all the shattered ones,
written by wickedsong.
Note: This was kind of tricky to write. It goes in a different direction from what I had first anticipated and while at first I was a bit 'woah' about where I went, I actually quite enjoyed writing it. It was certainly one of those cases where the story decided to sort of write itself and I was trying to catch up with it. It would have been up earlier but trying to frame the last parts was hard so I hope I've done it okay. It doesn't end in exactly the way I wanted it to but as I was editing I decided I liked it a lot more than I did while writing it. And since I've left you all waiting for so long; here is the conclusion to all the shattered ones (which was meant to be a oneshot for heaven's sake).
She tells him she's an 0-8-4 as they sit in a janitor's closet, while he's sure he's about to die.
There are about twelve guards outside and he knows he has to take them out if they have any hope of getting from Point A to B and helping the others. The mission at hand is all he's thinking about when she pulls him back to reality with her admission.
Back against the wall, he turns his head to look at her. She's looking straight ahead instead, resolute, and with steel in her eyes.
"I just wanted you to know," she says quickly, before he can ask questions; before he can even think of one. "I don't know what it means," she admits quietly. "I haven't told FitzSimmons."
Which means May and Coulson must know.
The light in the closet is dim but he finds her hand and holds on tight, telling her he understands, telling her that it didn't change anything. She squeezes back, as she tells him that she found out during the incident at the Academy. They may not have the time for admissions like this but he doesn't stop her. For all he knows, they could both be dead before the day is over.
"I wasn't completely honest with you either," he says, equally as quiet, when the stunned silence from her confession is broken. "I never told you how Coulson found me. I was in juvie." When he looks over at her, their hands still joined, she gives him a sympathetic look. Maybe she had already figured that out? Or maybe it's just that she understands?
He tells her, aware of the danger bubbling around them but not caring, about a boy who was afraid, who blindly followed someone else's orders to hurt, whose parents didn't care. About a house that almost burned to the ground.
She doesn't let go.
"That's your past," is her reply. "That's not who you are."
It's who I could have been, he thinks, and he feels a pang of regret for the Grant Ward that Phil Coulson never found.
He suddenly remembers where they are, what they're doing, what and who they're doing it for, and peers out of the closet door once more. The guards still swarm the corridor, barking orders at one another.
"Give me your ICER," he whispers, holding his hand out as they both slowly stand.
She shakes her head. "You can't take on all those guys by yourself." She pulls him around to face her, when he refuses to do so. "It's suicide."
With a small smirk, he replies, "Not if I don't die."
But he knows it's a possibility and he can feel her reluctance as she passes him the ICER. "Lock the door behind-"
He doesn't finish his sentence before she's pulling him down by his vest, kissing the words out of his mouth. She's telling him that he better come back to her; she should already know that he will.
Victoria Hand asks him to accompany her in taking John Garrett to the Fridge and he complies. It's not just about Coulson or Skye or the team. A part of it is about him too. A small foundation on which his life – in service to SHIELD – was built upon has crumbled. Coulson found him but he wouldn't have if it hadn't been for Garrett.
He doesn't get a chance to say goodbye to the rest of the team, but Coulson assures him they'll be fine. This is a zero-risk mission, he thinks, nothing can go wrong and he'll be back with them in no time anyway.
It's his mantra as the small plane lifts off, and the two guards shove a cuffed Garrett into one of the seats. Grant tries to reconcile the sneering man with the friendly agent who he met on that first day at the Academy. He tries to somehow make sense of the same man being the Clairvoyant – the one who had Coulson tortured, who had Skye shot – and he can't. Maybe that's the point. He's a specialist; he knows how deep covers have to go sometimes.
When he looks back on it maybe he'll think if he had just taken a gun. Maybe he'll think if he had just noticed the small slip of the hand of one of the guards a few seconds earlier. But maybes don't do him any good when the guard on the right hand side of Garrett draws a weapon, stands and shoots the the other guard in one fluid motion, while Garrett smirks in satisfaction. They don't do him any good when the gun is pointed at him and Agent Hand.
He goes to grab it but the other man is a fraction quicker, knocking him unconscious with the butt of the weapon. A shot fires and he sees Victoria Hand fall too, just before his world goes black.
He wakes up, with a dull pounding in his head. It's not the worst he's ever sustained but it's not helped when he realises he's being held in place by a handcuff. His back hurts too and he realises he's chained to a pipe, up against a wall. He struggles for a moment or two, before realising he has to focus instead.
He tries to look back – to grasp onto any detail from before he was knocked out. He remembers The Hub (Victoria Hand was the Clairvoyant? That doesn't sound right), Skye told him she was an 0-8-4 (it doesn't matter; it doesn't change anything he told her). He vaguely recalls Coulson looking disappointed – betrayed even because John Garrett-
(John Garrett is the Clairvoyant, Victoria Hand is dead and he's-)
"You're finally awake."
Speak of the devil and he's bound to appear.
"Oh hell, I'm not going to kill you, kid," Garrett says as he emerges from the shadows of the small room, arms folded, flashing a toothy grin. He shrugs. "At least not yet."
When Grant remains quiet, Garrett kneels down so he's at his level. "You're useful, you see. You're Phil's boy, he trusts you." Garrett retrieves something from his jacket; the burner phone that Coulson gave Hand before they left. "It's also a little personal." He throws the phone at Grant's feet while standing up.
Grant can already guess what Garrett wants him to do, as he looks down at the phone. "I'll tell them. I'll tell them everything."
Garrett rolls his eyes and shakes his head. "This is Phil's problem, you know? He teaches you to trust the system, to be noble and honourable, to always try to do the right thing, in an organisation full of liars. He never taught you desperation, boy. He never taught you how to survive."
Nevertheless, Garrett takes the phone from the ground, swiftly kicking Grant in the ribs in the process for good measure. He doesn't give him the satisfaction of grunting in pain or keeling over, just stares him down until he leaves.
He hears rumblings of one of Garrett's plans in the intervening hours but it's too quiet and he can only grab snippets of information. Garrett can be loud when he wants to be though; telling his stories, telling someone called 'Flowers' to get back to work.
He finds out, later, that they'd taken control of the Fridge, and Garrett returns, looking smug and successful, carrying something, in gloved hands. In the light, Grant recognises it as the Berserker Staff. He stares at the Asgardian relic, and manages to hide the repulsion he feels at the sight of it.
Garrett grins at him, though, obviously picking up on his discomfort. "I read some reports that said you were particularly susceptible to this kind of magic." He shrugs. "You seem to be quite vulnerable to most kinds of Asgardian magic, don't you Agent Ward?"
Grant tries to block the memory of Lorelai from his mind.
Garrett steps down on his wrist without warning. He struggles but the older man overpowers him and forces the staff into his hands.
He's not by a well anymore, it's not burning and he thinks that that's some sort of relief. Until he realises what it's morphed into. He's in a cellar instead, and she's dying. There's blood everywhere and she's dead and he failed and then the well comes back into focus and they're side by side and he hates it. He hates his brother and John Garrett but not as much as he hates himself.
Garrett lifts the staff from him, and, as if on cue, there's a ringing. Grant tries to run through what he just saw and he can barely register Garrett waving the burner phone in front of him. "If you continue trying to be brave, you're only going to end up weak."
Grant refuses to take the bait, refuses to answer the phone, and refuses to put the team in danger. "You want to kill me?" he says, trying to steady his voice against the weight of the memories, "Then kill me."
Garrett presses a button on the burner phone, and then places it on the ground. For a split second, Grant contemplates picking it up, but the moment is gone when Garrett crushes it under his foot.
The older man turns to leave. "They probably thought you were dead already." He shrugs. "Now they definitely do."
He's sure no help is coming by the end of the first week. Garrett brings in the staff, accompanied by a woman in a flower dress who he recognises. Raina. The woman they found torturing Coulson all those months ago. She places electrodes on him, carrying a tablet computer, while Garrett holds him back if he resists.
He's grown weak, tormented by the memories that the staff keeps placing on him. They don't go away, even when he closes his eyes. There's no relief from it and it grows; anger and hate swirling together for the man in front of him.
For everything he is. Like Garrett is trying to mine it, wants to use him for it, when all it does is drain him.
"He was meant to be one of mine, you know?" Garrett tells Raina, who looks on with an expression of curiosity, as she glances down at the tablet in her hands. "I got word from an old friend of mine about this cadet, with hand-eye coordination that was off the charts." Garrett pauses and then steps on his wrist. Grant has grown weary of struggling. "He was a troublemaker, according to his parents. A problem. A kid like that – the things he did – with those talents. He could have been my finest soldier."
"But Agent Coulson-"
"Phil stuck his nose where it didn't belong," Garrett cuts across her. "Now, watch this."
Grant feels, rather than sees, the staff being dropped into his hands. He keeps his eyes closed, as if that will stop the nightmares. He wonders briefly if that just makes them worse.
"What a phenomenon," breathes Raina, as the tablet she's carrying beeps. "The biological ramifications of this are-"
Grant blocks out the rest of the conversation, trying to focus on steadying his heartbeat, his breathing. But all he really wants to do is scream and he ignores the way Garrett chuckles when he howls from the pain of it all. Maybe this is when he'll finally break?
"It could kill him?" he hears Raina ask, in a light way, as if she's simply curious and his life doesn't hang in the balance.
He can't die.
"I don't know," grunts Garrett. "But imagine more guys with this kind of power-"
He doesn't need to imagine. He knows. He fought them.
Arms guided him back then; a voice calling his name.
He promised her he'd make it back.
Garrett doesn't see the swing of the staff coming, as Grant's hand breaks free of the cuff and knocks him back.
He's not dead; that much is clear, in the rise and fall of his chest. Raina backs away; the machine in her hand beeping wildly. For a brief moment he considers finishing Garrett off here and now, but there's a commotion and he ends up having to take out the other HYDRA agents who come up against him.
He doesn't begin to feel drained from the staff until he's out of the compound, in the streets where the bright sunlight threatens to blind him.
People recoil from him and he runs; runs until he finds a nearby alleyway. Letting the staff fall from his hand he feels the relief he's been craving, as he falls to his knees. He doesn't know what comes next but he lets go anyway, closing his eyes, and drifting away.
Someone's poking and prodding him when he comes to. He groans – it reminds him of Simmons and the multiple times she'd tend to his wounds on the BUS. When the prodding doesn't stop he grunts, as if that will shoo whoever it is away.
When he opens his eyes he almost wishes he'd kept them closed.
John Garrett stares at him, a glint of madness in his eyes. Grant looks to his side and finds Raina is the one examining him. He tries to shake her off but he's restrained. When he looks back at Garrett he knows the man isn't going to make the mistake of giving him the Berserker Staff again.
He struggles against the bonds but eventually gives up. "Why?" he asks. Garrett could pull a gun on him at any time. A bullet in his head and it would all be done.
Garrett's eyes continue to hold that glint of madness, and Grant tries not to avert his gaze, no matter how uncomfortable it makes him feel.
"Because I see your value now," replies Garrett, slowly, carefully. He closes his eyes. "I see it all now; the world, the universe, and what it can be." They snap open, and then look over at Raina. "All we need now is the girl." Before Grant can reply; because of course he knows what Garrett means, he feels something being jabbed into his arm. He feels sleepy.
Raina leaves his side.
His vision blurs and all he can think is Skye, Skye, Skye.
"Oh it's okay, Agent Ward," Garrett says, placing a hand on his forehead, and looking up. As if taking in the moment. "You'll see her soon enough."
He's been gagged and bound; forced to stand with Garrett, and his own super soldier – Mike Peterson a.k.a. Deathlok. A man as much of a prisoner as he is. Garrett's waiting – waiting for Coulson and the team and Grant thinks if they're smart they'll stay well away.
But he knows if they're smarter they'll come.
Hopefully they have a plan.
A phone rings and Garrett answers, giving a lecherous grin when he realises it's Skye on the other end. He taunts her, but from what Grant hears she holds her own and he feels a surge of pride in his chest.
"And about Agent Ward," he adds, and Grant almost shakes his head. No, don't. Don't you dare. Garrett gives him a sidelong look. "He was brave until the very end."
He's sure the actual end is coming when he stands between John Garrett and Skye. She's holding her gun up at the man who holds him in place – his new found madness also seemed to have come with new strength. May and Coulson flank her and he knows this wasn't part of their plan at all.
He tries to tell them to get out of here; that he can handle it, but the words don't seem to form and he finds them even harder to come by when Garrett throws him to the floor roughly. He feels the acute pain of the ribs that he's now sure are broken.
"What have you done to him, John?" Coulson demands. Skye rushes forward, ignoring May's attempt to stop her. She kneels beside him; taking the gag from his mouth and helping him stand. He wants to give in to it but she won't let him – like so many times before.
"I taught him the right lessons, Phil," Garrett replies, and he takes a few steps forward.
Grant remembers the conversations he and Raina had been having – about monsters, and their children. About who you were against who you became. How no one could run from their nature forever.
Skye cuts where his wrists are tied together, and he smiles at her. The first reason he's had to smile in what's seemed like forever.
"When I say run, you run," he whispers to her, ragged and laboured. Garrett is distracted for now; rambling to Coulson. "You had a reason for coming here," he manages. "Do it."
She shakes her head slightly, telling him - without words - that he's being a dumbass, but he pulls away from her anyway, trying to formulate some sort of plan. He's too weak and Garrett could kill him in an instant.
If she's safe, it doesn't matter. He would give his life for that.
The gleam of the staff catches him from across the room. May, keeping an eye on Coulson, catches his eye and follows his gaze. She nods to him and he nods back.
Garrett continues rambling, about the bigger picture, about how he and Coulson share the same visions of evolution. How they're blood brothers and should share the same goals.
On the count of three, Coulson tells him to go to hell, May throws him the staff and Grant shouts at them to run.
He has one last look of May pulling Skye away, while Garrett smirks in twisted delight. Coulson shouts his name, as Grant grasps the staff in hand. He doesn't suppress it this time; he lets himself feel it; as if this is his nature. Garrett thinks he doesn't know anything about desperation.
The truth is he learned that lesson a long time ago.
"Well, well, boy, it looks like you have a death wish."
He doesn't remember a lot of it. He recalls fending Garrett and his soldiers off for as long as he could – before the staff was knocked out of his hand and the power slipped away from him. Garrett had loomed over him then and this was the end, this was the end-
A voice breaks through the haze of his mind – the sense of falling as his head sorts through the past and the present.
"I didn't realise how hard this was," the voice admits, and it's Skye. He can feel her holding his hand and stroking his hair and of course it's Skye. "You know Simmons. She isn't saying you won't wake up but-"
Why won't he wake up?
"But she isn't saying you will either. I have to believe you will though," she continues, with a voice that's trembling just slightly. "I thought I lost you before and I don't want to again. I won't."
I was just trying to protect you.
"I love you."
The haze continues but the words pull on something inside him – something urgent, a part of him that knows he has to wake up now. When he does it's in a white room; on a comfortable bed. He blinks a few times, breathing heavily. Memories flash in front of his eyes, but he turns his head, and there she is and it's like they don't matter anymore.
Like they haven't for a very long time.
"Grant?" she asks, as if not daring to believe it.
He nods. "Yeah." His throat hurts.
But the pain doesn't matter when she throws her arms around him and he feels safe and home and loved. Whatever's happened in the time he's been gone doesn't matter now.
"Don't you ever do that again," she tells him. The way her voice shakes makes him feel guilty and so he holds her a little tighter against him as if to promise her he won't.
Simmons later tells him that he had been hurt badly by Garrett but Director Fury had shown up – not dead - and he, Coulson and Mike Peterson had taken him out. Fitz and Trip show up as well – adding parts of the story that Simmons doesn't remember as they go along.
Coulson gives him a tight handshake, looking relieved to see him awake and breathing. He finds out that Coulson isn't just an agent anymore – but the Director of SHIELD itself – charged with rebuilding it from HYDRA's ashes. If there's anyone who can build SHIELD to what it used to be it's the man who gave his life to it.
"I'm just glad you can be a part of that, Grant."
He catches May smile from behind them and sends her a look of gratitude. She accepts it with a graceful nod.
Skye later sneaks in to see him, deciding to curl up beside him on the bed. When Simmons walks in on them she tuts, and mutters something about how he has to rest. But she gives a small smile anyway.
"I missed Doctor Simmons," Skye teases cheerfully.
Later, when they're alone, she'll admit that she never really thought he was dead. She traces circles on his chest and he grasps her hand in his own.
"I promised I'd come back, didn't I?" he says quietly, and she gives a small smile, nodding. He never actually did say those words, but she knew; she must have known.
She falls asleep on top of his chest and the sound of her breathing calms him in a way he wasn't sure was possible. He wraps his arms around her thinking of promises of a brighter tomorrow; free of nightmares and demons.
Please let it be this room, he thinks as he falls asleep, please let it be this room when I wake up.
He's relieved to find, when he wakes to find her still beside him, that it is.