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Reveling in the fickle nature of fangirlishness

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Defining Moment (Part 1)

Because I'm a bit of a masochist and am having a hard time coming to terms. Yet another attempt at Ward redemption.

I don't own Marvel Agents of SHIELD

Ward wasn't unfamiliar with torture. Psychological and physical torture were a part of his life. It had started as a child with a sadistic older brother who had enjoyed inflicting pain and suffering for nothing as he had told Skye. Ward's only fault then was choosing to protect his little brother over the acceptance of his older one. He would sadly learn the lesson that self-preservation was all that life rewarded you with. Heroism only took you so far in life.

It was a bitter lesson, but one that would stay with him for years only to be reinforced by Garrett's credo that emotions were weaknesses.

His parents were dead. Car accident. Likely killed by his brother, but Ward would never be able to prove it. His little brother, innocent and scared, was used as a plaything by his older brother; someone to throw down a well until Ward threw down the bucket and pulled him out; someone who was used as a punching bag until Ward substituted himself to minimize the bruises and bleeding; someone who had died on Ward's watch because, in the end, he wasn't strong enough to stop it.

"So what's yours, Agent Ward? Your defining moment?"

That was his true defining moment; his little brother drowning in a well and he had let it happen; he had failed to save him. His first taste of unadulterated hate and what the Berserker staff had tapped into and had unveiled in 3D surround sound. Not the one that he had told Skye. He had to learn to harden himself through physical training to push his past behind him. All he had really managed to do was delay the inevitable.

As he dangled from a rope by his wrists, having been hoisted up by Hydra soldiers, some he had befriended as part of his cover, revealed as a traitor, he now considered yet another defining moment for him, maybe even more dramatic and startling than the first and likely to be the last: To find redemption in love, something he thought he was incapable of feeling and yet would now happily die to protect. It was a revelation to him. All those years of suppressing his true feelings had been a complete waste. She had broken through every wall he had put in place by her compassion and fire. Garrett's death just made it that much easier to not only feel it, but to sacrifice for it.

All he could think about was Skye and how what he was doing was protecting her; that he wouldn't let her or the others die on his watch like he had his little brother.

Coulson had given him a second chance when he thought that maybe he was better off dead because of all he had done by Garrett's orders. He could no longer rationalize his acts as just being driven by Garrett's command. He had done those heinous acts. It hadn't mattered that he had hesitated each time, questioned if what he was doing was right. In the end, he had followed through with each one.

Ward was determined not to fail the very people he should have protected in the first place again.

"There will come a moment when you'll have to commit to this or bail. Every field agent has a defining moment…Ask Coulson...when you have to make the hard call, to either dedicate yourself to this or to curl up into a ball and run."

This time, self-preservation was the furthest from his mind, but heroism could never be applied to him. To his mind, there was nothing heroic about him, but for Skye, he would sacrifice everything. That wasn't a hard call at all.

Ward knew that help was coming, Coulson would rescue him regardless of his past actions. He was the kind of man Ward should have taken orders from, not Garrett. Still, he also knew that it was less about his rescue than it was preventing Raina from taking over where Garrett had left off with his death. She had injected Garrett with the newly formulated serum and it had given him super strength and a madness that was even more frightening than the strength. She had told him that it was the last batch that they could make, but Ward saw in her expression that she had lied to him about that. She had challenged Ward about what kind of monster he was; was it his true nature or was it man made by Garrett? He truly didn't know what difference it made. He was a monster plain and simple. None of it mattered anymore. He had been a survivor, but at the expense of others more deserving. Not this time though. This time, he was going to die.

He spotted Raina entering the room, a sinister smile on her face that worried him. Ward knew that there was more to that smile than just relishing in torturing and then taking his life. He had wished it was that simple. A couple of the soldiers flanked her, one of them handed her a syringe and suddenly her purpose was clear to him. He then heard struggles to the left of his peripheral vision. He turned with concern and curiosity to discover with horror what it was. It was Skye. She was being restrained by two more soldiers. Ward felt rage bubbling to the surface as he tried in vain to escape his own restraints. It was the same black rage that the Berserker staff had released in him.

"You bitch!" He yelled. "Let her go!"

Raina continued her icy smile.

"It amazes me that you could still care for someone who hates you so much. Garrett was right, emotions are weaknesses and you were useful until you met her, now, I think she should see what a monster you really are."

Skye continued to resist, her own expression of rage staring Raina down.

"She already knows what kind of monster I am," he said, his voice a mixture of resignation, admission, regret and anger.

"Oh, no, she's only seen the human vulnerability; your lack of backbone and your susceptibility to suggestion. The Berserker staff revealed the true darkness that has been dormant in you and with the right stimulus how easy it was to spark that inner rage."

Raina then took the syringe and walked towards him, her guards knowing what to do, restrained Ward even further so that he couldn't avoid what was coming.

"If you think threatening Ward with some kind of super soldier juice is going to make me talk or that I'm going to beg you to spare his life, you can forget it, sister. I did that once and he tried to kill my friends. He can die for all I care," Skye yelled.

Ward didn't feel any anger or animosity towards her. Everything she had said was true and he wasn't expecting her to campaign for his life. It wasn't worth her time. He gave Skye a small smile that wasn't sarcastic or mocking and when she caught it, she found it confusing.

"And how does that make you feel, Ward? Enraged? Hateful?" Raina taunted.

Ward smiled again.

"Proud," he said as he watched Skye crinkle at him as her confusion deepened. He relished in knowing that no matter what happened to him, she had gotten past any sentimentality she had for him.

Raina just scoffed at his answer as she plunged the needle into his stomach and emptied the contents into him.

"Well, then, confirming her opinion of you will just make this moment all the more sweeter," she said her sly grin remained on her face.

Ward then began to feel the effects of the serum immediately and shock registered on his face.

"You told me that Garrett got the last dose! That there wasn't any more left!" He said as he felt the explosive rush of pain radiate through his body and groaned.

"And there isn't, but I didn't say that I didn't create something better with the formula."

Ward looked over at Skye, his expression of regret filtering through the pain. Skye saw it and was convinced it was genuine.

"I'm sorry...for everything…"

Skye didn't understand why, after all, she had no reason or proof from his past actions, but she believed him as he screamed in agony, pulling on his ropes so hard that his wrists bled from the chafing. Skye tried to keep herself from succumbing to pity as she had when Mike had stopped Ward's heart, but what was happening to him now seemed far worse.

"Don't fight it, Ward. It will make you stronger the more you let your darkness feed it just as it did the Berserker staff. Let it consume you and once you kill Skye, your conscience will belong to me and you won't possess that weakness again. If you resist, you will die a languishing and agonizing death."

Ward writhed as a bolt of searing pain cracked through his nerves, causing him to jerk free of his bonds and he fell to his hands and knees. His hands were flexing into and out of fists as if trying to find something to grapple.

"Kill her, Ward and the pain will end," Raina encouraged.

"No, no, I won't do it," Ward moaned.

"You're letting your weakness beat you again."

"I'd rather die than harm her," he said as he dropped his head to the floor, unable to find relief, feeling as if his body was separating from his mind. The sensation worried him as he wondered if that was what Garrett had felt and what had driven him to insanity. Ward feared that once that took hold, he'd lose his grip on keeping himself from harming Skye.

Skye watched Ward's suffering and all of her indignation and hatred left her. This wasn't a ruse, this was Ward resisting orders, this was Ward fighting with everything he had to prevent himself from becoming the monster that Garrett had been.

"I'm sorry too," she said.

Ward lifted his head up again to gaze at her while intermittently clenching his eyes with the searing and relentless misery. He saw her crying, shedding tears for him that he didn't deserve.

"You have nothing to be sorry for..." Ward said, struggling to breathe. "Don't waste your tears on me."

Ward then seemed to marshal whatever strength he could tap from the pain and turned his building rage towards Raina, crawling on his hands and knees over to her, trying desperately to overcome the deluge of torment riddling every cell in his body to reach her. Skye saw what he was doing and remembered what Raina had said, that killing would transform him into a monster like Garrett. She had to stop him even it meant he would die. Much as she hated Raina, she wanted to save Ward from a fate worse than death.

"No, Grant, stop. Don't kill Raina. You heard what she said, it will make you into a monster like Garrett."

Ward heard Skye's voice pleading with him not to kill someone evil to save him. It reached through his muddled mind and he focused on her words.

"Doesn't matter, Skye. I'm a lost cause. I was lost the moment I chose Garrett over you. I'm already a monster. Coulson and Trip, they can end me after I kill Raina."

"Grant, please don't do this. You're not a monster. If you kill her then that will make you no better than Garrett and you are a better man than him. He never gave you a chance, but we will. I will."

Ward saw the authentic tears in her eyes as another shock of pain rattled him and despite the almost uncontrollable need to kill Raina, Skye's voice overrode that desire and he started to back away, the intensity of the pain ratcheting up with every move.

In that moment, Coulson and the others stormed the room, Coulson grabbing Raina and Trip subduing her guards. As soon as Skye was released, she ran over to Ward who flinched at her touch.

"Don't..." Ward rasped and moaned.

"I'm sorry, am I hurting you?"

"No...I don't want to hurt you," he said, curling into himself. "The serum...I'm barely staying in control..."

"You won't hurt me, Grant. I know that, but...what I asked of you...I didn't want you to kill any more, but when you stopped, I killed you. I'm sorry," she said realizing that by preventing him from killing Raina, she had doomed him and that thought hurt her more than she had expected, more than she ever could have imagined as recently as just a few minutes ago.

Ward understood her anguish and had to absolve her. He weakly took her hand into his and brought it to his lips. She didn't pull away.

"No, Skye, you saved me...even though I didn't deserve it..." Ward said as he shook with spasms. "I can die honorably...thank you for that..."

Skye, her tears running down her face, held him close, hoping to hug him through the tremors.

"Grant..." She said, at a loss for words. She didn't know how to comfort him and she couldn't stop crying. "I don't know what to do."

He smiled, trying to hold it steady through the torture being inflicted on his body.

"You're doing it now...hold me...just like this...lie to me...just for awhile...stay with me until the end."

Skye felt her heart cracking with Ward's need for comfort, asking her to fake compassion for him so that he could die with one last fantasy of someone caring for him, but she knew she wouldn't be pretending. She did care and seeing what he had done because she had asked him, knowing it would have meant his death, she had seen the man who had always been a hero, not just acting it by Garrett's orders as he had believed.

"I feel helpless and terrible about everything that's happened."

Ward trembled and moaned.

"Don't be. I brought this on myself. Raina, she was right. I'm a monster."

"Grant, you're not a monster."

"No sense lying to myself about that now...but at least I did one thing right."

Ward held Skye as much from the pain as he needed her to know how much she meant to him, to grasp on to the only salvation he'd ever been offered in this life and to make his love for her be the last thing he felt in his life. Skye returned the embrace, stroking his shoulders and his chest. There was no pretense in her touch. She felt Ward relax slightly against her, a tangible sigh filtered through her own body.

Coulson rushed over and saw Ward's drawn features. He instinctively knew that Ward was on borrowed time.

"Trip! Help me get Ward to the sickbay!"

"No...no, it's too late for me," Ward said, grunting and trembling. "I'm barely holding it back. You're all in danger. Get Skye and yourselves to safety then end me."

Skye felt moved by Ward's pleas. He was putting their safety before his own self-preservation.

"You let me be the judge of our safety," Coulson said as he lifted one side and Trip took the other one. Ward groaned long and raggedly as they propped him on their shoulders.

"Skye..." Ward rasped.

"I'm here," she assured. "I'm not leaving you."

"I'm sorry...for everything I did to all of you..." Ward said, his body jerking with spasms.

The three of them gave each other knowing glances.

When Coulson and Trip got Ward to sick bay, a flurry of med techs surrounded him and worked on making Ward comfortable, but his body was in a frenzy of twitches complemented by groans of discomfort so it was it difficult to examine him. They were facing having to restrain him.

Skye brought the syringe that Raina had used on Ward in the hopes that they could figure out some kind of antidote. She had gone from the anger of Ward's betrayal to hoping that he would survive whatever was done to him. Her instinctive reflex to keep hope at arm's length given all of her hope robbing experiences in the past weren't kicking in this time because she had never wanted anything more in her life and for the first time she worried that not hoping enough would steal away that one thing she had wanted over everything she had hoped for in the past.

She, Coulson and Trip watched helplessly as the medical team finally had decided to restrain Ward, his moans from pain and mental anguish melded and the effects of whatever had been injected into him were indistinguishable. Trip left to secure the prisoners including Raina, but promised to return.

"He resisted killing Raina because I asked him to…" Skye said absently.

Coulson smiled.

"The only time his orders weren't about serving Garrett's agenda. It's a big break for him, Skye."

"Then why do I feel like I let him down and killed him?"

"Ward is strong. He's fighting to live because he has something and someone to live for."

"But we don't know what Raina injected into him. Who knows what it's doing to him?"

Coulson put his arm around her shoulders for comfort because it was all he could give her since he didn't have an answer to give her.

Ward writhed with struggle both to control his pain and his breathing. He strained against his restraints, understanding why they were necessary. He looked over to a corner of the sickbay and saw Fitz laying in a bed, comatosed. The sight gave him a tightness in his chest that had nothing to with what was happening to his body. What happened to Fitz was his fault and it tore at his conscience; a conscience he had abandoned in order to inflict callous disregard to the lives of people he cared about. He then spotted Simmons hovering over Fitz, the pain on her face also belonged to his cruel actions. She turned, saw him and instead of looking away, he fixed his gaze with hers and let his guilt reveal openly on his face. She saw it and started to walk over.

Ward was afraid of what she would say to him even though he knew he deserved it. When Simmons reached him, her normally shy and jovial demeanor was gone. Though she wasn't angry, there was a sadness that Ward never thought he would see in her and regretted that he had been responsible for putting it there. He was at a loss for what to say because anything he could say would just come off sounding pathetic and insincere, but he knew he would have to say something.

"He believed in you, you know, right up until you jettisoned the pod. He believed and now he's in a coma because you couldn't choose friendship over Garrett's orders. I just wanted you to know that."

Ward understood her recrimination and wouldn't diminish it by throwing excuses at her.

"You're right, Simmons. There are no words good enough to say how sorry I am. To say that I would trade places with Fitz if I could is hollow and meaningless. Even if you could forgive me, I wouldn't take it. I don't deserve it. Believe me, I know full well that I don't."

Simmons listened and she heard his honesty and remorse; his halting breaths coming through obvious suffering. She wasn't a soldier, as much as she wanted to harden herself, her sympathies still surfaced at seeing Ward being punished by whatever was inflicting his pain. Perhaps that would be enough for her. She made her way back to Fitz.

Skye went over to her and gave Simmons a hug.

"Be with Fitz. He knows you're there. He needs you," Skye encouraged realizing that seeing Ward was hurtful to Simmons. Some wounds might not ever heal, some actions might never be forgiven.

"What is he doing here?" Simmons asked curiosity more than concern in her voice.

"Raina injected some kind of variation of the serum into him. He could be dying."

Simmons listened and softened a bit as she heard Skye's voice crack with emotion.

"Are you ready to forgive him?" She asked.

"I told him not to kill Raina and because he didn't, the serum might kill him. It doesn't make up for all he's done and he knows it. He won't accept forgiveness, but yeh, I believe he deserves a second chance."

"I don't know if I can -"

"He's not expecting it, Gemma. He knows what he did to you and Fitz. He understands that nothing he can do or say can undo that and for me, it's enough to know that he does; that he fought back killing Raina. There's hope and I want to believe him. Bad."

Simmons nodded as she walked back to Fitz's side.

Suddenly, a blood curdling yell startled them both. Skye turned to see Ward groaning and grunting with pain, fighting his restraints so hard that he was moving the bed. A doctor went over and injected what Skye guessed was some kind of pain medication into Ward's IV line. It calmed Ward only infinitesimally. She saw the doctor talking to Ward and Ward nodding his head as if understanding what was being told to him. The doctor then walked over to her and Coulson, his expression grim.

"Doctor, what's happening?" Coulson asked.

"The pain is escalating and no matter what we give him it's only barely taking the edge off. We're reaching the point where soon nothing will work. When that's reached, his organs will start to fail and he will die."

The silence that seeped between the doctor, Coulson and Skye was thick with shock.

"Has anyone looked at what was in the syringe?" She asked; desperation and denial breaking her composure.

"We can't break down the formula. There's just too little of it to test."

"Skye?" Ward called out his voice raspy, weak and dry.

She went over to him and instinctively took his hand. Coulson joined her by Ward's bedside.

"Yes, yes, I'm here," she sobbed.

"It's all right. The doctor told me everything. Let me go. It doesn't mean you've lost hope, it just means I should pay for what I've done."

"No, no, we'll force Raina to give us the formula if we have to," Skye said, malice in her voice.

Ward's expression became pleading and concerned as he heard it.

"No, don't, please. I've already done enough damage. To have you, Coulson or anyone else slip into darkness by hurting Raina because of me would be worse than dying for me...I...I couldn't live knowing that you bought my life with your souls. I'm not worth that."

Ward's declaration was heartfelt and moving. His self-sacrifice was partly a remnant of the young boy who had yearned for belonging; who had sought rescue from his abusive family life only to find approval from the wrong role model. It was also an evolution from that young man who had known no other structure other than to table his emotions and blindly follow orders from a megalomaniac. He was finally making his own choices and putting others before himself because it was what he wanted. He had broken free from Garrett's prison of emotional blackmail and had let his own heart guide him for the first time, no longer second guessing by going against his true nature.

"Please, just let me go. I'm at peace with finally doing something right with my life," Ward said, his breathing laboring.

Skye was so upset that she had to run from the room. Ward looked at Coulson, his concern still evident across his strained features.

"Go after her, please...I know she's heading to Raina...protect her...convince her that it's not worth it, that I'm not worth it," Ward said, turning away to battle off more pain.

Coulson nodded solemnly as he took off after Skye. He had caught up with her just as she had reached the containment cells where Raina was being held.

"Stop, Skye!" Coulson called out.

"No, no, I have to see Raina. We have to make her save Ward!"

"You know we can't do that. Ward knows that we'd be no better than Garrett if we did. He doesn't want that for any of us. For the first time, he's making his own choices. We have to respect that, respect him."

Skye collapsed into Coulson's arms and sobbed uncontrollably. She never would have imagined that she would be so affected by what Ward had done. He had been the villain, the traitor not so long ago and though she would understand if Simmons never forgave him, she found herself unable to continue hating him as she had. Coulson was right. He had made choices that were solely his own and even though, for her, they had come too late to bring hope for a future for the two of them, she could, at least, remember him fondly and for all of the heroic things he had done for all of them. He had risked his life to change its trajectory and though it wasn't a perfect redirect, Ward had expressed to them both that he was at peace with what he was going through.

Coulson escorted Skye back to the sick bay to be by Ward, to provide any measure of comfort to him for as long as he survived. He knew that was the best they could do for him. Then, defying his own orders to Skye, he turned back to face Raina in the containment cells.

As he walked up to her cell, her mischievously sinister stare and smile greeted him.

"Well, well, Lazarus has come to visit me, I'm honored."

"You ripped into my brain. I think we can stop playing polite and cryptic games."

She tilted her head in amusement.

"Come to bargain for Ward's life?"

"No, I wouldn't diminish what he's done to sell my soul to you," Coulson said with defiance.

"Funny you should talk about souls because you and Skye share the same 'soul', if you will, with Ward by virtue of the GH-325 drug. In his case, I've enhanced it -"

"To make him a monster to do your bidding like Garrett did."

"Ward knows about Skye's origins," Raina taunted.

Coulson stiffened with the revelation.

"I once asked him about whether being a monster was his true nature or one created by Garrett. He admitted that he didn't know. I just gave him a chance to be the same kind of monster that Skye is, that the both of you are, so that he can have his chance with her."

Raina smiled at Coulson, giving him a chill.

"I'm only interested in evolution and Ward will either survive his own evolution, develop the potential that was denied Garrett or die. It's that simple."

Coulson's anger began to bubble up, his own control slipping as he listened to Raina's cavalier assessment of Ward.

"You've underestimated him. He resisted your drug, made his own decisions."

"Yes, he did. Skye awakened a weakness in him and now he'll pay for that weakness with his life."

"He's stronger than you think."

"We'll see, won't we? Sometimes death isn't an end, but a transition into something different and better. You should know that first hand. You died and yet here you are. I'm sure no one would dispute that your evolution didn't come at a cost of something else. You're the same hero as you once were before your death. Maybe Ward will become the same. I'll enjoy watching what happens."

Coulson absorbed her words and couldn't completely argue against them. Despite the assurances by Fury that he hadn't succumbed to the very side effects he had reported to him about; the irony of the full circle not lost on Coulson; he wondered and feared that there was potential yet to be tapped from him and for Skye as well which was what he had feared most. He stepped away and headed back to Ward in silence, but Raina's words were like hot breath chafing the back of his neck, raising hairs of uncertainty.

Skye sat by Ward's side, holding his hand. He had become so weak that the doctors had removed the restraints so that he could be comfortable. Though Skye was glad in one way, seeing Ward so gray with pain and internal damage, as the doctors had called it, made the definition of comfort seem inapplicable to him.

Ward was struggling to breathe, his voice, when he could speak, sounded as if he were drowning while straining up a hill, fluid filling his lungs from inflammation. It made the image of having watched him train to stay fit seem like another person. Skye couldn't stop crying as much as she wanted to be strong for him. He had moments of confusion, his thoughts muddled by the discomfort wracking his body, but lucidity would filter in and to her amazement, every time it did, he would look over at her and smile just as he was doing at that moment.

"You...don't...have to...stay," he said.

She wiped the tears from her cheeks.

"I want to be here with you. From what I heard, when I was not doing so well, you stayed all night," Skye said, gratitude in her voice.

Ward's expression fell.

"It was my fault you were hurt...not why I stayed...but...I was responsible."

"You didn't shoot me. Quinn did," she insisted.

"Doesn't matter who pulled the trigger...I didn't stop it...I didn't stop Garrett...Looking back, I can't believe I did so many heinous things...it was like another person did them," Ward said as he arched off the bed slowly as if a wave undulated through him.

"It wasn't -" she said trying to ease his guilt.

"Please don't defend me, Skye," he said, as his breathing hitched. "I don't deserve it. You were right to despise me."


"I don't want your pity, Skye. Your hate was more honest and I deserve that. What Fitz is going through, what I did to them both...it's unforgivable on all levels."

She felt him squeeze her hand and she held on. He took in a ragged breath.

"I wanted to be a better man for you, but I failed. I'm sorry."

Skye remained silent knowing that Ward would resist any words of conciliation, but hearing him make his admissions, his confessions to his misguided choices, she now truly believed no matter what Ward said to the contrary, his recent actions for redemption made her ache for another chance for both of them, especially for him. Why must second chances sometimes come too late? She gazed into his eyes then stroked his face, hoping it would say more than any words could. She felt him sigh.

"I don't expect you to believe me and I wouldn't blame you if you're still disgusted...but I need you to know that I have never lied about my feelings for you...I don't want to die without telling you that I love you. You were the only thing in my life worth dying for. This battle, this war it can harden a person. I'm ashamed to have been a part of doing that to all of you, but if I can do just one right thing, one good thing, it's to tell you that the worst thing you can ever do is succumb to hate, to indifference, to become like me. That's what I did and it destroyed me. If you remember me in any way, Skye, please remember me as someone not to become."

Skye couldn't stop the tears anymore. She brought his hand up to her wet cheeks and he feebly moved his fingers to wipe some away, a trembling smile on his face.

"Grant, I…"

"You don't have to say anything. If you told me you felt anything more but contempt for me, I wouldn't believe you. Much as I want the lie, it's enough for me to have known you were my one and only truth."

Coulson had walked in just as Ward had spoken those words and it only deepened his conviction that Ward had changed, that he wasn't the insecure man turned traitor anymore. Raina had told him that Ward knew about Skye's origins and yet Coulson heard in Ward's words an address to any person's dark side, but specifically to Skye without saying it outright. Ward was telling her not to succumb to her own darkness, not because she was from alien lineage, but because any darkness such as the one within Ward could corrupt. It was a courageous and generous gift of advice and Coulson was determined to make sure Skye didn't go dark as his discovery of her past and parentage had revealed. Still, Raina's revelation to him about what her modified serum would do to Ward had been less than encouraging. His posture was bowed as if it had been carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders as he walked up to his bed. Ward sensed it.

"I'm sorry I wasn't strong enough, sir. I want you to know I questioned my actions, I almost reconsidered my alliance to Garrett, but in the end, I didn't and I have no one to blame but myself."

"Grant, you were manipulated all your life. You're not that man anymore. I saw how you made your own choices, protecting Skye, resisting Raina's and the drug's pull. It matters," Coulson said.

Ward closed his eyes for a moment, too exhausted to disagree with Coulson because to his own mind, there was no redemption for him.

"When I touched the Berserker staff, there was a part of me that knew I was on borrowed time...that the rage it ignited and amplified would never go away and even though I was afraid of the day when I would no longer have any control, I also knew I wouldn't be able to stop it from coming."

Ward wanted the torture to end and he knew the only reason it was becoming less violent was because his body was giving in, surrendering any will it had to the whim of the drug in whatever formation Raina had created it. He had hoped it would destroy him rather than make him into someone or something much worse as Raina had threatened. Hope was a fickle mistress. It taunted and teased, but didn't promise anything. He needed reassurances.

"Sir...I need you to promise me that if this turns me into a monster, you'll end me. I don't want to live that way...I'll be in there, but I won't be able to stop myself from hurting all of you...any more than I already have."

Coulson didn't know how to answer him. He understood, but that didn't make the idea of killing Ward an easy decision.

"Please, sir," Ward pleaded when he didn't get an answer.

"It won't come to that," Coulson said unconvincingly.

Ward appreciated the confidence, but knew differently.

"If it does…"

"I'll do what needs to be done," Coulson evaded unspecifically.

Ward would have to be satisfied with that answer.

He was then seized by a piercing stab of pain ripping through his chest as if he had been impaled. He swallowed a halting intake of air, along with it, a moan then began to pant quickly. Skye held on tightly to Ward's hand as well as stroked his face with the other, her gaze firmly locked with his. It was as if she was channeling his suffering as she began to weep uncontrollably. She wanted his last sight to be of her and of her glowing love for him.

"Don't...cry...Skye...this is what I hoped for...it's better this way…" Ward said as he arched again then as he felt himself relax, he knew his tenuous hold on living was slipping and all he wanted to do was let go.

Skye found her throat choking up with her own emotional anguish.

"I...love you...I love you…I…" Ward began to chant with every last pant of breath he had in his failing lungs. He wanted his last words to be those, to have those words be the last thing Skye would hear from him.

"I love you, too, Grant," she blurted. It was spontaneous and true, but she didn't think he'd believe her.

His breathing began to slow and his body began to deflate, but as he took in breath after struggling breath, he found a way to smile.

"Thank...you...for the beautiful lie…"

Ward then went still, exhaling his last breath.

Skye crumbled with grief, her face against his chest, her muffled sobs barely contained in the warmth of his body,

It was then that a sound surprised her; a sound she shouldn't have been hearing.

A heartbeat.

Ward was still alive if barely, his heart refusing to give up, faint and weak though it was. Hope leapt into her own heart and she let it hit her full force, taking her own breath away.

"He's still alive!" She cried out. "Can a doctor help us, PLEASE? Please help him!"

TBC. What transformation took place and is Ward the same man? Thanks for reading more to come. Still working on the next chapter. Hope you enjoyed the read.