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There's No Place Like Home

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Everything Must Belong Somewhere

Rated: R (language/violence/adult content)

Pairing: AU Skye/Ward, Clint/Natasha

Warning: This fanfiction takes patience, because while Skye/Ward are the pairing- the first part of this fic is them becoming friends first, and opening up to each other.

Summary: When Grant Ward ran away from his Military School to burn down his parent’s home, he didn’t expect to pick up an amateur hacker with a secret along the way. Now two teens with troubled pasts, and painful secrets must learn to depend on, and trust each other, as they stumble through a world of espionage that they were not at all prepared for.

Part 1 - Chapter 1

Hatred tightened Grant Ward’s fingers on the steering wheel until his knuckles were white, and his hands began to cramp. Still, he drove sensibly down the highway, careful to keep his rage from revealing itself to the outside world. To the casual onlooker, he would seem to be a perfectly coifed young, white male from an affluent background, on his way to somewhere or other. To them, he was someone of very little consequence, who wasn’t really to be regarded, or noticed. Why would they bother looking at the license plate of his boring, blue sedan? It blended in with all of the other cars so seamlessly, he drove with the flow of traffic, and kept up the most normal appearance possible. He dismissed his anger for a heart-beat of a second to congratulate himself on the perfect choice for a stolen car. It probably wouldn’t even get noticed as appropriated for a few more hours, considering the hour of night that he had taken it, and the location. A parking garage next to a night club, what better choice could he have made? By the time the drunk got back to his vehicle, it’d be 2 am, just like the two weekends before. By then he’d be far enough away to not have to worry about it.

The only predicament was fuel.

He was close to empty, and had been putting it off for as long as possible. Was he finally enough distance away for him to hit up a gas station, was it playing it safe if he drove just a little bit longer, or would his luck of the night run out, leaving him stranded?

He dampened his drying lips, then glanced at his gaze in the rearview, as if his reflection could answer his dilemma.

No luck. He sucked in a deep, shaky breath, threw on his right turn signal, and pulled into the lane where he could enter the rest stop that he was approaching shortly. If he ran out of gas, he’d get pinched for sure; and besides, it would be nice to stretch his legs. He had been driving for hours in darkness, causing a dull ache in his lower back and a splitting headache from glaring headlights.

He pulled up to a pump between a white minivan and blue SUV, casually exited the vehicle and began pumping his gas. He leaned against the car nonchalantly, keeping his head slightly down, as to not appear like he was looking around, assessing the station carefully. It was a difficult endeavor, and he almost caught himself tilting his head for a better view, then quickly admonished his stupidity. Maybe Christian was right, and he did need to beat some sense into you. His silent scold had the desired effect, and when the tank was full, he walked easily inside to pay the bill.

Grant kept his cool, smiled as he paid for his gas, slipped his wallet back into his pocket and started out the door- his mind focused on acting naturally. He was going to show Christian just how weak and stupid he really wasn’t, but to do that, he needed to get to point B without getting arrested.

That was his exact thought when he walked straight into the chest of a State Trooper, took two steps back, and called himself seven kinds of stupid. He was in a stolen car, running away from a Military School that he had been put into for being expelled from all the private ones he attended, and already had slight juvenile record for fighting in school. In short, he was totally fucked.

Calm down. Immediately, Ward smiled, “I’m so sorry, Officer. My sister is always telling me to watch where I’m going.”

He was a large, clean shaven white man with steel blue eyes, thin lips and a sour expression. Ward immediately disliked him, but kept his expression pleasant and easy, despite the lack of response from the trooper.

Grant started to pass him, when the man grabbed his arm, and it took all of his will not to turn and deck the officer, but he couldn’t stop himself from tensing up. It was instinctual, impossible for him to control, and he hated the suspiciousness of that kind of response. But terror rendered him in such a state, and it was such a difficult weakness for him to control. His mind fumbled for an excuse, for something, anything to say, but all he could see, all he could think of, was what would happen when his family found out he had stolen a car…

“Why you so nervous, boy?” The state trooper asked gruffly, “and what’s a teenage boy like yourself doing out here all alone?” Grant opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out. All he could hear was Christian’s cruel laughter, and it echoed through his useless brain. The trooper’s hand was still heavy and warm on his arm, making a tight fist in Ward’s stomach. “You gonna answer me, or what?”

“Oh hey, Grant, I hope you don’t mind, but I used a few dollars to get some- why hello there, Officer.” The voice was unrecognizable, just a young girl’s and Ward turned to see who possessed it, who knew his name, who was interrupting his impending doom. There, in the dimly lit parking lot, was a skinny girl with crooked Lisa Loeb glasses, dark hair thrown up into a ponytail, strands falling out every-which way, a pair of loose fitting jeans and the ugliest aquamarine sweater he had ever seen in his life. He had never seen someone so awkward looking in all his life, but at that moment, she might as well have been an angel, because the hand on his arm fell to the officer’s side, and he stepped back, putting beautiful space between them. “Is something wrong?”

“Why are you two kids out in the middle of the night?”

“Well, his parents and my parents have this stupid idea that we would be like…great for each other. You know, I help him study, he helps me get popular. Too many 80’s movies, right? So we’re out with his friends- who totally hate me. Which is fine, because they’re a bunch of tools anyway and-”

He sighed impatiently, “short version, kid.”

She opened her mouth to speak, shut it, then opened it again. “I can’t do short versions.”

“Flat tire.” Grant responded curtly.

The State Trooper gave them both a once over, and then he settled on Grant with the most sympathetic of expressions, “I really hope the A is worth it, boy. Now you two get home, before either of you get into any real trouble, okay?”

“Yes.yes.yes.yes.yes.” She said in one hurried breath, and made quick eye contact with Grant. He gave her the slightest of head movements to where his car was parked, and they walked to it very quickly.

They climbed in simultaneously, her dropping a book bag he hadn’t noticed earlier into the back seat before her eyes landed on the exposed wires that he needed to start the car. He saw the trepidation there, the glimmer of fear, and it reminded him so much of the look in Thomas’ eyes when he’d watch their parent’s walk out the door- it was like a knife in the gut, to be looked at in that way, without Christian being the reason. “I’ll bring you right back here in an hour; he should be gone by then. You’ll be safe.”

“No need.” She sighed, eyes moving from the wires to the glove box, then to him. “I just need to hit a place with the internet. So like…a library or something.”

“There are no libraries open in the middle of the- wait, how did you know my name?” How had he forgotten to ask that immediately?

There was a small snicker, before he caught her reaching into her pocket and dropping his wallet in the center console. He felt his jaw set in anger, and moved his eyes directly to the road as they pulled back onto the highway. How did she get that? He didn't even see her in the gas station. “So you’re a thief.”

She motioned to the wires, “oh hi, Pot, have you met Kettle?

He gave her an irritated look, refusing to admit that she was right. “So what’s your name?” He asked, “and don’t tell me Kettle.”

Another laugh, but it almost sounded like a giggle.

“What would you like my name to be?” She asked him with a smile, and for a moment, he thought this little kid was flirting with him. He raised a sardonic brow at her, and her olive skin started flush into a deep, embarrassed red. “What does it matter anyway, what my name is? It’s not like…a defining characteristic. It’s just a word that people put on you, before they even know anything about you. A name is what someone else wants you to be. I think we should be able to like…change our names when we reach a certain age. Don’t you think that would be cool?”

“You talk a lot.”

“Yeah. I’ve been told that before.”

“But you don’t actually answer questions when you talk.” He pointed out, slightly annoyed. “Your name?”

She looked out the window, and out of the corner of his eye, he saw that she was picking at the sleeve of that oversized crocheted sweater. Finally she looked back at him, “it’s Skye.”

“Skye, huh?” He asked, “got a last name?”

“You mean like a family name?” Her retort was bitter, “no. I don’t have one of those.”

The side of his mouth jerked a little, but he kept away the full frown as he sped up the car just a little. “Lucky you.”

“So where did you learn to hotwire a car? Juvie?” She asked, hands reaching to the wires, he swatted her hand away, while trying to maintain focus enough on the road to not crash. “Because they probably also should have told you not to walk into cops when you have a stolen vehicle in the parking lot.”

He glared, “no. Not Juvie.”

She leaned forward in her seat, “so where are you going? Are you going to like… take it to a chop shop? Oh my God, like in Adventures in Babysitting, right? I love that movie. I really thought that Chris and Joe should have hooked up, instead of Dudley Do-Dull, but they never hook up the people they’re supposed to in mo-”

“I’m not a car thief!” He exclaimed crossly, “we’re not going to a chop shop, and I have never seen that movie.

“Well okay, Mr. Cranky-pants.” She sank back down in the seat and folded her arms over his chest, “I was just trying to make conversation. You don’t have to be all grumpy.”

He sucked in a deep breath, looked sideways at her, but said nothing.

They drove in silence for a few minutes, before she spoke up. “You can just pull up on this exit. I’m sure there is a coffee shop, or library, or something with the internet.”

He switched lanes, then took the exit. “What’s with your internet obsession, kid?”

Kid?” She practically squeaked, “I’m 14!”

“Oh, I thought you were 12. Sorry.” Her eyebrows shot up, as though she had taken the greatest offense, before crossing her arms over her chest, and shaking her head in dismay. She did look young though- she was just a tiny thing, with wide eyes and oversized clothes, like a little girl in her big sister’s clothing. “So why do you need the internet?”

“Why did you steal a car?” She returned in a challenging voice.

For someone so small, how could she be so irritating? “I needed a ride home.”

“Must be nice.”

“You’d be surprised,” he answered, then glanced at her sideways, “you don’t have a home?”

She shrugged, suddenly interested in looking out the window. “Hey, there. It’s a library. Perfect. Pull over! Pull over!”

“It’s almost 1 AM, Skye. The library isn’t open!” He hadn’t meant to yell, really, he hadn’t, but she was frustrating, and he was already worked up about the plan, then the plan getting hijacked by a irksome wisp of a girl, who didn’t know when to be quiet, and apparently had no concept of how the real world worked. “We can’t just walk in.”

“I’m sure I can climb through a window, or something. It’s a library, I really doubt they have top-level security, Grant.” She was already grabbing her bag, and getting out of the car before it had even come to a complete stop. Her feet hit the ground, and she was taking off across the parking lot, almost disappearing in the parking lot.

He knew there was a choice: Let this idiot-child get herself arrested; or repay the favor of keeping her out of trouble. Sighing with deep frustration, Grant started to follow her, breaking into a sprint in order to catch up. By the time he reached her, she was breathing heavily, starting to circle the building, undoubtedly looking for an entry. “Can’t this wait until morning?”

“Go away, Grant.”

“Look, why don’t you just get back in the car-”

She whirled around, and even with just the moon lighting her face, Grant saw the pain and anger glinting in her eyes “why? You don’t want me there, so buzz off, creep. I’ve got stuff I need to do.”

“You’re being unreasonable.” But he was unsure of the words. Comforting people had never been his forte.

She ignored him, and continued looking around the building for a possible point of entry, when she clasped her hands together and jogged up to a window that was ever-so-slightly ajar. She gave a quick look around, while he focused on her. Was she seriously thinking of breaking into a library to use the internet? What the hell was wrong with this girl? “Skye, c’mon. Don’t be an idiot-”

“I’m not an idiot.” She interrupted, “did you learn your people skills in Juvie too?”

“I wasn’t in Juvie.” He replied through clenched teeth.

“I just need something to stand on,” she was looking at the ground, next looked around further before walking about the grounds, desperately in search for something to give her a bit more height.

He followed, trying to reason with her the best he could; “we can just wait until it opens…”

“And then have you get arrested for a stolen vehicle? No thanks.”

“Will you just tell me why you need the internet so badly? Maybe we can think of another option, Skye.’

She made an irritated sound, “I need to contact someone, a friend, a couple of friends, maybe.”

“Maybe?” He prompted, “pretty vague, don’t you think.”

She approached him, “well you’re not sharing your story either,” she poked his chest at the word, ‘you’re,’ and then raised her eyebrows for effect. “So I don’t see why I have to.”

He thought about lying. It kept him quiet for about ten seconds, actually. Why not lie? No one had ever believed the truth anyway, and he was getting tired of telling the story, of being told that he was a delinquent, of being ridiculed;all the while Christian was revered. No one believed his sweet, charming brother of being a sadistic fuck who pitted brother against brother, who got some kind of sick pleasure out of other people’s pain. But something about the look in those defiant brown eyes, and the resolve that she had to do what needed to be done told him that maybe this time the conversation would go differently.

He opened his mouth to speak, then he shut it again; what was the use, really?

“Okay, fine. I’ll be the first to leap. How about that?” She tilted her head to the side, “I don’t have any family. My last name ought to be Ward, since I’m a ward of the state anyway.” She rolled her eyes, “but I met some people, and they’re like me, and they want to help me find a home.”

“Like you, how? Where did you meet them?”

“Like misfits, or whatever. And I met them online.”

You don’t want me there. He remembered her words with a wince, and drew his brows together. No family. No friends. Nobody. The girl had nobody. So a girl like that meets some people online, and feels like she’s connected to someone, feels like she belongs. Then said friend turns out to be a child-molester or worse; because that was the way the world worked. The ‘friends’ she mentioned probably only wanted to help her into a life of misery.

She could end up like me, or like Thomas.

Protectiveness began to stir inside him. She was so small. There were a million ways for someone to hurt her, hurt her even worse than she already was. He saw the pain then, beneath the bravado, and the stream-of-consciousness speeches. That annoying prattling on she did wasn’t so obnoxious now that he understood it. She had wanted to be liked, to be accepted, to be understood. He knew that feeling all to well. The precipitous change of his emotions towards her rattled him, he wasn’t much used to feeling anything but anger and fear anymore.

Grant swallowed, “well,” he said slowly, “where are you supposed to meet these…misfit people?”

“Providence, Rhode Island. Don’t you think that’s awesome?” She was suddenly bright and hopeful again, like everything that just transpired between them were droplets of water on the back of a duck. Was this girl for real?

He glanced back at the car, and rubbed the back of his neck with his hand. “I ran away from Military School. I’m going back home to confront my family about it. But…I can take you to meet your friends first.” Somehow he knew he wasn’t going to regret this offer, it gave him a calmness, a certainty that he had never had before. For once in his whole life, he felt good about something. It was so foreign of an emotion, that he barely recognized it.

She looked unconvinced. “Why?”

He straightened his shoulders, realizing that the truth was going to get him nowhere on that front. “Maybe I’m kind of a misfit too.”

She snorted, “looking like that? Yeah right.” Then her cheeks turned pink again, and she rolled her eyes. “You don’t have to do this.”

“I know.” Their eyes locked, and a kind of understanding passed between them, as she shifted from one foot to the other, and played with the sleeves of her sweater. She was an adorable little thing, in an ungainly, awkward sort of way; funny how he hadn’t noticed that before. It was in her eyes mostly, which chiefly went unnoticed due to the thick rimmed glasses that initially garnered his attention. Grant wagered that somewhere out there was a dorky little 14-year-old boy who was going to miss the little runaway girl. “But I want to.”

She broke into a warm grin. “Really?”

He found himself, for the first time in what felt like an eternity, giving her a genuine smile back as he nodded. “Really.”

“Well what are you waiting for?” She asked brightly, “let’s go, Pot!”

He rolled his eyes as he followed her back to the car. “Don’t call me that.”