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The Bodyguard

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“Sir, you want me to do what?”

Special Agent Grant Ward stood leaning against a wall with his arms crossed watching his Supervising Officer with a mix of shock and horror. Surely he wasn’t actually asking him to do this. He was a specialist, an assassin, not a goddamn babysitter. He glanced over to his partner who looked ready to piss himself with amusement. If anyone was suited for this mission it was Trip and even that would be a waste of good talent.

“You heard me, from this moment on you’re going to be Skye’s personal bodyguard. Wherever she goes, you go; you are to be a permanent presence at her side. If there’s a threat you eliminate it. Do you have a problem with that?”

He scoffed as he pushed away from the wall. “Yes, sir, I do. I’m sorry, I know she’s your daughter, but this is below my-“

At that moment The Cavalry herself walked into the room and shot Grant a look so cold his throat went dry and every fear he’d ever had flashed through his mind. It was one thing when Deputy Director Coulson was telling you to take a mission protecting his irritating daughter who happened to be an international pop star, it was an entirely different thing when Agent ‘I can kill a man with my pinky’ May was telling you to do it. He should have known his refusal would involve her; she was her mother after all.

“I don’t even have a choice do I?”

May shot him a ‘look’ and he sighed, running a hand over his face. “What happened to Bishop? Last I heard she was her bodyguard, I really think she’s more suited for this given her personality. What’s happened? She’s couldn’t keep her cover as an airheaded member of her entourage anymore? Did babysitting prove to be too difficult for her? I know she’s a human disaster like Barton but that seems a bit much even for her.”

“Man shut the hell up,” Trip snapped, shooting him a glare.

“What?” He knew they were friends but Ward had a hard time taking anyone with that kind of mouth seriously, it was why he’d always known Skye Coulson was never going to cut it as an agent and he’d been right.

“Agent Bishop was injured in the line of duty.” Coulson dumped a file onto the desk. Before Grant could mutter an apology Coulson was speaking again. “Marcus Daniels, unregistered gifted. After a lab accident he gained the power to harness the energy around him, including the energies of other people which produces what Fitzsimmons call ‘darkforce’; he’s basically a human weapon and he’s taken a liking to Skye.”

“Liking is putting it lightly, Coulson. He’s obsessed with her. It started with sending her letters, then stalking, and it’s escalated to death threats,” Hill cut in from her corner. “Agent Bishop was injured protecting her and is now in a coma; she’s lucky to be alive.”

Great, now he felt like an asshole.

“Fitzsimmons are working on a device that will incapacitate him long enough for us to apprehend him. Until that happens we just need you to keep her safe. Play your cover as her boyfriend well so the media along with Daniels buys it. As soon as we have the weapon a team lead by Agent Triplett will move in and take him out.”

“How do you plan to-wait, you’re going to use her as bait?”

She wasn’t even his daughter and he was horrified.

Coulson shot him a glare. “Don’t worry, he’s not getting anywhere near her. I’ll kill him myself before I let that happen.”

“She’s more capable than any of you let on. She did complete her field training, you know,” May directed to Coulson.

“Yeah and now she’s running around the world wearing next to nothing,” Grant retorted before he could stop himself.

“Agent Ward do you and I need to take this-“

“May,” Coulson warned sternly and to Grant’s surprise she backed off.

“Can you do this or do I need to send you to infiltrate some insurgents in Afghanistan?”

He bit the inside of his cheek. The six months he’d spent in Jordan had been hell and he didn’t doubt Hill would send him to the Middle East just for fun; she hated him and she’d do it in a heartbeat.

He shoved down his pride and shook his head. “No, Ma’am. I’ve got this.”

Hill gave him a smug smirk. “Good boy,” she said in a condescending tone before heading to the door.

May followed but stopped in front of him and gave him a sharp glare. “If you screw this up and I mean if there is a scratch on her at any point of this I will have you shackled to a desk for the rest of your career, got it?”

If it’d been anyone else he would have said something but since this was the Cavalry he just nodded like an obedient soldier.

Once they were alone Grant turned to Coulson who held up one finger. “Don’t. I know this is beneath your pay grade and not in your job description but you’re the only person I trust with this, Grant.” Before he could open his mouth to point out Trip could always do this Coulson was speaking again. “Please, you’re like a son to me, and I wouldn’t ask you to do this if it wasn’t important. This is my little girl, Grant, if anything happens to her…please; for me.”

Coulson never played the mentor card. They both knew this was a guilt trip but they also knew he was going to do it anyway. He’d complain about it but he’d do it.

“Fine, just make sure Fitzsimmons hurry up with that device. Boy toy is my least favorite cover.”

Coulson smirked and patted him on the shoulder before leaving.

Grant sighed and turned find Trip was still thoroughly amused.

“Fuck off,” he muttered as he led him out of the room and down the hall to the elevator.

“Why are you complaining? I’d love to be protecting a beautiful girl; it’ll be like a vacation; a sexy vacation.”

Grant pressed the button to the elevator aggressively and growled beneath his breath. “Yeah, well why don’t you do it? You’re her best friend, you should be the one assigned to her; at least you know you won’t kill each other.”

“Because of my family, man, I’m the grandson of a Howling Commando, I can’t do these missions that involve a big media presence, I’m too well known for that shit. That’s why we always send you in to do undercover ops, bro.

Besides, what is your problem with Skye anyway,” he asked as they stepped into the car. “We were all friends at one point, remember? Back in our Academy days you used to be head over-“

“Don’t,” Grant warned.

“Fine, then tell me why whenever anyone says her name you look ready to kill someone.”

Once the doors closed Grant crossed his arms and glanced over at his partner. “Because…” he sighed. He could feel his blood boiling, a side-effect usually brought on by one Skye Qiaolian Coulson. He reached up to pinch the bridge of his nose and took a deep breath. “Look, I’m going to say it but you can’t get mad at me when I do it. You can’t ask someone to be honest with you and then get pissed off when they tell you the truth.”

Trip snorted. “Bro, I don’t get angry.”

Grant pulled his hand away from his face and snorted as he looked at Trip. “Dude, you’re the coolest person in the world unless it involves your girls or Fitz.” He was pretty sure if anyone every harmed Bishop, Carter, Chavez, Coulson Junior or either of those dumb science babies Trip would completely unleash a Hulk-rage.

Trip grinned. “Hey, man, I’d defend you too. That’s what you do for family.”

He rolled his eyes again. “Fine.” He really didn’t want to do this. “Look, aside from the fact that she’s always been a pain the ass?”

“And you’re not-so-secretly in love with her? Continue.”

Grant ignored him. He was used to Trip’s ridiculous fantasies about his love life. There was no point in arguing with him, he would just insist it was ‘passion’.

“I have zero respect for anyone who can be born into a family of legends, raised in this organization, go through the Academy with top marks, and then when it’s time to go into the field decides to abandon it all to pursue some frivolous career in singing. It’s selfish and irresponsible and proof that I was always right about her not being cut out to be an agent. And now I’m going to have to babysit her instead of doing my job?” He scoffed in disgust as he realized he was going to be stuck with her pretending to be her boyfriend which meant he had to play nice with her in public.

Sometimes he really hated his life.

Trip didn’t tell him off like he expected. Instead he gave him a long, hard stare before shaking his head. “Man, you need to get that stick out of your ass. Let it breath. It’s not good for you to be that coiled up, dude.”

Grant rolled his eyes and followed him out of the elevator. “And how do you suggest I do that? Start having threesomes with my co-workers?” He teased.

“You’re not suave enough to pull that off my man, but yeah, something like that,” Trip answered as he entered the lab.

“Something like what?” Simmons glanced up from her microscope and gave them each a smile.

Trip placed a hand on her lower back and leaned down to kiss her quickly. “Nothing, baby, Grant’s just got a stick up his ass.”

She furrowed her brows and snorted. “Doesn’t he always? Next time tell me something I don’t already know to be a fact.”

“Nice to see you too, Jemma.”

“Don’t tease Ward, Jemma. He has to go pretend not to be in love with Skye while sharing a bed with her,” Fitz called from the walled off section of the lab.

“Wait! We are not sharing a-And why does everyone think-“ Grant never got to finish his protest because a huge explosion sounded through the small space.

Trip shoved Jemma to the ground as they all took cover. Grant was the first to look up to find Fitz stepping out from a cloud of smoke with a fire extinguisher in his hand.

“Jemma, take note, that experiment was a failure.”

“Oh, you think, Fitz?” She called angrily as she looked over Trip’s shoulder. She shoved him away and stood to go inspect Fitz’s disaster. They began arguing about science and Grant tuned them out, having learned to do it long ago for the sake of his sanity.

“I think your bed is going to be short one person tonight,” Grant muttered as he helped Trip to his feet.

“Nah, they’re always like this,” he said with a shrug as he glanced over to the bickering duo. He watched them with fond smile, totally into their argument.

Grant made a face as he moved his gaze from Trip to Fitzsimmons. He didn’t understand their weird foreplay and he didn’t want to. He didn’t care what his friends wanted to do in their personal lives as long as they did their jobs.

“Fitzsimmons, before you start making out over there and give Trip a hard-on can you give me an update on where you are with this gadget-“

“It’s a blast-gun,” Fitz corrected with a glare.

Grant did his best to hide a smirk. Uptight Fitz was his favorite.

“It’s going to inject Daniels with so much energy that he won’t be able to absorb all of it. It’ll be like…shorting out a circuit. Too much energy will overwhelm him which will incapacitate him long enough to weaken him with the ICERs and arrest him.”

“Are you sure this will work?”

Fitz shot him a glare.

“Right,” Grant muttered as Jemma interrupted.

“Well, it should work in theory. It could also cause him to generate so much darkforce that he will combust and die,” she pointed out.

“Either way Skye is safe and a bloody mad criminal is off the streets!” Fitz sputtered angrily.  

“It’ll work,” Trip assured as he ran a hand over the back of Fitz’s neck and Grant was about to yell at them about the PDA in the lab when he pulled it back to reveal it was covered with blood.

“Oh, Fitz, this is why we can’t have a monkey, the poor thing wouldn’t last a week,” Simmons scolded.

“I’ll leave you two to handle this,” Grant said with a shake of his head. He loved his best friend but he took the experiments too far sometimes. He was so used to him blowing things up he didn’t even bother to worry about his injuries anymore; this was just a normal day when you were friends with Fitz.

“Where are you going?” Fitz looked up from where Trip and Simmons were in the middle of bickering over who got to patch him up. Trip had the first-aid kit in hand but Simmons was the medical doctor so she won, like always.

“To collect my fake girlfriend for the world’s worst vacation.”

“Ten bucks says they make-out by the end of the mission,” Fitz muttered to his boyfriend.

“Nah, I got twenty they ‘hate’-fuck by the end of the week,” Trip answered.

Grant rolled his eyes and met Simmons’ gaze. She said nothing; she just gave him a sad look before turning her attention to Fitz. “This is going to need stitches, love, I’ll be right back,” she whispered as she pressed a kiss to his temple and disappeared into the supply room.

Grant knew if he followed her she’d be crying. Or angry. Or both.

When Skye had left the team Simmons had seen it as a betrayal and the two former best friends no longer spoke. Fitz had been hurt but had done his best to try to understand why she felt she couldn’t do this and of course Skye could kill them all and Trip would still love her. Grant knew it put both Fitz and Trip in an awkward place with their girlfriend which only added to Grant’s dislike of Skye.

Plus, Jemma was like a little sister to him, even if he didn’t like to admit it.

Jemma couldn’t forgive her and Fitz missed her and Trip loved her and Grant barely tolerated her so they generally avoided the topic of her altogether. Though, he wondered how in the hell they handled it at home. She was basically Trip’s family.

Why was he even thinking about this? He didn’t care.

And he certainly didn’t miss the days when the seven of them would get into trouble together like the dysfunctional little family they were. And sure, maybe he’d had a fleeting crush on her but he was eighteen at the time, everyone did dumb shit when they were eighteen. He’d even had a huge crush on Romanoff at eighteen and tried to flirt with her. It had ended with her breaking his wrist and shame that he had yet to live down. His friends never forgot anything.

After searching Coulson and May’s offices he headed down to the Infirmary and sure enough there she was; sitting at Bishop’s bedside with her guitar propped up against her chair. He resisted the urge to roll his eyes and entered the room.

“Are you ready to go? We don’t have all day, princess.” His tone was gruffer than he intended, but she brought out the worst in him so really it was her fault.

He expected some snarky or snide remark from her but instead she turned to him and he could see she’d been crying. Shit, he felt like an asshole again. She gave him a short nod and turned away to wipe her eyes. She looked terrible. He knew that look; it was guilt.

He shouldn’t feel this surprised, she was a bleeding heart, but he hadn’t expected to see her falling apart. He opened his mouth to apologize but was nearly knocked over by fucking Chavez as she rushed into the room.

Skye quickly jumped to her feet to allow her room to clutch at Kate’s hand and look her over. “I cannot believe you let my partner get hurt!”

“Excuse me, the last time I checked I was your partner; someone just doesn’t want to admit she has a lesbian crush,” she muttered. “Besides: it’s not Skye’s fault some psycho with powers is in love with her,” Carter said while rolling her eyes as she strolled into the room.” She crossed her arms, gave Grant a look of disdain and glanced at Skye with pity in her eyes. “Why do you always attract assholes, Skye?”

“I hate you all,” Grant muttered.

All of his friends were assholes.

“Whatever, just try to keep your hands to yourself, yeah? She’s too good for you.”

Now it was his turn to roll his eyes. “Sharon, this is not the time.”

She made a disapproving noise in the back of her throat and moved towards her partner who was whispering for Kate to wake up so she could kick her ass for putting her through this. “Of course not, because it looks like you’ve lost her. Ten minutes into this Op and you can’t even keep an eye on her. Tsk. Tsk.”

Grant snorted. Yeah, he was not going to fall for Sharon’s tri-he looked around the room frantically.

“Shit,” he muttered as he rushed out of the room in search of his runaway pop star while Sharon’s chuckles filled the hallway behind him.

Chapter Text

Skye slipped out of the room with her guitar case and rushed toward the elevators. She wiped at her eyes and cursed her inability to keep it together in front of that drone.

This was her fault.

Kate-Images of watching her go down and being unable to do anything to help her flashed through her mind and she let out a shaky sob.

She was better than this. She was supposed to be able to hold it together.

Sharon, America, hell, even Kate could insist she wasn’t to blame all they wanted but it wouldn’t stop her from feeling guilty. She’d screwed up. This was on her and she was going to make it right.

“I’ve never seen you run away from anything before.” Trip scolded as the elevator opened.

She shot him a glare before pulling him into an empty waiting room.

“We need to talk.”

Five minutes later she and Trip were basically in the middle of a shouting match when Ward’s voice interrupted.

“I’m going to fix this whether he likes it or-“

“We really do have to go. There’s a jet leaving in five minutes and if you want to see Bishop one more time-“

Skye shot him a glare and he clamped up quickly. He was the last person she wanted in on this but she didn’t have a choice. Skye wasn’t sure which was worse: her aggressively overprotective Avenger father or her mother, the living legend who pierced fear into the hearts of gods.

There was her dad who knew that she was capable of handling herself and fucking shit up when she had to but he didn’t care. He was an overprotective father who exploited his position within S.H.I.E.L.D. to keep her safe. And then there was her mom made sure to remind everyone that Skye was just as skilled as any agent in the field before proceeding to go to unfathomable lengths to ensure her only child’s safety.

At least her dad was honest about the things he did; her mom was just downright scary about it.

She was insulted that they thought she needed him at all but the fact that her two kick-ass parents had people like Romanoff and Barton at their disposal and the best they could come up with was Grant Ward was pathetic; she was tempted to refuse his help at all but if she did all hell would break loose.

“Fine, the sooner we leave, the sooner we can get this over with,” she hissed as she shot Trip a look that said ‘don’t follow’ and stormed out of the room.

“Am I supposed to carry this? I’m not your butler!” Ward called, holding up her abandoned case.

“Carrying a girl’s things is what normal boyfriends do, sweetheart!” She called back bitterly.

The next few weeks were going to be hell. 

Chapter Text

Grant found her at the end of the hall in a waiting room. He couldn’t hear the fight going on inside but he could see Skye and Trip screaming at one another through the glass. As he got closer he could hear parts of their conversation.

“There is nothing you could have done! I doubt even Romanoff could have-“

“Don’t compare me to Roman-“

“If anyone-“

“This is my fault! And I’m going to fix it!”

“You’re going to get yourself killed!”

Ward sighed and opened the door. “Hey-“

“What would your dad say-“

“I’m going to fix this whether he likes it or-“

“We really do have to go,” he interrupted, louder this time. “There’s a jet leaving in five minutes and if you want to see Bishop one more time-“

Skye shot him a death glare and for a moment she wasn’t Skye Rogers, scantily-clad pop star, she was Skye Coulson, daughter of the Cavalry, and she was fucking terrifying.

“Fine, the sooner we leave, the sooner we can get this over with,” she huffed before storming out of the room, leaving her guitar behind.

He groaned and held up her case. “Am I supposed to carry this? I’m not your butler!” He called, annoyed.

“Carrying a girl’s things is what normal boyfriends do, sweetheart!”

He groaned. So the next few weeks of his life were going to be a living hell; fucking wonderful.

For once Trip didn’t find their arguing amusing so he grumpily followed her with Trip in tow.

“You see what I mean? She’s infuriating.”

“Maybe you should use this as an opportunity to stop being so judgmental and actually get to know her again; who knows, maybe you’ll see what an asshole you are.”

“How am I supposed to forget I’m an asshole with friends like you?”

Trip gave him a disapproving look before shaking his head. “Whatever man, just try not to get killed? I don’t want to have to find a new partner.”

“I’ll miss you too, bastard,” Grant muttered as he moved into the doorway of Kate’s room. Barton was there now. He had her hand in his with a hand on her forehead while America paced at the other side of the bed.

“Come on, princess, wake up.”

“Don’t listen to her, Kate-Kate, if you need a nap, hey, take it. Just don’t pull this coma crap on me, okay Katie? Nat and Bobbi will kill me if they come back from this mission to find this is your new home, got it?”

Sharon took Clint by the shoulders and led him towards America. “Come on, let’s allow Skye to say goodbye. The two of you can hover over her later and drive the doctors crazy until she wakes up. It’s a good thing your handlers won’t be home for months; they don’t need to be scared into doing their jobs,” she muttered.

Sure, Grant liked to think of her as a spoiled rich girl turned vigilante who had only been recruited by S.H.I.E.L.D. so they could keep her in line but the truth was she was skilled enough to have the respect of two of the Agency’s top female agents and it wasn’t just because Barton happened to be her S.O. Trip was right; he was too hard on people sometimes.

Once they were alone Skye moved to the bed and kissed Kate’s forehead. She whispered something he couldn’t hear and then quickly turned and pushed past him. He sighed and stood there awkwardly. He wasn’t good with this stuff. Sure, they were friends, kind of, but unless it was his science babies, Trip, or Coulson, Grant had no idea how to convey emotions; he was still learning.

“Bishop, you’re a pain in the ass, but if you don’t get through this Trip won’t ever get over it.” He was sure that Barton, despite his personality flaws, would fight like hell to make sure she got through this as would the S.H.I.E.L.D. doctors (they were the best in the world).

She was going to be fine.

She had to be fine.

Even if they weren’t as close as they used to be he had never done well losing people he cared about.

Grant left the room and gave his fellow agents a nod of goodbye before once again heading out on a search for the princess. He found her in her dad’s office hugging her parents goodbye. He was surprised when it was May who held onto her longer. She was giving her instructions but before Grant could step into the room to listen Coulson was in front of him with a burner phone.

“Take this, if you need me for anything, I’ll have a phone on me at all times just for you.” Coulson gave him a pleading look that said ‘please don’t have to use this’. “It’s number one on the speed dial.”

Grant nodded and Coulson gave him a quick hug before letting him into his office.

“We need to go, according to your itinerary you have to be in Hong Kong in nineteen hours for a morning talk show. Even with the jet it’ll be a miracle if we get there on time; I still need to debrief your team.”

She ignored him aside from nodding once. “I’ll call you when I get there,” she whispered.

May ran a hand over her head and nodded before pressing a kiss to the top of her head. “Wǒ ài nǐ, Qiaolian.”

“I love you too, mom.”

Skye turned and threw her arms around Coulson who cradled her head against his chest. “Make Steve Rogers proud.”

She chuckled. “Always, dad.”

Grant resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Only a Coulson would choose their pseudonym to honor Captain America.

Coulson kissed her temple before releasing her. She gave them a final look and wave before leaving Grant out of the room.

“The only person you need to worry about in my entourage is Donnie Gill,” Skye said authoritatively as she led him towards the flight bay.

“Mini-Fitz?” Donnie was well known as Fitz’s protégé from The Academy, Grant had no idea he had been assigned to this. Of course, it made sense, Fitz couldn’t be there and they’d need a scientist working with them in case Daniels attacked again.

She nodded. “His cover is that he is my roadie. He’s skilled with the machines so it works. He’ll be in contact with Fitz. I don’t know if you’ve actually taken time to read the entire file dad gave you but you’ll have time; it’s a long flight. All you need to know now is Kate was my cellist initially, but when the label wanted more pop songs out of me and less ‘Indie’ crap we used her past life as a socialite to make her one of my professional groupies.

The media thinks she’s in rehab if it comes up, but you’re not really here to talk. The media will try to get you to make statements but just stand there, look pretty, and let me do the talking; I’m good with this P.R. crap.”

He was taken aback; she’d sounded bitter for a moment. Maybe she wasn’t as into this as he thought. And she was…

No, he was not going to find her sexy because she spoke to him in a commanding tone. It was a family trait, nothing more.

“Everyone else works for the label; we are the team, so once the S.H.I.E.L.D. jet lands in London and we transfer to my tour plane you need to suck up your hatred of me and put on the best damn performance of your life. Unless we’re alone in a room with Donnie assume someone’s watching. Hell, even when we’re alone they could be watching; the label, those damn paparazzi parasites, the world; prepare to be on your guard at all times.”

She turned and gave him a stern look. “Read up on the file as fast as you can and then we’ll spend the flight trying to figure out a way to get along and seem…coupley.” She made a face and it was clear she hated this as much as he did; misery loved company.

“Welcome to the Shatterdome Ward,” she teased as they entered the bay.

She led him onto the jet where Fitz was setting up a new comm system whilst giving Donnie instructions. Grant gave the young engineer a nod by way of a greeting.

“Here, I need your DNA,” Jemma announced, popping out of nowhere and swabbing his mouth before he could protest.

“Jem-“’

“You too,” she said, avoiding eye-contact with Skye as she did so.

“Ouch!”

Skye sighed as Jemma rushed off.

“She still hates me, huh?”

“Do you want me to lie to you and say ‘no’?”

She glowered at Fitz and he ignored her.

“I’ve increased the range on these. Donnie will have a system set up in either on your plane or tour bus at all times that can communicate with us here at the base. You and Ward will be connected at all times; I trust you remember how these work.”

Skye rolled her eyes. “Yeah, everything I trained for didn’t fall out of my head, Fitz.”

“Of course not, that would be impossible.”

Grant wandered off, not in the mood to listen to their continued bickering. He found luggage with his cover name on the tags; Douglas Grant. He rolled his eyes. That had to be Skye’s doing, so she could call him Dougie like she had back when they were in The Academy to annoy him.

Two suitcases held toiletries, clothing, a laptop, and some books. The third held guns, ICERs, bullets, vests; everything he needed.

His cover was ex-military. He was to play her bodyguard and then they were to be ‘accidentally’ spotted together romantically to get Daniels jealous and draw him out when the time was right.

Grant sighed; he hoped Fitz finished his damn toy soon.

“I made you a sandwich,” Jemma announced as she appeared and gave him a quick hug. He knew this was her way of saying ‘be safe’ so he hugged her back and muttered a quick ‘thanks’. She smiled and kissed his cheek before rushing off, probably back to the lab.

Once she was gone he slipped the sandwich to Fitz. “Give half to your Mini-me, will you? He’s too skinny.” He loved Jemma’s sandwiches but he couldn’t have the three drinks he was going to need to deal with this flight if he ate that damn thing; he swore he’d once watched her pile the entire block of cheese on her sandwiches.

“Be safe, yeah? And try not to shag Skye; I’m not losing a bet to that wanker.”

Grant rolled his eyes. “Don’t you two have joint accounts?”

“It’s not about the money, Ward, it’s about pride.”

“Yeah, well, don’t worry, I’ll keep it in my pants,” he replied sarcastically.

“Good, knew I could count on you, mate.”

“Bye, Fitz.”

Grant shook his head and threw himself into a seat. He was more than capable of flying the jet but he was glad he didn’t have to; he had a lot of reading to do before he had to play lovey-dovey with the boss’ daughter.

He ignored her when she joined him on the plane, hoping to have just a few more minutes of peace before his cover really started.

“Grant?”

He glanced up, surprised to hear her using his given name. She held out a glass of Scotch and he took it hesitantly. “Thanks.”

She gave him a half-smile and took a seat next to him. “I know…” she sighed. “We’re going to have to pretend to find each other attractive at the very least so I figured booze would help,” she offered.

Finding her sexually attractive wasn’t his problem; his problem was he also found her insufferable to be around. He took a long swig and pulled opened her file. “How much of this do you think you’re going to need before you find me sexy enough to objectify?” He muttered as he looked through it.

“Oh, I don’t know, the whole bottle probably; I mean with you being so ugly and all,” she said sarcastically while rolling her eyes, “with those cheekbones and abs and tight ass and you know everything about you looking like you were carved from marble.”

Grant nearly choked on his Scotch. He turned to find her smirking. “What? You’re a douche most of the time but I’m not blind; you’re very nice to look at. Plus, I’ve seen you naked,” she reminded him and he groaned.

He was forever going to regret the one time he allowed Trip to talk him into being involved in pranking the girls; it had ended with the girls getting them naked and leaving them out in grounds to somehow find their way back to their dorms without being caught.

Never again.

“Yeah, well, I seem to remember a time when I caught you and Kate skinny-dipping in the lake.”

Skye smiled. “See? We’re even.”

She refilled their glasses and eyed the file. “Mind if I look that over when you’re done?”

He shrugged. “I don’t see why not, other than things I can find out online there isn’t much here. Why is half of this thing redacted?”

Skye shrugged nonchalantly. “I don’t know, probably in case it got into the wrong hands. The plane could be hijacked by the enemy for all we know; it certainly has enough of those. Anyway, it doesn’t matter; once Fitz finishes the weapon we can catch Daniels and this will finally be over.”

He wished he could comfort her in some way, he wasn’t a monster, but he was also terrible at that sort of thing. “Don’t worry; he won’t hurt you with me around. I’m good at my job.”

She chuckled and took another drink. “It’s not me I’m worried about,” she muttered. She sent a fleeting glance Donnie’s way and he instinctively reached out to pat her shoulder awkwardly. She eyed him warily and he pulled away sheepishly.

“Uh…Bishop…that’s not your fault. And now that we know what he’s capable of we’re more prepared, it’s not going to happen again.”

“We’ll see.”

She stood and topped off his glass. “I haven’t…I’m going to take a nap. Wake me when you’re ready to work on the whole comradery thing,” she whispered before moving across the aisle. She stopped to ruffle Donnie’s hair and check on him before taking the seat in front of him.

He watched her regretfully, wondering how they’d gotten to be like this. They’d been friends once, close friends, and now…he sighed and kept glancing her way while reading over the file. She looked like she hadn’t slept since Kate’s attack now that he was paying attention which was confirmed by the worried glances Donnie kept sending her way while he tinkered with a device. She tossed uncomfortable during take-off and eventually finished three glasses before finally falling asleep.

He made a mental note to monitor her drinking. He didn’t believe every stereotype about celebrities but he also wasn’t going to let her start drinking to cope with her friend being attacked because of her. He’d promised Coulson he’d keep her safe and Daniels wasn’t the only threat out there.

He tossed the file onto the empty seat next to him and closed his eyes. He wasn’t going to wake her when it was clear she needed some rest; she’d most likely yell at him for it later but the day he could no longer handle an angry Skye Coulson would be the day he died.
 

Chapter Text

“Try to be nice to him, will you?”

Skye scoffed. She was always nice. He was the one who had always treated her like she wasn’t worthy of being alive let alone his time. “Fitz, we both know I’m not the problem.” It wasn’t her fault he’d never made a move nor was it her fault that she’d had a fairly good life. He couldn’t continue to blame her for things that she had no control over.

She could however blame him for his dickish ways because he had full control over his shitty behavior.

Fitz sighed and pressed a mag into her palm. “The dendrotoxin doses in these are lethal. I can’t guarantee that they will work on Daniels, but it’s worth a try. I know…” Fitz glanced down for a moment before meeting her eyes. “I know one of the reasons you couldn’t do this job was because you didn’t want to be the person behind the trigger, but Skye, if it comes down to you or him-“

“Don’t worry, Fitz, after what he did to Kate, it’ll be a miracle if I don’t try to kill him with my bare hands,” she whispered, knowing she was more than capable of pulling the trigger. She’d been trained well and Daniels was a monster. He needed to be put down to save lives.

“How about we stick to the ICER?” Fitz said with a smile as he held up a smaller version of the gun he’d designed and took the mag out of her hand to load it. He cocked the gun, checked the levels, and then employed the safety before handing it to her. “You always were a good shot.”

“One of the best,” she whispered with a smile. She was a skilled hacker and her dad wanted her to be safe working in a control room while her mother wanted her trained to be on the field so she could protect herself so she’d made them both happy by training in both communications and for field work. She’d been nowhere near as skilled as the specialists but when Melinda May was your mother and Maria Hill was your godmother and your babysitters growing up were Clint Barton and Natasha Romanoff you learned a few things they couldn’t teach you on the shooting range.

If she had to she could easily put a bullet between Daniels eyes. “My scores were always better than Ward’s.”

“Don’t let him know that; it might deflate his ego.”

Skye scoffed. “Maybe it would be good for him.”

He smiled and then met her eyes again sadly. “That’s why you left us, right Skye? I understand, I couldn’t even pass my field tests, but I have my lab…I just…you could have worked special forces with Sharon or in a control room team, any communications division, or on the welcome wagon; not all field work is dangerous, Skye. No one was going to make you specialize or work on the S.T.R.I.K.E. team-“

“Fitz,” she whispered sadly. “Don’t do this.”

He gave her his sad puppy look and she reached out to touch his cheek. “I know you don’t…I’m sorry, Fitz, but I had to do this. And I know you all have every right to hate me but…” she bit her cheek and took a deep breath. “I wish she’d forgive me; I miss you all so much and I want to see you all more but I don’t want to make things awkward or uncomfortable, especially since Ward hates me too.”

“I don’t think he hates you, Skye, he’s just…not good with people.”

Skye chuckled bitterly. “You don’t say?”

“I’ll talk to her…I mean…you know how stubborn she is.”

Skye nodded and if she’d been summoned Jemma appeared.

“Fitz, we need to say goodbye to Grant and then the Director needs to see you about the Mouse Hole-“

“Why, so he can shoot me down again?” Fitz muttered angrily.

Jemma shrugged. “I don’t know, Fitz; but he’s in the lab waiting-“

“I can’t bloody wait for Hill or Coulson to take over, Fury’s losing his damn-“

“Fitz! We can talk about this later, come on! And don’t you want to see Donnie before he goes?”

Fitz sighed. “Fine, woman, give me thirty seconds, will you?”

She rolled her eyes. “Fine.”

“Hey, Jemma,” Skye offered, giving her a small wave. She knew it was useless but she had to keep trying, right?

“Skye,” she replied curtly. “Do try to not die…I’d prefer it if Agent May didn’t kill Grant because of you.”

Skye winced and waited until she was gone to turn to Fitz. “And here I thought I’d almost made progress.”

Fitz pulled her into a hug and she wrapped her arms around him tightly and grumpily. He kissed the top of her head and gave her a squeeze. “Don’t worry, Skye, she’ll get over it, she’s just…confused and hurt and I love her, more than anything in this world, but she can hold a grudge.”

Skye smirked. “It’s a good thing Trip doesn’t because when I tell him that he comes second he might be mad.”

He snorted. “She’s prettier than he is, of course she comes first.”

She laughed. She knew Fitz was kidding plus those three were the most adorable couple in the world. She hoped she could only be so lucky someday. She didn’t exactly make good choices when it came to the love department; Grant Ward was proof of that.

Skye released him and pressed a kiss to his cheek. “I better let you go back to her before she has another reason to hate me.”

“She doesn’t-“

“Tell Trip I’m sorry we fought, okay?”

“Wait, about what-“

She gave him a smile and walked onto the loading ramp. “Bye, Fitz!”

Skye turned away and waited until she was alone, locked in the lavatory to let out a long sigh. She took a glance at herself in the mirror and looked away in disgust. She hadn’t even had a chance to go home and shower since arriving back in D.C. Hell, she couldn’t even remember the last time she’d seen her apartment.

She was grateful for her dad. He collected her mail, sent a housekeeper by every other week to freshen it up in case she came home, and she suspected he kept the fridge stocked in case she stopped by. He was so good to her and loved her so much and she was unworthy.

Skye splashed water onto her face and then braved herself to deal with Grant Ward. She hadn’t slept or showered or eaten in days and he always sent her spiraling into a bad mood so she knew a fight was inevitable. She was going to try her hardest to prevent it from happening but with the Grumpinator it was almost a guarantee that they’d be at each other’s throats soon.

She stepped out of the tiny bathroom and headed for the lounge. She tucked the ICER into the back of her jeans and hid it with her shirt. She’d find a better hiding place for it later, maybe Ward had a spare holster somewhere. She wasn’t sure where she’d hide it but she was resourceful, she’d figure something out.

“Everything’s good to go, Skye. Do you want me to grab anything else before we take off?”

She turned and gave Donnie a smile. “No, thank you. Just do your best to relax, Donnie. We’ll be back to the insanity soon” She never thought she would consider S.H.I.E.L.D. to be a peaceful retreat.

Donnie gave her his ‘I’m worried about you’ look. “There are cold cuts in the fridge, do you want to eat any-“

“I’m good, Donnie. But you should eat something, okay?” She gave his shoulder a squeeze and grabbed the Scotch bottle. “I’d offer you some, but you’re a baby,” she teased.

He smiled bashfully before starting to tinker with whatever it was he had in his hand. “I’m only seven years younger than you,” he muttered.

“That’s an eternity in your twenties,” she reminded him before she left him to try to make peace with Ward.

“Grant,” she asked quietly as she stood in front of him. He looked busy but they had to spend some time together or this cover of his was going to fail horribly.

He gave her a long look and awkwardly reached for the glass. “Thanks.”

She did her best to smile before taking a seat. “I know…” This is awkward. You don’t want to do this. You’d rather be anywhere else. There were a ton of things she could say to finish that sentence but instead she tried humor. “We’re going to have to pretend to find each other attractive at the very least so I figured booze would help.

Not that she needed it. He was…Adonis had nothing on him. He’d been an adorable recruit when she’d met him, like Fitz or Donnie but he’d filled out into one hell of a good-looking man. It wasn’t fair that a man this sexually attractive came with that personality.

Yes, she knew his life before S.H.I.E.L.D. had been terrible but he needed to move past it. He had a good life now. He had friends who thought of him like family, her dad who treated him like a son (Skye was sure he’d love nothing more than to marry her off to Ward just so he could pseudo-adopt him-him or Steve Rogers), and a job protecting people. The only thing standing in the way of him being really happy was him.

It was incredibly sad and she did her best to sympathize with him but then he would grate on her nerves and…

Well, there had been many shouting matches in their day.

“How much of this do you think you’re going to need before you find me sexy enough to objectify?”

Ah, so he objected to the boy toy cover, did he?

Pity, Trip loved it.

“Oh, I don’t know; the whole bottle probably; I mean with you being so ugly and all,” she teased, “with those cheekbones and abs and tight ass and you know everything about you looking like you were carved from marble.”

She watched in amusement as he choked on his drink. He was cute when he was flustered and blushing. As if he didn’t know he was walking sex; what a nerd.

“What? You’re a douche most of the time but I’m not blind; you’re very nice to look at. Plus, I’ve seen you naked.” He’d still been too-skinny and awkward back then but she’d still been impressed. She’d be lying if she said she hadn’t fantasized about that skinny bod of his once or twice.

She wouldn’t mind seeing what it looked like now; she could use more fantasy material since she was doomed to be single for the rest of her life.

It was impossible to have any meaningful relationships in this business and while meaningless sex was okay while you were having it she always felt empty and gross afterwards and what was the point?

“Yeah, well, I seem to remember a time when I caught you and Kate skinny-dipping in the lake.”

She was tempted to ask him if he liked what he’d seen but this was going far too well for her to ruin it with her mouth. “See? We’re even.”

She finished her drink and gave them each a refill. “Mind if I look that over when you’re done?” She needed to know everything he knew; she couldn’t afford to slip-up, not again.

“I don’t see why not, other than things I can find out online there isn’t much here. Why is half of this thing redacted?”

Skye sipped her drink and shrugged. “I don’t know, probably in case it got into the wrong hands.” She’d offered to make it into a digital file on a drive that could self-destruct but her dad was a big fan of paper trails; he really needed to get with the times. “The plane could be hijacked by the enemy for all we know; it certainly has enough of those.” She did her best to sound conspiratorial but failed; her jokes seemed to be completely lost on him.

“Anyway, it doesn’t matter; once Fitz finishes the weapon we can catch Daniels and this will finally be over.” She couldn’t wait for this to be over. She wanted her life back.

“Don’t worry; he won’t hurt you with me around. I’m good at my job.”

Oh, he really was clueless. She shook her head and took another drink, chuckling.

“It’s not me I’m worried about,” she assured as she glanced at Donnie. There were so many things that could go wrong. She refused to let Donnie or even Ward get hurt because of this mission.

She turned back in surprise when Ward touched her shoulder. Was Grant Ward, the notorious robot, actually having a human moment? Skye wished she could engrave this into stone so she could share it with the world.

It lasted for less than a second. He was back to being his idiotic self once his mouth opened.

“Uh…Bishop…that’s not your fault. And now that we know what he’s capable of we’re more prepared, it’s not going to happen again.”

She knew he was trying to be encouraging but she couldn’t delude herself into thinking this was going to be fine. This mission was dangerous and she understood that better than anyone. “We’ll see.”

Skye sensed she’d ruined the mood and stood, leaning over to refill his glass. “I haven’t…” He didn’t need to know she hadn’t been sleeping. “I’m going to take a nap. Wake me when you’re ready to work on the whole comradery thing,” she teased before turning and walking away.

As she walked away from him she was on edge. Sure that had gone way better than she could have ever planned for but none of this felt right. He was in danger, Donnie was in danger, everyone around her was in danger because of her and she hated it.

She checked on Donnie and smiled when she saw he had taken her advice about eating.

She slipped into a chair a moment later and sighed. Sure, these S.H.I.E.L.D. jets were comfortable enough but it wasn’t a bed. After shifting about and continuously fidgeting with her ankle she sighed and poured another drink. Once the alcohol settled in she began to relax and she gave in to it so she could finally close her eyes and try to nap.

It must have worked because she woke feeling sore and with knots everywhere. She groaned and checked the time before sitting up frantically.

“Dammit, Ward,” she hissed before marching over to shake him awake.

This mission was a goddamn disaster.
 

Chapter Text

Grant wasn’t sure how long he’d slept but when he woke to a very angry Skye in his face he knew it’d been for too long.

“You were supposed to wake me up! We’ll be in London in less than an hour and that is so not enough time for the two of us to get comfortable enough with each other to be a believable couple!”

Yup, super pissed.

“I could tell you were exhausted; I figured you needed your beauty sleep,” he replied with a shrug as he stifled a yawn. Skye scoffed and stared down at him with her hands on her hips and the dirtiest look he’d ever seen. Even Donnie glanced up from his work to give him a shake of the head that clearly said ‘dude no’.

Swinging and a-missing, dumbass.

“Besides, I thought I was supposed to be playing bodyguard before boyfriend,” he offered lamely. “Plus, if we’re a little awkward doesn’t that feed into the whole ‘we’re hiding a relationship’ thing?”

So very lame.

Skye narrowed her eyes. “Do not fuck this up for me, Ward,” she growled.

“I…” He was suddenly very afraid. When her nostrils flared like that and the skin between her eyes wrinkled she looked just like her mom. She looked prepared to kill-“Wait…what?” He was confused. They’d been getting along so far-okay, they hadn’t had a fight until now, but to be fair that was a new record for them. How had he fucked it up already?

“Skye, we’ll be fine,” he assured. “I’ve been on plenty of undercover missions involving women; I know what I’m doing.” She crossed her arms, cocked her head to the side, clucked her tongue, and gave him the second dirtiest look he’d ever seen. “Not that-I mean…” Why did she always reduce him to a blubbering mess of a fool? “Look, if I can seduce diplomats and the wives of international criminals I’m fairly confident I can make it believable that the two of us are sleeping together.”

“That is so gross,” she muttered in disgust.

Now he was the one who offended.

“Glad to know you suddenly find sex with me so appalling.”

“I’m sorry, but who said this was a new feeling?”

Poor Donnie shifted uncomfortably in his seat.

“And I’m sure it would be fine,” she said pleasantly, surprising him. “At least, until you opened your mouth; then it would just go to shit,” she teased with a smile.

He rolled his eyes.

“Thanks.”

“And ‘fairly confident’ isn’t good enough for me, Ward,” she said as she threw herself into the set next to him with a resigned sigh. “This is going to fail,” she muttered as she tugged at the sleeves of her sweater.

He shifted in his seat so they could maintain eye contact while speaking. “What sort of…’bonding’ exercises did you have in mind? I’m not going to kiss you if that’s what you were thinking, no matter how much you beg for it.”

She scoffed. “What are you, five? I hate to break this to you but we’re going to have to do it at least once for the cameras. If that’s a problem I can just call my dad up and-“

“No, but it’s not like we need practice kissing each other,” he muttered grumpily, earning him a glare from her. What? It was the truth.

Donnie stared at them both in horror.

Skye sighed. “Donnie, sweetie, do me a favor; check with the pilot to see how far we are from the airfield.”

He made a face. “Why? I can just check on my tablet,” he said as he fished it out of his bag. “We have an app for-“

Skye gave him a long, hard stare. “Donnie; go to the cockpit. Check in with the captain. Maybe grab yourself a snack at the mini-bar.”

Donnie’s mouth opened a bit as he seemed to realize what she was really saying; Donnie, get the hell out of here.

“Right,” he said as he stood and grabbed his tablet to take with him. “I was getting sick of listening to mom and dad arguing anyway,” he muttered as he walked past.

She winced and shook her head. “Great, it’s not like the kid’s been traumatized enough.”

“What is that supposed to-“

Skye glanced over at him and for a moment he forgot how to breathe. Not only was she even more stunning in person than he remembered but the sunlight creeping in from the windows had formed a halo around her and-

No, he was not doing this; not again.

“Look, I know you don’t want to be here. I know I’m the last person you want to be forced to protect, let alone pretend to be in love with but this has to be done right. There is a lot riding on this; if we don’t catch Daniels and if anyone finds out you’re with S.H.I.E.L.D. then the consequences…”

She glanced away from him with a sigh and for the first time he could see how stressed and dejected she was. This Daniels thing was affecting her a lot more than she was letting on.

“We’re going to have to be affectionate in public so we should practice…like…holding hands, having real conversations; anything so that when we’re not thinking about it being together seems natural.”

He shifted uncomfortably at the mention of ‘holding hands’.

“See, that right there; just talking about being together makes you all squirrely. How are we going to be believable?”

“We’re not that bad, you’re just over-“

Skye slipped her hand into his without warning and he all but jumped out of his skin at the contact. She pulled away with a smug ‘I told you so’ look. He leaned back into his seat, feeling like a dumbass, and ran his hand over his face.

“I know I repulse you but that reaction was a bit-“

“It’s not you,” he whispered. It’d never been her, it was all… “I just don’t like being touched, okay?”

“Well, then that makes this extremely awkward,” she muttered before glancing over at him quizzically. “Wait, if you don’t like being touched,” here it was, they were going to have to talk about it, “then how do you complete missions where you have to…”

Oh! She wasn’t-he blinked before shrugging. “You mean, whore myself?”

Now it was her turn to be uncomfortable.

“It’s okay; I know you’re judging me.”

She shook her head. “No, I’m not.”

The weird part was he believed her.

“No? You’re not going to get into how those poor women must feel? How using my body to get information is wrong?”

“Female agents have been doing it for years and I think there are worse reasons to sleep with someone than to ensure global security. I know I’d much rather be someone’s mission than someone who was used for sex just because.

I do think…you can always tell them ‘no’ if you’re not comfortable with it, Grant-“

“No, it’s fine. It’s a mission. I just…I do what needs to be done.”

She stared back at him with pity in her eyes and he had to look away; he could handle a lot but having her feel sorry for him?

“We’ll do whatever it is you feel comfortable wit-“

“We’re landing in fifteen minutes, so time to buckle in.”

Grant was glad for Donnie’s interruption. He wasn’t sure what had been going on just know but it was way out of his comfort level. Skye had a point, they were not going to fool anyone and he was going to have to suck up his pride and allow himself to devote himself completely to this mission.

“Thanks, Donnie,” Skye whispered as she glanced over at him with a small smile.

Grant glanced between the two and wondered if…no, there was no way.

“So…you and the kid?” He whispered as he leaned over.

She glanced back at him over her shoulder with one brow raised.

“What about the kid?”

“You seem…close.”

She stared at him for a long moment before bursting into laughter. “Donnie, Ward thinks you like pussy!” She teased.

Donnie furrowed his brows. “I told you that word disgusts-“

“Yes, Donnie, I know, you’re so gay just the mention of vagina-“

“It’s not-I just…the mental-shut up.” Donnie’s face turned a deep shade of red and began packing his things away.

“So…you’re-“

“No, Ward, we’re not fucking. Donnie is a dorky science baby who despite being a scientist is still grossed out by private parts and is too scared to talk to cute boys. I don’t know how I’m ever going to get him a boyfriend this way.”

“He talks to me just fine,” Grant pointed out.

“Like the lady said, Agent Ward, ‘cute’ boys,” Donnie sassed before blushing at his forwardness when Grant’s mouth fell open.

She was right; he was a baby.

Skye smiled at him proudly and muttered something about being proud of her ‘dorky little son’. Grant rolled his eyes and ignored her.

“How did you get assigned to this, Donnie? Aren’t you too young to be in the field?” A.K.A. who had allowed him to be placed in danger? He needed to be kept safe in a lab somewhere not traveling the globe with a madman on the loose.

Skye rolled her eyes. “Ward, please, he’s eighteen.”

“That’s still-“ He couldn’t even find the words to explain how ridiculous this was.

“I graduated The Academy early, the youngest since Doctors Fitz and Simmons. Dr. Fitz is my S.O. and well, he couldn’t very well come on this mission could he? I was the only one he trusted,” he said proudly.

And Skye watched him like a proud mother as she smiled at him. “That’s right, Donnie here is going to do great things; just you wait and see. And unlike Fitz, Donnie actually passed his field exams.”

“Oh, that’s nothing,” he mumbled, far too humble. “I only scored ten points more than Dr. Fitz, he almost passed and I almost failed-“

“But you didn’t,” Skye reminded him.

He nodded in acknowledgement but he was still blushing.

She smiled and glanced back in Grant’s direction. “Are you going to stay in that suit, g-man?”

He looked down at his suit. What was wrong with what he was wearing? “What? It’s what your security detail will be wearing.”

“Yeah, but…they’re like the clone soldiers, man, they have never even spoken one word to me, it’s creepy. You, on the other hand, are supposed to be my fine piece of ass. We need to get you some nice, tight pants and a shirt with buttons missing. Oh and some hair gel, give you a whole sex-hair thing going on. Girls are going to salivate over you on tumblr.”

He rolled his eyes. “You’re going to have fun making me miserable, aren’t you?”

She smirked. “Just a tiny bit,” she teased, holding her fingers together.

He glanced over her outfit; black dress and boots that were somehow down-to-earth country girl. She looked…nice.

“Are you changing before we leave the airbase?”

“No, why,” she asked as she looked down at her outfit.

“Because there are a stack of magazines in my apartment in which you’re wearing basically nothing. Isn’t that your whole ‘look’?” She gave him a long look and he realized how bad that sounded. “Not that I-you see, Trip buys them so he can mock you for your outfits later-“

“You keep pictures of me in those slutty tour outfits in your apartment?”

He rolled his eyes because he could see the smirk tugging at the corners of her lips.

“So, you are aware they’re slutty?” He said, changing the subject.

She snorted. “Yes, I am aware that in American culture a woman embracing her sexuality makes her a slut.”

“I never said you were-“

“But you implied it.”

He buried his face in his hands. “God, I cannot win with you.”

“Like I said, Ward, you’re pretty but that mouth of yours ruins the mood.“

He glanced up. “What? Are you saying I should be seen and not heard?”

She grinned. “Exactly! In fact, try not to do any speaking at all, especially in public. Maybe we can actually pull this off that way.”

God she was a huge pain in his ass.

They began their descent and he leaned in, not only wanting to change the subject but because he was curious. “What did you mean earlier when you said the kid had been traumatized enough?” He kept his voice at a low whisper so only Skye could hear him.

She turned her head and gave him a sad look. “Mom died when he was nine and his dad…well, let’s just say it’s a good thing he has Fitz as a role model. Things may have been a lot different for him otherwise.”

Grant understood all too well what it was like to come from a broken home and how the right role model could change your life.

Skye glanced over at Donnie for a moment and Grant could see how fond she was of him. “Poor kid, he struggled so hard to fit in, you should have seen how socially inept he was when I-“ she paused for a moment. “When I met him,” she finished quickly.

What in the hell had that been about?

“Skye, what-“

“Look, isn’t it beautiful?” She whispered as she stared out the window. He followed her gaze and the countryside was indeed beautiful.

“The driver meeting us is a S.H.I.E.L.D. operative. He’ll drive us to Heathrow. When we arrive there will be paparazzi; for some reason I’m actually becoming popular outside of China.” She didn’t seem pleased with that. Everything about her was an enigma. “With my hacking skills and S.H.I.E.L.D.’s influence I have a pretty good control over what information is put out there and I’m really good with avoiding them. We need them to see us together so just…I don’t know…hover, I guess. You’ll meet the security team and my make-up crew and just be yourself; you have this gruff, douche vibe which is okay for now; play up being the asshole new head of my protection detail and once we’re in China we can figure out how we’re going to play this to lure Daniels out.” He could hear how exhausted she was in her voice.

“Why do I get the sense that you’re not happy about…well, being successful?”

Skye smiled sadly, not looking at him, just staring off. “I think my definition of success and everyone else’s is different. When I got signed to the label it was with an EP of songs I’d written myself.” He knew; it was the only album of hers he owned, not that he’d ever tell her that. “And then they decided to play the whole Asian thing. They moved me to China, forced me to sing catchy pop-songs with no substance, wear cute outfits, and just…be a prop. I can’t even sing my own songs anymore or write them because they own me.”

This time it was him reaching for her hand, he didn’t even notice until she gave him a look of surprise. He kept his hand over hers, knowing he had to get used to it. “You know, you can always get out if you’re not happ-“

“And do what? My new album leaked in the U.S. and now everyone everywhere knows who I am. I could never have a normal life. Besides, I’m not unhappy, I just...I never wanted the fame.”

Was it possible that she’d been just as miserable as he’d been over the past two years?

He felt her link her fingers with his and he stared down at their hands and tried to fight off the butterflies in his stomach. Shit, they were actually holding hand and he didn’t think she realized it. She was off in her own world and-now she was looking in his eyes.

“I just need you to stick this out with me for the next three, four weeks max. Please.” Her voice was pleading and he had the overwhelming urge to wrap an arm around her but he knew where that had led them in the past and it was too early in this mission for disaster.

He gave her a nod and she sighed in relief before closing her eyes.

“When was the last time you ate something, Skye?”

She needed real sleep, in a bed, and food. Coulson wouldn’t be happy with him if he stood by while Skye neglected herself.

“We can eat on the plane.”

“You didn’t answer my question; if I’m going to be your boyfriend then I need to hound you about things like this.”

A tiny smirk crossed her lips. “I don’t remember; everything happened so fast with Kate and I just…I haven’t stopped since.”

He frowned. “Skye-“

“After I do this morning show we’re going to head back to my townhouse where we can hide for a good two days, okay? I’ll sleep and eat and shower and you can work out details with my dad. Who knows, maybe Fitz has made some progress on his blast gun doohickey.”

Grant smiled. “I think Fitz would have an aneurysm if he heard you call it that.”

“Then let’s not tell him.”

He chuckled and pressed a kiss to the back of her hand before he realized what he was doing. Skye didn’t seem to notice, she seemed…

Grant smiled and held their hands in his lap and continued to watch her. She was completely out and even if it was only five minutes she looked like she needed the rest and he wanted to do everything he could to keep her safe and healthy.

But that wasn’t why he kept his gaze steady on her for the rest of the flight; she was far more beautiful than the countryside outside their window and he couldn’t bear to look away.  

Chapter Text

“I can carry my own bags you know,” Skye informed him, a smile tugging at the corners of her lips.

Grant shrugged and grabbed their bags from the trunk. “It’s not a big deal. Besides, sweetheart, didn’t you tell me this was a part of my job?”

Now she was smiling and she shook her head. “Fine, weirdo,” she muttered, leaning up to kiss his cheek quickly before leaving his side to help Donnie. His cheek burned where her lips had touched it and he chuckled at how stupid he was; twenty-five years old and all it took to turn him into a sappy mess was being close to her.

He was an idiot.

At least Skye seemed to be in a better mood since waking in his arms. He hadn’t wanted to wake her so he’d carefully carried her from the jet to the limo and allowed her to keep sleeping until they reached Heathrow. However, a bump in the road had jolted her awake ten minutes before they reached the airport. At least she’d still gotten a good half hour of sleep, which he suspected was the most she’d slept in days.

“Here, I got that Donnie,” Grant offered, grabbing one of the heavier looking equipment cases.

“I am capable of doing this, you know.”

Grant smirked. “Donnie, my man; let me show off for the pretty girl, will you?”

Skye grinned as she threw a bag over her shoulder. “So, you think I’m pretty?” She teased while leaning into him and taking hold of his shirt with her fingers. His throat went dry at the contact and he mentally kicked himself. A second later he caught her glimpsing to the left briefly before returning her attention solely to him with a knowing flutter of her eyes. So they were already being watched; time to perform.

Grant grabbed hold of her waist, pulling her closer. He leaned down to press a quick kiss to her forehead before resting his own against hers, giving her a goofy smile. “You know it, sweetheart.”

Skye’s smile faltered for a brief moment but then she was right back to performing. It seemed he wasn’t the only one having a hard time with this. Of course, his problem was that he wanted to be doing these things for real, no matter how hard he tried to deny it, but her…

Grant was relieved when she released him and stepped back. “We have a plane to catch,” she reminded and he nodded. He spotted a lone paparazzo lurking nearby and resisted the urge to roll his eyes. He didn’t know how she could live like this; he’d go insane.

He finished loading their carts and slammed the trunk closed. Their driver, another agent gave him a nod and he nodded in return, knowing Coulson would be expecting him to check in soon. He’d find a way for him and Skye to be alone to make the call once they were on the plane.

Grant reached for Skye’s hand and the moment they touched he had her pinned to the limo.

“Grant!” Skye cried, terrified. Good, she needed to be.

“What the hell, Skye?” He growled, maintaining eye-contact. Not ten yards from them was Ian Quinn and he was heading right this way. She searched his eyes and he motioned in Quinn’s direction. “What is he doing here?” He knew full well S.H.I.E.L.D. knew he was Hydra, they’d been trying to bring him in for years but he was good at covering his tracks; too good.

“Quinn? He’s my…he owns the label, Grant.”

He blinked in surprise. “What?”

“Yeah, Quinn Worldwide owns Q Records; it’s in the files.”

He moved his hands to her sides and leaned in so they wouldn’t be overheard. “He’s Hydra, Skye,” he whispered and he felt her freeze in his hands.

Skye met his eyes with a scoff in her tone. “He’s a smarmy douche, sure, but Hydra?” She chuckled. “He may be a tool but he’s not stupid enough to throw his hat in with that lot.”

Guilt welled up in his chest before settling in his stomach. He didn’t like to think of the circumstances of his joining S.H.I.E.L.D., especially not now, not after how far he’d come. It was weird, Skye had no idea but she was the reason he hadn’t been sucked into Hydra. Sure, he’d fallen for John’s tricks and some small part of him still felt indebted to him for saving him but it was really Coulson who had raised him up and they would have never met if Skye hadn’t been rooming in the same building as him their first year at The Academy. Meeting Phil Coulson had saved his life and she was the reason that happened.

He owed her so much more than she would ever know and he was terrified of her knowing the truth, that he’d been a part of that, even if briefly. He’d fed S.H.I.E.L.D. as much information as he could as a double agent but…she didn’t need to know about that part of his life. It was safer for her if she didn’t and he wasn’t sure he could handle seeing the loathing in her eyes if she ever did.

Quinn was a problem. Not only was Skye not safe with him around but while John was now long dead Grant had met Quinn before, as Hydra Agent Grant Ward working under Garrett, and this could blow his cover.

“I’m a level seven agent, Skye, and I am telling you he’s been on our radar for years.”

“I know,” she muttered in Mandarin and before he could ask her how she met his eyes and slid her hands up his chest, sending butterflies fluttering through his body. “Kiss me,” she whispered breathily.

He blinked in surprise. “What?” He stammered, still stunned by her request and slightly turned on by her tone of voice. How was she so…Jesus, this was not the time for this. This was why his life had been easier being far away from her. He didn’t enjoy being reduced to the mentality of a hormonal teenager because she was pretty and smelled nice and he wanted her badly.

“We’ve been pinned to this limo for the past ninety seconds angrily whispering at each other. It looks bad. You don’t want to come off like some asshole so lean in, say something to me, I’ll smile, and then we’re going to kiss and we’re going to make it believable. We’re undercover, remember? We can discuss Quinn later; when we’re alone.” Translation: Hydra and the paparazzi are everywhere.

Grant swallowed and nodded nervously.

“As you wish, princess,” he replied, trying to find his bravado.

Skye cocked her head to the side and watched him for a moment before shaking her head in amusement. She grabbed his shirt collar with one hand and wrapped the other around the back of his neck, pulling him closer.

Grant stared down at her, knowing this was trouble.

Why had he agreed to do this?

He was still…

He took her face in his hands with gusto (afraid if he didn’t he’d cower out of this), dipped his head, and captured her lips with his own. It was meant to be a quick kiss but as he gently caressed her cheeks with the tips of his fingers he found himself deepening the kiss and sighing into her mouth when she returned it.

Grant knew then that there was no way he was coming out of this unscathed; but he was here to keep her safe and he wasn’t going to let her down.

He knew he should break the kiss, because if he didn’t…well, fuck, he was already gone; again. She had an effect on him that drove him insane; it was why he tried to stay away but now…

Grant held her tighter and took her tongue between his lips desperately. Skye gripped the back of his neck and moaned quietly into his mouth, the reverberation going straight to his dick. Skye slid one hand along his neck as he pressed himself further into her, moaning as she sucked on his lower lip.

She wanted to kill him and he was okay with it; what a way to go.

Donnie cleared his throat a moment later and they finally came up for air, their faces flushed with desire.

Grant kept his hold on her as he stared down at her, half-gone with lust and something else he wasn’t ready to admit to himself yet. “I…” he began, not sure if he should apologize. She’d asked for it, right? And she wasn’t embarrassed enough to blush, in fact she didn’t look embarrassed at all. “Skye?” He asked, needing her to say something.

But Skye was too dazed to do anything but blink back at him. Her chest heaved as she stared back at him intensely. “Wow,” she finally whispered a minute later. His heart swelled. Had she felt it too? “You’re good,” she said quietly. “I almost believed that myself.”

Her words stung like a blade.

Right, he reminded himself, none of this was real.

He was a fucking idiot. It never had been for her, why would it be now?

When would he learn?

“Great, you’ve got a new security head for five minutes and you’re already fucking him.”

Grant already wanted to punch him.

He held Skye at his side protectively, wanting Quinn nowhere near his gi-his charge.

Skye put on a winning smile and as good as it was Grant knew her well enough to see how full of shit she was. She held a hand on his chest playfully and leaned into him. “Oh Quinn, Grant’s more than just a bodyguard-“

“I know, I read his file before we hired him; never figured you for being into the soldier of fortune type, Skye. Especially this one; what’s it like being the disgraced son of a Senator?”

Grant tensed but Skye took his hand as if to calm him. “Well, you clearly don’t know me very well, Ian.”

“Clearly,” Quinn said coolly as he eyed Grant warily. “Tell me, Ward, have we met? You seem familiar-“

“My father and brother are senators, sir, you’ve probably seen my picture-“

“No, you haven’t been seen in public since you were a kid; it’s in your file.” Quinn eyed him once more before a smirk tugged on his lips. Grant’s stomach fell, he’d figured it out. “Weren’t you one of John’s-“

“Donnie! Do you need help with that cart? Oh, Grant, be a dear will you?” She said with a smile as she led him towards Donnie who didn’t need help but Grant knew what she was up to and he was grateful. He hoped she didn’t bring it up later but knowing Skye, he would have to mentally prepare himself for a fight later.

“Stay by my side, will you? I’m here to keep you safe not keep Donnie from pulling a muscle; his body is not my concern, yours is.”

“I bet it is,” Quinn muttered and Grant flared with jealously. Was that asshole into Skye or something? She wasn’t stupid enough to go there, right? And Skye was too good to sleep with someone for a record deal. At least the Skye he’d known was. Of course the Skye he remembered would never have abandoned S.H.I.E.L.D. either so maybe he didn’t know a damn thing about her.

He remained glued to her side, eying Quinn warily as they went, wondering why the hell he had to be here. And he had left his sanctuary in Malta. Couldn’t they arrest him for something? He didn’t care for what; he just wanted to keep him away from Skye.

Skye signed a few autographs as they went and after an excruciating amount of time they were finally boarded. Grant had forgotten how much he hated airports; he was used to flying with S.H.I.E.L.D. jets or the bus or on private charter planes. He hated the crowds and the waiting; it was such a goddamn waste of time.

“Get that scowl off of your face, we’re supposed to be in love, remember?” Skye hissed under her breath. He glanced over to find her smiling down at her book which she wasn’t reading. He sighed and wrapped an arm around her and pulled her flush against his side.

“I don’t want him near you,” he whispered, still watching Quinn.

He could hear her rolling her eyes. “What part of ‘later’ do you not understand?”

“Skye-“

“Anyway, it doesn’t matter he’s not coming with us,” she said sweetly as she finally glanced up at him. He wanted to say something but couldn’t without giving her more of a reason to be smug over his attitude so he just huffed and returned to surveying their surroundings. She chuckled and patted his knee with a shake of her head. “Oh, Grant…”

He withheld a sigh: this was going to be a long plane ride.

Chapter Text

Skye woke with a jolt as the limo ran over a large bump in the road. She blinked in confusion. She’d just been on the plane and…two strong, familiar arms were wrapped around her tightly, keeping her from falling out of the seat as the limo jostled her around in his arms once more.

A blush crept to her neck as she glanced up to find Grant Ward watching her. “You can go back to sleep if you want, we still have another ten minutes to go and then we need to actually drive to the loading zone.”

He didn’t seem like he was going to let her go anytime soon and she shook her head, unsure of what to do. She felt semi-rested, at least more than she’d been earlier, and he was really fucking comfortable. “I um…” she began and he loosened his hold and she realized she didn’t want to go anywhere so she leaned her head against his chest and he relaxed, holding her close again. “Thanks,” she whispered, closing her eyes. She was wide-awake but she could rest for a few minutes in his embrace no problem. He always had been a good pillow, she was glad to see that hadn’t changed even if everything else had.

She knew the state of their relationship was her fault and she didn’t blame him for hating her. Someday she hoped he’d forgive her, when she could tell him the truth.

Sadness and guilt gnawed at her core and she wrapped her arms around him, hugging him as they went over more bumps but she wasn’t worried about falling, knowing he’d catch her. She just wanted to pretend for a minute that they were okay and he still loved her and that this was something they did all the time.

God, she’d missed him.

Skye hadn’t slept that well in months, even if it had only been a short nap. Not only did his arms feel nice wrapped around her but he made her feel safe. She didn’t have to keep her guard up with him; she could lower it and allow herself to just be for a few minutes because she trusted him to have her back if anything happened. She hated to admit it but having him around would be good for her, even if it wouldn’t last.

This was going to break her barely repaired heart all over again and she was still going to let it happen.

She was an idiot.

“We’re here,” he whispered into her ear and she ignored the butterflies his voice sent soaring through her and nodded. She allowed herself one more moment of holding him and inhaling his shower gel before forcing herself to release him.

Skye didn’t meet his eyes as they exited the limo, needing a moment to find her composure. She caught Donnie watching her with a knowing expression but she ignored him. She wasn’t in the mood, they could talk later. Besides, he had no right to give her any grief; he only fell for inappropriate men. They had that in common.

She glanced at Grant and sighed.

No, that wasn’t fair or right. She’d fallen for one appropriate man, a long time ago, and she’d epically fucked it up. He deserved better, at least that was what she kept telling herself. Not that it mattered, she already knew how this would end and knowing that she shouldn’t do the thing wasn’t going to stop her from doing it.

Skye was an intelligent, rational woman except when it came to Grant Ward; then she turned into a goddamn train wreck. She wondered if he’d guessed most of her songs were about him. She doubted he’d even bothered to listen to them which was a good thing; this didn’t need to be more awkward than it already was. He still hated her and it was a good thing, maybe his hatred would keep her from doing something stupid that they’d both regret.

“I can carry my own bags, you know,” Skye said with a smile when she realized he was unloading everything from the trunk on his own.

He gave her a shrug. “It’s not a big deal. Besides, sweetheart, didn’t you tell me this was a part of my job?”

Skye withheld the urge to blush though she was sure her cheeks were slightly pink. She shook her head and leaned up to kiss his cheek fondly. “Fine, weirdo,” she muttered before moving to help poor Donnie. He could claim he was capable all he wanted, he was very small and everyone needed help sometimes. Plus it helped her not to think about how warm her lips felt after touching Grant’s cheek and how easily they seemed to be slipping back into their old habits.

She didn’t want to get comfortable with him around, it would hurt more when he was gone if she did.

“Here, I got that Donnie,” Grant said as he grabbed one of the cases.

“I am capable of doing this, you know.”

Skye rolled her eyes; men.

“Donnie, my man; let me show off for the pretty girl, will you?”

Skye toyed with her bag as she threw it over her shoulder, her cheeks warm. “So, you think I’m pretty?” She teased with a smile before her stomach fell. She caught the flash of a camera and she grasped his shirt quickly. She glanced to the side briefly and yup, she was right. She wanted to sigh, not wanting to do this anymore than he did. It wasn’t fair, pretending, but…she sighed. It was the mission. She knew better than anyone that this job was about sacrifice and he knew what he was getting into and so had she.

He caught on and grabbed her and pulled her close. Her heart stopped as he watched her, sure he was about to kiss her but he surprised her by kissing her forehead instead. She felt a mixture of disappointment and relief and wanted to scream. He was ruining everything already.

“You know it, sweetheart,” he whispered with a smile.

Skye stared up at him and she knew she was already screwed. Her smile fell but she caught herself; it didn’t matter how she felt she could do this. She had to; for Kate and everyone else. She smiled again and released him. “We have a plane to catch,” she said, trying to be cheerful.

If this was how hard it was for her when they were simply playfully calling one another pet names…

She wished she had them being alone to look forward to but even then the act wouldn’t stop. Her entire life was about lying and playing pretend. Skye was close to cracking. She needed this to be over soon. She wouldn’t survive knowing he was the one to watch her finally fall apart.

They would catch Daniels and then…she wished she had going home to look forward to. Her dad’s dumb Westerns, her mom braiding her hair, grandma’s cookies, and her tiny one-bedroom apartment in Dupont Circle but when this was over it wouldn’t be, not really. Not for her at least.

When Grant took hold of her hand she was grateful. She needed the momentary freak-out to get out of her own head but before she could wrap her head around focusing on the task at hand he had her pinned to the limo. She blinked up at him in shock, confused.

“Grant!” Skye cried, scared. Why had he manhandled her? Was Daniels-

“What the hell, Skye?” What the hell, what? He motioned to the side and she glanced over to find Quinn headed their way. She felt the disgust she often felt when she saw that smarmy douche nugget rise in her throat but she didn’t get why Grant was so pissed off. “What is he doing here?”

She eyed him with confusion. “Quinn? He’s my…” No, not boss. She would never actually take orders from that piece of trash. “He owns the label, Grant.”

“What?”

“Yeah, Quinn Worldwide owns Q Records; it’s in the files,” she said trying not to sound put-off that he hadn’t bothered to read them.

Grant ran his hands over her sides and leaned in and Skye fought the urges his touch ignited in her by meeting his eyes defiantly. “He’s Hydra, Skye,” he whispered and she froze. How did he…dad had to have told him but if he had why had he been so surprised to see him? He couldn’t know the full truth, there was no way.

She wasn’t sure what work Grant had done, but she supposed with his clearance he knew all about Hydra still lurking about in the shadows.

She shrugged and scoffed, knowing this was neither the time nor place for this conversation. “He’s a smarmy douche, sure, but Hydra? He may be a tool but he’s not stupid enough to throw his hat in with that lot.”

“I’m a level seven agent, Skye, and I am telling you he’s been on our radar for years.”

God, he was a stubborn jackass. “I know,” she muttered in Mandarin as she met his eyes. She trailed her hands up his chest, ignoring how it made her feel. They had an act to keep up and his little temper tantrum was going to blow it wide open if she didn’t reign him in and get this under control. “Kiss me,” she whispered. She hoped it didn’t sound needy. She needed them to do this to keep up their cover but it didn’t mean she wouldn’t enjoy it. She’d be lying if she said some part of her hadn’t been eagerly awaiting them having to do this at some point.

He was one hell of a kisser, after all.

“What?” He stammered dumbly in surprise.

“We’ve been pinned to this limo for the past ninety seconds angrily whispering at each other. It looks bad. You don’t want to come off like some asshole so lean in, say something to me, I’ll smile, and then we’re going to kiss and we’re going to make it believable. We’re undercover, remember? We can discuss Quinn later; when we’re alone.”

She hoped he got the hint or she was seriously going to begin to question his abilities.

“As you wish, princess.”

Good, about time he caught on.

She waited but he looked…lost. A smile tugged at her lips as she realized he was nervous. Did he want to kiss her? Was that the problem? He didn’t look opposed, in fact…she shook her head and grabbed hold of him by the collar. Why did she always have to make the first move with this one?

Skye pulled him closer and to her surprise he was the one to kiss her first and wow what a kiss. It started off desperate and then as he held her face it deepened and Skye moaned, forgetting how to do anything but kiss him.

She was so fucked and she didn’t even care.

Skye clung to him, the fact that they had an audience gone from her mind. She ran her teeth over his bottom lip before taking it between her own while running her fingers over the first patch of skin she found. She needed to get him alone and naked as soon as possible because-

Her heart stopped when Donnie cleared his throat and she was pulled back into reality. Skye could feel heat moving through her body and was sure her neck and cheeks were flushed but she didn’t care. She was still….had that really just happened? How long had they been pressed against that limo making out and close to dry humping? She could feel every inch of her body burning where he’d touched her and she had to take deep breaths to keep from grabbing him and pulling him into the limo for a quickie.

Let the tabloids write about that.

“I…” she could see he was still processing all of this and she knew she had to say something, anything but she couldn’t get her brain or her mouth to work. “Skye?”

“Wow,” she managed to strangle out. She saw the look on his face and her heart clenched with pain. This…they weren’t…this wasn’t real. She had to remember that. She’d forgotten and maybe so had he and they couldn’t…they couldn’t do this. It didn’t matter how they felt they couldn’t let that happen again. She had to keep her wits about her. The next time they had to do this she’d be prepared and she wouldn’t lose herself to it; she couldn’t.

“You’re good; I almost believed that myself.”

She saw his face fall and she wanted to cry; it wasn’t just her which made it worse.

Skye was willing to risk her own heart but not his. She couldn’t hurt him, not again. She refused to. She loved him too much to put him through that again.

“Great, you’ve got a new security head for five minutes and you’re already fucking him.”

Skye really wanted to punch Ian Quinn someday but today was not that day. She felt Grant go into overprotective boyfriend mode and while it sent butterflies fluttering through her happily she couldn’t focus on that. Instead she put on the fake smile she’d long ago perfected and leaned into her ‘man’. “Oh Quinn, Grant’s more than just a bodyguard-“

“I know, I read his file before we hired him; never figured you for being into the soldier of fortune type, Skye.” Her entire body went cold. No, that hadn’t been in file. She’d been thorough; she was the best. How- “Especially this one; what’s it like being the disgraced son of a Senator?”

Grant tensed at her side and she took his hand to calm them both. She knew they’d run the risk of someone figuring out who he really was. Even if he hadn’t been anywhere near his family in over a decade you could never really erase every trace of a Ward; even the child they ignored existed. Skye was surprised they’d never faked some military death for him.

This was good; maybe Quinn didn’t know he was S.H.I.E.L.D. Maybe all he knew was that he wasn’t really just some ex-soldier who had taken up private security but the outcast son of Senator Ward who had left his family to join the military as a mercenary (the cover stories these people came up with were-well, she wasn’t one to judge).

“Well, you clearly don’t know me very well, Ian,” she replied cheerfully.

He really had no idea.

“Clearly,” he replied dryly. “Tell me, Ward, have we met? You seem familiar-“

“My father and brother are senators, sir, you’ve probably seen my picture-“

“No, you haven’t been seen in public since you were a kid; it’s in your file.” Skye wanted to smack him. Yeah, the file he’d dug up on his own because he didn’t trust her. She couldn’t wait to take this asshole down. “Weren’t you one of John’s-“

“Donnie! Do you need help with that cart? Oh, Grant, be a dear will you?” Skye interrupted with a smile before leading him away. Great, he did know he was S.H.I.E.L.D. This was bad. They needed to discuss this later, along with a lot of other things. Skye wasn’t surprised Quinn knew John; he’d always rubbed her the wrong way, even if he had been friends with her dad.

“Stay by my side, will you? I’m here to keep you safe not keep Donnie from pulling a muscle; his body is not my concern, yours is.”

Skye opened her mouth to tell him she could take care of herself when Quinn interjected. “I bet it is.”

She resisted the urge to kick him where it hurt, knowing this time tomorrow she’d be able to hit the gym and destroy a bag while pretending it was his face. Instead she took Grant’s hand and led him through the airport.

“Get that scowl off of your face, we’re supposed to be in love, remember?” Skye scolded when she caught him continuing to glare daggers at Quinn. She hated the guy too but she hadn’t been trained to wear her heart on her face.

He glanced down and pulled her close. She leaned into him, concealing how much she enjoyed it. “I don’t want him near you.”

She sighed with a roll of her eyes. “What part of ‘later’ do you not understand?”

“Skye-“

“Anyway, it doesn’t matter he’s not coming with us,” she glanced up to find him pouting and she laughed. “Oh, Grant…” she muttered, shaking her head as she gave his knee a pat.

A moment later he took hold of her hand and gave the back a kiss before linking their fingers together. She rested her head on his shoulder and he ran his lips over her temple before whispering. “For someone who’s really only famous in Asia you have a lot of paparazzi following you.”

She withheld a sigh, not in the mood to look. “Yeah, well, I’m sure one of the Kardashians will release another sex tape soon and they won’t have this much time on their hands.”

He snorted and she smiled, closing her eyes.

“Tell me, if Quinn actually bothered to leave his Maltese sanctuary why isn’t he flying privately?”

She groaned. God, he was stubborn. “Maybe his jet is in the shop, I don’t know, Grant. Sometimes he boards with other artists on the label, for publicity. And they’re all private commercial liners like the one we’ll be on, so it’s not like he’s flying with the little people,” she replied with a snort. “All I know is he won’t be on our flight, which is all that matters.”

“Speaking of, we need to tal-“

“We will when we get back to my-“

“To your dad.”

She opened her eyes. “Oh, right.” She shrugged, ready for a nap. “We’ll talk to him on the plane. We’ll sneak off to the bathroom or something, it’s a small plane but we can get away with making them think we’re fucking in there or something.”

He groaned. “Skye-“

“Or we can discuss top secret business in front of my tour crew.”

Grant sighed. “I guess we can just call him to let him know we got here okay and wait until we get back to your place to debrief-I mean…shit.”

Skye was trying hard not to laugh but he was such an adorable puppy she couldn’t help it. She kissed his cheek and hugged him around the middle. “Don’t worry, Agent Ward, I won’t tell my daddy you want to debrief me.”

“Skye,” he groaned, closing his eyes.

She smirked, amused.

His fingers found their way into her hair and she hummed contently. Planes, even the fancy ones, were crappy places to sleep but they had another thirteen hours until they got to Hong Kong and she needed the rest. She was glad they didn’t have to make a stop in Beijing, Skye was so sick of flying. She would be happy to never fly again which was ironic coming from the daughter of a pilot.

Grant wrapped his other arm around her and held her closer, still stroking her hair. She knew he wouldn’t mind her nodding off, he seemed to be worried and it was…sweet. “That feels nice,” she whispered, half-asleep.

“Try to stay awake until we’re on the plane, I’d hate to have to wake you when it’s time to board.”

She sighed, longing for her bed in D.C. “Right.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Not your fault.”

He held her closer and kissed the top of her head. “I know, but still.”

Skye couldn’t help but smile and was about to nod off anyway when the loud speakers announced it was time to board. She groaned, not wanting to move.

“I could carry you,” Grant whispered teasingly and she opened her eyes to find him watching her with concern.

“Nah, I have two legs, might as well use them.” He held out his hand and she took it and held onto it while they made their way onto the plane followed by Donnie. Five seconds later, before Skye could comfortably curl up in a chair like she wanted, or call her dad, she was being nearly knocked over by her enthusiastic make-up artist.

“Nice to see you too, Annie,” Skye said with a smile, hugging her back. The younger girl bounded back excitedly, looking Skye over.

“When was the last time you slept? How am I supposed to work with those bags under your eyes?”

Skye rolled her eyes. “You’ll figure something out. Grant, this is Annie, she does my make-up. Annie, this is Grant, he’s in charge of security now.”

Annie gave him a once-over and was practically salivating. Skye spared him a glance, knowing full well the effect he had on women.

“Wow, he’s hot.”

“I know,” Skye replied, ignoring the thin line his lips had formed. “Grant, be polite, say ‘hello’.”

“Hi-“

“Here, take her.” The older Snow sister materialized and thrust her five-month old niece into her mother’s arms before hugging Skye. “Nice arm candy, I hope he’s good because you need it-“

“Okay! Why don’t we all just…find something to do, okay?”

They could be properly introduced later. Skye was not in the mood to discuss her non-sex life, thank you very much. She would however enjoy the fruit of Annie’s.

“Hello, little one,” she cooed, taking baby Lillian out of her mom’s arms. The baby blew a spit bubble happily and Skye’s heart melted. She loved babies, always had. She’d never considered having her own, not when she was with S.H.I.E.L.D. at least, but now? After being away from it? Of seeing what life was like away from the danger?

God, she wanted one.

She smiled and ignored everyone else as she happily bounced the baby in her arms.

“Mind taking her for a few minutes? I need to-“

Skye was too entranced by the chubby cheeks and big green eyes staring up at her to care about where her mom was disappearing to. Everyone needed to hold an adorable baby every once in a while. “Take as long as you need.”

Lillian’s dad was a mystery and Skye would never dare ask one of her crew members to be away from their child so she was used to having kids around and she loved this one. She couldn’t wait until she had one of her own.

Someday, she told herself.

“What are you up to, today? Hmm?” Skye asked as she took a seat and sat the little person on her knee. Skye dug around in her bag for a new plush she’d picked up for her and waved it in her face but Lillian’s focus was not on Skye. In fact she seemed to be just as enamored with Grant Ward as everyone else. When Skye looked up she expected to see her grumpy pretend boyfriend scowling at the baby but for the third time that day he surprised her. When she met his gaze he was staring down at the baby with an expression on his face she’d once seen him wear around a litter of newborn puppies.

And another, reserved for her, that left her wondering how cute a kid that was half-hers and half-his would be and how soon they could get to work on that.

“Do you want to hold her?” She expected him to say ‘no’ but his eyes lit up and he nodded vigorously.  Skye had never expected to see any man, especially this one, so damn excited to hold a baby and it was really fucking sexy.

Grant took her carefully and it was clear he’d done this before. “My sister’s kids,” he explained when he caught her eyeing him.

“I thought you didn’t speak to your family,” she whispered, her finger still in Lillian’s clutches. That kid had a strong grip on her.

He shrugged and she could see that the mention of them made his gloomy aura even darker. “I…she got out too. She…we understand each other. Thomas was always their darling and Christian followed in my dad’s footsteps and then there was me, unwilling to live a lie so they like to ignore my existence. And well…Alison wasn’t…”

Skye placed a hand on his arm. “I know, Grant.” They’d gaslit her, made her out to be crazy. But she’d gotten out, just like him, made a life for herself in spite of her family.

“She’s got three kids now; the youngest is a few months old. I don’t get to see them much, she doesn’t want to risk them finding her, but I go as often as I can. It’s nice, being an uncle.”

She understood. She wished she had a sibling whose kids she could spoil. Of course any sibling she ever had would be an agent to so it was a useless desire, especially since the only person who could ever make her an ‘aunt’ currently hated her.

“You should call your dad, now that we’re alone. I can keep an eye on her.”

Skye wanted to ask if he was sure but he was just as gone as she’d been a moment ago. She smiled. He looked good with a baby in his arms. And he knew how to handle himself and little Lillian was giggling and enjoying herself as he tickled the bottoms of her tiny, fat feet.

“Hot man with a baby alert,” Emma muttered, appearing out of nowhere.

Skye smiled. “Yeah.”

“Are you going to let the sexy man get you pregnant, Skye?” She shook her head in amusement. “You should at least let him try. That man looks like he can go for days.”

“He can,” Skye replied, almost sending Emma to the floor in shock.

Skye glanced in the hair dresser’s direction and spoke before she could interrupt with her queries. “Do you mind checking on Donnie?” She needed to be alone to make the call and it would be best if everyone was kept busy while she did it. People were always everywhere; it was damn-near impossible to get a moment alone. “Kid’s running on little to no sleep and I don’t want him to forget any equipment. You know how he gets; he’d give himself an aneurysm freaking out over it. I’d go but-“ Skye’s eyes moved to Grant who was now ticking the baby’s belly and laughing, something so rare she wanted to cherish it, but now was not the time.

“Got it, your ovaries are aflutter.”

Skye smirked, too enamored to roll her eyes.

“Fine.”

Once they were alone Skye discreetly snapped a photo and sauntered over to the pair. “All right, I’m going to call dad from the bathroom, in case anyone else comes back. You sure you’re okay? I don’t want to come back to find you both gone because you decided you want to keep her.”

He smiled in a way that reminded her of a puppy and looked up at her in the same manner. “I’m a patient man; I don’t need to kidnap a baby.”

She wanted to know what that meant (Was it a promise? A suggestion? Nothing?) but she didn’t have time. Instead she just ran a hand through his hair and then over his shoulder, to get into the habit (okay, really it was just to touch him-but in her defense he needed to get used to it). “All right, but she better be awake when I get back, I need some cute baby time.”

He smiled. “I promise you’ll get lots of cute baby time.”

Skye was caught off-guard once more. She wasn’t imagining things; he was giving her a shit-eating grin. What a bastard. “Good,” she muttered before excusing herself.

A moment later she was locked in the bathroom, dialing the number she knew by heart. A smile came to her lips when she heard a familiar voice on the end of the line.

“Princess.”

“Hi, daddy.”

“I hope she’s not calling to tell us she killed Ward.”

Skye smiled at the sound of her mother’s voice in the background. “Tell her I love her too.”

“He’s still alive, Mel! You know our daughter wouldn’t risk getting caught by killing him in front of witnesses,” he called back.

Skye rolled her eyes.

“Damn right, I taught her better than that.”

“Dad, as entertaining as this is, I don’t have much time, we’re on the plane and it’s not a secure call.”

“Is everything all right?” He asked seriously and she smiled, happy that no matter how old she got her dad would always worry about her and be ready to jump into action if she needed him.

“Fine. We’re on the plane, we’ll be in Hong Kong in about thirteen hours. I’ll do that God-awful show, head back to the townhouse, then we’ll get you on a video call for a debrief.”

“And Ward?”

“He knows more than I’d like him to.”

“What does that-“

“What is his involvement with Hydra?”

The other line went silent and Skye knew she had him. “Sir?”

“Skye, now is not-“

“Quinn recognized him.”

“We knew this was a possibility, he has a famous famil-“

“No, he knew him through John. Dad, if they have a history I need to know. Not having all of the information can jeopardize everything.”

He sighed. “Sweetheart, it’s class-“

“Don’t you ‘it’s classified, me’, dad. You and I both know that’s never stopped me from-“

“Phil, you can tell her later, when it’s safe.”

“Melinda, do you have cat ears? How did you-“
“Let me speak to my daughter.”

Her parents bickered for a moment and eventually her mom won (no surprise there).

“I hate it when he tries to leave me in the dark.”

“You can press him later, we both know he’ll cave.”

“I’m right here, Melinda! I can hear-“ Skye pictured her mom holding her hand up to silence him and smiled.

“I know but I need to know now.’

“Quinn’s not an issue at the moment; we’ll deal with this later. Now, tell me Qiaolian, are you sleeping?”

“Mom,” Skye whined, not in the mood for this. Besides, she was a grown woman.

“Now is not the time. I know you have questions and you will get them answered. Now, you’re going to sleep, baby. You need it. I will find out if you don’t.”

Donnie, that traitor.

“Fine, but before I go…how’s Kate.”

Her mother was silent for a moment. “She’s the same.”

Skye’s stomach fell but she wasn’t surprised. She had more she wanted to say but she’d been on the call for far too long. “Keep me updated? And I know S.H.I.E.L.D.’s protocals and her relationship ith her dad isn’t the best but someone should call him.”

“Already taken care of.”

She nodded to herself. “Okay, well I should go. I’ll see you in a few hours.”

Skye could hear the smile in her mom’s voice. “I love you, baby girl.”

“I love you too, mom. Tell daddy I love him?”

“Always.”

She smiled and hung up the phone before she made the call go on longer. She clutched it to her chest sadly, missing them. She hated being away from them, she loved them more than anything in this world, but this was what she had to do and unfortunately it meant being separated from them.

Skye wiped a stray tear and left the bathroom, knowing it would be time to take-off soon.

She lingered a few feet away from Grant when she found him still playing with the baby and watched them with a smile. He glanced up at her happily for a brief moment and her stomach flipped. Skye took a seat, needing to distance herself from him.

It seemed no matter how much she wanted to fight it this was going to take her down.