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“So, Simmons?” Grant grumbles, rolling over onto his side so he can see her - as long as she doesn’t put the wall back down, that is.

“Hmm?” she turns away from Fitz and indicates her attention.

“This medicine, am I supposed to feel achey?”

“Well, ‘supposed to’ is a rather strong term, but…no. I suppose it is a common side effect of medications so it wouldn’t be particularly surprising if you were.”

Grant nods, and sees her expression change from apologetic to sympathetic. He prefers this one, even though he can see the littlest bit of a smirk below it. Eh, he freaking deserved that.

“Would you like me to retrieve one of the heating pads for you?”

“Aren’t those primarily for when you girls-"

She rolls her eyes, chuckling at him, and Fitz grins a little, even though he hasn’t so much as looked at Grant the whole time he and Simmons have been down here to examine him. Well, Simmons was here to examine him. Fitz was the puppy in love with her. But as long as he wasn’t going to shoot, Grant was fine with him being here.

He and Fitz would have to get reacquainted with being in the same room with each other eventually, right?

“They’re external treatment, Ward. Nothing for you to be concerned about. Besides, as a sexually active grown man, you honestly shouldn’t find anything abhorrent with the fact that the grown women with whom you work are indeed grown women.”

“Okay, sexually active is a little bit of an overstatement.”

Simmons scoffs.

“Can’t imagine why,” she mutters, and even though Grant knows he wasn’t supposed to hear that, he laughs, and for a moment it actually seems like things might be moving back towards fine when Fitz and Simmons also laugh.

+

After he’s pressed the button like ten freaking times, the door finally opens, the wall dissipating with it, but unfortunately it’s May instead of Coulson. She doesn’t even leave the top step before yelling out, “you called?”

“Can I have some Kleenex?”

“I don’t know, can you say 'please'?”

“You’re not my mom, you know.”

She turns to leave, so he yelps and satisfies that request, but she still walks out. It’s easily another ten minutes before he’s suddenly hit in the head with a large box of tissues.

“Ow!” he cries, grabbing the box and sitting up.

“Don’t say I never did anything for you.”

“Thank you, May.”

+

Grant’s never had superpowers, but it doesn’t take them to feel just how tense Skye is. She can barely bear to interrogate him, even though she has the options of a) having someone else do it, and b) keeping a literal wall between them - and he isn’t sure why she doesn’t opt for either.

Even having to answer to May would probably be better than having to watch Skye hate him. When she was out of the room, he could pretend she didn’t, pretend he didn’t care, but here…her voice cracks, and she whimpers, and she has to stop in the middles of questions to keep from breaking down, because this is probably the last thing she wants to have to hear. All the nitty-gritty of the shit he did, the magnitude of his sins against her, against her family, her friends…and it’s not like he deserves her forgiveness in the first place, but pretending there’s a chance, pretending this is business, is even worse than knowing that.

And of course, coughing makes nothing better, makes it seem like he cares less; the way his eyes water whenever it happens makes it even more obvious how hard he’s trying - and eventually, failing - not to cry.

He’d made the ‘shook up my life’ joke already with Coulson, and ‘rocked my world’ with Hunter, and even though they’d gotten slight smiles, they were not favored; he doesn’t bother trying to toss anything like that out there now, even if it might calm her a bit. It would probably only hurt her more to realize how much of it had been about her. Misguided and generally really shitty shit was most of what he’d done, but in some terrible, convoluted, tragically romantic but mostly just tragic way, everything always seemed to circle back to Skye.


She knows her voice is shaking but he does seem to be answering her with ease, as though he’s given up on having to protect her or whatever bullshit.

“So this, this Ward, is this who the real you is?”

This time, he doesn’t answer easily. Actually, it takes forever for him to decide to answer her at all - well, roughly a minute, according to her watch, but it certainly feels like longer - and even then (and after coughing some more) his voice is even quieter than it’s been since he’s been back.

“Who do you want it to be?”

“You know as well as I do that it doesn’t work like that,” she replies, and she can feel one of the many tears that have been bubbling up inside her start to boil over and drip down her cheek, so she turns and starts to leave. She has to retrace her steps to turn the wall back on, and when she’s back there again, he mumbles, “it could. If you wanted it to, it could.”

+

“God, that’s so Notebook,” Bobbi coos declaratively, and Skye groans again for the umpteenth time.

“Bob, I’m really not sure that’s a helpful example,” Hunter defends for her, and when Skye gestures to him and takes the beer he’s offering her, Bobbi scoffs and mimics him.

“Yeah, neither are you guys.”

“Are we supposed to be helping?” Bobbi says with a grumble, and Skye nearly spits out the sip of beer she’d been taking.

“It is Ward, after all. I feel like you two should be on page 'As sung so eloquently by Taylor Swift -'"

Hunter leans back in his chair, groaning loudly in dread of her next declaration, and she smacks his knee before continuing.

“Never ever getting back together.”

Skye sighs.

“Okay, I understand that makes the most sense - "

“But you’re walking the plank off the SS Independent Thought?”

“Bobbi -"

“Come on. You, and me, and Simmons, and May, we had all those girl power talks, remember?”

“Should I even be here for this?” Hunter asks awkwardly, but neither woman responds and he just continues drinking.

“Yeah, before Dr Garner signed on for good, and you got shot, and Fitz almost died again. Oh, and before we discovered that Ward actually was brainwashed.”

Bobbi sighs.

“I don’t want you to get hurt again, Skye.”

“Yeah, I know, I just…”

“Logically, you know it all went to shit with a handbasket, but…”

“Hell in a handbasket,” Hunter weakly corrects, only at a whisper so that he doesn’t actually interrupt their conversation.

“...the feelings are still there,” Bobbi finishes, and Skye nods.

+

“Can’t you see? It’s love,” Raina had declared.

Raina who was, admittedly, hella sketchy, but knew her shit, Raina who had been totally on point with Skye’s mom wanting to start a war with SHIELD, Raina who had been able to see that Skye was a leader, that Jiaying was willing to sacrifice her own daughter along with pretty much the rest of the world in order to keep her power. The fish oil, she hadn’t predicted, but nearly everything else she had at her credit. Was it really so outlandish that she could’ve been right about Ward, too?

“He thinks if he helps her fulfill her destiny, she’ll see him for who he truly is.”

“I couldn’t have done it without a great and patient S.O.”

“Yeah, you could’ve. I’m no Clairvoyant, but I believe some things are meant to be.”

“I’m not a good man, Skye.”

“Yes, you are.”

“You’re right. I wouldn’t like the real you.”

“You know how I feel about you, Skye.”

“Wait…so, even though you’ve been lying, to everyone, about everything, you’re saying that your feelings for me…”

“They’re real, Skye. They always have been.”

“What do you want?”

“What I want is to stay here with you, and imagine the world outside doesn’t exist.”

“Is this who the real you is?”

“Who do you want it to be?”

“Hey, Skye?” comes Jemma’s voice from the doorway of Skye’s room, and Skye’s head snaps towards her inquisitively. Thank God for Simmons being Simmons, she gives Skye a moment to adjust to having snapped out of thought before she asks her real question.

“Did Ward seem sick when you were questioning him this morning?”

“What do you mean, sick?” Skye replies, more quickly and more harshly than she probably should be - especially as Jemma seems taken aback by it.

“Like, cold or flu sick, not sick sick,” she answers, reassuringly enough that she’s obviously caught on to Skye’s distress.

“Um…he was coughing some, his temperature was a bit high, nothing worrisome.”

“Good. Well, no, not good, but…in reasonable sequence.”

“Excuse me?”

“He’s run out of an entire box of facial tissue and begun to run a fever,” Jemma explains.

“Just wanted to see if he had symptoms that add up.”


Simmons gives Grant some wicked strong something that lets him actually sleep, and he sleeps like a baby, so it follows that, by the time he wakes up, someone’s come into his cell without his knowledge.

Of course, he’d have figured that if someone on the team had come in they’d have shot him, but considering that he’s actually waking up, he’s assuming that didn’t happen. So, he’d successfully survived day four back at SHIELD. Whoopee.

He’s still a bit wary when he actually pushes himself out of bed, using the momentum from a cough to sit up first as he realizes that he feels even worse than he had the day before.

Well, at least it wasn’t from being shot.

Grant pads over to the tray placed on the tiny table that’s been put into the corner of his cell, to find that the tray is actually a box that reaches into the table. Probably some weird Stark thing, but he opens it anyway, and there is…breakfast. Except, it’s not really breakfast, because it’s chicken freaking soup and someone’s got to be kidding him - apparently not, though, since it’s flanked by an unopened bottle of cough medicine (the grape kind, the only kind he liked as a kid, and how did SHIELD know that?) and a mason jar full of lemonade.

Maybe it was later than he thought it was.

He moves the tray onto the floor and starts unpacking it, putting its contents on - inside, technically - the top of the table. The food, the medicine, a Stark patented communicative thermometer that meant that whenever he used it it'd tell Simmons however many of his vitals it could read, one of those tiny iPod nanos from a few years back, and some utensils, but no indication of who decided he needed any of it.

At least, not until he takes out what he’d thought was the last thing left in the tray (a nice fabric napkin with a floral print) and it turns out there’s something left at the bottom, something that makes his heart jump, something that gives him an excuse to absentmindedly rake his fingers through his beard, and smile.

It’s a daisy.


Somehow he's asleep already - he used to be a night owl, but apparently even things like that change - when she walks back down towards his cell, and having already changed herself, her slippers allow her to move stealthily down the stairs, enough so that he doesn't wake and realize she's there until the barrier's been down a moment and she's standing in place like a lovestruck idiot, watching him lay there with the freaking daisy in his fingers. He looks a little like a Disney character, and it's really quite endearing.

She's too busy smiling and internally freaking out to actually say anything, so she pretends she's doing it on purpose and waits for him to decide he needs to rectify their slightly giggly staring competition, which he does, and God save her, he's actually smiling.

"I would've done the whole petal picking thing, but, uh, I only have the one flower."