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your body is a warzone but you are not a ruin

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Skye stands in the middle of a crater, cracks splintering the earth, surveying the destruction. She feels as though she’s going to vomit. It’s a comforting certainty in a world where everything feels as though it’s coming apart, gaping holes in a reality she once took for granted. She feels as though she’s splintering into a million pieces and she has no idea how to make it stop.

 

And then he’s there. Somehow. Walking out of the dust. This time she was sure that she’d done it. That she’d inadvertently managed to overcome the voice in her head, getting steadily louder with each passing day. The voice that reminds her that everyone deserves a second chance. That nobody is born bad. The voice that tells her again and again that he has hope for her. She just wants the voices gone. Life would be easier.

 

But here he is again. Apparently impervious to everything she throws at him. There’s a cut on his right cheek, dirt smudged across every inch of him, an infuriating smirk planted firmly on his face and she hates him. She definitely hates him.

 

The screaming slices her to the core. She doesn’t mean to lose control like this, but emotions are funny things. She feels danger and the world goes red around the edges, her blood singing her into a dance of rage. It’s always the same. She comes to herself, exhausted, at the eye of a storm. And he’s always there. Watching. She’s long since stopped hoping that he’ll be one of her victims. He’s the one certain thing in a life that’s suddenly completely out of control.

 

 

She doesn’t let herself think about the team, left behind months ago when she started this one-woman suicide mission. That was what Fitz called it. Or, rather, screamed at her when she informed them that she was striking out on her own, afraid of hurting them. Jemma had stepped forward then, voice calm, placing a hand on Fitz’s shoulder, and told Skye that they’d keep working on a solution. Skye left then, before the hope that blazed in her chest could crystallize into something solid enough to make her stay.

 

Skye tries to focus on the future instead of the past. On how the world will be a better place without Hydra in it. But sometimes she catches sight of herself in a mirror and marvels that she still looks like the same girl she always did. She expects to find a different person staring back at her. One with hands stained red and a face full of fury. A goddess of vengeance. But she always looks like what she is. A girl tired of battle and desperate for a moment of peace.

 

“I’ll finish them off if you want. I know how you hate it when they scream.” He always stops just out of range of her knife now. There’s an angry red line on his neck, her most recent gift to him. She wears a matching brand on her forearm.

 

“Just leave. I don’t want you here.” It’s a lie, but she tells it anyway. She needs him here to witness what she’s become. It keeps her from allowing herself to believe that she can ever be normal again.

 

“I think you know that’s not happening...” Ward pauses, grin widening. “Skye.” He does this to her every time. Throws her old life in her face as though he expects it to make a difference. He, of all people, should know that she’ll never be the same. They both have the scars to prove it.

 

“I thought you got the memo. I’m Daisy now.” She spits the name at him. Her despised new identity to go with the power she wishes she’d never had the misfortune to gain. They’ve brought her nothing but loss.

 

“We’ve had this discussion before, Skye. I don’t like the new name.” He shrugs and pulls a face. As though it matters to her in any way what he likes. They’re enemies and he needs to remember that.

 

“I don’t give a shit what you do and don’t like. You don’t get a vote.” She takes a step towards him, just to see what he’ll do. He takes a step back. It’s comfortingly familiar. She feels her lip curl in a sly smile. “Still not going to risk it? Thought for sure you’d be declaring your undying love for me by now. Perhaps you’ve finally realized that I’m not the girl you think I am.” Skye’s suddenly not sure which one of them she’s trying to convince.

 

“You’re exactly the girl I think you are.” His face wears an expression she’s seen a million times before. The one that makes her remember what her life was like when she allowed herself to have hope for a better future. He’s part of what made her life crumble into dust. She needs to remember that.

 

“Shut up.” She loads the words with all the fury she can manage.

 

“Okay, Skye.” He nods. She tries to ignore the way that it sounds like I love you.

 

She hears it then, over the echoes of buildings crumbling in the distance, a high-pitched noise, twisting like a knife in her gut. She turns towards the sound, trying to locate the source. With her senses heightened as they always are after she uses her power, it takes only a matter of seconds before she’s striding towards it with purpose.

 

“Skye, don’t.” Ward sounds vaguely panicked, but she couldn’t stop now even if she wanted to. It’s as though she’s being drawn towards the sound by an irresistible force, a gravitational pull she can’t fight. She barely registers the fact that he’s walking beside her now, dangerously close. She could finish cutting his throat from this distance. Not that she ever really put much effort into it the first time. She doesn’t allow herself to be distracted though, certain that it’s what he wants. He hasn’t changed that much.

 

The noise fades to silence as they draw close to a mound of rubble. On the signage that lies, twisted metal, on the ground, Skye sees letters.

 

H-O-O-L

 

She reaches out with trembling fingers to flip over the remaining piece of steel, ignoring Ward’s pleas to her not to do it. She already knows what she’s going to find.

 

S-C

 

She screams.

 

The world starts to flash white, brilliant streaks of red staining her vision, as she begins to unravel. Her loss of control is absolute and she can feel herself beginning to come apart at the seams, bones starting to vibrate, tiny fractures skating across her skin. She’s death and destruction and it’s only fitting that it should end like this.

 

“Skye.”

 

She hears his voice, a caress against her skin, a promise that she can’t bring herself to believe. But then, through the tremors threatening to rip her apart, she feels it. Feels him. After all this time she thought she’d forgotten.

 

His fingers twist through her hair and his mouth is soft on hers, stubble rough against her cheek. She can feel the energy coursing through her, trying to push him away, but somehow he manages to stay pressed close to her. She's flush against him, one of his arms locked around her waist, his breath hot against her tongue. There are sparks under her skin where he touches her, a constellation of stars in her blood, and she’s flying.

 

Her body suddenly belongs to her again, nothing more than flesh and bone, and, for a bare second, she allows herself to believe that they’re the people that they were before. Skye lets her hand drift up to Ward’s shoulder, skate across the raised welt on his neck. She allows herself to lick up into his mouth, chasing the moan he makes, that she feels in her soul. It’s a dizzying counterpoint to the force that threatened to shatter her into ashes only moments before. She feels as though she’s going to burn regardless.

 

Skye puts a hand on his chest, pushes herself backwards, away from the danger of his embrace, his body, the promises he whispers against her skin that she can never believe. She runs a gentle finger across his lower lip, and his smile is achingly familiar. He doesn’t see the punch coming. Skye’s fist connects with his jaw with a gratifying crack, and she feels the shock of it all the way up to her neck. He turns his head away, spitting blood on the ground, and Skye thinks that there’s a perfect symmetry to the way she spills the blood of the innocent and the guilty alike.

 

“That hurt.” Ward wipes the back of his hand across his mouth, a streak of vivid red trailing in its wake.

 

“It was meant to.” Skye grins, humorless, and adjusts her stance. “You’re not supposed to touch me.”

 

“Remind me how that goes.” Ward’s voice is a challenge and, for a while, the comforting familiarity of the conflict between them makes her forget. She ignores everything but the beauty of the battle, her powers under complete control again. Later, she’ll let herself mourn. But, for now, she locks her guilt behind closed doors and promises herself that, one day, she’ll make amends.

 

++++

 

“Another day, another catastrophe. I thought you were getting better at this. Clearly I was mistaken.” Ward’s leaning against a wall, arms crossed and eyebrows raised. He looks as though he doesn’t have a care in the world, but Skye can see from the way his feet are placed that he’s ready to move in an instant.

 

“Fuck you.” She manages to gasp it out around the pain that’s threatening to bring her to her knees. She can still taste bile at the back of her throat, her stomach threatening to rebel at the slightest opportunity. “I didn’t ask for a fucking critique.” Her entire left arm is on fire and she really needs to be alone, nursing her wounds, not dealing with Ward’s bullshit.

 

“Yeah, I don’t care. I’m a little disappointed to be honest. I taught you better than this.” Ward’s gaze follows a drop of blood as it rolls off her index finger and drops to the dirt. Skye’s spilt so much blood now that she thinks it’s only fitting that some of it be hers. It’s like a debt that she owes, being paid off a little at a time. “You got careless, Skye.”

 

“Daisy.” She grits it out through clenched teeth. He smiles and she wonders if she’s got enough energy to spit at him. Her vision flashes white for a second and a tendril of fear curls slowly up her spine. She focuses on Ward, fighting against the vibrations that she can feel at the tips of her fingers. “What the hell are you doing here anyway?”

 

“Critiquing. Come on now, Skye, we’ve covered this. Looks like you could use a hand.” Ward makes no sign that he’s planning to move from the wall that he’s still propped up against. Skye doesn’t know what he’s hoping to get from her. If he thinks she’s going to ask him, of all people, for help then he’s more deluded than she thought. A fresh wave of nausea almost brings her to her knees and she can feel her hands start to shake. She clenches them into fists in a vain attempt to stave off the inevitable.

 

“I need you to leave.” The words are out of her mouth before she realizes what she’s saying. The look of triumph on Ward’s face makes her wish that her powers included the ability to turn back time. She knows that he’s going to throw this in her face the next time they meet. She’s surprised, actually, that he hasn’t mentioned their last meeting. There’s still a bruise on his neck, fading to greens and yellows, her parting gift. She can still feel the ghost of his mouth on hers.

 

“No, I think I’ll stay. Watch the show.” Ward pushes off the wall as the sound of gunfire punctures the evening air. “Sounds like it’s time for your encore.”

 

Skye can barely breathe, let alone face down a group of pissed off Hydra agents. Her body gives up and she slowly slumps to the ground, watching in fascination as the blood pooled there starts to gently vibrate when her fingers touch it. The sand beneath her is white, streaked red, and Ward’s face fades in and out of focus in the background. She can feel it begin, feel the ground deep beneath them growl its dissatisfaction at her weakness, rising up to protect her. She’s too fragile to mount the effort required to tighten her control. She welcomes the chance for oblivion. She does.

 

“Skye.” Ward’s voice is insistent and he won’t let her sleep. Why won’t he ever let her have ten more minutes? It’s basically a violation of her human rights, his insistence that she be up for morning drills at five-thirty in the morning. She’s going to talk to AC about it. Once she’s ready to get up. In about two hours.

 

“Skye, wake up.” This time his voice is accompanied by razorwire clamping down on her upper arm. She shrieks her way back to the present. Ward has his thumb shoved into the wound in her shoulder, the agony of it causing the world to shudder to stillness around her.

 

“Stop.” She intends for it to come out as a shout, but it’s more of a sob, vowels and consonants collapsing in on themselves as she struggles to fight back tears. The ground’s quiet though, back where it belongs, so that’s one less variable she has to control. “Ward, please.” Skye hates that it’s come to this. That Ward is the one dragging her back from the edge. He’s basically the one who put her here, balancing between a past she can’t forget and a future she doesn’t want. “Stop.” She doesn’t even know what she’s talking about any more. The pressure on her arm lessens, the pain fading into a dull ache, bliss compared to the searing torture of moments before.

 

“Sure thing, rookie. I’m going to need that hand anyway.” Ward’s eyes narrow, assessing her, as he stands. He reaches a hand out towards her, palm up, in a gesture she recognizes all too well. “Thought you didn’t carry a gun these days.”

 

“I needed it.” It’s all the justification that Skye’s prepared to give as she passes it over. It’s all but useless to her in her present state anyway. A sad smile drifts across Ward’s face before he manages to marshal his features into their usual mocking expression. It’s a situation so achingly familiar that Skye almost feels safe. She’s sure he’s doing it on purpose, calling her ‘rookie’, making her think about May and her old life. He’s a bastard. He is.

 

He could never resist playing the role of her hero though. Some things never change. She watches, exhausted, from her position on the ground as he takes down what seems like a battalion of enemy agents. There was a time when she actually cared about how many people he’d killed. That was before her own tally got too high to count on her fingers. She nearly drove herself mad thinking about it. Now she refuses to let herself dwell on their ordinary lives and the families they leave behind. Sacrifices need to be made. She pretends to ignore the guilt that threatens to overwhelm her. This time, she’s just grateful for the fact that she’s the one that gets to survive.

 

Ward’s movements are efficient, reassuringly familiar, and there’s a kind of grace in his ruthlessness. Skye’s not sure how long she lies there, waiting for the moment when sheer numbers overwhelm him. It doesn’t happen though. She’s doesn’t know if the emotion churning in her gut is relief or disappointment. The thought terrifies her and she gratefully welcomes the comforting cocoon of unconsciousness.

 

++++

 

Skye dreams of tumbling through the stars in an endless free fall. Ward’s arms reach out to catch her and she throws herself awake with a start. She knows from bitter experience that these dreams are dangerous, seductive. They make her want to forget and she can’t afford that. Her arm throbs slightly underneath a proficiently knotted bandage and she sits, brushing the last vestiges of sleep from her eyes. With a jolt of alarm Skye realizes that she has no idea where she is. The room is sparse, just the bed and a chest of drawers, cotton sheets soft under her fingers and worn with age. She’s still dressed in her own clothes, only her sleeve torn to allow access to her upper arm. She reaches down to her belt, relieved to find her knife still in its place. The room gives a sickening lurch as she sits up.

 

“Good. You’re awake. Took you long enough.” Ward’s voice reaches her through the white noise blasting in her head. She uses it as an anchor to steady herself. The dizzying spinning of the world around her slowly comes to a halt. He’s standing by the door, gun in hand, and he looks tired. Worried. It’s an act. It’s always an act. Skye’s been fooled by this one before. She knows better than to trust him.

 

“You going to shoot me now?” Skye tries to ignore the part of her that decides it would welcome the opportunity for them to be on equal ground. She’s got enough scars from Ward without tempting further injury.

 

“Wasn’t planning on it. I went to considerable trouble to keep you alive. This is yours.” He walks over and places the gun on the bed next to her hand. She could pick it up and shoot him. She should pick it up and shoot him. Do the world a favor. But she doesn’t need any more blood on her hands. Not even his. She absolutely doesn’t care that he may have saved her life. He owes her that much.

 

“Don’t expect a thank-you. I didn’t ask for your help.” Skye’s aiming for righteous indignation, but it falls flat. The words come as barely more than a whisper, laced with hurt.

 

“Doesn’t mean you don’t need it. You’re going to end up dead if you carry on like this, Skye. You are aware of that, right?” His tone is desperate, pleading. It’s a lie. It’s a lie.

 

“At least I wouldn’t have to see you.” Skye leaves out the part where she finds herself looking for him. The moments when the world is beginning to shatter around her fingertips and she searches for the figure dressed in black that inevitably walks out of the chaos. She doesn’t even want to admit it to herself, let alone him. He’s a target for her white-hot rage and that burning anger stops her from having to dwell on what she’s become.

 

“Oh, Skye.” He laughs, but there’s a quiet sorrow hovering at the edges of his smile. “You’d miss me.” He always did have a disconcerting way of knowing what she was thinking. She picks up the gun, can tell from the reassuring weight in her hand that it’s loaded, and aims. Centre mass. He grins at her, lets out a small huff of laughter, genuine this time, before he turns his back to her and walks away.

 

“It’s Daisy.” She doesn’t pull the trigger. Instead, she fires the name at his retreating form like a bullet. She sees him falter and feels a grim sense of satisfaction that her aim was true.

 

++++

 

She’s suffocating in a heavy blanket of agonized cries for help, and the terror lancing through her does nothing more than fuel the fire that’s burning her up. Bodies turn to ashes and dust and she can’t stop it. The power takes control of her, swallows her whole. Skye’s world is reduced to the infinite space between heartbeats and the pain is unbelievable, ripping her apart. She wants nothing more than to let go, to disperse as atoms that dance across the vast potential of the universe. But there’s something keeping her from being able to leave - an annoying vibration, just out of sync with everything else. It’s a distraction. She needs to make it stop.

 

It hurts. That’s the first conscious thought that she has. It’s easy to let the walls down and just plummet into the void. Rebuilding her defenses is the hardest thing she’s ever had to do. No matter how many times she has to pull her battered shields into place around her body, it never gets any easier. Eventually Skye forces her eyes open. She should have known what she’d find.

 

The room looks like a tornado has hit it. Skye lets out a huff of wry laughter as she amends her thought. It looks like someone tried to start an earthquake. Long cracks scar the plaster on the walls, a cobweb of destruction leading right back to her. The bedhead is cracked in two and there are chunks of debris scattered on the floor. And he’s here. Sitting beside her, as though he hasn’t a care in the world, despite the blood seeping from a gash on his forehead. His hand is gripping hers as though his life depends on it. He stares at her for three long breaths, throat working as though he’s about to say something. Eventually he does nothing more than lean forward and brush a strand of hair off her face, fingers tracing her skin just a little longer than necessary. Skye forgets to breathe.

 

“You were screaming.” He announces it as though this is news to her. As though her struggle for control isn’t something that she’s been battling with for months now. As though she hasn’t been the one living this nightmare. “It’s getting worse.”

 

“How would you know?” She tries, she really does, but there’s no venom behind the words. She just sounds exhausted.

 

“Because I see you, Skye. I’m there.” And with that, he gets up and picks his way through the wreckage to the door. “There’s food in the kitchen.” Ward, shoving his shoulder against the door as it protests against leaving the frame it’s now wedged into. “If it’s still standing.”

 

“Thank you.” Skye’s not sure what she’d intended to say, but the words escape her before she has a chance to reel them in. He looks as shocked as she feels. This isn’t what they do any more. She’s supposed to remind him that she’s not Skye. That she’s someone else now. Something more. Something terrifying. A litany of accusations and threats at the tips of her fingers and she can’t bring herself to say them out loud.

 

She’s relieved when he gives her a single nod of acknowledgement and leaves. She groans as she scrubs her hands across her face and slowly sits up, before swinging her feet to the ground. It’s reassuringly solid, the wood somehow warm under the soles of her feet. She considers bringing the gun with her, but eventually decides to leave it where it lies on the bed. It’s a start.

 

++++

 

Skye wanders down the hallway towards the smell of fresh coffee and frying bacon. She can’t remember the last time she ate, and her stomach’s making it’s dissatisfaction known. She can’t work out where they are; all she can see from the windows is an endless parade of trees, stretching to the horizon. She supposes it must be where Ward lives now. The big bad wolf hiding out in the woods. The thought amuses her.

 

She’s brought up short when she turns the corner. The kitchen lies along the back of the room and a huge wall of glass dominates the rest of the living space. Doors open onto a wooden deck, a small jetty running from it out into a lake that’s surface is as smooth as a mirror. Clouds skate gently across the unbelievable blue and the beauty of it almost steals her breath.

 

“You want coffee?” Ward’s voice startles her out of her reverie. Skye nods, not trusting herself to speak, afraid of fracturing the fragile truce they seem to be operating under. It’s just coffee. Not forgiveness.

 

“You’ve got blood on your face.” She waits until she has the mug safely in her hands, ensuring that her traitorous fingers don’t betray her by doing something as foolish as wiping it away.

 

“Well you’ve got blood everywhere, but I suppose we’ll both survive.” Ward deposits two plates on the table and Skye’s stomach growls in anticipation. Ward chuckles and suddenly she’s thrown into memories of them standing shoulder to shoulder, her sneaking food from his plate as he half-heartedly knocks her hand away. She swallows down the burn at the back of her throat, shakes her head to clear it, and grabs one of the plates, walking over to the corner of the room furthest from where Ward is seating himself at the table. He watches, an amused expression on his face, as she settles into an armchair, maneuvering so that she can rest her wounded arm on a cushion.

 

“Seriously? You trust me not to kill you but you won’t sit at the same table as me?” Ward shakes his head. “You’re being ridiculous.”

 

“I don’t trust you at all, Ward.” The lie slips out as easily as breathing. “And I’m more comfortable over here, elevating my injured arm. You should probably provide me with an ice-pack for my...”

 

“Wounded pride?” Ward interjects, throwing her a look that speaks volumes. Neither of them speaks for a moment, each pretending to be fascinated by the meal in front of them. Finally, Ward breaks the silence. “How long are we going to do this to each other, Skye?”

 

Until it stops hurting.

Until I don’t want to any more.

Until we’re both lying in a grave of our own making.

 

“Forever.” She figures with the way they’re going, it’s not going to be that long. Ward smiles, though, and she wonders if maybe she’s missed the whole point.

 

++++

 

It takes Skye three days to be able to move her arm without flinching. She and Ward circle each other warily, neither of them wanting to be the first to blink. She feels as though they’re predators on the hunt for each other’s weaknesses. Skye already knows Ward’s biggest weakness, he proves it every time he walks into the bright white fury that surrounds her, but it doesn’t stop her searching for more. Some vicious part of her wants to know if she can break him more thoroughly than he once broke her. She’s accepted that she’s not going to kill him, but that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t want to pick at any fraying thread just to see if she can make him unravel.

 

Ward keeps trying to tell her what to do -- go back to SHIELD; get help; don’t try to fight this war alone -- and it’s beginning to wear thin. She’s taken to answering every argument he makes with a raised eyebrow and a murmured “You’re not my SO, Ward. It’s not up to you.” It amuses her to see his jaw clench as he tries to swallow his exasperation. It’s so like when they first met that she almost allows herself to forget everything that came after. The quiet here could make her believe that the world outside doesn’t exist. She senses the irony in that. But then she feels the scars on her stomach, a brutal reminder of the betrayal that turned her into this, and she forces herself to remember.

 

Skye wonders if he notices the way that her eyes follow him everywhere as she tries to see if she can work out where the man she thought he was and the man he is overlap. She can’t. All she sees is Ward, trying to convince her that she shouldn’t be alone. He leaves her with only her thoughts for company after the second day. Tells her that he has things to do. She doesn’t ask what. Instead she heads for the lake and lies staring at the sky, watching the clouds drift past. She pretends that she’s a bird. That she could fly away and leave her life behind. Childish dreams that used to bring comfort but now just serve as a reminder of how much has changed.

 

She tracks him down by following the rhythmic sound of leather on leather. The beat is so achingly familiar that she has to pause outside the room, rest her forehead on cool wood and take a steadying breath before she marches in. Ward’s shirt is soaked through despite the chill in the air and he’s clearly been here for a while. He’s obviously avoiding her and she’s spoiling for a fight.

 

“You know, you’d probably get further by talking to me than beating the shit out of that bag.” She crosses her arms and leans on the doorframe, careful to avoid putting pressure on her injured shoulder.

 

“I think you know that’s not true.” Ward barely pauses, the regular one-two of his punches continuing unchecked.

 

“Never took you for a quitter. Traitor. Killer. Liar.” She punctuates each word she throws at him by taking a step further into the room. His fists are moving faster, and her pulse hitches, adrenaline driving it to meet the tempo of his blows. “But not a quitter.” She’s close enough now that she can feel the heat of his body on her skin. He throws a final brutal blow at the bag, before spinning to face her.

 

“And how many of those things could apply to you these days, Daisy?” His voice is soft, a quiet knife slicing to the bone, but she feels the words hit as surely as if he’d screamed them. He’s never called her Daisy before. It sounds alien on his lips, and Skye feels as though she might throw up. From the corner of her eye she can see the punching bag begin to sway and she can feel the ground start to vibrate softly beneath her feet. She should put a stop to this. She should walk away. She can’t. He’s right. She understands him now.

 

“Shut up.” The tremors beneath their feet grow stronger as she says it.

 

“Why? You hate me, don’t you? Prove it.” Ward takes a step closer, his face only inches from hers, expression unreadable. “Show me.” He runs a finger up her forearm and the ground stops moving, the tremors instead following his hand as it slides along her skin. Goosebumps erupt in its wake. She can’t work out if it’s because of his touch on hers or the sudden realization that he’s the only person that seems to give her the control she so desperately craves.

 

Skye knows that she’s the one that should walk away. She knows that he’s never going to do it. She’s known it since she flicked on the lights in a dark vault and saw hope light up his face. She’s his weakness. She shows him.

 

His hand is resting at her elbow, the pads of his fingers barely brushing her skin, the pressure increasing as she closes the distance between them. There’s a sheen of sweat dusting his skin, allowing her fingers to skate under his shirt and lift it, drifting her hand slowly up the planes of his body. She maps him with her hands, like relearning territory she once knew by heart, trying not to think about how he feels like home.

 

Ward stands, his breathing shallow, as Skye pushes his shirt up further, until he has no choice but to lift his hand from her skin, raising his arms to allow her to remove it. She moves her hands to her waist, pulling her own top off in one smooth motion. It’s gratifying to see his eyes darken with single-minded focus that makes her blood sing in her veins.

 

Skye steps closer, until there’s only the barest sliver of air between them, Ward’s eyes fixed on hers. She can see his pulse pounding just below the angle of his jaw and his eyelids drift closed as she traces it with a thumb. She runs a nail across the stubble on his cheek, sliding her fingers to his mouth as he drags his eyes open again. She’s close enough to see the flashes of gold buried in the brown of his eyes, close enough to smell the sharp tang of his skin. His mouth parts, a bare fraction of an inch, at her insistent fingers. She slides them into his mouth, biting her own lip at the warm heat, the pressure of his tongue on her skin. She finally steps up flush against him, skin on skin, heartbeat pounding in her ears, and pulls his mouth to hers.

 

It’s the same every time. The feel of his lips on hers is intoxicating. He’s unrelenting, demanding, his tongue sliding past her teeth, the hint of beard rough against her skin. She darts her tongue against his, tasting him, and he lets out a groan that makes her wet with desire. He kisses her as though he never wants to stop, like the world could come crashing down around them and he wouldn’t even notice. She feels one of his hands trace a path up her side, skipping across her ribs, the barest pause as his thumb traces her nipple, before sliding up to tangle in her hair and pull her closer. The scent of her own arousal is heady, intoxicating, twisting in the air around them.

 

“Skye…” Ward pulls his head away, stares down at her, eyes dark with lust and hope and a million other emotions Skye doesn’t know how to deal with. She stops him by twining her arms around his neck, forcing his mouth back to hers, and biting down on his lower lip, hard enough to draw blood. She can taste the hot, bitter tang of his blood on her tongue as he drags her closer, digs his fingers into her hips with a force that she knows will leave the marks of his hands on soft skin.

 

He doesn’t bother with the clasp of her bra, just drags the material down under her breasts before licking a slow path down her neck. Skye lets out an involuntary gasp as he sucks down on the skin of her collarbone hard enough to bruise. She knows that he’s doing it on purpose, marking her with his hands and his mouth, leaving reminders of his presence that she’ll carry for days. She can’t bring herself to care as he slides his head lower, licks a slow circle around her nipple, tight with arousal and the heat of his breath on her skin. She waits, suspended in an endless second, before he finally sucks her nipple into his mouth. Skye barely recognizes her own voice as she murmurs his name, fingers twisting in his hair as he teases her with his teeth.

 

“Grant, I need…” Skye doesn’t have time to finish her demand before his mouth is back on hers and he's twisting them around, stepping them backwards until her ass hits the wall. His arm cushions her shoulders, her injured arm sustaining nothing more than a soft caress before she feels his fingers at her waist, deftly unfastening her jeans. She’s left panting in empty air as Ward drops to his knees, sliding the denim down over her hips, steadying her as she lifts first one foot, then the other, so he can shove them to one side.

 

Skye knows that what she’s doing is insane. She’s throwing gasoline on a fire that’s already raging out of control and they’re both going to burn. She doesn’t care. Ward’s gaze rakes her body, hungry for her, as though he’s storing every inch of this moment away in his mind. She’s standing in front of him, breasts propped on the shelf made by the fabric of her bra, dirty bandage wrapped around her arm, underwear soaked with her own arousal and yet he’s looking at her as though she’s the most perfect thing he’s ever seen. She feels her skin flush under the intensity of his stare. He’s kneeling at her feet and the naked desire on his face steals her breath.

 

Ward smiles, slow, eyes fixed on hers, as he trails a hand up the smooth expanse of her leg. He brushes his knuckles across the fabric of her underwear and her knees almost buckle at the bolt of longing that flashes through her. His mouth follows the path of his hand but he pauses, dark head level with her cunt, as she watches. He whispers her name and waits, barely touching her, for some sort of sign. She could stop this now. Walk away and never look back, secure in the knowledge that she’s proved the power that she has over him. Instead she nods, two brief dips of her chin that seal both of their fates.

 

Ward slips her underwear off, repeating the way he took her ankles as he stripped her of her jeans. He doesn’t let go this time though, hooks one of her legs over his shoulder as he moves his face towards her pussy, steadying her with one forearm braced across her hips.

 

“Grant, fuck.” She can feel the hot breath of laughter against her clit, his shoulders shaking slightly under her thigh before he parts her with his fingers, tongue rasping against her soft folds in one long lick. She arches against him, hips thrusting against his face, and he stills her with his arm, pinning her more firmly against the wall. Any objections she may have had in her head evaporate into mist as his mouth settles against her cunt, tongue fucking up into her. Skye gives in to the sensation of his mouth against her, the harsh scrape of his stubble scratching over sensitive flesh, for once allowing herself to think of nothing but the present.

 

Skye finds her hips suddenly free as Ward moves his arm, allowing her to cant her hips up to meet his tongue. She growls her displeasure when he moves away, the cold air a harsh contrast to the warmth of his mouth. But then his hands are on her, deft fingers pushing up inside her as his teeth scrape against her clit. Her back arches into the sensation and he licks, hard and fast, across her tender skin. Skye reaches down, threads her fingers through the hair at the back of his head and feels the muscles of his neck working under her hands. He’s skillful, dexterous fingers and quick tongue driving her to the edge faster than she would have thought possible. She chases her own release, building energy coiled tight at the base of her spine. Ward growls against her clit, fingers pushing deeper inside, and Skye feels her orgasm race through her, throat working around a silent scream as her vision flares neon white.

 

She dimly registers Ward slowly easing her leg to the floor, and she stands on unsteady feet. She forces her eyes open to see him sitting back on his heels, eyes fixed on the ground. He runs a hand through his hair as she watches, seemingly oblivious to the fact that his face is still wet from her.

 

“Grant?” She says it softly, almost afraid of bringing the ghosts of their past selves dancing into the room. He looks up at her and she knows, then, that she’s ruined them both. She eases herself down in front of him, looks him straight in the eyes, then leans forwards, brushing her lips against his. She can taste herself on him, salt-sharp, and for a moment the sense of possession is dizzying. She threads her fingers through his and leans forwards to rest their foreheads together. From this angle she can see the scars on his chest, the mirror image of her own. Proof of the damage they’ve caused each other.

 

“I’m sorry, Skye.”

 

It’s the first time he’s said it.

 

She believes him.