Skye made her way back to her bunk without ever letting go of Grant’s hand. It was strange how nice it felt to simply interlace their fingers together and have the reassuring pressure of his hand in hers. She remembered the awkwardness of holding hands with Miles where her palm was sweaty and his grip too tight, but she was too afraid to let go lest he get upset at her “emotional distance” again.
How many times had Skye cupped Miles or another guy’s face or reached out to grab his hand not because she needed the comforting warmth but because she knew that was what couples were supposed to do. In all her relationships, it was like she acted out an elaborate part that Skye did not even realize was make believe until she felt the real thing.
Maybe that was love was- no longer going through the motions because of what you expect you should do, but being so enamored by someone else that instinct took over whenever you were with them. You could not witness it or describe it, only experience it in all its terrifyingly explosive pleasure.
Those thoughts sent a thrill of excitement through her, even as they caused nervous jitters to settle in her stomach. The onslaught of emotions of the last couple days was almost overwhelming, but Skye decided to allow the giddiness to take over for now and to focus on one thing at a time.
With that thought, Skye threw open the door to her room and abruptly felt more embarrassed than anything else. She almost wished she had really made Grant wait outside while she cleaned up when she took in the rumbled sheets and clothes strewn across the room. Skye threw a quick glance to Grant. He did not look like he minded, but he also did not seem to be fully back in reality either.
Whatever. He had personally unhooked her bra before, so Skye was not going to get self-conscious about him seeing her “ladies things” everywhere as Fitz had put it. Still, she felt compelled to justify the state of her room.
“I’ve had a lot on my mind the last-“ Skye began to explain before Grant ensured her mouth was otherwise occupied.
He used their joined hands to pull her into his chest and gripped the back of her hand with his free hand to deepen the kiss she had unexpectedly been swept up in. He spun them around so that she was pressed up against the door. His fingers combed determinedly through her hair while his free hand released hers to grasp her thigh. Grant hiked it up to wrap her leg around his hip and press even closer to her.
Grant’s larger frame engulfed her own and sent fire through her veins. She snuck her hands underneath his shirt to trace the muscles in his back and abs with a determination to memorize every inch of him.
There was a hunger in the kiss that surpassed all their other ones. Grant’s lips moved with a desperation that was not unlike a suffocating man searching for air, and his hands clutched at her as though he believed she was liable to disappear at any moment.
“Skye,” he gasped into her mouth.
Skye opened her eyes and took him in. The disheveled hair and wild eyes, the wrinkled prison garb and pallid skin, the blood stains and myriad of bruises, Skye focused her attention and fought the urge to allow him to erase everything miserable about the last couple days from her memory.
“Wait,” Skye whispered reluctantly when Grant’s lips sucked at her pulse point. “Stop.”
Grant went rigid in her arms and detached himself so quickly that by the time Skye blinked, he was already stiffly standing several feet away. His expression had shut down again. It was a mixture of the blank face he had perfected to hide his emotions and the utter hollowness that had taken over since he killed Garrett.
That was the last thing Skye had wanted, but she knew there were things that had to be done first and so much to discuss. That was the only reason she stopped herself from beckoning him closer once more.
Skye watched him retreating into himself and his eyes drain of all emotion once more and rushed to speak up.
“You should probably clean up and get something to eat before we let ourselves get distracted,” Skye explained. She had hoped he would work up a smile or at least stop looking as expressive as a marble statue at that last part, but there was nothing amused in his eyes.
Grant muscles were coiled with tension and his eyes observed her cautiously, like an abused dog waiting to be kicked.
“When was the last time you ate?” Skye asked.
Grant appeared to think about it for a second, which was not a particularly good sign. “The morning before my mission with Scarlotti.”
That was two days ago. Had Coulson not given him any food before the memory machine? That was so mind-boggling to Skye. Had they held him for a day without feeding him or had Grant just refused the way he had with Simmons’ untouched sandwich?
“You need to eat something,” Skye said.
Grant’s face tightened minutely. “I can’t.”
Skye’s brows furrowed as she watched Grant shift his stare to focus over her shoulder as opposed to looking at her in the eye. “You can’t?”
“I’ll throw up anything I try to eat,” Grant explained shortly, still not quite meeting her gaze. “The memories-“ Grant’s lips pressed into a thin line as he cut himself off before he made eye contact again and tonelessly spoke, “The flashbacks from the machine are making me nauseous.”
“You’re having flashbacks,” Skye said aghast. Was that typical for the memory machine? That reminded her of a conversation she had with Fitz long ago about why Grant seemed far more affected by the Berserker Staff than May. Fitz had speculated that the emotional impact of the staff was greatly dependent on how much of a handle the victim on their emotions and how fully they had dealt with the instances that caused the rage and hatred. If the memory machine worked the same way, it was likely a response to the fact that Grant repressed the memories of his past instead of working through them in an emotionally healthy way.
Overcome with sympathy, Skye took a step forward to embrace him, but Grant retreated before she could get close.
“I don’t need your pity,” he snarled.
Skye did not let his rage bother her. She had seen enough from Grant to know he latched onto anger when confronted with despair, fear or any other emotion he did not want to handle. It was not a particularly good coping mechanism, but Skye had met shrinks who said the same about her use of sarcasm, so she was not going to judge him for that.
“I’m not pitying you,” Skye responded calmly. “I just want to comfort you.”
Should she tell him?
“I don’t need comfort,” Grant said, but he did not move when she approached again.
Skye begged to differ. Comfort was just the tip of the iceberg on things Skye thought Grant needed. Healthy relationships, a functioning moral compass and extensive therapy all came to mind… But comfort would have to suffice for now.
Skye encircled his waist with her arms and leaned her ear over his beating heart. “Everyone needs comfort, Grant,” she whispered into his chest. “You need it as well, and I want to give it to you because I care about you.”
Should she tell him now?
Grant’s arms wrapped around her with just the barest hint of hesitation, and he tucked her head into his neck as he leaned down to hug her more fully.
Skye breathed in deeply to lose herself in his intoxicating scent. She nuzzled into his neck a little and tightened her grip on him.
If she told him she loved him, would that freak him out or reassure him?
“Come on,” Skye said. “You need a shower. You’re starting to smell,” she teased with a smile as she leaned back just far enough to stare up at him. “Does that sound good to you?”
“Depends,” he said lightly. “Will you be joining me?”
“Duh,” Skye said with an exaggerated roll of her eyes to ease the tension she still felt in his muscles. “You think I’m going to let you steal all the hot water?”
She could not tell him yet.
Skye drew back but kept both of his hands in each of hers. Slowly, she gave him a mischievous grin and pulled him with her as she backed into the bathroom.
Skye let go of his hands to take off her shoes and socks before peeling off her shirt under his intense stare. She held his gaze as she unclipped her bra and threw it at his feet. Her pants and panties were quick to follow. She leaned back against the counter and cocked her head to the side with a smirk of her own.
His eyes were glued to her every movement the whole time with a stare that became more heated with every article of clothing she tossed at him.
“Are you just going to stand there or are you going to lose that ugly, blood-stained outfit?”
The corners of his lips quirked up, and Grant shook his head. He tugged off his clothing with the kind of grace someone as tall as he was standing barefoot in a bathroom should not have.
Skye grabbed the prison outfit and threw it in the trash.
“Hey,” Grant said mildly. “I know you want me naked, but I will need something to wear later.”
Skye threw him a look. “You’re not wearing that again.”
“Well, I don’t exactly have a change of clothes. They probably burned mine when I was captured,” Grant said.
“Oh, no,” Skye mockingly gasped. “Wherever will you find another black, tac outfit?”
His deeply unimpressed look did nothing to dissuade her grin.
Skye did not wait for a response. She turned on the water and pulled Grant in with her. The shower managed to fit the two of them, but it was probably a good thing that Skye did not mind getting close with Grant.
Skye insisted on washing him, and Grant was oddly accepting of that. Maybe he was just not opposed to Skye running her hands all over his wet body. Skye sure was not. She was surprised when he stole the soap and shampoo to do the same with her. As much as his hands left trails of heat all over her, Skye also found the way he was so meticulously washing her to be a bit endearing in other ways.
There was a bit of shampoo in his hair still, so Skye stood on her tip toes and used a washcloth to rub it away. His hair was strangely soft for such a hard, calloused person. Skye ran her hands through it a couple times to ensure there were no more bubbles before trailing her hands down his face, neck and shoulders to rest on his pecs. Skye looked up at Grant for a moment and saw that same adoring look he sported their night in the hotel.
Leaning back against the tiles of the shower, Skye was hit with a memory that made her suddenly start laughing. It was the kind of carefree giggle that came from being so happy that the joy demanded an outlet.
“What is it?” Grant asked.
Skye wiped the smile off her face before she answered.
“I was just thinking about a dream I had several months ago,” Skye confessed in an overly solemn tone. She watched as Grant’s brows furrowed while he analyzed her. Skye nonchalantly continued, “I woke up sweaty and hot and bothered. It was so hot that I had to go shower to cool down after I woke up, but I was still so unsatisfied.”
Grant blinked slowly, as he took in her expectant look and contemplated her words.
Skye took pity on him. “You see, there was this guy I had met, and I just couldn’t get him out of my head no matter how much I tried. I dreamed about the two of us getting down and dirty, but when I woke up, he wasn’t there.” Laughter bled into her words despite Skye trying to remain serious as she spoke.
“That must have been terrible,” Grant faux-sympathetically.
“Yes,” Skye exclaimed as she leaned against Grant’s chest dramatically. “The worst. Unbearable!”
Skye dragged her fingers down Grant’s abs and thoughtfully traced the contours. When she peeked up to gauge his expression, she was unsurprised to see his heated gaze fixed on her. His mouth was parted slightly and droplets of water trickled down and outlined the hard lines of his body.
All in all, it was the hottest sight Skye had ever seen.
“I think we’re clean enough,” he said huskily.
“I agree,” Skye said, in a soft, breathless voice that barely carried over the sound of the shower. Somehow just staring at him had robbed her of her ability to continue the teasing atmosphere she had created.
Grant reached around to grab the faucet and let his hand brush her shoulder as he did. Skye shivered despite herself.
Grant stepped out of the shower first and grabbed two towels from the shelf. He held one up, and Skye made to take it from him before he gently grabbed her hand and lowered it instead. He squeezed the hand once and let go.
Slowly, Grant began to dry her off by patting her down everywhere. The motions were almost reverent, and Skye found herself mesmerized. No one had ever treated her this way, like she was the most incredible thing the world had to offer.
When he was done, he wrapped the towel around her and raised his hands to her face. She watched wide-eyed as he gently lifted one hand and used his thumb to brush back the wet strands of hair plastered to her cheeks. He tucked them behind her ears and then ran both hands through her hair to untangle it. After he finished, his hands remained framing her head as he just stared at her.
Skye leaned up to kiss him lightly on the lips just because she could.
She pulled away gazing at him with half-lidded eyes and then squeaked in surprise when he grabbed her underneath her backside to pull her up flush against him. Their faces were aligned now, and Grant wasted no time in blindly leading them to her bed while his mouth demanded all his attention. His towel was left forgotten on the counter.
Skye laughed again when he pretty much threw her on the bed and crawled on top of her. He tugged at the towel that he had so tenderly wrapped her in and threw it aside without a look to see where it fell. She parted her legs and let him situate himself in between.
Gazing up at him now, Skye could not see any of the shadows and wildness in his eyes. Gone was the hollow emptiness and the obsessive fixation. She had worried before when he had madly kissed her that he was subconsciously using her as a distraction, giving himself something to focus on beyond the past he ran from and the death of his lunatic S.O, but Skye felt none of that when he held her now.
In that moment, all she felt was wanted.
The kisses were heated but almost languid, as if he was savoring every second their mouths were sealed together the way she was. His hands roamed all over her body like he did not want to leave one part of her untouched.
Skye arched her back and pressed her naked chest against his own as she gripped the back of his head to anchor his lips to hers.
As the touches grew more heated and the friction of their hips deliciously stronger, Skye ripped her mouth away from his to gasp, “I want to be on top.”
Grant pulled back slightly and did not protest. He spun them around, so that Skye was now straddling his hips while he looked up at her. Skye thought maybe he wanted to ask why she insisted on this position all of the sudden, but he did not say anything.
Skye was glad. She did not think he would understand her reasoning- or even appreciate it. But she just wanted to make him feel loved. She wanted to be the one doing the work and letting him just get lost in the feeling of it because there was nothing that she wanted more in that moment than for him to feel cared for and protected.
It was a good thing he did not ask because Skye did not have the words to explain it to him. The feelings were knew to her as well.
Skye braced herself on his chest and focused on his face while she lowered herself onto him. She watched as his eyes fluttered uncontrollably and his head fell back.
She kept the rhythm as long as she could until Grant surged upwards and supported her. He leaned against the wall and rested his forehead against hers while she sat in encased in his arms.
His lips started murmuring words that Skye tried to focus on as she fell apart. He told her she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. That she was first thing he had ever wanted in years. That he would never hurt her. That he wished that he could just stay forever in this moment and pretend the world outside did not exist.
Skye held onto those words as tightly as she held onto him while she came apart in his embrace.
Later that night, Skye lay tucked into his body with her back to him while he traced soothing circles into her hip. His breath rustled her hair, and he was so close that she felt every rise and fall of his chest.
After the tiring last few days and their earlier activities, it was a wonder they were still awake. Both of them seemed hesitant to close their eyes, as if they would wake up and find it was all a dream if they did. On some level, Skye was so exhausted that she could not believe she was still functioning, but she was also wide awake considering everything. Her mind was too preoccupied to let her sleep.
They would have to wake up soon and needed to rest before the raid of Hydra’s headquarters, but Skye wanted to hold onto the moment. Still, there were things they had to discuss first.
Reluctantly, Skye turned around to face Grant. His expression was so peaceful for once that Skye dreaded the effect her next words were sure to have.
“We need to talk,” Skye began hesitantly.
He sensed her change of mood and frowned. She could already feel him distancing himself from her, putting up walls to protect himself.
“About what?” Grant asked lightly anyway.
“About Garrett and what you saw in the memory machine.”
The reaction was instantaneous. Grant seized up and pulled back. For half a second, Skye could have sworn she saw blind panic in his eyes before he masked it.
“There’s nothing to talk about,” Grant said in a voice devoid of emotion, but he faltered slightly as he continued, “Garrett’s dead and the past is in the past.”
“But it’s still affecting you,” Skye argued gently. “And I don’t think you realize just how much, especially with what Garrett did to you.”
“John didn’t-“ Grant’s composure slipped. “You don’t know anything about my relationship with him.”
Skye strongly disagreed with that. Just witnessing their creepy interactions gave her an idea, but she also had gotten a full rundown of his history with the psycho from Bobbi and the juvie video. Still, she thought he would become more closed off if she let him know that.
“Then explain it to me,” she said. “I want to understand. You once told me you owed him everything. Why was that?”
Grant was rigid now, and Skye figured this was the last thing he wanted to talk about.
He was quiet for so long that Skye had already assumed he would refuse to answer when he finally opened his mouth.
“John found me at a time when I had nothing, when I was nothing,” Grant began hesitantly. His eyes were hazy and unfocused, like he was in a different time. “He saved me from myself and taught me how to make something of myself. Without him, I wouldn’t… I was weak and helpless before I met him, and the only reason anyone gives a damn about me now is because of him and what he made of me. Hydra, SHIELD, John transformed me into someone who was worth noticing, who had control of his life.”
Skye did not know what to say to that. She would hardly describe what she had seen of Garrett and Grant’s dynamic as a relationship that gave Grant “control”.
“He didn’t care about you, Grant. You have to know that on some level,” Skye said quietly. “No one would punish someone they cared about for caring about someone else. They wouldn’t torture them with something like the Berserker Staff-“
“Stop,” he said as he squeezed his eyes shut. “I can’t talk about him now.”
Skye decided that he would probably need time to process her words anyway. She allowed the subject of Garrett to drop for now, but that was not all she had to bring up.
“What about your family?” Skye asked. “In the memory machine, you were talking about your mother and brother a lot. You mentioned a well a lot.”
Grant grew visibly paler as she spoke, but Skye would not let him run away from this conversation. She suspected that he had never spoken of it to someone who cared about him before. He needed to if he were to ever move past it.
Skye allowed her eyes to fill up with all the love, comfort and protectiveness she wanted him to feel. “You can trust me,” she said when he hesitated.
Something in his expression softened. The hard lines on his face smoothed over, and the tension bled out of him. Maybe he did not believe he could truly trust her, but he wanted to and would anyway.
Haltingly, Grant spoke of growing up in his family and the way his mother had tortured her children, except for the youngest brother. She could not help but connect what she was hearing now to what Bobbi had uncovered. More than that, every mention of the twistedly cruel way his older brother forced him to hurt his younger one just reminded her of how Grant cried out that he did not mean to, had not wanted to but would do anything not to be hurt…
As he detailed the messed up dynamics, Skye felt an overwhelming sense of helplessness. It seemed so unfair that these people held so much power and sway given how they used it behind closed doors.
It struck Skye then how she and Grant’s childhoods were opposites in some way. She grew up desperately hoping for her family to appear and whisk away from St. Agnes and the foster system while Grant wished for nothing more than for his family to vanish. Skye had wanted a family more than anything while Grant had probably longed to be an orphan.
When he got to the well, Skye thought Grant seemed like he was about to be sick even as he delivered the information in a clipped, almost clinical voice. She could hardly blame him as she was starting to feel ill, too, from just listening.
“Christian said that I had wanted to push Thomas in. Mother said the same, and no one ever believed me when I said otherwise. Eventually, I started to feel like they must be right because why else would no one see what I saw? It felt so obvious to me, but if no one else agreed, then I had to be wrong. I felt crazy and didn’t trust my own memories,” his voice wavered. “But every time I’m forced to remember, with that damn staff or the machine, all I can see is Christian stopping me from throwing the rope saying, ‘Not yet, Grant.’”
Remembering the way he had desperately clung to her while lost in the memory machine’s flashbacks, Skye immediately grabbed his hand in hers and said without prompting, “I believe you, Grant.”
The way he stared at her, the expression that filled his face, it was of pure awe. He looked at her more adoringly in that moment than he had when they were intimate.
Skye smiled tightly and said, “And I want to tell you my story, too, even the parts I run from.”
Grant sat at attention and hung on every word as it all poured out of her. Once she started, she could not stop or censor the words tumbling from her lips. She had planned to only tell him the facts of her powers and childhood, but she found herself speaking of things that she had not quite recognized bothered her so much. The freakishness, the loneliness, the crushing disappointment of meeting her dad and the overwhelming sense that she was an outsider, a monster, even now at SHIELD, all of it was confessed softly in the quiet night. Skye instinctively knew she could trust him with the words that she had never given voice to.
Grant’s grip tightened on her as she spoke. He was absentmindedly caressing her hip again, but when she brought up how she felt like a monster, he stopped.
“I know monsters, Skye,” Grant said. “I’ve lived with them, worked with them, fought them. Skye, I am one.”
Skye wanted to argue, but he gave her no opportunity.
“The only monsters in your story are the ones who turned their back on you because of what they thought you could do rather than what you would actually do. My family… you could crush them in a fight, but it’s not the power someone has that makes them a monster, it’s how they use it.”
“But I destroyed so much,” Skye protested. “That’s all I can do. I shatter windows, knock down trees, uproot the Earth, all I do is destroy, and I can’t control it.”
“You’ll learn,” Grant promised, “But that’s not even true. You protected yourself from Scarlotti with your powers and will discover how to protect others, too, with time. You’ll be able to help people and will because you’re good, Skye. Don’t ever think otherwise.”
Skye gave him a watery smile as she felt like a weight was lifted from her shoulders. She was not sure how much she believed him- and Grant was hardly the authority on morality- but the unquestioning acceptance he conveyed with every look and every word meant more than she could say. Skye felt a surety that she had never experienced before that Grant wanted her, cared for her and would never tire of her. It was an exhilarating feeling.
His next words ruined her elation.
“We can leave it all behind,” he said with a glint to his gaze that only grew more pronounced as he continued, “SHIELD, Hydra, all of it could be out of our lives forever. I can make us disappear and you could cover our tracks, so they’d never find us. We can escape.”
The silence stretched awkwardly when Skye could only stare at him alarmed and dismayed.
“I don’t want to leave SHIELD,” Skye said finally. “This is my home. I love Coulson, Simmons, Fitz, May, Trip, everyone. They’re my family.” The excited light in his eyes faded as she spoke, so Skye was quick to reassure him. “We can talk about it after the mission. We have time now. We’re not going anywhere.”
But Grant’s eyes shuttered to conceal whatever he thought. Skye worried for a second before the anxiety left him, and he leaned forward to press a lingering kiss to her forehead.
“We’ll talk afterwards,” he whispered into her skin as he held her tight to his bare chest. “Let’s just sleep now.”
His soothing voice and the warmth of his embrace was enough to remind her of how tired she was. Skye felt his heartbeat pounding against her ear as she finally allowed herself to succumb to exhaustion.