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Know Your Enemy

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For an evil murderer out to terrorize the world, the man was a surprisingly good kisser. That was not a thought Skye ever thought she would have, but it had been a weird day so far.

 

In the shock of her circumstances, Skye barely got her act together enough to close her eyes and return the kiss before the police were upon them. She felt confused and warm all over. Confused because how the hell did she wind up in this situation with a Hydra agent of all people. Warm because she liked the way he kissed her. It sent shivers up her spine that settled into the pit of her stomach. His lips were soft and sure as the slid over hers, and while she expected someone like him to be rough in everything, he was oddly gentle. He was controlling himself, she realized. His body was lined up with hers, his hips on top of her own, and yet there was no pressure behind his actions or their position.

 

With a start, she realized that he was purposely trying not to be forceful with her. Well, she definitely misjudged him earlier then. Most men she knew would enjoy taking advantage of this situation- and those were just the ones she worked with. Skye would have thought an enemy, especially a Hydra agent, would enjoy throwing her off her game and playing some dominance game or something.

 

Skye forced those thoughts out of her head. She got lucky, the guy was probably just not into women or something. Still, as Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome Hydra Agent began to pull away, Skye found herself softly biting down on his bottom lip. Their eyes were locked as he drew away far enough that his lip was slowly released from her grasp. He was not smiling, but his eyes were heated as they stared into her own. It was somehow more intimate than the kiss. She did not think a lack of interest on his part was the reason he held back.

 

Her muddled thoughts were all over the place, but she forced herself to think of the mission and get her head in the game. If May saw her now, locking lips with Hydra agents in sketchy Spanish motels after a mission gone wrong? Her S.O. would put her back in remedial training after she lectured her for her carelessness.

 

There were three police officers dressed in dark uniforms glaring at her and her companion. Luckily the two of them had opted out of wearing tactical gear in order to blend in. With civilian clothes and all the firearms and dangerous alien artifacts out of sight, the clueless lovers act was more believable. More believable but still a hard sell. Guns were not drawn yet, so that was a plus, but that was about the only she had going for her. Of course, she was still lying down on the disgusting motel bed with her legs spread for a Hydra agent.

 

With that unwelcome thought, Skye pushed herself up and tucked her legs together. She scooted backwards until she was leaning against the headboard and surveyed the situation. She forced a look of humiliation at an unexpected invasion of privacy as she glared at the policemen. It was not that hard to pull off.

 

Her companion- if that was even what he should be called- stood up and stood in front of her defensively. She was completely dressed, but the gesture of protective boyfriend still worked well. Of the three policemen, only one managed to not sport a look of extreme discomfort. He immediately began yelling something in Spanish.

 

It turned out that pissed off, overworked law enforcement was understandable in every language because Skye could not interpret one word being shouted at her but some things need no translation.

 

While the Hydra agent’s plan had been decent and saved them from sure gunfire and confrontation, they were still going to be labeled as suspects the second the policemen realized they could not speak a word of Spanish beyond hola. Shots fired and several Spanish men dead with a couple of foreigners nearby? Yeah, Skye would bring them in, too, if she were a cop.

 

The Hydra agent just put his hands up as if in surrender. That was such bullshit though, Skye would bet anything that he could take all of them out in a heartbeat armed or unarmed. It did nothing to appease the policemen either.

 

The police leader was clearly asking a question now, but Skye had no idea what. Just when she decided to just get on with it, Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome Hydra Agent began speaking fluent Spanish. Skye may not know what was being said, but he sounded just as unaccented as the policemen in his speech. She made sure none of her shock showed on her face despite the fact that Skye was a little thrown.

 

She had her companion pegged as dangerous muscle with an admittedly quick thinking, tactical mind. In her experience, seamless linguistic skill was a mark of someone seasoned in espionage. There was a difference between conversational skills and the ability to sound native.

 

As she watched him work, Skye realized that he was in his element now. The conversation was flowing effortlessly and already the cops were lowering their defenses. It was not hard to see why either. Fifteen minutes ago her companion looked like the type of person you would not want to meet in a dark alley. Now, however, he seemed the average Joe, flustered by circumstance but affable by nature. His shoulders were loosened, posture slouched and unassuming, with an easy grin on his face at something one of the policemen had said. In response, he waved a careless hand towards her and shook his head. He spoke a few more words in Spanish before turning to her with a look that could only be described as fondly affectionate as if they were longtime lovers. It was a complete transformation from the man she just met in the hallway.

 

The joking, love struck act was working, the policemen were no longer looking like they were two seconds from handcuffing them, but now Skye had gone cold. She had gathered that he was skilled, very few people get the drop on her. She had known he was smart and strategic with his quick thinking getting them out of what was sure to be a nasty confrontation. She had even picked up that he was good given that he appeared to have been the only operative Hydra bothered to send to secure the obelisk.

 

She had objectively pieced together the pieces to know she was dealing with someone good, but she was just now realized that she may have still underestimated him. Assuming he was the sniper that interrupted the deal- and there was no reason not to- she had witnessed a remarkable level and range of skills in just the half hour since they first interacted.

 

He was clearly an expert marksmen, multilingual, smart, highly ranked, extremely skilled in espionage and stealth, quick on his feet, and dangerously capable. Just who the hell was she dealing with?

 

Horror washed over he as she realized she might have just been making out with one of the faceless murderers that Coulson and May spit upon. She would like to think that John Garrett was neither that young nor that attractive, but she was not sure. Coulson and he trained together though, that must make him at least forty. Her companion looked only five years older than she was. That only made her more nervous though, to be that young and that good was unusual.

 

The conversation was winding down, and it gave Skye the advantage. While he was preoccupied with the policemen, she could prepare herself for the inevitable confrontation that would happen once they left. Under the guise of adjusting her untucked shirt, Skye slipped her hand to where her gun was nestled in the small of her back.

 

Her companion led the charmed policemen away from the bed and towards the door, but he snuck a look back at her while he was doing it. Skye was right, he was not the type to ever drop his guard. That was fine though, he was not the only one who was good.

 

The second the door clicked shut behind the cops, the two of them were armed. Skye had shot up off the bed and drawn her weapon in one seamless movement. For the second time that day, Skye found herself staring down Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome Hydra Agent’s gun. This time, however, they were on even footing. Moreover, since she was still near the bed, she was by the obelisk.

 

“My little American girlfriend just doesn’t know when to quit, does she?” The friendly persona had bled away to reveal the same man she met before, but traces of the humor were still there. Skye was not sure whether this was another act or just his personality.

 

“Actually, I think you might be the one in over your head, baby.” If he wanted to do this, she could so hold her own. She had it on good authority (from Hunter) that she was the second most annoying person in the world when she wanted to be (with only Bobbi beating her.)

 

He smirked. “Can I at least get your name? I try to know that before I drag a girl into bed but you know how things are.”

 

Skye bit the inside of her cheek because she had the ridiculous urge to laugh. It was making it hard to concentrate. For all she knew, this was another ploy like the one he pulled on the cops to make her lower her guard. Her instinct told her otherwise, but her instinct had also made her seek out her father despite prior warnings. She could not just go on instinct.

 

Her companion shrugged his shoulders. The gun never wavered. “Fine, I’ll go first. My name is Zach.”

 

Skye’s eyes narrowed. “No, it’s not.”

 

“It could be.”

 

“Bullshit.”

 

Suddenly his face transformed. Whereas before he had been artificially overly friendly or seasoned assassin cold, he looked completely different now. He grinned at her, his eyes lit up like something amused him, but at the same time, it was awkward. His smile was crooked when compared to his charismatic one he favored the policemen earlier. It stretched across his face in such a way that Skye thought he probably did not smile often. He was clearly trying to rein in the emotion and then it suddenly was wiped off his face entirely. His face shut down as it had before in the hallway, and Skye was put even more on her guard.

 

She should shoot him, she realized. Whether he wanted to admit it or not, his weird display of enjoyment had thrown him for a loop, and now was the best chance she would have to take him down. If she shot him quickly, it would all be over.

 

That epiphany was immediately followed by another, scarier one: she did not want to shoot him. She had killed Hydra agents and others before. That was the job. But most of them had been just faceless goons, interchangeable and unknowable. Sometimes she could convince herself that they were not really people. They had no real personality or humanizing qualities, they were just evil murderers to be stopped. It made the hard call easier.

 

Skye could not convince herself of that here. Somehow, without meaning to, this nameless Hydra agent had become a person to her. In the span of less than an hour, she teamed up with him, joked with him, and spoke with him. She had kissed him. Skye did not want to kill him, but she really should though. He was clearly dangerous and definitely Hydra. To purposely let him live would be beyond careless and stupid.

 

Skye was starting to feel a little careless and stupid. It helped that as she watched, her companion seemed to come to a realization of his own- one that did not appear to involve shooting her.

 

“I’m Skye,” she found herself saying. She felt like a moron, she could have at least tried to lie. Instead, she blurted out her identity to a Hydra murderer. His eyes were sweeping over her now, no doubt trying to ascertain her truthfulness. It did not matter. It was her real name, and if he did not believe her, it hardly mattered to her. Some small part of her wanted him to believe her though. “You wanted to know my name. Now you know.”

 

Her arm was starting to tire. Her companion did not look like he felt any strain as his gun remained locked on her. They were at a stalemate. If neither of them were willing to budge and neither of them wanted to shoot, they were going to be standing there forever.

 

“It’s nice to meet you, Skye,” he spoke clearly and with only the barest hint of mockery, but Skye still stared at him incredulously. Really? That was what he was going with?

 

“It’s polite to introduce yourself when someone tells you their name, you know?” Irritation bled through her words, and Skye had the strangest desire to shake the man in front of her- if only they were not holding each other at gunpoint.

 

“I already told you. My name is Zach.”

 

It was like arguing with a toddler. Was this guy really an elite member of a dangerous terrorist organization? “It’s also impolite to lie. Didn’t your mother ever teach you any manners?”

 

He shifted and his gaze turned colder, but he did not answer. Skye was just going to have to call him Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome Hydra Agent forever then.

 

Skye finally lost her patience. “Look, if you’re going to shoot me, go right ahead because I’m done with this.” She lowered her weapon to the relief of her aching arm and crouched beside the bed to retrieve the obelisk. All the while, her back was to “Zach”. Words from a lifetime ago whispered never turn your back on the enemy. It was her very first lesson from SHIELD. Her back was to him, and he could shoot her any moment now. Skye knew he would not though.

 

The obelisk lit up in her hands as she drew it out from under the bed. The symbols glowed under her touch in a way that would never stop being eerie. She stood to find that “Zach” had tucked his gun away somewhere and was staring at her intently.

 

“You never did answer how you were able to do that,” he said as he looked at the still shining obelisk.

 

“Well, you never did tell me your real name.” Skye placed her free hand on her hip and stared back defiantly. “So I’m leaving with this and will hopefully never see you again, but hey, we’ll always have this sketchy motel room.”

 

“Zach” did not reach for his gun, he made no moves to stop her, so Skye supposed she should just walk out. That felt too easy and weird, but if he had wanted to kill her, he would have by now.

 

She found herself not wanting to leave though. She probably would never see him again, and if she did, they would be trying to kill each other most likely. It was for the best that this weird truce end as soon as possible.

 

“I thought you were leaving,” he said when she made no move towards the door. Yeah, well she thought she was, too. This day was all about surprises. He was not even mocking her now. He looked just as unsettled as she felt about their circumstances. Clearly something was going on in his brain that mirrored her jumbled thoughts because he seemed content to let her walk out with what he was ordered to retrieve.

 

She felt like she was bubbling with questions and no answers. Why was he letting her go? Why was he letting her take the obelisk? Why had he not shot her? Why was a Hydra agent acting like a normal person with feelings? Why did she want to kiss him again? That last one was gone from her mind the moment she thought it. It would not do for her to focus on that now. She did not bother to ask any of them though, he would not even tell her his name. Spies were known for their trust issues.

 

After a moment where she did not respond, he suddenly snarled at her. “Run back to SHIELD before I change my mind and kill you.”

 

Skye did not need to be told twice. She was gone before he even finished his threat. She did take one glance back as she retreated though. He was standing in the center of the room staring blankly at the wall where she had just been standing.

  

Skye thought about what she would say in her mission debrief to Coulson the entire plane ride back to base. She did not want to tell him about her encounter with “Zach”.  It was partially out of embarrassment. She let herself be one-upped by a Hydra agent multiple times. What’s more, she kissed him on a sketchy motel bed and then failed to shoot him when his guard was down.  The worst bit though was that she liked kissing him. She liked talking to him. She did not regret not shooting him. Did that make her a bad person?

 

More than that, she wanted it to be a secret. She was sure that “Zach” would not tell the details of their encounter to anyone. He was obviously the distrusting, closed off type. Skye wanted it to be their little secret in a way. Maybe then she could pretend it did not actually happen and this was just a strange dream of hers. None of it felt real anyway.

 

Since her mission was a success, and she had avoided police detection, Coulson would not quiz her too hard. He would assume it was like any old mission, one of the thousands she had done in her year as a SHIELD agent. It made her wonder what “Zach” was going to tell his superiors. Skye would bet that an agent like him does not normally fail missions. They would expect some brilliant explanation like an army appeared out of nowhere to stop him. She wondered if he would get in trouble. Hydra was not exactly known for its lenience and understanding. Skye abruptly stopped wondering after that.

 

Skye peeked into Coulson’s office with a light knock on the doorframe. Coulson was leaning against the wall and staring out the window worriedly. Recently it felt like he aged years between every time Skye saw him. Sometimes she overplayed her informal hacker-from-the-streets antics in order to get him to smile. He rarely lost the stern Director look nowadays.

 

“Hey, AC. Is this a good time?” Even while she asked, Skye entered the office without waiting for the reply. She plopped down into the chair behind his desk and leaned back.

 

He gave her a wane smile as he turned away from the window. “And what if I had said this wasn’t a good time?”

 

Skye did not miss a beat. “Then I’d have to ask what was so important about the ugly brick building across the street that you’d turn away your favorite agent.”

 

Coulson just shook his head at her affectionately. “Directors don’t have favorites.”

 

“They do when they have agents as awesome as me,” Skye replied cheekily and watched with no small measure of satisfaction as the laugh she had been aiming for finally escaped him. It drained off his face slowly as if he wanted to hold onto his brief moment of happiness just a little longer.

 

“Alright, my favorite agent, report.” And just like that the friendly atmosphere disappeared. Skye enjoyed being both the teasing banterer and deadly agent. She did not like to pretend there were two different hers. There was only Skye. Coulson on the other hand had two modes: loving AC and no nonsense director. It was different before the fall, but Skye hoped with time that Coulson would lose the weight of the world burden he seemed to be carrying with him at all times. All they had to do was take down Hydra.

 

The thought of Hydra brought the thought of “Zach” to her mind again, but she was determined not to let it get to her.

 

Debrief came and went in a blur. Like she suspected, Coulson never asked any questions that she could not answer. She did not speak a word of “Zach” and their brief meeting. She turned in the obelisk to the SHIELD scientists to be secured and safely out of people’s reach.

 

Case closed. Mission done. It was seemingly all behind her now. Except Skye could not help but think it was a beginning rather than an ending.

 


 

Just outside of Seville, Grant Ward laid in the bed of one of John’s safehouses. He stared blankly at the ceiling while thinking about his failed mission. It was probably his first failed one actually, since it had never been his fault before when a mission had been unsuccessful.

 

This one was all him though. He let the girl and the device go. Whitehall would be angry, no doubt. He was always clamoring after the weird alien tech in the supposed name of scientific discovery. It was all the same to Ward though. He could not care less about Whitehall and his goals. His only attachment was to John, and John had no stake in whether or not SHIELD got their hands on the obelisk.

 

Maybe that was why he let the girl go. It did not seem worth it. He could have killed her, added her to the ranks of the countless number of lives he had stolen. He could have found a way to contain the device. Hydra would be happy. SHIELD would be down an agent. A victory by all accounts.

 

He did not want to though, and it was so rare that Grant wanted anything that he felt compelled to act on the unusual impulse. He could not remember the last time he genuinely wished for something to happen that was not related to John’s never ending quest for a miracle drug to save him.

 

This was not about John at all- or even Ward really. There was something about SHIELD agent Skye that made Ward want her to live. His initial hesitation was due to pure curiosity. He had been briefed about the dangers of the obelisk so to see her handling it without being harmed startled Ward. The more time that went on, the more Ward’s hesitation became less to do with curiosity regarding the device and more to do with intrigue of the girl. She was fiery and well trained, that much he could tell immediately. But it was the other qualities like the way she blatantly taunted him, the way she had a retort for everything, the way she had trusted him with her real name and her turned back despite displaying intelligence and experience in the seconds before. Full of contradictions, full of life.

 

It was the way she instinctually pushed up into him as he kissed her, and the way she captured his bottom lip between her teeth as he pulled away sparking something inside Ward that he no longer thought himself capable of feeling.

 

Ward banished the thoughts of his surprise encounter with SHIELD Agent Skye to the dark corners of his mind where he kept everything best left forgotten. It was best to put it out of his mind. He could not afford to be distracted when John was counting on him. He was getting worse every day, and Ward had a life debt to repay.

 

Ward hoisted himself off the bed and got ready to depart. It was time to leave Seville and all its chance meetings behind. He had to prepare to report back to John. He may not have cared one way or the other about the obelisk, but he was still going to be furious. John had less tolerance than Whitehall when it came to failure.