Grant Ward prided himself on his strength and his resilience. He had survived his family, prison, the wilderness, and SHIELD, and he had walked away a stronger man for all of it. He didn’t form attachments because they made him weak, Garret had taught him that and for a very long time Grant believed it. The team was just part of the mission, and he always completed his missions.
His hands flexed and clenched tight into fists, hard enough that his knuckles ached. Skye looked like a corpse, like Snow White in her coffin of glass with blood dried on her shirt and two bullet holes in her stomach.
This wasn’t part of the plan, he thought. None of it was part of the plan. He wasn’t supposed to like these people. He wasn’t supposed to care what happened to them. And she wasn’t supposed to get hurt.
He could see John’s logic, of course. Coulson would do anything for Skye. Including lead the Clairvoyant right to the medical miracle that could bring the dead back to life. But, Grant thought, Coulson was already looking. Coulson would have done it for any of them, why did it have to be Skye?
“Sir, I need to talk to you.”
Agent Coulson looked up from the medical files spread out across his desk. “Can it wait?” He had dark circles under his eyes and his voice was rougher than usual.
Ward almost said yes. He thought about saying never mind, not important, and walking away. But when he closed his eyes he saw Skye bleeding out and Ian Quinn’s smug face.
“No, it’s important.”
Coulson sighed and nodded, scrubbing a hand over his face as he motioned for Ward to enter with the other.
Grant shut the door behind him and stood at attention before Coulson’s desk.
“I know who the Clairvoyant is.”
The exhaustion was gone in the blink of an eye. Coulson sat up straight in his chair with his full attention on Ward’s face.
With his stomach churning with anxiety and a fear he hadn’t felt since he was thirteen years old, watching his little brother flounder in a well, Grant told him everything. Every word, every deed, the truth of his betrayal dropped from his lips like lead bricks and he didn’t dare watch Coulson’s face as he spoke.
When he finished he wished he could take it all back. He could only imagine what John would think, what John would say. He owed John so much, he owed John everything, but… but this was wrong. Ward had known from the beginning that Hydra would do whatever was necessary to bring stability to the world, to eliminate chaos, but Skye getting hurt had nothing to do with that. Skye was hurt, was dying, because John wanted to know how Coulson survived, and Ward couldn’t believe that it was a necessary sacrifice. Not Skye.
He steeled himself and met Coulson’s eyes. He wasn’t surprised by the anger he found there. Anger, fear, betrayal, and hurt, all on display before Coulson wrestled his expression under control, his face wiped clean with only grim determination in its place as he stood and rounded the desk.
Ward braced himself, for what he didn’t know: but he expected to be hit, he expected angry words and to be locked away like the traitor he was.
He didn’t expect the warm hand that settled on his shoulder. He didn’t expect to look into Coulson’s face and see empathy there, or gratitude.
“Sir?” His voice cracked, his throat dry and aching from his confession.
“Thank you for telling me. I wish you had spoken up sooner, but I think I understand why you didn’t.”
“Sir, I don’t…”
“I won’t tell the others.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“Oh don’t thank me, you’re not off the hook yet, Agent Ward. I need all the information you have on Hydra and Garret if we’re going to stop this.”
Ward drew himself up, resolve settling on his shoulders like a cloak. “Yes, sir.”