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The Irresistible Force Paradox

Chapter Three

Skye doesn’t mean to fall asleep, really, she doesn’t. But these past two weeks she’s worked so hard to distract herself that she ends up drifting off in the hotel bed.

She wakes up slowly, feeling safe and warm. A body pressed against her back, an arm slung over her waist. She wants to linger in it a bit longer, until she remembers where she is – and who it is she’s snuggled up against.

She quickly rolls away from him, out from under his arm, and sits up. Ward shifts, blearily opening his eyes.

“Hey,” he says, voice gravelly with sleep, looking all tousled and soft in a way that most certainly does not make her breath catch in her throat.

She looks away from him, at the wall opposite her. So, she fell asleep with him. That’s… fine. It’s fine. She’s just been a bit tired lately; it would have never happened otherwise.

“I should get going,” she says, getting out of bed.

“When do they expect you back?” he asks, very casually, as though this is a completely normal situation.

Skye begins tugging on her clothes and gives no answer.

Ward sighs and Skye hears the mattress shift as he gets up. “Look,” he says, approaching her. “I get that this is complicated–”

“That’s an understatement.”

“–but I think that this– that we have a shot.”

Skye stops in the middle of pulling on her jeans to stare at him. “I really hope you’re joking.”

He just looks at her, earnest and hopeful, and she doesn’t feel guilty.

“You want us to keep meeting up like this, to screw, behind the backs of everyone I care about?” she says incredulously. “You think that’s a good idea?”

“I never said it was a good idea,” he says. “But I think we could pull it off.” He reaches out to touch her face and she pulls away, fishing her jacket from under his shirt on the floor.

He killed Koenig, she reminds herself as she pulls it on. He tried to kill Fitzsimmons.

“You don’t wanna talk about it, fine,” he says, irritation creeping in his voice. “But I’m not gonna be your fucking stress ball, the guy you call when things get intense at work. I don’t wanna do this if you can’t be an adult and admit your feelings.”

“Oh, screw you!”

“That’s the idea, isn’t it?” he says. “I don’t appreciate you taking advantage of my feelings for you–”

Me take advantage of you? That’s fucking rich!”

“This isn’t just sex to me, and you know that.”

And she doesn’t feel bad. Or guilty. Because he doesn’t deserve that. Compared to the things he’s done, this is nothing. He doesn’t get to look betrayed or hurt.

She rolls her eyes and begins pulling on her boots.

Ward watches her, silent for a long moment. Skye can tell he’s thinking hard, deliberating, from the set of his jaw, the way his eyebrows tug down.

“Please don’t contact me again until you’re willing to actually talk about it,” he says finally.

Skye looks up at him. “Fine,” she says, heading for the door. “Goodbye, Ward,”

His voice is so soft she almost doesn’t hear it. “See you later, Skye.”

Because of those words alone, she knows she needs to stay away – because he thinks that she can’t. And his ability to predict her moves is annoying and unhandy.

For the second time, she decides that it can never happen again.

The first person she runs into when she gets back to the Playground is Hunter, because of course it is. He takes one look at her – the messy hair, the shirt buttoned up wrong, the slowly darkening mark that peaks from under her collar – and she knows he knows.

He’s about to say something when Bobbi appears. “Guys,” she says. “We’ve got a lead on Ward.”

Fear spikes through Skye’s chest and she’s honestly not sure if it’s at the thought of Ward getting caught, or at the thought of anyone finding out.

Hunter’s still watching her and why the hell did she ever tell him?

“Yeah, coming,” she says and passes Hunter to follow Bobbi down the hall.

“Where’ve you been?” Bobbi asks.

“Just needed some time out in the normal world,” she says. “What’s the lead?”

“Those traces you put on his known aliases came up with a hit. He popped up in Bedstone ten minutes ago.”

“That’s… close,” says Hunter, catching up to them and glancing over at Skye.

He must’ve left right after she did. And if she hadn’t taken some time to clear her head, she would’ve been here when the alert came in. She’s not sure what she would’ve done about it though – she wouldn’t have covered it up.


May, Trip, and Coulson are already strapping on tactical gear when the three arrive, and they’re all packed into the Quinjet in a matter of minutes.

Skye finds herself sitting next to May and wishing she’d showered instead of storming out because if anyone would be able to detect the lingering trace of him on her, it’s May. But she doesn’t seem to notice – or maybe Skye’s just being paranoid – and is her usual stoic self the whole flight.

It’s a small hotel on the seedier side of town. The Quinjet drops Skye, May, and Hunter on the roof while Coulson, Bobbi, and Trip go in on the ground floor. They quietly make their way to the third floor, where they meet up again.

At May’s signal, they burst in through the door. Ward jumps to his feet, hand reaching for his waistband until May says, “Don’t move.”

He surveys them all, weapons trained on him, until his gaze sticks on Skye. “Hey guys. Skye, good to see you.”

Skye ignores the glances her way and sets her jaw. “Ward,” she says as neutrally as she can.

“I take it this isn’t a social visit,” Ward says, still keeping his focus on Skye.

Coulson nods at Trip, who steps forward. He quickly searches Ward, taking his two guns and three knives before quickly backing away.

“Are you coming in quietly?” Coulson asks.

Ward glances at him, then back at Skye, and shrugs. “Why not?”

He steps towards Skye, who jerks back, training her ICER on him again. He simply holds out his hands, ready to be restrained.

May is about to step between them, but Skye takes the handcuffs from her. “I’ve got it,” she says.

She gets the first cuff locked around his wrist before she makes the mistake of looking up at his face. He’s watching her intently and she can’t quite get a read on him. Then she fumbles with the cuffs, and everything suddenly moves very quickly.

Ward grabs her, turning her around and trapping her arms behind her back. Before anyone can respond, he’s got her gun – the real one, not the ICER – pressed to her temple.

And she’s not scared. Sure, her heart begins to race, but she finds herself quite secure in the certainty that he isn’t going to hurt her. It’s that certainty that scares her.

“Right,” he says. “You’re gonna let me out that door.”

“You wouldn’t kill Skye,” Coulson says, but Skye knows he’s not as sure as she is.

“Do you want to test that theory?” he asks, pulling her arms tighter behind her and she winces.

Coulson looks to May and then says, “Alright, lower your weapons, everyone.”

Ward pulls Skye forward with him towards the door. He turns in the doorway, facing the rest of them again. “Sorry about that,” he says to Skye, breath tickling her ear, and shoves her towards Coulson and she crashes into his arms. He takes off down the hallway, Trip, Bobbi, and May in hot pursuit.

Coulson holds her tight for a moment. “Are you–”

“I’m fine,” she says, pulling back. “Go after him.”

He does, but Hunter lingers for a moment.

“Seriously,” she says. “I’m right behind you.”

He still looks worried, but races out of the room.

Skye sinks onto the bed, running her hands through her hair as her heartbeat slows. Did she purposefully fumble those cuffs? Did she want to let him go? She doesn’t even know herself.

The pursuit is unsuccessful and soon they’re on their way back to the Playground. Hunter keeps sending glances her way on the flight and she knows that if something like this happens again, that he’ll have no choice but to tell Coulson. Whether it was intentional or not, she’s the reason Ward is still at large.

Trip and Bobbi are worse though, because they can tell that she’s guilty about it and are determined to make her feel better.

“You don’t need to beat yourself up about it,” Bobbi says as they get off the Quinjet.

“Nobody’s blaming you,” Trip says, squeezing her arm as he passes by. “Ward’s good at what he does, we all know that.”

She just nods and follows, hoping to avoid whatever Hunter wants to say to her as soon as they’re alone. Everyone on this base is already too damn good at reading her, and with what he knows, he might be able to tell where her mind’s at right know. And if he does that, he’ll definitely tell Coulson.

Hunter knocks on Skye’s door an hour or so later. “Skye? It’s me.”

There’s no response.

“Look, I don’t normally seek out these types of conversations, but if you need to talk…”

Still nothing.

Hunter frowns, then pushes the door open. The room is empty, and he sighs. “Damnit, Skye, what did you do?”


He turns to see Skye coming down the hallway towards him.

“What are you doing in my room?”

“Just wanted to see if you were alright.” He lowers his voice. “Make sure you weren’t doing anything… ill-advised.”

She scoffs. “Are you kidding? After all that? I wouldn’t touch him with a ten-foot pole.”

He smiles, relieved. “That’s a good instinct.” He turns to leave.

Skye is about to let him go but thinks of something. “Oh, and Bobbi was looking for you,” she says.

He stops in his tracks and turns back. “Did she say what for?”

Skye shakes her head. “Nope.” She grins at the way he pales a little. “Have fun.”

Hunter steels himself like he’s about to go to battle and Skye waits until he’s out of sight before slipping into her room. She only hesitates for a moment before sending out the message: I think it’s time for an honest conversation.

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