“What was that about?” Grant hissed to his partner as they made their way from the chaos behind them. A quick glance over his shoulder reassured him that his plan had trapped the SHIELD agents.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Kara said stiffly. Her lips were pressed together into a thin line, and she was not looking at him.
“Yes, you do,” Grant replied exasperated but also unwilling to voice exactly what was bothering him. He had done more than kiss to maintain his cover before. He had no reason to feel so agitated, but all he could think about was what thoughts were running through Skye’s mind as she watched the display.
“I stuck to my cover and was just doing my job.” It felt like an accusation. Of course, to Kara’s eyes, it would make no sense to engage SHIELD the way that he had. It was not like he could explain it to her either.
Seeing Skye enter the ballroom, looking somehow even more beautiful than he remembered, had filled him with a need to approach her. He had to know what she thought after their last encounter. At the hotel, she sneered at and insulted him, which had made Grant hopeless about any sort of reconciliation. But at Side Door, she had trusted him with Fitz and appeared concerned about his wellbeing.
Or maybe she thought it was for the best to appease the psycho while he was irrational and under the influence of the alien staff.
He had taken two steps forward to meet her before forcing himself to stop. He was on a mission and could not allow himself to be seen associating with her again by Kara. She had accepted his excuses before, but it would be a bad idea to let himself get in the habit of relying on the brainwashed agent’s desire to keep his secrets.
Only he did not care about Whitehall and his obsession with collecting alien weaponry. That was not the mission that mattered. John’s was, and Skye held the key to solving that mystery.
Grant had decided that he needed to at least attempt to get the information on the GH formula from Skye before making any choices. If those thoughts felt to him like a justification to delay his course of action, Grant ignored it.
Grant could neither tell Kara he approached Skye in an attempt to gauge how she would receive his demand for answers nor could he let Kara believe he was distracted by Skye enough to mess up a mission. Unfortunately for him, he did not have a lot of options.
“Let’s just finish this,” Grant said to end the conversation. Kara huffed to herself and Grant wondered if he was in for it later.
They had successfully left the crowd of people and were approaching the back door that would lead them to the weapon. The two muscled men guarding it never stood a chance. Kara and Grant dragged their unconscious bodies inside the dark stairwell and closed the door behind them. They made their way down in silence.
After that, it was only a matter of minutes before they approached the safe containing the weapon. Grant used a laser cutter disguised as a pen to reach the device. It was all painfully simple.
The side of the safe fell off. Grant caught it before it could crash to the ground and lowered it soundlessly. Inside was a strange looking metal thing with engravings all over. It could not have been larger than a tennis ball.
“That’s it?” Kara asked skeptically.
Grant, however, was more cautious. The markings on the side were eerily reminiscent of those on that damn staff. The memories conjured by that thought had Grant tensing.
Kara noticed his unease. “I can handle it if you want,” she offered.
Grant shook his head. “Don’t touch it with you bare hands.” He retrieved a pair of white gloves from his pocket that the Hydra scientists assured him would not affect the weapon. He used them to pick up the device and place it in the containment carrier masquerading as Kara’s purse.
Wordlessly, they made their way upstairs to rejoin the party. They stepped over the knocked out guards and reentered the ballroom.
They had not taken two steps before alarms started blaring. The guests were shrieking as guards swarmed to block the exits.
Kara froze and looked to him with widened eyes. “The intel said only the side rooms had any extra security measures.”
Grant scowled. “It wasn’t us.” He grabbed Kara’s arm in a way that mimicked a concerned husband comforting his startled wife as he led them towards the exit. “SHIELD,” he whispered.
Kara followed his lead and soon they had blended in with the chaotic crowd pushing at the guards.
Grant remained alert. Skye was smart. There was no way that her plan was simply to set off the alarms. She would know that no common muscle was a match for them. There was something more going on.
“Play along,” he whispered to Kara as they approached the guards.
When the guards saw him, the head of security held his hands up and immediately began telling him to step away in Russian.
“My wife,” Grant spoke frightfully in Russian. “She needs to get outside. The crowds and noises scare her.” He pinched Kara lightly all the while giving her a panicked look.
Kara caught on quickly and began hysterically screaming and crying as she clutched him.
The men before them exchanged glances as Kara sobbed all the harder.
“Please, she needs fresh air,” Grant begged the guards.
The head guard nodded and allowed them through but stopped the others who attempted to follow them.
The crisp night air washed over them as they cleared the party. Once out of sight, Kara dropped the act. She straightened up as the two of them hurried to leave the mansion in the distance.
“I don’t like this,” Grant said as they reached the streets. “Where did the SHIELD agents go?”
Kara shivered a bit in the cold. “They’re probably trapped in the party. I doubt either of them can speak Russian.”
Grant frowned as his eyes darted around searching for any suspicious signs. “They set off the alarms. They wouldn’t let themselves get caught in their own trap.”
“Probably thought they would confine us as well,” Kara suggested. She did not seem to share his concern.
That was too amateur and moronic for Skye though. Grant could not imagine that was the full extent of her plan.
He sensed the movement seconds before the first flew at his face. Grant jerked back in time but was not quite quick enough to dodge the follow up kick. Skye’s foot got him in the hip as he tried to swerve away.
He heard Kara let out a gasp and the sounds of her engaging the British agent before he turned his full attention to his own opponent.
Skye’s jaw was clenched as she pushed her advantage and had him playing defense to avoid her blows. Grant realized that she was probably a bit angry about the stunt he pulled earlier. Even now, he could see the champagne stains on her dress.
She had ditched her heels but was still fighting with the handicap of her outfit. Like Grant and Kara, Skye seemed to have figured that she would not face any opposition skilled enough to require a reasonable ensemble to defeat. The gown was long enough that Skye had to concentrate on her legs not getting tangled up in it.
Grant used that to gain the upper hand. The more Skye was forced to follow after him, the more her movements were hindered by the dress. It made her usually graceful actions clumsy and awkward.
Grant almost faltered when he realized that Kara probably had the same issue, and the British agent likely noticed. Grant had no intention of killing Skye, but as he had just learned, SHIELD did not have the same concern for Kara.
He wavered for a moment, torn between going to help Kara and following through with his plan. Grant ducked out of the way of another punch before coming to a decision.
Ward gritted his teeth as he drew Skye further and further away from the other fight. He would just have to trust Kara to take care of herself. John’s mission came first. Kara needed to be able to ensure her own survival because he could not afford to make her his responsibility.
Kara and the other SHIELD agent disappeared after several minutes of Grant directing his fight with Skye away. Once he was sure they were far enough away, Grant made his move.
The next time Skye swung a punch his way, he used the momentum to pull her into an alleyway and out of sight of any potential passersby.
“Ow, asshole,” she cursed as he pushed her into the wall and pinned her there. He frowned at her unimpressed. Their fight was far more painful than that move. He had gone out of his way to be gentle.
He kept both hands on her upper arms to secure her as he invaded her personal space. She was not struggling to get away though, and Grant knew that unless the conversation went poorly, she would not try to escape.
“I need to talk to you,” he said seriously.
She scowled at him. “Maybe you should have tried that before pouring drinks on me.”
Grant would not let her distract him when it came to this though. “Do you know what’s inside the GH-325 formula?”
Skye went rigid in his grasp. “What?”
“Do you know what the secret ingredient in the GH formula is?” Grant spoke again unemotionally. His gaze pierced her as he attempted to read her reaction in her expression.
Her eyes widened slightly and her breath caught. She knew. Grant was sure of it. Grant’s pulse raced as he tightened his grip on her.
“Did you just ask for SHIELD intel?” Skye wondered a bit confusedly. Grant supposed he had never tried to get anything from her before, and it must seem strange to her. Of course, this was the only intel he really cared about.
“So you do know what’s in it,” Grant confirmed.
Skye was not paying attention to his words though. “Is that what this was all about?”
“What are you talking about?” Grant growled frustrated. He just needed her to tell him this and then most of his problems would be solved. John would be saved. Skye would be safe. Grant could probably even leave Hydra because John would no longer need their resources.
“Was that why you,” Skye faltered a little, “Befriended me?”
Despite himself, Grant could not help but let out a humorless laugh. “Befriended you?” He made sure his tone was as mocking as possible. He supposed she did not want to admit aloud she fucked a “Nazi”.
Skye pursed her lips. “Would you rather I say seduced me? Is that what you want to hear, that you seduced me apparently to try and find out about the GH formula?”
Grant’s lips curled. “Is that what you want to believe?” He shook his head. “No, Skye. My feelings have always been real, and I’ve never pretended with you. You’re the one who was lying.”
“I didn’t lie to you!” Skye protested at once.
“Oh, not to me,” Grant said harshly. “You lied to yourself. How else could you have spent all those months without ever figuring out who I am?” Skye looked down, and Grant knew he was right. “Didn’t want to admit you were fraternizing with the ‘psychotic serial killer’, was that it?” Grant tried to keep the bitterness out of his tone when he repeated the words she said to him the morning in the hotel but knew he had failed.
Skye met his gaze refusing to be intimidated. “If you didn’t seduce me for intel, then what’s this all about?”
Grant flexed his hands on her arms as he considered how to answer her. “I need you to tell me this,” he said lowly.
“For your precious Centipede soldiers?” Skye mocked. Grant had forgotten how well-informed she was of Cybertek and their operations.
“No, I don’t care about that,” Grant said dismissively.
“Then why ask?” Skye retorted.
“I need to know how to make it,” Grant said hoarsely unable to contain his desperation.
Skye searched his face and grew alarmed. “Do you need it for you?” Grant did not react quickly enough, and she continued breathlessly, “Grant, if you’re sick, there’s a better way. You don’t want to use the formula.”
“Why not?” Grant blurted in surprise at the shift in conversation.
“It’s not worth it,” Skye said heatedly. “It’s… it’s not this magical cure you think it is.”
Grant’s heart was pounding. If Skye were speaking the truth, Grant did not know what that would mean. “I don’t understand.” He thought for a second and found the glaring issue in her claim. “You used the GH formula,” he accused.
Skye shifted and bit her lip. She dropped her gaze. “I’m different.”
“Different? What the hell is that supposed to mean?’
Skye took a deep breath and faced him again. “You just need to trust me on this, the GH formula won’t solve your problems.”
Grant did not believe that, he could not believe that. He had spent more than fifteen years looking for a cure for John. He refused to think that it could all have been pointless.
“Grant,” Skye called as she leaned towards him and reached out to clutch his shirt. Her eyes were wide as she spoke, “Are you dying?”
Grant could not lie to her. “No,” he said. “I’m not dying.” John is, he thought wretchedly, and I cannot seem to do anything about it.
Skye let out a shuddering breath at his words. Grant noted she appeared unconvinced, but he could not explain why he needed to know without revealing John’s poor health. He could not allow SHIELD to find out about that.
She was obviously not going to tell him just because he told her to, especially now that he admitted it was not for him. He ignored her warnings knowing that he had no other options but to find the formula if he wanted to save the man who had given him everything.
Desperation seized him. If he did not learn the ingredient now, then he would be forced to bring Skye in to Raina. Grant bared his teeth as he decided to try a new tactic. “You haven’t seen me at my worst, Skye. Don’t test me, just tell me what’s in it.”
Skye stiffened in his grasp as she let out a dark laugh. The sound sent shivers down his spine. It was not the sort of reaction he expected. Anger, irritation, maybe even fear, but Skye’s expression turned cynical and derisive. “Oh, I know all about the lengths you’ll go to for the GH formula,” Skye bit out acerbically.
Grant had been leaning into her in order to intimidate her, but her response threw him enough that he recoiled. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Skye yanked her arms free from his grip and gave his chest a push to get him to back away. It was not painful, and she did not make a run for it, but it made Grant defensive anyway. He crossed his arms as he tried to stare her down.
“Oh, come on. You can’t seriously expect me to believe you weren’t involved,” Skye scoffed. “You probably planned it out with Garrett.”
“What are you talking about?” Grant was growing more frustrated by the second. He was getting nowhere with her, and he had no idea how long Kara and Skye’s partner would be occupied.
“Didn’t you ever wonder why I was given the GH formula in the first place?” Skye said.
Grant admittedly had not. It hardly mattered to him why she had it in her when all that concerned him was that she had it in the first place. He knew logically that Skye would have likely been on death’s door if she were even still alive to be given the formula, but it had happened before he met her and had not seemed important.
Skye read the confusion on his face and continued, “Your precious S.O. had his lackey Ian Quinn shoot me twice in the stomach and leave me bleeding on the floor for Coulson to find.” Skye’s expression tightened, and Grant saw her eyes well up with angry tears. “Garrett wanted to force Coulson to show him the way to the formula, and he used me for it.”
Grant tried to swallow past the choking feeling in his throat. Now that Skye said it, he could remember vaguely one of the many plans to wrestle the secret from Coulson was to have someone close to him almost killed. John had told him he had the perfect person in mind as Coulson had apparently picked up a girl off the street a few months earlier. She had almost no training but was often out in the field anyway.
She was like a daughter to Coulson, John had claimed with a smirk. The perfect target.
“Do you want to see the scars?” Skye mocked. “I mean you already have. You ran your hands over them and never said a word.”
Grant knew the scars she was talking about. There were two bullet wounds that stuck out in sharp contrast with her mostly unblemished, smooth skin. Grant had seen them and not commented. Agents often had strange scars, and he would not want Skye asking about his.
“I didn’t know,” Grant said dully.
“Even if you weren’t involved, you expect me to believe that Garrett didn’t at least tell his protégé about his plan?” Skye threw at him incredulously.
“I didn’t know it was you,” Grant tried again. “I heard a little then, but I just...” Grant trailed off as he realized what he was about to say. He had not cared. John had told him, and he had not given a thought towards the girl who would be caught in the crossfire. It had not registered to him. His focus was entirely on the possibility that John could be healed.
“It could have easily been you instead of Quinn,” Skye accused. She was right, too. Grant had not known her then. If John had told him he needed to shoot her back then when she was a stranger who may hold the key to his mentor’s salvation, he would not have hesitated.
“Skye,” he breathed as he moved towards her. She did not push him away again as he cupped her face. “I would never do that to you,” he promised.
Skye straightened and looked up at him with watery eyes. “How am I supposed to believe that when you work for the man who had me shot?”
“I would never hurt you,” Grant vowed. His worries and the choices that tormented him the past couple weeks fled to the back of his mind. All that mattered in that moment was reassuring Skye.
Something flashed in Skye’s eyes as she stared at him. The tension drained from her body as her expression softened. She had not looked at him that way since before she learned his name.
Before he could register what he was doing, Grant was kissing her. She gasped into his lips as he pushed her even more firmly into the wall. One of his hands cradled her head to keep the cold stone from hurting her and the other snuck around her waist to pull her closer. She matched his enthusiasm as she yanked him closer with a tight grip on his hair.
Grant could not breathe. He could not think. All his thoughts, all his desires were consumed by the woman in his arms. He had missed her so much. It was all he had never thought he could have again.
Grant wedged one of his legs in between hers so that she straddled his thigh. She wriggled against him driving him wild, and it was still not enough.
“Grant,” she panted. He ignored her as he kissed her jaw. “We can’t.”
“Tell me you don’t want this, and I’ll stop,” Grant mumbled into her neck where he was mouthing at her pulse point. He moved his hand away from her waist and ran it all over her body. He traced her curves and squeezed her backside. She moaned as she pushed herself further into his thigh.
Grant’s hands continued to wander as he let desperation guide his movements. He clutched at her as though he would never get another opportunity to have her in his arms because somewhere in the back of his mind he knew that to be true.
Much too soon, he felt Skye begin to draw back. “No, Grant,” Skye said as she pulled away as much as she could. “We can’t.”
He wanted to tell her that they could. Nothing was stopping them but Skye’s hesitance. As the distance between them increased, Grant realized how foolish he was being. There were a million reasons why they could not go there again.
Grant let her detach herself from him and said nothing. She began to smooth down her dress in an attempt to conceal their actions. He stood there, colder and emptier for her loss. When she turned back towards him, she froze upon seeing whatever expression displayed on his face. He could not muster the energy to hide his emotions. It felt like he was losing everything all over again because he finally understood that it did not matter what Skye felt for him. Maybe she was attracted to him, maybe her feelings even ran deeper than simple lust, but none of that mattered because she would still reject him for her loyalty in the end.
Because she was the director of SHIELD’s surrogate daughter and he was John Garrett’s pet monster.
Grant spun around and stalked out of the alleyway without a backwards glance. And though he expected it, it still stung that she did not try to stop him.
Grant found Kara at the rendezvous point by the quinjet. He was in such a terrible mood that he almost missed the signs.
Kara was fidgeting and obsessively playing with her hair. She looked pale and shaken as well. When she spotted him approaching, she darted forward and clutched his dress shirt in her hands. “Did you get it?” Kara asked urgently. There was no hope in her eyes as she spoke though, and Grant knew she was already aware of his answer.
“The weapon?” Grant questioned numbly. Distracted as he was, it took him a second to realize what she was implying. “You had it, didn’t you?”
Kara shook her head. “The SHIELD agent, he stole it from me.” Grant noticed her fake purse was missing. “I thought when you took so long- I thought maybe you had gotten it back.”
Grant did not want to think about what he had just been doing. “No, the agent I fought put up a struggle,” he explained shortly.
At the reference to Skye, Kara’s expression transformed. The panic bled away as her eyes narrowed. While that would worry him normally, Grant was just glad not be faced with Kara’s brainwashing-induced terror.
“I thought you said she wasn’t much of a threat,” Kara said.
“She’s not,” Grant replied. “But she was also extra pissed that I got her covered in champagne earlier.” Kara was going to say more, but Grant just shook his head. “We have to go in case SHIELD called for reinforcements.”
Kara reluctantly climbed into the quinjet after him. She stared as he fired up the engine and put the plane in the air. The second he was able to put it on autopilot, Kara pounced.
“What was that with you and the SHIELD agent at Rodechenko’s party?” Kara demanded.
Grant glanced at her. She had watched him dance with Skye. Skye. Just thinking the name made his chest tighten.
“I recognized her and engaged to draw her and her partner out,” Grant told Kara robotically.
“Really?” Kara was skeptical, but Grant had expected that.
“Yes,” he said emphatically. “It worked, too. I put her on the spot and managed to trap both SHIELD agents in the spotlight as we stole the weapon.”
“We could have just moved to take the weapon without alerting them to our presence,” Kara retorted.
“No, we couldn’t,” Grant said even though he thought they might have been able to pull it off. “Both of those agents would recognize us on sight and likely would have seen us before we had a chance to escape. I pressed the advantage of engaging them first to maneuver them into a position that benefited us.”
“That’s a lie,” Kara accused as her chin jutted up stubbornly. “Maybe all that’s true, but that’s not why you danced with her.”
“Oh, yeah?” Grant mocked.
“Yeah,” Kara insisted. “I saw the way you looked at her.”
Grant faltered at that. “How did I look at her?” Genuine confusion leaked into his tone as he considered the possibilities. He supposed Kara might be able to tell Grant desired Skye, but that should not cause this sort of reaction.
Kara did not answer him. She scoffed and turned to stare resolutely out the windscreen. “In the end, we lost the weapon to SHIELD.”
“And whose fault is that?” Grant accused more than a little irritated. The talk of Skye so soon after his encounter with her and epiphany was grating him. Now that he had a chance to think, he was forced to deal with the fact that he had nothing to show for the conversation anyway. He was no closer to learning the secrets of the GH formula.
“It’s mine,” Kara said tightly.
Grant looked towards her and wanted to hit himself. How could he be so stupid as to forget what the reminder of her failure would do to her? It felt like he could nothing right lately.
“It’s just one mission,” Grant awkwardly tried to comfort her as all of his previous annoyance fled at her despair.
Kara’s breathing quickened as she tugged at her hair again. “No, no, I failed Dr. Whitehall. He’s going to be so-“ Kara grasped the seat tightly as if to anchor herself.
“It wasn’t your fault,” Grant attempted. “SHIELD’s to blame.”
Kara did not appear to hear him, but her death grip on the chair only grew more pronounced. Grant abandoned his station and moved closer. He detached her hand and held it in his own. She finally turned to stare at him, but Grant was not sure she could even see him. The haunted, dazed look she gave made him uncomfortable.
“It’s okay,” Grant said as he gave her a tight-lipped smile.
Kara focused on him and clutched at his hand like a lifeline. Gradually she relaxed and her breathing evened out again. As Grant watched, she seemed to grow confused as she stared at their clasped hands almost as if she forgot why she was holding onto him in the first place.
Grant drew back without comment and returned to his seat. He was not entirely lying to her. Despite the mission’s failure, it was just as okay for Kara as it had always been. Whitehall would not kill her over one lost weapon and really what more could he do to her? Grant scowled to himself.
“Grant,” Kara spoke softly regaining his attention. “Thank you.”
“Don’t thank me,” Grant spat. “I didn’t do anything.”
And was that not the truth? Grant could not seem to do anything lately. His indecision froze him and none of his problems were any closer to being solved than they had been weeks ago.
Silence enveloped the cockpit. There was nothing to say.