title: forget but not forgive (not loving all you see)
summary: grant ward is dead and she cannot mourn him – daisy, pre and post framework
dedication: uhhh, bf for putting up with me.
forget but not forgive (not loving all you see)
Grant Ward is dead and she cannot mourn him – not when she first hears the news, not when a monster wearing his face crawls into her brain and definitely not in the long months afterwards when Lincoln weighs on her conscience so heavily.
But the knowledge is there, under her breastbone, ticking away inside her in the darkest hours of the night. A steady mantra; Ward is dead. He's dead and he's not coming back.
Coulson doesn't have to tell her the news when he returns. The admission is there in the shadows under his eyes, the grim line of his mouth.
Daisy looks him the eyes and says, "Good. He deserved it."
This is what she believes. It's what she repeats to herself over and over, whenever the memory of his face floats to the surface.
"He deserved it."
The Framework though –
"The Doctor made a world without regrets," Aida tells her complacently. "Isn't this what you wanted, Daisy?"
He's slumped in a darkened corner of the kitchen, holding a cracked ceramic mug in his hands like he is not sure how it got there, or would perhaps like something stronger. She takes note of his red-rimmed eyes, the self-loathing in his tense jaw.
The guilt. God, Daisy knows all about guilt – the self-destructive nature of it, how punishing it is. She remembers the nuns where Mary-Sue Poots grew up, all those figures of Christ on the cross, of stories about monks who flagellated themselves.
By rights her own back should be raw.
"Couldn't sleep," he says, shrugging. "I close my eyes and I – I'm back there, torturing people for science, for her."
Daisy sits beside him, because Fitz has always tried to be her anchor. Loyal Fitz, who held her as the world crumbled and said "You're just different now."
"It wasn't you"
"The thing is though," he swallows, agitated. "Everyone keeps saying that to me Daisy. It's not true. It was me. I made those choices, every single one of them and not because I was brainwashed, or had an alien inhuman alter the chemistry of my brain. I knew what I was doing and I didn't care. I thought I was right."
"If it helps, I don't blame you for any of it," Daisy says. "No one could blame you. The Framework – it was messed up Fitz. Aida shaped you, stripped all the good parts of you away. You weren't in control of that."
He puts his head in his hands, shoulders hunching. "Shaped by circumstances. You know, I find myself thinking of Ward recently."
"It just made me realise we're all shaped by our experiences. I thought you could just – choose to be a good person, Daisy, but what if you can't? What if you're only ever a product of your environment?"
This is the thing; in a nightmare world where Hyrdra won, Grant Ward is, impossibly, a better man.
"I fixed it," Aida says. "I gave you only what you wanted."
Daisy considers the way Ward looks at her, the easy way he rolled out of bed. Her long hair, her discarded name; a broken world for her younger, softer self, restored.
"I didn't want this," she hisses, because she doesn't miss it, she doesn't.
Aida smiles and it doesn't reach her eyes.
Grant Ward looks down at her earnestly, an expression she has seen him wear a hundred times. Remembering it used to bring a sour taste to her mouth, but this time – this Ward means it and it shouldn't make a difference, but –
"Simmons told me," he says quietly. "What he did to her and your friends. And I think if he hurt her, I must've hurt you too and I am sorry. For whatever that's worth, I am sorry for what he did."
"How do you know he hurt me?"
"Because there's not a single universe out there where we meet and I'm not in love with you," Ward says, the words coming out in a tangled rush. "But you can't even look at me, Daisy. You must really hate him."
He waits for a moment, then turns to leave and she never said goodbye, never got her closure –
"It's like looking at a ghost when I look at you," she tells him, voice cracking. "That's why. You're exactly – exactly the man I thought he was."
"You loved him," Grant realises and Daisy thinks even after he betrayed us all. Even when she hated him, it had still been there.
"I don't think I ever really understood him until now," she says, "Until I met you."
He is so close she could reach out and touch him, Grant Ward, dead Grant Ward. Her SO Grant Ward, who played battleship with her, who taught her how to throw a punch, who listened when she said, one person doesn't have the whole solution. It's awful and terrifying and wonderful all at once.
"He could have been you," she adds, blinking rapidly because she will not cry over this. "He could have been a good man."
Ward smiles sadly. "If it helps at all," he says. "Skye. I wish I had been."
Daisy wakes up.
"The Doctor told me it only takes one small change to set you on a different path," she says, after a moment. "For you it was having your Dad around, not meeting Simmons."
For Ward, the difference had all been John Garrett. It was one thing to hear him say it, to say that his family had ruined him, that Garrett had poisoned whatever was left, but they've seen the proof now. She's seen the proof.
"I loved him."
He looks up abruptly, tea forgotten. Daisy cannot believe she's said it, let the words and the truth slip out after all these years. Even in the days after his betrayal when she was so hurt, she never said it.
"I loved him. I knew I shouldn't after what he did, so I buried it. I was so angry it was easy to bury it. But it never went away."
Fitz closes his eyes, buries his head against his drawn-up knees. "You never said anything."
"How could I? He lied to us, betrayed us. He was never who we thought he was."
And yet –
"I thought I was in love with someone who'd never even been real."
And maybe that's the kicker, the bullet biting into her skin. She doesn't know now, what would've happened if she'd allowed herself to be forgiving – if she'd allowed herself to be kind. The Grant Ward she met in the Framework may be someone Ward was actually capable of being.
Fitz is quiet for a moment, considering and Daisy is too tired of burying this to bother with feeling ashamed.
"I loved him too," he murmurs at last. "Daisy, it wasn't up to you to save him."
The truth at last; hard and sharp, a mouthful of broken glass. She swallows around it, blinks hard to keep the tears out of her eyes. She cannot stop seeing Ward, the awed way he looked at her both in and out of the framework. She cannot help but remember the way he'd stroked her knee to reassure her, tied up in Whitehall's presence.
"I wish that I had tried," Skye says.
But Grant Ward is dead. He probably deserved it, but she thinks – oh, if she cries about it now, too late, too late – she'll probably never stop.
notes: look i know he was not a good person but i feel like the potential of ward was totally wasted by canon and obv the writers did too bc framework ward was a choice they made consciously and i have a lot of feelings about it
notes2: i ship the fucked up ships alright, give me damaged people and complicated feelings
notes3: i guess, lovers to enemies is a thing? not entirely happy with this, but hey ho when am i ever