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Reveling in the fickle nature of fangirlishness

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Defining Moment (Part 4)
Defining Moment

Disclaimer: I don't own Marvel Agents of SHIELD

"What kind of threat?"

"Another Deathlok," Ward said.

"Ward?" Coulson coaxed him.

"It's my brother."

Chapter 4

"What kind of threat?"

"Another Deathlok," Ward said.

"Ward?" Coulson coaxed him.

"It's my brother."

Coulson let Ward’s words sink in. Though he had read his file, knew about his past and his family troubles, even being under Garrett’s tutelage, which, at the time, only made Ward that much more trustworthy to him, Coulson had never considered that Garrett had taken both Ward brothers under his wing, corrupting each of them.

“Did you know that Garrett had taken Maynard too?” Coulson asked.

“No, I had no idea. I guess Garrett did a great job of keeping us apart. I don’t even know if Maynard knows. When Garrett had taken me out of Juvie, all that was on my mind was escaping my family life, not going to jail. He had provided that and I blindly took it. I thought I had left Maynard behind me.”

“How did you find this out?” Hill asked.

“From the Gravitonium. Garrett was right about it. In a strange way, I was in-tuned with and connected to the universe. I saw Tommy there and he told me about Maynard.”

Coulson was also not a deeply metaphysical man so to hear that Ward had communicated with his dead brother, at first, brought skepticism and doubt over whether Ward was of sound mind in there; that the Gravitorium had manipulated this revelation. Ward detected his dubiousness.

“I know what you’re thinking and I don’t blame you. I’m not saying I saw the ghost of my dead brother, but I do believe the intel I got from the energy that surged through me. I felt it delve into my conscience; find Tommy there because he is always there reminding me of how much I failed him; used his image to not only tell me that Maynard was coming, but to also help bring me to peace about what had happened to Tommy, that I couldn’t hold onto him, to the past that he belonged to, and win this fight, or at the very least to be able to fight Maynard with my full commitment. I came to terms with Tommy and am ready to take on what will be my greatest fear quite honestly.”

Coulson listened and believed in Ward’s explanation and saw no sign of madness in his words or in his eyes.

“Where is Maynard now?”

“I don’t know that yet, but I’m sure that once he comes into range, I’ll know it,” Ward said with trepidation.

He then realized that Skye was missing.

“Where’s Skye?”

“I’m afraid when I relayed your message, it upset her,” Hill responded.

“She ran out. Jemma went after her, but I think seeing that you’re back and still alive will fix things,” Coulson teased.

Ward smiled himself as he walked out to find her.

His weary soul would be uplifted just to see and hold her. It would renew his strength to face what was coming next. He also thought about how he would break it to her that likely the biggest test yet was ahead. He promised himself that he wouldn’t keep anything from her or lie to her and he would keep that promise, but it would also mean telling her about the most painful part of his past. He had revealed a snippet of it to her, but she deserved to know who he would be facing and though he had managed to overcome the challenges thus far, he wasn’t completely sure that he would come out of his confrontation with Maynard alive.

Maynard had been augmented as Mike Peterson had been and Ward didn’t know how extensive his “hardware” would be. As it was, when Mike had shot him with the device that had stopped his heart, it had been unexpected. Only Skye’s mercy had saved him. He had to be better prepared with Maynard. There would be no mercy to be had by him and he had to make sure that Skye would be nowhere nearby. Maynard was the epitome of merciless and wouldn’t spare him or anyone close to him to follow whatever last orders Garrett had given him.

As he entered the bus, hoping to find her in her room, he heard the sobs coming from the lounge near the bar. It had become an unofficial place for the two of them. She had offered him a peace offering of a drink there where she had expressed her idealism about the world to him and from that moment he had felt his first connection with her. They did see the world differently, but her belief in the power of a collective force to overcome oppression had made an impression on him. It wasn't naive, but truly hopeful. If it hadn't been for his duplicity and betrayal, that faith would never have been tested, still despite it, she had remained steadfast. It only elevated his admiration for her.

Learning from Garrett that she was an 0-8-4 had shocked him at the time and if he were to be honest, it had kicked in his prejudices about them; that they were threats to national security, but seeing her act heroic, more human than anyone he had known in his life had changed his view and then when Quinn had tried to kill her, all he had seen was her vulnerability, her humanity. If she was an 0-8-4, he could no longer judge her as surely Raina's serum had made him one and Skye hadn't hesitated to accept him, to love him just the same. The serum hadn't changed him. She had.

He walked over and spied Jemma holding Skye in her arms, Skye facing away from the entry. Jemma caught him walking towards them and even she couldn’t hold back the excitement of seeing him there, alive and well.

Skye felt the change in Jemma’s body language and parted from the embrace. She saw Jemma’s expression and followed her gaze where hers met with Ward’s as he stood in front of them both, smiling back at them.

Jemma stood up, walked towards Ward and spontaneously hugged him. She hadn’t properly thanked him for bringing Fitz back and hugging him had brought forth how truly grateful she was for what he had done. Ward, hesitantly at first, gently returned the embrace; a sense of relief and absolution released the tension he had felt with her after his monstrous act towards both her and Fitz. He was happy to have achieved one more step in his resolution to mend the fences he had destroyed. When they parted, Jemma's smile greeted him and as she took a quick glance at Skye then back at him, the smile transformed into a furtive one. She then exited the room.

Skye let her emotions dictate in that instant and just ran into Ward's arms. She found herself unable to stop crying; her feelings overwhelming; going from extreme grief one moment to the equal measure of joy at seeing Grant alive the next. At least this time they were tears of relief and exhilaration. Feeling his warmth against her made her muscles physically release her anxiety immediately. She sighed against him, unable to express in words how joyful she felt, just needing to confirm that he was there in her arms, alive.

Ward wrapped his arms tightly around her petite frame and sighed as well, feeling the same release of tension in his own body but not all of it did. He knew that he had to savor the moment because there wasn't much time to revel in it. When it ended, he would have to tell her everything and hope that she would understand. He already knew he had her acceptance because forgiving what he had put her through had been the hardest hurdle to overcome. He had already revealed his lie to her; that his big brother hadn't just beaten him and his little brother up, but that he had also made Ward beat Tommy up too; to his view, an even worse act. He would now have to explain the darker details about how he had let Tommy drown in the well. He had to brace himself to the fact that knowing that might be too much for Skye to forgive.

They parted and he guided her down onto the couch.

“Not that I’m not happy you’re, you know, ALIVE, but what happened?”

Ward smiled at the sarcasm that Skye often fell into when she was scared, nervous or relieved. He found it adorable in its innocence.

“The Gravitorium didn’t need me anymore so I thought I’d come back,” Ward teased back.

Skye then went in for another hug.

“I thought you were going to die in there, that I’d never see you again. Leave it to you to keep on cheating death and proving to me that you’re invincible or some kind of superhero,” she said with a grin.

Ward, on the other hand, became serious.

"I'm no superhero. Please don't make that comparison. It diminishes those who really are, like all of you."

"Grant -" she tried to protest.

“We have to talk,” he interrupted and felt her stiffen in his embrace.

She let go and looked into his eyes, the nervousness returning and he hated that he was taking her security away.

“No conversation ever ends well when it starts out that way,” she said with a shaky, anxious smile. “I should know.”

Ward stroked her face and smiled back, hoping both acts would ease her trepidation, at least until he was able to confess his darkest sin to her. It would then be he who would be filled with anxiety as she, once again, would be holding his life in her hands. He was prepared for the worst. He knew that the admission he would be making to her would be shocking and he wouldn’t blame her if she couldn’t find forgiveness for his last confession to her. She had accepted so much of his dark soul, had already forgiven so much of what she had learned about his past thus far, but everyone had their limits and even he knew that this particular reveal would press her limits for that forgiveness.

He wished that he had more time to enjoy just being with her, to hold her in his arms, to make love to her; not to exploit her so that he could feel better about himself, but to cherish her as she deserved to be cherished. She had already gone through so much in her own past. It had all been unfair and out of her control. He had added to the disappointments in her life and yet she had remained caring and loving, preferring to rise above rather than wallow in self-pity. He knew he could become a better man by just basking in loving her, but he could only hope that his actions now and facing down his sadistic brother would reflect her influence upon him no matter how short the time they had shared together.

“It’s not ‘that conversation’,” he said with a soft smile and they both giggled.

He then took her hands into his, fixed his loving gaze onto hers, hoping she would see that there was no guile there, just honesty.

“In the Gravitorium, I discovered what Garrett was experiencing; a connection to the universe, an intimate knowledge of what was in it and specifically what it held for me. I’m happy to say that it didn’t give me the megalomania that it gave him."

"Good thing," Skye said as she softly teased.

"I was really afraid of that; that I would use my fusion with the element to do more terrible things or that it would find the inherent darkness in me and use me as a weapon. Instead, it gave me insight both of my past and of my future.”

Skye listened intently to his words, but none of them could quell the foreboding she felt of what he was going to finally reveal to her.

“Remember when I admitted to you that I had lied about my big brother; that he not only hurt me and my little brother, but that he also made me hurt my little brother too? I’m ashamed to say that I wasn’t lying about that. It was the hardest thing for me to come clean with you about because I was afraid that you would see me differently, judge me badly. It was selfish as usual. I should have been more concerned about what I was doing with Garrett because I now realize those acts were far more damaging. But I can’t blame Garrett for everything evil about me, Skye. He just seized on what was already there, that my brother put there, and that my cowardice allowed to develop,” Ward paused to gauge Skye’s expression and her initial reaction, but thus far, he only spied apt interest and compassion. It gave him courage to continue.

“While I was in there, I...also connected with my little brother Tommy,” Ward paused to take a breath. “I’m not a believer of ghosts, but I do believe what I felt was more than just my own guilt justifying my actions in an altered state. I do believe that in some small way I was connecting to Tommy; his life force that had melded with the universe. The universe was giving me a chance to make right the worst wrong I had ever done in my life. I’ve done my share of wrong without Garrett's influence, Skye. I asked for Tommy's forgiveness because you see...I killed him.”

Ward waited for the recrimination, the shock, the revulsion, but none of them came. Instead, she tightened her grip on his hands and he marveled at the extent of her empathy.

“I figured when you grabbed that staff that it had hit a raw nerve and it wasn’t hard to guess that it had something to do with your brother, but I can’t believe you would do that to your little brother intentionally. I believed you when you said you had to protect him. I've seen that instinct in you whenever you've placed yourself in danger, like getting shot saving us or leaping from the plane. You aren't faking that. I know it."

Ward felt her compassion and it strengthened him, but he broke his gaze, ashamed that it was misplaced.

“Indifference is just as bad as if I had taken his life with my own hands. I let him drown because my big brother told me that if I did help Tommy, he’d do something worse to me,” he said, regret riddled through his voice. "I was his brother. It was my responsibility to protect him."

Skye saw and even felt the sincerity of Ward's regret in his body language. It convinced her that he hadn't been malicious or evil.

“Grant, you were a kid too. Believe me, I get what it feels like when you'd do anything for any crumb of affection or belonging.”

Ward looked back up into her eyes and couldn’t help but feel that if his life had ended at that moment, he would have been grateful for her crumb of affection and understanding.

“I’m amazed that you could see beyond the complete lack of courage in letting my brother Maynard dictate my actions and in the end, that Garrett dictated. I can’t tell you how much knowing that, feeling that from you, gives me so much strength to face what’s next.”

That’s when Skye’s reaction changed. Her expression became a mix of suspicion and fear.

“What do you mean?”

“I never knew what happened to Maynard after Garrett recruited me and to be honest, I didn’t care. I was away from him, away from the memory of letting Tommy down and that was all I had wanted. Short-sighted as usual," Ward said with a heavy heart. "But I just found out that Garrett had recruited him too and had never told me. I shouldn't be surprised really. In retrospect, it explained the long absences when he would leave me in the wilderness to fend for myself, to teach me to be self-reliant. To be the whole solution."

Ward shook his head at the complete indoctrination that he had let happen. It seemed like a different man doing all those terrible things and sometimes Ward deluded himself into believing it wasn't him.

Skye straightened stiffly.

"Are you telling me that he's -"

"I found out that he's the second Deathlok experiment. Garrett was the first. Mike was the latest."


"He's coming for me," Ward said as a slow burn of pain forced him to curl into himself and groan.

Skye was back to feeling scared, her hope once again tested. She soothed Ward through the spasm until it finally passed.

"He's getting closer. I can feel it," he moaned. "It's part of the reason I wanted to be straight with you, so you'd know everything, know the darkness that I know Maynard will exploit and..."

Skye's instincts flared a warning shot as Ward stiffened with a spasm. As it released and he was able to relax, he took in deep breaths to ease his muscles.

"I'm not sure if I'll survive this," he finally said, still breathing heavily.

"No, you survived everything else, you'll survive this."

"I love your optimism, how you see the world, how you see the best of me," Ward said with a smile and while caressing her cheek.

"No, you're survivor. You told me that. You are not going let me down on that. Not that," she insisted as she tried to sound defiant maybe even a little angry, but her voice cracked with tears.

Ward was moved by Skye's declaration, endowing him with so much more credit than he deserved.

"If Maynard is outfitted like Mike is, I don't know if I'll have what it takes to defeat him. I want you to promise me that you and the others will stay clear and if Maynard gets past me, ends me -"

"He won't."

"End him with every weapon you can throw at him," he finished.

"Fitz will give you all you need. We can't have the best scientists on the planet and not have kiss-ass weapons."

"You know I'll try -"

"Do better than try."

Ward lovingly grasped her neck to draw her closer. Their foreheads touched first.

"I don't want to die, Skye. I want you to know that. For every horrific thing I've done, your belief in me saved me."

"Then don't, live," she said. "Fight. Not for me, but for yourself."

He pulled her in and kissed her, the passion in it blossoming and deepening to steal their collective breaths away. He pulled away reluctantly as Skye tried to hold on.

"I will always fight, Skye, I don't know how to do anything else, but I also have to know that if I fail, none of you will go down with me. I won't make that compromise."

He pulled her into another kiss to affirm his conviction.

"You won't fail," she said confidently, a little breathless againkiss.

Ward smiled at her assurance.

"Well, if I'm going to have a chance at all, I'll need weapons. Let's talk to Fitz and Simmons. Maybe they can equip me with some firepower."

They both rose from the couch and walked towards the lab hand in hand. Though Ward was putting on a confident stance for Skye, he knew that this battle would put more than just muscle memory and gun skills to the test. He knew that it would be a battle to the death; both to any emotional baggage that he had carried with him and to either his life or Maynard's. He had to hope that he would be able to destroy Maynard once and for all. The only question that remained was whether he would live to enjoy the victory. The final confrontation between them was one that should have happened a long time ago; a Cain and Able story that would be played out in front of people he had grown to care about and for whom he would die protecting.

What Ward had failed to reveal to Skye was that while in the Gravitorium he had felt a vague message, if he could call it that, seep into his consciousness. It communicated to him as an ache that went through his body and when it had reached his heart, he felt it stutter a couple of beats as if trying to tell him something. He didn't know what exactly, but the solemn emotion it evoked made him wonder if it was foretelling his fate to him; that his heart would be stopped or that it would save him if he followed it. Perhaps it meant both. He didn't know which it was, but he felt a peace come with the pain and he would embrace death if it meant that the others lived.


Ward and Skye had reached the others in Fitz and Simmons's lab and were surprised at seeing Mike Peterson being examined by the scientists. They were working furiously to examine the armor that Mike had been endowed with. He nodded towards them. Skye smiled, happy to see him, understanding immediately why he was there.

"Mike!" She exclaimed as she ran up to hug him.

"Hey, Skye," he said shyly at he then directed his gaze at Ward.. "I heard you might need some help."

"Yes, yes, Fitz and I need to understand the biological and mechanical attributes of the weaponry that Mike has been given. Perhaps we can reproduce something similar to aid Ward," Jemma said, her scientific excitement was tempered with uncertainty.

Ward was warmed by the support that was being given him especially after all he had done to hurt them.

"Thanks, Mike," Ward said sincerely.

"You're not the only one seeking redemption."

"Garrett was holding your son hostage," Ward argued, venom in his voice. "For what it's worth, I'm sorry I let that happen."

Mike accepted the offer of contrition to him by nodding.

"It doesn't matter. It was more than just that. I was an easy mark, easy to exploit. I let my need to be a hero in my son's eyes cloud my judgment."

Ward nodded, understanding all too well.

"I'm sorry for what I did to you," Mike said, contrition in his voice.

"Doing what to me, exactly? Funny, I don't remember," Ward said, fixing his look towards Mike sympathetically with feigned ignorance.

Skye smiled as she saw the playful Ward; the man who had exaggerated the influence that the supposed truth serum had over him when Coulson was trying to gain her trust. It was reassuring to see him that way.

Mike wordlessly accepted Ward's forgiveness gratefully. Ward then turned his attention toward all of them.

"I want you all to know that if any of you want to bow out of this, I won't stop or blame you. I haven't earned your support. I've betrayed it. I know that and don't expect you to risk your lives for me, but you deserve to know the truth and I'd rather you hear it from me not Maynard. After you know that truth, you can then decide if it's worth staying to fight."

Coulson knew what Ward was going to reveal and his respect for him only elevated. Ward was embracing his atonement and was letting them know that he didn't expect them to fight with him. He was giving them the freedom to choose.

"You'll hear things about me...my brother Maynard won't pull any punches and will be merciless. That's been his nature since I was a kid. You'll learn things about me that won't be easy to hear. You've seen what I'm capable of with your own eyes so you know the darkness inside of me. I'm not asking you to forgive me and I'm not asking you to excuse my actions because of my past. You shouldn't."

For the first time, Ward's posture revealed vulnerability, no longer hiding behind a facade of super soldier, of being the whole solution. Everyone took sincere and serious note of it and returned expressions of understanding and support towards him.

"One truth I want you to hear directly from me," Ward said.

He took in a deep breath. They all deserved to learn the truth from him, not hear it from a vengeful man who had never possessed an ounce of compassion for Ward. Skye had never felt so proud of Ward, had never felt so much love for one man. She squeezed his hand again with support.

"I...I killed my little brother, Tommy -"

"Ward -" Skye began to protest.

"Skye, indifference is just as heinous as pulling the trigger on a gun."

Ward hung his head in regret and everyone felt it.

"I let Tommy die for nothing more than I was afraid of what Maynard would do to me...maybe even for his approval," Ward admitted with raw honesty. "I wanted you all to know because...because it's important to me that you not hear it from the man who created me; who created the weak-willed follower of yet another psychopath and who killed innocent people for his acceptance. I want you to hear from me that I'm not that little boy anymore. I'm not that man anymore."

Ward then straightened to say one last thing to the people he considered the best of the best and to whom he attributed his change of focus, to his evolving change of character.

"I need you to know that if I fail to stop Maynard or if it becomes a hostage situation, do NOT bargain for my life. Maynard is not to be trusted and he doesn't know the meaning of integrity. It is NOT what I want. Take me out with him. It is the ONLY resolution that can come from that. I need you to promise me that you won't endanger yourselves to save me. I don't want that. I'm not worth that."

The room went quiet as everyone contemplated what Ward was asking of them, but before they could agree to it or protest it, Ward plunged down to to his knees clearly in sudden severe pain, groaning as he pinched his temples with his thumb and forefinger. Skye joined him, down on her own knees, stroking his back while continuing to hold his hand, feeling him squeeze it even harder, but she felt the restraint he was struggling to maintain so as to not hurt her hand. It gave her an understanding of how intense the pain must have been for him.

"He's here," Ward said.

TBC - Thanks for reading. Hope you enjoyed it. Big confrontation next.