Author’s Note: This story was written as an RPG (roll playing game) between co-author’s Hope1iz and BlackFox12 (aka Cat). This is the seventh story in the ‘Redeeming Grant’ series, which is sent after the season one finale.
Summary: When Ward decides to leave the Bus, he's captured by HYDRA
Disclaimer: We don't own anything from Marvel: Agents of SHIELD and we're not making any money from this fic
Warning: Spanking (severe); spoilers for the entire first season of Agents of SHIELD; some violence/fighting scenes
Co-Author’s Website: BlackFox12's fanfiction.net page


REDEEMING GRANT
OFF THE RESERVATION


Grant watched, irritated at himself and the whole situation, as the HYDRA soldiers surrounded him. This had not been one of his better decisions. Yes, he was the only one left on the bus; Coulson, May, Trip, and Skye off meeting various members of SHIELD remnants, and Fitz and Simmons attending a seminar regarding the arc technology put on at Stark tower.

He should have just stayed on the Bus and read or watched videos or something...instead, he'd gotten wind of a HYDRA cell that was planning something sinister and thought, "It will be easy enough to go in, get the information and leave again." Even though Coulson had specifically told him - with an apologetic face, but still told him - that he was to stay on the Bus and not leave unless given a direct order by himself, or staying on the bus would put his life in danger.

Yeah. He didn't think dying from boredom would count in Coulson's eyes.

He managed to keep calm, even when he was dragged into some laboratory and strapped to a gurney. The disgusted glare he gave Raina betrayed none of the worry he was feeling. She didn't even say anything to him, just gave him her usual creepy, enigmatic smile... before she stuck what appeared to be a tiny thumbtack into his wrist, just under the watchband where it couldn't easily be seen. And suddenly, Ward was a spectator in his own body.

Two hours later, he was back on the bus and waiting for the rest of the team's return.

# # #

Coulson returned to the Bus with Skye, May and Trip. Fitz and Simmons weren't back yet from their seminar and wouldn't be for a little while, but at least he could contact them if he needed to.

After dropping off his new paperwork in his office, Coulson approached Grant. "Everything all right?" He knew the younger man would have told him if so, but even though Grant hadn't complained about needing to be left behind, Coulson knew that he hadn't been happy about it. And, besides, he wanted to spend a bit of time with Grant before he had to make a start on yet more paperwork.

"Yes. Everything was very quiet and uneventful," Grant answered. He didn't sound angry or resentful at having been left behind. He didn't sound overly friendly or like he wanted to spend time with anyone, either. He sounded quite a bit like he had the first day he'd joined Coulson's team...before HYDRA made their bid to take over and everything had fallen apart. Grant would have cringed at his tone if he'd been able to. He had absolutely no control over what he said and did at all.

Coulson frowned, noticing the tone in Grant's voice. When the younger man had first joined the team, Coulson would have left him to it, figuring that Grant just needed to be left alone.

Things had changed a lot now and Coulson reached out, second nature to place his hand on Grant's shoulder. "Are you all right?"

Ward shifted away from the touch; not flinching exactly, but looking really uncomfortable at the familiarity. "Yes, sir. I'm fine. Was your trip productive?"

Coulson dropped his hand, instantly suspicious. Since he'd brought Grant back to the team, he'd continually made physical contact with the younger man, whether it was a hand on his shoulder, rubbing his back, or even wrapping an arm around his shoulders. And there hadn't been a moment when Grant had pulled away, apart from when his emotions were all over the place after the cave-in.

This wasn't like that time.

"What did you do while we were gone?" Coulson didn't answer Grant's question. If something had happened, and that was looking more and more likely, he would have to be very careful about what he revealed.

Grant wanted to scream. He wanted to tell Coulson...he truly did...but while he wanted to explain, his mouth wouldn't cooperate, whatever it was that Raina had put on him blocking his ability to make his own choices. He heard the whispering in the back of his head, as if his tormentors were sitting on his shoulder telling him what to say and what to do. The only comfort that he was able to draw was the fact that they didn't realize exactly how much his relationship to Coulson had changed and they were directing him to react in ways that he had done before the other man had taken him in hand and under his protection.

"Nothing happened..." Ward shrugged, stepping further away from Coulson and giving the man a crooked smile that wasn't warm in the least...looking more like the smile a subordinate would give a superior in order to get said superior off their case without actually being rude about it.

"I see." But Coulson knew there was something wrong with Ward. Could he scan him for unfamiliar technology? Remembering Clint Barton under the control of Loki, he wondered if this was something similar. Either way, he needed to update the other team members about what might have happened.

"All right. I'll come and find you when I need you." It was a dismissal, but given how Ward was acting, Coulson guessed that wouldn't raise too much suspicion.

"Yes, sir," Ward answered mechanically, even as deep inside he was thankful that Coulson didn't push the matter. He wasn't certain what his current 'handlers' would do if the man acted suspicious so soon. They hadn't told him what the plan was.

As he turned to head back to his own quarters, the voices started giving him orders. At first, it was garbled; and had he not known exactly what was happening, he might have thought he was going insane...but soon the orders became clear. He was to wait until Coulson was debriefing the other agents and then attempt to listen in on their conversation...find out whatever information he could. Apparently, the device that they used to control him also relayed whatever was said in his vicinity.

A sense of dread formed in Ward's gut...but the dread was locked firmly in place, just as his own free will was.

Coulson watched until he was sure that Ward was out of earshot and then quickly walked through to the cockpit, where he knew both Trip and May were.

Since he wasn't sure if Ward would try to listen in or not, Coulson began talking casually to the two agents. As he spoke to them, however, he was writing on a piece of paper. Finished, he held it up.

DON'T SAY ANYTHING. I BELIEVE WARD HAS BEEN COMPROMISED.

May raised an eyebrow, speaking just as casually to Coulson; about her mother insisting that she call more often and how that was seriously getting to be irritating...while she wrote on the paper as well. HIS CHOICE? OR IS HE SAVEABLE?

Ward had gone to just outside the cockpit where he could hear what was happening and still appear 'innocent' should someone walk by and catch him. But the voices in his head were getting more and more irritated and insistent that he get the information they wanted the longer he listened to the casual conversation. They were demanding that if he couldn't get the information through listening in that he hack into the computer system and get it, then leave.

Finally, among all the arguing voices insisting on his attention, one told him to go to the laboratory and see what Fitz and Simmons were working on.

Dreading the idea that he might give HYDRA sensitive information that could hurt his team, Ward attempted to fight the impulse to obey the order, but the device in his wrist sent several painful pulses through him, causing him to lose what little control he'd maintained over his body. He walked to the lab.

Coulson didn't have to think about his response. He wrote it down. WARD WOULDN'T BETRAY US. NOT AGAIN. Coulson wasn't sure how he felt about it, but the loyalty Ward had once felt towards Garrett seemed to have now been transferred to him. As much as Coulson considered Ward his surrogate son - his boy - Ward's actions towards Garrett really hadn't been healthy.

May didn't react to Coulson's assertion other than to write one thing: MAYBE NOT WILLINGLY. They had no clue what had happened during their absence and if Ward was acting enough out of character in the short time they'd been back that Coulson automatically assumed that he had been compromised....

When Ward got to the lab, Fitz and Simmons were still not back from their seminar. It was the perfect opportunity to nose around a bit. Ward did his best to fight the orders being sent his way, but he was only able to resist them enough to go to the areas where the information wouldn't be deadly if it got out and into the wrong hands. He hoped that the ones 'controlling' him wouldn't realize that the information he was transmitting back wasn't important and would actually be useless to them...at least not right away.

Not sure whether Ward was in fact listening to them or not, Coulson spoke out loud. "I'm going to speak to Skye and ask her to fill me in about anything she might have learned." He nodded to the two agents and then slipped out of the cockpit.

There was no sign of Ward in the main room of the Bus. Even more convinced that the younger man had been compromised, Coulson wondered if he was in the process of retrieving information. If he was, the most likely places he'd head to were Coulson's office... or the lab.

It was unlikely Ward would go into his office while Coulson was on the Bus. Deciding it was more likely that the younger man had gone to the lab, Coulson briefly considered picking up a weapon, if only to stun the younger man.

It was a notion that Coulson quickly discarded. Although all reports showed that Natasha had shattered Loki's control over Clint by hitting Barton in the head, Coulson wasn't sure he could bring himself to potentially injure Ward in that way. If a fight became necessary, Coulson hoped that he would be able to subdue the other man quickly and figure out where to go from there.

Activating his comm, Coulson switched to a different frequency so his words wouldn't be heard by Ward, sending his message to May and Trip. "I believe Ward has gone to the lab. I hope to be able to subdue him, if necessary, but I need you both on standby in case I need help."

Waiting until he recevied an acknowledgement, Coulson proceeded, heading to the lab and not surprised to see, as he entered, that Ward was going through files and samples. He cleared his throat as he stood casually, hands appearing relaxed at his sides... but really, he was ready to fall back on his training at a moment's notice.

"What are you doing?"

Ward cringed inside as he heard his mentor behind him. He wanted to scream at the other man to run, but it was a fruitless wish.

The voices were back and telling him what to say. He turned slowly, a cocky grin on his face. "Nothing, sir. Just checking up on something Simmons was telling me about earlier this week."

His controller calmly moved him toward the door, even as he was given the words to say. Deep inside, Ward could only pray that the older man wouldn't insist on talking...he wasn't sure what Raina or her boss would insist that he do if that happened.

Coulson held his ground, deliberately blocking Ward's exit from the lab. He didn't make a move to physically stop Ward, though, choosing instead to wait and see if the younger man would make the first move. "And what would that be?" he asked calmly.

If Ward had had control of his body, he would have winced. Well...if he'd had control of his body, he wouldn't be in this position, but the thought was there.

The voices in his head were getting frantic, some telling him to make up something so that Coulson would leave and he could continue to look for information for them...some were arguing that he needed to get out of the lab until Coulson stopped being suspicious and that he could go back later for more information...one voice was saying that he should eliminate Coulson, get what information he could and then leave before anyone else got suspicious.

So far, the other voices were winning, but Ward feared the more bloodthirsty one would take over if he didn't find a way to distract his 'father'. He supposed he should count himself lucky that instead of assigning one person to be his control, they had decided on several people to give him commands...he wasn't sure whose stupidity caused that decision, but the little part of him that was still able to think for himself was thankful for it. Finally a clear command was given.

"An upgrade to the Night-Night gun..." Ward smiled his creepy grin again, "...since they aren't here, though, and I really can't figure out heads or tails what she was talking about, I'll just go to the rec room and work out until they get back..." He quickly slid past Coulson, doing his best not to touch the other man.

It was a moment's decision not to let things progress any further. Coulson wasn't prepared to let Ward run loose on the Bus in the condition he was in now. Nor was he prepared to leave Ward under the control he was certain the younger man was under.

Moving fast, Coulson grabbed for Ward with one hand, while the other slipped behind him to lock the door. He was expecting a fight and was prepared for it.

And that was all it took. As soon as Coulson grabbed him, the one, lone, bloodthirsty voice gave the command 'kill him' and Ward was forced to act.

Quickly shifting into combat mode, Ward shifted forward into Coulson's body space, bringing both arms up in a move meant to not only dislodge Coulson's grip, but to slam into the older man's jaw. Many a larger man had been rendered unconscious with just one hit, using that move. "You really should have let me go..." His voice was almost mechanical in tone.

Ward watched helplessly as his own body betrayed him and went after the man who had saved him.

Coulson released his grip on Ward so that he could jerk back out of the way of the strike. Even if he didn't fight so much now, he made sure to keep up with his training. Admittedly, he had never trained for having to fight one of his team mates, but he pushed aside the concern he felt over having to do this, knowing he could deal with those feelings later.

Coming back at Ward, Coulson lashed out with a kick aimed at the younger man's side, following with a punch to his jaw. He needed to stun Ward as quickly as possible, because he had only one chance to follow through with the plan that had half-formed.

He wasn't even sure that his idea would have any effect, but it was something he needed to attempt.

There were two things in Coulson's favor: the first was that the older man was in good shape and well trained, considering his age and the fact that he normally let other people do the fighting when it needed to be done. (Ward was impressed, though he couldn't say so). The second was that Ward really did not want to be fighting his mentor- and as good a shape as Ward was in and as lethal as he normally could be...someone else who was miles away, not able to see the full picture and unfamiliar with Grant's fighting style... really couldn't control his body the way he could have. Their only choice was to either let him have a bit more control over what he was doing- which they couldn't do if they wanted to keep controlling him- or expect that he would only do what they ordered him to do; no more and less if he was able to get away with it.

Normally, Ward would have been able to work through the kick and avoid the punch...had he wanted to be in this fight. But he didn't want to be in it. His controller evidently wasn't used to getting their hands dirty in actual fighting. They didn't order him to move out of the way until it was too late. The kick to the side winded him; the punch knocked him off his feet. Within seconds, all the voices were screaming orders at him again; afraid they would lose their 'plant' and all their work in setting the trap for him would have been for nothing. Ward didn't have a clue which voice to listen to- they were all sending out conflicting orders. He growled in frustration, lashing out toward Coulson with a kick in a bid to get them to shut up.

Coulson didn't falter in following up to his attack. He'd forced down the reluctance of causing pain to his surrogate son and turning his body to the side to avoid the kick, he followed with a punch to Ward's stomach. He then grabbed Ward by the shoulder, wrestling the younger man over to one of the chairs.

Ward doubled over as his breath left him temporarily from the punch to his stomach. By the time he'd caught his breath enough to start fighting again, Coulson had already pulled him over several feet toward the chair.

His controller, unable to figure out just what Coulson was doing- as he didn't seem to be following any particular style of combat form- sent the most basic commands to Ward. Kick, punch, go for the throat.... Ward attempted to do so, throwing his elbow back in an attempt to throw Coulson off of him and regain some footing.

Coulson used his other hand to knock Ward's arm to one side and then grabbed it, twisting the limb up and behind Ward's back in a move that meant trying to get out of the hold would likely break his arm.

Now dragging Ward over to the chair, Coulson sat down and pulled Ward down and across his lap, keeping his arm twisted across his back.

Ward knew exactly what Coulson had in mind and although he couldn't see how it could possibly do any good, he wasn't too worried about it. Those controlling him didn't have a clue, however and, angry that he hadn't yet got out of the situation, ordered him to break free- no matter what happened. Ward began to thrash wildly in his attempt to get away. The part of him watching the whole horrible scenario, like it was a bad movie, knew that he was going to break or dislocate his own arm. But he couldn't stop. He hadn't yet been able to break free of their control.

Coulson knew that, with the amount of struggling Ward was putting up, the chances were good the younger man would end up dislocating his arm... in the best case scenario. Hoping to shock Ward enough that the struggles wouldn't be as strong, Coulson changed his mind in a split second about spanking the younger man the same way he would normally.

With his free hand, Coulson undid the belt he wore around his waist, pulling it through the loops and doubling the leather over in his hand. In one swift movement, he brought the belt down across Ward's backside, very careful not to go as hard as he could have done.

Ward arched upward at the sudden sharp pain, his eyes widening and mouth falling open in a shocked yell. Ward was shocked at the use of the belt. Coulson had never used anything but his hand on him before...for a short second, he had thought he might regain control over his body, but it was a fleeting second and to his disappointment, he still couldn't stop doing what he was being ordered to do. His thrashing became even more violent and in one wild and out of control moment, he bent double and bit Coulson on the leg... his orders to get free no matter what fueling his actions.

Coulson winced at the bite, but pushed away that discomfort and tightened his hold on Ward's arm. He didn't want to be the cause of the other man breaking his own arm, but if it was a choice between that and bringing Ward back... it was the latter choice he had to make.

With that thought firmly in his mind, Coulson started bringing the belt down repeatedly, still careful not to use too much force.

Ward continued to struggle, his controllers not willing to let go of their 'slave' so easily. The belt continued landing and while the force wasn't much, there was enough to be painful.

Ward didn't know how long he fought in Coulson's grip and it was a miracle he didn't break his arm, as hard as he battled the older man, but eventually, the pain from the belting built up to the point where pain was the only thing Ward could focus on...and as he began to focus on just how badly the belting hurt- his eyes tearing up so badly that he could no longer see- he realized...he was regaining just a little bit of control. His thrashing slowed a tiny amount and he was finally able to direct Coulson to the one thing his captors had prevented him from mentioning or showing: he raised up the arm Coulson didn't have hold of and started scratching at his watch.

Coulson noticed immediately Ward's actions and he didn't stop to wonder at what the other man meant. Dropping the belt, he quickly undid Ward's watch, pulling it free from his wrist. Running his fingers over Ward's skin, he found the slight bump that he guessed was the cause of the control.

Reaching back, Coulson grabbed a scalpel from the table behind. Working quickly, he used the scalpel to cut the tiny object free. It was just as well he'd had training in cutting out devices implanted under the skin. He avoided cutting too deeply, though at least it hadn't been put too far under the skin.

Ward only managed to maintain enough control over his body that he didn't flail around when Coulson began to cut the disk from his wrist because he was able to focus on the pain still radiating over his backside. As soon as Coulson had removed the disk, he felt the fog that had been over his senses disappear...he was finally in complete control of his body and no longer receiving - or obeying- orders from the nameless HYDRA agents who had entrapped him.

He slumped over Coulson's lap in relief, then began to cry- at first softly, then more strongly- as he thought about just what he had been forced to do and what he had been ordered to do, that thankfully he hadn't been able to accomplish. They'd wanted him to kill his father! Just the thought that he might have been responsible for Coulson's death caused him to begin shuddering and his stomach to begin rolling. Sliding off of Coulson's lap and onto his knees, he slowly turned toward the older man with a soft wail, uncertainly wrapping his arms around his middle and hiding his face against his stomach.

Dropping the scalpel, Coulson wrapped his arms immediately around Ward, pulling him in close and tight. Settling his hand at the nape of Ward's neck, he gently stroked the other man's hair, hugging him tightly. "It's all right," he said softly, continuing the gentle stroking. "You're free from their control."

"I thought...they wanted...I couldn't..." Ward finally gave up talking and just pressed closer to his mentor, allowing the comfort the older man offered to calm him down. Slowly, the fear lessened until Ward was finally able to stop crying and could form complete sentences without choking. "They wanted me to kill you..." he finally forced out, then looked up into Coulson's face, his own face tear-streaked and tormented.

He winced slightly as he shifted, his backside still aching from what had to have been the harshest spanking he'd ever received (even if he suspected Coulson of holding back on the strength of the lashes). He winced again as he moved the arm that Phil had held to immobilize him. It wasn't broken or even dislocated...but it was already getting sore; it would be very stiff in a few hours.

Coulson's embrace tightened in response to the torment he could see on Ward's face. "I know you were being controlled," he said gently. "May and Trip were on standby if I needed their help to subdue you. You wouldn't have succeeded in what they wanted." He noticed Ward's wincing, but there was little he could do, though he considered strapping up the arm to keep it supported and from being moved.

Ward closed his eyes tightly, nodding. He wasn't entirely certain May or Trip would have been able to get to him in time had things gone a different way and Coulson not taken him down so quickly; but it didn't matter. Coulson had taken him down quickly and between his director's fighting skills and the incompetence of those who had been trying to control him, everything had worked out well. Mostly.

He reluctantly pulled himself from Coulson's embrace and grabbed a nearby cloth, placing it over the small wound where the disk had been implanted. "I'm getting blood all over you..." he muttered sheepishly. "And there are some things you need to know..." His voice was rough and he cleared his throat self-consciously. Carefully, he stood, unable to hide a wince from his pained backside.

Coulson nodded, standing up as well. "You can update me while I strap up your arm and bandage your wrist." At least they were in the lab, which meant that medical supplies were close at hand. He retrieved them and gestured for Ward to approach.

Ward quickly obeyed the gesture, relieved to actually be obeying someone because he wanted to and not because he was being forced. As he watched Coulson administer first-aid, he began to speak.

"I was feeling...useless...out of sorts...I don't know. Anyway, I got to nosing around looking for some way that I could be helpful, even if I couldn't leave the Bus." He glanced up at Coulson through lowered lashes, not particularly happy at how his words were making him sound, but knowing the other man needed to know everything if he was to form an adequate response.

Coulson made eye contact with Ward as he continued to work. "And I suppose whatever you found made you decide to leave?" His voice was quiet, but he quite obviously wasn't too happy about this. If HYDRA hadn't decided to try and use Ward, Coulson could have lost the other man... and that was unacceptable.

Ward flinched at the unhappy tone in Coulson's voice. He knew he deserved the man's disappointment and unhappiness with him, but it didn't make it any easier to hear. He wriggled around uncomfortably, forcing himself not to vocalize as his wriggling landed him on a particularly sensitive area and had to quickly shift so that he wasn't pressing on it.

"Yes, sir. I..." He suddenly blanched, almost jerking out of Coulson's grip as he abruptly remembered something. "I'm so stupid! How could I have forgotten....?" Turning worried and slightly frantic eyes toward the older man, he blurted, "They put a tracker on me!"

"Where is it?" Coulson asked immediately. He finished up treating Ward's arm and wrist, but stuck close to the younger man. In an almost subconscious action, his hand found its way to the shoulder of Ward's unhurt arm, squeezing gently to reassure him. "We'll get rid of it and move the Bus."

Ward attempted to calm himself. "I...it was right after they implanted the disk in my wrist...I was a bit woozy, but I know they jabbed me with a needle right below my neck. At least I thought it was a needle...but then they were doing something else and I couldn't feel very much, so I figure they must have numbed the area...." He held still so Phil could search and hopefully find and remove the device.

"The stuff I found that convinced me I should disobey your order and leave the Bus..." His voice was hesitant. "It wasn't real. They were setting a trap. But before they caught me, I managed to learn one important thing... and I think it's real, because they weren't expecting me to be where they found me...."

Coulson picked up a scanner and ran it over Ward's neck until he found where a foreign device had been implanted. Very carefully, he dug it out and, after destroying the tracker, began bandaging the new wound as he spoke into the comm.

"May, Trip. Ward had a tracking device implanted in him. I've destroyed it, but we need to move the Bus." After waiting for their acknowledgement, Coulson addressed Ward once more, for now leaving the issue of Ward leaving the Bus. "What did you learn?"

"They've been watching Hill...and have planned a hit on her. She's technically working for Stark now and he's having some meet with various senators and generals next week...she's supposed to attend as one of his..." He waved a hand to indicate he wasn't sure what they were calling her. "...they plan to take her, Stark, and intercept the senators who expressed sympathy toward SHIELD. I wasn't able to find out exactly when and where at this meeting, or who would be carrying it out...I heard them coming and had left that area and was attempting to get away before I could look any further." He tried to keep the report as concise and quick as he could.

"I'll send her a report," Coulson said. "I'll also ask her to meet with Fitz and Simmons after the seminar... just until we're certain it's safe." Giving Ward's shoulder another squeeze, he headed over to the computer system to send Hill a message.

Ward finally allowed himself to relax, knowing that Coulson had everything under control. He let out a weary sigh as he waited for Coulson to finish warning the others.

Finishing passing on the warning to everyone who needed to know, Coulson turned to focus on Ward. "Everything's taken care of." A serious note crept into his voice as he continued, "I've told you before that I don't expect blind obedience, but it was important that you stay here. If HYDRA hadn't planned to use you as a spy, I could have easily lost you." Coulson didn't care that he was making this personal. It had been personal since he'd gone to Ward in prison.

Ward straightened up and made certain to look into Coulson's eyes. It was a bit of a surprise, although maybe it shouldn't have been, how personally Coulson was viewing Ward's actions. His words about losing Ward sounded almost possessive; as if Ward belonged to him somehow. Ward swallowed, trying to process that thought, certain that there was some nuance to the possessiveness that he was missing. It didn't bother him and he wondered if it should.

Hesitantly, he replied, "After all the trouble I cause you...maybe I deserve to be lost..."

Coulson frowned. "Ever since I came to see you in the prison, our relationship has changed. It doesn't matter what happens, or how much trouble you think you cause... I would never allow you to be lost to me."

Ward was still confused. No matter how many times Coulson had referred to them as family, or told Ward how much he meant to the older man- and no matter that Ward looked on the older man as the father he wished he'd had- he still had a hard time believing that he mattered that much. So when he asked his question, it wasn't because of a lack of trust, but because he truly had trouble understanding Coulson caring that much that he wouldn't allow Ward to be lost, even if it was a result of Ward's own foolish actions.

"Because I'm yours?" he asked uncertainly.

Coulson nodded. "Because you're mine," he confirmed. "I care about you, as much as if you were my son through blood. Even if you disobey me and, as a result of that, get yourself captured, I will still come for you, just like I did when HYDRA took you before."

Ward blinked owlishly at Coulson, before he finally had to look down, unable to face the man any longer; there was a tiny smile on his face, though, as Phil's words soaked in. Rather than feeling offended at Phil's possessive statement, he felt warm and wanted. But accepting Phil's view of their relationship (and there was no doubt that he accepted or wanted it) meant accepting the obligations that went with such a relationship. Obligations such as not just disappearing on someone without giving them some idea of what you were doing; especially if doing so was in direct disobedience of an order....

Biting his lip, he forced himself to look up again. "I shouldn't have just disobeyed you and left without any word...The right thing to do would have been to tell you what I found and ask permission to look into it further..." he admitted softly.

"Do you want me to meet you in your office so we can 'talk' about it? Or in my quarters?" Ward had no doubt he deserved to be punished for his disobedience...especially when the way he had disobeyed had not only put his own life at risk (something that Coulson had repeatedly told him was unacceptable), but because he'd ended up putting the whole team at risk. The thought of receiving a spanking when he was already so sore from the belting Coulson had needed to give him was quelling...but he wanted to make things right with the older man and the thought of not being disciplined for his actions didn't sit well with him.

Coulson stepped over to Ward and placed his hand on the younger man's shoulder, squeezing gently. "I'm not going to spank you for leaving, Grant. I didn't use my full strength when I used my belt, but I know it was still painful."

Looking into Ward's eyes, Coulson continued, "That doesn't mean you won't be punished. You're going to be grounded to the Bus for a while. The only time you can leave is if it's with me." He gave Ward's shoulder another gentle squeeze.

Ward wasn't too proud to allow the look of relief that crossed his face at Phil's words. The news of his grounding, he wasn't sure how to take. If it was possible to feel like the most important, cherished person in the world and still feel all of two-inches tall, somehow Coulson had managed to pull that feeling from Ward. The younger man wasn't sure if he should say thank you or voice a complaint about not being able to leave the Bus, since being bored and feeling useless while being stuck on the Bus had been part of the reason he'd disobeyed; but it didn't take him long to decide being thankful was the appropriate response.

"Thank you, sir..." he finally managed to say...and actually mean it.

"I'm not sure you'll be grateful to me for long," Coulson said. "I know it'll be hard on you to be forced to stay on here, but you have to understand that I can't allow a repeat of what happened today. I don't mean that I won't come after you or pull you back, because I will. Every time. But it was important for you to stay on the Bus this time. Not only because of HYDRA, but because I have to keep your presence here a secret. If the wrong person found out about you, I would be pressured to take you back to prison. Since I wouldn't be prepared to do that, it would generate conflicts within SHIELD."

Ward listened to Phil quietly, biting his lip. He hadn't thought of the problems that could occur for Phil if anyone saw him before Coulson was ready to announce his presence. He didn't want to go back to prison... And Coulson hadn't mentioned what might happen to him for harboring a fugitive, but it couldn't be good. "Yes, sir..." he said softly.

Although Coulson's scolding was stern, he kept his hand on Ward's shoulder, rubbing and squeezing gently. "I need to know that you'll stay here when it's necessary. I will do everything to protect you, but you need to help me do that. If you leave the Bus without my authorisation again, I will spank you." He spoke seriously, wanting to make clear just how important he took the younger man's safety in this instance.

"I understand, sir..." Ward nodded, making certain to keep his eyes up and looking at Phil, even though he desperately wanted to look at the ground and hide his face. Part of him was chafing at the scolding- the part of him that felt like a child being taken to task- but he really did understand what Phil was saying and why he was insisting on obedience when it came to where Grant went. And if he was honest with himself, so much of his relationship with Phil was every bit like a child and parent that he shouldn't be surprised that, if he acted like a child, that's exactly how Phil would treat him.

Coulson thought about continuing the scolding, but he knew Ward understood what he did wrong and what would happen if it occurred again. Using the hand on Ward's shoulder, he gently guided the younger man closer to him so he could hug him. "I'm glad you're safe," he said honestly.

Ward finally relaxed and wrapped the arm that wasn't in a sling around his father-figure. "Only because of you..." he whispered, squeezing as tightly as he was able and letting his head fall onto the older man's shoulder.

Coulson held Ward close, rubbing his back gently. "You were able to signal to me what was wrong. I'm relieved that way worked. Plan B might have ended with you getting a concussion and you're hurt enough as it is."

Ward winced at that bit of knowledge. "As painful as it was, I'm glad Plan A worked." He grimaced. "My head's screwed up enough...." He snuggled closer. "Even so, I hope I never do anything horrible enough to deserve your belt again...."

Coulson tightened his embrace, still rubbing his back. "I can't imagine there's anything you could do that would make it necessary for me to use my belt again." Maybe if Ward betrayed them knowingly again... but Coulson couldn't see that happening. "You might be grounded, but I thought it might give us some more time to do things together."

Grant leaned back and smiled crookedly, his eyes lighting up. "Really? I'd like that...." He bit his lip hesitantly. "Do you think maybe we could tonight? Or do you want me to go to bed early?" He didn't think Coulson would send him to bed early as an additional punishment, but with all the various wounds he now had due to HYDRA's taking control of him, he wouldn't be surprised if the other man wanted him to rest. Grant wasn't sure how he'd be able to sleep, remembering how it felt to be a puppet in his own body- not to mention even finding a comfortable position in which to sleep- but if that's what Phil asked him to do, he wouldn't argue.

"I think we should take it easy tonight, but you don't have to go to bed early," Coulson answered. "So I think we can do something that isn't too strenuous tonight." He patted Ward's back gently. "If there's anything in particular you'd like to do, that you know I wouldn't veto, you can tell me."

Grant smiled happily, like Christmas had come early. "Maybe we could play cards..." he suggested. "We could talk then...movies, it's kinda hard to carry on a conversation...."

Coulson smiled. "Playing cards sounds like something we can do. And you're right. It's easier to talk while playing card games."

"Great..." Ward ducked his head bashfully. "I guess...do you need to make sure Fitz and Simmons are okay? Get them back to the bus first? Because I can go make dinner for everyone if you need to finish anything...." Part of him wanted to offer to go retrieve the two scientists that he looked on like siblings, but he knew Phil would veto it in a heartbeat and he didn't want to get the older man chiding him so soon. He'd help out next time, when he wasn't sporting a hurt arm and limping. He vaguely wondered how he was going to explain the limp, blushing slightly.

Coulson nodded. "That would help if you make dinner while I check in with Hill and make sure it's safe for Fitz and Simmons to come back. You could talk to them over the comm, if you'd like," he added, suspecting that Ward wanted to help and hoping to give him something else to do that would make him feel helpful. "After we've eaten, we can use either your bunk or mine for playing cards."

"I'd like that..." Ward nodded as he carefully turned toward the door and waited for Coulson to unlock it, indicating he could go. "Thank you, sir."

Coulson patted Ward's shoulder gently and then leaned over to unlock the door. "Be careful with your arm. Don't feel ashamed to ask for help if you need it. As soon as I'm done, I'll be able to give you a hand."

"Yes, sir. I will...ask, I mean." Ward gave what for him could be considered an impish grin, then headed toward the small kitchen area. "Let me know when I can talk to Gemma and Leo?" he stopped long enough to ask.

"Of course," Coulson replied immediately, reaching for the comm.

Ward smiled again, nodded, then went to the kitchen to prepare dinner. He was looking forward to the night.

# # #

Ward had fixed dinner; it was simple, soup and sandwiches...nothing that he couldn't do with just one arm. Coulson had called him to talk to the younger scientists, who had opted to stay at Stark Tower for the night. Grant had been amused to listen to them prattle on about all the gadgets that they were able to test out. Assured that they were safe, he'd been able to eat enough to satisfy Phil's watchful eye...to the amusement of Trip and May. After a quick clean up, May and Trip had opted to go to the rec room and spar...the two seeming to sense Ward's need to spend time with the director without anyone else present.

Ward retrieved his deck of cards from the lounge area, then glanced at Coulson. "Where would you prefer we go?"

"I would be comfortable anywhere," Coulson replied. "Where would you feel the most comfortable? We could go to one of our bunks, or one of the other rooms."

Ward bit his lip, "I don't mind either, really...although I kind of would like somewhere I can...um...lie on my stomach." He blushed faintly. He'd managed to hide it for the most part- at least he thought he had- but sitting down at dinner had been very uncomfortable.

Coulson smiled sympathetically, placing a hand gently on Ward's shoulder. "Why don't we use your bunk, then?" He began guiding Ward in that direction.

Walking into his bunk, Ward moved the small end table to where they could use it for laying the cards down and then carefully lay down on his stomach. He then held the pack of cards in his hand awkwardly, before giving Coulson a sheepish smile. "I didn't think this through very well....You're gonna have to do all the shuffling and dealing, I'm afraid."

Coulson took the cards with a warm smile. "That isn't a problem. Is there a particular game you'd like to play?" He sat down, close to Ward.

Ward wrinkled his nose thoughtfully. "I don't really know that many card games. I remember Go Fish from when I was a kid and I learned Poker at the academy..." he admitted ruefully.

"There are games I can teach you... or we could play one of those," Coulson suggested. "It's your choice."

Grant glanced up at Phil, almost shyly. "Would you teach me one?" The idea of being able to learn something from the man he was learning to admire more and more every day was too good of an opportunity to pass up.

Coulson smiled. "Of course." He began explaining the rules of one of the card games he'd enjoyed when he had people to play with.

Ward lost track of time as he and Coulson played several hands of the game Phil had taught him. He even managed to win a few rounds before the events of the day finally caught up to and overwhelmed him. He tried not to, but soon was yawning into the back of his hand. He glanced at Phil with a chagrined look. "Sorry, sir..." he mumbled.

Coulson shook his head, reaching out to gently rub Ward's back. "You've had a long day. Don't apologise for it catching up with you. You should sleep. We can spend some more time together tomorrow."

"I...I've liked this," he admitted hesitantly, motioning between Phil and himself and the cards.

Carefully standing up off the bed, he looked down at his clothing. He wrinkled his nose at it, realizing he probably should have changed before giving his shoulder time to stiffen further. He knew Coulson had all but demanded he ask for help if he needed it, but it was a bit humbling to have to admit he needed help dressing (or undressing) himself. He toed off his shoes and debated sleeping in his jeans.

"I've liked it as well," Coulson said honestly. "And I think we should do it more often." He waited a beat and then spoke in a gentle tone. "I can help you dress so you're more comfortable."

Grant blushed but nodded. "Yeah, I....I think I need help. My arm's a bit stiff," he admitted.

Coulson nodded and stepped over to help Grant with his clothes, careful to make sure he didn't pull on the younger man's sore arm.

With Phil's help, they'd managed to get Ward's t-shirt off with minimal pulling on his injuries. Luckily, Grant had some pyjamas that were button down instead of another t-shirt and he could pull it on with little difficulty; even if he needed help with the buttons.

He was actually dreading removing his jeans more. While the t-shirt had been stretchy and fairly loose, his jeans were snug and NOT stretchy. There was no way to remove them without rubbing against his still smarting backside.

"You'll probably feel better to change out of those jeans," Coulson said, even though he understood Ward's reluctance to do so. "Pyjama trousers are looser and won't chafe so much." Watching the younger man's reactions carefully to make sure Ward didn't feel like he was overstepping some boundaries, Coulson moved to help him with his jeans.

Ward held his breath when Coulson moved closer to help remove the jeans. He didn't feel uncomfortable...he knew the other man didn't have any inappropriate feelings or intentions...and it wasn't like Phil hadn't seen his naked butt before...but he just really wasn't looking forward to the material chafing against his sore skin.

He supposed that's what he got for deciding to go commando that morning in lieu of doing laundry. Grimacing, he unbuttoned the jeans one handed and then turned slightly to at least give himself a little privacy. Mooning, he could deal with; the Full Monty, not so much.

Coulson knew that Ward wasn't comfortable and he helped as quickly and carefully as he could. He wasn't surprised to see the bruises on Ward's butt, but he did wish it hadn't been necessary to be that severe. Squeezing Ward's shoulder gently, he found a pair of pyjama trousers. "I'm sorry it was necessary to be so severe," he said out loud.

Ward smiled crookedly, stepping into the pyjama pants and letting Coulson pull them up, realizing that attempting it one handed would only drag out the proceedings. "I'm sorry I put myself into a situation that left you no choice but to be severe..." He turned back toward Phil and wrapped his good arm around the man in a tight hug.

"I don't blame you," he said.

Coulson slipped his arms around Ward, pulling him in close. "I'm willing to do whatever it takes to save you. I can regret the necessity of certain actions, but not the end result." He gently stroked over Ward's hair and back. "Letting you go isn't an option."

Ward couldn't help but snuggle closer into the embrace...every time Phil hugged him, he seemed to regress to an affection starved child. He knew the older man didn't look down on him for it, though, and even encouraged it in some instances.

The gentle strokes against his back and hair were relaxing and he was in danger of falling asleep on his feet, in Coulson's arms. Reluctantly, he pulled away, then crawled onto his bed, on his stomach.

He bit his lip, asking hesitantly, "If I have a...bad dream...?"

"You can call me over the comm if you need me, for anything." Coulson sat down next to the bed, reaching out to gently stroke Ward's back once more. "If you don't want the others to hear, you can always switch to a different frequency."

Ward gave Coulson a sleepy smile, the gentle affection putting him to sleep. He blinked his eyes in an attempt to stay awake, not wanting the night to end. "...Ksir," he mumbled, reaching out blindly and grasping the hem of Phil's shirt before he was out like a light.

Coulson knew that he could get up and leave Ward to sleep, but he felt the need to stay, if only for a little while longer. His reasoning was partly because he wanted to be there in case Ward had a nightmare... but also because he wanted to reassure himself that his surrogate son was safe.



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