The day after his talk with Skye, Grant was surprised when May asked him if they could do some sparring together. “Nothing serious,” she emphasized. “Just to make sure your skills haven’t gotten too rusty.”
“Of course,” Grant said easily. Even though he remained expressionless, his anxiety rose with her request. The last time he and May had been alone together, they were fighting and he ended up with a fractured larynx. May was not someone who forgave easily and his sin was not only betrayal (which would have been bad enough) but also injuring the team, both physically and emotionally. He had to wonder if this was payback time.
For an hour, their workout was intense and silent. Both had shown up on time (Grant had been early), talked briefly about what they were going to work on, and then got down to it. They punched, kicked, parried, blocked, and generally sparred without words. Every so often there was a terse, “OK?” when one helped the other off the mat but nothing beyond that. When they broke for water, Grant thought he might scream from the tension. But he said nothing. This was her meeting and he owed her.
The two sat against the wall, breathing heavily and drinking water in sporadic bursts. There was a lot of space between them but not so much that they couldn’t carry on a conversation. Grant reflected ruefully that the casual observer would never guess that the duo had ever been physically intimate or even colleagues. He sighed.
After about five minutes of silence in which Grant looked anywhere but at May, she turned her head slightly in his direction. “I read your file,” she said shortly, her face an expressionless mask. “And I had a talk with Dr. Sevda.”
Grant nodded but said nothing. He already knew that but doubted it would make any difference to her. May believed in actions, not words and certainly not intentions or emotions.
“You could have killed me at Providence.”
“There was no reason to. You left.”
“But you could have easily crossed me off before I left.”
Grant shrugged and said nothing. Where was she going with this?
“I was such a threat before that you tried to neutralize me with sex,” May halted for a moment and a micro-expression crossed her face. Grant glanced at her and suppressed his surprise. Was the Ice Queen actually hurt by that? “But when you could have easily gotten rid of me for Hydra, you just let me go. Garrett never would have done that.”
Again, Grant said nothing but this time his silence wasn’t because he didn’t know what to say. Instead, he was reflecting about the time he’d spent with her and considering how he’d actually felt then. Kat had done her work well and he finally realized that, despite what he thought at the time, he never could choose not to feel but instead just pushed his real feelings aside. But he didn’t have to now. And he owed May the truth.
“You’re right. I probably should have killed you because you are and were a danger to Hydra but I didn’t want to hurt you. Not at Providence and not at Cybertek either.” He finally looked over at her, trying to see if she understood what he was trying to say.
She paused. “You were holding back.”
Grant nodded. “I didn’t know what to do, so I just did what I do best: fight. But I didn’t want to hurt you, not permanently. I didn’t want to hurt Skye either.” He smiled slightly. “I didn’t know how to be on top, so I settled for always being on bottom.”
May took a second to digest that. “You wanted to lose.”
He shrugged. “Not exactly. I just didn’t know what else to do. I figured you would take care of it, especially if I made you angry.”
There was a long silence. Grant thought that maybe May was through talking, so he was surprised when she said, “After Bahrain, I didn’t want to ever feel again. Thinking was hard too. Riding a desk was good because I didn’t have to do either one; I just did what they asked.” She paused again, “That’s how you’ve lived your whole life, isn’t it?”
“Pretty much,” he admitted.
“The difference between us is that I had people to pull me back. You didn’t.”
“I thought I did. That’s why I was loyal to Garrett.”
She was silent, clearly thinking over what he had said. Watching her actually consider his point of view made Grant feel like maybe he should go for broke. Even after making that decision, he still surprised himself when he said, “Back when I couldn’t talk and then during those months in prison, I had a lot of time to think and I realized that you were right. I wasn’t being honest with myself but not in the way that you thought. I had sex with you partly because it was my mission but also because I enjoyed it and I don’t mean just the physical part. It was nice to be with someone who was at least somewhat like me, someone who understood my life. You didn’t expect me to talk or have expectations for how I should be. Our…whatever you want to call it…was, I don’t know, pleasant.” He saw May give a hint of a smile, giving him the courage to continue. “I know that you said I didn’t hurt you but I think I did, just not in the way you meant. You tried to give me something and I threw it back in your face. I’m sorry.”
May twisted her entire body so she could look more directly at him but was quiet for a long time. Grant kept his gaze focused on the floor. “I’m sorry too,” she finally said.
Grant looked up, surprised. “For what?”
“I’m sorry for the way SHIELD failed you and I’m sorry for not noticing that you needed help. I should have. What you did isn’t ok but you had your reasons.”
Grant, feeling overwhelmed, gave her a half smile but said nothing.
May got up and extended her hand to him. Once he was on his feet, she turned and started walking away. “For the record, I found it pleasant too,” she said over her shoulder. She paused. “Same time tomorrow?”
Grant nodded, “Same time.” He smiled to himself as she left. Things weren’t perfect between them but at least they were moving in the right direction.