Skye burst into the room the screams were coming from seconds ahead of the others. But the sight that greeted her was so startling that she stopped short in the doorway.
At the center of the chaos was Grant. He was howling as he thrashed in restraints that secured him to the memory machine. May and Bobbi had their guns raised and pointed at him while a white-faced Coulson and frantic Trip were at Grant’s side trying to hold him still.
Everyone was shouting. Nothing was comprehensible.
Fitz pushed by her to get inside the room and shocked Skye out of her stupor. Heart pounding, she immediately ran to the distraught Grant.
“Not this thing again,” Skye heard Mack yell over the madness. “Turn it off!”
“It already is,” Bobbi replied loudly. “It didn-“ Bobbi’s voice was lost as Grant shrieks increased.
Grant writhed in the constraints and rubbed his skin raw. Skye saw rivulets of blood trail down his arms from the force of his attempts to escape. Skye swallowed convulsively, he was hurting himself.
“Grant,” she called uncertainly as she shoved her way to him and helped contain his spasms. Coulson gave her a glance from her right, but Skye’s priority was not on him. “It’s Skye. Can you hear me?”
His flailing did not stop. Her words did nothing to calm him, and Skye was at a loss. Now that she was closer, Skye could tell that he was muttering words in between his incoherent shouting.
“So cold… Buddy… don’t want to die alone… the woods…”
“Chistian, stop… the well… he’s going to drown… please…”
“Mom, please… don’t… I’m scared… dark…”
Skye wet her dry lips as she listened to his frantic pleas and admissions of fear. She had no idea what he was seeing, but it was confirmation on something that she had suspected for a while: Grant has some serious demons in his past. She figured as much given his sensitivity talking about his family and just the fact that he wound up working for Garrett in the first place. The temper that he repressed so carefully but flared up every now and then also told Skye he had some unresolved issues that he was ignoring.
Looking at him now, Skye thought she might have significantly underestimated how extreme they were though.
Distantly, Skye heard Hunter enter the room with a joking, “Are we torturing someone in here-“ He paused for a moment before exclaiming loudly, “I was joking! I didn’t think we actually did that!” No one acknowledged him.
Grant was still mumbling and pleading about his mother, someone named Christian, woods, a well and the dark. He hysterically begged to not be hurt, that he would do anything, only to abruptly start shouting that he “didn’t want to!” or “didn’t mean to!”
“Grant, calm down,” Skye tried again urgently. She felt helpless and stupid, but she had to do something. It was just so unnerving watching Grant fall apart this way. He was always so collected and strong, it felt wrong to see him so vulnerable.
Skye noticed Simmons sidled up to Trip with a syringe in her hand. “Move,” she commanded in her doctor’s voice.
But before she could inject Grant with anything, Trip panicked. He knocked the needle out of her hand while still trying to keep his grip on the thrashing Grant. “No!” He shouted. “He’s been drugged already. You’ll kill him.”
Simmons paused in shock, but this time, surprise did not hold Skye’s tongue. “You drugged him before putting in this thing?” She exclaimed in disbelief. Coulson did not meet her eyes when she looked at him.
Simmons quickly recovered from her incredulity. She retrieved a small flashlight from her coat. “Skye, hold his face still,” she ordered.
Awkwardly, Skye moved to obey. She grabbed his face in her hands tightly to prevent his head from jerking about. Skye watched as Simmons held open Grant’s eyelids and flashed the light into both eyes. Whatever she saw there must have satisfied her because she turned to face Trip in a much calmer manner. “What’d you give him?”
As Trip rattled off some medical terminology that meant nothing to her, Skye returned her focus to Grant. Her hands were still gripping his face to prevent him from further injuring himself. She loosened up but kept a lighter grasp as she leaned down to speak to him.
“Grant, hey,” Skye whispered from inches away. “It’s Skye. You need to calm down. The machine’s off, and whatever you’re seeing isn’t rea-happening,” Skye said reassuringly. She almost tried to comfort him by saying it was not real, but it was, was it not? When Coulson was in the memory machine, he saw the events following his “death”. The machine played with its victims’ mind, but its ammunition was usually memories that haunted them.
Skye’s chest constricted as she considered the implications of what that meant here with Grant.
“Skye,” Grant murmured.
Skye jerked her gaze back towards his face in surprise. She had not seriously expected her attempts to work. “Yeah, Grant, it’s me.”
Grant’s unfocused eyes searched for her, and Skye moved closer into his line of sight. She stroked his cheek gently with her thumbs and gave him a tight smile. She thought it might have succeeded in soothing him slightly.
“Skye,” he said again. Skye sensed he was still unaware of his surroundings.
“Just relax,” Skye said uselessly. She ran a comforting hand through his hair as she looked up to see that Simmons was readying another syringe by the doorway.
Grant’s fingertips brushed her thigh as he tried to reach out to her despite his restraints. Trip and Coulson tensed and appeared ready to attack, but Skye ignored them. She merely clutched the searching hand with one of her own. Whatever else she was unsure of, Skye knew Grant would not hurt her.
“You need to know,” he gasped out as he stared at her blearily. “I didn’t- I didn’t want to. He made me. Christian… but I didn’t want to. No one believed, but you believe me, right?”
It felt like something was lodged in Skye’s throat. “Yeah,” Skye said assuredly despite having no clue what he was talking about. Simmons had returned and was carefully injecting something into Grant’s arm. “I believe you.”
Skye was not sure he heard her because he relaxed into unconsciousness before she had finished speaking. His taut muscles loosened, and his whole body went limp.
In the background, Skye saw Coulson turn to Mack and instruct him to prevent anyone else from coming to check on the screams.
“Anything to get away from this freak show,” Mack replied. “Just what did I sign myself up for,” he muttered as he left.
Skye heard the words, but they barely registered. Skye’s focus was on Grant, she worried that he would begin screaming anew if she tore her gaze away. Skye stared at his peaceful expression for a moment longer before raising her eyes to meet Simmons’. Simmons’ face was pinched in anger, but Skye was sure it was nothing close to the fury brewing inside of her. During the chaos, Skye had prioritized calming Grant rather than focusing on why he was in such a state in the first place, but now that he was dead to the world, the rage swirled inside her like a maelstrom.
Skye opened her mouth to let loose, but someone beat her to it.
“What the hell was that?” Fitz demanded angrily. It was startling to hear Fitz so furious. Skye turned and saw he was back by the door still, probably did want to get in anyone’s way.
“We know damn well what it was, Fitz,” Skye said with equal outrage. “The real question is why the hell were you using this fucking machine in the first place!”
“Calm down-“ Coulson tried. Skye did not let him finish.
“Don’t tell me to calm down!” Skye shrieked.
The room began to tremble in response to her inner turmoil. She saw a few of the others look to her warily as things started falling off the shelves, so Skye took a deep breath and forcibly unfurled the ire knotting up the pit of her stomach. The room quieted without even a twinge of pain to her, and if she were less upset, Skye would have taken a moment to appreciate that she felt like she was finally getting a hang of her powers.
When she felt like she had her abilities locked down, Skye turned to Coulson and pointed her finger at him accusingly, “I found you after Garrett had the machine used on you. I saw what it did to you. How could you of all people use that thing on someone else?”
May answered before Coulson could. “Using the same machine Garrett used on Coulson to get intel on Garrett himself, seems poetic to me,” she said.
“No, it’s not!” Fitz exclaimed at once. “Ward’s not Garrett, and even if he were, we have to better than him. We can’t sink to his level.”
“It’s unethical,” Simmons added quietly, but her words still pierced the room.
“Wake up!” May shouted. “Ward manipulated you. He’s a liar and a murderer, it’s what he does. He’s not your friend, he’s using you.”
“And what do you know about it?” Skye threw back to May. “You don’t know Grant or how he feels, and you certainly don’t know our relationships with him.”
May’s face tightened in anger, but Skye whirled on Coulson instead of waiting for a response. “But you, I told you. How could you go behind my back like this? Don’t you trust me?”
“It’s not you I don’t trust,” Coulson said immediately.
“No, it’s just my judgment,” Skye retorted.
Coulson sighed. “You don’t understand. Ward manipu-“
Skye thought if she heard the word “manipulate” one more time, she was going to shatter every window in the base. Luckily, Fitz interrupted Coulson.
“To what end? Ward killed his Hydra partner not even thirty-six hours ago to save Skye, but I suppose that’s just part of his tricks, right? All part of his evil plan, of course,” Fitz threw his hands up in air in frustration that Skye felt acutely.
There was a beat of shocked silence while the others processed the news, but Skye found herself staring down at Grant’s tranquil face instead of watching the reactions. She felt tired all of the sudden, like the weight of the last couple days finally sank in. She absentmindedly reached out and brushed a few strands of his hair back from his sweaty forehead. Skye felted defeated as she stared at the blood and bruises marring his body. His desperate escape attempts caused his restraints to rub him raw.
Despite his calm exterior, the evidence of what was done to him was still present- and that was just the physical parts. Skye could only imagine what the effects the machine would have on his mind. The days following Coulson’s experiences had the man locking himself away from the world and closed off from everyone. Grant’s reaction to the machine was even worse than Coulson’s, too.
Distantly, Skye heard Fitz briefly explain the events of the mission, focusing on Grant finding Fitz and walking in on Skye using her powers, to elaborate on why Grant killed his partner.
“Ward killed Agent 33?” Skye heard Bobbi ask tightly. Skye glanced up to see Bobbi’s expression was unreadable except for her pursed lips giving away her displeasure. That struck Skye as odd because why would Bobbi care if Ward had killed 33?
“No, it was a man. I didn’t recognize him,” Fitz said.
“Grant said he was a mercenary hired by Hydra,” Skye said as she reluctantly rejoined the conversation. “He called him ‘Scarlotti’ I think.”
Bobbi’s lost any remaining tension and raised her eyebrows. “Scarlotti, as in Marcus Scarlotti?”
Skye shrugged noncommittally. She was so exhausted. She had lashed out and expressed her anger, but she did not feel any relief or that she accomplished anything. She just felt worse. Looking at the others now focusing on other things, Skye could not forget. Her stomach was tied up in knots, filling her with a nauseous feeling that would not abate.
May grabbed an electronic tablet from a nearby table and fiddled with it. After a moment, she turned it to face Skye. “Was this the man?” Skye stared straight ahead but did not say anything. “Skye?” May prompted.
Fitz moved towards them and took the tablet from May. “Yeah, that’s him.”
“And you’re sure he’s dead?” Coulson asked. “You’re positive that Ward didn’t fake his death?”
Fitz scoffed. “He shot him in the head from a meter away. I’m sure. Why, who is he?”
“He’s the one who led the attack on the U.N. while posing as us,” Bobbi explained. “May almost had him, but the government intervened, and he was able to escape in the chaos. We’ve been looking for him ever since.”
“I don’t understand why Ward would kill him,” Trip said.
Skye distinctly heard Hunter mutter something about crazy people doing crazy things, but she was starting to have trouble focusing past the sensation that her head was swimming. The lightheadedness was unlike that which affected her after she repressed her powers. In fact, Skye felt fine in that way. But there was something off, a growing sense of numbness taking over and making it hard to concentrate. It was as though she was watching the interactions around her as an outside party not even in the room at all.
“I already told you,” Fitz sounded exasperated now. “He did it to protect Skye. The guy was in charge of capturing gifteds for experimentation. Skye, tell them.”
All eyes were on her now, and Skye knew she had to get herself together. But she was so sick of pretending to be fine when she was not. Every time she told herself that if she just got past the hurdle, if she just powered through, it would get better. Every time was the final time, but truthfully it was never ending. Would she pretend forever?
Skye gritted her teeth as she tore he gaze away from Grant to face the room.
“Yeah,” she said simply in a deadened tone. “Hydra’s experimenting on powered people. Grant said dozens have already been captured and died while being analyzed. Apparently Scarlotti or whoever was responsible for tracking them. Scarlotti saw me use my powers, went to use some fancy gifted-capturing-weapon thing on me, so Grant shot him before he could.”
Skye read the confusion and disbelief on several of her colleagues’ faces and felt irritation crawl up her spine and tighten her muscles as if she were preparing for a fight.
Coulson barely reacted. “Did Ward say why Hydra’s experimenting on them?”
“No,” Skye said testily. “He just said it was a priority from the leaders, which I took to mean it was not John Garrett, especially since Grant also said he wasn’t personally involved.”
“Was there anything else?” Bobbi prodded.
“Just that SHIELD doesn’t have the resources or manpower to take down the base, and that he wouldn’t give me the location. Grant says the base can’t be dismantled without an inside man, but he refused when I asked him.”
“Ah,” Bobbi said with a smile as something like comprehension washed over her.
It felt so out of place for anyone to find the situation amusing that Skye pounced. “Is something funny to you about Hydra hunting people like me down or Grant getting tortured?”
Bobbi immediately wiped the smile off her face. “No, Skye, of course not. I was just thinking that something Ward said now makes sense. He must have thought us capturing him was a backup plan after your attempts to sway him failed.”
So not only was Grant tortured, but he thought that Skye herself was in on it, Skye thought miserably.
“Okay, timeout,” Hunter cut in. “I’ve had enough of being kept in the dark. I’m not part of the mates with Grant Ward crowd,” he said as he gestured to Skye and Fitzsimmons, “And I wasn’t included in the torture-kidnapping plot,” he added indicating towards May, Coulson, Bobbi and Trip. “Someone better start explaining what’s going on now.”
“I think some of it is pretty self-explanatory,” May said dryly with a pointed look towards Grant’s unconscious body strapped to the memory machine. The casual reference to the torture sent Skye’s blood boiling even more.
“Fine, then what about you three?” Hunter asked fed up as he faced Fitzsimmons and Skye.
“We met Ward on a couple missions,” Simmons explained briefly. She gave the bare minimum facts of their experiences with Grant, but since that included him saving Simmons from falling to death, Skye still noticed the expressions of the group twist in disbelief.
Except Bobbi’s. All Skye saw from her face was the light in her eyes that indicated she was considering Simmons’ words carefully. Skye supposed people were like puzzles to Bobbi that she enjoyed figuring out.
Skye still felt lightheaded, and her arms were dead weights at her sides. There was a bone-deep weariness setting in. Even though she knew she was expected to be paying attention to the conversation around her, her thoughts kept drifting back to Grant and what he had said under the influence of the memory machine.
And what Skye was going to do, that was weighing on her, too. She had not pointed out that Grant was still restrained on the memory machine in the room because she did not want to draw attention to him before she decided what her course of action should be.
She knew Coulson and the others would want to lock Grant up again. She also knew that Fitz and likely Simmons would back her if she protested, but it would not matter. Coulson would overrule her. Skye could not bear the thought of keeping Grant a prisoner, especially after what he just endured at Coulson’s hands, but could she just let him go?
Besides the massive betrayal it would be to SHIELD, one that could get her fired and send her off alone again, it had other risks not just to her. If Grant were angry enough about what happened that he went after her loved ones for revenge, it would be her fault if he were successful. She trusted Grant with her life and Fitzsimmons’ as well, but that did not extend to Coulson, May, Trip or anyone else. As infuriated as she was with them right now, she could not let them get hurt, but she would not be surprised if Grant wanted that after getting tortured.
But if she did nothing, then Skye was allowing Grant to potentially be tortured some more. It was so wrong. Skye had never anticipated Coulson would do something like this.
It felt like there was no choice Skye could make that was not a betrayal to someone she cared about.
“And how do you know him, Skye?” Hunter said. It almost sounded like an accusation, as if he were daring her to try to lie to him. Maybe if she were in a better mood, Skye would have sympathized with how much had been kept from Hunter recently, which was fueling his annoyance. As it were though, she was too irritated herself to be bothered.
Maybe that was why she answered shortly, “Biblically.”
It was worth it for Hunter’s comically shocked reaction. Hunter spluttered at her nonchalant and deadpanned response before turning to the others, “Does that mean something different in America?”
Skye did not meet any of their eyes as they processed her admission, but it was not out of embarrassment. Why should she feel ashamed of sleeping with Grant when they were the ones who just tortured someone?
“Okay, let’s focus on what matters here,” Coulson said to redirect the attention. Despite her fury, Skye could admit it was nice that he cared enough about her to try to keep the limelight off her sex life. Too bad he did not value her judgment enough to keep her in the loop or trust her instincts.
Bobbi did not miss a beat. “Sir,” she said to Coulson. “I don’t know what happened. I didn’t even get a full sentence out before he started reacting like that.”
“Oh, Bobbi talking to him triggered this mess,” Hunter said knowingly. “That explains it. I feel like screaming when she speaks, too.”
Bobbi sent Hunter a glare, but when she went to explain further to Coulson, he just raised his hand to stop her.
“It’s okay, Agent Morse,” he said tiredly. “It’s not your fault.” He appeared like he had aged years, the lines on his face were more pronounced than Skye had ever seen.
“So what happened then?” Trip asked wearily. “I mean you sound like you know.”
Coulson dragged a hand over his face in exhaustion as if he were dreading responding. “Ward was abused as a child.”
It should not have been so surprising. Skye had suspected something along those lines since witnessing Grant’s bitterness towards his family during Rodchenko’s party and his words in the memory machine had more or less confirmed the hunch, but Skye still felt the stinging behind her eyes like the beginnings of tears as the pit in her stomach tightened.
“So when Bobbi told him to concentrate on his darkest secrets…” Trip trailed off with a grimace and left the meaning hanging.
“How could you not tell me?” Bobbi suddenly demanded. Skye was taken aback a bit at her fury. “I never would have said something so open-ended had I known.”
“Stand down, Agent Morse,” May cut in icily. “Are you really going to start something over Ward?”
“Don’t make this about him,” Bobbi insisted. “This is about Coulson keeping secrets that keep me from being able to do my job. This was completely avoidable had he told me!”
“I didn’t think it was true,” Coulson admitted as he massaged his temples.
“Why?” Fitz said. Skye looked at him and was relieved at least one other person seemed upset on behalf of Grant rather than just at Coulson, like Bobbi.
“Because Garrett told him obviously,” May said. “It seemed like just another lie he told to manipulate people.”
“Why would Garrett lie about that?” Simmons finally voiced bewildered.
“It wasn’t in his old SHIELD file,” Coulson said. “But yes, it was known among some people that Ward was abused. You have to go through an elaborate medical exam after graduating the Academy,” Coulson addressed that last part to Skye and Hunter. “Ward’s exam revealed multiple old injuries consistent with abuse like several odd fractures and burns as well as indications of previous malnourishment. It raised red flags, and Garrett, who had already been chosen to be Ward’s S.O. and gotten to know him by then, claimed that it was because his family abused him.”
Trip shook his head. “His family abused him? If Ward’s family abused him, shouldn’t we do something about that?”
“What do you mean?” Fitz asked.
“Ward’s family is like the cable version of the Kennedys,” Trip explained. “They’re a political powerhouse in the U.S. I always wondered what made a rich kid destined for politics become a spy, but I guess this explains it.”
“Wait- politics,” Skye blurted out. “Ward as in Senator Ward?” That would explain Grant’s extreme reaction to seeing him on the television that morning in the hotel.
“Senator Christian Ward,” Trip corrected. “Judging on Ward’s near incomprehensible rambles, he and the dear old senator must have gotten along wonderfully,” he added sarcastically.
“We couldn’t touch the Wards even before SHIELD fell,” Coulson said shortly. “Abuse can be hard to prove in court, especially when you have the political sway and money that the Wards do.”
“What about the injuries?” Skye pointed out frustrated. “You said they were consistent with abuse.”
“They could play it off as a violent kid getting into fights,” Bobbi said. “Abused children often exhibit behavioral issues, and it’s much easier to believe in one Black Sheep than the idea that one of the most beloved families in America are child abusers. Not that it matters at this point anyway.” Bobbi changed the subject before anyone could comment, “None of this explains why you thought it was so obviously untrue that it wasn’t worth mentioning,” she said to Coulson.
“Ward did exhibit some suspicious behavioral patterns at the Academy and while he worked for SHIELD,” Coulson continued. “He was anti-social. In the Academy especially, he illustrated poor interpersonal and communication skills. He rarely talked at first and made no friends. As time went on, he got much better. By the time he graduated, the communication issues were gone entirely, and he was more prickly than reclusive. He never made friends or worked in a team in all his years at SHIELD, but that wasn’t all that uncommon for specialists.
“I almost recruited him once as I thought it was bad for a specialist to spend all that time without working with anyone else, but Garrett turned me off it.” Coulson paused for a moment before he shook his head and resumed speaking, “But a lot of those things are also consistent with a Hydra plant in the Academy having trouble concealing their lack of loyalty to or interest in SHIELD. When Skye mentioned that Ward said he knew Garrett prior to the Academy, I thought the abuse was an excuse to justify Ward’s standoffishness and that the injuries were sustained through some training program Garrett put him through.”
“Might be both,” Bobbi said. “But you should have at least mentioned the possibility to me before you had me invoke his memories in this thing.”
Skye did not care if Coulson had a response to that because she had had enough. The rage still sparked beneath the surface of her skin, and she was rapidly losing the ability to hold her tongue. It was such a strange sensation to be so furious and yet so numb at the same time.
“Are you seriously arguing about the better ways you could have tortured him?” Skye said incredulously. “You just tortured someone. How can you act like that’s not a big deal?!”
Skye looked around the room, why did it feel like she was the only one who cared so much? It was not true, and in the back of her mind, Skye noted that most of the room’s occupants appeared uncomfortable at the reminder. Fitzsimmons were also pissed, and everyone had been visibly disturbed when Skye had come in.
“Skye-“ Coulson began.
“No,” Skye interrupted. “You just made someone relive their childhood abuse with a torture device used by Hydra! This can’t be what SHIELD’s about, this can’t be what we do!” A terrifying thought hit her then, and she could not help but blurt out breathlessly, “Have you done this before? Is SHIELD regularly using the memory machine on people and torturing intel out of them?”
“No, of course not,” Coulson said quickly. “Skye, you don’t understand what Garrett’s like. He’s up to something, and the only way we can stop him from doubtlessly killing more innocents is if we get information on his plans. The only one who can tell us that is Ward.”
“And how did that work out for you?” Skye asked sarcastically. “I mean it looked like it was going spectacularly well when I came in, but please do tell me all about the crucial intel you received from making Grant relive his abuse.”
Coulson seemed uncomfortable now, and usually that would be enough to stop Skye, but she was still so furious. She also worried that if she stopped being angry, the prickling behind her eyelids would turn into real tears. How did everything get so messed up?
“We did actually did learn some things,” Bobbi said carefully, as if she were trying to defuse the tension. Skye thought that was unfair since she was pissed at Coulson, too. “Ward wasn’t just talking about his family under the influence of the machine. I mean unless he had traumatic camping experiences.”
Trip nodded. “I noticed that, too. He was ranting about dying alone in the woods.”
“I’d like to look into it,” Bobbi said. “I have a theory I’d like to test.”
“And this research is relevant and useful?” May asked.
“If I’m right, yes, I think it would be,” Bobbi said.
“Go,” Coulson uttered, his attention focused on Skye. Bobbi left the room, and Hunter followed her, likely looking for an excuse to leave.
“You said you were looking into him weeks ago,” Skye reminded him. She felt hollow and helpless because what use was it to call Coulson out? Grant was still going to be a mess from the torture, and Skye still had no idea how to fix anything.
“We need to put him back in Vault D before he wakes up,” May said.
“You’re going to lock him up?” Fitz challenged at once. “This is so wrong!”
“It’s wrong to treat him like an enemy? He is one, Fitz,” May retorted.
If he was not before, he sure as hell was now, Skye thought to herself almost vindictively.
But that was the root of the problem really: Grant was SHIELD’s enemy and was treated as such. They were SHIELD, so Coulson and the rest expected her and Fitzsimmons to act as though Grant was just another Hydra agent. He was not though, and Skye could not possibly ever think of Grant as an enemy now.
More than that, she was with Fitz- they had to be better than Hydra, which meant not stooping to their level and unnecessarily causing pain or death.
Fitz made an incoherent noise of frustration that echoed Skye’s own powerlessness. The others would not budge, and there was not much they could do to force them for the moment.
“Fine,” Fitz spat. “I’ll bring him down then. Skye?” He prompted.
As if Fitz’s call reminded her, Skye was able to focus past the emotions bubbling inside her. She made herself to calm down and think like an agent.
She needed to follow Fitz’s lead for now. Skye did not want to get into a physical fight with Coulson or May, especially since it was unlikely she would win. If they could not be persuaded otherwise, she would rather just go behind their backs and save Grant. It was only fair since they did the same with her to capture and torture him.
There was no point in risking an altercation she would lose and letting the others know how emotionally compromised she was by Grant. If that happened, they would be on their guards and not give her a chance to help him.
Skye would wait and see how Grant was faring when he woke up and what Bobbi’s “theory” revealed. If there was any sign of torture, she would get him out inconspicuously, but for now she was caught. No way could she get out of SHIELD with an unconscious prisoner and only two, non-combatant allies.
Skye moved to help Fitz take off the restraints and did not look at Coulson or May again. She was worried she might throw up if she did- or cry. Skye gritted her teeth as she tugged at the bonds while trying to avoid aggravating his raw skin.
Once he was free, Skye carefully reached around to force Grant into a sitting position with Fitz. His head lolled to the side and fell into the crook of her neck. Recalling when he had done so affectionately and consciously to kiss her pulse point or whisper in her ear only served to fuel her misery.
“Here, let me help,” Trip said when they unsteadily went to lift Grant.
Skye bristled. “You’ve done enough,” she muttered. Don’t pretend to care, she almost added, but it brought back the memories of Grant saying as much to her. She always rolled her eyes at his paranoia, but suddenly she felt it herself. She was so confident that Coulson would do the right thing, she had never even thought to doubt him. But he did not share that faith in her or her judgment. Skye was unsure of where her place was or whom she could truly trust at this point.
Trip ignored her, and when Skye and Fitz faltered under the weight and height of the unconscious Grant, he stepped in to aid them. As he took Grant’s arm from Skye and hooked it around his neck, Trip gave Skye a comforting pat on the back and strained smile.
It made Skye bite back tears because it was a reminder that these people were her friends, her loved ones. She could accept her enemies’ awfulness, but this cut deeper. That was what made it all so terrible. Because her loved ones could do this to someone. Because who they did it to was one of her loved ones, too.
At that thought, Skye faltered a bit as she watched Trip and Fitz balance Grant’s body between them and begin the trek to Vault D. The shock was not because of the recognition that Grant was one of the people she cared about most, it was to realize that it felt so inadequate to group him with the rest.
Somewhere along the way, Grant had come to mean more to Skye than she ever thought possible.