It felt like the room shook with the force of Skye’s pounding heart. Maybe it actually was trembling.-Skye could never be sure given her abilities. No one was commenting on an impending earthquake, so she assumed it was just in her mind.
She wondered if she should stop holding herself back. Coulson gave no indication that she should let loose, but May and the others were already awake, so they should be making their move already, right?
But Skye knew why no one was doing anything. She could fault John Garrett a great many things, but she could not find a flaw in his current setup.
Skye was certain that if they fought back that SHIELD would come out on top. She could take on multiple guards by herself even without using her powers, and May and Bobbi were here with the rest of the team. SHIELD would wipe the floor with Hydra should it come to a fight.
But at what cost?
Skye played out all the scenarios in her head over and over and did not come up with one that did not end with one of her loved ones shot to hell. Even if she did not count Grant, someone she cared about would surely die. There were too many guards with too many automatic rifles and too many hostages to aim at. Most of the team were restrained with shackles made for specialists- and that was not even taking into account the other SHIELD agents held prisoner elsewhere.
If Skye used her powers, she had to be positive that she was going to eliminate every threat in the room or else she would just end up witnessing many deaths and then be targeted for experimentation.
The problem was, Skye did not think that was possible. The way the Hydra agents were spread out throughout the room ensured that she could not blast them all without hitting her team. There was also the added concern of how much force to use. Skye had not tested her powers enough to know whether she would blow them away or if she would merely make them lose their balance should she try.
Skye peeked at Coulson out of the corner of her eyes. Once she made eye contact, she purposely looked to her hands and flexed them the tiniest bit. She knew he would understand. Sure enough, he minutely shook his head in response.
He wanted her to wait. He probably trusted May would stage an uprising soon or maybe he did not trust that she could do it. Skye supposed she had spent more time running away from her abilities than she had learning how to control them. But she knew they needed to do something soon. Skye had a terrible feeling that any second now the world was going to come crashing down on them if it had not already.
Skye’s eyes drifted towards Grant again in spite of her attempts to keep her focus off him. His back was ramrod straight, and to her, he looked wound so tight that he was liable to break any moment now.
But then she stopped thinking about Grant when Garrett clapped his hands loudly and grinned like the psychopath he was as he commanded the Hydra agents, “Shoot all of them except Coulson- but only kneecap the scientists.”
And just like that, Skye’s heart stuttered to a stop. For some reason, the danger had not felt so real until that moment when she realized just how heartless John Garrett was. He ordered their deaths like an afterthought.
“Garrett, stop! I’m the one you want. There’s no need to do this,” Coulson shouted. Skye could hear the strain in his voice as the Hydra agents lined up their shots. Garrett did not even turn to face him.
Rebecca was loudly bawling, and the noise drowned out most of the voices screaming.
“Ward!” Fitz yelled. “You don’t have to take orders from him! Don’t let this happen! Ward, look at me!”
Skye wanted to add her voice, but it had deserted her. She could not breathe, much less talk. All that was running through her mind was that she had to do something and save everyone.
Grant did not look at anyone or acknowledge Fitz, but he did move quickly to Garrett’s side.
Skye had no faith that Grant would talk Garrett down- assuming that was even what he was trying to do- so while they went to talk in low tones away from the group, Skye looked to Coulson again. She did not care what he thought at this point. If Garrett wanted to kill everyone, they had nothing to lose by mounting an attack first. Anything was better than just allowing the asshole to commence their executions.
From there, everything moved quickly. Garrett started berated Grant, and Rebecca was callously shot without warning. Before she knew it, Skye was getting slapped down by Garrett and listening to him talk about her like she was not even there.
That she could handle. Skye doubted her heart rate even rose. It was what came next that left her disturbed and horrified.
Garrett patted Grant on the shoulder. “Hey, we all have our weaknesses. The heart wants what it wants. Can't control everything. It’s okay.”
Despite the words and the cheerful tone they were delivered in, Grant noticeably paled. If anything, he appeared even more terrified than he was a minute ago when Garrett was backhanding her.
Skye wondered what experiences had made Grant fear Garrett discovering that he cared about others so much.
“But you know what that means,” Garrett went on, and it looked like Grant did know what it meant that he had been caught caring for someone else if his expression was anything to go by.
When Garrett ordered Grant to kill her, Skye understood. Had Grant known this would happen when he told her to make sure Garrett did not find out about them? Had Garrett done this before?
Skye forgot that Garrett had threatened to kill the others if she spoke again and began yelling. “Grant! GRANT! Listen to me! He doesn’t care about you! Don’t do this!”
One of the Hydra guards pushed her back down when she tried to get off the ground. Skye did not let that distract her from trying to reach Grant.
“I know you think you do, but you don’t have to do this! Don’t! Please, please, Grant!”
Grant stared at her uncomprehendingly, as if all her words passed right through him. She might as well have been shouting at a wall for all the impact she was having. Grant had come to a decision and nothing anyone did was going to change his mind.
Skye’s blood felt like ice in her veins as she went cold. She had known the control Garrett had over Grant but this was- it was-
Skye’s brain could not seem to focus on one train of thought as everything hit her all at once.
Skye wondered if he had enough presence of mind to remember that she could deflect bullets with the wave of her hand. She would guess no. His face was unnaturally pale and empty of all expression, as if he had just shut down completely.
Skye contemplated the chance that she could raise her hands in time to repel the bullet without getting shot by the guards ordered to kill her should she make a move.
Then she doubted she should even repel the bullet. If she did, it was likely that all she would accomplish was revealing her abilities to the Hydra agents in the room and maybe even killing Grant. If the shot went right back the way it came…
Grant was going to shoot her because a madman told him to, and she was still concerned that she would kill him if she tried to defend herself? It was just ridiculous, and yet Skye could not wrap her head around the idea that she could kill him. Maybe that was what Grant was feeling right now. She wished she could shut down the way he had, then maybe she would be able to protect herself from the inescapable despair of whatever outcome occurred.
Forced onto her knees like a sacrifice waiting for her executioner, Skye wondered if this had all been leading up to this moment. She had invited all this hardship and conflict by getting involved with an enemy, and it seemed the inevitable had finally happened. Maybe it had always been a foregone conclusion that she had kidded herself into believing she could change. It felt like she was being punished for arrogantly assumed she had a shot of being happy for once.
She ran out of time to consider it all.
Garrett backed away from Grant with a smile after he patted him on the back. Grant had his deadened stare focused on Skye, but she was sure her pleas were not reaching him.
“I knew you would-“ Garrett was saying when three shots were fired in rapid succession before anyone could process that Grant had moved.
Skye stopped breathing. Even after her brain processed that Garrett was bleeding and had fallen, she could not understand why she was not in any pain. Grant was not looking at her anymore. Instead, his unfocused eyes were on his motionless S.O. and the pool of blood collecting around him.
The last remnants of John Garrett's eerie cheer painted his face even in death. His eyes were open and his mouth was ajar, but nothing that had made Garrett the looming threat for the last year remained. In an instant, it ended.
In an instant, Garrett had lost the life he had sacrificed so many to preserve.
“What the hell?!” Cries rang out from people on both sides after the initial incredulity and surprise that had frozen the room wore off.
“Now!” Skye heard May shout distantly as the field agents on their side moved quickly to capitalize on the dumfounded Hydra agents who had lowered their guards in shock. Restrained by the specialty handcuffs and hindered by the lingering effects of the gas, the team worked their way through the enemies slower and with less grace than usual, but it was clear that the distraction had given SHIELD the upper hand.
Skye threw herself forward and wrestled the rifle out of the guard who had pushed her down’s hands before slamming the weapon into his head to render him unconscious. Coulson was doing the same besides her, but Skye dropped the bulky rifle and sprinted towards Grant instead of staying to help with the others.
Grant was just standing there in the middle of the firefight with his gun pointed at the ground. He looked limp and lifeless like a broken toy soldier.
But even though he had checked out of the conflict, the people around him had not. Skye doubted that anyone on her side would kill him purposely after what he had just done- something that she still could not believe and did not have time to process- but that did not mean that a stray bullet would not hit him. Not to mention the Hydra agents that were unlikely to be pleased he just killed their boss and helped SHIELD.
Sure enough, Skye watched as Kaminsky seemed to realize that Grant was incapable of defending himself and turned to take aim. Kaminsky was closer, so Skye slammed her fist into his head and kicked his rifle out of his hands. She grappled with him for a moment before flipping him over her shoulder and slamming him into the ground with a satisfying thump. For good measure and a little personal revenge, Skye’s foot connected with a powerful blow to Kaminsky’s head to ensure he was knocked out.
Skye wanted a sidearm and not a rifle, so she left unarmed and went to Grant. Grant was standing stock still in the middle of the room, which Skye found more than a little concerning. His eyes were glazed over as they stared at Garrett’s body.
“Grant!” Skye shouted as she moved in front of his line of vision. She waved a hand in front of his face and even grabbed his shoulder to shake him lightly. “Grant, hey! Snap out of it!”
He did not react. Skye was beginning to freak out as she grabbed him by the arm and led him to cover. Grant resisted at first, and she put more force in pulling him away. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed Fitz and Simmons awkwardly moving with their restrained hands to Rebecca, and Skye wanted to tell them to get to safety instead.
Skye managed to maneuver Grant to the side and onto the ground. Grant flopped to the floor bonelessly and sat on his heels. Skye crouched down in front of him on her knees and leaned forward.
“Grant,” she tried again. She cupped his face in her hands. His eyes were still unfocused, and Skye wondered what she should do. He was probably in shock, which was such a strange thought for her to have. Logically, Skye knew of Grant’s past and his conditioned loyalty to Garrett, but it was hard to see Grant fall apart this way. He always seemed so untouchable.
“Please, you’re worrying me.” She instilled as much panic into her voice as she could in the hopes that it would reach him somehow. “I need you to come back to me now. Okay? It’s all going to work out. I just need you to wake up.” Skye was rambling. Reassurance after reassurance tumbled from her lips in a desperate attempt to shake him out of his lifeless state.
She rubbed his cheeks with her thumbs absentmindedly as she glanced around the room. SHIELD was definitely winning, but they could use her help. Hunter was limping slightly, and Trip’s arm was bleeding from what appeared to be a bullet graze. With the specialty handcuffs, none of them could hold a gun, which really hindered them. Skye should go to them as she was neither affected by the gas nor restrained at all, but she could not leave Grant as he was.
“Skye,” Grant croaked.
Skye whipped her head back around to face him. “Oh, thank god,” she whispered as she wrapped her arms around his neck and clutched him to her. Her eyes welled up in tears.
For a brief moment, she was overcome with gratitude. She had thought she was dead or that Grant would die or that everyone she cared about was going to die. One of her hands snaked up his neck and into his hair as she pressed him as close as possible to her. It was still not enough.
She wanted to thank him. She wanted to articulate the sheer relief she was feeling that Garrett was dead, that Grant was free of him and that Grant had been the one to kill him for her, but she knew he would not want to hear that. Maybe later she would be able to convince him that it was a good thing but not now.
“He’s dead,” he mumbled into her shoulder. “I killed him.”
Skye squeezed him even tighter in the hopes of reassuring him. She could not share his grief over such a terrible person and he did not want to hear the reasons why he should be celebrating instead, so Skye settled for speaking softly in his ear. “I know. It’s going to be okay. I’m here, Grant. I promise I’m not going anywhere.”
Reluctantly, she pulled back and framed his face with her hands instead. His expression was still empty and lifeless, but now his eyes were dark and miserable. Skye thought that he might have cried if he had been someone who remembered how to.
“Grant, I need to help the others,” she said urgently. She threw a glance back at the fight just in time to see Trip get knocked to the ground. Fear clawed its way up her throat. “Hand me your gun-“ she began as she turned back towards Grant.
Four shots fired in quick succession, much like the bullets that had ended Garrett’s life, so close to Skye that it made her ears ring. She watched as the Hydra agent that had been advancing on Trip and three others fell to the ground dead. After that, it was easy for Trip, May and the others to take the rest down even unarmed and disoriented as they were.
Click. Click. Click. Skye turned back around and saw Grant was still pulling the trigger even though the gun was clearly out of rounds. It was as though he had mindlessly aimed and shot and could not comprehend why it was no longer working. It was… disconcerting.
Skye swallowed. “It’s okay,” she said in the most soothing voice she could muster. She covered his gun hand with one of her own and gently removed it from his grasp.
Skye met his eyes and felt her heart constrict painfully. His expression was drawn and his skin looked almost pallid, which made his numerous cuts and bruises stand out even more sharply. His vacant stare worried Skye, and she was not sure how aware he really was at the moment.
The sounds of the fight died down behind her, and Skye was at a loss as to what to do. So much had changed in the last hour- the last day really- that Skye was barely keeping up. Her heart had not yet processed that the immediate danger had passed and was still beating wildly in her chest.
Tentative fingers gripped her chin and gently eased her face to the side. It took Skye a second to realize Grant was focusing on the cheek Garrett had hit. In the chaos, she had almost forgotten the stinging, but it was definitely going to leave a bruise.
“He hurt you,” Grant said dumbly. He lightly brushed her cheek with his thumb as his free hand balled into a fist in his lap. “I should have-“ Grant cut himself off and left Skye wondering what he was going to say.
Skye hardly cared about a bruised face given everything else going on. She had been hurt far worse before. “I’m fine,” she said as she grabbed his hands and held them in both of her own. She smiled at him in an attempt to chase away the shadows in his eyes. He still looked so empty.
“Where the hell are those keys?!”
Skye reluctantly turned away from Grant to see Hunter awkwardly rummaging through a dead Hydra agent’s pockets with his hands still restrained. He did not seem to have noticed that Coulson had already retrieved them and was unlocking May’s handcuffs at the other end of the room.
“Hunter,” Coulson called with a teasing lilt to his voice and he passed the keys to the unsuspecting man.
Hunter barely got his cuffed hands up in time to keep the keys from smacking him in the face. “Thanks, boss,” he said sarcastically.
As Hunter and the others freed their hands, Skye scanned the room. The floor was littered with Hydra corpses, even Kaminsky’s who Skye had not dealt a lethal blow to. Maybe he woke up and got taken out or maybe a stray bullet had hit him, but Skye could not bring herself to care. As awful as the picture of death and violence was, her heart was already too heavy with everything that had happened in the last few days to have room for more pain.
Despite the misery engulfing the room, Skye could not help but let the gratitude and relief of knowing Grant killed Garrett for her wash over her once more. It was too surreal, and she almost worried she was about to wake up from a dream.
But Skye started to notice how the others’ attention had drifted to her. Most of the team were staring at her- or Grant, it was hard to tell. She realized she was huddled with the unresponsive Grant and still holding both of his hands in her lap.
“Bobbi, Hunter, Trip” Coulson said, “Go help Mack and the others. They’re being held outside the bunks.”
Hunter and Bobbi moved at once, likely eager to check on Mack, but Trip lingered. He glanced at Skye and gave her a strained smile before leaving with the other two.
Coulson and May were watching Grant warily as if they expected him to attack someone any minute. Skye wondered briefly if their blatant observation bothered Grant, but he was still staring off into space. No, Skye realized he was actually looking at Garrett’s dead body, which was concerning.
“Hey,” Skye said as she pitched her voice as low as she could. She did not want an audience at the moment. Fitzsimmons were still off by Rebecca’s body, but Coulson and May were only twenty feet away.
Skye untangled their hands and reached up to cup Grant’s face again to forcibly maneuver his gaze away from Garrett. It worked in that Grant was now staring at her instead, but the distant, unfocused look was hardly reassuring.
“I don’t know what you’re feeling right now-” Skye began hesitantly before Grant cut her off.
“I’m not,” he said shortly.
Skye waited a moment to see if he would elaborate. “You’re not what?”
“I’m not feeling anything,” Grant said emotionlessly. “I feel nothing at all.”
Well, that was frightening and unhealthy.
Impulsively, Skye leaned forward and chastely kissed him. She lingered on his lips until she felt him return the pressure before pulling back. She drew back just far enough to gauge his expression and rest her forehead against his.
Grant’s brow was furrowed in confusion, but it was more emotion and coherency than she had seen from him since he had killed Garrett, so she decided that was a good thing. After all, she had kissed him in the hopes that it would wake him up from his self-induced numbness. She wanted him to feel and to feel her.
Grant’s arms unexpectedly wrapped around her tightly and dragged her until she was pretty much sitting him in his lap. With their temples still touching and the charged eye contact from inches away, it was somehow more intimate than anything Skye had ever experienced. Skye’s breath got stuck somewhere in her chest, and she swore the world disappeared for a moment as he enveloped her in his embrace.
But it came crashing back after only a few wonderful minutes, and Skye could not help but feel Coulson and May’s observation of them acutely. Grant had more or less checked out of reality, but Skye did not have that luxury. She forced herself to separate from him, which was the last thing she wanted to do. The only reassurance she had was that she was confident for once that they would be back in each other’s arms soon.
Grant went rigid beneath her when she detached herself and increased the distance between them. She interlaced the fingers of one hand with him, so he would not take it as a rejection. But he remained stiff, and she thought he misinterpreted her actions.
Deciding to deal with that later, Skye looked over at Coulson and May. They did not even pretend they had not been watching. That was more than a little awkward.
May tore her stern gaze off Grant first as she turned to speak with Coulson in hushed tones that still carried in the silent room.
“We need to evacuate,” May said urgently. “Hydra knows the location of the Playground, and it’s only a matter of time before they send reinforcements.”
Coulson nodded. “Right. We don’t have much time, and we need to wipe the systems as well-“
“They don’t know,” Grant hoarsely interrupted them.
Skye started. After how quiet he had been, it sounded like he was shouting in her ears when he spoke up.
Coulson stopped talking and turned to stare at Grant contemplatively. “What do you mean?”
“Whitehall and the rest of Hydra don’t know the location of this base. They aren’t coming,” Grant replied monotonously.
“Why do you say that?” Coulson asked. His tone and expression betrayed nothing, but May immediately tensed up.
“Phil,” May hissed. “You can’t seriously be listening to him.”
May and Coulson exchanged glances, which ended with May’s lips pinching in obvious irritation but also reluctant surrender.
“Why do you say that, Ward?” Coulson repeated patiently, as if he had all the time in the world to discuss the possibility of Hydra infiltrating their base again.
The power struggle seemed to be lost on Grant, but Skye thought he might be refocusing his attention. He sat there dazedly but by butting into Coulson and May’s conversation, he had revealed he was aware of his surroundings.
“Because John would never willingly give Whitehall such promising intel, and Whitehall would never sit a raid like this out if he knew,” Grant explained sounding almost bored now. He gestured carelessly to the dead Hydra agents- but not in Garrett’s direction Skye noticed. “All the operatives here are John’s. If Whitehall had known, Kara would be here, at the very least. Part of the reason Kara and I were partnered for so many missions was because both Whitehall and John wanted to ensure their interests were represented on them.”
Coulson blinked. “You make it sound like the Hydra heads didn’t work together.”
Grant had to know he was fishing for information, but he still answered. “Whitehall and John hate each other,” he said bluntly. “John would enjoy nothing more than to destroy SHIELD and rub it in Whitehall’s face after he was done. He’d see it as the perfect way to show him who was really in charge.”
Coulson appeared thoughtful now while May glared suspiciously. She was probably wondering why Grant was telling them all this because Skye definitely was.
What he was saying fit in with what she observed with Garrett’s personality and even that offhand mention about Whitehall trying to take over an attack Garrett was planning. Skye hardly saw the point of Grant lying now about this, but that did not mean he was offering up the information just to be magnanimous.
“Of course,” Grant said, “I don’t know how John found your base anyway. But if Whitehall knew, he’d be here.”
Right, the tracker. “Grant,” she started to say.
“Garrett implanted a tracker in your leg,” May said brusquely.
Grant did not visibly react, but there was something about his stillness that let Skye know that he had heard. She wondered what he thought. Was it normal for Garrett to do something like that to him? After witnessing their interactions both when Garrett initially “recruited” Grant and just now, Skye would be surprised.
Gracefully, Grant let go of her hand and rose to his feet, which caused both Coulson and May to tense. May’s finger was on the trigger of a gun that Skye only now noticed she was holding. Grant paid them no mind as he walked to the closest Hydra agent’s body and robotically retrieved a knife from a hidden holster.
Skye watched as Grant pushed up one of the legs of his pants to reveal his thigh and felt around the area with his fingers. Skye had a sinking feeling that she knew what he was doing.
Luckily, Simmons appeared as if out of nowhere before Grant could do something terrifying- like stabbing himself to carve the tracker out himself with a knife Skye highly doubted was hygienic.
“Don’t be an idiot,” Simmons reprimanded. She wiped at her red-rimmed eyes to clear away the lingering tears and glared. “You’ll probably hit your femoral artery and bleed out before you find the tracker.”
“I already know where it is,” Grant argued. He sounded like himself again, but Skye could still see the hollowness in his eyes. “I can feel it.”
Simmons huffed and put her hands on her hips. “Can you feel the arteries and veins in your leg, too?”
Grant half-heartedly scowled in response.
Fitz sidled up alongside Simmons and nodded in agreement. “I could deactivate the tracker without removing it, but you’d run the risk of someone reactivating it at any time.”
“Or I could just take it out right now before anyone can activate it again,” Grant said shortly as he held the knife up.
“It’d take me a few moments in the med bay to remove it safely,” Simmons retorted tiredly. Her voice was firm and unyielding, but the strain of the day had rendered her usually perfect posture slumped like she was defeated.
Strangely, the scene reminded Skye of after they had escaped AIM. Grant had run away without truly accepting Simmons’ help then, but Skye realized he had nowhere to go now.
As she stared at him, Skye reflected that Grant had given up everything for her. SHIELD was the closest thing Skye had ever had to a family, and in some ways, Garrett was the same for Grant. It was like a twisted father/son relationship. Even the way they had spoken before, Garrett had called Grant “kid” and “son”.
But Grant had killed him anyway to save Skye’s life, and now the entire life he had built for himself had come crashing down. It was a terrible life and a worse father figure, so Skye was not upset. But she knew Grant was miserable and lost, and that made her chest tighten sympathetically.
Skye threw a glance to Coulson and May silently watching Fitzsimmons with Grant. There was no mistaking the suspicious way they observed him. May had yet to put the gun away, and neither of them took their eyes off him for a second.
No one had attacked yet or suggested that Grant be put back in Vault D, but Skye knew it was only a matter of time. Coulson was probably waiting for Bobbi and the others to return before broaching the topic. It was not a truce or a team up. They did not trust Grant, and Skye could not really blame them for that. She was sure Grant did not trust them either.
But Garrett was dead, and things had changed whether the others wanted to admit it or not. Coulson also knew Skye was in love with Grant, and Skye could admit she was not above using his favoritism to keep Grant out of a cell.
Skye’s relationship with Grant still had more problems than she knew how to address, but for the first time, she thought that maybe they really could find a way to be together.
Grant was still a traitor to SHIELD, he had still been tortured by her loved ones just a day ago and killing Garrett had hardly solved all their problems or overwritten Grant’s choices. But the tiny spark of hope that things could work out ignited in her chest, and Skye knew that was something that refused to be put out once lit.