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dark places

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He said when he started this that he was sorry it had to be Simmons - Skye was, naturally, his first choice - but he’s rethinking that now. Simmons is smart, too smart to let the berserker staff get the best of her. He knows it’s tearing her up inside, can see it in the flutter of her pulse at her neck and the whites of her knuckles around the arms of the chair, but she’s too clever to let it drive her over the edge. She’s thinking and that’s a hell of a lot more dangerous than if she was throwing herself at him in a blind rage.

Not that she can, tied up as she is. He may be crazy enough to expose her to the staff but he’s not dumb enough to do it while she’s in a position to hurt him after.

“I really don’t see why you hate me so much,” he says, picking up their conversation back at the start. Her jaw clenches and he relaxes a little further into his own chair. It’s more comfortable than hers only because there are no restraints and he makes the most of it, lounging just for show.

“You threw me from a plane.” She’s trying so hard to keep from screaming at him, it’s kinda cute.

“I dropped you. While you were inside a sealed container that was meant to float in water. And you lived. Next?”

She shifts in her seat. “Fitz-”

“Looked right as rain last time I saw him.”

“You kidnapped Skye-”

“And I never once hurt her.”

“You tortured Bobbi!”

“The woman who betrayed you? Who had hundreds of agents at her disposal but didn’t say a single word about it when Coulson was sending an injured Trip into hostile territory because there was no one else?”

That flusters her, probably more because she clued him into those facts about three go-rounds back. She breaks eye contact for the first time in hours and he can practically see a little more of her rage redirecting towards Morse and all those other idiots who thought going up against Coulson would do them any good. Grant gives it a minute, lets those feelings really sink in before pushing any further.

He slips silently from his chair to the tiny adjoining bathroom and returns with a wet cloth. The strength the staff’s left her with may not be enough that she can break the restraints, but it is enough to break skin. Blood’s dripping from her fists, not to mention her arms are swelling from her initial attempts at pulling free and now the heavy-duty rope he used to tie her down is cutting into her skin.

He kneels down in front of her but she’s so lost in her thoughts she doesn't even notice until the cold cloth on her arm has her jumping.

“I’ve never done anything to hurt you,” he says softly while he works on cleaning her up. “I protected you, saved your life more than once. Yes, I admit, some of the things I’ve done have caused you pain but that’s not my fault. You care - too much. You care about every damn person in the world. And that’s on you.” He gently uncurls her right hand and drags the cloth along her palm and fingers.

“You’re a murderer,” she says, but doesn’t close her fist.

“And you’ve always known that. You’ve just decided that the flag I’m flying somehow changes things.”

“It does. HYDRA is-”

Her voice is starting to rise and while he might have started out with some twisted desire to see carefully contained Jemma Simmons let loose, they’re on a good track here and he’d like to keep going on it as long as they can. “HYDRA didn’t kill Franklin Hall,” he cuts in quick, “or allow him to get so far out of control. HYDRA didn’t roll out the welcome mat for the Chitauri or manipulate a couple of kids into building an ice weapon.”

“No, HYDRA only allies itself with the people who do.”

He pauses with her left hand half-open. “You know three out of those four were SHIELD, right? And that when Garrett allied himself with Quinn, it was to control him, to keep him from pulling any of that old crap.”

“He shot Skye.”

“Which he never would’ve had to do if Fury had been more forthcoming with certain information.”

She makes an ugly noise. “Now you’re just rationalizing. There’s no excuse for-” She cuts off with a cry of pain as he moves up her arm.

“Hurts?” he asks, moving more slowly along the edge of the swelling.

She whimpers in answer. “It’s been - getting worse.”

He frowns. He knew the pain would start to flood back in once the strength wore off, but he didn’t think it’d be so soon. She’ll probably have all sorts of theories about that based on length of exposure versus just how messed up he is compared to her. Grant doesn’t care much about that except for how it can help him the next time he goes through this.

He works the rope on that side loose so he can more easily reach the spot deep in the coils where the worst of it is, and fuck it all, he’s proud, because the next thing he knows he’s got Simmons on top of him and her hands around his throat. The industrial grade rope is in shreds, broken without a moment’s hesitation once she had him where she wanted him. She really can lie these days.

Lucky for him, he’s still got all of his old tricks and the pressure on his throat eases quick enough when she feels the barrel of his gun pressed to her gut.

She looks down and then at him again with a really? sort of expression, like she’s personally offended that her murder attempt’s been ruined for a second time.

He lifts his chin and twists his neck a little to loosen her hands. “What’d you see?” he asks, figuring this is no reason to abandon a perfectly sound tactic. “When you touched it?”

The question throws her off, enough that she doesn’t immediately take offense at the phrasing - having the staff forced into her hand isn’t quite the same as touching it herself - and her weight shifts a little further back as she remembers.

He tries not to tense up too obviously. It’s only been a few weeks since he was last in a position like this - though Kara wasn’t big on violence as foreplay so it’s not exactly the same - but those weeks have been some of the emptiest of his life.

“The fall,” Simmons says hoarsely. “Mack telling me, as if I didn’t know perfectly well, that I make Fitz worse. Coulson ordering me to save your life. Skye’s father.” Her eyes are closed and her hands are fisted in his shirt. He’ll have to ask about that one again later. “Walking into HYDRA every day for months and-” Tears shimmer on her lashes. “I tried to activate Donnie Gill. Bakshi was feeding me the words, but I knew what they had to be and I-” She shakes her head and he catches it with one hand in her hair. She leans into the touch and doesn’t fight at all when he sits up, shifting her back as he goes so she’s in his lap.

“You did what you had to do,” he says. She tries to shake her head again but he won’t let her. “It’s Bakshi who was wrong - and you took care of him.”

She jerks and he slides his gun arm around her back to hold her more steady, aiming the pistol up into her ribs in case she gets out of hand. She leans into it, exhausted, and he wonders if the strength really is leaving her now.

She’s warm and soft, a dangerously satisfying weight straddling his thighs. This, he decides, is what makes monogamy dangerous. He got used to it, to having someone to touch and hold. He didn’t know how much he missed it.

Her eyes open and meet his. She looks exhausted. “What’s the plan here, Ward? You’re not doing all this just to torture me.”

He drags his thumb down her cheek. “No, I’m not. I’m doing it to enlighten you. I wanted you to understand.”

“You?” she guesses.

He tips his head; she’s not wrong. “And you. It ‘shines a light in your dark places.’” She rolls her eyes at Randolph’s old line. “You’ll never really know yourself unless you take a good, long look at all of yourself, especially those dark bits.”

Her gaze lands on his chest and she attempts to smooth the wrinkles she’s left in his shirt. “I saw you.”

“I told you,” he says patiently, diving right back into the conversation, “I’ve never hurt you. And everything else … are you really gonna blame me for other people’s crimes?”

“I saw you in the medpod,” she says, silencing him. For the life of him, he can’t think what he did inside the medpod that would make her hate him. “Skye was practically recovered and you were dropping in for one of your visits. You smiled at her.” Her own smile is sad, self-deprecating. “I hated you both for that.” She laughs. “Isn’t that pathetic? When you turned out to be … you.”

This is an unexpected turn - he was sure that, like Skye, Simmons’ murder attempt was evidence she was completely over him - and Grant’s not sure how best to play things to get her where he wants her.

For that matter, he’s not sure where he wants her at all. He was thinking just getting her on his side, directing the rage from the staff SHIELD’s way and recruiting her to his new HYDRA. He wraps his fingers up in her hair. He could have more, if he pushes her right, but he could also end up with nothing.

While he’s still considering, she makes the decision herself and kisses him. It’s mean and angry, exactly the sort of kiss he’d expect from a woman still in the throes of the berserker staff’s influence, but when her nails drag along the back of his neck and down to his chest, they sting but they don’t hurt.

The strength is gone this time.

He’s not an idiot, so he releases the magazine from the gun and tosses each in a different direction before dragging her down on top of him again.