. Lincoln holds her down as the heart monitor starts beeping wildly her pule is erratic, heart rate out of control, Grant doesn’t even realize he’s screaming until his throat is scratchy. It seems to go on for hours and then without warning it all stops, her heart evens out.

 

‘’Her heartbeat she’s stabilizing’’. Simmons announces as Lincoln steps aside so Ward can touch her face, her hair.

‘’She’s going to be okay?’’ He questions, holding his breath.

Simmons gives a smile tears streaming down her face, ‘’I think so, look her vitals are strong, at this rate she could be breathing just fine on her own soon’’.

 

Ward doesn’t register Pepper and Barton pulling away the doctors or Nat and Tony crying beside him, nor does he notice Steve and Thor tearing up across the room, or Rhodes laughing in relief with tears in his eyes. All he hears is Skye’s steady heartbeat and the feel of her hands that feel a shade warmer, no longer ice. He kisses the space between her eyebrows and cries into her hair, thanks god or whoever that she’s going to be alright, that he didn’t lose her.

 

Hours later the breathing tube is removed and doctors continue to move in and out of the room no longer asking questions courtesy of Tony Stark and Everett Ross, who threatened them with treason if they ever breathed a word of this to anyone. In a rare moment the room is empty save for Ward and Nat, who are both sitting on either side of Skye holding her hands. Nat runs a hand through Skye’s hair and looks up at Ward, ‘’do you believe in God?’’

 

They’ve never had this conversation and it’s not like Romanoff to ask such a personal question, but after everything they’ve been through and what they experienced today he answers.

 

‘’I don’t know, I did when I was a kid but it never really got me anywhere. What about you?’’

She stares at Skye for a long moment before responding, ‘’I used to not. But there has to be some kind of higher being out there watching over us, I mean how else would we have found what we did today to save Skye?’’

He shrugs, ‘’it’s possible’’.

She shoots him a nostalgic smile, ‘’you know Skye once told me about this girl she shared a room with at a foster home as a kid, who thought god was punishing her by sending her to that family because she stole a candy bar once. You know what Skye told her?’’

Ward shakes his head.

‘’That god is love and that’s what she chooses to believe. I think I can agree with that’’.

‘’Skye also believes the universe is responsible for our fate, I always found that fascinating even if I don’t agree with it’’.

Natasha laughs, ‘’she’s going to be okay’’.

Grant kisses Skye’s knuckles, ‘’yeah’’.

‘’You know she’ll want to go after Caitlin as soon as she wakes’’.

‘’She’s not going anywhere for a while, even if I have to tie her to this bed’’.

‘’If Hydra didn’t order this hit Grant we both know who did, if Caitlin wasn’t acting alone’’.

‘’I know’’.

‘’If you don’t kill Rosalind soon I will’’.

He twirls Skye’s wedding and engagement rings, ‘’if Rosalind is responsible she’ll have no one to blame but herself when I get done with the ATCU’’.

 

No one gets away with coming after Skye, Ward and the Avengers will not show Caitlin or anyone else mercy, this is personal.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

'’So Quake is dead then? You really did it’’. Caitlin Snow glows under the praise of Kimberly Santos, the Director of Hydra who’s currently smiling widely in her direction.

‘’Yes ma’am’’.

The smile grows, ‘’you killed the Destroyer of Worlds’’.

Snow still has the bloody knife tucked into a sheath at her thigh, ‘’it wasn’t even that difficult, Skye let her guard down with me just like you said she would’’.

Kimberly gets up from her desk and walks to the windows of the office building they’re in.

‘’Of course she did, you’re Inhuman. She treats her team of Inhumans like they are her children, they’re the only weakness and blind spot she has’’.

Caitlin is still vibrating from the high of it, the thrill and danger of taking out the most dangerous person on this planet, it truly wasn’t that hard at all, Skye made it so easy.

‘’The only thing we need to worry about now is the Avengers, they’ll be coming after her killer soon enough, it won’t be hard to put the pieces together on who’s responsible’’.

They spoke about this a year ago when this first started and Caitlin gives the same response she did back then.

‘’They are no match for me, now that Skye is gone I’m the most powerful Inhuman out there, I’m not scared of the Avengers’’.

Kimberly smirks, ‘’and what about her husband? Surely he’d want to know who murdered his wife’’.

‘’From what I gathered her husband isn’t in the picture, I don’t think he’ll be a problem, whoever he is’’.

‘’You better be sure’’. 

Both women turn at the sound of Rosalind Price’s voice down the hall, soon she appears in the room wearing a white pantsuit and heels.

She joins the other two women at the windows, watches the sun rise.

‘’We met here a year ago and our plans are finally coming true, the ATCU and Hydra are now the most powerful force on the globe’’.

Rosalind and Kimberly share a grin and Caitlin comments, ‘’now with Quake out of the picture we can do whatever the hell we want’’.

‘’Starting with Shield, then we take on the Avengers. After that the world is ours’’.

Caitlin pulls out her phone and asks Price, ‘’want to see pictures?’’

Kimberly having already seen them goes back to her desk and checks a few emails.

‘’That’s a lot of blood’’.

Snow shrugs, ‘’that’s what happens when you stab someone’’.

‘’And you’re sure she’s dead?’’

‘’I overheard Jemma Simmons say her heart had stopped and there was no pulse, besides no one could survive a wound like that’’.

‘’Forward those images to me’’.

‘’Yes ma’am’’.

‘’The weapons will be here in a couple days’’.  Kimberly announces as she takes out three glasses and a bottle of vodka.

The nuclear weapons were Plan B if Caitlin failed at killing Skye, but since that’s no longer an issue the ATCU and Hydra will use them to take control of Shield, and then eliminate the Avengers.

Price raises her glass full of alcohol and looks at the two of them, ‘’to the death of the Destroyer of Worlds’’.

Snow smiles, ‘’to new beginnings’’.

Santos tips her own glass, ‘’to doing whatever the hell we want, no one will be able to stop us now’’.

 

They clink their glasses together and celebrate the demise of the only being strong enough to stop them. A year ago Kimberly became Director of Hydra and sought out Rosalind Price on a way to destroy Quake. She suggested nuclear weapons but when Kimberly stumbled upon a woman with the power of ice things changed. Kimberly knew how much Inhumans meant to Skye, how she took them in and treated them like family, it was Quake’s ultimate downfall.

 

Sending in Caitlin Snow to infiltrate Shield, the team, and Skye was the best secret weapon Hydra had ever come up with. Especially since their first attempt all those years ago with Chelsea failed, this one was a perfect success. Now Harold’s death is avenged, Kimberly’s husband who was murdered in cold blood by Quake for no reason at all. He can be at peace knowing his killer is in hell, and all is finally right with the world.

 

 

 

*

 

 

The office is warm, warmer than the rest of the building. The door is still wide open, no one bothered or had time to close it. Everything looks to be in place upon first glance, couches in front of the TV monitor, coffee table stacked with neat piles of paperwork, a laptop resting in the center. A leather jacket is hanging onto the edge of Skye’s desk, a bottle of whiskey next to it. The desk is where this room transforms from normal into a horror story.

 

Because if you lean a little to the left beside the plush office chair, where the beige rug meets hardwood floor, you’ll see the unmistakable sight of blood. Harsh dried scarlet staining the ground in an ocean of rust and salt. Ward observes the scene and attempts to approach it like a Specialist, like this is just another victim who’s mess he has no choice to clean up. But he can’t rationalize this, can’t pretend a stranger nearly died in this room when it was his wife.

 

Paper clips, three pens, a knife, a shot glass and one lime wedge tumbled off the edge of the desk when Skye fell, the surrounding items have all been tainted with her blood just like this office. Just like his brain, he can’t get the sound of that heart monitor failing out of his head, even though the GH-325 serum worked and according to Simmons she’s going to make a full recovery, he can’t help but know in his bones that without it, he’d be planning her funeral right now.

 

The love of his life gone in an instant, Ward keeps dwelling on how they wasted this past year. Yes she left him for a reason which she was justified to, but if he knew what would happen with Caitlin Snow he would have never let her walk out the door. They wasted so much time trapped in their sorrow instead of working through the tragedy of losing their son together, had they done that, perhaps this wouldn’t have happened.

 

Sweat starts to run down his back as he pictures Skye lying on this floor all alone bleeding out, waiting for someone to help her since she could not help herself. Did she think she was going to die? Was she afraid? Did she think of him and how much she loves him? Did she think of the past nine years they had together and wish they had more time?  Closing his eyes for a brief moment the image of the last time he saw her just moments ago flashes through.

 

It’s been ten hours since the serum was administered into her bloodstream and Skye still hasn’t woken up. Lincoln says it’s more than likely due to the trauma her body went through, the fatal wound, the surgery, her heart stopping four times. Ward has nearly lost Skye so many times, near death experiences are common in their line of work, but not like this, never like this. She was dead when Simmons inserted that needle in her veins, he could have been too late.

 

Suddenly dizzy Ward puts a hand to the wall to steady himself, stomach churning like he’s going to be sick again. Skin clammy as he takes deep breaths to calm himself, finally the advice Paul has been giving him these past few hours kicks in. The dread passes but still lingers, it probably will until Skye’s eyes open and he can feel with his hands that she’s alright and breathing in his arms. Rubbing his stinging eyes he compartmentalizes this situation like he was trained to do all those years ago.

 

Grabs the trash can under the desk and tosses the items on the carpet into it, then goes to the nearest storage closet and gets a large bucket. Fills it with water and bleach, grabs a sponge but can’t find any gloves. Debates going to the lab for a pair but decides against it, he wants to get this over with so he can get back to his wife. She was transferred to the Playground for two reasons; one being Jemma said her body was strong enough to handle it, and two if Skye woke in a hospital room her reaction could be bad.

 

Considering the last time they were in a hospital is traumatizing to Ward, Skye’s response could bring the entire place down, and cause some of the progress she’s made to backfire. Paul also suggested moving her because the last thing she needs is to have a panic attack right after waking up from a coma, she needs to relax and focus on recovering, not the past. The Avengers like Ward, haven’t left her side, they’re all in her room in the medical wing right now with nothing to do but wait.

 

Grant walks back into her office and gets to work, wanting to do something with his hands to keep his mind off all the negative thoughts, all the shit he’s been through in these last eighteen hours. This is not the first time he’s had to remove blood from a floor, it becomes a numbing process after a while. Dip the sponge, dig your shoulders into it as you scrub, rinse and repeat. He’s covered in sweat by the time he’s done, the room smells harshly of bleach, his nose burns his eyes are watering.

 

Ward puts the sponge in the bucket, the red water the only evidence that there was an accident here at all. He refuses to look at his hands knowing he should wash them, but instead he grabs that bottle of whiskey and pours a glass. Sits on the couch and takes a drink, can feel his fingers trembling as he drains the glass and pours another. He’s on his third thinking about their wedding day when footsteps sound down the hall, they aren’t rushed, there’s no panic behind the shoes so he doesn’t tense up.

 

Natasha steps into the room just after Grant has grabbed the picture frames off Skye’s desk, how they used to stand on their dresser in their apartment in New York. And then for years they rested above their fireplace at home, Ward didn’t even realize Skye brought them here until after he joined the ATCU and came to the Playground the first time. He stares at his wife’s face younger then, one image in black and white the other in color, and wonders not for the first time how she found him.

 

How he got so lucky to have someone like her love him, spend her life with him, he’s starting to realize this past year doesn’t matter. The living apart, his bullshit with the ATCU, it was nothing but a small blip in their marriage. Now what happened to cause the separation still matters of course, Ward doesn’t think they’ll ever fully get over that, but he’s tired of living without Skye. And if he finds out that Caitlin Snow was working with the ATCU, no one is going to be left standing when he’s done with them.

 

Nat wrinkles her nose at the smell of bleach and then blanches at the state of Ward. Who looks worse than she’s ever seen him, haggard, shaky hands, shoulders trembling, face pale, dark bags under his eyes from stress and lack of sleep. His fingers are covered in blood a sight that apparently doesn’t bother him, dried tear tracks and sweat stain his cheeks, looks as if he’s aged twenty years since he first got that phone call from Steve Rogers.

 

‘’You look like crap’’.

He gestures to the bottle of alcohol on the coffee table, ‘’it’s why I’m drinking. No change?’’

Kebo promised to call if Skye woke up while he stepped out, but he still wants to double check.

The Black Widow shakes her head and sits next to him, ‘’no. But Simmons says her vitals are stronger than ever, she’s still breathing on her own, heart beat is steady, she’ll wake up when she’s ready’’.

Natasha too has been damaged by what happened to Skye, they all have, no one has slept or moved or ate since she was sent into surgery.

They drink in silence for a moment before Nat puts her feet up and comments, ‘’you know they have people for that’’, she nods to the bucket on the floor, ‘’you didn’t have to clean this up’’.

Grant shrugs and takes a sip from his glass, ‘’needed something to do’’.

‘’You know when she wakes up’’-

‘’I warned her about Caitlin, said she could be a threat. But Skye didn’t listen, she never listens’’.

Romanoff sighs and puts a hand on his arm, ‘’when it comes to her Inhumans Skye refuses to listen to anything anyone has to say. They’re a blind spot for her, always have been.

 Skye spent years thinking she was a monster after what Hydra did, she never wants to feel that way again. It’s why she treats the Inhumans the way she does’’.

Ward traces the edges of his glass not meeting her eyes, ‘’she could be dead right now’’.

She squeezes his arm, ‘’but she’s not thanks to you’’.

‘’I didn’t’’-

‘’Ward you saved her, you’re the only one who thought of the GH-325 serum while the rest of us were too distraught to do anything’’.

She smiles and wipes her eyes, bumping his shoulder with her own, ‘’you know there’s a reason she calls you Superman’’.

His lips twitch in a near smile, ‘’shut up’’.

‘’You literally found alien DNA that brings people back from the dead, I’ve never doubted how far you’d go for her but you pulled this miracle out of your ass’’.

It’s something Skye would say and Ward feels his chest ache as he turns to Nat, expression serious.

‘’I’d die for her’’.

She pours a second glass, ‘’I know you would’’.

‘’You think she’ll ever forgive me for lying to her?’’

It’s not important in light of everything else, but Romanoff knows Skye better than he does sometimes.

Nat studies him for a long moment, ‘’yes, I’m surprised she hasn’t done it yet. Relax Turbo I’m sure she’ll be back in your arms in no time’’.

‘’Still no sign of Caitlin?’’

Her hands clench against the glass, ‘’not a word. I think she’s working with your boss, maybe they’re both in on this with Kimberly Santos’’

‘’On what grounds?’’

‘’Skye has plenty of enemies for just being who she is, does it really matter?’’

‘’If Kimberly orchestrated this it’s to avenge Harold’s death, since Hydra attacking Skye directly never works maybe she tried to send in a mole like they did with Chelsea. But I still can’t figure out why Rosalind teamed up with Hydra’’.

‘’Maybe she just hates Skye, a lot of people want her dead based off what the media portrays her as’’.

‘’Maybe’’.

Ward buries his face in his hands and fights off the roll of nausea and drowsiness. 

‘’You should shower and eat something before she wakes up, try to get some rest even’’.

‘’I can’t’’.

‘’Ward I say this as a friend, but you look so awful that if Skye sees you like this she’s going to freak out’’.

He puts down the fourth glass of alcohol and rubs his face which results in smearing more blood onto it.

‘’Is it really that bad?’’

She grimaces at his appearance, ‘’terrible. I promise I’ll come get you right away if anything happens okay?’’

He thinks on this moment, relaxes each part of his body until his head is mostly clear.

‘’Shower and a sandwich, I’ll sleep as soon as I know she’s okay’’.

Nat rolls her eyes fondly, ‘’good enough’’.

‘’You should sleep too’’.

They rise from the couch and she responds, ‘’I probably wouldn’t be able to rest either’’.

Victoria, Skye’s longtime assistant and fellow Inhuman pops her head in the door, ‘’Ms. Romanoff here are the sandwiches you asked Simmons to make’’.

Nat takes the plate as Victoria informs him its prosciutto and buffalo mozzarella with homemade pesto aioli, Fitz’s favorite.

‘’Am I going to have to shove this down your throat or are you going to wash your hands and feed yourself?’’

Grant washes his hands in the nearby bathroom until the skin is red and raw, when he comes out he eats the sandwich and heads off to shower.

 

By the time he walks into Skye’s room in the medical wing of the Playground with fresh clothes, courtesy of Kebo who brought them from his apartment, Skye still isn’t awake. He moves around the tired bodies that wait by her bedside to take his place in the chair by her head, he’s been in this spot for what feels like years. Takes her hand in his and draws small circles onto her knuckles, a soothing gesture she’s always liked, and he waits just like everyone else.

 

It happens an hour later, he’s talking to Banner about Thanos when a rough voice asks quietly, ‘’am I dead?’’ Ward snaps his head to Skye’s bed where she’s looking up at the ceiling. The relief he feels in that moment is indescribable, the utter joy at seeing her alive breaks through his chest and all that pain and sorrow shrinks away as he fully comprehends that she’s okay, he’s not dreaming. He’s not going to wake up in this chair and have this moment be a dream, he’s not sitting in front of her casket dying.

 

He must make a noise because those brown eyes he knows better than his own, the ones he’s looked into thousands upon thousands of times over the past nine years, meet his. He’s never seen a better color, never witnessed anything more perfect than this as those eyes stare into him. Ward keeps it together for a second longer and then sobs into the blanket. Natasha has a similar reaction, bursts into tears on Skye’s other side and hugs her lightly, Skye though dazed and fuzzy, wraps an arm around her back in comfort.

 

Before Skye can get a word in everyone is hugging her and sobbing, then hugging each other at the fact that she’s alive and she’s not going anywhere, she’s safe in one piece. Tony is stroking her hair when Skye asks, ‘’the hell is going on? Why are you all crying?’’ Her voice is scratchy and Nat gets a glass of water. It’s Bruce who answers while Ward strokes her hand and thanks every god he’s ever heard of that she’s okay. 

 

‘’Skye what’s the last thing you remember?’’ She looks at Grant and strokes a thumb under his eyes, ‘’you look like shit’’. He can’t think of anything else to say except, ‘’I love you’’. There’s a moment of silence so Grant can soak in the moment, his wife is fine, she’s not six feet under. And then Skye sucks in a deep breath, squeezes Tony’s hand so hard her knuckles turn white with the strain. ‘’Am I in a hospital?’’ Before anyone can tell her no her eyes widen and Ward can see the panic, the memories start to settle in.

 

Tony is the one who stands in front of the anxiety and causes it to back down, in a soothing paternal tone he tells her she’s safe at the Playground and what happened to get her into this room. Ward holds his breath as he waits for her reaction, Skye doesn’t say anything for a long time. Just sighs sadly and stares up at the ceiling again, doesn’t comment when Jemma and Lincoln come into the room and take her vitals, blood, hug her and say how happy they are she’s okay.

 

Grant kisses her knuckles and says, ‘’sweetheart it’s okay to be upset’’. 

She turns her head to look at him, ‘’I’m not the one who’s upset. You all look horrible’’.

He lets out a small laugh, ‘’well you did technically die’’.

‘’And I wasn’t even gone long enough to see if there’s a heaven, should have left me under a little longer’’.

‘’Not funny’’.

‘’I swear to god Skye if you ever put me through that again I’ll never recover, I mean it, you nearly gave me a heart attack’’.

‘’It’s not like I asked to get stabbed in the back Dad’’.

Stark leans down to kiss her forehead, ‘’love you Cupcake’’.

Lincoln is asking how she feels when Skye looks to Nat, ‘’I want to see the tape’’.

She pulls it up without question but not everyone can stand watching it, all of the Avengers save for Nat leaves the room. Ward isn’t even sure he’ll be able to stomach it but he doesn’t think he’s physically capable of leaving her side.

 

‘’Did Lincoln tell you about his mole theory?’’

‘’God I hate that word. Let me guess he thinks someone is going to betray me, a Hydra agent in disguise and our team will never be the same again’’.

‘’Something like that’’.

 

The screen is perfect high definition quality, no flaws, the image of Caitlin Snow producing a knife from the back pocket of her jeans is crystal clear in bright beautiful colors. Ward watches Skye turn around at the exact wrong moment right when Snow strikes, she never saw it coming. Eyes widen as the pain of the wound takes over, after a moment she falls against her desk taking the contents on it with her to the floor. All the while Caitlin stands there bloody knife in hand, blank expression on her face.

 

‘’Never turn your back on the enemy, you taught me that’’.

 

Ward can’t take his eyes off Skye’s body as it lies beside her desk in her office, gasping for breath as blood soaks into the rug beneath her. Watches as her fingers crawl to her phone and blindly hope for help as she presses the emergency app Tony installed. Fast forwarding to minutes later when Stark himself crashes into the room and pales at the scene before him. 

 

He starts screaming for help and falls to his knees to check if she’s alive, shaky fingers at her pulse point, holding what is her lifeless body in his arms as he half sobs half yells at her to suck it up and stay. Simmons and Lincoln run in next, each of their faces falling at the blood on the floor. Ward can’t look away as Jemma takes over applying pressure on the wound and Lincoln is saying something to Tony as he lifts her up and sprints out of the room.

 

The recording ends showing Caitlin escape out of one of the back doors, hasn’t been seen or heard from since. The room is quiet with the sound of their breathing, Skye’s hand warming up inside his own, ‘’my god she really plunged it in there, no wonder I died’’. It’s not funny at all these last hours have been absolutely dreadful but as soon as Skye smiles at her own joke they all burst into fits of laughter. It’s cathartic and something he needed, the Avengers come back into the room at the sound.

 

Shield agents file in next, Fitz, Mack, Coulson and even May, who Skye kicks out as soon as they lock eyes. Mack brought her a bouquet of flowers to which she said if they were daises she’d kick his ass. The team of Inhumans come in after, Victoria cries into Caroline’s arms while Yo-Yo makes Skye promise she won’t have another close call like that again. Everett Ross even makes an appearance and says he’s glad the strongest Avenger will live to fight another day, that they’re searching endlessly for Snow. 

 

Color comes back to her cheeks as the afternoon wears on, more prodding and probing from Simmons, Lincoln takes more tests, Skye continues to tell them she feels fine. Like she’s recovering from the flu and not another life threatening wound, afternoon fades into evening as Simmons starts to insist that Skye needs her rest. Everyone hugs her goodbye as they promise to be back in the morning, they won’t leave the Playground so if she needs anything they’ll be close by.

 

Kebo is the last to leave, pausing at the doorway on his way out. He too cried at the sight of Skye awake and has been drinking quietly in the corner ever since. Ward has scooted closer to her and is holding her hand, considers finally sleeping now that she’s alright.

 

‘’You need anything?’’ Kebo asks and Skye shakes her head.

‘’You sure? Water, cheeseburger, porn?’’

Skye’s teasing smile lights up the room as she responds, ‘’porn, Ward isn’t going to be putting out anytime soon’’.

He narrows his eyes, ‘’you were literally stabbed’’.

Kebo just grins at her, ‘’god I’m so glad you’re not dead’’.

‘’Me too’’.

‘’I’ll be asleep somewhere if you need me’’.

When he’s gone and they’re alone she asks, ‘’where does Rosalind think you are right now?’’

That doesn’t seem to be important in the grand scheme of things but he answers anyway, ‘’family emergency’’.

Skye strokes his face again, ‘’you look tired’’.

He shrugs it off, ‘’I’m fine’’.

‘’Rough day huh? Me too’’.

He brushes her hair back and leans up to kiss her forehead , ‘’I love you so much’’.

Studies her face, memorizing lines and curves he already knows by heart.

The slope of her nose, the lips he’s kissed so many times, her cheeks that rarely blush but every time they do it’s adorable.

‘’You’re staring’’.

He’s about to start crying again, there was a strong chance he may have never heard her say that again.

‘’Am I not allowed to do that?’’

‘’I guess I’ll let it slide all things considered’’.

 

Night closes in and Ward could fight the fatigue in his bones, could stay up to stand guard, but the Playground is still on lockdown and there are hundreds of agents posted all along the compound. The Avengers are between this door and whatever threat awaits out there, there’s no way anyone could slip between all that and harm Skye. He still puts a gun on the nightstand and a knife beside the chair, tucks another one under Skye’s pillow at her request.

 

He’s half expecting her to ask to him climb into the bed and is a little disappointed when she doesn’t. Though they haven’t shared a bed in a year and he longs to hold her again, especially after today he needs to feel with his body that she’s okay. It’s around three a.m. after Skye has watched as much TV as she can stand that he asks something she seems reluctant to bring up.

 

‘’You want to talk about it?’’

Knowing exactly what he’s talking about Skye tenses up, ‘’do I want to talk about how someone who I thought was my friend put an actual knife in my back? Do I want to talk about how another Inhuman somehow pulled the wool over my eyes and came after me? I died Ward, if you hadn’t come through with your Jesus serum I wouldn’t be here’’.

He takes her hand and she shifts her head on the pillow to look at him, ‘’I just, I haven’t really processed it yet’’.

‘’That’s okay, we can talk about something else’’.

That familiar tease comes back into her eyes and he’s so happy to see it, ‘’you know what would make me feel better?’’

‘’What?’’

‘’if you took your shirt off and slept with me’’.

Despite his thoughts earlier he’s hesitant, she’s not exactly in tip top shape right now.

Seeing the worry in his eyes Skye pats the empty space beside her, ‘’I know how your mind works babe, you’re not going to be able to sleep until you know for sure I’m okay’’.

Kissing her nose he carefully maneuvers around until she’s pressed against him her head on his chest.

Home, this is home right here in his arms, he’s missed her so much in every way humanly possible.

Tucking the blankets around them Ward buries his face in her hair and inhales, ‘’please don’t ever do that to me again’’.

She cuddles into him, ‘’I’ll try not to get stabbed again’’.

Ward places his cheek atop her head, ‘’that’s all I ask’’.

‘’Are you okay?’’

Why he’s surprised she’s concerned about him he doesn’t know.

‘’Me dying and you getting the same serum that was used on John couldn’t have been easy’’.

‘’I’m fine Skye, I promise. Just let me hold you’’.

‘’Your shirt is still on’’.

He smiles, ‘’I missed you’’.

‘’You’d be lost without me robot’’.

He doesn’t deny it.

Ward is nearly asleep when he feels her fingernail press into his cheek, ‘’Ward’’.

‘’What?’’

‘’Want to fool around?’’

Keeping his eyes closed he says, ‘’please be joking’’.

‘’What? Hospital gowns and gauze don’t turn you on?’’

‘’You know what turns me on and that’s not it’’.

He leans slightly so he can kiss the finger that’s still on his face.

‘’It never ends Ward, the ATCU, Hydra, now Caitlin. I feel like everything is coming at me from all sides and I was completely taken off guard this time, it’s never going to stop’’.

‘’It will. We’ll handle Rosalind, Kimberly and Caitlin together, I think they’re all working together anyway so cut off one head and the rest will follow’’.

The barely concealed rage in his voice has Skye grinning in the dark.

‘’You’re hot when you’re mad’’.

‘’Caitlin isn’t going to get away with this’’. He vows.

‘’Hey, bitch stabbed me so she’s mine, you can have Rosalind’’.

‘’This will all be over soon’’.

‘’And then what?’’

Ward wants to say then they go home and work on their marriage, make up for lost time but knows Skye isn’t there yet.

‘’Then we find Thanos, get our people back and kill him’’.

‘’And then we live happily after?’’

‘’If you want’’.

She’s quiet for so long he thinks she’s fallen asleep when she says, ‘’I know I don’t have to thank you’’-

‘’so don’t’’.

He feels her nose press into his shirt right over his heart, ‘’my very own Clark Kent’’.

‘’You would have done the same for me’’.

‘’Love you’’. She says with a yawn.

‘’I love you too, always’’.

 

They fall asleep in each other’s arms, anxieties finally settled, stress, worry and pain left discarded on the floor. Grant can finally breathe again, his wife is back in arms, whole and safe, he doesn’t care about anything else. As long as Skye is right here, the rest of the world doesn’t matter.

 

Chapter Text

 

‘’Have you heard the news?’’ 

Ward looks up from the mountain of paperwork on his desk as Rosalind walks into his office.

‘’What news?’’

She seems more cheerful than usual, smile bright, energy and body language vibrating.

She sits across from him, ‘’Quake is dead’’.

 

Grant knows, he knows this is not true. He saw Skye hours ago, held her breathing living body in his arms, felt her hands on his chest, witnessed her smile as he kissed her nose goodbye. Skye is very much alive, Ward literally moved heaven and earth to guarantee that. But the rest of the world doesn’t know that and it appears Caitlin has decided to go public with her crime. Outwardly it would seem he has no reaction to the news at all, but his chest still aches because his wife came very close to death.

 

‘’What?’’

Price pulls out her phone like she’s excited to deliver the knowledge, Ward has never seen her like this before.

‘’Broke this morning, a shame, Quake was one of the good ones’’.

Grant hardly glances at the screen as she hands him her phone, he can’t stand to even see the headlines even if they’re not true.

‘’Bullshit’’.

He tells Rosalind, playing on a hunch because his instincts are hardly ever wrong.

She runs a hand through her short hair, caught off guard, ‘’excuse me?’’

He lies like he’s been doing since he got here, ‘’bullshit, Quake wasn’t one of the good ones and you know it’’.

Price cocks her head to the side and laughs loudly, ‘’you’re right, I don’t know why I tried to pretend with you. Wasn’t she a friend of yours though?’’

Grant shuffles paperwork to the side, ‘’not really, a pain in my ass is more like it. I’m glad she’s dead’’.

The words burn in his throat like acid but he pushes through, he started this thing to protect his love and can’t stop now.

His statement seems to unlock something in her and all his hard work pays off in the next moment.

‘’I trust you Ward’’. She says, typing something out on her phone.

‘’Well I should hope so’’.

‘’My daughter trusts you, hell you’re like my son in law already’’.

‘’Glad to be here ma’am, and you know how much I care about Alison’’.

‘’I’m going to let you in on a little secret’’.

As if one cue his office door opens and in walks Caitlin Snow, with her short white hair and an arrogant grin.

It takes everything Ward has not to leap across this desk and kill her with his bare hands, rage simmers below his skin.

‘’Hey handsome’’. 

Grant unclenches his fists underneath the desk, calls upon every single amount of training ever drilled into him to calm down.

‘’Did we have a meeting I’m unaware of?’’

Snow laughs and sits beside Rosalind, both women unaware of the red haze Ward is drowning in.

Where they can’t see he starts recording this conversation with his phone and also calls Nat so she can hear.

Rosalind and Snow don’t hear Natasha’s quiet, ‘’hello?’’

‘’Meet the person responsible for Quake’s demise’’.

Grant pretends to be shocked, can hardly stomach looking into Caitlin’s face, he’s never hated anyone this much, not even Ian Quinn.

‘’You killed Skye?’’

The smile he gets in response looks so similar to the one he once saw on John Garrett’s face, it’s unnerving.

‘’I did. And soon Shield will be under the ATCU’s control and this world’s precious Avengers will be gone’’.

Ward laughs in disbelief, ‘’destroy the Avengers? No one is strong enough to do that’’.

‘’Thanos was’’.

Gritting his teeth Grant responds, ‘’you’re not Thanos’’.

‘’I’m not, but the ATCU has weapons that can take them down, we’ve been working with Hydra to obtain them’’.

Bingo. There it is, Rosalind Price has finally admitted to treason and creating illegal weapons while also conspiring to murder the Director of Shield, and Ward got it all on tape.

This will be more than enough to convict her.

‘’So you’re plan is to take over Shield and kill the Avengers, what happens after that?’’

Price and Rosalind share a smirk, ‘’well whatever we want. Without the Avengers to stop us we’ll be the most powerful force on the planet’’.

Ward has years of experience with evil tyrants and these two along with Kimberly Santos definitely fit the bill.

Plastering on a fake smile he says, ‘’I’m in. Show me the weapons you’ve been working on’’.

Price sighs before smiling and standing, ‘’I knew I could count on you’’.

‘’You want to see pictures?’’ Snow asks as Ward swallows back vomit.

‘’No thanks, I’m sure they’re on every newsfeed in the world right now’’.

‘’The people deserved to know Quake was dead, that the Destroyer of Worlds will never be a problem again’’.

Ward can’t hear Nat chuckle darkly on the other end of the line but knows she does.

‘’We had to move the nuclear devices a couple days ago from their original location’’. Rosalind informs him as they leave the office and head towards his SUV.

Price claps her hands, ‘’everything we’ve worked towards this past year is finally coming true’’.

So they’ve been planning this for a year, why? What the hell did Skye ever do to Price and Caitlin?

He decides to broach the subject as Rosalind gives him directions and they start driving.

‘’So you killing Quake was it personal or just a job?’’

Caitlin puts on a pair of Alison’s sunglasses in the backseat, ‘’both. Kimberly Santos gave me the order and I’ve never really been a fan of Quake. It was a two birds one stone scenario’’.

‘’And what about you?’’ He asks Rosalind, ‘’why did you want her gone?’’

‘’Besides the fact she’s an awful person? Quake thought she was invincible, that no one could ever harm her. Like she was above the law and answered to no one, I wanted to change that. So I did’’.

Ward hates to admit it but Rosalind is right, hasn’t he and the Avengers all said the same thing over the years?

‘’Good riddance’’.

Is all he comments and the two women smile in response.

They’re in the endgame now, the ATCU is about to come falling down as soon as he gets his hands on those weapons.

And everyone who was involved in this plan to hurt Skye will die screaming.

 

 

*

 

 

Warm hands trailing down her body, mouth hot on her neck. Teeth nip her earlobe, fingers dig into her hips before sliding lower in a blaze of heat, lips between the valley of her breasts. Back arches as those fingers reach a place that causes her hands to fist in the sheets. A smile against her rib cage now, Skye can feel the teeth on her skin as Ward looks up and kisses her roughly. Moving too quickly for him she hitches both legs around his bare hips and flips them over so she’s on top and he’s below.

 

Tossing her hair over one shoulder Skye takes both his hands and holds them above his head, Grant nods and sucks in a breath when she starts kissing her way down his chest. ‘’I love you’’. He chokes out moments later his breathing labored, a flush appearing on his skin. Skye looks up from her position and tightens the hold she has on his arms before planting a small kiss on the inside of his thigh. Sitting up she hovers above him before starting to move as they both sigh, his moan echoing off the walls.

 

‘’Skye? Are you alright?’’ Blinking away the feel of Ward’s hands on her Skye focuses back on the present, takes a deep breath. She’s in Paul’s office in New York, hasn’t been here since before the car accident. The leather couch is still the same, as are the expensive rugs and wide window view of Central Park. The large oak desk is still in the same place, candles on a coffee table with pointless magazines and self-help books.

 

She thought being here again would cause a break down, reduce her to a mess of tears on the floor. But she’s been here fifteen minutes and it hasn’t happened, in fact they’ve barely said five words to each other. Not wanting to talk about the main thing she probably should, Skye glances up from her combat boots into Paul’s eyes.

 

‘’I keep having sex dreams about Ward’’.

As a therapist Paul never judges and she doesn’t see any amusement in his gaze, unlike Nat this morning when Skye mentioned it.

‘’It’s been happening for three nights now, and I don’t know if it’s because I miss him or because my brain would rather focus on that than the whole dying thing’’.

‘’Is it strictly the intimacy you miss or just Ward himself?’’

Skye thinks for a moment, ‘’just Ward I think’’.

She plays with a loose string on her shirt, ‘’I’m not ready for anything physical with Ward yet’’.

‘’Would you like to explain why that is?’’

He knows about the miscarriage, her leaving Grant as a result.

‘’No’’.

‘’Alright’’.

She takes a deep breath as that familiar void in her chest expands, the pain of losing her son threatens to take over.

‘’Can I get a glass of water?’’

Paul nods and while he gets it Skye buries her face in her hands, uses the techniques he taught her years ago to reign in the emotions.

‘’I kind of died’’. She tells him after he hands her the glass.

‘’My heart stopped three times in surgery and then once before the GH-325 serum was forced into my bloodstream, all because some crazy bitch with a knife decided to off me for no reason’’.

It’s been a few days since Caitlin attacked her in her office.

‘’You said the serum was forced into your bloodstream?’’

Skye catches that as well and thinks about her words.

‘’Well I couldn’t exactly give Simmons my consent on if I wanted it or not’’.

Paul scribbles something into his leather bound notebook, ‘’what do you mean by that?’’

‘’I was dead, they wouldn’t be able to revive me a fourth time’’.

‘’Did you not want to be revived?’’

‘’I don’t, I don’t know’’.

He adjusts the glasses on his nose, ‘’did you want to die?’’

Something crackles in her bones, that bit of darkness she experienced on the bathroom floor at her home after the accident begins to leak.

Reminding herself this is a safe place Skye takes a breath, ‘’a part of me did’’.

‘’Why?’’

Tears fill her eyes as she chokes out, ‘’because I could have been with my son again’’.

It’s a truth she hasn’t admitted to anyone, just realized it for herself a couple days after she was released from the medical wing of the Playground.

Paul hands her a box of tissues and says calmly, ‘’I think that’s a perfectly normal response. You went through something awful and’’-

‘’I don’t really want to talk about that right now’’.

He nods, ‘’that’s okay. Let me ask you something do you resent Ward for bringing you back?’’

She thinks about this for a moment.

‘’If Ward hadn’t forced the GH-325 serum onto you things would be different would they not?’’

She nods, remembering those hours where she was gone from the world.

‘’It was warm and peaceful, quiet, like I was wrapped in this blanket where no one could hurt me. The pain of everything I’d been through was gone, it was just me and this light before’’.

She trails off, blowing her nose and starts back up again.

‘’Then I opened my eyes and Ward and the Avengers were waiting for me’’.

Skye takes a sip of water before answering his earlier question, ‘’no I don’t resent Grant for bringing me back, if the roles were reversed I would have done the same thing’’.

‘’He loves you very much’’.

She twirls her wedding band and engagement ring around, ‘’yes he does. I finally sent his ass home this morning along with everyone else in my house’’.

Ever since she was released and sent home to recover the Avengers haven’t left her alone.

All stayed in her house and slept in the vacant bedrooms, it was cute the first day and then got old very quickly.

‘’The Avengers are very attached to you’’.

She snorts into the glass of water, ‘’way to state the obvious’’.

‘’Would you like to talk about Caitlin?’’

The name puts a bad taste in her mouth, the person she called friend literally killed her, this betrayal is still so fresh and raw.

‘’I’m still not sure how to react to the situation’’.

‘’It must be hard, caring about someone who turns around and hurts you so terribly’’.

‘’I just never saw the signs, there was nothing about her that sent off any warning bells. Ward saw it and I didn’t’’.

‘’Ward told you she was dangerous?’’

‘’He warned me there was something off about her but I didn’t listen. I’m surprised we haven’t fought about that yet’’.

‘’Why didn’t you listen?’’

She shrugs, ‘’I don’t think I wanted to, it’s been pointed out that the Inhumans are a pretty big blind spot for me’’.

‘’And why do you think that is?’’

Skye plays with her fingers, ‘’I spent my entire childhood feeling unwanted, my adult years were spent thinking I was a monster after what Hydra did to me. I became the leader of the Inhumans so no one else would ever have to feel that way’’.

‘’You’re their home, you provided a safe place for people like you because that was never offered to you’’.

‘’Nat tried but she’s not Inhuman, she’s never really been able to understand that part of me’’.

‘’It’s alright to love them Skye, to want to protect your team. But you already know not every Inhuman is going to love you or want to join your cause’’.

‘’The last Inhuman who turned out to be a traitor, I ignored Ward when he warned me then too’’.

‘’You’re talking about Chelsea’’.

‘’Yeah. And Ward paid for my ignorance, this time I was the one who suffered because of it’’.

‘’You sound pretty angry with yourself’’.

‘’I’m pissed I didn’t see it, that someone was able to pull the wool over my eyes again. And I’m pissed that she was literally able to kill me, now my undefeated reputation is ruined’’.

‘’And that’s what you’re really upset over isn’t it? Your flawless status at being invincible is now over’’.

She sighs and lies on the couch staring at the ceiling.

‘’Yeah’’.

‘’That doesn’t mean you’re a weaker person for it, or that you’re any less than what you were before she attacked you’’.

‘’I’ve had hundreds of close calls before, but this one was different’’.

‘’Because you knew the person, you care about Caitlin, I imagine her actions hurt you’’.

‘’They annoy me more than anything’’.

Skye closes her eyes and changes the subject, ‘’so what do you think of Ward’s girlfriend?’’

Paul chuckles and easily slides into new material. 

 

Skye leaves Paul’s office an hour later feeling lighter and on better footing. She opens the front door to find Tony Stark leaning against her new sports car, sunglasses and a smile on his face.

‘’There’s my favorite Quake’’.

‘’Hey Dad’’.

Lifting the glasses from his eyes he pulls her in for a hug, holding her a bit tighter than he normally would. The Avengers are still shaken from the events of her near death.

They are all holding her a little closer, the sorrow in their faces hasn’t disappeared entirely.

 

Grief has a color and everyone wears it differently. For example; Ward’s is brown, a physical thing Skye could reach out and touch. While Natasha’s is bright red and sizzling around the edges, ready to drain the life out of whoever harms Skye. Thor’s is blue, crinkled at the ends, flowing throughout his body never ceasing until he’s absolutely sure the Avengers’ favorite girl is going to recover fully. Clint’s is orange, bleeding all over his skin until it’s all he can think about.

 

Bruce’s is purple, consuming his body until it aches with the weight of Skye dying in that hospital before the serum was administered. Steve’s is yellow and sharp creating little pin needles in his bones so whenever he moves he’s reminded of the sound of her heart beat fading. And Tony’s, well Tony’s is black. Midnight black and deep, drowning him so he can’t breathe or blink without the image of his daughter lying in a pool of her own blood, how he held her in his arms and nearly died.

 

How she looked up at him with those brown eyes and trusted him to save her while she was hanging onto her soul by her fingertips. That will stay with him for the rest of his life.

 

‘’Have you checked the news yet?’’ He asks as they get into the car.

‘’No why, is the world ending again?’’

Stark pulls up the screen on his phone and expands it, ‘’it seems Caitlin decided to go public with your death’’.

Millions of networks have obtained pictures Snow must have taken and are running with it.

Questions of her death are everywhere, interviews of people talking about how much they either love or hate her.

Tony hasn’t released a statement on it and no one knows where the rest of the Avengers are.

‘’We could use this to our advantage’’.

Skye tells him as he stops at a red light.

‘’Catch her by surprise right before I kill her’’.

He smiles, ‘’I’m so happy you’re not dead’’.

She toys with the necklace he gave her, ‘’if you had to plan my funeral though what kind of flowers would you have?’’

He grimaces, ‘’I don’t want to imagine that’’.

‘’Come on humor me, what song would you play? You’d give a speech right? I want everyone to hear how much you love me’’.

‘’This isn’t funny Cupcake’’.

They head towards Stark Tower as he says, ‘’I lost Peter, I can’t lose you too’’.

Skye immediately sobers up and wraps an arm around his shoulder, ‘’you’re not going to lose me, I’m not going anywhere’’.

‘’You better not’’.

‘’I promise’’.

He clears his throat, ‘’so breakfast and then a ride to work?’’

‘’I do not need you or anyone else to guard me, I’m fine’’.

‘’Forgive me if that scar on your chest says otherwise’’.

‘’Caitlin caught me in a moment of weakness, it won’t happen again’’.

‘’On the off chance that it does I’d feel better if one of us was with you’’.

Noticing a black SUV has been tailing them for a while Skye sighs, ‘’let me guess, Barton and Banner are behind us’’.

Stark grins, ‘’I don’t know what you’re talking about’’.

‘’I hate all of you’’.

 

Twenty minutes later she’s eating cherry pancakes in Tony’s kitchen with Clint and Bruce while Tony is down in his lab when Nat calls.

 

‘’What?’’

‘’Have you heard from Ward?’’

‘’No why? Is he okay?’’

‘’He’s fine but you need to get a team and head to the ATCU, the President should be sending you orders any second now to arrest Rosalind and take the organization down’’.

It’s the best news she’s heard in weeks, a slow smile spreads across her face, ‘’he did it’’.

‘’Rosalind finally broke and told Ward everything, thought she could trust him. She admitted to working with Hydra for nuclear weapons and that they hired Snow to kill you’’.

‘’So Caitlin is working with them, I knew it’’.

Nat pauses and answers someone away from the phone, ‘’this all about to be over Skye’’.

Quake rises from the bar stool and snatches a piece of bacon from Bruce’s plate, ‘’it’s not going to be over until their bodies are lying at my feet’’.

‘’That’s my girl’’.

Skye hangs up and calls Ward who doesn’t answer, then calls Victoria and tells her to send Lincoln and Yo-Yo along with a team of agents to Stark Tower.

‘’What are you going to do if Caitlin is there?’’

Clint asks after she’s put on her Quake suit and strapped a gun to her hip.

‘’What kind of stupid question is that?’’

‘’I’m just saying she was your friend, are you really going to be able to kill her?’’

Skye pulls on a leather jacket, ‘’she put a knife in my back. I’m not going to choke Clint, she means nothing to me anymore’’.

‘’Just in case you do we’re coming in as backup, Thor too’’.

Knowing this is not a fight she’ll win and she really doesn’t have time for it Skye nods just as the President’s orders come through.

 

She goes through one of the back doors in the ATCU first to run this plan by Ward who still isn’t answering her phone calls. Slipping in undetected she unlocks his office to find him sitting at his desk typing on his computer. He looks up and gives her a once over before getting up. 

 

‘’Hey sweet cheeks’’.

His lips lift in a smile, ‘’team already in place?’’

‘’Yeah’’.

He knows her so well, his six month plan is finally coming into motion.

She hops up on his desk and he looks down at her with new appreciation in his eyes and fresh love.

‘’Stop staring at me like I’m dead’’.

Ward cups her face in one hand, ‘’you did technically die’’.

She leans up to kiss his cheek, ‘’but now I’m here with you, and we’re going to make the people responsible for that pay’’.

Grant takes off his suit jacket and rolls up the sleeves of his white dress shirt, Skye whistles causing the tips of his ears to turn red.

‘’Want to do it on your desk?’’

He chuckles while grabbing a gun out of a drawer, ‘’sweetheart you have no idea how much I’ve wanted to do that since I moved into this office’’.

She taps his face fondly, ‘’maybe later’’.

She turns away about to head out when he pulls her to his chest and rests his forehead against hers.

‘’I saw those weapons today’’. He says quietly.

Skye runs her hands up his chest before settling them on his shoulders, ‘’and?’’

‘’And it’s not a joke Skye, they were designed to kill you. Rosalind and Kimberly are going to use them to take over Shield and slaughter the Avengers’’.

‘’They won’t get that far. I’ll arrest Rosalind and the President is going to dispose of them, I have Tony and Thor guarding them as we speak’’.

Grant sent Nat their location and it’s up to Stark and the God of Thunder to make sure they don’t move until both Shield and Homeland Security get there.

‘’My plan is going to work Grant, come on it’s me we’re talking about. I’ll be fine’’.

Some of that grief where he thought she’d never come back to him flashes in those whiskey eyes.

‘’I won’t lose you again Skye’’.

Wrapping her arms around his neck she says, ‘’you’re not. I need you to trust me’’.

‘’I do’’.

She kisses the space between his eyebrows and holds him until the slight tension in his body eases.

‘’Now I am going to warn you that I’ll be arresting your girlfriend too’’.

Ward rolls his eyes, ‘’I really don’t think she knows about any of this’’.

‘’Don’t care. So how do you want to play this? Am I keeping your cover and arresting you too? Are you just going to disappear and no one from the ATCU will ever see you again? Or are you going to dramatically reveal your double agent status in front of Alison and Rosalind?’’

‘’I’ll leave the dramatics up to you. Arrest me, I still want to keep my cover’’.

She sighs and untangles herself from his arms, ‘’fine, I still hate your girlfriend by the way’’.

Ward shrugs, ‘’she served her purpose’’.

‘’Was her purpose to make me slap you?’’

Smirking he kisses her forehead and breathes her in for a moment, ‘’be careful’’.

‘’You too’’.

She’s halfway to the door when he calls her back, ‘’baby I need you to make a scene’’.

Skye grins, ‘’my favorite thing’’.

 

Sneaking back out to the parking lot where her agents wait Skye gives Ward a few moments before giving them the signal, they storm the building Skye at the lead. And just because she can Quake holds out one hand and the front doors go flying inward, glass breaking the building shattering. Walking into the lobby she comes face to face with Rosalind whose eyes are wide, next to her is Alison. ‘’Party’s here’’. Is all she says as men in tact gear begin to storm the building.

 

Rosalind pales and begins trembling as she realizes who’s standing in the lobby.

Skye cocks her head to the side, ‘’look like you’ve seen a ghost Price’’.

‘’You’re supposed to be dead’’.

Quake walks up to her, ‘’next time you should have Caitlin try harder’’.

Yo-Yo informs them what’s happening and why, hands Rosalind the paperwork from the President.

Rosalind is in cuffs and Skye tells her, ‘’did I not warn you what would happen if you went up against me?’’

The punch she delivers to Rosalind’s face is not as satisfying as she thought it would be.

‘’She didn’t do anything! You have the wrong information!’’

Skye doesn’t pay Alison any mind until she says, ‘’you’re just jealous and that’s why you’re doing this’’.

Lincoln laughs while adjusting the cuffs on her wrists.

‘’And what exactly am I jealous of?’’

‘’That someone else has power besides you! My mother hasn’t done any of the things you’re accusing her of’’.

‘’Shut up and cry me a river on the way to jail sweetheart’’.

 

More insults are thrown her way but Skye doesn’t react, she’s wondering where Ward is when he comes down the stairs. She’s always admired the way he’s able to turn into someone else but she can see the light in his eyes at seeing her fade into anger, how Agent Ward of the ATCU takes over in less than a second. He looks angry as he walks, nostrils flared, eyes narrowed at her.

 

‘’You’re supposed to be dead’’.

‘’Sorry to disappoint’’.

‘’What the hell is going on?’’

Playing along she smiles as he reaches them, ‘’your boss and girlfriend are lying assholes, have been conspiring against me. Until we can prove otherwise you’re being arrested too’’.

Elena gives her a surprised look but pulls out another pair of handcuffs when Skye nods.

‘’On what charges?’’

‘’That’s what I’d like to know’’.

 Alison snarls and drifts closer to Ward pressing her body to his, Skye would love nothing more to shove her off.

‘’Attempting to have me killed which obviously failed and creating weapons of mass destruction with the terrorist organization, Hydra’’.

Ward scoffs and Skye responds with, ‘’basically you work for a bunch of dicks so shut your goddamn mouth and come quietly’’.

Grant remains perfectly composed even when she presses herself into his chest and rests her hands on his biceps.

A small tease in her voice as she says loudly, ‘’you never come quietly though so I’m not expecting it’’.

He almost laughs, she sees it there in the corner of his mouth.

If this were a normal situation he’d whisper something dirty in her ear before kissing her.

‘’Oh my god that’s why you did this’’.

Skye unwillingly turns back to Alison, ‘’didn’t I tell you to shut up earlier?’’

‘’Is this all some ruse to get to Ward?’’

Quake laughs, ‘’yes I’m sticking my neck out and arresting a shitload of people just to screw your boyfriend in the backseat of my car. Jesus how stupid are you? If I wanted him I wouldn’t have to go to all this trouble. Lincoln get her out of my sight’’.

‘’You got it boss’’.

Alison struggles in Lincoln’s hold the entire way out the door while calling Skye a bitch.

Skye turns to Rosalind next, ‘’did you really think you would get away with it?’’

Price chuckles darkly, ‘’this isn’t over Quake, this is just the beginning. You have no idea’’-

She’s cut off by Skye’s fist in her face, Elena catches Rosalind’s unconscious body before it hits the floor.

A few Shield agents help her load Rosalind into the car as the building starts to empty.

Skye turns to Ward, ‘’you going to call me a bitch and put up a fight too?’’

There are still too many eyes around so he doesn’t break out of the cuffs or kiss her like he very well could.

‘’Let’s just get this over with, I have plans tonight’’.

Skye leads him out into the sunny afternoon, ‘’oh yeah? What are these plans exactly?’’

She pauses loading him into the backseat of Mack’s vehicle.

He’s got that glint in his eye that has her body flushing.

‘’Dinner with the girl I love’’.

‘’That’s it? What if she has plans?’’

She gets a cocky grin in response, ‘’she’ll cancel them’’.

‘’Wow so sure of yourself Agent Ward’’.

He towers over her blocking the sun from view, ‘’when it comes to her I am’’.

Before she can think of a comeback he’s placing himself in the SUV and shutting the door with his foot.

 

Back at the Playground Skye places Ward in a separate holding cell because for some unknown reason he’s still dead set on keeping his cover, locking Rosalind and Alison in another, she has to deal with three conference calls with the President, Homeland Security and Tony before she can interrogate anybody. It’d be responsible to take on Rosalind and Alison first but she really wants to know what Ward is up to, Skye is the only one with access to his room so she unlocks the door and steps inside.

 

Holding a sandwich and a bottle of water she slides them across the table he’s sitting at, still handcuffed. First three buttons of his white shirt are undone showing warm tan skin and she’d love nothing more than to curl into his lap and stay there. She realizes now what the dreams have been all about, it’s not just sex she misses. It’s simply Ward, they’ve been apart for so long and keep doing this weird dance of acting in love but not being together.

 

‘’It’s not poison’’. She tells him as he doesn’t look at the sandwich, just watches her with unreadable eyes.

‘’Not hungry’’.

She shrugs and sits across from him, tears the sandwich in half in case he changes his mind and takes a bite.

‘’Why haven’t you taken those cuffs off yet?’’

There’s a crack and his hands are suddenly free as he places them on the table, setting his wrist back.

Skye smacks his shoulder, ‘’I would have unlocked them myself you didn’t have to break your wrist, Jesus Ward’’.

‘’Force of habit’’.

‘’Why are you maintaining this stupid cover anyway? We took down the ATCU your job is done’’.

‘’I have a plan’’.

She rises from the chair to sit on the table close to him, her legs crossed, his hands automatically slide up her thighs like they have a thousand times before.

‘’Care to share with your wife?’’

‘’Interrogate them first, I’ll backup everything I can and then you can tell them who I really am’’.

Without warning he pulls her into his lap, his hands on her back and she places her knees on either side of his hips.

Nose brushing against her own he says, ‘’you can gloat all you want’’.

She fingers the buttons on his shirt, ‘’I don’t have to tell them anything, that version of you can just disappear. You don’t have to be a traitor in their eyes, god knows you’ve had a lifetime of people being angry with you for that’’.

He closes his eyes and cups the back of her neck.

‘’Always protecting me even when I don’t deserve it’’.

‘’Shut up you know I forgave you for the ATCU thing a while ago’’.

‘’But you’re still angry about me lying, using your emotions against you’’.

‘’Yeah’’.

‘’Enough that even when this is over you still won’t come home?’’

She swallows, suddenly nervous.

‘’I don’t want it to feel like I’m pressuring you because I’m not trying to. If you don’t want to go back to the house in Montana I understand’’.

‘’You told me you’d build me a new house’’. She recalls with a small smile.

‘’I meant it’’.

‘’I know you did. I just, I need to work things through with Paul first about’’-

She can’t finish the sentence as tears fill her eyes, he doesn’t need her to.

They’ve never needed words to communicate.

‘’About the accident’’.

Looking away from him she nods, ‘’yeah’’.

‘’You’re still not ready to talk to me about it’’.

‘’No’’.

Giving her neck a squeeze he says, ‘’okay’’.

And just like that the conversation is over, he’ll wait for her to come to him no matter how long it takes.

Skye plants a kiss on the corner of his mouth, ‘’still love me?’’

‘’Always’’.

 

They can take on Rosalind Price, Kimberly Santos, Caitlin Snow and anything else Hydra wants to throw at them just like they have so many times before. As long as they’re together they can survive anything.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

The lights are dimmed so low the room is nearly dark, only light is from Skye’s laptop on the coffee table, a bottle of alcohol beside it. The record player Steve Rogers gave her a few Christmases ago is playing It’s Been A Long, Long Time by Harry James and Helen Forrest quietly in the background. Skye herself is sprawled across the leather couch, feet propped up on the coffee table and her head leaned back, eyes closed with a glass of whiskey in hand, the ice cubes clinking together.

 

Ward takes a deep breath as he enters her office, leaves the door open. It’s the first time he’s stepped in here since he cleaned all her blood off the floor, flashes of that day come to mind and he has to grip the wall to keep from either vomiting or passing out. He takes a long look at his wife to ground himself, remind his heart that she’s alive and breathing, he’s not dreaming, won’t wake up to her body in a casket.

 

Without a word he sits next to her and pours himself a glass, lets the welcoming burn of the alcohol warm his chest. It’s been a few hours since Rosalind and Alison Price were arrested, Everett Ross has been interviewing them this entire time and it’s not going well. Rosalind is denying everything like Grant figured she would, and Alison knows nothing at all. Skye is waiting for Ross to finish up and then she’ll go in there to get answers, no matter what it takes.

 

Skye’s eyes are still closed when she says, ‘’you know when Alison was born you were a teenager’’.

‘’I’m aware’’.

‘’You were making out with girls while she was learning how to walk’’.

‘’Thank you for reminding me that I’m old’’.

She grins and pats his knee, ‘’still hot though’’.

They sit in comfortable silence for a moment, he replays the record and when he sits back down Skye asks, ‘’you ever picture yourself as an old man?’’

‘’I used to not, never thought I’d get to that point, figured someone would kill me long before then’’.

She cracks an eye open, ‘’and now?’’

‘’Now I picture you and I sitting side by side in rocking chairs, you’re knitting and I’m playing Sudoku, our hair is silver and we can hardly stand up without help’’.

She snorts, ‘’you know I hate knitting’’.

He ignores that, ‘’you make me scarves and hats to wear in the winter and we always eat breakfast outside to watch the sun rise. We drink tea on the porch after dinner and go to bed at eight, curled in each other’s arms’’.

He nearly mentions kids but stops himself, not sure if Skye would even want to discuss that or if she would ever consider having another baby.

She’s smiling now her hand on his knee, ‘’what else?’’

‘’You like to feed stray cats that come up to the house, we have two dogs who sleep in the bed with us and hog the covers’’.

‘’You’re the one who hogs the blanket, it’s one of the few annoying qualities about you’’.

Smiling Ward runs a hand through her long blonde hair, ‘’we die in each other’s arms when we’re a hundred and four in our sleep, neither one of us willing to stay here without the other’’.

She hums and scoots closer to him, ‘’I like that’’.

Missing her and the life they once shared, craving a shot at that future he imagined Ward says, ‘’I love you’’.

Skye sighs and lays her head on his shoulder, hand resting over his heart, ‘’I know you do’’.

 

Even though he has hope, far more than he used to, living without Skye this past year has been one of the hardest things he’s done. Now that his time with the ATCU is over, his six month cover finally finished, he’s hoping it’ll help Skye heal from what he did to her. Like he’s told her before he’ll wait forever if he has to for her to come back to him because she’s worth it, Skye is everything to him, she saved him when no else gave a shit.

 

‘’I hope your stupid plans works’’.

‘’It will Alison is easy to manipulate’’.

‘’Boyfriend of the year’’.

Ward kisses her temple, ‘’all I care about is being your husband’’.

‘’Smooth’’.

‘’Only for you’’.

Skye flexes her fingers against his shirt, ‘’what if I let Alison and Rosalind think we tortured you in attempt to extract information? Might speed things along, Price may even feel guilty enough to spill her guts’’.

He considers this, ‘’it could work’’.

He gets a flash of John Garrett’s fist in his face, an echo of a knee to the ribs has Ward shifting uncomfortably on the couch.

Garrett was all about realism, wouldn’t have hesitated to break Ward’s jaw in this situation to get what he wanted.

Skye opens her eyes and cups his face gently, ‘’what’s wrong?’’

Her touch soothes the ghosts of his past, ‘’just thinking about how different my life is now than what it used to be’’.

She runs a thumb along his chin, ‘’were you thinking about what John would have done if he were here?’’

He nods, lost in Skye’s brown eyes as they take on that fierce protectiveness no one else has ever given besides Kebo.

‘’No one can hurt you like that again Grant, I wouldn’t let them live if they did’’.

‘’I know’’.

He lets himself bask in her warmth for several moments until he can breathe properly again.

 

Skye stands to put on a new record, this time she plays I’ll Be Seeing You by Billie Holiday and grabs a blanket as she’s walking back. ‘’Wake me up when Ross is done’’. Is all she says before stretching out on the couch her head in his lap. The position is a familiar one, something they’ve done hundreds of times, but in this past year Ward thought he’d never have this again. Skye in his arms her hair underneath his fingers as he runs hands through it, never thought he’d experience her love again.

 

‘’I’m glad you’re here’’. She mutters, curling around him and drumming her nails against his belt buckle.

Grant cups her cheek with one hand, runs a thumb along her jawline, ‘’me too, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be than with you’’.

The smile that haunted his dreams when he was alone lights Skye’s face and he swears it’s the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen.

‘’You and your corny lines’’.

‘’You love them’’.

She closes her eyes and wraps the blanket tighter around her body, relaxes against him.

Ward leans down to kiss the tip of her head as she whispers, ‘’I’m happy we found each other again’’.

He wants to say she never lost him but instead he replies, ‘’I’ll always find you Skye’’.

He holds her while she drifts off to sleep.

 

Grant is about to pour a second glass of whiskey when Kebo walks in, coffee in one hand and his phone in the other. Takes one look at Skye sprawled across Ward’s lap and smirks, heaves himself onto the opposite couch and pours whiskey into the mug. 

 

‘’You know I think I prefer your wife as a brunette, blonde Skye is bitchier than normal’’.

‘’Don’t start’’.

Kebo gestures between the pair, ‘’what’s going on with you two anyway? You’re not screwing, I’d be able to tell because the stick stuck up your ass would be gone’’.

Ward sighs and places a hand on Skye’s back, ‘’I have no idea’’.

‘’Still hasn’t forgiven you for lying yet has she?’’

‘’She has every right not to’’.

‘’You know you should get a cat, they’re broody assholes too’’.

‘’Kebo’’-

‘’I’m serious Grant, you lied to protect your wife so what? Doesn’t make you this terrible unforgiveable monster’’.

‘’Skye went through a lot last year and the last thing she needed was her husband using the guilt of leaving him against her’’.

‘’Keep talking shit about yourself and I’m going to spit on you’’.

‘’All I’m saying is I see where she’s coming from. I can’t make her forgive me’’.

Kebo shakes his head, ‘’so you two are just going to keep pretending like everything is fine when it’s clearly not?’’

‘’Until this mess with the ATCU and Hydra is over probably. I’m not going to push her to talk about the accident’’.

‘’Even though it’s the thing keeping you apart?’’

‘’She’s not ready, it’s still too painful for both of us’’.

‘’Look I can’t begin to understand how it feels to lose what you and Skye did, but at some point she’s going to have to accept what happened and try to move on or else you’ll never get her back’’.

‘’I’m not going to put a time limit on her grief Kebo’’. Ward snaps, those protective instincts he’s always had with Skye flaring up.

‘’Calm down Turbo I’m not here to bag on your wife’’.

Kebo puts on another record and returns to the couch, ‘’you ever wonder why Kimberly Santos never told Rosalind you and Skye were married?’’

The thought crossed his mind more than once since he learned about the relationship between Hydra and the ATCU.

‘’My guess is she thought she could use that information against me one day, blackmail me into keeping my cover at the ATCU’’.

Kebo takes a sip of his beverage, ‘’and your dumb ass self would have done it’’.

‘’If it meant keeping Skye safe? Of course’’.

He’d do it without a second thought or hesitation.

‘’I really hate how much you love her’’.

Ward smirks, ‘’no need to be jealous Kebo’’.

‘’Shut up you know that’s not what I meant’’.

‘’Skye and I have been together for almost ten years, you should be used to it by now’’.

‘’Used to you putting yourself in danger to protect her? I am, that’s the problem. At least when you were retired for three years my blood pressure went down’’.

Ward would love nothing more than to go back to that life, that house in Montana.

But he has no desire to live there again without Skye, and she’s not ready.

‘’But you won’t be going back there until Skye wants to’’.

Ward nods, Kebo knows him better than anyone sometimes.

‘’You do realize that probably won’t be anytime soon right? Quake loves a fight and she’s right in the middle of war, not to mention Thanos is still out there’’.

Skye shifts in his lap and turns so she’s facing Kebo, Ward adjusts the blanket around her shoulders.

‘’I’m aware’’.

‘’Speaking of that ugly purple turd, once the Avengers find him what’s going to make it any different from last time? They weren’t strong enough to stop him then and now we’ve got less people to take in a fight’’.

‘’All I know is that we’re going to defeat him and bring everybody back, whatever it takes’’.

‘’And I’m guessing your dearly beloved doesn’t know about the deal you made with Tony and Nat’’.

He promised them if the fight with Thanos looked bleak he’d get Skye out of there.

‘’And let’s say you, me and Skye are the only survivors of that fight, she’s not going to be able to live without the Avengers, I know she loves you but I can’t imagine you’d be enough’’.

‘’Thanks for that’’.

‘’You know what I meant Ward, the Avengers saved Skye I can’t imagine her wanting to live without them. You do realize she’s going to be pissed when she finds out what you and Nat agreed upon’’.

‘’Hopefully she never will’’.

‘’There’s the spirit’’.

Kebo sighs before pouring another drink, ‘’you know I just want you to be safe and happy right? You’re all I’ve got’’.

Before Skye and the Avengers Kebo was all Ward had, the person who understood and accepted every single part of him, even the darkness buried deep inside.

‘’Sometimes I still picture you as that lost twenty year old kid I met in Cambodia’’.

Not for the first time Grant worries about what his longtime friend would do if he died in battle.

‘’If something happens to me’’-

Kebo’s eyes flash in warning but it’s ignored.

‘’Kebo if something happens to me with Thanos or this Hydra threat I want you to keep going’’.

‘’Shut up’’.

‘’I’m serious’’.

‘’I don’t want to talk about this Grant’’.

‘’Shouldn’t we?’’

‘’Nope’’.

‘’You do realize I’m going to die one day right?’’

‘’Yes I know how the circle of life works Grant’’.

‘’If something happens to me I don’t want you to be alone’’.

‘’Oh I’m sure if you die before Skye and I do we’ll drown together in our misery’’.

 

Ward can tell when Skye begins to wake, her breathing changes and her shoulders go from slack to tense. When she opens her eyes he can tell she had a bad dream, brown irises are troubled from the past she’d rather forget. Years ago nightmares used to cause Skye to scream and bruise herself trying to wake up, but as time went on the scratching herself and shrieking stopped, he hasn’t had to calm her down from a panic-induced dream in a long time.

 

‘’You and Kebo talk so loud’’. 

 She complains her voice thick with sleep as she sits up.

‘’How long have you been awake?’’  

Kebo asks sending Ward a nervous look.

‘’Right about the time you started crying like a little bitch about Ward’’.

He throws the now empty coffee mug at her which she catches and sets on the table beside her laptop.

‘’You okay?’’ 

Ward asks quietly, fingertips drifting across her cheek.

She rubs her eyes and stands, stretches and yawns, ‘’I’m good. Any news on your eighteen year old girlfriend and her bitch of a mother?’’

‘’Not yet’’.

Victoria, Skye’s longtime assistant and fellow Inhuman pokes her head through the door suddenly her gaze lingering on the spot beside Skye’s desk where she was stabbed.

‘’Mr. Ross is taking a break with Rosalind’’.

Skye grins, suddenly awake and alert.

‘’Great, please grab me a cup of coffee and meet us at the interrogation room’’.

‘’Yes ma’am’’.

Kebo whistles as they walk out of her office, ‘’give her hell Quake’’.

‘’Oh I plan to’’.

Ward pauses in the hall and takes Skye’s hand, she turns around and gives him a soft look, ‘’you okay?’’

He stares at his wife with her blonde hair and dark jeans, she’s got an old band t-shirt of Tony’s on and boots, making her look younger somehow.

‘’Do whatever you have to so we can finish this’’.

That fire in her eyes whenever violence is promised shines through brightly.

‘’All we have to worry about after this is Caitlin and Kimberly’’.

She leans up and kisses his cheek, ‘’I haven’t decided how I’m going to reveal your undercover status to Price yet, are you sure that’s how you want this to end?’’

‘’I’m sure’’.

‘’When I do you can wait in my office until it’s over’’.

She doesn’t want him to see Alison and Rosalind’s reactions to his betrayal, there’s Skye always trying to protect him.

‘’I can handle it’’.

Ward doesn’t feel guilty about any of it, he’d do it all again to keep Skye from harm.

She laces both hands on the back of his neck and pulls him flush against her, Ward wraps both arms around her and leans his forehead against her own.

‘’We’re going to die trying to protect each other’’.

He laughs and kisses the space between her eyebrows, ‘’we’ve been stuck in the same pattern for nine years why stop now?’’

Skye studies his face and smiles, the one that’s reserved only for him, ‘’let’s go kill the people responsible for trying to kill me’’.

‘’Lead the way’’.

 

Ross is stepping out of the interrogation room when they walk up, he takes one look at Quake and sighs, ‘’don’t kill her’’.

‘’Don’t tell me what to do’’.

Ross and everyone else at Shield at this point is aware of Ward’s undercover status at the ATCU.

Nat, Barton and Coulson are standing in front of the interrogation room’s three way mirror watching Rosalind and Alison who look exhausted.

‘’I do not need a babysitter’’. 

Skye snarls at Barton who’s not fazed by her mood.

‘’Good to see you too kid’’.

‘’Bite me’’. 

Clint taps her chest where the newest scar lays exposed by her shirt, ‘’excuse me if we’re still worried about your near death experience’’.

‘’I’m fine’’.

Barton looks over to Ward, ‘’your eighteen year old girlfriend is a real piece of work by the way’’.

Everyone chuckles and Grant rolls his eyes, ‘’she’s twenty four’’.

‘’Aw she was learning how to color in between the lines when you were sixteen and having sex for the first time’’.

Nat sends him a wink as Kebo Skye and Barton burst into laughter.

Skye taps his shoulder as she’s walking into the interview room, ‘’alright let’s get this shit show started’’.

 

Everyone watches as Skye takes a seat in front of Ali and Rosalind, both of whom grimace when Skye puts her boots atop the steel table. 

 

‘’Where’s Ward?’’ 

Ali asks running a hand through her hair, a tell she’s nervous.

‘’Don’t worry about it’’.

‘’What the hell did you do to him?’’

‘’Relax Princess don’t get your thong in a twist I’m sure he’s alive in here somewhere’’.

‘’Ward is immune to torture’’. Rosalind speaks up, ‘’he won’t break’’.

Skye flashes a smile, ‘’oh but we’re having so much fun trying’’.

Ward is always surprised to find people care about him so he’s taken aback when Alison starts crying and telling Rosalind they need to do something.

Proof his cover was flawless, not that he had any doubts.

‘’If you want to help your boyfriend your mother should tell me everything I want to know’’.

Rosalind is stubborn as always and replies, ‘’I didn’t do anything, you made a mistake arresting me’’.

‘’The only mistake I made was not killing you when we first met’’. 

Skye slaps the manila file Nat gave her on the table, ‘’all you have to do is admit it, the President would just like to know why you turned into such a psycho’’.

‘’The only psycho here is you. Whatever evidence you have against my mother is false’’.

 

Skye opens the file, takes out pictures, documents and printed out emails detailing everything Price has been up to for the past year. Ward watches Alison absorb the information in front of her, can tell the second it begins sinking in. She turns to Price with wide eyes her body shaking, physical evidence doesn’t lie no matter how much Rosalind wants to deny it.

 

‘’Mom what did you do?’’

‘’These are false documents, honestly Alison are you going to believe her over me?’’

Ali has tears in her eyes when she asks, ‘’did you do these things? Have you been working with Hydra behind my back?’’

‘’Are you really asking me that? You’re going to believe Quake of all people instead of your own mother?’’

‘’Is Ward being tortured in a basement because of you? Are we here because you hired some psycho with ice powers to kill the Director of Shield?’’

‘’Don’t forget about the nuclear weapons she helped create to take over the world’’.

Skye winks at Price who stares back with so much hatred it causes Nat to tense beside Ward.

‘’I think you should answer her questions mom’’.

When nothing but silence greets them Skye pops a piece of gum in her mouth and starts popping it because she knows Ward hates it.

‘’Okay playtimes over’’.

 

Skye twitches a finger and Rosalind suddenly screams in pain, the ring finger of her right hand suddenly snaps in half, the angle awkward and unnatural. Alison shrieks and tries to soothe Rosalind, who’s staring at Quake in disbelief like she really wouldn’t resort to violence. But anyone who knows Skye knows how much she loves a fight.

 

‘’What are your bones worth to you? Because I’ll break every single one of them until you start talking’’.

‘’You can’t do this to me’’.

 Price pants, clutching the broken finger to her chest.

‘’I can do a hell of a lot worse than that, now in about three seconds that’ll be your entire body’’.

She nods to the shattered finger, ‘’do you really want to go through that?’’

‘’For god’s sake mom just admit it! Your secrets aren’t worth dying for’’.

Rosalind puts both hands in her lap, ‘’I’ve done nothing wrong and I have nothing to say to you’’.

Skye sighs happily, ‘’good, I was hoping you wanted to do this the fun way’’.

Neither Ward nor Nat is surprised when Skye uses the only thing Rosalind would be terrified to lose.

 

In half a second Skye is standing and has Alison by the hair dragging her across the table, slamming her into the seat she previously occupied. Rosalind isn’t the only one who gasps in surprise at a screaming Alison, Ross gapes and taps on the glass, ‘’what the hell is she doing?’’ It’s Nat who answers, ‘’getting results, it’s what you wanted right?’’ They watch as Skye smiles at Rosalind and starts drumming her nails on Ali’s shoulders.

 

‘’Leave my daughter out of this Quake’’. 

‘’Oh but you’re the reason she’s in this in the first place’’.

Ali thrashes violently but Skye’s grip is unbreakable. 

‘’Unlock this door right now!’’

Ross demands as he tries the locked handle but no one moves.

‘’I don’t know the code Nat, do you?’’

The Black Widow shakes her head, ‘’not a clue, Ward?’’

‘’No idea’’.

‘’Only Tony Stark would be able to open it but I doubt he’d try given the circumstances’’.

Coulson comments, knowing how protective Stark is over Quake, and since Rosalind is responsible for trying to kill his daughter he wouldn’t lift a finger to assist in this situation.

They turn back to Skye who glances at the door, ‘’talk or this is going to hurt her’’.

‘’Quake please’’-

‘’I have to admit this is going to be a bit personal considering the fact that she’s been trying to fuck my husband for the past six months’’.

And there goes his cover, though it takes Rosalind and Ali a second to catch up.

Kebo chokes out a laugh and shakes his head at Skye’s dramatics, slaps Ward on the shoulder.

Through the tears Alison chokes out, ‘’what?’’

‘’Think about it, it’ll come to you’’.

Price realizes what’s going on after three minutes and lets out a humorless chuckle, ‘’that son of a bitch’’.

‘’Who is it? Mom who is she talking about? Quake I swear I’ve never met your husband’’.

‘’It’s Ward’’.

The small interrogation room is so quiet you could hear all three of their heartbeats.

Alison’s face drains of blood and she starts trembling, ‘’that’s not true’’.

‘’Oh honey it is, you want to see pictures? I’ve known Ward for a long time, sometimes I think too long’’.

Skye sends a wink in his direction and turns back to Rosalind, ‘’if you didn’t already figure it out that’s how we caught you’’.

Alison starts sobbing all over again while Rosalind shakes her head in disbelief.

‘’Enough about my brilliant and stupidly attractive husband, why did you partner with Hydra?’’

At Price’s silence Skye cocks her head to the side, ‘’alright then’’.

 

Grant has seen her do this particular brand of torture countless times, it’s violent and cruel and never fails to make him wince at least once. Skye’s powers sink into Alison’s body who immediately begins screaming and trying to escape but Skye’s iron hold is impossible to break. Rosalind is crying and begging her to stop and Skye responds over the sound of her powers and bones breaking that she will if Rosalind confesses to everything.

 

It only takes fifteen seconds for Price to fall apart and agree. Skye removes her hands from Alison’s shoulders who passed out from the pain and falls to the floor, nose bleeding. Rosalind moves to comfort her daughter but Skye shakes her head, ‘’talk first’’. In a mess of tears and smeared mascara Rosalind finally admits to everything, she teamed up with Hydra because Skye is their common enemy. Kim decided to send Caitlin to infiltrate Shield and murder Skye, Price has no idea where Snow is now.

 

‘’Is that everything?’’ Rosalind nods while Skye heads to the door.

Quake is shouldering the doorway when she turns back to Price who’s standing over Ali’s unconscious body.

‘’Is Ross sending me to a maximum security prison?’’

‘’Not exactly”.

Rosalind doesn’t even have time to blink in shock before Quake takes out a gun and pulls the trigger.

‘’Victoria get someone to clean that up and have Alison transferred back to Washington’’.

Skye commands as Vic hands her a fresh cup of coffee.

‘’Yes Director’’.

As soon as Ross is able to push past the bodies in his way he yells, ‘’what did I say? You weren’t supposed to kill her’’.

Skye steps around him and runs a hand down Ward’s back, ‘’I don’t work for you’’.

Everett rubs his forehead, ‘’do you have any idea how much paperwork I’m going to have to do now?’’

‘’Oops’’.

‘’God I don’t even know why I’m surprised it’s you I’m talking about. You’re going to be the one who tells the President what happened’’.

‘’I will if you give me that bottle of 1999 Coal Ila under your desk’’.

Ross looks more upset by this than anything else, ‘’fine’’.

‘’I’ll send my assistant tonight to pick it up’’.

Ross leaves grumbling under his breath while Skye heads to the kitchen to grab a beer.

Ward puts an arm around Skye as she asks, ‘’are you okay?’’

‘’I’m fine’’.

He kisses her forehead as Nat’s phone starts ringing.

Kebo is begging Skye to share the bottle of whiskey she’s getting from Ross when Nat says, ‘’calm down Tony what’s going on?’’

Skye perks up at that and Nat casts a frantic glace at Ward.

‘’I thought you said Rosalind stored the weapons in warehouse near ATCU headquarters?’’

‘’She did’’.

Tony’s panicked voice comes through speakerphone, ‘’well we’ve been guarding empty cases dipshit! Did you check to see if they were still secure and not on a ship somewhere?’’

‘’They were there when I left hours ago Rosalind must have moved them before Skye arrested her’’.

‘’Cupcake we need to get you out of there right now, Hydra’s bound to know about Price’’.

‘’She’s dead’’.

A moment of silence passes before Thor’s voice booms on the line, ‘’we all know they’re going to come after Quake sooner rather than later’’.

Barton, Nat, Tony and Thor start discussing options when Skye glances at Ward, grabs the phone out of Romanoff’s hand.

‘’If you dummies are done making decisions for me here’s what’s going to happen; Tony call Ross and update him on what’s going on, nuclear weapons can’t just disappear we can track them. Thor if I can’t stop an attack you’re the next one in line so get your shit together. If it’s a fight Kimberly and Caitlin want that’s exactly what they’re going to get’’.

‘’Skye honey’’-

‘’This is my fight, Price, Kim and Caitlin have been planning to kill me for an entire year and they pretty much succeeded so now I’m going to get revenge. If anyone has a problem with that they can shut the hell up and go home because I don’t want to hear it’’.

She hangs up on Tony and tosses the phone to Nat, ‘’ready when you are’’.

The alarm on Skye’s phone goes off and she clenches her jaw while checking it, ‘’proximity alert’’.

Multipule hostiles are coming in through the trees to surround the Playground, jets are in the air headed towards them.

It’s Hydra, thinking the Director of Shield is dead and they can obliterate the organization.

Skye looks at him her fingers brushing his own in the wake of the chaos that’s coming straight for them, ‘’together?’’

He grins, ‘’together’’.

 

Hydra and the ATCU started a war, and the Avengers are going to finish it.

Chapter Text

 

The halls are dark and smell of damp clothes, Skye wrinkles her nose and continues on the path. The emergency protocol has been triggered in the few minutes since Hydra’s attack was registered, the Playground is on lockdown though Skye is about to override it. Her plan is to get the back exits of the underground bunker sealed and then have agents meet Hydra head on so they’re not trapped in this building fighting off the enemy.

 

Natasha walks silently beside her in the dark, the red lights the generator activated causing her blonde hair to look white. Ward, Barton, Kebo and most of the other Shield agents are in the armory getting ready while the rest are getting in position, the ones not cleared for combat are currently being led to safety by Mack out of the many secret tunnels. Skye has already deleted all classified information and sent everything to Tony for safe keeping just in case.

 

If the Playground falls there’s no way any of that intel can get into Hydra’s hands, there’s also a backup flash drive tucked into her pocket, impossible to hack into unless you’re Iron Man himself. Skye checks her phone to find the helicopters still hovering overhead, Hydra agents are still creeping onto the property slowly, the nuclear weapons Tony is so convinced that are coming here don’t register. Skye has a feeling Kimberly Santos is going to use them for something bigger than an attack on the Playground.

 

‘’When are you going to put Ward out of his misery?’’ 

Nat asks as she seals the first exit and they move onto the second.

‘’I don’t know what you’re talking about’’.

Romanoff gives her a look as they keep walking.

Skye sighs, ‘’just because his cover with the ATCU is done does not mean his tongue is getting anywhere near me’’.

‘’Shame, sex would get the stick out of his ass’’.

Quake laughs as she makes sure the second exit is secure.

Already knowing her opinion on the subject Skye remains quiet until Romanoff asks, ‘’how are your sessions with Paul going?’’

‘’Fine I guess, he’s not pressing me to get back together with Ward or talk about the accident’’.

Nat squeezes her hand softly and Skye gives a sad smile in response, ‘’I’m just now starting to feel alive again after everything and it’s not just because Ward and I are on good terms again’’.

‘’I know’’.

There’s a rumble above their heads and the building shakes, Skye grits her teeth as they pick up the pace.

‘’You told me once that time can heal anything if you let it, I didn’t really understand that until recently’’.

They’re on the way back to the others when Nat finally responds, ‘’you’re allowed to grieve for as long as you need to, whatever way you need to, but I’m glad you’re finding it easier to heal’’.

‘’I think Grant being around helps, I finally realize I’m not alone in this. But there are things he doesn’t know about, things I’ll probably never tell him’’.

Like her asking Natasha to kill her, or lying in their bathtub one morning with a gun in her lap.

When Romanoff hugs her Skye blinks back tears.

‘’So are we going to talk about Bucky or are you just going to keep pretending nothing’s changed?’’

The Black Widow freezes and sorrow spreads across her face so fiercely Skye regrets asking.

They’ve only spoken about James once and that was right after he disappeared, when Thanos destroyed half the universe.

‘’It’s harder than I thought it’d be without him, I miss him every day’’.

Romanoff and Barnes had been in a relationship for years before he died.

Skye wraps an arm around her best friend’s shoulder, ‘’we’ll get him back Nat, we’ll get everyone back whatever it takes’’.

She nods and they continue walking the halls of the silent Playground.

 

The armory is full of movement when they walk in, agents walking in and out arming themselves like it’s the Battle of New York all over again. Skye has already given orders everyone knows where they’re supposed to be, all she has to do now is fight, defend her home from people who want them all dead. Quake takes a moment to observe the scene before her, everyone rushing around with determination on their faces, they’ll fight to the death to protect Shield.

 

Skye has never been a fan of this organization but in the year since she’s been in charge that has changed, she’d gladly bleed for any of these agents if it meant they made it out alive. Being Director has given her a new respect for what Shield has always stood for, and while they had a dark era when Phil Coulson was calling the shots, the attitude and overall morale has improved. The public for the most part no longer crucifies Inhumans, something she’s so proud of.

 

Hopefully in years to come children won’t live in fear if they’re born different, and the world will accept their Inhuman status without judgement or violence. Skye has been working on that for years and won’t stop until it happens. Her team is down in numbers and has been for some time now but maybe one day her Inhumans can return to their former glory, be in the dozens  like they once were instead of just four. Lincoln, Yo-Yo, Caroline and Victoria are standing beside Ward waiting for Skye to give them orders.

 

Skye pauses at the sight of her husband who traded in his leather jacket for tact gear and a short sleeved black shirt, a gun strapped to his hip, everything zipped and in its place, she watches with dark eyes as he slides knives into pockets, expression serious and battle ready.  If things were different she’d have him pressed against a flat surface by now, the current danger be damned, her hands sliding up his shirt to grip muscle and bone.

 

‘’Stop looking at me like that’’. He mutters when she reaches his side.

Grant isn’t even facing her but knowing him he can feel her eyes on his profile, hear the change in her breathing like he used to do at night.

‘’Why is it bothering you?’’

He finally looks up, ‘’yes’’.

She whistles when he stands to his full height and adjusts the dark vest across his chest, on cue the tips of his ears turn red.

Skye hums and runs her eyes all over him, ‘’if only you could fight shirtless’’.

Ward rolls his eyes and places a hand on her hip, pulls her closer and kisses her forehead.

She’s about to make another comment on his appearance when the sight of his wedding ring distracts her, it’s still on the wrong hand.

Without a word she tugs it off and slips it onto his left ring finger just like she did on their wedding day.

Grant smiles and holds her close to his chest, squeezes her fingers.

‘’If you ever take this off again I will break your hand’’.

‘’Yes ma’am’’. 

His gaze drops to her lips and she’s leaning in hands sliding up his shoulders, when Kebo interrupts.

‘’Keep it in your pants Skye now is not the time’’.

Her heeled boot connects with his shin and they start bickering until Ward tells them to stop.

 

Coulson and May walk in and inform her all the non-essential agents are clear and headed to a safe location, Nat and Barton tell her every entrance is closed off and guarded except for the front, which is exactly what she wanted. Taking a breath and walking to the center of the room, everyone stops to look at their leader, there’s pride in Ward’s eyes as well as the present Avengers’. Skye hates speeches, thinks they’re nothing but clichés which is why she simply meets the eye of every agent instead.

 

‘’Let’s destroy these assholes’’. Is all she says before dismissing them to head to their stations, every agent that passes her on the way out either smiles, pats her on the shoulder or tells her in some form or fashion that they are glad she’s their Director. Barton and Nat both hug her and tell her to be careful as they walk out, they’re in charge of reducing Hydra’s numbers from behind. Soon Skye, Ward and Kebo are alone, Grant stares at the two most important people in his life.

 

‘’Don’t do anything stupid’’. 

He tells Kebo who scoffs.

‘’You’re the one who does dumb shit to protect that one’’.

He points at Skye, the couple can’t deny it.

‘’I’m not made of glass Ward’’. She reminds him, he winces, probably remembering her recent time in the hospital.

In a move they don’t have time for but she wouldn’t push him away for the world, Ward takes her in his arms, ‘’be careful’’.

‘’You too’’. She mutters into the thick vest and prays that if she’s not around, it fully protects him from a bullet.

‘’Take care him’’. 

Kebo doesn’t need to be told but he nods anyway.

They leave the room, Skye grabs a knife, gun and a com unit in the process.

 

The plan was for Kebo and Ward to meet the rest of the Shield agents outside so they can attack Hydra straight up, Skye was to head to the woods and destroy the helicopters and jets above them. That changes though the second they pass her office and the wall a few feet away explodes. The blast sends her crashing through one of the glass offices, the world is a blur of heat brushing her hands, taste of dirt and blood in her mouth, and the feel of tiny pieces of glass embedded into her skin.

 

When Skye manages to open her eyes a frantic voice is yelling her name but it sounds like they are underwater, the room spin and tilts, fire and smoke are the only things that exist. Her eyes are watering but she can make out Ward’s face directly in front of her, he’s wiping underneath her lids so she can see clearly, helping her up in the process. She wobbles but stays upright his hands firm on her shoulders, he’s bleeding from a cut by his eyebrow, face covered in soot but seems fine otherwise.

 

After a coughing fit and making sure he really is alright, Skye takes personal inventory. Back is sore but there’s no glass in her spine, nothing is broken but her head aches, Ward presses a bit of his shirt to her forehead and it comes back slick with blood. Before concern can play out bodies fill the hole in the wall where the explosion occurred and Skye and Ward jump into action. Holding out a hand her powers send them all flying back, the ones who weren’t in the line of fire are taken out by Ward.

 

More agents fill the hall and Skye grabs the nearest one and shoves him into the wall, ‘’you’re supposed to be dead, Caitlin told us’’. ‘’Sorry to disappoint’’. Is all she replies before slamming his face into the rough surface. Hands yank at her hair and they’re met with a head butt, using that wall as leverage she hikes her legs up and pushes her body weight causing the men attempting to grab her to fall. There are two of them, one she uses a knife on and the other her bare hands.

 

Looking up to find Kebo trying to take three of them on by himself Skye runs around Ward who’s having no trouble taking out the two Hydra agents on him, Skye yanks two of them away from Kebo and straddles one of their shoulders, using her legs to choke him out. While he’s struggling to breathe below her she leaps off and tackles the second, punches him until he’s out cold. Grabs the gun from her jeans and shoots the second as he’s still dazed from the earlier attack.

 

‘’Show off!’’ Kebo yells when she moves onto other targets, Skye winks and lets the thrill of the fight take over. It isn’t long until another explosion rocks the base, this time dangerously close to the entrance, screams of pain immediately begin to sound. Skye nods for Ward to head that way while she stops the rest of the Hydra agents from getting in here. He only protests for a second before she’s all but shoving him in that direction, she’s never needed anyone to protect her, he knows that.

 

Skye barely has time to take a breath before two Hydra agents run into the hall and stop short at the sight of her, Quake grins, ‘’hey fellas’’. Between the smoke and fire it’s hard to see but she manages easily, she’s just broken one of their arms when the other pins her to the wall, gun to the back of her skull. Quake shoves her legs out and flips him over her shoulder with one hand, shoots the other with her free one.

 

Three more take their place and Skye shoves one into the other, take two out with Nat’s signature move, the third puts up more of a fight but he’s no match for her. She dodges the kick aimed for her ribs, the fist to her face, breaks his leg when he attempted to shatter her kneecap. When ten or more men pile into the small space Skye uses her powers and they go sailing into the nearest room, the sounds of broken bones so loud beside her labored breathing.

 

About to seal the hole using her powers one guy slips through and immediately starts firing, Skye ducks and sweeps his legs out from under him, he hits the floor with a thud and she grabs a knife off the floor and ends him. Annoyed she didn’t have time to change into her suit she slips the knife back into her pocket and groans when more bodies take up her time, she stops their breathing with a wave of her hand.

 

Another target comes at her with an axe and Skye rolls to avoid multiple swings, rises and grabs the handle, knees him in the ribs and kicks him through her office door. He tumbles to the ground and grabs the nearest object to defend himself with, her desk chair. Skye steps out of the way as he throws it, it hits the wall with a loud crash and she rolls her eyes, ‘’really?’’ A pair of arms grabs her from behind and lifts, he’s clearly got some weight on her and throws her onto one of the couches.

 

They circle her for a moment before lunging, Skye grabs her laptop and strikes one across the face, uses the glass Ward was drinking out of earlier and smashes into the second’s face. One of her leather jackets is under the couch so she uses it to wrap around the throat of the first guy, while he’s gasping for breath she kicks out to other guy who crashes into her desk and breaks the entire thing. ‘’Dammit that was new you asshole’’. His face is met with her computer monitor, he gives a cry of pain before passing out.

 

Sensing more people creeping around the corner probably thinking they can take her by surprise, Skye shrugs on her leather jacket and meets them in the hall, breaking three of their arms before they can blink, and taking out two more before they can even process what’s happening. Quake loses track of time after a while, it’s just target after target, doing whatever she can to stay alive. Somehow she winds up in the lab, thankfully Fitz and Simmons are at Stark Tower, they tried to argue but she refused to let them stay here to fight.

 

Three Hydra agents circle here, one gives her a grin. ‘’if you take off your shirt I promise we won’t hurt you’’. Skye kicks him into one of the steel tables and shoots him in response, the other two meet a similar fate. Finally she manages to have the roof of the Playground cave in so no one could possibly get into the entrance created by the blast, makes sure it’s secure and won’t cause any further damage, and checks to make sure there are no more Hydra agents in the section she’s in.

 

Ward locked his position down some time ago and moved on, chose to meet the Shield agents outside where a massive fight has broken out. Knowing they can handle it Skye heads to her original destination, taking down the choppers and jets that are still hovering above. She slips out the secret exit in her office and walks outside to discover it’s snowing, which confirms her suspicions, Caitlin is here, and hopefully still thinks Quake is dead.

 

Ice crunches beneath her feet as she walks in between the trees, the sound of the battle in front of the Playground so loud and violent. And then it suddenly stops in a tangle of ice and sleet, the temperature grows colder and colder until Skye can see her breath, the rise and fall of her chest is the only thing she can hear. Putting a finger to her com she demands to know what’s going on, it’s Lincoln who answers, out of breath and sounds like he’s in pain.

 

‘’Your favorite person is here’’.

‘’Thanos?’’

‘’Caitlin, she ordered her men to stop and they did. We’re in some stupid standoff in the middle of snowstorm’’.

‘’I’ll be there second’’.

‘’Copy that’’.

 

Using her training Skye moves soundlessly through the woods like smoke until the reaches the open space the fight just took place in, peeks around a tree trunk to see what’s happening. Shield is on one side weapons raised, still in fighting stance, Ward is at the head and appears to be just fine, Kebo, May, and Nat beside him. Hydra is on the opposite side their numbers considerably less, led by Caitlin Snow who looks as if she’s trying entirely too hard to look cool.

 

Dressed in all black her hair as white as the weather around them there’s a glint of madness in her eyes that was never there before. Has it always been and Skye just didn’t see it? Or was she too wrapped up in her own shit she never noticed? Caitlin takes one step in Shield’s direction and Caroline who wasn’t supposed to have a gun, pulls the trigger. Snow just laughs and raises a hand, the bullet is stopped by shards of ice that protect her from the shot.

 

The bullet hits the ground after shattering from impact, Skye has never seen her do that before. Snow fixes her hair and smiles like she’s a Queen ruling over her subjects, Quake has never wanted to punch someone’s teeth out more.

 

‘’Your precious Destroyer of Worlds is dead, there is no one on this planet now that can stop me. Not the Avengers, not any weapon the government thinks they can throw at me, I’m now the strongest Inhuman alive and no one can defeat me. So surrender and give up this ridiculous fight, or die at the hands of Hydra, either way you are all done. Don’t make this any harder than it has to be’’. The jets and helicopters now rest above Shield’s side, weapons hot and ready to fire if they don’t comply.

 

‘’You picked the wrong team’’. Yo-Yo calls out before disappearing in a blur, all of the Hydra agents surrounding Caitlin start to drop like flies and Elena is back next to Mack before Caitlin can retaliate. Instead of Snow commenting on that her eyes find Ward and she cocks her head to the side, Skye is used to women ogling him but the expression on the other woman’s face reminds her of Chelsea and rage lights her blood.

 

‘’Kimberly told me you were Quake’s husband last night, so tell me were you with the ATCU because you two separated or did you just leave the crazy bitch? I can work with either’’.

Ward doesn’t blink, ‘’not a chance’’.

‘’Oh are you mad at me because I killed your wife? Do you want to hear how easy it was? How I killed the invincible Quake? I guess all you had to do to get her guard down was cry over how no one loves you and you feel all alone in the world. Who knew Inhumans were her one weakness?’’

It’s pretty spot on and Skye is annoyed with herself that she didn’t see right through Caitlin.

‘’if you’re done with your evil monologue can we get back to it?’’

May asks as Coulson does a double check to make sure she’s alright.

Snow’s focus doesn’t leave Grant, ‘’if you need a shoulder to cry on my shoulder is open, so is everything else’’.

Kebo groans while Ward replies in an even tone, ‘’it’ll never happen, not that you’ll be alive much longer to want it anyway’’.

‘’Bring it on handsome’’.

 

There’s a second of tension before the helicopters aim and it’s all the incentive Skye needs, she runs out behind the choppers a hand to her ankle, powers lifting her up to the clouds. Uses her free hand on the nearest one her powers striking it hard. The bird hurdles to the ground but lands far away as to not cause any damage, she does the same with the other two and moves onto the jet. The sky is filled with explosion after explosion, blasts of heat and fire as Quake takes them out in just a couple of minutes.

 

Once the last one is down she heads to the ground, landing perfectly executed but a little too powerful. The snow and dirt crack and break underneath her hands, the trees rumble and some fall, crashing loudly into nearby Hydra agents. Quake stands between her people and Hydra, if they want to get to Ward and the others they’re going to have to go through her first. Caitlin registers who’s in front of her and her flushed face drains of color, eyes widen in shock as she takes a step back.

 

‘’You’re, you’re dead I killed you’’. Voice is unsteady and shaky, Skye just cocks her head to the side and feels Natasha come up to her side.

‘’Didn’t I tell you to always make sure your target isn’t breathing before you leave them?’’

Snow recovers quickly, fingers twitching. ‘’Guess I’ll just have to try harder next time’’.

‘’Oh there isn’t going to be a next time, trust me if she doesn’t kill you I will’’.

The Black Widow vows and Ward stands on Skye’s other side, ‘’get in line Romanoff’’.

‘’Back off pretty boy I called dibs’’.

‘’You did not’’.

Barton comes to Nat’s side, ‘’you two are going to have to beat me to it’’.

He pulls out his bow and arrow and winks at Quake, ‘’whenever you’re ready kiddo’’.

If Hydra didn’t look intimidated before they sure as hell do now.

‘’Avengers’’. She calls out wishing Steve were here, ‘’assemble’’.

Skye breaks into a run, the present Avengers and Shield follows, Hydra doesn’t stand a chance.

 

Quake ducks as a random curled fist aims for her nose, she breaks his nose in response and shoves the body out of her way to get to Caitlin. Who’s standing there arms crossed just waiting for Skye to come to her, it’s a power move, something Skye herself would have done. She gets in a few other scraps before she and Snow are finally face to face, Skye gets a flash of that knife in her hand, adrenaline and anger courses through her veins.

 

Revenge is a game she knows intimately and no one is better at it than here, which is why Caitlin’s heart beats are numbered. ‘’How did you survive? I heard the doctors say you had no chance’’. Skye steps over a body, ‘’I’m the Destroyer of Worlds’’. With a cry Caitlin charges but Skye has years of experience, has been fighting nonstop for sixteen years and reads her movements easily. Slides out the way and Caitlin grasps nothing but air, screams when Skye’s foot rams into her spine and she hits the ground.

 

Turning her over Quake lands several punches before Snow attempts in bucking her off, ends up having to use her powers. Skye it hit with sharp ice to the face like glass, blinding her for a moment and Caitlin kicks her away. She hits the trunk of a tree and has time to stand when Snow is on her again, but instead of using her fists it appears the other Inhuman is more comfortable using her powers. Skye has no such issue but plays along, curling a hand when a mini storm of heavy snow flies at her.

 

Earthquake powers and ice do not mix, in a twist that surprises no one, Skye overpowers Caitlin. ‘’You can’t beat me’’. Snow snarls in response and jumps, taking a move out of Quake’s playbook and using her powers to keep her levitated in the air. It’s a flurry of sleet and ice and then Caitlin is hurtling towards Skye who makes a fist and her powers strike, throw Caitlin out of the clouds before she touches her, breaking her nose in the process.

 

Caitlin lies down for a moment glaring at Skye who approaches her slowly, blood pouring down her face. ‘’You don’t deserve a single think you have’’. Quake grabs her by the hair and meets her stare dead on, ‘’maybe not, but who the hell do you think you are to decide that?’’ She makes a move for Skye’s legs who rams her boot into Caitlin’s fingers and twists, Snow’s scream seems like the loudest noise for miles as bones break.

 

Snow’s powers rise up to defend herself and Skye is blinded by what feels like shards of glass to her face, biting cold that blinds her. Soon that feeling spreads throughout her entire body before settling on her throat, like the cold is choking her from the inside out. Then just as the overwhelming feeling started it stops and her eyes clear to find Caitlin clutching her shoulder where an arrow lies embedded, Skye glances over to Clint who is just a feet away, bow in hand.

 

‘’Hands off bitch’’. Is all he says before turning back to Nat and taking out an enemy for her.

 

‘’Give it up Caitlin you can’t win, not against me, not against us’’. All around the fight rages on, people are dying, bodies hit the ground all around them, the sound of gun shots and flesh hitting flesh. Skye tunes it all out and focuses on the threat at hand, it hasn’t escaped her notice that no other Hydra agents have tried to attack her, Ward and her agents have been keeping them off her. ‘’Never’’. Caitlin replies to Skye’s statement as she pulls the arrow out, it’s covered in blood and gore.

 

‘’You’re dead either way so I guess it doesn’t really matter’’. Skye bounces on the balls of her feet before getting the perfect momentum and jumps up, raising her fist and closing the distance between them, punches Caitlin right in between the eyes. She’s unconscious before her head hits the dirt, the battle soon fades off after that. The Black Widow and Quake are fighting back to back and she casts a glance at Ward to make sure he’s alright.

 

He’s near the Playground of course holding his own with four Hydra agents while Kebo has a gun on another. There’s no warning, everything was normal and going smoothly until it wasn’t, in a sequence of events Skye won’t remember until later, a Hydra agent manages to get ahold of a bazooka and fires at the Playground. Everything seems to move in slow motion and not sure exactly how she got there, Skye finds herself hands out containing the explosion that follows after he pulls the trigger.

 

Fire consumes everything until it’s all she can taste but her hands remain in front of the blast, attempting to hold it off until it either dies or she can somehow force it in the opposite direction. Not exactly sure what she’s doing Skye grits through her teeth and digs her boots into the snow as the explosion tries to grow, fight against her powers. It’s a blur of bright red light and smoke, orange heat licks at her skin and jacket but she can hardly feel it, back going rigid under the weight of this.

 

Skye pushes back and smells blood and brimstone the fire sings upwards but bends to her will when she adds more pressure to it. Then it’s as if it starts screaming and thrashing, clawing at her hands and exposed skin, she loses her footing. Skye vaguely registers arms around her waist and then she’s flung away from the explosion, face biting dirt, mouth fills with snow and a heavy weight covers her back. Ears ringing hands burning, Skye turns her face to see the Playground still on fire but appears to be less threatening.

 

Seconds pass before someone helps her up, takes a moment to register it’s Ward, palms cupping her face, he’s asking her something, eyes a frantic scared brown. Since he’s not looking at her as if she’s a charred piece of skin on the sidewalk like she feels, Skye takes a deep breath and takes in the scene. Hydra has all but been defeated, a few stragglers remain and will eventually be sent to Everett Ross for suitable punishment.

 

The Playground is nothing but rubble and smoke, the base that housed Shield for years after it fell is gone. Thank god everyone was out before it happened, and thanks to Skye interfering with the explosion, no one died or was hurt as a result. Checking herself over she can’t feel if she has any major injuries but her hands are still hands, a few minor burns on the inside of her palms, some bruising, nothing she can’t handle.

 

Gentle fingers lift her chin and Ward sighs, ‘’you okay?’’

‘’I think so’’.

Resting her forehead against his she slides her hands up his chest, ‘’you?’’

‘’I’m fine. Please don’t ever do that again’’.

He nods to the smoldering Playground, ‘’nearly gave me a heart attack’’.

‘’Why’d you pull me away?’’

Ward grabbed her and covered her body with his own after he thought she’d die from keeping them all safe.

‘’I wasn’t sure you could stop it, didn’t want to risk it’’.

‘’Always protecting me, Superman’’.

He runs both hands through her hair removing glass and other debris, ‘’promised you I would’’.

Left hand in view, the silver of his wedding ring gleaming in the coming sunlight, Skye kisses the finger she claimed so many years ago.

‘’I love you’’.

Ward kisses her nose still cradling her face, ‘’I love you’’.

 

They take a moment to breathe each other in, assure one another they’re alright when Skye pulls away. Mack tells her they didn’t lose anyone on their side but some are gravely injured and need medical attention. Skye looks over to the spot where Caitlin was, Barton was in charge of making sure she stayed out cold, to find the space empty. Hawkeye braces himself as Skye starts to yell at him.

 

‘’What the hell Clint? You were supposed to be watching her!’’

‘’My bad’’.

‘’Great, thank you for making me deal with that later’’.

Everyone who’s able does a sweep but comes up empty, Snow is gone.

Skye is too tired to rant and rave but she’s about to hit something when Jailbreakby AC/DC blasts loudly from overhead and Iron Man appears, lands beside her.

‘’Thank god you’re alright Cupcake’’. He says and hugs her, holds the back of her head as he stares at the Playground’s rubble, ‘’that sucks’’.

Stark gives Skye a quick once over to make sure she’s in one piece, ‘’is that my shirt?’’

‘’It’s gone’’. May whispers as Coulson and Mack observe what was once their home.

Other Shield agents begin to crowd around and realize that they have nowhere to go now.

Skye is about to say something when Phil beats her to it.

‘’We can rebuild okay? Maybe this means something, this has to mean something. The world needs us, Hydra is still out there we cannot let them win. We cannot let them define us, do you understand that? We are not Agents of nothing, we are Agents of Shield’’.

A beat passes and Skye says, ‘’that was the lamest fucking speech I’ve ever heard, stop talking’’.

Holding Ward’s hand she trails after everyone as they pile into the Helicarrier Tony had sent from Stark Tower.

 

Two hours later they’re still up in the air, Skye has finally caught up Everett Ross and the President on what happened, who ordered Skye to keep everyone on the Helicarrier for now and they can land as soon as he deems it safe. With Shield HQ down for now the country is on high alert, she’s currently in the cargo bay shoes off, bottle of scotch in hand. Sitting on the floor back against a container of ammo, she drinks in silence.

 

Ward and Nat are somewhere with Tony and everyone else is deciding if they want to go to a safe house or accept Stark’s offer and stay at the Avengers Facility until they get back on their feet. Skye is pulling off her leather jacket when Coulson appears and sits beside her, nods for the bottle. ‘’Get your own’’. He rolls his eyes like he expected as much and pulls a flask out from a back pocket. She’ll never forgive him for trying to kill Ward but he’s redeemed himself over the years, she doesn’t hate him as much.

 

‘’I think I’m the worst Director’’. She admits, taking a much-needed swig of alcohol.

Coulson is quick to disagree, ‘’none of this was your fault Skye’’.

‘’I know, but it still feels like it was’’.

‘’Shield isn’t a building with four walls, it’s a’’-

‘’Oh my god I cannot take another one of your speeches right now’’.

He sighs, ‘’fair enough’’.

They drink in silence and then he says, ‘’I have you beat for worst Director by far’’.

‘’Really? Did the Playground ever blow up under your watch?’’

‘’No. But did you ever send one of your brain washed and abused agents into solitude for six months with no light or shoes? No visitors unless it was another torture session or bringing food? Did you encourage his suicide attempts and even send him back to his abusive brother knowing how terrible his childhood was? Did you later try to kill him for something that ultimately wasn’t his fault?’’

Skye’s chest aches with Ward’s past, she wants to find him and hold him, let him know he’s so loved and cherished. Doesn’t care that he already knows these things.

Quake takes a long sip from the bottle, ‘’nope you definitely win’’.

Phil shakes his head sadly, ‘’I regret a lot of things in my life but the way I treated Ward might be the main one, wish I could go back and change it, save him instead of sentence him’’.

‘’You and me both’’.

‘’I’m glad he has you, he deserves someone that loves him the way you do’’.

‘’I just wish I would have met him sooner, before the Hydra reveal maybe, killed John before things went bad’’.

‘’Might have made things worse, who knows how Ward would have reacted’’.

‘’it’s not like he tried to kill you when he found out you murdered Garrett’’.

Phil sighs sadly, ‘’which is why he’s the better man’’.

Skye clinks the bottle with his flask, ‘’you finally get it’’.

They’re laughing when Victoria comes down and says Nat needs her in the command center.

 

She and Coulson walk into command, Skye takes a second to pause in front of Ward who’s standing by the door. When he asks what the hug is for she doesn’t answer, just rests her cheek against his heart and tells him she loves him. Natasha is standing at the helm hands behind her back, doesn’t look at Skye when she approaches, just taps into a tablet as Tony stands beside her. ‘’Someone sent you a message’’. Quake isn’t surprised when Kimberly’s face fills the screen in front of her.

 

Dressed in a blood red pantsuit, brown hair pulled back into a tight bun, she plays the part of villain well. ‘’She recorded it half an hour ago, we tracked the feed and sent Barton to the location where this was filmed just in case, but he came up empty’’. Skye hits play and the glass windows rattle dangerously.

 

‘’Imagine my disappointment when I learned you survived Caitlin’s attack, you just won’t die will you Quake? No matter I suppose, my plans won’t change, now that Shield is scattered it’ll just be easier to destroy all of you. And then when you’re dead, and trust me you won’t survive what I have in store for you I assure you, I’m going after the Avengers. And this world will bow to me when I’m finished’’. She leans into the camera, ‘’I’m coming for you Quake’’.

 

‘’Bring it on bitch’’.

 

The screen fades to black, and Skye prepares for the next attack. Now that Rosalind is dead it’s one down, two to go. Kim and Caitlin will be choking on their own blood when Skye gets done with them.

 

Game on.

Chapter Text

 

 

A red blinking light against a fingertip, a small golden cross clutched tightly in a bleeding hand. Out of the corner of an eye there’s nothing but a void and then an explosion of color, purples and blues, brilliant yellow and orange, bright green and pink. Trillions of stars shine brightly against the blackness as if they’re trying to apologize for it’s personality. Someone takes a deep breath and grasps the necklace tighter for strength.

 

The cosmos hold their breath as the clock ticks from three, two, one. And then a soundless flash erupts into the void of space, for one second the lonely cold universe sees life and then death. Then nothing at all. And it begins to breathe again as the only other occupant in time, turns to dust.

 

Skye munches on a bag of potato chips and stares out at the unfinished cabin before her, the morning sun making the wood gleam, spring air causing the grass and flowers to sway. There’s a lake in the distance, it’s so quiet here she can hear the current, this spot of land is so peaceful and tranquil she’s going to have a hard time leaving. Which was the intention, just like there are no neighbors around, why Tony bought so many acers, it wasn’t just for privacy reasons.

 

It’s only been twenty-four hours since Hydra attacked Shield and blew up the Playground, since then agents have either gone to a safe house, an underground bunker, the Triskelion (which is on lockdown still) or they took up Stark’s offer to lay low in the Avengers compound. Since the ambush and recording Kimberly sent Skye, Hydra has been silent. Off the grid no activity or movements of any kind, everyone knows it’s the calm before the storm.

 

The Avengers are worried for Skye’s safety but she can’t share the same concern, though it could be said for argument’s sake she’s never really been careful when it comes to her own life. For Quake this is just another threat, another fight that she will win. Kimberly is just another villain who is trying to take her down and won’t succeed, another person in a long line of bodies at Skye’s feet. Been there done that got the shirt, it’s all the same song and dance over and over again.

 

The breeze ruffles her hair and brings with it the smell of tree sap and freshly bloomed flowers, Skye takes a deep breath and admires the cabin again when Tony Stark walks up beside her. Sticks his hand in the bag and snatches a few chips before matching her gaze, crosses his arms to admire his unfinished creation. The awe has worn off and Skye shifts, having a feeling that this isn’t just a vacation home for Tony and Pepper.

 

‘’I’m going to assume this isn’t just a lake house?’’

Tony opens an energy drink and hands it to her, ‘’no’’.

‘’You’re leaving New York’’.

He nods and won’t meet her eyes, ‘’think it’s time’’.

‘’Are you retiring?’’

‘’I’m too young for that’’.

‘’Tony’’.

A heavy sigh, the sun grazing his brown hair, ‘’yes. Iron Man will always be there if the world needs him. But Pep and I are ready to start our lives together, away from everything else’’.

Skye wraps both arms around his bicep and he looks down at her, ‘’I get that’’.

‘’There’s a bedroom for you too’’.

There’s Tony, always taking care of her.

‘’You aren’t tired of me yet?’’

He rolls his eyes, ‘’never. I’ll always be here if you need me’’.

They study the multiple bedroom cabin and pass the chip bag back and forth, ‘’don’t think I didn’t notice you’re closer to my house in Montana now’’.

‘’Really? I didn’t even think about it’’.

‘’I’m sure you didn’t’’.

‘’I’m serious, wasn’t even a contributing factor’’.

‘’Whatever’’.

He shoots her a wink and then asks, ‘’so are you going to take Ward back anytime soon or are you just going to keep dangling yourself in front of him?’’

Skye chugs half the energy drink before responding, ‘’since when do you care about Ward’s feelings?’’

‘’The fact that he’s actually capable of human emotion still surprises me’’.

‘’Tony’’.

‘’He makes you happy, and god you deserve that more than anyone’’.

She squeezes his arm, ‘’that’s not true’’.

‘’All I’m saying is Ward loves you, he’d die for you. And for reasons I’ve never understood, you’d do the same for him. You’ve been through a lot of shit this year, I just want to make sure you’re happy’’.

Skye sighs and slips on the pair of sunglasses she found in Stark’s car, ‘’things are weird between us’’.

‘’Are you going to elaborate or make me guess?’’

‘’I know we’re supposed to talk about the car accident and some days I think I’m strong enough to do it but when I open my mouth nothing comes out’’.

Tony throws an arm around her shoulder in comfort, ‘’if you’re not comfortable talking about it then don’t’’.

‘’But I feel like I should’’.

‘’Why? Is he pressuring you?’’

‘’No, you know Grant would never, talking about it would make it real. And I’m not ready for that. I know my son is gone and I’ve accepted that, learned to live with it. But facing that reality with Ward and going through it together instead of dealing with it on my own terrifies me’’.

Footsteps behind them crunch leaves but the pair doesn’t turn.

‘’Maybe Paul can give you some advice on how to start that conversation and how to handle it’’.

Natasha comes on her other side and takes a sip from Skye’s drink, says nothing.

‘’That’s what I’m betting on’’.

Romanoff squeezes her hand and tells Tony, ‘’it’s a nice place’’.

‘’There’s a guest room if you ever need it’’.

She smiles, ‘’thanks’’.

Stark shrugs like it’s no big deal, ‘’as long as you and Skye don’t drink all the alcohol we’ll be fine’’.

‘’So you’re really doing it? Leaving New York?’’

‘’Pepper is ready and so am I, I’ll get back in the game when we find Thanos’’.

They both look to Nat, ‘’any word on that front?’’

For the past year Rocket, Nat and Thor have been in charge of scanning the cosmos for any sign of the Titan.

‘’Nothing’’.

‘’And the pager Nick Fury left behind?’’

‘’Still quiet’’.

Shadows slip into Tony’s eyes and Skye hugs him, knows he blames himself for what happened, how he lost Peter Parker.

‘’We’ll get that son of a bitch don’t worry’’.

Stark gives Skye a small smile, ‘’I know’’.

Quake doesn’t notice the look Natasha and Tony share, has no idea of the promise they demanded of Ward.

‘’When was the last time you slept?’’

Skye finishes the energy drink, ‘’I’ll sleep when Kimberly Santos and Caitlin Snow are dead’’.

‘’There’s still time to hide out while we take care of this’’.

‘’Keep trying to convince me to stay out of this fight Tony and I’m going to punch you’’.

Still aching with the loss of half the universe he locks eyes with the only daughter he’s ever known, ‘’I just don’t want to see you hurt’’.

‘’I’ll be fine, I’m the Destroyer of Worlds remember?’’

‘’You’ve never been Quake to me’’.

Skye blinks back tears, ‘’she’s just another threat Tony that’s it, it’s not like I’m going head to head with Thanos by myself’’.

She’s not a mind reader but Stark’s expression says it all, ‘hopefully you never will’.

He starts talking about getting an Alpaca and Skye says, ‘’I’m happy for you’’.

Smiling he answers Pepper’s phone call while Nat checks her own phone.

She suddenly tenses and Skye takes notice, ‘’is the world ending? Been there, done that’’.

‘’We found the base Hydra’s been working out of, if we attack in time Kimberly will probably still be there. Caitlin too since she was injured’’.

‘’Clint should have shot her in the face’’.

‘’Yeah well he didn’t want to steal your thunder’’.

Skye pulls out her own phone and starts sending out orders, updates the President on the situation.

‘’Ward and the Inhumans will meet us at the base along with Coulson and the Shield agents who can make it’’.

Tony hangs up and says he’ll track down Thor and send him her way.

They take one last look at the cabin and pile back in the car, Tony gets a jet ready.

‘’Don’t do anything stupid please’’.

Stark tells Skye a she slips into the back seat, all she does is wink and call Grant.

 

The Hydra base is in Chicago, by the time they land Skye has changed into the latest Quake suit Tony designed for her. Midnight black with hidden pockets and compartments for weapons, a gun strapped to her hip, silver gauntlets on both wrists. In a wooded area far enough away to escape detection Skye, Nat and Tony meet with Ward, the Ihumans and every agent who were close enough to come along. The afternoon sun behind Ward has Skye pausing for a moment, dressed in all black, a gun in hand.

 

They perfect a plan on an ambush Ward beside her, when Lincoln speaks up and casts a nervous glance at her.

‘’Why are you making that face?’’

He runs a hand through his blonde hair, no one misses the annoyed expression that Grant’s wearing.

‘’Someone made a surprise appearance at Stark Tower while we were leaving’’.

‘’Lincoln now is not the time for games’’-

The SUV door the Inhumans came in on opens and out steps someone she didn’t think she’d see again.

Jackson walks out hands in his pockets, gives her a small smile, ‘’room for one more boss?’’

Ward’s mood makes sense now and she runs a thumb along his knuckles as both he and Tony roll their eyes.

Yo-Yo crosses her arms. ‘’are you going to behave yourself?’’

Jackson’s green eyes only focus on Skye, ‘’I joined this fight years ago because I believed in you, in what you stand for, let me keep doing that please’’.

Tony scoffs, ‘’why come back now? You think coming back to the team now when we need you is just going to make Skye fall in love with you?’’

‘’It’s not about love it’s about protecting the world from monsters like Kimberly Santos’’.

‘’And that’s all you want to do?’’

Skye asks as Ward doesn’t relax his tense stance beside her.

‘’That’s all, I promise. Plus I heard what Caitlin did to you, she won’t get away with that’’.

‘’Of course she won’t’’.

Natasha replies loading a gun.

Skye studies the former member of her team and sighs, ‘’fine you can help, we’ll talk about everything when this is over’’.

He smiles in thanks as Kebo comes up to Ward and pulls out a flask.

‘’Oh god this tool is back, can you just punch him for kissing your wife and move on? I’m feeling awkward’’.

‘’Kebo shut up’’.

‘’Oh come off it Tony you know I’m right, Jackson wanted to bang Skye and Ward knows it, can you not feel the tension?’’

Grant punches Kebo in the kidney while Jackson rubs the back of his neck, ‘’sorry about that boss’’.

‘’Now is not the time, just stay out of the way and keep your hands to yourself’’.

He nods, ‘’copy that’’.

‘’And don’t come crying to me if Ward punches you in the face’’.

Speaking of her husband Skye pulls Ward aside, ‘’this could all be over in just a few hours’’.

He tucks her blonde hair behind her ear, ‘’maybe we could get that drink afterwards’’.

She smiles and glances back to Jackson who’s cowering under Nat’s glare, ‘’you okay with him being here?’’

‘’Are you?’’

She gives him a puzzled look, ‘’why wouldn’t I be? He’s a part of my team’’.

‘’He kissed you without your consent and then tried to make you feel guilty for not returning his twisted feelings’’.

Quake runs both hands up his arms before settling on his shoulders, ‘’I’m good, besides he was just having a shitty moment, maybe he’s better’’.

‘’He’s not a good guy Skye, do I have to remind you he tried to sleep with you for months knowing you were married?’’

‘’I didn’t exactly help in that situation, I was so drunk for weeks after we first met I probably led him on’’.

‘’It’s still not your fault’’.

‘’Look Jackson wasn’t wrong, he helped me after I left you. Can we talk about this later?’’

Her tone is soft, no one can hear. She doesn’t understand Ward’s puzzled expression or when he says quietly, ‘’it’s alright you know, if you feel something for him’’.

Suddenly he’s a twenty-year-old kid insecure and confused, and Skye wants to either punch or hold him.

‘’Oh my god Ward’’.

‘’I’m just saying’’.

‘’I don’t feel anything for Jackson. I love you, end of story. Thought we were at least secure enough in our relationship for that’’.

‘’Are we?’’

 

Skye observes her husband, no longer the twenty-eight-year-old he was when they first met. A few more worry lines on his handsome face, he’s pushing forty but still looks young and beautiful. He’s come such a long way in the nine years they’ve known one another, Skye never thought she could love anyone this much, and after she left him she never thought what they have now would be possible again. Leaning up to kiss his cheek she’s about to reassure him when Nat speaks up.

 

‘’Can you two talk about this later?’’  

 

When Ward narrows his eyes the Black Widow winks, ‘’sorry to interrupt your moment big guy’’.

‘’Security and cameras are down, we need to go now’’.

Tony announces as Coulson, May, Mack and everyone else walks off to get into position.

Skye looks out to her Inhumans as Ward takes her hand, ‘’we get in there and stop Hydra’s plan then we get out. Nobody pull any bullshit heroic acts please, if they attack with nuclear weapons leave them to me’’.

Victoria pales, ‘’can you handle that?’’

‘’Of course I can’’.

At Lincoln’s exasperated look she adds, ‘’I’m the only one who can’’.

‘’Thor is on his way’’.

Skye squeezes Ward’s fingers, ‘’let’s end this’’.

 

They decide to make the attack quiet as to not raise any alarms. Skye and Lincoln take the front entrance, Tony and Nat the back, Coulson and May the side doors, while Ward, the Inhumans and Kebo take out the agents patrolling the perimeter. The doors slide open and Skye braces herself, walks in silently and is immediately met with three agents who startle at the sight of her. She gives them a sharp smile, ‘’party’s here’’. They’re taken out without a sound.

 

Quake and Lincoln continue into the compound taking out agents as needed, Lincoln prefers to use his powers while Skye her fists. The hall is dark and cold, the floor wet as they round a corner and come face to face with Caitlin Snow. Who jumps in surprise and grabs for the empty holster at her hip, her white blonde hair sticking to her skin as if she just got out of the shower. Snow pales and adjusts the gauze at her shoulder, result of Clint’s arrow.

 

Her face is marked with blue and black bruises, she’s leaning heavily on her right leg and grimaces whenever she moves, Skye’s foot in her back did more damage than she originally thought. Before Caitlin can warn anyone of the current ambush Quake holds out a hand and the other woman goes sailing into the nearest wall. ‘’Keep going’’. At Lincoln’s hesitant look she rolls her eyes, ‘’she’s mine, she stabbed me remember? I’m going to kill her and I’ll catch up’’.

 

After telling her to be careful he continues on leaving Skye and Snow alone, the other Inhuman gets up and wipes blood off her lip.

‘’Back for round two’’.

‘’Something like that’’.

‘’How’d you find us?’’

‘’Wasn’t hard’’.

Caitlin gets into a fighting stance and hangs both arms loose by her side, ‘’hope your husband is ready to be a widow’’.

‘’You don’t need to concern yourself with Ward’’.

‘’Don’t worry I’ll be there to pick up the pieces after your funeral’’.

‘’You can’t beat me Caitlin’’.

The air turns cold as snow begins to fall and stick to the ground, ‘’we’ll see about that’’.

 

Skye knows her fighting patterns and easily dodges the knuckles aimed for her jaw, counters the move by sweeping out Caitlin’s legs beneath her. Spine hitting the concrete causes the air to whoosh out of her lungs, Quake stands over her and wastes no time in flexing her fingers. Bones breaking and screams filling the hall the compound shutters and groans under the weight of Skye’s powers. But Caitlin’s powers rise up to protect her and Skye has no choice but to leap aside as sharp ice aims for her heart.

 

Caitlin jumps up and grabs Skye’s arms, shoves her into the nearest wall and manages to land a knee to the abdomen. Wrapping an arm around the back of her neck Skye flips Caitlin’s body over her shoulder and slams her face first into a door. The glass shatters and blood drips onto the floor, Skye kicks Snow into the room and spots beams on the ceiling. Quake jumps and reaches for one legs dangling in the air, Caitlin turns around just in time for the move to work perfectly.

 

Hooking both legs around her head Skye pulls until Caitlin is gasping for breath and it would have been successful if not for the ice beginning for form on the beam. Her fingers slip and Caitlin manages to wiggle free, Quake and Snow exchange a number of blows that have both women soon bleeding. But Skye is the most powerful Inhuman, the strongest person on this planet, no one stands a chance against her.

 

‘’Even if you kill me you won’t be able to stop those weapons, you’re not strong enough’’. Skye lands a right hook to Snow’s temple, ‘’you won’t be alive long enough to see it happen’’. Quake loses herself in the game, the fight and focuses on one goal. The one Natasha drilled into her over and over since she was eighteen, survive, do whatever you have to in order to get out alive. Caitlin may not be as good as her but she’s still a threat, and Skye has no choice but to eliminate her.

 

It happens because of a slip up, Snow’s instincts kick in and she throws everything she has at Quake. They’re a few feet apart from one another and while she’s breathing heavily her right eye swollen shut, Skye looks perfectly fine, like she could go twelve more rounds and not grow tired. Snow raises both hands and screams as her powers rip out of her. Ice sharp as glass head for Skye and she holds up a hand, every icicle, blade of frost and snowflake all bend to the weight of Quake.

 

 In an explosion of chaos everything turns soft as powder no matter how hard Caitlin tries, she’s not enough.

 

Panting, Caitlin shakes her head as Skye approaches her, ‘’you’re a monster, you shouldn’t be alive’’.

Skye pulls out a knife grabs Caitlin’s shoulder, ‘’I gave you a home and you betrayed me’’.

‘’I deserve to be the leader of the Inhumans, not you. You’re just a villain pretending to be a hero’’.

‘’So jealousy is the reason you tried to kill me’’.

Snow meets Quake’s eyes with so much loathing she can almost taste the acid sting of it.

‘’You’re worse than Thanos’’.

‘’Considering he committed genocide I’m going to have to disagree with that’’.

Before Caitlin can respond Skye plunges the knife into her chest, same spot as the scar she now has.

Poetic perhaps.

Snow falls to the ground and gasps for breath, it takes a few moments but then her heart stops and Skye puts a finger to her com, ‘’Caitlin is dead’’.

It’s Nat who answers, ‘’you alright?’’

She doesn’t mean physically, as Skye stares down at the body of a former friend this numbness settles into her chest.

‘’Fine’’.

‘’Spotted our friend Kim in the control center trying to escape but we’ve got her surrounded, she’s not going anywhere’’.

Tony informs her, Skye leans down and closes Caitlin’s eyes, ‘’on my way’’.

 

Lincoln cleared a path for her so when Skye makes it to the control center she’s met with no resistance, holds out a hand to the doors and they crash into a wall. Lincoln and Nat are closest to her guns out, the Inhumans and Tony on her right, Coulson and the Shield agents behind Kim weapons drawn. Kimberly doesn’t appear to be stressed about any of this, her bright white pain suit is free of gore and dirt, not a brown hair out of place, lipstick isn’t even smudged.

 

She meets Quake’s gaze with a calm look, ‘’did you all really think it’d be this easy?’’

‘’God I’m so sick of the evil monologues, we get it you’re a piece of shit, no need to brag about it. It’s over Kim’’.

‘’is it?’’

 

Patience snapped Skye launches herself at the Director of Hydra and elbows her in the nose, grabs her by the collar and lifts her onto a desk, slams her into a computer and keyboard so hard the entire thing breaks. Kimberly winces in pain but laughs, Skye doesn’t figure out why until hands are pulling her away and Nat’s even tone reaches her ears.

 

‘’There’s a bomb in the building, Ward is taking care of it’’.

Kim is placed in handcuffs and taken away, Skye can’t shake the feeling this was too easy.

‘’I’m going to take a look around’’.

Nat nods while she calls the President and Tony hacks into the system to track the nuclear weapons.

 

The compound isn’t lit very well and Skye walks until she reaches the cargo bay filled with jets, weapons and a few Hydra agents that apparently didn’t get the memo they were under attack. Quake easily takes them out and pretends not to notice Caitlin’s blood on her hands. She’s about to head back after reaching the back doors because she found nothing suspicious, when a nearby jet catches her eye. The second she walks into it, everything inside her freezes.

 

There’s a nuclear bomb sitting in the middle of the floor, blinking at her. Red light turns on and off as a countdown has already started, five minutes. Without thinking about it she abandons her gun and her powers sink into the weapon. It fights back, it’s powerful. After a minute of throwing everything she’s got at it, the kind of force that made Thanos scream in agony, it made a dent but the clock isn’t slowing. Skye makes a split-second decision and jumps into the front seat, starts the jet.

 

Takes a deep breath and closes her eyes, pushes down every single instinct inside that says to run out of this place and go back to her family. If she takes the jet out of the atmosphere it won’t hurt anyone and Kimberly loses, billions of lives will be spared, everyone she loves in this building will be alive. Nat and Ward are asking where she is and she rips out her com as Tony asks what she’s doing. There’s a radio that connects to the control center, she’s just grabbed the device when she senses someone behind her.

 

The Hydra agent doesn’t meet the wrath of her powers because someone beats her to it, the man falls to the ground and Jackson is standing behind him. Runs up and stops short at the bomb on the floor, his face drains of color as he looks at her, realizes what she’s doing.

 

‘’Boss’’.

‘’Get out here’’.

‘’You can’t do this’’.

‘’I have to’’.

 

She’s about to throw him out but he’s quicker, uses every element at his disposal, rain, thunder and finally wind. Skye is thrown off balance and he uses that to his advantage, gets a strong gust of wind to shove her out of the ship and shut the ramp. Skye hits her head on the wall and by the time the dizziness fades and she opens her eyes, Jackson and the ship are gone. Thinking there must be a way to stop it, shut the bomb down manually from the control room she runs there, not being able to fathom losing a member of her team.

 

Ward is talking to Kebo about the weapons when Skye bursts into the room, fear in her face, eyes are frantic and wide. Nat asks her what’s wrong but Skye isn’t paying attention to anyone, she heads for a radio in the center of the room on a desk, turns a monitor on. It takes only a moment to realize what’s going on, especially after Jackson’s voice filled with static sounds over the speaker. There was a weapon on a ship and they didn’t have time to detonate it by hand.

 

Jackson is sacrificing himself to save them, save billions of people, Skye is trying to talk him out if it.

 

‘’Jackson do you copy?’’

‘’I’m here’’.

‘’What the hell do you think you’re doing?’’

‘’This is my purpose’’.

Skye’s reply would be terrifying if her eyes weren’t filled with tears, ‘’your purpose? What kind of bullshit answer is that?’’

‘’I have to do this Skye’’.

She sits down and clutches the radio, not wanting to accept what everyone else in the room already knows what’s about to happen.

‘’No you don’t, it’s not supposed to be you’’.

‘’And it was never going to be you, do you honestly think I would have let you take this thing to space?’’

‘’You don’t deserve to die Jackson’’.

‘’Neither do you’’.

Lincoln and Elena have hands on Skye’s shoulders while Victoria cries on her other side, Skye is still trying to change an already sealed fate.

‘’It’s supposed to be me’’.

She says, covering her mouth with her hand, Nat and Tony exchange a glance with Ward, who has a feeling Skye was on that ship first.

‘’You can’t just die for me like this, it’s wrong. You have your whole life ahead of you, Jackson please, please don’t’’.

‘’Saving the girl I love and the world at the same time, couldn’t really ask for anything better’’.

‘’Jackson’’.

The jet leaves earth’s atmosphere and no one but Ward hears Nat’s sigh of relief.

Thanks to Jackson, they’re safe for now.

Any second now he’s going to cease to exist and Ward hangs his head as Skye sobs into the radio.

‘’I don’t want to say goodbye’’.

Static enters the room and Jackson’s breathing quickens, ‘’I love you, I’ve always loved you Skye’’.

Then, nothing at all, the jet vanishes into thin air, just like that.

 

The compound buckles under Skye’s powers who buries her face in her hands and cries for a moment before lashing out at the desk around her. Throws a computer, uses the keyboard to smash the desk into pieces, all the while saying how unfair it is. Ward waits a moment and waves off the Inhumans, who grieve in the corner while Ward approaches his wife. She fights his hold for a moment and then sinks into his arms, he’s holding her like he can stop all the pieces inside her from breaking.

 

He meets Nat’s gaze over Skye’s shoulder, who’s sudden expression makes him believe there isn’t going to be any time for mourning. Skye must sense something as well because after just a few seconds she wipes her face and moves away from Ward, asks Nat, ‘’it’s not over is it?’’ The Black Widow shakes her head as Tony curses while reading something on his phone, ‘’Hydra moved the nuclear weapons onto Helicarriers of their own, there are five that just took off from a remote location’’.

 

‘’Where are they headed?’’

‘’One is aimed for here, the other four all over the world, but we can catch them in time since they all left in a group’’.

‘’Can you shut them down manually?’’

‘’I can try’’.

 

Skye closes her eyes and calls to mind her safe place she and Paul created all those years ago, breathes in and out slowly. Tucks Jackson into a box to rage about later, she can feel the loss already tugging at her ribs, but there’s no time to scream about the injustice of the world, she’s got to save it first.

 

‘’If these things go off we’re talking billions of people dead’’.

Lincoln says, wiping his eyes and wrapping an arm around Skye’s shoulder.

‘’Kimberly is more of a monster than Thanos’’.

‘’Why is she doing this? Her issue is with Skye, not with the entire planet’’.

‘’Does evil really need a reason?’’

‘’We have to fight back’’.

Skye replies, clearing her throat and allowing Quake to take the front seat.

‘’Thor is almost here’’.

Ward brushes his knuckles down her cheek and Skye wants more than anything to sink into his touch, but she can’t afford to.

‘’Kimberly has a quin jet, we’re going to board it and meet Hydra head on, I’ll take care of the ships’’.

‘’Skye’’.

Grant’s tone is heavy with fear, his hands shaking, ‘’I’ll be fine’’.

‘’You can’t promise us that, what if you can’t handle this like you think you can?’’

Tony looks like he’s two seconds from whisking her away from here.

‘’I have to try, I can’t just sit back and let people die because of Hydra’s vendetta against me’’.

Stark is on the brink of protesting when Skye holds his face with two shaking hands, ‘’I’m doing this, and you can’t stop me. You and Nat have been shoving down my throats for years that I’m a hero right?’’

He nods.

‘’Then shut up and let me do this’’.

‘’You said no bullshit heroic acts’’.

Elena speaks up and Skye replies, ‘’when do I ever take my own advice?’’

Natasha looks like the world is going to end as soon as Skye walks out the door, ‘’your lack of faith in me is insulting’’.

‘’I just want you to live’’.

‘’And I’m going to, I’m Quake remember? I can do anything’’.

When Skye hugs her Nat whispers, ‘’please be careful’’.

‘’Don’t get emotional on me now’’.

 

They board a quin jet and set coordinates for downtown, Ward is holding her hand but being suspiciously quiet. It’ll only take a few minutes to reach their destination so Skye is standing by the ramp waiting for the all clear to jump.

 

‘’I could be dead in a few minutes, may want to go ahead and declare your undying love for me while you have the chance’’.

He doesn’t laugh or smirk at the joke, just turns to stare at her.

‘’I can’t lose you Skye’’.

‘’Oh my god I’m not going to die alright? Everyone needs to chill’’.

‘’I started working for the ATCU because I was so scared if they attacked that you weren’t strong enough to beat them’’.

‘’Wow thanks, asshole’’.

‘’You know what I meant, aren’t you worried?’’

Skye turns and wraps both arms around him, stares into the face she has loved for so many years.

‘’Of course I am’’.

Knowing her as well as he does Ward blinks back tears, ‘’but not for yourself’’.

She shakes her head and cups his face, thumbs stroking the stubble of his cheeks.

‘’I wouldn’t want you to be alone if something happened to me, I’m scared of not being with you’’.

Grant makes a noise and crushes her to his chest, holding the back of her head.

‘’I love you, I love you so much’’.

She tenses and tries not to think about how Jackson just said something similar and then he died.

Skye knew from an early age the world was unfair, it continues to surprise her for some reason.

 

One of the flawless things about Grant Ward is that he doesn’t have any tells, but Skye has slept beside him and watched him breathe for ten years, she’s seen him at the best and worst, which is why she rips the ICER out of his belt as soon as his fingers make contact. Spinning out his arms she pins him to the cargo wall, face pressed against the cool silver steel. However he’s not the best since Natasha Romanoff for nothing and maneuvers out of her arms and spins, locks her arms behind her back and their roles reverse.

 

This time it’s her face against the wall and she arches against him, ‘’you know when I pictured us in this position again it was under different circumstances’’.

‘’Please don’t go out there’’.

His voice breaks and Skye nearly falters, she’d do anything to stop the pain he’s in.

‘’I have to try Grant’’.

‘’No you don’t, Thor’’-

‘’isn’t going to make it in time’’.

Ward is on the defense now so he’s expecting her to retaliate, which she does and he blocks the elbow aimed for his ribs.

But she uses her powers on him and it loosens his hold.

Skye uses Nat’s signature move and in a second Ward is on the ground, Skye sitting on his chest.

‘’It’s adorable how you tried to stop me though’’.

‘’Using your powers is cheating’’.

She leans up and presses a button, the ramp lowers and she cuffs Ward’s wrist to the seat so he doesn’t fly out, and come after her.  

He glares at the handcuffs like they are responsible for what’s happening.

‘’If you die I am never going to forgive you for this’’.

Skye bends down to kiss his cheek, ‘’let me go’’.

‘’No’’.

Looking into those whiskey eyes that have saved her in so many ways she gives him a smile she can’t feel at all, ‘’it’s okay, I’ll be okay. I love you’’.

 

Without a backwards glance she jumps from the jet and lands exactly where she was meant to, on one of Hydra’s Helicarriers carrying the weapons. Skye shuts down and sets into mission mode, not caring about her own life, there’s only one goal here, stop Hydra from killing people, the usual. And make sure Jackson’s death isn’t in vain, get revenge for Shield, for Kimberly and Rosalind sending Caitlin to kill her. They never should have come after Quake.

 

It’s a simple process, get high enough in the air and use her powers like she always does to destroy something. Channels all her energy into it, Skye concentrates on the weakest part of the ship and strikes, once it starts breaking apart she’ll control the blast like she did at the Playground. They’re high enough in the air that the blast shouldn’t obliterate everything in it’s path, especially if she can control it. Skye grits her teeth and braces herself as the explosion sets in, she holds up her hands as white noise surrounds her.

 

Suspended in the air she absorbs the hit and while it’s the most painful thing she’s ever physically experienced, it works. Fire and heat washes over her but then it’s over and she’s staring at a blue sky filled with smoke, debris and wreckage fall to the earth but there’s nothing she can do about that. Grinning because she proved everyone wrong once again she hangs in the air for a moment, looking up at the jets that are headed to different countries around the world and gets to work.

 

It’s tricky since they all break off in different directions but Skye takes out two in five minutes, she can’t stop to think about the destruction she’s causing down below, only the lives she’s saving as each carrier fades into oblivion. She’s sweating and exhausted by the time she makes it to the final one, and Hydra has obviously realized what she’s doing and are now fighting back. Missiles head for her but Tony is able to take them out remotely from wherever the hell he is.

 

Skye has managed to take down a small percentage of the ship when it suddenly does something unexpected, instead of taking her on it dives down, right towards London. Skye tries to stop it but it’s going too fast and she has no choice but to get in front of it and try to stop it with her hands on the ship. See if she can actually force it back up into the air instead of the ground, Quake makes it to the front and puts both hands on the nose of the carrier.

 

She’s instantly met with resistance and both her powers and muscles scream in protest but she pushes on, it’s either her or millions of people. Putting her back into it she uses everything she’s got, powers on the highest setting as it rips through her like a wave and the ship slows but it doesn’t stop. Glancing down the ground is coming up fast and she locks her jaw, keeps pressing on. Thinks about Ward’s face on their wedding day, Nat’s smile, Tony embracing her, a thousand moments keep her going.

 

If she’s going to die, it has to be for something, and saving lives seems like a pretty good way to go. Giving it all she’s got she ship bends and buckles but it’s still headed for it’s target, Skye lifts her eyes and meets the pilot’s gaze. He’s got sunglasses on but Skye can feel his glare, she lifts one hand and shoots him the middle finger, he pulls out a gun but can’t reach her from this angle. They’re coming in hot and Skye prays for Thor to make a quick entrance but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.

 

The next thing she knows the wind is suffocating and her back hits the ground, arms are still held out in front of her and the Helicarrier is only being held back by her powers alone. She’s lying in the middle of a street hands still on the nose of the ship as it lays suspended in the air, screams and smoke are all around her but she can’t focus on that. Feeling the power rush in, something like cement is sitting on her chest but she keeps pressing.

 

Using more power than she ever has before the quake tears out of her skin, Skye cries out and let’s lose a final push, the last thing she’s got, and it works. The carrier is literally thrown back into the air, it hangs in the clouds for a moment but with a twitch of her finger it explodes underneath the sun. Out of breath and bleeding, body feels numb and drained she can hardly see over the smoke as debris and fire rains down all around her.

 

Skye can’t see it but the rest of the world can; her being a shield for the planet once again, earth’s defender. She’s lying in the road a crater underneath her as the city shakes and rumbles, aftershocks. Her nose and lips are bleeding but she’s otherwise unharmed, civilians who were still around to witness Quake’s amazing act, begin recording the aftermath.

 

Her vision is blurry but an unmistakable flash of lightning spreads in front of her and then a body fills her gaze, a hand is held out to help her out. Thor’s blonde hair and wide smile is the first thing she can make out and his warm skin as he gets her off the ground and presses a com into her ear. He’s holding her shoulders asking if she’s alright, supporting her weight with his strong grip as she sags into his hold. Catching her breath it takes a second to realize there’s a voice in her ear, it’s the President.

 

‘’Congratulations Quake you just saved the entire planet’’.

She puts a bloody finger to the com, ‘’just another Tuesday’’.

She leans against Thor who takes off in flight her securely in his hold as he tells her how stupid and brave that stunt was.

 

They land at the Triskelion where Kimberly Santos is being held in the lobby, Everett Ross along with Shield, FBI, CIA and Homeland Security waits with her. She’s still in handcuffs, Tony, Natasha, Clint, Bruce and even Steve Rogers all stand in front of her. Thor stands directly beside Steve as Skye shakes off the sensation of flying through the air, and the room breathes a sigh of relief as everyone absorbs she’s alive and in one piece.

 

‘’Thank god’’. Ward’s voice comes up behind her and he looks both equally pissed and happy she’s alright as he hugs her, lifts her off her feet and buries his face in her neck. ‘’You’re going to give me a damn heart attack one day’’. Kissing her forehead he breathes her in and holds her for a moment, hand on the back of her neck. Skye closes her eyes rests her cheek against his heart, feels the weight of Jackson’s death threatening to consume her. But she has to take care of something first.

 

Kissing Ward’s chest softly she turns back to the source of the drama these past few months, Kim is scowling beside ten agents surrounding her.

 

‘’You shouldn’t have been able to stop my weapons, it’s impossible’’.

Without a word Skye pushes past Steve and swings back her arm, punches Kim in the face so hard her neck snaps back with a pop.

Ross winces and tells her to calm down, all of the Avengers turn to glare at him.

‘’People should really stop underestimating me’’.

‘’I deserve my revenge goddammit!’’ Kim suddenly yells and fights the agents who are holding her.

‘’You murdered my husband you psychotic bitch!’’

Skye rolls her eyes, ‘’your husband was a dick so’’.

‘’You can’t just murder someone without’’-

Kim’s sentence is cut off by Skye’s fist in her face again.

This time instead of lashing out as blood drips down her face, Kim starts laughing.

Meets Quake’s eyes with a chuckle, ‘’is this because I sent Caitlin to kill you?’’

‘’No it’s because you just tried to use nuclear weapons to end the world’’.

She ignores Ross, ‘’I should tell you how excited we were when she showed us the pictures of your body on the floor in your office. I think the knife she used is still in my desk’’.

‘’That’s disgusting’’.

‘’You shouldn’t be alive it’s not right, we killed you. Snow heard the doctors say you wouldn’t recover’’.

Skye shrugs, ‘’guess it didn’t take’’.

‘’You deserve to die, you should have. You had no pulse you weren’t breathing she stabbed you exactly where’’-

This time her words are cut off not by Skye, but by a gun shot.

Everyone ducks and spins around to find it was Grant Ward who fired the shot, he’s still holding the gun as Kimberly stares at him wide eyed.

 

No one moves as he walks up to her and looks her dead in the eye presses the gun to her stomach and fires off two more rounds, the shots are near silent as she falls to the ground. Ward stands above her stone faced, says nothing as he pulls the trigger over and over until the chamber is empty. Someone says ‘’holy shit’’ while Kim bleeds out on the floor, no one comes to her aide. It doesn’t take long for her heart to stop and when it does Nat takes the gun from Ward’s hand and Clint pulls him aside.

 

Skye counted on her revenge to ultimately cause the death of the Director of Hydra, but for some reason she didn’t consider Ward’s. Skye makes sure he’s alright before holding him close, Kebo behind him ready to protect him from any threat that may come out of this. But no one moves to arrest him and even if they cared enough to try, they’d have to go through Quake first, and nobody wants to do that.

 

For now the threat is over finally, and she can breathe again.

 

Three days later after endless meetings with the President and other members of the World Council, Skye stands on the White House lawn in her Quake suit, gauntlets gleaming in the afternoon sun. But she’s not fighting this time or getting ready for the end of the world, this is a special occasion that Tony and Nat forced her to attend. Journalists and photographers are standing in front of a podium all screaming questions at her, cameras are flashing.

 

There are thousands of people at the White House gates holding signs and cheering her name, Skye never wanted her actions to be displayed like this. Tony and Thor flourish under the praise of fans and parades, people writing songs and painting murals of them on alley walls, but Quake doesn’t want the attention. She’s worked in the dark for so long thinking the worst of herself, killing because she had to, defending humans from terrible threats and they’d never know.

 

Just because she’s not dead and saved the planet seventy-two hours ago does not make up for all the horrible shit she’s done, and the President honoring her in some bullshit ceremony isn’t going to wipe her ledger clean, it’s not going to make everyone suddenly forget all the reasons they hate her. The crowd begins to quiet and Skye holds her breath as she stands off the to the side of the stage, knows Ward and Nat are behind that curtain and their pep talk from earlier comes to mind.

 

Romanoff told her she saved the world and she should accept that someone wants to honor her for that, but there’s a getaway car if she really wants to get out of here. Grant who forgave her for the handcuff thing, kissed her forehead, said he was proud, and that this ceremony means people are seeing her in a different light. That she’s a hero not a monster, and as Director of Shield and the first Inhuman in charge, she could bring further understanding to her people and what they stand for.

 

The stage is covered in white carpet the podium is glass with three microphones attached, secret service agents are surrounding it as the President and Vice President step out, White House officials and reporters trail behind them, as well as Tony who sends her a smile and it calms her nerves. The White House Speaker starts babbling about why they are al here and introduces President Asher like they don’t already know who he is.

 

Skye feels like she’s about to vomit when he starts speaking and gestures over to her with a bright grin.

 

‘’Most of you already know the woman standing to my left, Quake; the Director of Shield, an Avenger, but to me she’s a friend who I’m honored to speak with every single day. Quake is not only the strongest person I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing, but she’s also the most kind, and she fights for what she believes in with her entire heart, she’s a hero and she’s saved us all countless times. Three days ago the terrorist organization Hydra launched an attack with the intent of slaughtering billions.

 

And Quake singlehandedly stopped them, neutralized the threat with her bare hands. I am in awe of the person standing here today and we all owe her a debt that can never be paid, but I hope this is a start. It took seven Avengers to save New York, it took one Quake, Skye, to save the world. I think we should redefine the term hero, add her name when we think of who defends us”.

 

He gestures for her to come onto the stage and her legs are shaking, she keeps her eyes on Tony who’s smiling so wide, tears in his eyes as he claps, so proud of his daughter. President Asher shakes her hand and cameras flash, reporters ask questions but she doesn’t answer a single one.

 

With a warm smile he pins a medal to her suit, the same one Tony received years ago when he saved the earth, voices in her head are yelling that she doesn’t deserve this, flashes of innocent faceless people who have died by her hand enter her brain, but one look at Grant and Nat who are standing next to Stark, they fade. Skye smiles for the first time since Jackson’s death, and steps up to the podium. She’s never be one for speeches, if she ever had to speak to the public Tony did it for her.

 

But everyone deserves to know it wasn’t just her act that saved the world.

 

‘’It wasn’t just me who took down Hydra, someone saved us all before I did and his name was Jackson Meyers. If it wasn’t because of his sacrifice I wouldn’t be standing here right now, I don’t think any of us would. He was a member of my team and a good friend, an amazing man who had so much to offer the world, and Kimberly Santos the Director of Hydra, took that from him. You can honor me for what I did and that’s fine, but think of Jackson Meyers too, he saved me, saved all of us’’.

 

She steps away and President Asher shakes her hand and thanks her, everyone on the podium does as well. When Skye makes it to Tony he presses a button on his watch and fireworks go off across the street, he must have told the secret service what he was doing because nobody jumps into action and the President is led off stage. Once he’s back in the White House balloons and confetti appear out of nowhere and Stark pulls her into a suffocating hug, spins her around and says how proud he is.

 

Natasha who only shows emotion on special occasion smiles through her tears and tells Skye how much she loves her, hugs her and passes her off to Ward. Time seems to stand still as the blue and white decorations surround him, there’s confetti in his hair but his smile seems to light up every dark place inside her, like it always has. He doesn’t have to say anything his pride and love is in his eyes as he takes her in arms and cups her cheek.

 

‘’I love you’’. He says over the roar of the crowd, chaos and fireworks. Skye rests both hands on his chest and grins through her own tears, ‘’I love you too’’. He bends down to kiss her forehead and everything feels like it’s going to be just fine.

 

Hours later after the high off the day has worn down Skye finds Ward on the roof of Stark Tower, a place she’s avoided for a year now because she wasn’t in a place where she wanted to remember their wedding. But now she walks along the concrete to him and feels nothing but freedom, the ache of losing him is gone, because he’s right here, not going anywhere. It’s after midnight the moon high in the dark sky, no clouds or stars visible.

 

Skye takes a seat next to him on the ledge legs hanging off the sides, without looking at her he offers the bottle of Vodka and she takes a long swig.

 

‘’You straight up shot Kimberly Santos without even blinking’’.

It takes a second to laugh and when they do it doesn’t end for a long moment.

Skye lays her head on his shoulder as he says, ‘’I almost lost you because of what she did, couldn’t let her live after that’’.

Letting out a heavy sigh she stares out into New York city, ‘’we did it. Kim, Rosalind, Caitlin they’re all dead’’.

‘’Looks like my stunt with the ATCU worked out in the end’’.

‘’You’d think over the years your sense of humor would improve but it’s still shit’’.

Ward takes a sip from the bottle before asking, ‘’how are you holding up?’’

She taps her nails on the ledge, ‘’oh you know the usual, lying to myself shoving it all down and just waiting for the inevitable breakdown’’.

He puts a hand on her knee, ‘’I’m here if you need me’’.

‘’I know’’.

‘’Paul too’’.

‘’I’m aware’’.

 

Skye can feel it, the edges of the grief and pain as they wrap around her heart like claws. Dreading what she’s about to say Skye opens her mouth but nothing comes out, turns out Ward doesn’t need her to say anything. Knows her too well.

 

‘’You’re leaving aren’t you?’’

She places her hand over his on her knee, ‘’yeah’’.

‘’I understand’’.

‘’I’m going to stay with Bruce after Jackson’s funeral, I just, I need some time’’.

Skye used to run away to Bruce years ago whenever something happened that she couldn’t handle, hasn’t done it in a long time but he’s not surprised, nor does he hold it against her.

‘’Coulson is going to run Shield until I get back’’.

Grant sounds so young when he asks, ‘’you are coming back aren’t you?’’

Skye runs a hand up his spine before settling on the back of his neck, he meets her gaze with uncertain smoldering whiskey eyes.

Cups his face with her free hand her tone firm, ‘’I’ll always come back to you Grant’’.

Leaning his forehead against her own he kisses her nose and they both close their eyes.

 

The world may end and everything could turn to dust one day, but the love Skye and Ward have for one another will never change.

 

And it will endure all things, no matter what evil lies in their path.

Chapter Text

 

There was a time when Ward didn’t believe in gods or monsters, titans, portals to other worlds, anything supernatural was far beyond his reach. Then at a young age he quickly realized that most of the time the monsters with black horns and sharp claws that hid under beds, wore human faces. Sometimes the villains were the people who were supposed to love you, they were someone you trusted and you didn’t realize it until it was too late and they were sucking the life out of you.

 

When he was young he also realized that the world didn’t owe anyone anything, it didn’t have to be kind or fair anybody, life is hard for everyone and no one gets off this planet unscathed. Bad guys survive while innocent people die, and the world keeps spinning on without a care. He’s all too familiar with the cruelty life offers, watching someone you love die and their ghost haunts you for years and years. He still isn’t sure which is worse; being the one to die, or being the one who survived.

 

He’s looked into the face of darkness, understands what it’s like to lose yourself to a cause, to be nothing but a living breathing weapon, to close yourself off in fear because the people you love tend to die. Even though it was weeks ago, the image of Skye in that hospital room still haunts him when he’s alone, how he was so close to losing her. In the decade he’s known Skye their still running along the same pattern, her running and him always chasing.

 

It used to bother him, leave him an exasperated mess behind her as he followed the path of her feet. But now especially after spending a year apart, Ward has grown into a new understanding of himself and who he is without Skye, and that when she runs it’s because things grow so dark inside her skin that she doesn’t want to risk hurting him. Grant is familiar with that too, peeling back your flesh to talk to the monster that lies within, making sure it doesn’t show anyone its teeth.

 

Skye is somewhere in the Himalayas with Bruce, they’ve exchanged a few emails and phone calls but no serious conversations have taken place which doesn’t surprise him. She left because one of her fellow Inhumans Jackson sacrificed himself to save Shield and ultimately Skye, from certain death. Not that he’d ever confess it to his wife, but Ward believes Jackson’s intentions weren’t as honorable as everyone else believes.

 

Jackson, in Ward’s opinion, probably thought if he performed that heroic act it would make Skye fall in love with him, and she’d spend the rest of her life mourning a ghost. In all the time Grant knew Jackson he only saw one side of the other man, lusting after a married woman who would never belong to him. Even if he was responsible for technically dying in Skye’s place, Ward can’t say he grieves over him.

 

Though he is grateful for the Inhuman replacing Skye’s body on that ship, that’s all Grant feels about that situation. In the weeks since Hydra’s failed attempt on taking over the world Shield has started rebuilding an underground bunker in another classified location. Coulson was left in charge in Quake’s absence and Tony Stark is helping with the design of the new Playground. Ward’s only input was requesting that there not be a cell in the basement, which was of course granted.

 

And even if it wasn’t and Skye came back to a Vault D 2.0, she’d have a fit and probably stab Coulson. Currently Ward is sitting in the living room of the house he and Skye used to share in Montana, it’s a lovely spring morning and he’s sipping coffee on the couch. The windows, front and back doors are open wide, letting the cool breeze drift throughout the walls. No matter how many times he walks the halls and bedrooms alone, it still guts him. The house will always feel empty without Skye.

 

Knowing she promised she’d come back to him is the only thing that gives him hope during the long nights. You’d think being without her for a year would be easier now but it’s just become a dull ache, ever present. Because he had Skye in his arms and then she was gone again, slipped out of his fingers. According to Natasha’s reports she’s doing better, but the Black Widow has no information on when Quake is expecting to return.

 

Grant wonders if she’ll want to live here or somewhere else, maybe in that mansion Tony bought for her months ago that’s entirely too big for one person. Ward wasn’t a fan when he saw it for the first time but could build a life there if that’s what Skye wanted. He’s thinking about the day he asked her to marry him when Kebo walks through the back door, beer in hand, axe in the other. He sets the tool down by the kitchen cabinets before sitting in the recliner opposite of Grant.

 

‘’Still brooding eh?’’

‘’Not brooding’’.

‘’So that dark look on your face coupled with the puppy dog eyes is for no reason?’’

Ward takes a sip of coffee while Kebo sighs, ‘’you’d think after being friends for so long I wouldn’t have to pry information out of you but apparently that’s still happening’’.

‘’This just feels too easy is all’’.

Grant gestures to the house, doesn’t have to say that Skye forgiving him for the ATCU thing is still surprising.

‘’I mean we went up against nuclear weapons and won, I betrayed my wife and it just rolled off her back’’.

‘’And now you’re thinking you don’t deserve it, that your bullshit with Rosalind Price was unforgiveable and you should spend the rest of your days alone’’.

‘’Something like that’’.

Grant blocks the pillow Kebo aims for his face, ‘’I thought we were done with the self-loathing?’’

‘’Stop throwing things at me’’.

‘’Stop thinking you don’t deserve people loving you! Look I know it’s hard for you to understand because every time you screwed up in the past it was always met with punishment and violence, but that’s not the case here Grant’’.

‘’I know’’.

‘’The reason Skye forgave you is because she loves you and she understands the reason why you did what you did’’.

Ward runs a free hand down his face, ‘’god Garrett has been dead for years and he’s still screwing with my head’’.

Kebo reaches over and squeezes his shoulder, ‘’you know I’m always here to remind you what a good man you are, and that John was an evil son of a bitch who did nothing but feed you lies’’.

‘’He wasn’t wrong about everything’’.

‘’You really want to go down that road this morning?’’

Shaking his head Ward stands and heads to the kitchen, practices the breathing techniques Paul taught him as he stares out the window above the sink.

‘’I forgot how miserable you are without Skye’’.

‘’I’m not that bad’’.

Kebo starts pulling out ingredients for pumpkin pancakes and grabs a skillet, ‘’you’re an insufferable lovesick bastard when she’s gone’’.

Grant doesn’t deny it and pours a second cup of coffee.

‘’I’m assuming you haven’t heard anything from Alison Price?’’

Ward plans on keeping tabs on Rosalind’s daughter until he’s sure she’s not a threat, in his experience someone always wants revenge on Skye after she murders their loved one.

‘’Not a word’’.

Last he checked she’s living in Washington helping pick up the pieces of Hydra’s attack.

‘’You think she’ll try to find you?’’

‘’Doubtful, besides even if she did there’s nothing to find’’.

Besides using his real name while at the ATCU the rest of it was all lies, Grant Ward technically hasn’t existed since before Shield fell all those years ago.

‘’Are we positive she’s not going to pull a Kimberly Santos and vow revenge on your bride?’’

‘’That’s what I’m worried about’’.

‘’Is she the payback type?’’

Grant shrugs, ‘’I never would have thought so but Skye did murder her mother. Grief like that tends to change people’’.

Running a thumb along the scar of his left wrist, Ward is all too aware how missing someone can make you do drastic things.

‘’Knowing Quake’s luck Alison will try to kill her in a couple years’’.

Grant sighs, ‘’it wouldn’t surprise me. Maybe Skye was right and killing her would be the best option’’.

‘’I honestly can’t tell if you’re being serious or not’’.

Ward wouldn’t enjoy it but if killing Alison meant stopping a future problem for Skye, he’d do it.

‘’Are you going to clarify your comment or?’’

Kebo asks, but Ward says nothing as he retrieves the pecan syrup from the pantry.

 

They eat outside on the porch watching a few deer poke their heads in and out of the trees, the woods around the house buzzing with life. Grant loves it here, it’s peaceful and quiet, no neighbors to worry about, he could live the rest of his life in this house and die happy. Raise kids and teach them right from wrong, how to defend themselves, give them everything he didn’t have growing up. It’s a fading dream, especially since he has no idea where Skye stands on the subject.

 

Ward grabs an edge of the soft blanket intent on folding it up when movement from the woods catches his eye. It’s a flash of something, a small brush of pressure against leaves but it catches his attention, gaze sharp and aware because it could be a threat. You never know out here in the middle of nowhere, those old instincts as a teen when he was all alone in the dark flare up. It takes a second to make out the body of a wolf blending in with the trees, a ghost against the warm bark, yellow eyes on Ward and Kebo.

 

‘’Have you been feeding the wolves again?’’

Kebo sets down his mug of tea and scoffs, ‘’no’’.

There’s a small pack that started to make an appearance last year and they stick around because Kebo feeds them scraps.

‘’Liar’’.

They both stand and watch as the wolf observes them silently in between the branches.

‘’Do I have to remind you how dangerous it is’’-

‘’It is too early in the morning for you to be lecturing me’’.

‘’Then stop feeding them! How many times do I have to tell you that?’’

A large gray wolf steps fully out of the tree line and Ward would normally find this behavior odd because wolves generally ignore humans, but it has probably grown to expect food now.

‘’Oh that’s Charlie!’’

Ward groans as Kebo starts whistling and cooing at the animal, ‘’you named it?’’

When it takes a step towards the house Kebo asks quietly, ‘’should I get the rifle?’’

There’s one locked away in Skye and Ward’s closet, safe from unwanted eyes and hands.

Grant bought it when they moved in because he’s all too familiar with things that linger in the woods.

‘’Don’t move’’.

‘’Wait are you worried? Is he about to eat us? Oh my god Ward’’.

‘’This wouldn’t be an issue if you’’-

‘’Yeah I got it’’.

‘’Idiot’’.

‘’Stop yelling at me when we’re about to die!’’

‘’We are not going to die’’.

The wolf looks at them for a moment and then Kebo claps his hands together loudly, it scurries off before Ward has time to tense up.

‘’In all honesty I did not think that would work’’.

Grant watches the trees for a long moment before breathing a sigh of relief, ‘’I hate you’’.

Kebo punches his shoulder before retreating into the house, ‘’no you don’t’’.

 

A few hours later after walking the perimeter of the property and making sure everything is alright, all security cameras are running properly, Ward is in the shower rinsing his hair. Thinking about what will have to be done if the wolf pack doesn’t move on, when the phone on the bathroom counter begins beeping. A perimeter alert which means someone or something has triggered the motion sensors set up around the house.

 

Slipping on a pair of black boxer briefs Ward grabs a gun from underneath the counter and silently heads out of the bathroom into the hall, the sound of shuffling footsteps in the kitchen can be heard and Ward slides into defense mode. Checks the feed on the cameras but they all come up blank, which means someone has manipulated the footage, an animal wouldn’t be able to do that which means there’s a stranger in his house.

 

Grant peeks around the wall into the kitchen and his body relaxes its tense stance before he can fully think about it, because something else has captured his attention. Long blonde hair gleaming in the afternoon sun beside the stove, brown eyes meet his and everything stops, like the cosmos are holding their breath in anticipation for this specific moment too see how it will unfold.

 

Skye is standing in the middle of their kitchen in a leather jacket and shorts and for some reason this is all he can focus on. Her bare legs against the freshly polished floors, the way the sun frames her surprised smile, how the entire house seems to light up at her presence. And suddenly their separation seems so insignificant now, a brief road block in the long years they are going to spend together, and even though they haven’t talked about it, Ward knows they are going to be just fine.

 

‘’Boo, you’re not naked, not exactly the homecoming I was hoping for’’. Her comment falls on deaf ears as Ward glances around the living room to find a set of luggage and duffel bags beside the front door, different from the ones Skye left with last year. It takes a second to unfreeze, to remember where he is and what’s happening, what this means. Skye just watches him like he’s a trapped animal she doesn’t want to spook, opens a bottle of water.

 

‘’You want to put down the gun big guy?’’ He sets it safely on the counter and walks until Skye is looking up at him, he can feel her body heat and see each diamond from her engagement ring sparkle in the sunlight. Ward can recall every single detail of the day he put those rings on her finger, every blossom in her bouquet, the color of her hair, the way the breeze smelled as hundreds of flowers swirled down the aisle to them.

 

The day they got married is running through his mind, the taste of the cake as Skye shoved it in his mouth, the feel of her in his arms as they danced for the first time as husband and wife. Her tan skin against the bright sand of the island they stayed at on their honeymoon, a hundred different memories drift in and out like a movie. A younger Skye wrinkling her nose in disgust as he walked into Stark Tower for the first time, her fingers against his cheeks when he confessed in a hotel room that he was not a good man.

 

The day she came back to him after Shield caused her to forget who he was, every time he abandoned her and then returned. They have spent a lifetime loving, hurting and healing each other, Ward wouldn’t have it any other way, couldn’t imagine spending the rest of his days with anyone else. ‘’Can I come home?’’ She asks her tone soft, fear behind the question like there was any possibility he’d ever say no. Instead of responding Grant takes her in his arms and closes his eyes, rests his cheek in her hair.

 

Skye curls her arms around him and it’s like returning to the place you belong after a long venture away, warm and safe, a shelter against the world that has hurt you. They’ve always found solace in one another and it has never changed, even though doubt sunk their teeth into their skin, their love hasn’t waned or faltered. ‘’Of course you can’’. Ward chokes out his lips at her ear, tears on his face, he feels hot salt water on his chest and knows she’s crying too.

 

Grant has no idea how long they stand in the kitchen clutching each other but his arms ache when they eventually pull apart and he doesn’t know if it’s because they were in the same position for so long, or if it’s because she’s no longer wrapped up in them. Skye wipes her face and then does the same to him, her thumbs shaking as she runs them below his eyelashes. ‘’Hi’’. She mutters offering an unstable but happy smile and Ward feels his eyes crinkling as he copies the expression.

 

‘’If you were naked this would be the perfect fantasy’’. Skye steps back into his arms and runs both hands up his back, cheek against his heart, if the world were to end right now Grant wouldn’t even care. He’s got everything he needs right here, this is all he needs to be content. Skye lifts her face as he cups her cheeks in both hands, strokes her jaw as she looks up at him with so much love in her eyes it has his knees weak.

 

There’s a draft now but the cool air running through the droplets of water on his chest doesn’t register, all that matters is the woman he’s loved for ten years now is standing right here her brown eyes that have saved him in so many ways wide and shining. Here’s the person he has spent every Christmas, Birthday, New Year’s Eve drunk in the middle of Times Square with, has come back to him. It’s better than he ever dreamed.

 

‘’The anticipation is killing me, can you just kiss’’- The rest of her sentence is swallowed by his lips against her own, as her arms wrap around his neck Ward remembers the last time they kissed. It seems like so long ago, last year before the accident. He can’t remember the day or if it was raining outside but he knows it was by the back door, even after all these years together Skye manages to make him feel alive. Heart beat quickening, hands slipping underneath her shirt, nails pressing into his spine.

 

He can’t remember faces before Skye, foreign mouths on his body in empty hotel rooms, so many years alone full of self-loathing and darkness. There’s been nothing but light since she walked into his life and that hasn’t changed, he presses her into the refrigerator and she sighs his name. Skye smells like vanilla and her hair is soft underneath his fingers, this god awful year is slowly being stripped away as they continue to rediscover one another in the kitchen.

 

The last time he checked Skye wasn’t ready for anything intimate between them which is why his hands don’t travel past her waist, but her touch doesn’t hold back. Hands in his hair, against his shoulders and neck, below his belly button, on the small of his back, drifting lower when he nips at her bottom lip. He’s going to die if she keeps it up and Ward must say it out loud because Skye breaks away with a laugh, out of breath her cheeks flushed.

 

‘’Sorry’’. She says, catching her breath while wiping a smudge of peach lipstick off his mouth.

‘’You don’t have to apologize’’.

Expression goes from playful to somber as she lays both hands on his shoulders, ‘’I am so sorry for everything Grant’’.

Fingers at her hip he repeats, ‘’you don’t have to apologize, I know. I’m sorry too’’.

‘’Still sure you want to be spend the rest of your life with me?’’

‘’You are the only thing I’ve ever been sure about, it’s always you Skye’’.

‘’God I missed you’’.

Is all she says and then she’s kissing him again, and everything is perfect for a few moments.

 

‘’Kebo is feeding the wolves again’’. Ward tells her after they’ve put her things away. Skye broke their kiss fifteen minutes ago and asked, ‘’are you going to help me with my shit or what?’’ She didn’t join him in the bedroom which of course sent up a flare of worry, now that the high of her being back has worn off he’s concerned with how she’s doing. It was hard for him coming back here after the accident, he can’t imagine what it’s like for her.

 

Which is why he’s stalling on the conversation they need to have, Skye knows it too as she sits on the couch curled up with a blanket. Ward is fully clothed now in a blue shirt she bought him a few birthdays ago and black sweat pants, the wood floor is cool against his bare feet.

 

‘’I’m either going to have to sacrifice him or find another way to get rid of them”.

He heads into the living room and hands Skye a mug of coffee.

‘’Sacrifice Kebo for sure, those wolves never did anything to you’’.

Ward sits next to her and she spreads out the blanket so they’re both underneath it’s soft material.

Skye takes a deep breath and decides to broach the easier topic first, ‘’you know when I first saw you with Alison I thought you were moving on’’.

Ward feels the pained expression take over his face, ‘’I could never move on from you’’.

‘’Well I know that now, just at the time I thought you loved her’’.

She shrugs like it doesn’t bother her but it’s obviously still a sore spot.

It’s going to take work to have her trust him again, he knows their fight to stay together has just begun.

Grant turns so their knees brush, eyes burning as words pour out of him.

‘’I didn’t love Alison, I couldn’t. Not because she was just a mark, but because you have already occupied so much space inside me that I could never love anyone else’’.

He’s not saying this to manipulate or to get her to take her clothes off, every word is genuine, every emotion is on full display for her to see, to strip him bare if she desires.

She tucks a strand of blonde hair behind her ear, ‘’I’m the better kisser right?’’

It takes the edge off the moment and Ward places a hand on her thigh, ‘’yes’’.

‘’You honestly believed I wanted to be with Alison?’’

‘’I don’t know why you sound so surprised, you know how flawless your cover was’’.

‘’There is never going to be anyone else for me Skye, you’re the love of my life’’.

She closes her eyes for a second, the only sound is the wind rattling the trees outside.

‘’Let’s make a deal, I forgive you for using my guilt over leaving against me, and you forgive me for the Thor thing’’.

A small pit of anger and jealousy rises up in the pit of his stomach, not at Skye but at the God of Thunder.

Who knew Skye was married and took advantage of her vulnerability.

Skye taps his knee, ‘’get that look off your face Ward’’.

After a moment he locks the emotion away and clears his throat, looks back at his wife who’s a bundle of nervous energy.

‘’Of course I forgive you’’.

Her shoulders drain of tension, ‘’you too’’.

Then she’s pinching his chin between two sharp fingers as her eyes narrow, ‘’but don’t ever do that to me again’’.

Holding her wrist he replies, ‘’yes ma’am’’.

And kisses the space between her eyebrows.

 

Content to share the silence and both dreading the conversation to follow, Ward cleans up the kitchen while Skye reacquaints herself with the home they’ve shared for years. He watches out of the corner of his eye as she runs a finger along the smooth surface of the coffee table, sits on both couches and then Kebo’s favorite recliner. Skye stares at the pictures above the fireplace for a long time and seems happier at the memories than the last time she was here.

 

She walks to the front door and back, running a hand along the walls, stares out the windows for a moment, walks down the hall past their bedroom, the guest room and spare bathroom. When she makes it back to the kitchen there are shadows in her eyes and Ward feels the edges of pain begin to lick up his spine, a fist squeezes his lungs, no matter how gentle and smooth they try to make this conversation, it’s still going to hurt.

 

‘’We can live anywhere you want’’.

He reminds her and Skye just shakes her head, ‘’we had a thousand beautiful memories in this house, I don’t want one bad one to taint the entire thing’’.

‘’If it’s too hard for you we can go somewhere else for a while, until you’re ready’’.

‘’If I wasn’t ready I wouldn’t be here Grant’’.

He gives her a look that says he meant no harm in the statement and she nods in understanding.

She closes her eyes and leans against the sink, crosses her arms.

‘’I spent this entire year in a haze, it was bad Grant. And I know what you’re going to say, for better or for worse. But after losing our son I’d never experienced pain like that, not in the lab or all the years after. Do you remember when Jackson said he drove me around for months?’’

Ward nods and she cracks an eye open to see it.

‘’He wasn’t lying, I couldn’t be behind the wheel of a car without having a panic attack, I used to have to close my eyes when traffic lights changed’’.

Even though she left him Ward should have come running, he knew she was suffering and he hates himself for keeping his distance even though she demanded it.

‘’I couldn’t sleep alone for months, I still can’t sometimes. The Avengers helped a lot they’re probably the only reason I’m standing here right now’’.

A bad taste rises up in his mouth at what Skye is implying, Ward is all too aware what hopelessness feels like, how you are in so much pain that the only possible relief you can think of is ending it all.

‘’I’m not telling you this so you’ll feel guilty about not being there, I’m the one who pushed you away’’.

‘’I know’’.

Tears fall down her cheeks when she finally opens her eyes and Grant pulls her into his arms as she shudders against him.

‘’I’m not over it Ward, I don’t think I ever will be’’.

He swallows his own grief and replies, ‘’I’m not asking you to be, I’m asking you to go through it with me’’.

Like they should have done from the start, but he understands why that wasn’t an option.

The hands on his chest tighten as Skye nods, ‘’I can do that’’.

Kissing the top of her head they fall apart in each other’s arms as the loss of their son bursts through, and even though it’s agonizing and terrible, Ward feels a small bit of pain break free from his heart.

‘’Before we go any further there’s something you should know’’.

Skye tells him, stepping out of his arms and wiping her face on a dish towel.

Grant braces himself, ‘’alright’’.

‘’I don’t want to have another baby’’.

The blow hits him hard but he doesn’t crumble, he figured this is what Skye would decide.

She’s watching him closely to see if this is a deal breaker or not.

‘’I don’t want to be pregnant ever again’’.

He lets the idea of a child with Skye’s eyes appear before him and then drift away, respects her choice and nods.

‘’Okay’’.

She raises a brow, ‘’that’s it? That’s all you have to say?’’

‘’Were you expecting me to force you into wanting to have a kid?’’

‘’No I just, you want a baby don’t you? Maybe you should be with someone who wants the same thing’’.

‘’How many times do I have to tell you that I don’t want anyone else? You’re my wife, I want you, and if it’s just you and me for the rest of our lives I’m okay with that’’.

‘’But you were so happy when you found out I was pregnant’’.

‘’Yeah I was, but that’s not our life anymore and I’ve accepted that. Does it hurt? Yes. Did I want to have a person out there that’s half you and me? Yes. But if you don’t want that I’m okay with it’’.

‘’But’’-

Ward holds her face and she sighs in defeat as he says, ‘’I love you, that’s all I know. You are enough, you always have been’’.

‘’I love you too’’.

 

It’s going to be a long road to recovery and one conversation isn’t going to magically fix everything, but it’s a start.

 

‘’We should get a new bedspread’’. Skye announces when they’re eating dinner in the living room, a glass of wine in hand. She’s sitting with her feet in his lap on the couch, homemade lasagna still steaming on the plate between her fingers. Ward glances towards their bedroom door that’s still closed, it hasn’t escaped his notice that she’s clearly avoiding it. He thinks about the light green sheets they bought before she got pregnant, the soft white comforter to keep them warm on winter nights.

 

‘’Right now?’’ She nods and it’s then he knows she’s not going to sleep tonight unless everything old is tossed aside and something new covers their mattress. Ward is exhausted but says they can run to the store as soon as she’s done, he’d do anything to make sure she’s safe and comfortable. He grabs his car keys, Skye’s hands are warm on his back as he opens the door, they get into the car and her hand is holding the back of his neck like they were never apart.

 

And he just has this feeling that everything is going to be alright.

 

They end up arguing over comforters in the middle of the store aisle. Skye is sipping a blue ICEE and keeps pointing out the ugliest bedspreads he’s ever seen. All black, one with entirely too many flowers, a bright red one with a tree in the middle of it, green with a flock of birds on the left hand side, brown with a roaring lion at the center. After getting glares and curious glances from strangers peeking into the aisle Skye apologizes and goes to grab sheets while he chooses the duvet.

 

Ward ends up picking a gray oversized one with deep pockets that promises all night comfort, he meets Skye by the registers, she grabbed the sheets with the thread count he prefers, a neutral ivory color and pillow cases. With her sunglasses on no one can tell it’s Quake standing here, she turns around a magazine with her face on from weeks before when the President honored her in a ceremony. Ward was so proud of her that day, finally the world has started to recognize just how much she cares.

 

He’s pulling out of the parking lot minutes later when Skye reaches over and holds his cheek, doesn’t say anything just kisses him, her lips are cold and she tastes like artificial raspberries. But he kisses her back and apologizes too, this is not the stupidest thing they’ve argued about over the years. Skye switches the radio to her favorite classical station and the ride home is quiet. When they pull into their gravel driveway Kebo is outside with a plastic bag and jumps in surprise when the engine shuts off.

 

Suspicious, Ward steps out of the SUV and watches Kebo scramble, trying to hide whatever he’s doing. Skye slams her door shut and Kebo focuses his attention on her.

 

‘’Hey Squishy’’.

‘’You back for good Quake?’’

They both glance at Ward who’s looking at Skye, she responds, ‘’yes’’.

‘’Thank god, now Ward can stop keeping me up at night. He’s such a pain in the ass’’.

‘’I know’’.

Kebo tucks the bag behind his back and Skye asks, ‘’what are you doing?’’

‘’Nothing’’.

Ward crosses his arms, ‘’what are you doing?’’

When he gets no response Skye flexes her fingers and he goes crashing into the front door, the bag falls onto the porch.

‘’Son of a bitch! Skye you know I hate it when you do that’’.

Ward walks over and looks at the contents inside the plastic, groans at the leftover raw meat he didn’t use for the lasagna.

Skye pats Grant’s shoulder as she walks into the house with the comforter and sheets, ‘’I’ll start the wash while you deal with that’’.

Ward watches her go, this happiness feels so pure and light in his veins.

‘’So you got Skye back’’.

‘’Kebo what the hell? Do you know what happens when a wolf’’-

‘’Before you yell you should know I was going to drop this meat off in a different location, lure the pack away from us’’.

Ward pinches the bridge of his nose, ‘’that’s not going to work. Just stop feeding them. Put the hamburger meat back in the freezer’’.

‘’You really take the fun out of everything’’.

He comes back outside after putting it up and studies Ward carefully.

‘’You okay?’’

 

Grant looks around at the home that once felt like a mausoleum but now it’s as if the walls and entryways have been reborn. The sun is starting to set painting the grass and trees a brilliant orange, birds are singing to one another, there’s a cool breeze in the air. For the first time since Skye left Ward finally feels grounded, like he’s not just free falling through his life anymore, going through the motions at being alive instead of feeling it.

 

‘’I’m happy’’.

Kebo smiles when Grant does, ‘’good, you sure she’s going to stick around?’’

‘’Yeah’’.

‘’Even if another tragedy strikes?’’

‘’Yeah’’.

He wants to tell Kebo about Skye’s decision to not have kids, but maybe tomorrow.

‘’I’ll be at the cabin if you need anything’’.

Kebo hugs him and Ward clutches his friend tightly.

 

When he makes it inside Skye is pouring two glasses of wine in the kitchen, the washer is running quietly in the laundry room. ‘’So I was thinking we could try something’’. She tells him after the front door is locked and he does the same routine of checking windows and the back door. Taking off his shoes Ward walks up to her and takes the offered red wine, thinks he recognizes the glint in her eye but doesn’t want to get his hopes up.

 

Before he can ask what she means Skye is standing on her toes pulling him down to her height and kissing him. If heaven were a place, a person, Ward is pretty sure he’s found it. “Are you sure?” He asks as she presses him into their bedroom wall and takes off his shirt. Skye nods and kisses him hard, he stops talking after that.

 

Hours later after the wine bottle has been emptied, the sun set and night has taken its place, Ward and Skye lie in the middle of their bare mattress, the sheets and comforter still in the wash. Skye is sprawled across his chest half asleep, breathing even as her ribs move up and down against his skin. Grant has both arms around her and is drawing random patterns and shapes into her naked back, she kisses his belly button and curls further into his embrace.

 

‘’The sex dreams did not do the real thing justice’’.

Ward runs a hand lovingly through her hair, ‘’what?’’

‘’The past couple months I’ve been having dreams about you and me, they pale in comparison to right now’’.

He kisses the top of her head, ‘’I love you’’.

‘’One of the major selling points of marrying you was the hot sex, glad we still got it’’.

Ward rolls so he’s hovering over her arms on both sides of her head, Skye smiles up at him glowing and happy, her mood is contagious.

Wiping the sweat from her brow he says, ‘’I missed you’’.

It’s never been about sex with Skye but now that he went without it for so long and it’s finally happened, it was like he was an unfinished puzzle waiting on the final piece to be complete.

 

Like he didn’t know something was missing until she was back fully in his arms.

Skye kisses the inside of his wrist her eyes half closed, ‘’if you want to go again you’re going to have to do all the work’’.

He laughs and the sound makes her smile, ‘’I’m serious’’.

The bedroom light is off only the low lit lamp is on, casting a warm yellow glow across her cheekbones.

Skye runs her fingernails up his back, ‘’I missed you too robot’’.

 

They fall asleep in each other’s arms, content and right where they belong.

 

Back in New York Steve Rogers and Natasha Romanoff are standing in the middle of the Avengers Compound staring at Carol Danvers who just appeared out of nowhere looking for Fury.  After explaining her history with the former Director of Shield and that she was the one he paged last year, Captain America and the Black Widow inform her about Thanos and what he did. Carol explains that she track him and reveals he used the Infinity Stones just two days ago.

 

Steve and Nat exchange a hopeful glance as he says, ‘’call the team’’.

She’s swiping across the screen of her phone to do a conference call with the rest of the Avengers when Steve adds, ‘’everyone on the team’’.

Romanoff cuts him with a dark look as her thumb pauses and Steve sighs, ‘’we need Skye and you know it’’.

‘’She just got back together with Ward, I’m not about to send her to her death on this mission when she’s finally happy again’’.

‘’Skye is the strongest Avenger, we need her to help bring Thanos down’’.

‘’No we don’t’’.

‘’Natasha’’.

Knowing he’s right, trusting Ward to keep his promise, and the vow she made to get everyone back, is the only reason she dials Skye’s number.

This could finally be their chance to save everyone that Thanos destroyed, this is the goal they’ve been working towards for a year and a half.

But how high a price are they willing to pay to kill the Titan?

Chapter Text

 

Skye wipes off the mirror and stares at her fogged reflection, shivers as the chill in the room outweighs the remaining heat from the shower. The fairly new scar catches her attention still, sitting a few inches away from her collarbone, perfectly healed but light pink around the edges. Puffy and raised still if she squints, she traces the long-jagged line and thinks about how this wound matches dozens of other scars dusted across her body.

 

Ward may see her war zoned skin as beautiful but she never has, to Skye it’s just sad. A result of the life she chose sixteen years ago, skin that was once flawless is now littered in close calls, a knife to her ribs, bullet in the shoulder. Quake searches her face for the person she was before the lab, back when she was eighteen and felt as if she had the planet in her hands in the form of a laptop. But that girl is long gone, pieces of her have been chipped away and torn off, scattered out into the universe.

 

She used to mourn who she could have been if Hydra never stole her life, perhaps she could have met her parents one day. Who would she be right now? Would she live in domestic bliss in the suburbs, would she have eventually turned to Shield? But Quake doesn’t ache for what could have been anymore, this is who she was always meant to become. Her engagement ring and wedding band sit on the counter sparkling underneath the lights, she slips them on and runs a towel through her hair.

 

The bathroom in she and Ward’s bedroom is just as clean as she remembers, not a dust bunny or wet towel in sight. Her perfumes and lotions are exactly where she left them a year ago, underneath the counter on her side of the sink, makeup bag by the soap dispenser, a picture of her and Tony in a crystal frame in the corner. It’s almost as if this house was set to pause when she walked out and as soon as she returned the play button was pressed. Everything is still in its place exactly the way she left it. 

 

It’s only been a few hours but being back isn’t killing her, walking these halls and sleeping in their bedroom isn’t causing a panic attack or agony to rip through her chest. Maybe the year away has helped heal her in ways she didn’t even know, whatever the reason she no longer feels like crawling in the bath tub with a gun in her hand. She’s thinking of Jackson when she walks out of the bathroom, his funeral and how his mother sobbed into the ground when the empty casket was lowered. 

 

The grief is always going to be there, Jackson was a friend who sacrificed his life for the greater good, he deserved better. Like Joey, Alisha, other Inhumans whose lives ended too soon under her care. It’s not fair though life never is, a lesson she learned at a young age. Switching off the light their bedroom is still dark, Ward’s breathing is the only sound in the room. Pausing at her side of the bed, the sheets they bought are wrinkled, the new comforter hanging off the side of the mattress.

 

The lump of muscles that is Ward doesn’t stir as she climbs back into bed, dragging the blanket back over their bodies. Glancing at the alarm clock on the nightstand they only fell asleep two hours ago, the curtains are sealed shut letting no moonlight in. Having the man she’s slept next to for ten years back in her arms, Skye never thought she could miss someone so much. She knew he’d welcome her back without any hesitation but for some reason it still surprised her.

 

These last few weeks with Bruce have helped ease the sorrow in her heart, put things back in prospective before the anger and self-blame could eat her alive. Not wanting that sadness to ruin the perfect bliss at being with Ward after months of separation, she shifts on her pillow intent to watch him sleep. A sight that hasn’t greeted her in so long, he always looks younger in slumber, the hardships he’s seen in life don’t reflect outwardly when he’s dreaming.

 

She knows without even looking how relaxed his face is going to be, the stress lines in his forehead are smooth as he breathes, eyelashes fluttering every so often, he’s lightly snoring now in between her shoulder blades. Propping her head in her fingers, her free hand in between their naked bodies on the mattress, her eyes adjust to the color of the room as his form takes shape. The slope of his shoulders, the defined lines of his strong arms that have always held her close, kept her safe.

 

Lower half is tucked underneath the comforter, Ward stirs a bit and rolls onto his back but doesn’t wake. Lying here with him is something she didn’t think she’d have again, Skye thought the future they once had was gone after the car accident. But here they are together despite everything and she’s never letting him go again. Focused on his lips she recalls in vivid detail how they felt on her skin just hours before, his fingers tugging at her hair, teeth on her neck.

 

How he traced the curves of her hips with his mouth, hands on the twin starburst scars on her stomach, breath hitching when his lips came in contact with the mark she admired in the mirror. Being with Ward again after living without his laugh, his touch, for so long she never wants to do it again. ‘’I can’t sleep with you staring at me’’. He says suddenly, voice deep with sleep in the silent room, startling her. Eyes closed as his hand trails up her thigh, stops on her ribs, fingers rising and falling each time she inhales.

 

‘’Go back to sleep’’. She tells him but he doesn’t listen, just pulls her into his arms so she’s lying across his chest, arms curved around her back. Ward kisses the top of her head and sighs her name quietly. His heart beat underneath her ear, Skye could pick out the sound in the middle of Time Square in a second. Looking up at his handsome face she runs a thumb through the stubble along his cheekbones. It’s scruffier than usual, probably hasn’t had time to trim it.

 

‘’You need to shave’’. She mutters and he smirks underneath her touch, instead of responding Ward lifts her chin and kisses her slowly. If she had any intention of sleeping its gone now, now she’s very much awake as Grant cups the back of her knee. Legs on each side of his hips Skye is trailing a path down his jaw with her lips, he’s brushing aside her still wet hair over her shoulder, when the phone on the nightstand vibrates loudly. 

 

‘’Ignore it’’. Ward says as he rolls so she’s pinned beneath him and he’s kissing her breasts, her nails digging into his back, the phone stops ringing. Ward kisses her navel and continues further down, hold firm on her hips and she’s breathing heavily into the sheets when her phone picks right back up. It would be easy to ignore because she can hardly think with Grant’s lips hot on the inside of her thigh, but the vibrating stops and starts two more times before she finally gives in.

 

Pulling away from Ward Skye snatches the phone off the side table and snarls, ‘’I swear to god somebody better be dying and it’s why you’re calling me’’ into the receiver, annoyed with being interrupted when she specifically told everyone to leave her alone for the next few days.  Ward switches on the light and leans against the headboard gloriously shirtless, she’s seen it a hundred times before but it’ll never get old.

 

‘’Sorry to ruin the moment’’.

Nat’s voice comes out cool and collected on the other line, but she wouldn’t call at three a.m. unless it was important, not after Skye’s demand for silence.

‘’What’s wrong?’’

‘’We need you and Ward at the Avengers Compound, we found Thanos’’.

It’s something Skye thought she’d never hear, after over a year of searching for the Titan who slaughtered half the universe, Quake was beginning to think he disappeared for good.

Knowing this means she and Ward can’t lock themselves in this house like she intended, Skye sighs, ‘’I can’t have one day can I?’’

Romanoff’s tone is slightly softer when she replies, ‘’I’m sorry’’.

‘’Part of the job, we’ll be there soon’’.

 

Skye turns back to Grant who’s already getting dressed, pulling a black Henley out of the dresser and slipping on the boxer briefs she threw on the floor. She grabs her own under things and walks into the closet where her Quake suit is hanging in a glass incasing. Restless energy begins to stir as she dresses, clips the belt at her waist and locks on the silver gauntlets at her wrists. Finding a pair of socks she goes back into the bedroom to find Ward checking his own phone, still shirtless, just in dark jeans.

 

At the crinkling of his eyebrows she asks if everything is okay, he tells her yes and kisses her forehead on the way to the bathroom. Skye is brushing her teeth when he finally puts on a shirt, she laces up her combat boots as he grabs two guns and hands one to her. She’s clearly still upset about being interrupted and Ward smiles gently, reminding her that they can pick up right where they left off when they get back.

 

Nat sends her a message as she, Ward and Kebo are loading into the SUV, they need to pick up Barton on the way into New York. Grant pulls out the gravel drive the road dark before he turns on the headlights. 

 

‘’Jesus Christ Ward’’.

Kebo says from the backseat and Skye turns to look at him, ‘’what’s wrong with you?’’

He nods to Grant’s head, ‘’he has a hickey on his neck’’.

Skye glances over to find the bruised skin and Ward rolls his eyes as she places her thumb against it, ‘’my bad’’.

‘’It’s fine’’.

‘’Don’t let Stark see it’’.

Now Skye rolls her eyes, ‘’he’s fully aware that Ward and I have sex’’.

‘’Pretty sure the whole world is aware now, you two were annoyingly loud last night’’.

‘’Kebo’’.

Ward warns as the dirt road curves.

‘’What? I’m just stating a fact’’.

‘’Stop talking’’.

 

Kebo and Skye share a look and they crack two seconds later, laughing at Ward like nothing has changed at all. The small family of three has a long way to go before they’re back to their original foundation, but this is a start, a new beginning.

 

They pull up to Clint’s house as he’s walking out the front door, his wife and kids waving goodbye. Skye rolls down Ward’s window and leans over his body so Barton can hear her, she misses Ward’s wince as her elbow digs into his side.

 

‘’Get in loser we’re going to kill Thanos’’.

Clint grins as he piles into the backseat, ‘’if it isn’t my favorite power couple, you two back together?’’

‘’Obviously’’.

Ward starts driving as Barton gives Skye a smile and squeezes Grant’s shoulder, ‘’good’’.

‘’Don’t start crying’’.

Kebo passes around his ever present silver flask and Ward of course is the only one who doesn’t partake.

 

They’re walking into the compound an hour later and Skye stops in her tracks as the room comes into view. Tony and Rhodey in the kitchen isn’t what caused the pause, neither is Steve, Nat, Thor and Rocket (whom she hasn’t seen since Wakanda) by one of the leather couches. It’s not Nebula looking grim as her blue skin appears darker in the night, nor is it Bruce who shoots her a wink from his place beside a computer.

 

It’s the blonde woman standing in the middle of various screens as holograms of planets and stars surround her, fists clenched at her sides. She’s a fighter, which is obvious with the way she carries herself, the tightness of her shoulders, the blank expression on her face she turns to look at the group that just piled out of the elevator. ‘’New blood?’’ Skye asks as Tony walks out of the kitchen to hug her and explains who the stranger is.

 

Carol Danvers is the person Nick Fury paged before he disappeared, they met years ago and apparently he named the Avengers after her. Stark gives a brief summary of her powers and Skye concludes that if anyone has the power to defeat Thanos, it’s probably Captain Marvel. After hellos and hugs are exchanged with Skye and Ward, she walks into the living room with Tony trailing after her. Nat gives her another apologetic look but Skye waves it off, killing Thanos is more important.

 

Skye turns to introduce herself to Carol who holds out her hand, ‘’Quake right?’’

‘’Nice to meet you’’.

‘’They call you the Destroyer of Worlds’’.

‘’They?’’

Carol gives a small smile, ‘’I’ve been to a hundred different planets across the galaxy, you’re pretty popular up there’’.

Quake can’t help the grin that breaks out across her face, wishes she could tell her eighteen year old self that everything is going to be okay in the end.

When Ward introduces himself after Clint, Carol studies him carefully and says, ‘’Fury talked about you once, it was years ago but he seemed sad when we spoke’’.

Skye slides a hand up Ward’s back who shakes his head, ‘’water under the bridge’’.

 

Nat and Steve then explain what’s going on, how they found Thanos and the plan to stop him, use the stones to get everyone back. They’ll use Rocket’s ship to travel to the planet he’s on, Skye and Carol will subdue him while Steve and Tony get the gauntlet, then they’ll use the stones. Quake and the Black Widow stand side by side and exchange a worried glance, Bruce is the one who voices his concerns.

 

‘’If we do this how do we know it’s going to end any differently than it did before?’’

‘’Because before you didn’t have me’’.

Skye might be in love with Carol, just a little.

‘’Hey new girl’’, Rhodey speaks up, ‘’everybody in this room is about that superhero life’’.

He ignores the glare Skye sends his way, ‘’if you don’t mind my asking where the hell have you been all this time?’’

‘’There are a lot of other planets in the universe and unfortunately they didn’t have you guys’’.

‘’Rhodey stop being an asshole’’.

‘’Tony tell your child to stop talking to me’’.

Quake shoots him the middle finger and he throws an apple at her, which she dodges effortlessly.

‘’Knock it off’’.

Ward chastises and they both listen as Steve crosses his arms and looks out at his team.

‘’Let’s go get this son of a bitch’’.

 

After going over the plan three more times everyone boards the ship with Rocket as the pilot, Skye watches as Nat and Tony pull Ward aside, she can’t read their lips because Ward’s stupid body is blocking Stark and Romanoff from view. ‘’Looks like a serious discussion’’. Kebo comments as he buckles the seatbelt beside her and makes room for Grant. The trio talks for a minute before Ward joins her and Tony and Nat sit at the front. 

 

‘’What was that about?’’ 

She asks and Ward kisses her nose, ‘’you’’.

‘’What about me?’’

‘’What do you think it was about? Mommy and Daddy probably threatened Ward to keep you safe or something’’.

Skye wrinkles her nose at Kebo’s comment but lets it go, if it were something she absolutely needed to know, Grant would tell her.

‘’Who here hasn’t been to space?’’

Rocket asks as he presses buttons on panels and the ship lifts from the ground.

All of the Avengers raise their hands except for Tony, Thor and Bruce.

‘’You better not throw up on my ship’’.

Right before they take off Skye grabs Ward’s hand and holds on tightly as he places them across his knee.

‘’I may leave you for Carol by the way’’.

‘’Understandable’’.

 

The ship lurches and the world feels as if it explodes in color as they leave the atmosphere, it’s a similar sensation as when she jumps out of plane, a rush goes through her entire body. The sky is filled with millions of perfect starts as they fly by, planets and purple cosmos linger in the cold vacuum of space, Skye has never seen anything more beautiful. Suddenly the ship jumps and they approach a lonely looking planet, Danvers appears by the front windows and says she’s going down to do recon.

 

She returns moments later and announces that Thanos is alone, no armies, no satellites, just him. Skye and Carol get into position as they spot the shack the Titan is staying in, Quake looks at the Captain and says, ‘’avenge us’’. She nods and they attack, Danvers bursts through the door and tackles Thanos, getting him in a headlock so severe even Skye winces. She gets behind him and uses her powers to subdue him even further, he screams in pain as the ground trembles.

 

The rest of the Avengers barrel into the shack and Rhodey rolls his eyes when Skye calls Thanos an ugly purple grape. Ward is behind Natasha, gun out, watching Skye carefully in case Thanos decides to make a move against her. After a struggle Thor decides to cut off the Titan’s arm in order to get the gleaming gauntlet off, Skye doesn’t even have time to admire how powerful Carol is because she’s too busy holding onto Thanos.

 

But once the gauntlet it off they release him because he’s no longer a threat, Skye and Carol hover just in case, Quake is having a hard time keeping her cool. All she can focus on is the image of Bucky disappearing, of Sam and Wanda, everyone else that died because of this monster. It’s Rocket who picks up the item that holds the stones and looks up at Steve, upon further inspection it looks like the gauntlet has been damaged, no Infinity Stones in sight.

 

‘’You murdered trillions!’’ Banner yells in his Iron Suit before pushing Thanos to the ground, Ward has to yank Skye out of the way so she isn’t crushed.

‘’You should be grateful’’. 

‘’Where are they?’’

Thanos responds to Steve with an empty tone, ‘’I used the stones to destroy the stones, it nearly killed me’’.

Ice floods her veins as Skye gapes in disbelief, the stones are gone?

‘’We have to tear this place apart, he has to be lying’’.

Nebula speaks up next, ‘’my father is many things, a liar is not one of them’’.

‘’Thank you daughter, perhaps I treated you too harshly’’.

Before anyone can blink or do anything, Thor swings back his axe and decapitates the creature who caused so much death.

‘’What did you do?’’

Thor turns his back on the lot of them and says, ‘’I went for the head’’.

 

The situation takes a second to hit and when it does Nat is the first to react, grief shatters across her face as the color drains from her cheeks. Ignoring her own feelings of loss, Skye goes to her former mentor and holds her close, acting as an anchor to fall apart against. Natasha is shaking as she whispers Bucky’s name into Skye’s hair, there are no soothing words for this. Nothing can be said or done to ease the pain of this reality which is; the Infinity Stones are gone.

 

The people Thanos murdered can never come back, it’s over, they lost. How the hell is anyone supposed to move on from this?

 

The Avengers Compound is cold and dark when they return, the ride home was spent in silence. Thor disappeared without a word after he killed Thanos, Skye feels like he won’t make an appearance any time soon. Ward has also been quiet trapped in his own sorrow, he hasn’t let go of Skye’s hand since they boarded the ship. Nat spent the entire journey back with her head on Clint’s shoulder, Quake doesn’t even want to imagine the pain Natasha is currently in. 

 

The Avengers have always won every fight they’ve ever faced, this world relied on them and put each and every hero on a pedestal to protect them from foreign threats. And they let them down, this is a loss no one will ever be able to recover from, Thanos got exactly what he wanted. Skye decides to head to Stark Tower and everyone but Nebula, Rocket and Carol join her, the Avengers say nothing to one another as they walk into the living room of Stark Tower, where Pepper is waiting.

 

Tony heads straight for her open arms while Clint and Nat head up to the roof, Steve squeezes Skye’s shoulder as he and Bruce disappear together down a hallway, Rhodey and Kebo head to the bar to drown the events of today. Skye feels heavy as she and Ward walk through her old bedroom and lock the door, she feels numbness spreading through her veins as she strips out of her suit and walks into the bathroom.

 

Switches the shower on as hot as it will go and waits for steam to fill the air, her back to Ward, he says her name his voice hoarse, she can feel his concern like it’s something physical against her spine. But when she opens her mouth to say something nothing comes out and she feels the first batch of tears sting her eyes. Ward takes off his shirt and steps out of his pants as she climbs into the shower, the heat from the spray ricochets off her shoulders but she can hardly feel it.

 

Skye is alone for two more seconds before Grant slides in behind her and wordlessly begins washing her hair. The pain that Thanos left behind a year and a half ago returns tenfold as Skye fully grasps that trillions of people who vanished into dust are never returning. They’ll never wake up to a perfect spring day, never drink coffee or have dinner again, never smile or laugh, won’t be able to hold the one they love most in their arms, never have children or get married or have a glass of wine after a hard day.

 

She chokes out Ward’s name and then he’s pulling her to his chest as she falls apart in his arms. Nothing exists beyond this pain, this knowledge that trillions of people will never come home again, that the Avengers failed when they were always supposed to win. Skye doesn’t feel the water turn cold or Ward carrying her out of the shower, she isn’t aware that she’s trembling as he sets her on the bed. ‘’It’s over, we lost’’. She tells him her teeth chattering as he runs a towel through her hair.

 

His warm hands on her face do nothing to heal the broken pieces Thanos left behind, how are they expected to go on now? What the hell is the world supposed to do now that trillions of people are just gone with no hope to return? Grant wants to comfort her she can tell, find the perfect words to try to help her through this. But nothing he says will help, what could he possibly do to make anything be alright again?

 

He can’t, none of them can.

 

And even though Thanos is dead, he still won in the end.

 

 

 

*

 

 

Six months later

 

 

It’s a perfect fall afternoon, not a cloud in the bright blue sky, the sun is shining warmly on fresh green grass, a cool breeze sailing between falling leaves. The lake glimmers in the distance, Skye sips warm green tea from a red mug as she sits in a large patio chair on the porch. Tony’s cabin where he and Pepper now permanently reside is a perfect slice of paradise. Far away from the public eye, no neighbors, it’s peaceful and quiet, beautiful and tranquil.

 

She and Ward have spent the weekend here and are headed back to Montana tomorrow morning, they’ve been sleeping in Skye’s bedroom and swimming in the lake, life isn’t normal by far, but it’s getting there. Skye and Ward are growing stronger every single day, trust is being regained especially since they started going to couples’ therapy, though Skye doesn’t think they need it anymore. Their relationship didn’t pick up where it left off, and just because they love each other it hasn’t made anything easier.

 

But despite everything they’ve managed to stay together and Skye likes to think that counts for something, and in a way Thanos dying and the tragedy of everyone he killed not being able to come back, it brought Skye and Ward closer together. Made them cherish each other a little more, hold one another closer, lean on one another because either one of them could have turned to dust and be gone forever.

 

Eyes closed she listens to birds chirping in the trees, the crisp fall air caressing her cheeks when she senses Tony come up and sit in the matching chair beside her. He says nothing for a while, watching the view as well, but he’s never been one to sit still and enjoy the silence.

 

‘’Where’s your other half?’’

‘’Shower, yours?’’

‘’Garage. Shield has been pretty quiet lately’’.

It’s true, after the fall of Hydra and Thanos dying, the secret government organization has been rather slow.

‘’With Hydra gone we don’t really have any enemies at the moment’’.

‘’Think they’ll pop back up?’’

‘’Hydra wouldn’t be Hydra if they didn’t’’.

Opening her eyes she reaches over and squeezes his arm, ‘’this place really is beautiful’’.

‘’I’m so proud of myself for finding it. The offer to move in is always open you know’’.

Skye rolls her eyes, ‘’I have my own house remember?’’

‘’I’m just saying Ward is bound to screw up again and when he does, there’s a place for you here’’.

‘’I heard that’’.

Ward calls from the kitchen, they hear him opening and closing the fridge, his footsteps silent as he joins them outside.

‘’You were meant to’’.

Grant kisses the back of her head before leaning against the porch railing, chugs a water bottle and handing her a second one.

Momentarily distracted by his arm muscles and wet hair she misses whatever else Stark says.

‘’You know what Tony?’’

Whatever Iron Man’s response was going to be, it’s cut off by a black car coming up the gravel drive.

‘’Expecting someone?’’

Stark shakes his head and then sighs as Steve, Nat and to everyone’s surprise, Scott Lang steps out of the vehicle.

‘’And there goes the peace and quiet’’.

Quake hasn’t seen Ant-Man in years, since the Avengers had a falling out that they never recovered from because of the Sokovia Accords.

‘’Hey Tiny’’.

She calls to Scott who gives a polite nod, ‘’Quake, Mr. Stark, Ward’’.

Nat comes up to Skye’s chair and shares a look with Iron Man before running her hands through Skye’s freshly dyed blonde hair.

‘’What do you want from me now?’’

It’s Steve who responds, ‘’we think we found something’’.

Rogers and Lang then explain where he’s been all this time and the concept of time travel, the idea is to go back and get the Infinity Stones before Thanos ever did.

 

‘’So a time heist’’.

Skye and Tony exchange a look, ‘’do you guys really think that’s going to work?’’

‘’We owe it to everyone who’s not here to try’’.

‘’Can you build something like that?’’

Tony rises from his chair, ‘’of course I can’’.

Nat crosses her arms, ‘’I feel a but coming on’’.

‘’But it means you’re not coming home’’.

Scott who is standing next to Ward replies, ‘’I did’’.

‘’No you accidently survived, it’s a billion to one cosmic fluke’’.

‘’We can snap our own fingers we can bring everyone back’’.

‘’Or screw it up worse than he already has, right?’’

‘’I don’t believe we would’’.

‘’Got to say that I sometimes miss that giddy optimism, however high hopes won’t help if there’s no logical tangible way for me to successfully execute said time heist. I believe our most likely outcome will be our collective demise’’.

‘’How about you build the machine and then just don’t come?’’

Ward speaks up and Skye lightly kicks his shin.

‘’Shut it Cheekbones’’.

‘’Look if we follow the strict rules of time travel, no talking to our past selves, no betting on sporting events’’.

‘’I’m going to stop you right there Scott, are you seriously telling me that your plan to save the universe is based on Back to the Future?’’

‘’Never saw that movie’’.

Skye confesses as Tony shakes his head, ‘’my uncultured natural disaster’’.

Natasha starts braiding Skye’s hair and says in a soft tone, ‘’Tony we have to take a stand’’.

‘’We did stand and yet here we are’’.

Skye grabs Tony’s hand, ‘’dad are you in or not? Because we can ask Bruce, you know he’ll do it’’.

Stark rubs at his forehead and lets out a frustrated noise, ‘’I need to think about it’’.

Quake jumps out of the chair, ‘’what is there to think about? This is our one and only chance to undo the shit Thanos caused, why aren’t you being more supportive?’’

‘’Because if I don’t get it exactly right we’re all dead and I don’t know about you but I love my life, I love Pepper and you and the last thing I want to do is take such a huge risk on something that could fail’’.

‘’Dad’’.

‘’Don’t push me on this Skye’’.

Is all he says before walking into the cabin and shutting the door, Skye turns to Nat, ‘’we need to call Bruce’’.

‘’Already on it’’.

Skye looks up at Ward and runs a hand up his arm, ‘’feel like saving the world one more time?’’

He shrugs, ‘’it’s kind of our thing’’.

A few minutes pass and Natasha says they’ll meet Banner at a diner not too far from here.

‘’You think Stark will come around or are we on our own here?’’

It’s Steve who answers Scott, ‘’he’ll help, just give him time’’.

Skye sets down her mug and starts walking to the car, ‘’what the hell are we waiting for, let’s go’’.

She walks backwards to look at her approaching companions, ‘’whatever it takes right?’’

 

Going head to head against Thanos, chasing time to get the stones, it’s going to be the fight of their lives.

Chapter Text

 

 

Ketchup and butter drift in and out of Ward’s nostrils, the lingering scent of vanilla mixed in with strong coffee and fried food, the table is sticky with syrup and the vinyl seats of the booth are cold and scratchy. The diner is bustling with movement this early in the morning, waitresses are running around in non-slip shoes, kids are chasing one another as their parents stay glued to cell phones, browsing the internet and not paying attention.

 

Natasha, Steve and Scott Lang are on one side of the booth while Ward, Skye and Kebo are sitting on the other, each focused on the person at the head of their small table. Bruce Banner is completely different than the last time Grant saw him, instead of human skin coupled with fingernails he’s now green and as tall as the Hulk. It’s as if both forms merged to make one man, apparently this is some kind of breakthrough for Banner but to everyone else it’s just odd.

 

Skye hasn’t taken her eyes off him since they sat down, her phone lights up on her leg, a message from Steve.

 

-Stop staring.

She types back, -I can’t.

 

They’re just about the broach the topic of time travel that Stark was hesitant to try, when Kebo glances at both Skye and Ward.

‘’Have you two ever made a sex tape?’’

Ward pauses mid-chew, the table grows quiet as everyone turns to now stare at Ward’s best friend.

Who gestures to Quake with his fork, ‘’Skye looks like she’d be into it’’.

‘’Choke on your eggs’’.

She snarls in response, taking a long sip of coffee.

Pinching the bridge of his nose Ward warns, ‘’Kebo’’.

‘’What? It was a serious question that neither of you have answered yet by the way’’.

Grant feels a headache coming on.

‘’Go wait in the car’’.

‘’But’’-

‘’Now’’.

‘’I haven’t even finished my breakfast yet Grant’’.

‘’You should have been more respectful then’’.

Kebo sniffs and crosses a leg over his knee, ‘’you can’t make me, it was a joke for crying out loud’’.

‘’Are you going to make me count to three?’’

Arms crossed Kebo replies, ‘’I am not a child’’.

‘’One’’.

‘’Oh come off it Grant’’.

‘’Two’’.

‘’You’re being ridiculous’’.

‘’Don’t make me get to three’’.

Ward just barely starts to rise from the booth when Kebo sighs loudly and stands, ‘’fine, chill out Rambo’’.

Ward shakes his head as Kebo walks out and apologizes to Skye, ‘’don’t know what the hell is wrong with him today’’.

Skye is smirking into her coffee mug while Steve looks exasperated, Nat is checking her phone.

 

Ward listens as Bruce starts to tell them about what happened to him and Skye soon becomes restless, tapping her leg, stirring a concerning amount of sugar into her coffee, before settling her attention on him. Grazes her fingers against his temple her brown eyes drawing him in until nothing exists in this moment but her, always her. These past six months with Skye haven’t been easy but she’s worth it, their relationship is only getting stronger, their love worth the fight.

 

She smiles at him now as the sun shines through the windows, lighting up her blonde hair and skin, she runs a thumb through his own dark hair.

‘’I can’t wait until you have gray hair’’.

Ward never really gave much thought to growing old before Skye because he never thought he’d live that long, but mortality has been on his mind recently.

‘’Why?’’

Her fingers running through his hair is soothing, he leans into her touch as she shrugs.

‘’Can you imagine yourself as a silver fox? You’re going to be so hot’’.

He laughs and kisses her forehead, tunes back into the conversation around them.

‘’And now look at me, best of both worlds’’.

A group of young kids come up to the table and asks to take a picture with Bruce, all the while Skye looks like she’s embarrassed to be seen here at all.

‘’You want to grab one with me? I’m Ant-Man’’.

Scott asks and Skye wrinkles her nose.

The kids clearly don’t want to take one with Lang and small argument takes place before they notice Skye in the booth.

‘’Oh my god it’s Quake!’’

One girl says her entire face lighting up, the small group holds out their hands in the signature ‘Quake Move’ as a phone is thrust back into Scott’s hand.

‘’Can you take a picture with us?’’

‘’You’re my favorite Avenger!’’

‘’Have you ever killed anyone?’’

‘’Is it true you were made in a lab?’’

‘’I love you!’’

‘’Will you sign my shirt?’’

‘’Can you please take a picture with us?’’

Skye is either going to be mean or pleasant, depending on her mood that day she either hates fans or loves them.

She takes a sip of coffee before simply saying, ‘’no’’.

They visibly deflate and disappointment flashes across each of their little faces, but they’re clearly not surprised.

‘’Why are you so mean?’’

One of them asks, Ward places a hand on Skye’s thigh as she leans both elbows onto the table and gives the kids a cold look.

‘’Because life is hard, the sooner you all learn that the better’’.

Banner tries to cheer them up but it’s no use, the kids leave dragging their feet.

‘’Jesus Christ they were just kids Quake, would it have killed you take one photo with them?’’

Scott asks and Skye replies, ‘’yes’’.

She clearly doesn’t want to discuss it which is why she and Romanoff share a look, and Steve starts telling Banner about the subject of time travel.

‘’You guys it outside of my area of expertise’’.

Nat nods to his green skin, ‘’well you pulled this off, I remember a time when that seemed pretty impossible too’’.

 

‘’Do you folks need anything else?’’ Ward glances up at the waitress out of politeness and because he can feel her eyes on him. He’s the only one who doesn’t sigh at the table in expected annoyance as the waitress gives him an appreciative once over from beneath her lashes. But of course there’s nothing he can do about someone finding him attractive, if Ward could change his face, he would. For years Grant remembers staring in the mirror and hating the person inside the glass.

 

Wished he could carve out his skin like it was marble, chipping away the flaws until there was nothing but empty smoothness left. That all changed whenever he met his long time therapist Paul, and Skye who has been building him up for years now, Grant no longer hates his reflection. He’s no longer bitter over all the people who exploited him for his looks, used him for the face he wore and the body he came in. 

 

Skye who knows how he felt back in then and how he feels about his face now, is the one who speaks up. 

Flashes the young waitress her teeth and says, ‘’we’re good thanks’’.

Eyes still on Grant she replies, ‘’if there’s anything you need’’-

‘’I’ll be sure to let you know’’.

The waitress who’s nametag reads Lynn sets a glare on Skye, ‘’would you like me to bring out the check?’’

Quake perks up at the irritation in the other woman’s voice, ‘’what I would like is for you to stop eye fucking my husband, it makes him uncomfortable’’.

Lynn sputters and walks away before throwing one last nasty look at Quake who rolls her eyes, ‘’well she’s not getting a tip’’.

‘’You have to tip her’’.

Scott speaks up taking a sip of coffee.

‘’No I don’t’’.

‘’That’s how she makes a living, it’s rude not to tip’’.

‘’It’s rude to want to sleep with someone else’s husband’’.

‘’Seriously doubt she knew he was married’’.

‘’Don’t remember asking for your input Scott’’.

‘’You’ll be an ass if you don’t tip’’.

‘’Everyone already expects me to be an ass’’.

‘’Stop it both of you’’.

They quiet at Nat’s demand and Ward slips a hand on Skye’s thigh, ‘’it’s fine’’.

She looks up at him before placing her palm flat against his face, scrunching his nose and lips together, nails sharp against his eyelids.

‘’You’re just too handsome for your own good’’.

‘’It’s a curse’’.

Skye laughs before patting his cheek adoringly and following Nat outside once bills are placed on the table.

‘’Someone needs to pick up Thor’’.

Natasha is saying as Steve and Ward walk out of the diner.

‘’We’ll do it’’.

Skye volunteers as she hops on the hood of Steve’s sports car, Ward stands next to her and she slips a hand in the back pocket of his dark jeans.

The God of Thunder has started to rebuild Asgard here on earth, no one has heard from him in weeks, though Natasha gets updates from Valkyrie every once in a while.

‘’Be nice to him’’.

Steve tells Skye as she starts pulling Ward in the direction of their SUV, ‘’I’m always nice’’.

Scott isn’t the only one shaking his head as Ward sits in the driver’s seat.

 

The new Asgard is a beautiful village that reminds Ward of a small town during Christmas time. It’s cooler here the air sharp with the promise of winter as he and Skye walk up a dock, the sea breeze leaving a trail of salt on their lips. Skye is holding his hand and comments they should come up here during Christmas (they’ve always been on the same wave length) when a figure steps onto the dock and Skye brightens even more.

 

‘’Hey gorgeous’’.

Valkyrie grins and closes the distance between them, giving Skye a hug and Ward an affectionate punch to the shoulder.

‘’You two are annoyingly adorable as usual’’.

Skye shrugs, ‘’we’re aware, where’s Thor?’’

‘’He won’t see you, we only see him every couple of weeks when he comes in for supplies’’.

She nods to the barrels of alcohol behind her, ‘’it’s a problem’’.

‘’He blames himself for what happened with Thanos’’.

‘’Don’t we all?’’

‘’That’s why we’re here, think we found a solution’’.

Skye explains what’s going on and Valkyrie listens intently, ‘’call me when the fight happens yeah?’’

‘’Of course’’.

‘’Afterwards me you and Carol can go out for a drink’’.

Quake grins, over the past few months she, Carol and Valkyrie have become close friends, Natasha joins them sometimes on the occasional night out.

‘’Sounds like a plan’’.

Valkyrie glances at Ward, ‘’you going to get drunk again and sing Dancing Queen on karaoke with me?’’

Skye bursts into laughter at the memory while Ward rolls his eyes, ‘’it was one time’’.

They say their goodbyes and Skye wastes no time walking to Thor’s home and throwing open the door, no knocking or warning of any kind.

The small space is littered with pizza boxes and beer cans, food wrappers and trash.

Skye says, ‘’this place is disgusting, Thor! Your favorite person is here!’’

Two bodies sit on the couch, Korg and Meek, Korg smiles at Skye, ‘’hey Quake’’.

‘’Hey, what are you playing?’’

The screen is lit up with a video game but the name escapes Ward.

Korg tells them the title just as Thor himself walks through the living room, Skye isn’t the only one surprised at his appearance.

‘’Skye! If it isn’t my favorite Inhuman! And Ward! You know I like you now, you didn’t really grow on me before’’.

The God of Thunder has developed a small beer gut and has grown out his hair and beard, nothing about this is humorous.

Grant recognizes the signs of depression and his heart goes out to Thor, no one should suffer this way.

Thor offers them both a beer which Skye takes and before she can say anything he’s pulling her into a hug.

‘’Off’’.

She snarls and he drops her to the ground, asks what they’re doing here.

‘’There might be a chance we could fix everything with Thanos’’.

Thor freezes at the name and then narrows his eyes at Grant, ‘’don’t you say that name’’.

His voice breaks and the pain is obvious in his voice.

‘’Yeah we don’t actually say that name in here’’.

‘’For god sake’’.

Skye mumbles, taking a sip of beer but Ward doesn’t miss the sympathy playing in her eyes, the concern.

Skye slips her hand underneath Ward’s shirt, stroking the skin of his back, ‘’I know that guy may scare you’’.

‘’Why would I be scared of that guy? I’m the one who killed that guy remember?’’

‘’Vividly’’.

‘’I chopped Thanos’ big head off’’.

Ward steps forward, ‘’I get it you’re in a rough spot, I’ve been there myself’’.

‘’Oh have you now?’’

‘’Years ago after the man I viewed as my father went insane and was killed, I had no idea what to do, how to survive without him. I blamed myself, hated everything about this world because I didn’t know how to live in it without a gun in my hand or his orders to follow, but I got through it’’.

‘’How?’’

Skye rubs his back in comfort, but all this happened so long ago it doesn’t affect him.

‘’The Avengers helped but so did therapy, but I realized that I wasn’t alone, I never saw myself as a good man, but Skye was the one who helped me believe it’’.

A long moment passes before Thor sighs heavily and puts down the fresh beer, ‘’fine, but I get to drink and no one gets to say a damn thing about it’’.

‘’Great, let’s go’’.

They head back to the quin jet and Skye stops Grant before he walks up the ramp, smooths her blonde hair away from her face.

‘’Everything okay?’’

Eyes shining she wraps both arms around him, the wind whipping through their hair.

‘’I love you’’.

Smiling he kisses her nose, thanks the gods they managed to find their way back to each other.

‘’You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me’’.

‘’I know’’.

Skye plants a kiss against his collar bone, sends him a wink as she walks up the ramp and out of sight.

Grant is thinking about the promise he made Tony and Nat as he joins her, wondering just how much Skye will hate him if he has to follow through with it.

 

When they make it to the Avengers Compound the trio heads into the lobby to find Steve, Natasha and Bruce already experimenting with time travel. Thor ignores the lot of them to walk into the kitchen while Skye snatches a bag of potato chips and heads over to Bruce’s work station, sits on the table and watches the drama unfold. Ward and Steve stand side by side to watch this play out, Natasha is beside Skye with her arms crossed, everyone is nervous and eager hoping it’ll work without Tony. 

 

If it doesn’t and he refuses to help, the universe is screwed.

 

‘’We’re good!’’ Banner tells Scott who takes a deep breath and glances at Ward, ‘’sure you don’t want to be the test monkey?’’

‘’Positive’’.

‘’Please don’t kill him’’.

Skye tells Bruce who rolls his eyes while Lang sarcastically thanks her for the support.

‘’Get your helmet on, Scott I’m going to send you back a week let you walk around for an hour then bring you back in ten seconds, make sense?’’

‘’Perfectly not confusing’’.

‘’Good luck Scott you got this’’.

He smiles, ‘’you’re right I do Captain America’’.

He disappears and Bruce starts counting down.

In a flash of movement Scott’s suit returns but instead of a grown man, Lang as a kid is inside.

‘’This, this doesn’t feel right’’.

‘’Holy shit Bruce what did you do?’’

Ward and Skye watch as Banner, Nat and Steve bicker and send Lang back through.

The second time Ant-Man appears he’s a literal newborn baby and while the others panic, Skye gets this look on her face that Ward feels in his chest, the loss that will never go away no matter how much time passes.

Grant takes her hand as Steve and Bruce start arguing.

‘’It’s a baby’’.

‘’It’s Scott’’.

‘’As a baby!’’

‘’He’ll grow’’.

‘’Bring Scott back’’.

Bruce turns to Skye and gestures to the lever powering the machine, ‘’when I say kill the power, kill the power’’.

‘’Is this going to require me to run?’’ She asks, not getting up.

The trio yells her name as one and she scoffs, ‘’fine, god, stop freaking out’’.

‘’And kill it!’’

Eventually Scott returns sounding panicked as he should, ‘’somebody peed my pants but I don’t know if it was baby me or old me, or just me me’’.

Bruce holds out both arms, ‘’time travel! What? I see this as an absolute win’’.

‘’Idiot’’.

Skye mutters while shaking her head, leaves the room with Natasha.

Ward and Steve are the only ones left and they head outside just as Clint Barton walks through the door.

‘’Where’s Nat?’’

‘’Kitchen’’.

Clint turns to the pair, ‘’we need Tony’’.

‘’I know, Thor made it here’’.

‘’Great’’.

Barton claps Rogers on the shoulder and heads in while he and Ward remain outside, facing the parking lot and trees.

‘’You know when I first met you I wasn’t sure you would stick around’’.

Grant shrugs, ‘’I didn’t plan on it, working with the Avengers was just a job’’.

‘’I’m glad you’re here, that you’re family’’.

Smiling he responds, ‘’me too’’.

Steve’s blue eyes grow a tad misty as he replies, ‘’You know how much we all care about Skye’’.

‘’I do’’.

‘’Some of us will never have kids or never have the chance to, for most of the Avengers Skye is the daughter we never had, which means we’ll always love and defend her no matter what’’.

‘’Which isn’t weird or anything since she’s so close in age to all of you’’.

Kebo chimes in as he’s walking inside the door wide open, Skye can be seen from the kitchen and she points at herself, ‘’love child’’.

Steve pulls Ward out of ear shot and continues, ‘’we can survive a lot of things Ward, but losing Skye would not be one of them’’.

Knowing he means both the Avengers and Grant himself, Ward agrees.

‘’Which is why I want to talk to you about the promise you made to Tony and Nat’’.

‘’What about it?’’

‘’You know she’s going to hate you for it’’.

Ward sighs, ‘’I know’’.

‘’And while I agree we need her and that she’s the best defense we have against Thanos, if this goes south’’-

‘’I get it, trust me I want her to live too’’.

‘’As long as we’re on the same page’’.

Captain Rogers looks as if he wants to say more but the sound of a car speeding down the road captures their attention, a sleek black sports car racing towards them.

It stops directly in front of the pair revealing none other than Tony Stark, who rolls down the window and shuts the radio off.

Stark waves Ward out of the way before stepping out of the car and asking Steve, ‘’why the long face? Let me guess he turned into a baby’’.

‘’Among other things yeah, what are doing here?’’

‘’It’s the EPR paradox instead of pushing Lang through time you might have wound up pushing time through Lang, it’s tricky, dangerous, somebody could have cautioned you against it’’.

‘’You did’’.

Stark claps his hands at Ward, ‘’oh did I? Well thank god I’m here, regardless fixed a fully functioning time-space GPS, I just want peace’’.

He flashes a peace sign and opens the trunk of the car, ‘’it turns out resentment is corrosive I hate it’’.

‘’Me too’’.

Ward doesn’t have to look behind him to know that the rest of the Avengers are lingering around to hear this, Skye isn’t hiding the fact, her face pressed up against the window watching this unfold.

‘’We got a shot at getting these stones but I have to tell you my priorities, bring back what we lost I hope yes, keep what I found, have to at all costs. And maybe not die trying’’.

‘’Would be nice, sounds like a deal’’.

The men shake hands and Ward smiles, finally after years of fighting and unresolved tension, Iron Man and Captain America are working together once more.

Stark pulls out something no one has seen in a very long time; Steve’s shield, hands it over to it’s proper owner.

‘’Tony I don’t know’’.

‘’Why? I made it for you, plus honestly I have to get it out of the garage before Skye breaks it or keeps it as her own’’.

‘’Thank you Tony’’.

‘’Will you keep that a little quiet? Didn’t bring one for whole team, we are getting the whole team yeah?’’

‘’Everyone is here, waiting for you’’.

‘’As they should’’.

Skye rushes out of the building in a streak of blonde hair and black leather, pulling both Stark and Rogers into her arms for a hug.

‘’I’ve waited so long for you two dumb asses to get your shit together’’.

They both pat her head and hug her back, it’s very easy to see the love there.

Like it’s tied around their waists in unbreakable gold strands, linking each and every Avenger to Skye.

‘’Alright family reunion over, lets save the world shall we?’’

 

An hour later they’re in a conference room with the video monitors up, Ward is sitting next to Nat, Skye is in his lap and keeps drawing shapes into his neck with her fingernail. Thor is in the corner in a chair either asleep or dead, he hasn’t said much since they arrived. 

 

The Avengers are trying to figure out exactly where the Infinity Stones would be if they were all in New York at one point, it’s not an easy process and it takes three days. Finally after running on no sleep and coffee, Skye’s head on his shoulder, the Avengers finally have a break through. Tony has also been creating a specific home for the stones once they get them back, a gauntlet that will guarantee once they snap their fingers this time, everyone who was lost will return.

 

It’s realized that they need to go back to the Battle of New York to get two of the Infinity Stones which Skye, Tony, Ward, Steve, Bruce and Scott will go, while Rhodey and Nebula will grab a stone, Clint and Nat will travel to Vormir to get the Soul Stone, and Thor and Rocket will go to Asgard for the last. When going back to New York is mentioned Ward pauses and thinks back to that day so long ago, long before Shield fell, before he was forever branded as a traitor. That was the start of it all, him going on the Bus, betraying Coulson, it eventually led to Skye, made the life he has now.

 

But that’s not what causes a plan to form in his head, one that was denied to him years ago when another form of time travel was within reach. No one knows this but Skye, but John Garrett was in New York the day the Avengers came together to fight Loki’s army, he didn’t have any active missions and decided to visit the city. He evacuated just like everyone else and Grant remembers picking him up at a safe house in Virginia, that’s where they learned about Coulson’s death.

 

Anxiety slithers at the base of his spine, all those old memories about how cruel John could be when he wanted. How he took a fifteen year old boy and brain washed him into being a solider, a weapon, all for his benefit. Ward has often thought about wanting just one more moment with Garrett to ask him why he did the things he did, why he was such a terrible human being, why he didn’t love him, even though he already knows the answers.

 

John Garrett was just like Phil once said, a deranged narcissist who never gave a damn about anyone, but it’s been a twisted dream of Grant’s to look his mentor in the eye and ask these things. Confront his abuser who stole so many things from him, but also saved him from a hell before placing him in an entirely different one for years, and say that he doesn’t need him. That he can survive without him, that Grant Ward is someone without John Garrett.

 

Could he have that chance now? Does he really want to risk not getting a stone to save the universe in order to talk to the man that both ruined and saved him? Skye and Ward are in the kitchen she’s yawning against his shoulder as Clint does a test run on Tony’s machine. Grant really wants Skye’s opinion on his thoughts, wants to share this heaviness with her, because the idea at seeing John again both terrifies and excites him.

 

‘’Skye’’.

‘’Hmm?’’

‘’I want to talk to you about something’’.

At the seriousness in his voice she perks up and reaches for an energy drink on the counter.

‘’Okay I’m awake, hit me with it’’.

Taking a deep breath he struggles to spit it out and Skye squeezes his bicep, ‘’hey it’s just me, you’re okay, you’re safe, tell me what’s bothering you’’.

Seeing the trust in her brown eyes he forces the sentence out.

‘’John was in New York’’.

He doesn’t need to clarify when Garrett was there, because there’s only one reason he’d bring it up.

At the mention of his former mentor Skye straightens up and clenches her jaw, ‘’and you want to find him when we go back’’.

‘’It crossed my mind’’.

Her hand on the back of his neck is soothing, calms the roaring waves inside his body.

‘’Why?’’

Her tone is quiet, not angry, just curios and concerned.

‘’To see him one last time and get the closure I was denied, I mean who gets an opportunity like this, how can I waste it?’’

Skye is silent for a long time and it makes him nervous.

‘’Did you ask Paul about it?’’

‘’He’s on vacation but I left a voicemail’’.

‘’Rude, he should be at your beck and call always’’.

‘’He has a life too, a family’’.

She squeezes his neck, ‘’are you sure about this?’’

‘’Do you think it’s a good idea?’’

‘’Do I think my husband confronting his abuser is a good idea? No, but it’s not really my call, if this is something you honestly believe you need to do, I won’t stop you’’.

‘’You’re really okay with me risking this mission in order to find him?’’

She sighs and considers, ‘’is this something you absolutely without a doubt need to do? You feel like it will help you?’’

‘’Yes’’.

‘’Then I say take the risk, besides it’s not like this is a mission by yourself, there are five other Avengers coming with you, we’ll get it done’’.

‘’Am I being selfish?’’

She kisses his shoulder and runs her nails along the nape of his neck, ‘’no, you’re taking advantage of an impossible situation in order to continue healing, I think you’re brave’’.

It’s an unspoken agreement that he doesn’t want her to come with him, doesn’t want her anywhere near John.

‘’I’ll tell Steve’’.

Skye shakes her head, ‘’I’ll tell him, you tell Kebo’’.

Grant runs a hand down his face, ‘’I’ll tell him when we come back’’.

Skye snorts and hops off the counter, ‘’good luck with that’’.

They’re walking out of the kitchen when Skye stops him, glides both hands up his chest before settling them on his shoulders.

‘’Promise me something’’.

‘’Anything’’.

‘’Promise me you won’t let him in your head, won’t let him corrupt all the progress you’ve made, that when you come back you’ll still be the Grant Ward I know and love’’.

‘’I promise’’.

Grant kisses her slowly and knows with his entire soul that John Garrett can no longer take anything from him, he’s too strong now, has lived without him for too long.

He can survive this, he will, and he’ll finally be able to tell John everything he never could before.

 

‘’I am not wearing that’’.

Skye tells Tony while wrinkling her nose in disgust at the red and white outfits he’s presented her.

‘’You have to’’.

‘’I’d rather go naked’’.

‘’Skye this suit will protect you’’-

‘’It’s hideous. Why would you create such an ugly thing?’’

 

After ten minutes Natasha finally convinces her to wear it, she complains the entire time they’re setting up the machine to go back in time. Once it’s ready they all get into position. This is really happening, the Avengers are about to do the impossible and travel back in time in order to hopefully defeat Thanos. 

 

They’re standing on the machine Tony created all looking at one another, Skye nearly makes everyone sign a blood oath that they won’t die, goes as far as pulling out a knife but Tony talks her out of it. Ward kisses her and asks that she be careful, Skye takes his hand in response and looks over at Steve, who has started to give a speech.

 

‘’We lost almost two years ago, all of us, we lost friends, we lost family, we lost a part of ourselves. Today we have a chance to take it all back, you know your teams, you know your missions, get the stones, get them back, one round trip each. No mistakes, no do-overs, most of us are going somewhere we know, that doesn’t mean we should know what to expect, be careful, look out for each other. This is the fight of our lives. Whatever it takes, good luck’’.

 

Steve and Tony share a look before they glance over to Skye, ‘’don’t do anything stupid’’.

She flicks both of them off as Rocket says, ‘’he’s pretty good at that’’.

‘’Right?’’

Natasha winks at Skye and Ward before settling her smile on Steve, ‘’see you in a minute’’.

 

The machine starts up and buttons are pressed, the world suddenly lurches as hundreds of colors explode behind eyelids. Ward holds onto Skye tightly as they are thrust into the unknown, hurtled into the past, a place no one ever thought they’d be. In a second it’s all over, Grant opens his eyes to find his feet are firmly planted on a sidewalk in New York, right in the middle of a battle that changed the world. The team spills out of the alley to find they’re facing their past selves.

 

It’s a shot Ward has seen on the news, in Shield meetings, in the newspaper countless times. The Avengers in a circle ready to face this threat and defend New York until their last breath, he spots a younger angrier version of his wife standing beside the Black Widow. Looking lost and pissed off in her trademark Quake suit silver gauntlets on, soot and blood on her face as she glares upward at the sky, fists clenched at her side, long brown hair blowing in the hot breeze.

 

This was nearly two years before they met which means Skye was only twenty three at the time, five years out of the lab and still full of hatred, wanting to burn the world to the ground for failing her. Glancing at her present self now Skye’s gaze is fixed on her past self, arms crossed as she lazily assess the young girl with a death wish. Ward watches them both comparing his wife to the one he didn’t know yet, she’s come so far from the one in the middle of the street right now.

 

‘’Why didn’t anyone ever tell me how terrible my hair looked? You all just let me walk around looking like that’’.

‘’That’s not really important right now Cupcake’’.

‘’I beg to differ, look at it’’.

Stark peeks around the wall and smiles at both the Skye from the past and the present, ‘’look at how tiny you were’’.

‘’Shut it’’.

‘’My little earthquake baby’s first time in battle, you’ve come so far’’.

‘’Are you crying?’’

Tony wipes his cheeks, ‘’no’’.

He cups her face and says, ‘’I’m so proud of you’’.

Skye squeezes his wrists as sadness flashes through her eyes, ‘’I wish I could tell her it’s all going to be okay’’.

‘’She’ll figure it out just like you did’’.

Scott walks up to the pair, ‘’sorry to interrupt your, whatever this is but’’-

‘’Stop ruining our family moment Lang’’.

The past version of Hulk suddenly storms around the corner screaming and Bruce grimaces at the sight.

‘’We all have our assignments two stones uptown one stone down, stay low keep an eye on the clock. Maybe smash a few things along the way’’.

While Bruce complains Skye turns to Ward and takes his hand, rubs her thumb along his knuckles, ‘’come back to me’’.

He lifts her chin and kisses her quickly, ‘’always’’.

 

She makes some excuse for him as he slips away nearly undetected, doesn’t notice the worried look Skye sends at his back as he dodges the debris and glass as they fall down around him. It takes ten minutes to reach the building Garrett is in and Grant takes a deep breath, hopes he hasn’t left yet. Opening the bookstore it’s abandoned but still standing, the ceiling still intact, one broken window. The bell dings alerting whoever is inside this store of his presence. 

 

Knowing Garrett won’t shoot him is the only reason the gun is still strapped to Grant’s hip, it takes a few minutes to find his former mentor. He comes out from behind a stack filled with mystery novels, his face after not seeing it for over a decade nearly sends Grant to his knees. Surprise takes over John’s face and then a smile, Ward used to think that smile meant John cared for him, was happy to see him. But he knows better now, that smile is just a trick, a tell to trap him even further.

 

That expression was only worn to manipulate, and John knew that as long as Ward was around no one would ever harm him, he had such confidence in the weapon he created. Here is the man he once thought he owed everything to, would have died for him without hesitation, Ward never cared about himself in the years he knew John, everything was always about saving his life. That was the mission, the goal brain washed into him at fifteen years old.

 

It took a long time to dig himself out of the grave John and his family buried him under, but if Grant can confront his parents and siblings like he did a couple years ago and be alright, he can do this. It’s still unclear out of John and his family, which ones were the worse monsters. Looking at Garrett now Ward doesn’t feel a thing, no rush of affection or protective instinct, no trust or comfort, there’s just a blank emptiness in his chest because John no longer means anything.

 

‘’Ward! What are you doing here son? Aren’t you supposed to be in Russia?’’

When he moves to clap Grant’s shoulder he slides away, not wanting to feel those hands on him again.

‘’I’m not your son John’’.

It’s then that Garrett takes a good look at the man in front of him, visibly older than the one he currently knows.

‘’What the hell is going on?’’

Garrett growls it would have once caused Grant to cower, but no longer.

‘’I came here to ask you something’’.

Ward’s voice is strong and true, not shaky like his hands currently are, which he conceals.

An old habit he’s surprised to find still intact, always hide a weakness from John.

‘’Ask me something? Are you some kind of clone version of my boy? Good Christ you’re old’’.

An explosion rocks the sidewalk and John reaches out for support but Ward doesn’t give it to him.

Steadying himself Ward looks into the eyes he once trusted and asks, ‘’why did you do it?’’

Understanding dawns on Garrett’s face as he answers, ‘’to save you’’.

Anger licks up Ward’s spine, ‘’bullshit’’.

‘’Excuse me?’’

‘’You didn’t break me out of that cell to save me John’’.

‘’So why did I do it then? I don’t know if you’re some future version of Ward, but you’ve got some balls kid’’.

‘’I’m not a kid and I’m not afraid of you anymore, so stop trying to intimidate me’’.

‘’Pretty big balls huh?’’

John laughs but Ward can see the nervousness in his eyes, having an uncontrollable Ward in front of him that he can’t further beat into submission.

‘’I saved you from hell kid, surely you remember that’’.

Ward clenches his jaw, ‘’you’re right John you did save me from a hell, but then you put me in another one for years, I used to hate you for it but then I realized you were sad and desperate, too weak to keep yourself alive. So you brain washed a kid into doing your bidding’’.

‘’Hey now brain wash is a pretty strong word, I made you stronger don’t forget that, you were weak and skinny when we met’’.

‘’I was fifteen year old who was abused by his family and you took advantage of that’’.

‘’Hold on now’’-

‘’There’s nothing you can say that will justify anything, I know the truth, I know the kind of man you turned me into’’.

‘’A machine’’.

‘’You made me into a killer, a weapon’’.

John snorts, ‘’and what’s so wrong with that? You learned how to survive didn’t you?’’

‘’And that’s the only thing I’ll ever be grateful to you for, everything else I hope you regret’’.

‘’Everything else? What do you think I did to you? Jesus you’ve got a real victim complex you know that? Stop blaming me for’’-

‘’You abused me for years, exploited me for your own gain just to save your sorry ass’’.

‘’I made you strong’’.

‘’You made me into your own personal gun, and I just wanted to tell you that I don’t need you, I never have. I’m a better person without you, I’m happier now that you’re no longer in my life’’.

Garrett’s eyes flash to the ring on Ward’s left hand as he laughs, mocking and sharp.

‘’Who the hell would marry you? Is she weak like you?’’

Grant isn’t going to breathe a word about Skye, that’s not today’s purpose.

‘’You’re right, I broke you out of that detention center because I needed a solider, and you were easy prey’’.

‘’And that’s all I ever was to you, an easy target, nothing more than your toy solider whenever you needed him’’.

Grant says this without malice, he came to terms with that a long time ago.

‘’You took a broken kid and built him back up the way you wanted, I killed people for you, betrayed and lied to them all for you, and you weren’t worth any of that’’.

John rolls his eyes but Ward sees something faint in those dark irises, regret perhaps?

Grant thinks about the hopelessness he felt in Vault D years ago, how he didn’t know how to live without the man in front of him currently.

But he’s so far from the man he once was, the shattered mess in that basement.

And for the first time since John Garrett died something clinks into place for Grant, a piece of himself restored that this man took from him.

Grant is shaking but remains composed as he finally breathes the words he’s wanted to for years, ‘’but I forgive you, I forgive you for everything’’.

Garrett tilts his head to the side as Ward continues, ‘’and that’s not for you, it’s for me, so I can go home and keep living with you. I loved you John, and all you ever did was use that against me’’.

The lie John throws him falls on deaf ears, ‘’I love you like you’re my own son’’.

Checking his watch it’s time to go and Ward starts walking away, ‘’no you don’t, but that’s okay’’.

‘’So that’s it then? All you wanted was to tell me off?’’

‘’Pretty much. You need to let him go John, the me you know right now, you’re killing him’’.

Darkness pools underneath his eyes, ‘’I’m dead aren’t I, where you’re from?’’

Opening the door with his back Ward simply responds, ‘’I hope you find peace John’’.

And he leaves the only father he’s ever known behind once again, but this time his heart and soul are safely tucked in his chest following him out, not on the floor beside John’s boots.

 

As soon as the breeze hits Ward’s face he turns down the sidewalk and vomits into the concrete, wipes the sweat from his brow and takes a long moment to compose himself. Get his shaking hands under control and uses each and every single technique Paul has taught him over the years to calm down. Remember who he is and why he’s here, that he’s not the same person John bullied all those years ago, the sun is shining warmly on his face when Ward finally resurfaces.

 

He’s wondering if he should have killed Garrett and saved a lot of people from a lot of pain, but isn’t sure if that’d be a good or bad thing for the present him, when he makes it to the rendezvous point where the team is waiting for him. Skye is pacing her fingers tapping her lips while Tony and Scott argue, Steve is standing behind them with his arms crossed, and is the first to notice Grant’s return. Skye looks up and relief washes over her as she jogs over and takes him in her arms.

 

Her tender touch is exactly what he needs, but they don’t have time for him to fall apart against her. Instead he whispers in her ear that he’s alright and asks how the mission went. She tells him that they lost one of the stones but Stark and Rogers have a plan to go back even further and grab it again, keeping her in his arms he turns to the two Avengers who are locking eyes and discussing another plan. 

 

‘’If you do this and it doesn’t work, you’re not coming back’’.

Scott informs them and Skye watches them with wide eyes.

‘’Do you trust me?’’

‘’I do’’.

‘’Your call’’.

They both look over to Skye who’s got her hands fisted in Ward’s leather jacket, ‘’you two morons better come home after this or I will strangle each of you’’.

‘’Love you Cupcake’’.

‘’Love you too Dad’’.

‘’We’ll be right back’’.

Steve promises before saying, ‘’here we go’’.

Both he and Tony tap their watches and they disappear. 

 

(Meanwhile on Vormir where a heart-breaking decision is currently being made, Natasha Romanoff hangs off the edge of a cliff where souls go to die, Clint Barton griping her with one hand as they both cry. ‘’Tell Bucky that I love him’’. Clint grits his teeth, ‘’don’t do this Natasha’’. She smiles through her pain and tears, ‘’and tell Skye that I love her more than anything’’. Lifting her with one arm as sweat pours into his eyes he says, ‘’tell her yourself, Skye won’t be able to survive without you, tell my family I love them’’.

 

And throws her body over his shoulder, taking her place on the edge of the cliff, before she can do something to stop this he’s letting go and falling down into the black and purple abyss. A soul for a soul, Natasha can do nothing but lay there in sorrow, in tears.)

 

In a flash of gold and bright white Ward blinks to find himself back in the Avengers Compound, checks to make sure Skye is alright as everyone else comes back. They each look around to make sure everyone is in one piece when Steve asks a soaking wet Natasha where Clint is. She says nothing just falls to her knees the red Soul Stone clutched tightly in her hand, and starts sobbing. Skye drops down beside her and wraps both arms around her, Nat cries into her neck, the sound deafening. 

 

‘’I can’t remember the last thing I said to him’’. Skye announces when they’re all outside in the sunshine, the shock of Barton sacrificing himself has now made them all numb. Natasha is still wrapped up in Skye’s arms as they sit on a bench next to Ward, who’s running a hand through Quake’s hair. She hasn’t cried yet, too focused on Natasha’s grief to acknowledge her own. Grant will mourn his friend when he’s alone, there’s already so much sorrow here, Kebo is hanging back with his ever present flask.

 

‘’Someone needs to call Laura’’. Tony comments his voice rough, while a single tear rolls down Steve’s cheek.

‘’Why are we acting like he’s dead?’’

Thor asks and Natasha buries her face in Skye’s neck.

‘’We have the stones right? As long as we have the stones we can bring him back isn’t that right? So stop this shit’’.

‘’We can’t get him back’’.

Nat replies, tone empty and Ward stretches his arm across the bench to squeeze her shoulder, she clutches his hand.

‘’It can’t be undone, it can’t’’.

Thor lets out a humorless laugh, ‘’look I’m sorry no offense but you’re very earthly being okay? We’re talking about space magic, that con seems very different don’t think?’’

‘’I can’t be undone’’.

Natasha repeats and Skye holds her tighter.

‘’I tried to stop him’’. She tells Skye, ‘’I tried to go first but he wouldn’t let me’’.

Quake nods through a haze of tears that won’t fall, ‘’yeah that sounds like you’’.

‘’It was supposed to be me, he sacrificed his life for that goddamn stone, he bet his life on it’’.

Banner rips out a spare bench from the ground and hurtles it into the lake, ‘’he’s not coming back, we have to make it worth it we have to’’.

Steve stands and pats Skye’s knee, ‘’we will’’.

 

Which is how they end up in the lab putting all the stones in a custom made gauntlet designed by Stark, which someone needs to test out, Bruce volunteers himself after Tony talked Thor out of doing it, and everyone holds their breath as he puts it on. 

 

‘’You remember everyone who Thanos snapped away two years ago we’re just bringing them back to now, today, don’t change anything from the last two years’’. Banner casts a look over to Skye and she cringes, hand going to her empty belly but she nods in understanding. Everyone is suited up and ready to go, Skye is in her Quake suit, Nat wearing her trademark Black Widow one, Tony puts up a shield in front of him as Bruce’s fingers come together.

 

Ward tries to step in front of Skye just in case, but she rolls her eyes and doesn’t budge out from in front of him, if anything happens her powers can protect them better than his body can. Skye holds both hands out in front of her the silver gauntlets gleaming, as Bruce starts grunting in pain but when they try to talk him into stopping he refuses. Ward’s hands are on Skye’s shoulders, Kebo behind them, as Bruce snaps two fingers together and immediately falls to the floor afterwards, gauntlet by his head.

 

Thor and Steve help him up while Nat asked if it worked but the answer never comes. Skye feels something in the air, an off vibration disrupting the balance between every living thing around them. Ward watches as she walks to the open windows filled with sunshine and singing birds, her hands held out in front of her, ‘’guys something is wrong’’. Everyone turns to look at her but no one has time to ask before the world explodes. 

 

Grant doesn’t even have a second to brace himself before bombs fall onto the compound leaving everything in fire and darkness, reducing the compound into nothing but debris and smoke. He’s unconscious before he hits the ground.

 

Chapter Text

 

Being buried alive is a lot like drowning. You’re weightless, suspended in pressure beyond your control, limbs flailing looking for a way out, something thick is stopping air from entering your lungs. Heaviness pressed against your chest, pulling you down into the unknown, trapping you until nothing exists but the lack of oxygen. Skye opens her eyes to darkness and pain seeps into her body, it feels like a thick slab of concrete is sitting atop her ribs.

 

Dragging a sharp intake of breath as confusion sets in, she immediately chokes on dirt and smoke, the haze clearing as she recalls the bombs dropping onto the Avengers Compound, which mean everyone is either dead or buried under rubble like her. Screwing her eyes shut she attempts to lift a hand and finds that the same heaviness on her ribs seems to be holding down her fingers as well, fighting off the panic she digs away from what feels like rocks and finally gets a wrist free.

 

Suddenly light shatters through her cracked eyelids and hands are pulling on her shoulders, clearing the dirt from her eyelashes and nose, Skye sucks in fresh air and starts coughing as smoke enters her lungs. Squinting in the darkness she makes out a few fires nearby, black smoke, but everything else is drenched in silence. Except the heavy breathing next to her, Skye looks over to find Kebo with bleeding fingernails and a nasty gash on his left cheek, he doesn’t look hurt anywhere else.

 

Taking a quick inventory of herself, no injuries except a wicked headache, she stands and stretches. Puts a finger to the com in her ear which comes back only static, the connection must have been damaged in the explosion. The thought flitters around that she’s the sole survivor of what was obviously Thanos’ attack, a whisper in the back of her brain of a lie long ago that always rears it’s ugly head whenever tragedy happens; Wherever she goes death follows. 

 

Skye knows that’s it’s not her fault people die, she’s not the cause, but there’s always been some truth to that statement, especially now. Skye puts a hand to her mouth at the thought of Clint, her friend of many years who used to drink with her in Stark Tower early in the morning, cheer her up when she was down, was there for her no matter what. Even though he could be a pain in the ass he was family, and the hole in her heart where she stores all of her loved ones that are gone, fills and throbs.sh

 

Kebo places his hands on her shoulders again his mouth moving and it takes a second to comprehend what he’s saying.

‘’Quake are you good?’’

Nodding she looks up to find they are trapped beneath the surface of what used to be the compound, debris, pillars and concrete blocking their way to the surface.

‘’Do you think Ward is dead?’’ Kebo asks as she cracks her knuckles.

‘’Shut up he is not’’.

The fear slinks in regardless, she just got him back, can’t afford to lose him again.

‘’Oh god he’s dead isn’t he? I can’t even remember the last thing I said to him, Quake what if’’-

Skye spins around and tastes blood in her mouth but stops Kebo’s panic nonetheless, ‘’I need you to stop losing your shit for three seconds. Can you do that?’’

Wiping the blood from his eye he takes a deep breath, ‘’probably’’.

‘’I’m sure Grant is fine, we’re all going to be fine. No one else is dying because of Thanos’’.

‘’You think he’s the one who blew up the building?’’

‘’He’s the only villain left so I’d bet on it’’.

‘’Hundred bucks?’’

Skye lifts a hand and everything blocking their path to get on steady ground is lifted away.

‘’Two hundred’’.

‘’Deal’’.

‘’Idiot’’.

Kebo glances behind and then below them, shifts on his feet, ‘’I’m going to go find Ward’’.

Knowing that’d be his plan Skye nods, ‘’make sure he’s not doing anything stupid’’.

‘’Always, be careful’’.

‘’You too’’.

She’s about to fly out of here when Kebo says, ‘’oh we’re kicking his ass later about the time travel John Garrett thing yeah?’’

‘’Of course’’.

Putting a hand to an ankle Skye lifts herself away from the disaster and lands on solid dirt, gasps at the destruction Thanos caused and wonders how the hell anyone could have survived it.

 

Walking around the rubble she spots Steve who’s walking ahead Shield in hand, turns at her approach and sighs in relief that’s she’s alright.

‘’You alright?’’

‘’Peachy’’.

He wipes soot off her cheek when she gets close enough, ‘’heard from anyone else?’’

‘’Just Kebo, you?’’

‘’Tony and Thor are up there’’.

He nods straight ahead over a mountain of debris, ‘’Thanos did this’’.

‘’I figured’’.

Captain America seems perfectly fine no injuries, but she can plainly see just how angry he is.

‘’Let’s go kill this son of a bitch’’.

Steve smirks, ‘’after you’’.

 

They join Thor and Tony, the latter of whom frowns when he sees Skye but she tells him to shut up and turn off the dad instincts. Looking around Quake pauses when she sees Thanos sitting on a rock staring at them, a sword resting casually at his side.

 

‘’So he’s just been chilling this entire time?’’

‘’Pretty much’’.

‘’God why can’t this purple asshole die already?’’

Tony keeps an eye on her as they begin to walk towards them, prays that Ward is still alive to keep his promise.

Thanos looks up when they reach him, ‘’you could not live with your own failure, where did that bring you? Back to me, and as long as there are those that remember what was there will always be those that are unable to accept what can be, they will resist’’.

‘’Why do bad guys always have to do an evil monologue? We don’t have time for this’’.

Skye mutters, earning a smile from Thor as he takes a step in front of her, Skye punches him in the gut and stands beside Steve.

‘’We’re all kinds of stubborn’’.

Tony responds as Thanos stands and puts on golden armor.

‘’I’m thankful because now I know what I must do, I will shred this universe down to it’s last atom and then with the stones you have collected for me create a new one teeming with life’’.

Skye tunes out the rest of his bullshit and bounces on the balls of her feet, waiting for Natasha or Ward to emerge, any of the other team members. But they don’t.

‘’if you want to destroy the universe you’re going to have to go through us’’.

Quake tells him as the four Avengers brace themselves for a fight.

Thanos grins at, ‘’that’s exactly what I plan to do’’.

‘’Bring it on you giant purple grape’’.

 

Thor, Steve and Tony attack first and Skye waits until they’re in the clear before striking, holds out both hands and throws everything she’s got at the Mad Titan, who buckles and cries out in pain at her onslaught. Power flows through her veins hot and wild, mixed with adrenaline Skye grits her teeth and doesn’t let up. She failed the world two years ago, it won’t happen again, Clint’s sacrifice won’t be in vain, this time, this time Thanos will die, whatever it takes.

 

Skye digs her heels in and punches Thanos across the jaw, coupled with her powers he goes flying and crashes into a pillar. He shakes off the dust, stands, and laughs at her, ‘’you can’t kill me’’. Quake flexes her fingers and every single bone in his body starts to break, ‘’watch me’’. Somehow he manages to get the upper hand and slams her into the ground. Skye struggles to breathe as the sword in his hand presses into her chest, the blade slick and warm against her throat.

 

Thor, Steve and Tony just took pretty rough hits and are down for a moment, Skye sucks in a breath and is prepared to use her powers again. But it turns out there’s no need, Iron Man gets him off her as the four face off against him again. She has no idea how long the fight lasts, hours, days, but she’s on the ground suddenly ears ringing, jaw on fire, blood running down her face. The world is a blur of smoke and her ribs are screaming in pain, but she sees Steve get up, dirt and blood on his face.

 

It’s in the moment she’s reminded just how much of a leader he is, how he’s always been the face of the Avengers in a fight. If he can stand so can they, he fights, they follow, someone dies, walk it off. What happens next is burned into her brain forever, Thor drops Mjolniras Tony is thrown into a rock, he doesn’t get back up. Steve is facing off Thanos with just his shield and Skye is about to stand up and help because Thor is clearly in trouble, when Mjolnir stops him.

 

Skye watches as the hammer is suspended in the air for a moment before flying into Steve’s hand, who grits his teeth as Thanos stares at him in shock. Skye can’t wipe the grin from her face as Thor cries out, ‘’I knew it’’. The dramatic moment is enough to get her on her feet and run over to Tony, put her fingers to his neck. He’s alive and breathing, Skye takes a moment to sigh in relief and rest her hand against his helmet. ‘’You can’t leave me yet Dad’’.

 

Skye watches as Steve wields Mjolnirlike it was made for him and feels pride well in her chest, she always knew he was worthy. When he yelps in pain is when Skye rejoins the fight, half stands in front of Tony to protect him as Thanos fixes his attention on her and Rogers. With his sword he strikes at Captain America over and over until his shield is nearly shattered and the hammer far from reach. Quake is lying on the ground next to Steve, both bleeding and on the verge of passing out.

 

In a flash of blue Thanos brings his army down upon them, thousands of alien beings all with the same intent; give Thanos what he wants, kill anyone who stands in the way. Steve and Skye stand in between them and the rest of the world, the two Avenges glances at each other and Quake doesn’t understand the sudden flash of sorrow in his eyes before they settle back to grim determination.

 

Side by Side with Captain America defending the universe from certain death, Skye can’t think of a better way to go. If this is how she dies, at least it was because of something good, something right. There’s a noise to her right, movement from the rubble of the Avengers Compound before the debris are shoved aside. Bruce Banner steps out first and helps out Natasha, Skye sighs in relief at the sight of the blonde hair, she appears to be fine.

 

Rocket, Nebula, Scott, Rhodes, Kebo and finally Ward step out as well, Grant’s eyes are frantic until he finds her. After exchanging a look with Nat Skye meets Ward’s eyes who rake her over from head to toe to make sure she’s alive. No words are spoken as he walks over to her, dried blood running down the side of his head, dirt on his handsome face, but as they look out into the oncoming threat he takes her hand, the unspoken promise between them; together.

 

The rest of the Avengers gather around prepared to die for this in order to stop Thanos, Steve takes a deep breath just as the com unit in all their ears crackle to life. Sam Wilson’s voice interrupts the silence as he tells Cap, ‘’on your left’’ and an orange portal begins to form. The Avengers turn to find that’s not the only portal coming to life, Falcon flies out of one and lands next to Steve as more people begin to file out. It’s everyone who Thanos killed two years prior, it worked, they brought everyone back.

 

A weight lifts off Skye’s chest as she watches everyone return, the Guardians, Dr. Strange, the Black Panther and his people, Peter Parker, Valkyrie, the Scarlett Witch comes out in a flash of red and winks at Skye who grins, Bucky Barnes stepping out after her, gun at the ready. Skye hears Natasha’s sharp intake of breath at the sight of Barnes, the only man she’s ever loved. James searches the field for her and smiles when they lock eyes. Skye makes a note to stick close to Nat so she can witness that reunion.

 

Her Inhumans step out of a portal and come to her side, Lincoln, Yo-Yo, Caroline and Victoria, no one else from Shield. When it’s clear that everyone has returned the group all faces Thanos and Skye squares her shoulders, Ward gets ready as Kebo shoves his way through the crowd to be next to him. Steve locks his shield around his wrist, glances at the heroes around him and turns to Thanos, ‘’Avengers’’, he calls as the hammer glides into his hand, ‘’assemble’’. With a battle cry they charge, Thanos never stood a chance.

 

Skye heads to the clouds to get a head start on the enemy, takes out the bodies in the back and sides so they’re not even more outnumbered than they already are. When she crashes back to the ground Thanos’ people attack with no hesitation, like animals they head straight for the kill. It doesn’t faze Skye, who takes them out either using her powers or fists. She spots the reunion between Stark and Parker, Pepper has even made an appearance finally wearing the armor Tony made for her.

 

Spotting blonde hair Skye lands by Natasha just as Bucky makes her way over to her. Over the bodies dropping all around them James grabs her arm and pulls her to him, cups Nat’s face in his hands as she shoots a target headed towards them. Skye watches as they stare at each other for a moment and then the Black Widow says, ‘’I think I love you James Buchanan Barnes’’. Before clutching the back of his neck and kissing him.

 

Smiling Skye moves to take out a nasty looking creature but it hits the ground in a current of electricity, landing at her feet. Lincoln and Yo-Yo are fighting side by side, Caroline and Victoria a few feet away doing the same, now is no time to pause and get emotional at the sight but Skye does. Wishes she could have told her younger safe it’s all going to be okay in the end, she has a place in this world, people who love her, and everything will work out exactly the way it’s supposed to.

 

Pride fills her chest at all she’s accomplished as she watches her Inhumans in the heat of battle, she did it, she made a universe that’s safe for people like her, people that are different and misunderstood. All those times she felt alone in a foster home, felt like a monster as she stared at her hands after getting these powers, it all led to here, right now. This is who she was meant to be. Shaking her head she gets back into the fight to see Stark and Ward arguing just a few feet away.

 

Killing as many marks as she can along the way she finally reaches the pair who don’t notice her approach.

 

‘’Are you pissing out on me Cheekbones?’’

Ward dodges a knife to his ribs and breaks the neck of one of Thanos’ creatures before responding, ‘’of course not’’.

‘’Then what’s the hold up?’’

Grant gestures around the battlefield and to the broken building, ‘’how would you like me to accomplish that?’’

‘’Gee I don’t know, knock her out, fly out of here, I can make that last part happen’’.

‘’I am not going to knock my wife unconscious’’.

‘’Don’t be such a baby’’.

‘’What are you two talking about?’’

The both freeze as Skye helps eliminate the surrounding enemies and stands in between them.

‘’Nothing’’.

Tony responds as Ward catches his breath but stays silent.

Skye doesn’t get the chance to question them further as more bodies approach them and she takes them out by whatever means necessary.

She’s about to bring it up again when Pepper lands beside the three of them and lifts her helmet, ‘’Tony and Natasha made Ward promise that if this turns out badly he’d get you out of here’’.

Skye gapes at her husband and father figure, ‘’what?’’

‘’Don’t make that face at me Cupcake’’.

‘’Tony what the hell?’’

‘’I’m not apologizing for it don’t ask me to’’.

Skye turns to Ward who yanks her out of the way when a body nearly slams into her, he eliminates the threat an arm around her waist, ‘’we did it because we love you’’.

‘’Oh shut up’’.

 

The Avengers are talking about getting the gauntlet full of Infinity Stones to Scott’s machine when all of a sudden one of Thanos’ ships starts to open fire on the field. Quake is otherwise occupied and struggles to get out of the fight she’s in and dodge the attack to take care of it, when Friday tells Tony, ‘’boss something just entered the atmosphere’’. They all watch in fascination as the ship’s guns start firing into the sky, but whatever is coming is not affected by the blasts.

 

A second later she ship is destroyed, it explodes into hundreds of pieces as what looks like a meteor flies over their heads, an explosion of beautiful blues and yellows. Captain Marvel watches the wreckage from above as Skye and Valkyrie cheer at her arrival. Carol lands next to them as Skye clenches her fists and Valkyrie pulls out her swords, ‘’shall we ladies?’’ Minutes later Skye has the gauntlet in her hand and is racing towards Scott’s van, ignoring Tony yelling in her ear, when Thanos attacks out of nowhere.

 

He barrles into her from the side and Skye lands on the ground hard, Thanos wastes no time in trying to pry it from her grip. Skye uses her free hand to flex her fingers, the stones glow under both their hands, he gets it free from her sweaty palm as Carol arrives and shoves him away, helps Skye up as they both face the Titan. Skye nearly vomits when it’s clear he’s about to snap his fingers but Carol stops him, grabs his hand as Skye’s powers send him to his knees.

 

Carol takes the gauntlet as Skye sends the Titan across the field in the direction of Thor. ‘’I don’t know how you’re going to get through all that’’. Peter Parker comments, gesturing over to the mass of bodies and ships between her and Scott’s van. Quake stands as Natasha, Valkyrie, Wanda, Pepper, Mantis, Hope, Gamora, Shuri and Okoye join them, ‘’don’t worry’’. Wanda says as Skye finishes, ‘’she’s got help’’. Together they fight their way through to the goal; stop Thanos.

 

It would have worked too if the asshole hadn’t destroyed the van, Skye finds herself thrown back by the blast her back hitting something hard, ears ringing. ‘’Anyone have a plan B?’’ Wanda asks as the Avengers form a circle and Tony takes the gauntlet, Ward helps her up his brown eyes full of worry over what’s about to happen. The backup plan is not one he’s looking forward to, but it’s the last resort to stopping Thanos, which is all they’ve been working towards for two years.

 

The plan is that someone puts on the gauntlet and snaps their fingers, but the Avengers will hold onto each other so the power of the Infinity Stones absorbs through all of them instead of killing the person who snapped. Rocket gave Bruce the idea a few days ago and no one wanted to accept it, but it appears to be the only way to end this. There are no sad drawn out goodbyes in case this doesn’t work, Skye feels clear headed as she takes Tony’s free hand and Natasha takes hers.

 

Steve is on Nat’s other side, Thor and Bruce on the other, Ward closes the circle his hands sweating as Skye tells him she loves him. Thanos is being held back by Carol, he shakes his head and says ‘’I am inevitable’’. Tony slips on the gauntlet, ‘’and we are the Avengers’’. He snaps his fingers and this white hot power rushes into all seven of them, it’s the most intense power Skye has ever felt, like everything inside is being set on fire, each cell exploding one by one.

 

She loses herself to the fire inside, has no idea how long it lasts, everything hurts, and then it’s over. Eyes open as the shock of that violent pain subsides, bringing her to her knees, she sucks in cool air and wipes away the tears streaming down her face. Looks around to find everyone in a similar position as she, but they all survived. Ward makes his way over to her as the Avengers turn to Thanos, who is watching as his people turn to dust.

 

The fight ends just like that, Thanos slumps in defeat, Tony takes Skye’s hand as they watch the Titan turn into nothing. A pile of ash on the ground, forgotten, lost. It’s now just the winners in an empty field, a second later reality sweeps in. Steve is the first to smile as he and Tony look at each other, Bruce and Rocket start laughing. Natasha pulls the Avengers in for a group hug, Skye is smushed between her family, happy tears running down their faces, they did it, they won, they avenged billions of people.

 

Ward turns to her after everyone breaks apart, sweat on his face but he’s smiling so wide Skye gets lost in it for a moment. He takes on step towards her before Kebo appears and tackles him from behind, they fall in a heap and Grant is cursing but it’s ignored as Kebo hugs him tightly and yells that he better not do anything like that ever again. Ward shoves Kebo off and stands, heads straight for Skye and cups her face, her hands holding onto his wrists.

 

‘’We did it’’. She says as he nods, strokes her cheeks with his thumbs. Wishing Barton was here Skye pushes the sorrow down as Ward kisses her, and holds onto the promise that everything eventually will be alright.

 

The next day the land on Tony’s cabin is filled with superheroes, it’s a cool sunny day the lake shining under the rays. Skye stands pressed into Ward’s chest his arms wrapped around her, they’re all dressed in black listening to Laura Barton say her final goodbye to Clint. Their children are clinging to her clothes crying as a bow and arrow drifts down the lake, sitting atop flowers and a silver target pin Natasha gave him many Christmases ago.

 

Tony and Pepper are on the other side of Laura, Natasha, Bucky, Sam and Steve are behind her. The rest of the Avengers are spread out holding onto one another, Carol and a newly returned Nick Fury and Maria Hill are on the porch in respective silence. Skye rests her head against Ward’s chest and cries, mourns the loss of a friend who helped her through so much, she’ll miss him every day. After the funeral Bucky and Ward head inside while Nat stands by the lake, Skye holding onto her.

 

‘’I wish there was a way that I could let him know that we won, we did it’’.

Natasha says, wiping her face as Skye holds her tighter.

Wanda responds with soothing confidence, ‘’he knows, they both do’’.

Skye holds out her arm and Wanda hugs them both.

Thanos may have caused death, but he never will again, the Avengers made sure of it.

The world will never forget everything they sacrificed to avenge them.

 

A few hours later Skye stands next to Tony as they watch Steve prepare for one final mission; return the Infinity Stones. Quake offered to go with but was shot down, much to her annoyance. Bucky and Natasha are a few feet away holding each other, occasionally he’ll lean down and whisper something, causing a small smile to light her face. Ward is holding Skye’s hand while Sam reminds Steve what he’s supposed to do, Bruce is running the machine to bring him back.

 

‘’You know if you want I could come with you’’.

Steve shakes his head at Sam, ‘’you’re a good man Sam, this ones on me though’’.

Rogers walks up to the team and tells Bucky, ‘’don’t do anything stupid until I get back’’.

James smiles and without releasing his hold on Nat, hugs Steve, ‘’how can I? You’re taking all the stupid with you’’.

‘’I’m going to miss you buddy’’.

Barnes says as Nat hugs Steve as well, ‘’be careful, come back safe’’.

Captain America holds her for a moment too long, ‘’you deserve to be happy Nat’’.

By the time he gets to Skye, Steve looks like he’s going to cry, ‘’you take care of my girl’’.

He tells Ward who nods, ‘’always’’.

The two exchange hugs before Skye launches herself at him, ‘’bring me back a souvenir’’.

He cups her face with one hand, ‘’I’ll remember’’.

Rogers turns to Tony and everyone stares at the pair as Stark says, ‘’why are we acting like you’re dying? You’ll be gone for a minute tops, don’t be so dramatic’’.

Steve shakes Stark’s hand, ‘’thank you Tony, for everything’’.

Iron Man rolls his eyes and hugs him closely, ‘’you’re welcome’’.

 

Rogers gets on the platform, takes a breath, looks at the people he’s called family for over a decade, and disappears from view.

A minute passes and Skye turns to Banner, ‘’what are you shitting around for? Bring him back’’.

‘’Where is he?’’

‘’I don’t know he blew right by his time stamp he should be here’’.

Only Ward and Nat catch the look on Bucky’s face, like he knew something all along that they didn’t.

Skye is full on about to panic when Barnes suddenly calls in a soft tone, ‘’Sam’’.

And they all turn to look at the bench he’s gesturing to.

Where a man sits, older, back to them, watching the sun on the lake.

He turns and Skye startles, it’s Steve, and it takes a second to realize what’s been done.

‘’He went back to his own time’’.

Natasha mutters as Tony runs a hand down his face, ‘’son of a bitch’’.

They stare as Sam and Steve exchange a goodbye, then Bucky, then Nat, finally Tony, who when it’s over says nothing to anyone and heads back into his cabin.

Skye is the only one left, Ward nudges her to go to her friend.

She approaches the bench on shaky legs, and a much older more rested Steve smiles at her.

‘’You gave Sam your shield’’.

‘’I did’’.

She sits down next to him, sees the gold band on his left hand.

‘’Why?’’

‘’It was time’’.

Skye feels fresh tears coming on, ‘’time for you to move on?’’

He sighs and looks out towards the lake, ‘’I was the man out of time for years, thought I’d find a life Tony is always preaching about’’.

His withered hands dig into an old brown bag, ‘’told you I wouldn’t forget’’.

She looks away from his paper-thin skin and takes the object, a small stuffed bear he probably won at a carnival in the 50’s.

Floppy ears and a wide tail, there’s a gleaming metal piece on the chest.

She squints and reads her own name reflected back at her, a pin lodged into the stuffed fur, gleaming in the sun.

Skye holds it to her chest and openly cries, ‘’I don’t know how to say goodbye to you’’.

While she’s happy that he found his place in the world, where he belongs, she doesn’t know what to do in her life without him.

Steve stretches an arm and pulls her to him, ‘’you don’t, I’ll always be here’’.

He smells like peppermint and Skye buries her face in his shoulder as she shakes.

‘’Don’t leave me’’.

Rogers kisses the top of her head, ‘’I’ve had a wonderful life Skye, now it’s time for you to go live yours’’.

‘’How am I supposed to without you?’’

‘’You won’t, I’ll be here whenever you need me’’.

They watch the sunset until her tears dry and he falls asleep.

Skye has gained so much in this fight against Thanos but she’s also lost two of her family members, something the Avengers will feel the weight of every single day.

 

 

 

*

 

 

Three Months Later

 

The largest church in Italy is lit up from floor to ceiling in brilliant white bulbs and flowers, it’s a cold winter morning as Skye and Tony stand in front of beautiful oak doors, Stark is a bundle of nervous energy in a suit and tie. He asks Friday for the hundredth time if everything is ready, if Pepper is still where she promised she would be. Skye tells him to cool it as she smooths down her lavender colored dress, he tells her to shut it just as the doors slide open.

 

The room is full of loved ones on every pew, flowers down the aisle as Skye offers Tony her arm and they begin walking. Bucky and Natasha stand first, she’s in a peach colored dress and Bucky is wearing a dark tie, Ward is beside them and he winks at Skye as she passes. Peter Parker, Bruce and Kebo are in the row in front of them, Thor and an older Steve Rogers beside them. Carol, Nick Fury, Hill and Valkyrie are in the pew closest to the altar. James Rhodes is officiating their wedding, and smiles as Tony reaches the stairs.

 

The rest of the Avengers are spread out amongst Pepper Pott’s family, Laura Barton and her children are in the front row, as is Dr. Strange, and Harley Keener who grins as Tony and Skye walk down the aisle. Once they reach the altar Tony stands in front of the priest while Skye stands behind Stark who hisses that she better not leave. Skye is telling him to shut up when the doors open again and the organ begins playing, Stark straightens and lets out a shaky breath as Wanda appears, dressed in the same attire as Skye.

 

Pepper steps out after her in a white dress with long laced sleeves, Tony immediately bursts into tears and Skye wipes her own eyes as Wanda takes her place at the altar as Maid of Honor. When Tony asked Skye to be the Best Man at his wedding she cried and agreed without hesitation. Pepper glides down the aisle eyes only for Tony, she reaches him and they join hands. Stark makes an inappropriate comment and Skye nearly steps on his foot but Pepper beats her to it.

 

‘’Ladies and gentlemen we are gathered here today’’. Rhodes begins and Skye watches her father figure finally marry his long time love, she’s never been happier for him.

 

Later after the sun has gone down and Pepper and Tony have left for their honeymoon, Skye and Ward are on the polished dance floor, the reception still in full swing. Her shoes are off, his dress jacket discarded somewhere on a table, the sleeves of his white shirt rolled up. The band is playing some slow love song and Ward has both arms wrapped around her, her own wrapped around his neck. Bucky and Natasha glide past them stupidly in love, they moved in together not too long ago.

 

The loss of Clint and Steve is something the Avengers will never recover from, sometimes living is still hard, but the world goes on, and the billions of people who returned thanks to the Avengers are grateful for it every day. Ward holds her close now, under the glow of the lights she swears she’ll never love him more. Out of unimaginable odds they found each other, didn’t let a tragedy rip them apart like it very well could have. Skye is never letting him go again.

 

She’s just laid her cheek against his heart, her eyes closed, when Ward kisses her forehead and murmurs, ‘’I have something for you’’.

‘’Is it sex related?’’

He chuckles, ‘’no’’.

‘’Boo’’.

She feels him reach into his pocket, Skye opens her eyes to find him holding a black box.

She’s not a jewelry person which he knows so she has no idea what’s in the box.

‘’I was going to wait until we got home but this seemed like a good time’’.

Ward pulls away slightly and Skye can tell he’s nervous, fingers lightly shaking as he opens the black velvet box.

A sparkling ring greets her, diamonds circling every inch of a silver band.

‘’Is that an eternity ring?’’

Ward nods and takes it out of the box, hovers over her left hand.

Skye gapes at him, ‘’you’re only supposed to give me this after like fifty years of marriage’’.

Grant shrugs, ‘’it’ll always be forever for me’’.

She’s staring at the ring gleaming against her nails and Ward falters, ‘’do you not like it? I can take it back, was this too soon?’’

It’s rare that he gets flustered around her anymore so whenever it does happen, it never fails to be adorable.

Skye places her right over his and looks into his panicked eyes, ‘’I love it, put it on my finger you dummy’’.

Ward slides the band on and kisses her knuckles, ‘’I love you’’.

Skye cups the back of his neck and kisses him slowly, sliding her hands down his chest, ‘’I love you too’’.

 

Whatever they face, as long as the love stays constant between them, they can overcome anything.