Author's Note: This fanfic was written as a RPG – role playing game between co-authors Hope1iz and BlackFox12 (aka Cat). Set after the end of the series finale. This is the second story in the “Redeeming Grant” series. Ward needs rescued.
Disclaimer: We don't own anything from the television series Marvel: Agents of SHIELD and we're not making any money from this fic
Warning(s): Dubiously consensual spanking of an adult by his boss; SPOILERS for the entire first season of Marvel: Agents of SHIELD; mention of past beating
Co-Author’s Website: BlackFox12's fanfiction.net page


REDEEMING GRANT
BRINGING THE FAMILY TOGETHER


Coulson dropped the comm back on the table in front of him and sighed wearily. Since he'd gone to see Grant that first time, he'd made sure to keep tabs on his former agent. He'd been visiting as often as he could, but even when he wasn't able to visit, he'd called in enough favours to make sure he knew what was going on... and that he knew the beatings had stopped.

Unfortunately, Coulson should have made sure Grant was better protected. He'd been concerned with protecting everyone else from HYDRA, but it hadn't occurred to him that they'd target Grant, as much as it should have done.

There wasn't anything else Coulson could conceive of doing. He had to go after Grant. He'd promised the other man he wouldn't abandon him and he fully intended to keep that promise. He just... wasn't looking forward to explaining himself to the rest of the team.

May would be the easiest to convince - and also the one Coulson would take with him to rescue Grant. As he left his office, that was who he was looking for.

May didn't look at Coulson as he entered into the cockpit, keeping her eyes on the monitors and controls that assured her they were still cloaked and not detectable to local surveillance. Even not looking at him, however, she could tell something was wrong. He brought an air of worry and frustration with him- she could feel herself tensing up just being next to him.

"What happened?" she asked calmly, her tone dry.

Coulson glanced briefly at the controls, partly to check they were in the correct position... but also to give himself a chance to word his thoughts. "I told you I was keeping tabs on Ward." Actually, May had been the only one he'd told that. He didn't think the others would understand his decision.

"HYDRA has him." Coulson waited to see what May's reaction to that would be before he said anything else.

May stilled for the barest of a second, before giving a slight nod in Coulson's direction. She knew how Coulson felt about the other man...that he viewed Ward as misguided, wayward, in need of guidance that he was willing to provide.

She knew the younger members of the team hadn't been told of Coulson's reconnection with their ex-teammate. They viewed the other man as a traitorous POS who deserved every bad thing he'd gotten. May had felt that way, too, when she'd first discovered Ward's deception. It was why she'd beaten him so severely when they'd finally caught up to him and Garrett- and why'd he'd needed reconstructive surgery on his larynx. (Coulson never said how Ward sounded when they talked to each other. She wondered if his voice had returned back to normal.)

She liked to believe her own views of her ex-lover were more pragmatic. While at first she'd been filled with the same furious anger at what she perceived as the ultimate betrayal...a few months of running from the authorities and time to think had given her a different perspective. Before the age of fifteen, Ward hadn't had the best of lives. Once Garrett had gotten his hooks into him and 'indebted' him, Ward's loyalty had always been to Garrett. If Garrett hadn't been a traitorous bastard, Ward would have likely been content to be faithful to SHIELD for the rest of his career.

So truthfully- knowing that his loyalty had always been to Garrett and that everything he'd done had been to promote Garrett's wishes- she couldn't say Ward was a traitor. A pitiful child with an inability to know right from wrong and a seriously bad judge of character, perhaps. A duplicitous weasel with no backbone to speak of, more than likely. A dangerous loose cannon who she wouldn't trust as far as she could throw him- if Coulson didn't hold the reigns- most definitely. Speaking of Coulson....

"You're going after your boy, then?" Her tone was non-confrontational and not really a question.

"I won't leave him in their hands." If Ward was nothing more than a traitor, then Coulson would perhaps feel differently. But he'd seen there was more to the other man than his traitorous actions. The time he'd spent with Ward had awakened the protective instinct he always felt towards the members of his team.

"Can I count on you for help?" Coulson didn't want to just assume... or force anyone to help him; though it would be harder to rescue Ward if he was alone.

Just because she'd come to view Ward as less a traitor and more a 'spy' that had infiltrated the organization she'd dedicated her life to didn't mean May had forgiven Ward. As far as she was concerned, HYDRA breaking him out was just putting him back with the people who he'd aligned himself to...well- the people Garrett had aligned them both to. With Garrett's death, it was hard to say exactly who Ward aligned with. Coulson, however, was determined that Ward would realign himself with him and with SHIELD and would somehow redeem himself. And the exasperating man would go to rescue his younger charge with or without May's help, so better that he had her help so that he'd survive the encounter.

"I have your back...I hope you know that." She eyed him sideways, remembering how hurt he'd been when he'd discovered her own duplicitous actions in reporting on him to Fury and Maria. Granted, her actions had only been to insure his health and mental well-being after the whole T.A.H.I.T.I. situation- but she'd still hid things from him. He'd forgiven her, but it hurt that he had to ask if she was on his side.

Coulson nodded. "I know." And he did. He felt like he had to ask about it, though, even if he had a very good idea of what May's response would be. He sighed, feeling something of a weight lift from him, though he would still be worried until he could get Ward safely back and where he could take care of the younger man.

"I don't suppose you'll help me break this news to the others?"

May grimaced, but there was a faint hint of amusement tugging at the corners of her mouth. "You faced down a Norse demi-god, any number of evil men intent on killing you, Fury... and you don't want to face your team to tell them your big secret? Wow. He's human after all..." Her teasing was gentle.

Sighing softly, she nodded her head and put the Bus on auto-pilot. "I said I had your back...I've got it in every situation. Even with unhappy kiddies who don't understand what 'Daddy's' 'big picture' is."

Coulson smiled, truly relieved to have May backing him up. With her on his side, he felt they had a chance to rescue Ward. "I don't blame them - or you - for feeling betrayed. But I know there's more to him." He'd looked into Ward's face and seen his reaction when he'd learned Fitz and Simmons were still alive, after all.

May nodded, leaving unsaid her hope that Coulson was right and that Ward didn't prove the rest of them right and her commanding officer wrong. Instead, she stepped back to let him lead the way to where the rest of the team was congregating. When he stepped into the room and everyone looked up at him, May made sure to stand just to his right, behind his shoulder so that it was obvious she was supporting him.

Simmons glanced at the two of them, a hint of confusion in her eyes. "What's going on? You both look very serious...."

Coulson wasn't a coward and when he had to make hard decisions, he didn't have many problems with justifying himself. But as he looked around at the remaining members of his team, he wondered if he really had the right to ask them for their support after what they'd been through.

Still, he was unwilling to lie to them.

"A short time ago, I went to see Grant Ward. When I talked to him, I felt he was remorseful for his actions and when we talked, that feeling was confirmed. I planned to help him become a true, trusted member of SHIELD... but he has now been taken by HYDRA."

Jemma's mouth dropped open in surprise and her gaze immediately flew to Fitz. Fitz, who had spent several long agonizing weeks in ICU recovering from nearly drowning, due to Ward's sending them to the bottom of the ocean. Fitz, who even now, suffered moments where his memory just wasn't as sharp or focused. Fitz whose lungs still weren't at 100 percent and would always be at risk for bronchial issues. Her gaze then slipped to Skye- who had fallen in love with the traitor- before she turned furious eyes on Coulson.

"No...just...whatever it is you want to do. No! Not after...after..." Her voice choked up and she clenched her fists, glancing at Fitz and Skye, hoping for support from their direction. May was standing behind Coulson, which indicated he'd already gained her support. She wasn't sure what Trip was thinking- his normally open and honest face was carefully closed and hiding his feelings.

"I won't ask any of you to come with me to rescue him," Coulson said, well understanding how Jemma felt. "I can tell you what I've personally observed of him. Not everything he did was an act. He was led by a stronger person who had only his own best interests at heart."

Fitz opened his mouth, but hesitated over what he'd been about to say, instead turning to his fellow scientist. "He's still Ward." Although Fitz was hurt, badly, by Ward's betrayal, the other man had helped them more than once, including saving Simmons from certainly dying. And he never had to do that...

Skye shook her head. "We could never trust him again."

"I'm not asking you to," Coulson said. "I'm asking you to trust me. If I believed there was any danger to any of you, I wouldn't bring him here."

Jemma's face would have been comical, if May hadn't sympathized so fully with her. As it was, the younger girl's voice took on a plaintive whine as she complained, "That's not fair! Of course I trust you. I just..." Jemma swallowed and glanced toward Skye- who had agreed with her so readily- and then Fitz, who steadfastly and loyally wanted to believe there was still good in Ward, despite the older man's actions.

She looked toward Trip, but he held both hands up in a motion clearly indicating he wanted to be left out of it. "I understand how you feel, Simmons, but part of me can't help but hope that Coulson is right, too. I mean- Ward and I were rookies together. Garrett was both of our S.O. when we first started out. We were friends. Can't help but hope that it wasn't all a complete lie....Bad enough I got suckered by Garrett. Hate to think Ward thoroughly suckered me as well...." He shrugged.

Simmons knew that Trip was really saying he hoped that the friendship he'd thought he'd had wasn't a complete lie, but decided to be obstinate and focus on the words said instead. Huffing, she rolled her eyes. "Fine. I'll trust you and I'll go along with whatever is decided.... But let me just say that if the only reason you all want to believe so strongly in Ward is because you don't like the idea of being fooled by more than one person...that's just stupid. All of SHIELD pretty much got fooled and screwed over by all of HYDRA, so... really." Crossing her arms defensively over her chest, Simmons flopped down on the nearest stool with an irritated snort.

This could have gone... a lot worse. Coulson knew this didn't indicate things were going to be easy; not at all. Bringing Ward here would likely cause more tempers to flare. Aware that Skye was the only one who hadn't yet capitulated, Coulson turned to her, knowing how hurt and betrayed the other woman felt.

"I don't want him brought here without some form of protection for... everyone else," Skye said quietly.

Coulson nodded in understanding. "I have another of those bracelets in my office." He didn't specify which bracelet he meant; Skye would understand, he was sure.

Skye gave a kind of jerky nod, but didn't say anything more.

Trip watched everything quietly until it appeared that the girls had reluctantly decided to agree. He wasn't sure what to think- but he could understand Fitz's comment. Trip was positive not everything Ward had done had been an act- and they had been friends. He'd lost too many of those to give up on one who might be salvageable. Turning to Coulson, he asked, "So where do we start the search?"

"He wasn't taken that long ago and I suspect they'll interrogate him," Coulson answered - though Ward wouldn't know much to tell them. "I suggest we start close to the building he was held in and gradually widen our search area."

May nodded, then turned to head back to the cockpit. "You heard the man. I'll look for a safe spot to land the 'Bus'."

Simmons sighed, then turned and began readying her bag. Who knew what they might run into on this little jaunt? Ward better appreciate it, was all she could think.

# # #


Ward glanced at Raina as they walked down the hall. To say he had been surprised when he'd been taken from his cell for another meeting, only to have the guard - a new guard who had only been at the facility for three days - take him down a hall that he'd never been through before and out onto a loading dock where he'd been hustled into a non-descript van...well, that was an understatement of the highest caliber. He'd learned at a very young age how to hide his emotions though (although Coulson seemed to be able to draw them out of him better than anyone he'd ever met), so it took little effort to affect a non-concerned and apathetic demeanor.

They'd pulled up to an abandoned warehouse (and really, how cliché was that?) and Raina had met him at the back of the van- chiding the men who'd taken him for not undoing the shackles. She was leading him deeper into the interior of the building now and had yet to explain exactly why they'd sprung him from prison, or what they wanted from him.

Inside, he was worried. He didn't know a whole lot about anything, beyond what Garrett had wanted him to take care of. HYDRA wasn't known for their patience- or for keeping people alive who weren't useful. He hoped Raina let something slip soon; he needed to form a plan for how to act and what to do or say.

# # #

May nodded at Trip and Coulson before slipping through the door of the warehouse. It hadn't been as difficult to figure out where they had taken Ward as one would have thought. HYDRA had apparently paid off enough people at the prison that it hadn't been advertised to the public that he had 'escaped' or was even missing and she suspected that the agents who had taken him hadn't realized how closely Coulson was keeping tabs on the younger man- hence not covering their trail very well. It was only a matter of moments (and carefully rendering whatever guards they ran across inoperable by whatever means necessary) before they'd found a tiny room with a cot. It wasn't locked; Ward was lying on the bed with his arm across his eyes.

"Back so soon?" His voice held no inflection, so it was hard to tell what exactly he was thinking or feeling. She wondered who he thought he was talking to, but didn't say anything- glancing at Coulson, a question in her eyes.

It wasn't easy to tell if the room was trapped, but given how little resistance they'd run into, Coulson thought it was unlikely. Still, he was carefully on his guard as he nodded to May and stepped forward, moving over to the cot and pausing close to Ward's side - though he didn't reach out to touch the other man.

"Do you want to come with us? Or would you rather stay in HYDRA's clutches?"

Ward jumped like a scalded cat and scrambled off the cot and to the end, unconsciously placing his back to the wall and standing in a defensive posture before his shock at hearing Coulson's voice calmed enough for him to realize what he was doing. Once he did, he slowly straightened up and willed himself to calm. He hoped the room was dark enough that the older man couldn't see the telling blush cross his face.

"You came for me..." He couldn't help the sense of wonder that snuck into his tone. "And you brought company..." His eyes widened fractionally as he noticed May and Trip standing behind Coulson, their faces unreadable.

Coulson didn't move as Ward jumped back and away, waiting patiently for the other man to calm down... though, to be honest, they didn't really have that time. "I told you I wouldn't abandon you," he said simply. "May and Trip came to help me break you out. Do you know why HYDRA took you?" He needed the information, but he watched Ward carefully, trying to see if the other man was harmed.

Ward blinked. He'd not really believed that Coulson would follow through on all his claims of sticking with Ward and not abandoning him- but here the man was, doing exactly as he'd promised. He swallowed and decided to answer truthfully, just to see what it got him.

"Raina...she'd heard that I couldn't speak anymore and thought killing two birds with one stone would be a good idea..." His eyes darted toward May when he spoke of his ability to speak, but he didn't address her.

He looked back at Coulson. He didn't say that the woman had used a serum on him that she'd made using the previous research from the serum Garrett had used. He also didn't say that he was worried about his own mental state- he wasn't sure if it had been the serum that caused Garrett to go bat-shit crazy, or if the man had already been there and Ward just hadn't noticed. May and Trip seemed to be willingly helping Coulson at the moment, but if they thought there was a chance Ward would go insane, that help could dry up real quick.

Coulson could tell that he wasn't getting the full story and while under other circumstances, he would normally wait until they were back on the plane to question Ward further, he needed to know exactly what had happened.

And if anything was done to Ward he needed to know about.

They still didn't have time for this, but Coulson held eye contact with Ward and allowed his concern to show through as he spoke. "Did she do anything to you? I need to know if so, so I can help you."

Ward winced and debated denying that anything had happened, but decided someone needed to know- just in case he started behaving erratically.

"She remade the serum...the one Garrett used to heal his wound and that was supposed to make the super-soldiers. She used it on me because 'I needed to have my throat healed so I could talk again.' If it fixed my larynx, then she'd assume she got the healing part right."

Grant couldn't help the smirk that formed on his lips. "I never said anything to her, so she didn't know I wasn't as damaged as she was led to believe."

Coulson nodded slowly as Ward finished speaking. "Do you know where the serum is?" It was too dangerous to leave in Raina's hands - and if they could take the serum and the formula away from her, he could either have it destroyed, or tested in far safer ways.

Thinking about it, Coulson would prefer to keep it for testing - just in case Ward began suffering from any ill effects.

Ward shrugged faintly. "She gave it to me in an area that had been set up as a lab- maybe one floor up..."

Coulson nodded. "Ward, I want you to go with Trip and wait somewhere safely away from here until I make contact with you. May..." He turned to her. "I need you to come with me."

Ward's mouth dropped open in preparation to protest, but then he closed it with a snap. Coulson obviously didn't trust him enough to have his back.

He wasn't sure if Coulson assigning Trip as his guard was due to him thinking Trip was equipped to handle him if he caused problems, or because he was afraid May would do bodily harm to him. He supposed it didn't matter.

Nodding in reluctant acceptance, he motioned to Trip. "Lead the way...."

Coulson had a fairly good idea of what Ward was likely thinking, but he couldn't afford to take any more time than they had already. So far, they'd been fortunate, but Coulson couldn't imagine their presence here would continue to go unnoticed... and certainly not now that they had Ward with them.

Still, Coulson contented himself with addressing both Trip and Ward with his next comments. "Stay safe. Don't take any chances. If I don't make contact in fifteen minutes, get to the plane."

It was second nature to give the orders and expect them to be obeyed, even by Ward. Coulson turned to May. "Let's go."

"Got it," Trip agreed.

Ward just nodded wordlessly and followed the other man out.

They kept quiet, heading toward where they would exit the building once Coulson and May met up with them. All would have been fine, if Ward had not seen inside one of the rooms they were passing and glimpsed a computer that was logged into some obviously sensitive information.

Ward looked around furtively, wondering where the owner of said computer had gone. It was only a matter of seconds for him to decide to take advantage of the situation.

"Come on, man..." Trip muttered in agitation. "We don't have time to go snooping...."

Ward ignored him. If he found viable and valuable information, maybe he could make himself useful enough that the others would tolerate him, if not trust him. Plus, he could pay Coulson back for his help.

# # #


Although they'd managed to pick up the serum and the formula, things had very nearly gone wrong when an alarm had sounded, drawing the attention of the guards in the building to the presence of intruders. Coulson had to expend quite a lot of ammunition just to get to where Trip had taken Ward - and it took maybe half a second for Coulson to realise that Ward had inadvertently triggered said alarm when he'd gone after information that, while helpful, wasn't needed.

Coulson didn't say a word until they reached the plane. Moving to Ward's side, he dropped a hand lightly on the younger man's shoulder. "My office." He'd had time to calm down during their trip back to the plane, but he was clearly very unhappy.

Ward hadn't said anything on the entire trip back to the Bus. When the alarm had gone off, Ward had known immediately it was his fault and, cursing violently, had begun attempting damage control- attempting to insure that HYDRA wouldn't know exactly what files he had accessed. He'd finally turned back to Trip and motioned with his head that he was ready to start back in the direction the other man had been heading before Ward had been distracted. He wasn't surprised to find Coulson and May reaching them just as he was heading out the door. He didn't say anything, his guilt more than clear enough for everyone. Trip hadn't said anything either, but the irritated and accusing glances he kept sending Ward's way were enough to convey his feelings. May had only given him a brief, knowing stare- keeping what she felt hidden. Coulson, however; Ward knew Coulson was furious.

He was, quite frankly, hoping that the man would blow up at him and yell when they got to a safe place, but he hadn't. Ward stiffened at the hand that was placed on his shoulder. This was it, then. This was when Coulson would decide he wasn't worth the risk and….what exactly? It wasn't like they would take him back to jail- there were too many HYDRA agents, or people just plain willing to be paid off, for him to be left there. It took him a few seconds longer than he would have liked to admit for Coulson's command to register. When it did, he stiffened even more, but nodded briskly, his eyes darting to somewhere on the other man's chest, just below Coulson's chin. He couldn't face the man just yet. "Yes, sir," he said quietly and was thankful when his voice didn't come out sounding scared or like a little boy's- although he wasn't far from feeling either.

Keeping his hand on Ward's shoulder, Coulson used that touch to guide Ward in the direction of the office. The younger members of the team weren't anywhere to be seen. Coulson assumed they were going to stay out of the way for now.

That couldn't last, but right now, Coulson needed to give Ward his undivided attention.

Reaching the door, Coulson opened it and ushered Ward inside. "Have a seat," he directed, taking his own advice and sitting in his chair.

Ward let himself be led through the corridors and into the office, noting how quickly Trip and May disappeared- likely going to join Fitz, Simmons and Skye to tell them how he'd almost got their three teammates captured by HYDRA. Once again, he had to wonder at the forgiving nature of Coulson and how the man was willing to save him and bring him 'back home', despite the fact that he was nothing but trouble.

He kept quiet, deciding that the best course of action would not be to try and defend his actions- they really weren't defensible, even if his intentions in this case had been good. Coulson had told Trip and him to find a safe location and wait for May and him. Trip would have done as ordered if Ward hadn't allowed himself to be distracted by potential information that he could use to gain trust or secure safety for himself.

When Coulson told him to sit, he did so quickly and without argument, his eyes falling automatically to the edge of Coulson's desk- still not able to face the man, but not wanting to look like an errant child by looking at the floor. The quiet couldn't have been going on for more than a few seconds after they entered the office, but despite his intentions to not try and defend himself, Ward found he couldn't let it stay quiet. "Coulson, I..." He faltered realizing he didn't have a clue what to say next.

Coulson waited, but when it seemed like Ward wasn't going to continue, he glanced at the door to make sure it was closed; at least to offer the illusion of privacy. He then focused on Ward once more, pausing before speaking. "When I give you an order, I have reasons for doing so. In this instance, I wanted to make sure you were safe and out of the way. I had no idea how the serum could have affected you and we could have been in even more danger if you'd collapsed." Coulson didn't raise his voice, but the weight behind his words were heavy.

Ward swallowed hard and didn't try to hide his wince at Coulson's words. "I...was attempting to..." His voice wavered slightly. "It doesn't matter what I was trying to do..." he finally admitted and reluctantly looked up into Coulson's eyes. "I disobeyed you and I caused more problems."

He let his eyes drop again, this time staring at the floor like the errant child he had been trying to avoid looking like.

"I know you were looking for information that could be useful," Coulson said. "But you did disobey me - and in this instance, it wasn't for a good reason." He paused, but only to gather his thoughts before continuing on. "An official punishment is impractical, since you're not supposed to be staying here. So I am going to spank you."

Ward couldn't say he was surprised. There really wasn't a whole lot that Coulson could do to show his displeasure with his actions. The fact that the man hadn't taken him straight to some new version of 'the Fridge' was more than he deserved. Even so, he felt like he should argue against the punishment. He wasn't a child and couldn't help but wonder at the fact that Coulson kept using what was traditionally viewed as a child's punishment. Then he thought about what he'd done again and how things could have gone drastically different and found he couldn't justify himself enough to argue.

"I understand..." he answered in a soft voice and forced himself to look back up again, "…Where do you want me....?"

"The same way as last time will be sufficient." Coulson moved back slightly from the table, to give them both enough room to move. Just to make things clear, he held eye contact with Ward as he added, "When this is finished, that's it. I'm not going to shut you out or ground you." Although he would need to discuss with Ward about how to handle the rest of the team.

Ward nodded, embarrassed at how relieved he was at the older man's words- never even thinking to disbelieve them. Coulson said it, so it must be true. He gave the other man a very tiny smile, before nerves took over. It wasn't that he was afraid of the spanking; he already knew it was more than bearable. He wasn't particularly worried about anyone else knowing; their opinion of him couldn't get much lower than it already was. He just didn't particularly want to start crying like a baby in front of Coulson again. To his chagrin, the other man's opinion of him was becoming more and more important.

Promising himself that he'd take his punishment like a man, he stood and walked around the table, standing by Coulson's knee. Without being told, he pushed down his jeans then bent over his disciplinarian’s lap, lowering himself and then bracing one hand on the floor and wrapping the other around Coulson's leg. He couldn't help but tense up in anticipation. "Does it matter that I know I was wrong?" he asked hoarsely, hoping for a small bit of leniency.

Coulson placed one hand on Ward's back, giving a brief, gentle rub. "I know you understand that, but the team's safety is something that needs to be taken seriously. That means, out in the field, you don't go against my orders. If you disagree with something I tell you to do, then tell me." Coulson was aware of the need to encourage Ward to start thinking for himself, but there were certain situations Coulson needed him to follow orders.

Resting one arm over Ward's waist, Coulson eased his underwear down before delivering the first smack to the other man's bare butt.

It was the gentle rubbing on his back that did him in- Ward was certain of it. The minute Coulson gave that small bit of affection, Ward knew he wasn't going to get leniency- the lowering of his underwear confirmed the fact- but what little fight Ward planned to put up (even if the fight took the form of not responding) drained out of him. He allowed himself to go limp and accept whatever he got.

The sting of the first smack wasn't a surprise, but it still caused a tiny distressed squeak. Ward blushed darkly at producing such a sound.

Coulson wasted little time, lifting his hand once more and allowing it to fall in a matching swat on the other side. He didn't spank Ward any harder than he had the last time, but he settled quickly into a rhythm. Remembering Ward's attempts to control his reactions last time, Coulson abandoned a methodical approach and let the swats fall without any obvious tell as to where the next one would land.

Ward winced, biting back any further embarrassing noises, although he couldn't hold back the quick inhalations of breath as he prepared for each swat- or the even quicker exhalations of breath as his preparation was for naught. Coulson was making certain he had no clue when or where a swat would fall...preparing for it was impossible. He tried to remain limp and accepting of the punishment, but it didn't take long for his body to decide that he was an idiot...He was soon squirming in an attempt to lessen the sharp sting that was slowly building to a burn.

About the only thing he was able to remain in control of was his crying- but even that was an effort. He found himself blinking more and more frequently in an attempt to keep tears from forming. Clenching his teeth, he swallowed a whimper when one of the swats landed on a spot that had received attention several times already. He didn't notice when his grip on Coulson's leg tightened, or when he started to hold his breath.

Just as he had before, Coulson completed two further circuits before he shifted Grant forward slightly, beginning to focus more swats to his sit spots and also including his upper thighs in the hard swats - still not unbearably so, but with a little more force behind them.

When his hearing started getting fuzzy, Ward finally drew in several ragged breaths. It was becoming more and more difficult not to give voice to his discomfort, but he was determined not to react like a child. He kept his eyes tightly closed and tried to focus on not crying and not begging Coulson to stop.

Coulson began focusing more of the swats to Grant's sit spots and thighs, knowing that the other man was struggling not to give in, but determined he was going to finish this properly. He wanted the lesson to stick in Grant's mind - that acting alone wasn't acceptable; that he couldn't let Coulson believe he would follow orders, only to disobey them when it suited him.

Not slowing the swats, Coulson began speaking those words to Grant, reiterating that they needed to act as a team and that he needed to know where Grant was while they were on a mission.

Ward thought he was going to succeed in his efforts and that he might actually make it through the ordeal without losing control. He thought that until Coulson started speaking. It wasn't that Coulson was saying anything terribly harsh, or anything that Ward didn't already know. But when Coulson spoke of Ward not letting him believe he'd follow orders and then doing the exact opposite, all Ward could think about was how he'd led Coulson to believe he was a loyal member of his team- only to turn on the team as soon as Garrett demanded it. Familiar guilt slammed into him, causing him to begin to shiver.

He gripped onto Coulson's leg more tightly yet, a tiny whimpering whine forming in the back of his throat, choking him in his effort not to let go.

Coulson fell silent for a few moments more, completing another full circuit of swats before speaking once again. "I'm willing to put myself on the line for you, Grant, and I always will - but you have to help me too. You have to help prove that I'm right and that you can return to being a valued part of this team." He didn't say 'instead of a traitor', but then again, he probably didn't have to.

Ward clenched his teeth again, Coulson's words washing over him; they were words that really deserved a response, but Ward knew if he said anything at all, it would be over. Any chance he had of getting through the discipline without falling apart would be over. But if the choice was to remain silent and let Coulson think what he was doing had no effect on him, or respond and leave no doubt about the fact that he was completely affected- well, there really was no choice. He couldn't ignore Coulson's overture of trust.

"Y..you're right.... You...I....oh g..." Ward gulped and began to shake as his tenuous control broke and he gave his tears voice. He tried to regain control so he could speak, but instead of regaining control, he found he was becoming more out of control; the intensity of the emotions washing over him were frightening.

"C...Coulson, I...." he panicked. Taking his hand from off the floor, he grabbed hold of Coulson's leg with both arms and held on, dizzy and hyperventilating. "I'm so..so..." he choked.

Coulson stopped, immediately, and just as he had the first time, he tugged and pulled until he had Ward in his arms, more on his lap than anything else. One hand gently rubbed the other man's back as he spoke softly to him. "Breathe. I have you. It's all right."

It took Ward several attempts of raggedly drawing in breath, but it wasn't until he pressed his ear to Coulson's chest, grasping desperately at the man, and listened to the older man's breathing that he was finally able to calm enough to breathe right himself. He didn't know how much time passed, but eventually his body stopped shaking, the tears slowed, and the sudden terror he had felt ebbed with the sounds of Coulson's breathing and heartbeat. He closed his eyes in shame at the loss of control and shivered again.

Now that he was calmer, he could tell that the difficulty with breathing wasn't entirely gone, although he was managing. He still felt a bit choked up...and warm...and his head ached a little. Although that could just be after effects of the crying.

Coulson continued holding onto Grant, feeling worried about the other man. Freeing one hand, he placed it gently against Grant's forehead, noticing how warm the other man felt - and although Grant had been crying, Coulson didn't think it was quite at the level of heat he could feel. "How are you feeling?" he asked gently.

Ward let out an unhappy laugh and shuddered. "Ashamed of myself?" he said brokenly, before taking a deep breath and forcing himself to pull away from Coulson. Standing on wobbly legs, he pulled up his clothing, not hiding a wince.

"A bit...shaky. Hot. Breathing is still a little difficult...my head hurts..." he admitted softly, knowing that as much as he didn't want to seem weak, Coulson wouldn't be happy with him if he came down sick and hadn't warned the other man of the problems.

Coulson frowned, eyeing the other man worriedly. "They could be side effects from the serum. I'll ask Fitz and Simmons to run some tests on it." He stood up, placing a hand gently on Ward's shoulder and squeezing lightly. "If the symptoms get worse, I want you to tell me straight away."

Ward nodded wearily, too tired to argue- and not terribly inclined to do so even if he wasn't tired. Not when he suspected Coulson wouldn't hesitate to spank him if he hid things about his health. "Yes, sir..." he added belatedly then rubbed at his eyes.

He slumped slightly, leaning toward Coulson- encouraged by the fact that he'd kept his hand on his shoulder. "What do you want me to do now?" he asked hesitantly.

"I want you to rest," Coulson replied immediately. "You aren't in prison anymore, so you should be able to relax. Your room hasn't been changed, so you don't need to worry about that." He slid his arm around Ward's shoulders, both as comfort and to support him. "Later, when you feel better, we'll talk about how you can handle the rest of the team."

Ward blinked in surprise and gave Coulson a hesitant look. "The others....they aren't going to want me free on the ship while they sleep...a...are you sure you don't want me in the holding cell? I can sleep there easily enough...it's still better than prison..." His voice trailed off, not wanting to argue with Coulson- not really feeling up to an argument- but not wanting to cause any more problems between Coulson and the rest of the team.

He swallowed, "....sides. I...I've been having dreams...might be better if I'm somewhere soundproofed anyway." He hated having to reveal yet another weakness.

"No, Grant," Coulson replied firmly. "I'm not going to put you in the holding cell. I trust you enough to bring you back here. I have spoken to the others and they're willing to give you a chance. And as for dreams... don't worry about disturbing anyone. The rooms are soundproofed enough." He'd managed to keep his own dreams hidden.

Coulson's trust in him was staggering and he stopped. He didn't deserve to be trusted like Coulson was trusting him. Turning toward the man with an uncertain but grateful look, he couldn't think of anything to say other than, "Thank you". Actions would speak louder than any words- he knew that- so he promised himself that he wouldn't cause Coulson any reason to regret trusting him.

Carefully, he left the office and walked down the corridors to his room. He'd clean up later; after he'd rested as Coulson wanted.

Coulson watched, wanting to make sure Grant did go to his room and rest, and then retrieved the serum and formula information, before walking to the lab, looking for Fitz and Simmons.

Simmons had made a point of hiding in the labs when Coulson, May and Trip had returned with Ward. She hadn't wanted to look at the other man...as she was certain she would say or do something very unladylike and upset Coulson. Luckily, Fitz and Skye had decided to keep her company, as she would have felt even worse about disagreeing with Coulson if they hadn't joined her. They hadn't said anything, just busying themselves with cleaning up from the mess that was still left when Garrett had stolen the Bus, and making certain that there weren't any nasty surprises hidden for them. She had lost herself in the work, so it was a surprise when she heard the door opening.

Fitz looked up and smiled a greeting when he saw Coulson walk into the lab. "Can we do something for you?" he asked.

Coulson nodded. "I need you both to run tests on this serum." He held it up. "I need to know its effects on people..."

"Was Ward given the serum?" Skye brought Coulson's attention to her, but when he didn't say anything, she shook her head. "I might have known."

Jemma gave Skye an odd look. "What do you mean?" She took the serum from Coulson's hand and began prepping her machines to test it.

She looked at Coulson. "...and unless you have some type of documentation from the experiments already done with the serum, we can't know its effects on people without actually...you know...injecting someone with it. If Ward was injected, then he really should be under observation so we can take our own notes."

Skye just shook her head again at Jemma's question. She didn't really want to go into the details of what she knew about the serum... not at the moment, anyway.

"It's the same serum that Garrett used," Coulson answered. "I glanced through the notes... there's been some documentation of the effects on him. I sent Ward to rest. When he wakes up, you can have him under observation. He has reported symptoms more associated with a flu-like virus." He hesitated, but added, "It may also affect emotional responses."

"So he didn't act very Ward-like?" Fitz asked.

"You could say that."

"Yes...well...didn't Garrett go crazy near the end? Or was that just me projecting due to the fact that he joined the freakin HYDRA Nazis?" Simmons heard her own tone and knew she sounded a bit snide, but she was still upset about bringing in one of said HYDRA Nazis onto the ship.

"Anyway..." She sighed, trying to be nice for Coulson's sake..."I don't recall Garrett ever looking sickly while he was on the ship with us. But then, if he only took the serum right toward the end, I wouldn't have noticed anything anyway. And since you killed him before any real symptoms could manifest..."

Coulson nodded. "I know I'm asking a lot from you, but it's important that we know everything there is to know about this serum - not only for Ward's sake, but also because if HYDRA's going to use it, we need all the information possible."

"If you let me know when Ward wakes up, I'll take some samples from him," Fitz offered.

Simmons nodded, giving Coulson a tiny, guilty smile. "Ok. So...when you say he had flu symptoms, what exact symptoms are we talking about? And when you say he wasn't acting like himself and there might be an emotional component- what exactly was he doing out of character? I mean- being overly optimistic and cheery when you are normally a pessimist is out of character.... If the serum makes him extremely prone to losing his temper and being violent, that would be good to know...." She made sure to keep her questions professional. Coulson was right. This was important. She couldn't let her feelings interfere.

"He felt shaky and hot," Coulson replied. "When I felt his forehead, it seemed he might have a fever." He hesitated over continuing, but decided that it was more important to tell the information than worry about how embarrassed Ward might be that Coulson was revealing this. "He'd been hyperventilating... panicking more than becoming violent."

Fitz frowned. "What was making him hyperventilate?"

"I was discipling him at the time." If he had to, Coulson would spell it out for them - but he knew his office wasn't soundproofed and it wouldn't surprise him if both May and Trip now knew what had happened between him and Ward.

Siimmons frowned at that information. "That doesn't sound like him at all...." She gave Coulson a suspicious look. "Just what the heck did you threaten him with that would cause him to panic? I've never known Ward to become afraid that easily! Although... if it is the serum that caused him to lose control of his emotions, I guess anything could set it off." She frowned again.

"So...I think we will definitely need to observe. It might be better if you move him into a bed in here..." She bit her lip and looked toward Fitz, then Skye, for support. "If the serum is making him sick, all the medical equipment is here and since we don't know what might happen...."

Coulson nodded. "I'll see to it that he moves into a bed in here."

"I don't like the sound of that," Skye stated.

"He won't try anything, but if it makes you feel any better, I can stay in here with him. Or May or Trip could other times."

"I'm sure that's not necessary..." Fitz said.

"I would feel better if one of you stayed in here with him..." Simmons interrupted Fitz then gave him an apologetic smile. "We don't know for sure what the serum will do to him. Right now, he isn't reacting violently...but who is to say that won't change? And if he completely loses his mind- even if he was on the road to becoming a productive member of the team again, crazy people do crazy things...." She bit her lip and looked at the ground.

Fitz hesitated, but nodded. "All right. I see your point. But no restraints unless necessary, right?"

"At the moment, they won't be necessary," Coulson promised.

Simmons sighed but nodded reluctantly. "Agreed."

Coulson was about to excuse himself when he remembered the files Ward had taken from the computer. Despite the circumstances, there could still be useful information contained and he handed the disk to Skye. "See what you can get from this."

Skye nodded, taking the disk without comment.

Simmons straightened her shoulders and made a shooing motion with her hand. "Ok, then. We all have our marching orders. You should go...take a nap or something. Soon as Ward wakes, have him move into that bed over there." She motioned her head toward the bed in question.

"If I find out anything before you return...I'll let you know." She spoke the last softly and smiled at Coulson. She knew having Ward back under his 'roof', so to speak, was important to him. He liked to keep his 'kids' close. As upset as she was with Ward and as much difficulty she was having in trusting him- she didn't want him to be suffering. Wanting him to suffer just wasn't in her. She'd do whatever she could to help the other man get better.

Coulson nodded. "Thank you," he said simply. Having a nap sounded like a good idea - and after he'd rested, he could deal with any further problems that might arise.

With one last grateful look to the younger members of the team, Coulson slipped out of the lab and headed to his room.

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