The Return of Shield

Escape

On Friday evening, Kat was just pulling out of the parking lot of the FBI office when her phone rang. “This is Agent Sevda,” she answered.

The voice of her direct supervisor said, “Kat! Thank goodness I caught you!” he said with some urgency. “Tell me where you are and we will send some agents to protect you.”

“Sir? Why would I need protection?” Kat asked.

“Grant Ward escaped from prison over an hour ago.”

“Okay,” Kat said slowly. “I don’t understand why that means I need protection. I’m not a high value target for Hydra. They had a chance to kill me before and didn’t take it. And as for Agent Ward, if he’s acting on his own, I don’t believe that he would try to hurt me. Besides, if you’ll recall sir, I am leaving for two weeks and will be incommunicado. He’ll probably be caught before I even get back.”

“Well, all right. If you feel safe, I’ll have to trust your judgment,” he responded with a hint of doubt in his voice.

“Thank you, sir. Good luck and I’ll see you when I get back.”

Kat ended the call and threw the phone out of the window. Seeing a parking garage coming up, Kat turned into it, parked next to a black SUV in a Reserved spot and got out of the car. She opened up the SUV, pulled out her bags from the truck and then hesitated next to her car. “Are you coming, Grant?” she asked.

Grant popped up immediately from the backseat (thank goodness he’d had the sense to change out of his prison clothes!) and Kat had the satisfaction of seeing the surprise on his face before he once again looked emotionless. He cocked his head and asked, “How did you know I was here?”

She smiled. “I didn’t; it was an educated guess. Now, unless you want to get caught, I suggest you get into the truck,” she said tilting her head toward the black SUV. “The windows are tinted, so feel free to get in the front.”

The two of them drove out of the garage and were several miles down the road before Grant spoke again. “So you knew I was there but you’re not scared that I’m going to hurt you. And clearly you’re hiding our trail.” Kat nodded. “Why?”

“Well, I know that your escape wasn’t arranged by Hydra, so I’m not worried that you will try to hurt me on their orders. Besides, it would have been pretty ungrateful of you to try to force the cooperation of the person who engineered your escape,” Kat said lightly.

Grant looked completely confused. “You were the one who helped me escape?”

“Yep,” Kat replied. She looked over at him and smiled. “I realize that you don’t hold the FBI in high regard but surely you didn’t think that their security was so lax that you could easily escape on your own?” Seeing the look on his face and knowing that he did think he had done it on his own merits, she shook her head and started laughing.

“I’ve been in prison for months. Why now?” Grant asked.

Kat stopped laughing and her expression turned serious. “We heard rumors that there were going to be at least two attempts on your life. If it matters, one of them was from Hydra. Like I said earlier, I care about you and I wasn’t going to let that happen. Plus, you have an incredibly valuable skill set that is just going to waste with you sitting in prison. If there are ways you can atone for your mistakes, I think you deserve the chance to do so.”

“You said we heard rumors? Surely you don’t mean the FBI. Who is we?” Grant asked suspiciously.

Kat smiled again. “Did you really think that Hydra was the only organization with sleeper agents?”

“SHIELD?” Grant asked incredulously. “SHIELD was the one who broke me out of prison?”

“No, not SHIELD. I no longer work for them; they discarded me months ago,” Kat said a bit testily. “But don’t worry,” she said as she saw Grant’s face darken. “I still work for the good guys. SHIELD isn’t the only group around that takes an interest in world and interplanet affairs.”

Grant was silent as he thought. “Wait, you work for Tony Stark?”

Kat snorted. “Hell, no! Can you imagine the nightmare that working for Tony would be?”

Grant smiled a bit at that. “Who then?”

“I work for Pepper Potts,” Kat replied. “Speaking of whom…” she said as she punched in a number on what looked to Grant like a burner phone.

Pepper’s voice (it was a woman’s voice; Grant assumed it was Pepper) answered immediately. “Kat? Do you have the package?”

“Yes, I have it. So far, so good. Have you talked with him?” Kat responded.

“Yes,” Pepper replied. “He’s waiting for your call.”

“Okay, thanks. I’ll report back soon.” Kat hung up the phone and looked briefly over at Grant. “So, what was the plan of escape? Or did you even have one?”

Grant shook his head. “I was taking things one step at a time. I thought that once I grabbed you, I would determine how best to get out of the country. Of course, I wasn’t aware that it was really you grabbing me. So, given that you have been one step ahead of me the whole time,” he said with a hint of bitterness, “do you have any ideas?”

Kat nodded, noting his repressed anger. “Actually, I do but I need to talk with you about it first. Grant, I realize that you’re angry because things are not the way you thought they were. I don’t blame you. In fact, I expect you to yell at me about it later. But for now I’m asking you to put your anger away because you need to trust me.”

Grant snorted and said nothing, looking stonily out of the window.

“Do you remember telling Skye that despite your lies and deception, your feelings were real?” Kat asked carefully.

Grant turned his head to look at her so quickly that she was afraid he might have snapped his neck. “How do you know about that?” he demanded.

Kat rolled her eyes. “I told you I was your supervising psychologist. I read reports. Did you think that Coulson’s team wouldn’t submit any about you?”

Grant remained silent. Kat tried again, “Well, do you remember that?”

Grant snorted again and turned back to the window. “Of course I remember that!”

“It’s the same for me. I couldn’t tell you about my true agenda but everything else was real. I do care about you and everything I did was designed to help you. I was the one who got you reading material, softer pillows and extra time in the weight room. Did you never question why the guards didn’t mistreat you? Did it not occur to you to wonder why the prisoners never bothered you until recently? I did everything I could to try and help you heal because I care about you, Grant!” Kat said with passion.

Grant turned back to look at Kat. “Garrett said he cared about me too when all he really cared about was himself. You and Dr. Stoddard were the ones who taught me that! Why should I trust you when you’ve been manipulating me just like he did?”

“That’s a fair question but I don’t think you’re thinking it through. When Garrett manipulated you, he did it purely for his own interest. There was little about his ‘care’ that was designed to benefit you or, if it did, it was just a nice by-product. The same is not true for me. What did I have to gain by giving you reading material, making sure you weren’t mistreated and helping you figure out who you are? I could have forced your cooperation without doing all those things – in fact, it probably would have been easier without teaching you to think for yourself – but I did them so you would get better. Did Garrett do that?”

Grant didn’t answer, so Kat continued, “And here’s something else to consider. Yes, I want you to trust me and follow my plan because not only will it help me but it will also help you. This is the next step on your journey. However, if you choose not to, if you say no, then okay. I won’t force you to do anything you don’t want to do. If you don’t want to trust me, then I will drop you off and never tell anyone I saw you. You will owe me nothing.” While trying her best to keep her eyes on the road, Kat turned to look at him directly. “That’s the best I can do, Grant. Would Garrett have made that same offer?”

Grant was silent and Kat kept her peace for as long as she could. She knew that Grant needed to make the decision for himself. After about five minutes, she said, “I’m sorry. I don’t want to rush your decision but we’re working on a deadline here. Will you trust me or am I dropping you somewhere?”

Grant sighed. “I’ll trust you. For now!” he added in a hard voice. “But I’m not saying that I like it and I will be yelling at you about it later.”

Kat nodded. “Fair enough. I actually think that’s a pretty healthy response,” she said with a little smile. “Okay then, since you’re going to trust me, I have another call to make.”

Grant watched her punch another number into her phone and felt his anxiety go sky high when she said, “Phil? It’s Kat. We’re on our way!”


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