all the shattered ones,
written by wickedsong.
Disclaimer/Note: I do not own AoS. Okay, so this is an idea that has been brewing for a while. It basically started with how much I hate John Garrett but actually became this when I thought about how GOOD it would have been if Coulson had found Ward instead of Garrett. I've wanted to write it for a while and then I read this really good fic that had a part with this idea and I was inspired more. A link to the fic can be found on my profile. So I started writing it, intending for it to be a oneshot. Then, it got to 3k and I decided it could be a few parts instead. So maybe three or four? I'm kind of scared to post it (I've been working on it for weeks) so hopefully it's decent enough. Hope you enjoy! (Will eventually be SkyeWard btw)
He's fifteen and in juvie the day that the man in the suit comes to visit him.
At first Grant thinks it's his parents' lawyer – a day earlier than he expected him to show up – but then he flashes a badge inconspicuously to the guard leading him by the arm. The guard's doesn't completely let go but Grant is relieved as his grip slackens.
"I've got it covered," the man in the suit says with a contemplative smile in the guard's direction.
The guard gives Grant a once over and then nods, before retreating to another side of the room in order to keep watch.
Once the guard is gone, Grant looks at the man, up and down, wondering who the hell he is. He's taken further aback when the man smiles at him, but he doesn't let his surprise show. The smile is almost welcoming but a little wary. Anyone who's come to see him would have to be wary.
"Grant Ward?" the man asks, extending a hand towards him, and tilting his head slightly.
Grant nods, but refuses to take the man's hand. He doesn't seem to take it as an insult however; only withdraws his hand and then extends it towards the table behind him.
He introduces himself as Phil Coulson as the two take a seat.
Grant decides quickly that he has to look intimidating. He isn't sure how well he pulls this off but he figures that being quiet is probably the best thing. For all he knows this guy is some detective his parents have hired to get a confession out of him.
Not that they really need the confession. There are plenty of people who can vouch for his disappearance at the school they sent him to, plenty of people who would have seen him driving the stolen car miles home, only so he could set it alight.
The one thing they don't know is if he knew his older brother was inside.
Of course he did.
The man, Coulson, studies him carefully. Maybe he's trying to size him up. If he's a cop then Grant's not stupid enough to think he can take him in a fight and somehow be in a better position than before. That's not to say he isn't stupid enough to try.
"So I guess you're wondering who I am," Coulson begins, "and what I'm doing here."
Grant remains silent.
This only seems to encourage the man seated across from him. He places his clasped hands on the table in front of him, and leans forward. "One of my colleagues," he picks that word too carefully, "got word from an old friend of his, the quartermaster at your military school. He said that you were a promising cadet, but that you went AWOL a couple of weeks ago to go back home."
He leans back now, as if passing the conversation over. Grant doesn't know what to say. So he simply refuses to say anything at all.
"I'm not here to give you into trouble. I'm not here to give you a lecture or try to get a confession out of you." Coulson sighs. "I work for an organisation interested in giving young recruits like you a chance."
"Recruits like me?"
How his parents would laugh at someone being interested in him. What does he have that this man would find useful anyway? But there's an interest that's been piqued within him, and Coulson obviously notes it too.
Grant tries to downplay it; tries to pretend he doesn't like the idea of something beyond these four walls. He's been good at not deluding himself into thinking that there was something better.
"Your parents are setting charges against you, you know? Arson and attempted murder. Your older brother is petitioning the courts to have you tried as an adult as well."
His throat clenches painfully at that. That would mean God knows how many years in a jail cell. And his brother, still alive, still taunting him from the comfort of a charred home he made into Grant's own personal hell.
"I'm not saying this to scare you, Grant."
He keeps calling him Grant. Keeps trying to make some sort of connection, and there's a part of him that finds it warm and familial and nice.
"Your actions, regardless of where they came from, have consequences." The man straightens up, adjusting his suit jacket and tie in the process. "But from this moment, you have a choice. If you choose to come with me then you'll be able to learn how to protect yourself and others. You have potential, and it could be used for good."
Grant looks at his hands. All they've ever been good for was beating up his younger brother while Maynard watched in sick delight. All they've ever done is bruise and he can't imagine a world where they help instead.
After a long moment he finally looks up at the man, who's still looking at him with an intense curiosity. It's like he knows that he doesn't feel as if he's all that good and wants to prove him wrong somehow. "Why should I trust you?"
Coulson looks like he's trying to think of a reason and then smiles. "Because you don't want to be defined by this," Coulson starts, looking around the room. "You don't want to be defined by your past and what you could have been and what you could have done if it hadn't been for the hand you'd been dealt." He holds his hands up, almost in surrender. "But you can change the story here, Grant." He looks at him, carefully. "I have business in the area, and I'll be back tomorrow. Think it over."
Coulson smiles at him once more and stands, and Grant does so too. This time when the older man holds his hand out, Grant hesitates but takes it, while something that strangely resembles hope brews in his chest.
He's whisked back to his cell, where he forgoes sleep, staring at the dark grey ceiling, as if that would somehow make the choice for him.
The first thing Coulson does is send him to sessions with a therapist. At first he's finds it to be a waste of time; time he could be using to become better; bigger and stronger, and therefore more capable. And as the sessions continue he becomes more uncomfortable with the probing nature of the questions given to him. All he wants to do is leave it behind him; in the past where it belongs, but that's what the therapist always wants to talk about.
Not that she's a horrible woman; in her mid-thirties, very pretty – and she tries to make him feel as comfortable as possible, but there's always a chill in his spine, that always comes back to a fateful day beside a well. That's as far as he sometimes gets before he can't speak anymore.
It was where the hate came from wasn't it? That nasty ache in the pit of his stomach that he could never find the courage to rid himself of. The hate that had fuelled a cross country car ride that ended in the place he had spent his childhood rising in flames as he watched. And he had watched with a morbid satisfaction that he didn't like; that he didn't want to understand.
"Maybe I can't be fixed?" he suggests to Coulson one day quietly, as they work out and the topic of his therapy comes up. He stays with Coulson, who trains him in between secret missions and meetings with the higher ups of SHIELD. "Maybe you can't save someone from themselves, sir."
Coulson stops him from hitting the punching bag and adjusts the wraps on his hand carefully. "You can if you get to them early enough." There's so much strength and conviction in Coulson's voice that Grant really wants that to be true.
He learns, eventually, that maybe it is.
It's not a lesson he learns overnight but over time.
It's when he finds out that his sister has a scholarship to an art school; that she's going to be able to get out of the hell that was their home and do something with her talent, that he realises he's had the same opportunity the entire time. Coulson had tried; had pulled strings at every level, in order to get her out of the house; to protect her the way he couldn't protect his younger brother, but it hadn't been enough. His mom and dad had fought at every turn, had claimed normalcy, had said Grant himself was the problem and now that he was gone it was fine.
No one else had argued, no one else knew, and his record spoke for itself. All Coulson could promise was a close eye on the situation and Grant had to pretend that was enough. So when he hears that his sister is going to New York for her art school; that she's going to make something for herself, he's so damn proud and he almost manages to forget it all.
The moment by the well, when he was too late to throw the rope, still defines him, still drives him. But eventually it's in a different way. It encourages him to forget the hatred – or at least as much of it as he can (he'll never be completely healed; but he can try to live with it now and he thinks that's important too) – and forge it into something useful. When he's eighteen, he tries to remember how he felt when he thought he was avenging his younger brother and is glad to find that satisfaction that weighed on his chest is gone.
He meets Agent John Garrett on his first day at SHIELD's Operations Academy, twenty-one and excited at the possibilities.
"And then this son of a gun here," Garrett says, with a laugh, as he playfully nudges Coulson, who had insisted on sending him off in between another set of missions, and another set of meetings, "decides to go and get you all for himself."
Grant is grateful to come face to face with the man who originally found out and told Coulson about him. He shakes his hand, and Garrett shakes back heartily.
"I heard you're one heck of a shot too. Hand-eye coordination off the charts, ain't that right Phil?"
Coulson gives a roll of his eyes but smiles at his friend. "Yes, John, that's what you told me." He looks over at Grant, and says it as if they've had this conversation a million times before. "But he's a lot more than a good shot. Has a knack for languages, a talent for stealth. Could be one of the best, I think.
Grant bows his head to stop the smile playing on his lips. Coulson thinks he's good, with the potential to be one of the best. He won't ever stop trying to prove that.
Coulson's not been as present as he was when he first found him years ago, giving him space and time to work on who he wants to be and how he wants to get there. He understands when Coulson let go but it was still scary – it was still making him responsible for things he wasn't sure he could be yet. But as a close confidant of Director Fury, he's a busy man and Grant takes the challenge and likes to believe he rose to it.
But the first time he flunks an assignment, badly – due to the sheer stress of it all – he's sure he's going to be kicked out of the Academy he had spent so much time trying to get into. He paces his dorm nervously, waiting for Coulson to come and tell him to pack up and find something else to do with his life. He isn't sure he could do that – not now. He could always find his sister in New York but he hasn't seen her in years either. He hasn't even spoken to her since the night he fled military school and told her to make sure she was out of the house. He panics, but when Coulson taps on his door hours later, he finds that his fears are unfounded.
There was no great consequence to come with failure. It was just something to work on, something to aspire to. Coulson doesn't see it as the kid he liberated from juvie six years ago being a mistake or liability. He doesn't tell him it was a waste of his time and he wonders how he can look at it like that.
"Hell, the amount of times Fury threatened to send me out on my ass if I screwed up one more time."
Grant gives a small laugh at this.
Coulson assures him that he's good but it doesn't send all his insecurities to the back of his mind. He wishes he wasn't still that scared kid getting told that his parents were setting charges and that his brother wanted him to be tried as an adult – but in some ways he still is and he's still working on that too.
But it eases them – traps them in a place where they're sometimes obscured – and that's good enough for now.
He does well at the Academy - he excels. It's competitive and his classmates sometimes put it down to the fact that Coulson was his mentor – implying that he gets some sort of preferential treatment from it. It makes him doubt but it also makes him work harder. He doesn't make many friends this way, and it's something that Coulson tries to encourage him to do. But whenever he tries to be sociable he either ends up saying the wrong thing or not knowing what to say at all and it all ends embarrassingly anyway.
Once he graduates he rises quickly through the ranks of SHIELD itself. He can work with other Agents but he prefers not and becomes known as somewhat of a lone wolf throughout the organisation. He's the man you send in when you want something done quietly and discreetly. Fresh out of the Academy, John Garrett approaches him once more, with an offer to work alongside him but he turns it down, preferring to keep his own company.
He's just been extracted early from a mission in Moscow when he finds out about The Battle of New York – and the cost that came with it.
Phil Coulson is pronounced dead and it's with a heavy heart that Grant finds himself beside his grave on the day of his funeral. A light drizzle pours down and he promises that he'll make this man proud – that he'll become someone that Coulson looks down upon with a smile on his face. He doesn't believe in God – or in Heaven – he never could after all was said and done – but a part of likes to pretend he does. It's a safety and a sanctuary.
It's pulled from him months later when Coulson emerges from the shadows of Maria Hill's field office, obviously alive and well.
He makes a joke about a light bulb being out in the corner and Grant just gapes at him, a ghost in front of his eyes. He wonders how he can make a joke when for months he's been dead.
"Sir?" He asks Coulson. When he only gives him a grin in return, he turns to look at Commander Hill, who gives a reluctant smirk in their direction.
"I'm putting together a team, Grant," Coulson tells him, "and I thought you'd be the perfect specialist for it."
The years hadn't completely changed his stance on people – at least not to the extent that he felt comfortable with the idea of a team.
"Sir, you know I'm not-"
"This will be good for you," assures Coulson, with a smile. "I know that you've grown used to being able to do it all on your own but…" He trails off, unsure how to phrase what Grant already knows he means.
He doesn't bring it up again. At least not until they get on the BUS – actually a SHIELD-plane and Coulson is trying to tell him a joke while he keeps his mind trained on the scientists he just met downstairs. He knows of FitzSimmons – incredibly bright individually and even better together – and a pair who failed their field assessments.
The last thing Grant needs is to be watching their backs – and then he comes face to face with The Calvary herself – Melinda May. He knows May, she and Coulson are good friends, and he's met her a few times. He's always been a bit intimidated. He knows that something happened, years ago, which caused her to leave the field, but he's never thought it to be his business, or his place to ask Coulson.
"Wheels up in five," she says, with a smile in Coulson's direction, one which he returns. She then looks over at him, nods as if to herself, and heads back in the direction of the cockpit.
Melinda May as the pilot?
"What kind of operation are you running here, sir?"
He means it with the utmost respect that the man in front of him has always commanded from him. But he also knows Coulson. He knows himself. He just doesn't understand what his, the best way he can describe it is anti-social stance, coupled with a pair of scientists who failed their field assessments and a SHIELD legend who worked herself into administration, could give him.
Maybe Coulson understands it better because he just walks away with a smile on his face that says he'll understand someday.