It’s pretty much all Skye can think about in the blips of seconds that she can actually think when Ward’s mouth is insistent upon hers and his hands are everywhere and she’s tearing off his clothes like their lives depend on it.
He’s Hydra beats like a drum in her mind, whited out only by sensation too intense to put into words.
And then she finds the two pink lines on the pregnancy test.
Skye doesn’t tell her daughter that her father was (is?) a bad man. She doesn’t tell her that he was good once, or that he might have been able to have been saved if they had caught it soon enough. That makes his path to darkness seem innocuous, like a sickness and this – this is so much worse.
Instead she tells Lara that he’s not in the picture. That he was really never in the picture.
And then Skye loves her so fiercely that she puts everything she has into making sure that Lara never has to feel the ache of being unwanted.
Skye knows all about being unwanted.
It’s a random Thursday and they’re in Manhattan.
Skye had taken a few days off because Lara wanted to go shopping. It had been easy enough to finagle a few private showroom events and Lara knew her mom felt more at ease with the knowledge their exposure was limited.
There’s hundreds of people milling around Times Square and it’s the kind of crowd Lara loves best – despite knowing the potential security nightmare – because this is the kind of crowd a person could get lost in and never be found.
From a few steps behind her she hears someone ask, “Skye?”
And her mother goes immediately still. “Call Tony,” She tells her calmly.
Lara stares at her, confusion and curiosity written on her face. Calling Uncle Tony is not by any means unusual, but the unnatural stillness radiating from her mother – is. “Mo –”
Skye releases a quick burst of power, just enough to make Lara stumble over her footing and she doesn’t apologise. The determined set to her mother’s jaw, coupled with the slightly panicked look in her eyes has Lara reaching for her phone without further comment.
She probably would have been able to at least hit the panic button, if not for someone snatching it out of her hands.
The last thing she sees is her mother’s fury, barely contained by the clench of her fists and then something is tossed over her face and everything goes dark.
Lara wakes up slowly and things come back to her in spurts. She has to call on every bit of training not to panic and keep her breathing regulated. When she opens her eyes, she discovers they’re in some kind of industrial space and tied to chairs.
There is a man sitting on the edge of a desk in front of them, with dark brown eyes that are oddly compelling, for some reason. She has the insane split sensation of wanting to spit in his face and also tell him everything he’d ever want to know. Lara has a terrifying half second to wonder if she’s been injected with truth serum before she realizes that he is talking to her.
“What’s your name?” He asks gently.
Okay, Lara thinks. That doesn’t seem too terrible.
She glances at her mother for confirmation and doesn’t say anything until Skye nods, just barely. He intercepts the look with a poorly concealed expression of triumph, turning his attention back to the younger girl expectantly.
“Lara,” she reveals, snarling at him. “Set me free of these stupid restraints and I’ll show you how well I can take names, too.”
The bastard actually has the gall to laugh. “Christ. She’s like the spitting image of you,” He remarks conversationally as he fondly glances at Skye.
“Most trainees tend to draw from their supervising officers,” Skye responds evenly. “I’ll give you whatever you want. Just let her go, Ward.”
“And miss this golden opportunity to interact with your mini-me?” The man named Ward shakes his head. “No way.”
Somewhere in the fifth hour of their detainment, Ward receives some files from a lackey and snatches them away, eagerly reading over the contents within. Lara has no idea why he’s so delighted about and doesn’t pay him much attention until about halfway through the paperwork, when he becomes devoid of movement and stares directly at her.
“What is your name?”
Being the recipient of the laser intensity that is his singular focus is enough to make her want to fidget restlessly.
She has no other option but to fall back on her sass. It’s always served her well in the past.
“Deja vu, old man?” Lara raises an eyebrow, ignoring the way her mother seems to choke suddenly. “We’ve already had this conversation today.”
“Humor me.” A smirk kicks up at the corner of his mouth. “Your full name, please.”
“Skye,” Ward drawls inquiringly, turning to look at her. “Would you care to elaborate?”
“I would not,” Skye bites out by way of response.
Lara can’t figure out why her mother is allowing her expression to bleed so closely on the surface. Even she knows you’re never supposed to give the enemy an advantage, however small.
“Skye.” From the flat tone of his voice, it is clear that Ward is no longer asking. Something about that implication has a chill skating up Lara’s spine.
“Lara Elizabeth Rose Johnson,” her mother grudgingly admits.
Lara’s already staring at her in shock – partially because Skye had given up the information so freely – but mostly since this is the first she has ever been informed of her (second!) middle name.
Skye is leveling such a murderous look at Ward that Lara is privately impressed he hasn’t so much as flinched, absurdly grateful that neither of them have noticed her (not so minor) freakout. To be fair, her mother is a pretty intimidating woman and has felled lesser men with such a glare.
“Rose.” Ward bites his lip as if in deep concentration. “Would that be in honor of a beloved aunt, perhaps?”
This is making absolutely no sense.
“Let her go,” Skye all but growls, straining at her ties.
When they don’t budge in the slightest, Lara realizes that Ward knows what Skye is capable of and put dampeners on her wrists. If she keeps going that way, the only thing she’ll accomplish is hurting herself. And Lara can’t get them out of here on her own.
“Stop it,” She bursts out, drawing the attention away from her mother. “What is your problem, anyway?”
“You.” Ward strolls over to her, cutting the restraints at her ankles and wrists with a few economical snips. “Nice to meet you, Lara Rose.” There’s something deliberate in he way he keeps emphasizing her name, like he’s trying to tell her something.
But that can’t be right, because she’s never met him before in her entire life.
Besides. She doesn’t have an Aunt Rose.
Lara gets to her feet shakily, batting away his hands when he moves as if to help her regain her bearings. “I didn’t give you permission to call me that,” she grits out, pins and needles dancing painfully in her limbs from the lack of movement.
“Turns out I don’t need it,” Ward shoots back, folding his arms with a smugness that she doesn’t have to look at her mother to know she’s itching punch it off his face. “Seeing as how I’m your father, and all.”
THE LARA VERSE THAT NEVER WAS, FRIENDS.
THE ROAD NOT TAKEN, IF YOU WILL.