In Our Hands Alone

April 08, 2017:

Phil Coulson pays Sally Stojespal a visit to assess whether or not she'll be a help or a hindrance to the work he's doing with Sloane Albright.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Sloane Albright

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Hooray for Fridays not having classes - at least, not until her fencing class this evening. And, for once in the last few weeks, it's not soul-crushingly cloudy and drizzly as it's been. The clouds are still present, but much smaller and puffier than has been the norm. It forms an interesting beauty in the sky, faint shafts of shadow swimming through the sky instead of the cliched rays of light.

Naturally, the clear weather and dry roads means that, for one particular Sokovian young woman, it's time to wear out some tires. It isn't as if they're terribly expensive (for her budget at least) and it's one of the few things that truly brings joy to the driver. The white and black Lotus has spent the last two hours alternately screaming down the long straights and then knifing through the turns with a precision that's visible even to the uninitiated, but now its engine song settles into a quiet coda as it makes its way to the exits.

Rusalka Stojespal, college student, takes over. She peruses the parking area, and it's gotten crowded suddenly - it takes a minute or two to finally find what seems to be the very last spot to park the car. Letting the engine cool down from its sprints and hurdles, she finally shuts down and tugs the helmet off, then climbs out of the car with a long, languid stretch. The scent of burned gas, hot tires, and warm metal is as intoxicating as it is relaxing, and for a little while at least her soul has joined the great chorus.

She's dressed as usual - designer brands, but comfortably outside of the white leather racing jacket. Turtleneck and jeans, maryjane shoes, hair held back with a headband, she completes the transformation from the brain of a race car to a simple engineering student - and then finally looks around, realizing where she is and the curiously understated and friendly looking man standing nearby.

Blue eyes blink slowly in surprise; she hadn't expected to see anyone. Then again, as full as the lot is…damn. "Sorry, were you waiting for someone, sir? Holding a spot?" Wonder what he drives - an older gentleman, probably…something british? He could be /anyone's/ uncle, it seems like. The thought of an Aston Martin crosses her mind, likely a DB5, which gets a quirk of a smile. Perhaps he's a James Bond fan, Sally wonders.

—-

There is a car parked next to the spot the Lotus now occupies. Red, gleaming, and vintage. It might belong to him. The man does not lean against it, though he does stand beside it, and there's a faintly protective air about the thing, the one people sometimes get about cars they truly adore. There's a faint smile on his face for her as she asks him if he's waiting for someone, a sort of perpetually amused and somewhat weary thing that turns his face into a study in contradictions: the wisdom of age with the enthusiasm of someone whose spirit remains young. Today his suit is sharp-cut, perfectly tailored, ironed to crispness.

He seems to be in no hurry at all as he retrieves a badge from his pocket. "Agent Phil Coulson. I'm with SHIELD," he greets. "As it happens, Miss Stojespal, I am here waiting for you. I'd like to have a word with you. It's a mostly-unofficial word, I promise."

He'll leave her to decipher for herself what a 'mostly unofficial word' might look like, or what it might mean. His hazel eyes are mild, unthreatening despite the highly official air of his clothing, the self-same air, probably, that might have led her to wonder if he was a Bond fan. He even gently offers the badge out to her that she might inspect it if she wishes, where another Agent might simply hold it up and expect her to look at it in the three seconds before he tucked it away again.

—-

Protective pride. Most folks have that kind of attitude towards their kids, especially when getting an award. Some have that attitude toward other things; something they've invested significant time and effort in. Something someone else can recognize, and Sally's deep blue eyes glance over the red sportster alongside her own. Mm…could be? That suit he's got on is designer the likes of which her cousin would approve of - slick, cared for, and exquisitely fitted. Definite money here.

One hand raises to sweep errant brown bangs to the side as Coulson introduces himself. It freezes for a moment when he holds up a badge; a cop? Here? It's not like there's speed limits on the track, come on! And her papers with immigration are /quite/ clean. And then the words hit, and she gives a deep sigh. The moment of shock turns into one of mild annoyance, before she manages to recompose herself.

"I see." She gives the badge no more than a glance, doing her best to keep a haughty dismissal of the thing from being too obvious. A policeman, and one connected…to Sloane, probably. Come to think of it, her best friend had never mentioned just who she was working for, or with, other than a nebulous 'they.'

Blue eyes meet hazel, as she takes in the man completely finally - not in a way to intimidate him, but just try to figure out their social position, and quickly. In America, she decides, it doesn't matter. Even if it's entirely unofficial. "I would assume that this has something to do with Sloane. I am correct?" There's still a soft fluidness to her english, the controlled touch of a Sokovian-dialect slavic accent that marks her as one of the minor aristocracy of that distant land.

And, of course, as someone who isn't an American national. SHIELD does have a rather nebulous definition of its role as far as Rusalka knows, and he could well be here about her for some reason…but protectiveness of her friend, especially one she'd just gotten /back/ after so long, is at the forefront of her mind. "She is well." A question with an expected - demanded - answer of yes.

—-

"She is well," Coulson agrees, not at all put out as he tucks his badge away. "We're not harming her, Miss Stojespal." SHIELD is an International organization anyway; he's probably not here because her student visa has gone wonky or something. "I'd like to think we've made her comfortable and put her at her ease, though with an organization such as ours 'ease' is a relative thing."

That slight smile never leaves his face. "And I understand and appreciate it's probably disconcerting to receive a visit from me simply because she visited you." He caught that annoyance. It's safe to say that he's studying every flicker of her expression as he stands there across from her, his own posture one of total, unruffled ease that gives away nothing at all. There is no telling what he's thinking, what he's feeling. He's just a smiling enigma, a fatherly Cheshire Cat who seems unaquainted with the notion of hurry, or stress. Even the way he puts that badge away is— not quite languid, but certainly not anything like brisk.

"I hope by the end of our conversation today that you'll come to see why this sort of thing is a net positive. Perhaps even partner with us, in a way, in keeping Miss Albright healthy and happy, because that is a goal I daresay we both share. I'd like to share a little bit of information with you today, and perhaps ask you some questions. Sound fair?"

—-

Not harming her, no. Rusalka simply nods, accepting that frankly SHIELD's probably the best place for her friend - right now. As uninterested as Rusalka is in the military, her own mother is a Sokovian air force officer, and she knows that Sloane is in good hands. What those hands /intend/ for a future she doesn't know or trust very far, but she's just a little bit understandably possessive. After all, she'd spent weeks searching for her friend, and held out hope all this time, hope that had eventually been rewarded with their reuniting.

The fact that Sloane can't stay where she used to, and can't simply resume life as it was, might have rankled Sally a bit, however.

"That is good to know. She was…in good spirits, I suppose, when we got to meet." Outside of the occasional shrieking when they were on the way to do some shopping, but it's not like Sally was doing donuts or anything in the parking garage to welcome her friend back home. She's just very precise and confident in her driving!

"I would also suppose that 'ease' is something relative to her condition, as well. The changes she's gone through, that is." It bothers her, but not in a way of 'what have you become' but rather 'who did this to you' - and a desire to restore what was.

One thin eyebrow raises a little. "Disconcerting…perhaps not, at least not intentionally. You are a very polite and conversant man, and very clearly attempting to let me relax and put me at ease." A faint thread of her great-grandmother's dark mirth rises into her soul. "I would gather that from the simple fact we meet here and not in a basement closet. I thank you, Agent Coulson, and appreciate your efforts." More singsong, she adds with an impish smile. "I'll be a good girl."

One hand gestures towards a set of tables not too far away, where one can get some refreshments as well as talk quietly. "Shall we? Your offer is accepted, and I will of course be happy to answer whatever you like." If he accepts, she'll follow him to sit down and have a quiet conversation, somewhere away from the rest of the petrolheads around the raceway. "I suppose this will best be a mutual exchange; I do have questions of my own of course."

—-

His lips quirk beyond the Cheshire Cat smile into a brief flicker of real amusement as Rusalka calls out his attempts to put her at ease, and promises to be a good girl. The hazel eyes twinkle, and a hint of his real personality flickers through the carefully crafted professional facade. "Basements are so overrated," he says. "Even when you're not trying to be friendly. Do you know how inconvenient it is to lean in with a really good threat when mold-scented water chooses a dramatically inappropriate moment to drip down the back of your collar? It just throws the whole thing. If I'm going to take that route I prefer boring, faceless, and impeccably sanitary holding areas."

There's no sense that this is a threat, this sudden verbal tour of different places where SHIELD agents might do the dirtier side of their work. He really just does seem to be having a laugh at his own expense, though he leaves the accuracy of the pictures painted by these jokes to her imagination.

He is happy to follow her to the tables, settling down only after she does, sitting down across from her. "Why don't we take your questions first," Phil replies, easy-going. More putting her at her ease? Or will the mere asking of questions reveal more about her than she knows? Either way, he returns the floor to her without a second thought. He's got all the time in the world, though he does ignore the refreshments. Probably slurping on a soda would be a delve too far into the casual side.

—-

The crack of true expression on Phil's face is noted, and then the joke actually gets a real laugh from the Sokovian. "Not to mention the cleaning bill for such a thing. Though I suppose it does tend to take the fangs out of an interrogator indeed." There's a momentary distant thought in her mind, back to the old homeland and her mother's assignment. Dripping ceilings, shoddy buildings; an airfield old and dilapidated even by her country's standards. "Then again, perhaps such a drip can be soul-crushing on its own, without the threat," she adds a little more quietly.

Settling in at the table, she watches him do the same and considers. There may not be a dank dungeon - or a blase, sanitary office room - but there are still walls around her right now, and she can feel them. Then again, perhaps those walls surround them both, as Coulson gives her the pole position in their discussion.

Sally's hands clasp, fingers interlacing before she rests her chin on the makeshift bridge. There's a long moment as she considers the most important things, and just what means the most to her. A small sigh, as she meets his gaze, and then a list finally forms in her head. It's probably as obvious as it gets, and it irks a bit to be so predictable, but in his way Phil Coulson represents the noose around Sloane Albright's neck - and it's a noose that scares Rusalka.

"In order, then." She has a precise tone, as if reading off a list of ingredients. "One. What are your plans and intentions toward Sloane Albright? Two. How much freedom to come and go does she have, and those of her visitors?" Interesting assumption, that the Stojespal girl will just be let into SHIELD anytime to come hang out with her friend. What an aristocrat. "Three. What has, specifically, happened to her?

And four," she adds, not saying last, "what is it you wish from the Stojespal family, myself in particular?" The barony may not be great, and Rusalka is only a potential heir, but it is still a proud and old family. One that has not survived since the foundation of the earth by being blind to those who might use it as a lever.

—-

"In order," Phil agrees.

He listens to the entire list before he answers a single question though.

"I intend to see her trained so she doesn't accidentally flood New York, killing millions of people with powers she did not ask for and which she cannot as yet control consistently. After that, I, or more than likely, her actual caseworker, will work with her to execute her goals. I anticipate her having offers aplenty from commercial diving teams; she'd be a fine asset to military divers or SEAL teams as well. Depending on her scores she may even find offers among certain sanctioned meta-human teams, or SHIELD itself. Should she decide she wishes to go pursue music instead, putting all that behind her, she'll be free to. She has already been indexed, which is a fancy way to say she has a file; we would probably put her on an index agreement at that point. It's not really a great idea to encourage the vast majority of the meta world to run around in cool costumes with fancy names trying to outmaneuver the police, after all. Some slip through the cracks and don't make too much trouble but…the Terrigen Mists have certainly glutted the population to a problematic degree. Either way, her eventaul direction will be her choice."

A pause. "I also intend to see her trained in hand-to-hand combat and light pistol combat. I want her able to protect herself. Imagine, if you will, if someone had just walked up and handcuffed Sloane to a nuke against her will. And tattoo'd the codes on her arm with ink only she could see. As you can imagine there would be no end to the rogue's gallery that might want to use that capability to their own advantage. It's my intention to make sure she is never kidnapped, tortured, and forced to use those powers on innocent people against her will."

He says all of this with calm, almost brutal precision: in his world all of these scenarios and near-misses play out every single day. He spends most of his waking moments averting terrible disasters both large and small, and many of them revolve around people with powers or those who would use them. He's seen far too many young women and young men brutalized, terrorized, threatened, harmed, all to further other people's goals.

"Two. She is expected to maintain the schedule we've set for her: eight to noon. After that she's free. I didn't set a curfew, though if she stops showing up and putting her all in then I'll probably impose one. As for visitors, all visitors inside the Triskelion must be vetted as a matter of security protocol. That's what I'm doing now though, so you'll have the right to gain a badge as long as nothing in our conversation— or the intensive checks we're of course running on you behind your back as we speak— causes me any concern. As for others, they can see her outside the Triskelion or undergo the same sort of clearance process depending on their personal needs, preferences, and ability to pass muster."

Perhaps it was an entitled assumption, but it's one that seems to play into Phil's expectations. Maybe even, given what he said earlier, his goals.

"Three…is going to take a longer explanation, so let's circle back around to that and get to four."

Here, he gives a faint smile. "I don't want anything from the Stojespal family. What I want from you is that you come to understand why all of this is necessary. That you back it. That you help be a shoulder for Slone on the days when this frustrates her, angers her, makes her sad. That you help her remember she's still a person with rights. Not a 'thing', not a monster, and most certainly not, unless she makes herself one by her own actions, a criminal."

—-

It's a long speech. It's also quite detailed and precise, and Rusalka finds herself nodding softly in agreement and appreciation at his words. It doesn't sound smarmy, or like she's being fed lines; there's…a sort of laid-back honesty that speaks of power. I have no need to lie, Rusalka hears. But more than power, there is…a sensation that he believes his own words, not simply expresses them as truth.

In a small way, Phil actually does care about Sloane - just as much as he does the unknown potential casualties of misuse of her powers. Or, for that matter, anyone else who's been through the Terrigen mutations.

His first point is one she absolutely agrees with, and she says nothing outright - but her expression is impressed with Phil's thoroughness and consideration not just of her friend as a power but as a person, and the potential futures she might have. Frankly, it's actually more charming to her than his attitude, and she relaxes some with a soft smile. "I suppose," she finally replies, "that there are many people like this. Yet you find time to investigate personally. That says much about the three of us, Agent Coulson - yourself, Sloane, and me as well. I imagine your time is quite…demanding." A little sympathy echoes in her voice.

"It would be sad if she left her music, though," Sally adds with a bit of sadness. It was, after all, how they'd met - the Sokovian in a quiet place on the campus, and the American practicing. A flippant word, a dismissive suggestion, and she'd been quite surprised - Rusalka had never considered it was possible to play Metallica on a flute.

The second intent he has gets a slow and understanding nod. "She is a person of value. Immense value, now, I suppose. I can quite well picture such things, yes. And I have been through similar classes, in the past. I am, after all, the daughter of a baroness, and I recognize my potential as a tool against my mother. Between that and the resources of my family, there are a few reasons I might end up kidnapped, perhaps." Her own voice is equally calm, simply explaining a fact of life. "Mother, and Baba, insisted upon understanding such things. We do protect ours," she finishes…with a curious emphasis that very likely includes the Albright girl in her definition of 'ours.'

There's a small sigh at his second point, but at least she understands. "I suppose such restrictions are necessary, but at least I thank you for the chance. I will, of course, do whatever is required for such clearance, speak your needs." In her case, it might be easier - after all, she's got enough government documents on both sides of the ocean that a couple phone calls would get every last embarrassing moment in Sally's life. Isn't paperwork wonderful.

She sheds the jacket as he expresses his fourth point, and crosses her ankles before sitting up a little straighter. The white leather jacket is laid on her lap, before glancing back up to meet his gaze. Instead of a direct answer at first, she reaches into her collar and pulls out a small pendant - a coin, an American half-dollar, only with half of it cut away. "That has been the case since I met my friend, Agent Coulson. She spoke of…inhumans, before, and I refuse to accept that term. I appreciate that you see her as a person as well." The pendant is tucked back into her collar, a second thin chain visible around her neck as well that remains secret.

"Sloane Albright is my best friend, and what you ask of me is something I have already sworn to her upon my family." Finally, Rusalka smiles, a delicate expression in its relative rarity and genuine emotion. "And now I swear to you the same, that she will always be welcome - as a human, a person. Not just…" Whatever someone might say. Sloane? A criminal? Hardly…though there is the question of that dimebag of marijuana last seen stuffed into the "vintage" leather jacket of the musicians. Maybe Sloane could say that the hobo she got it from had put it there, if Phil ever caught her with it.

—-

He listens intently to the young noblewoman's reply, and the first thing he actually address is the music. "We've had her instruments delivered up to the campus," is all he says, but…there might be a sense, there, that he ultimately would rather see her pursuing music and things of beauty than the more adventurous and demanding side as well.

Then he says, "A great many. It would be disingenuous of me to pretend I've met with all of them; it's more accurate to say that Sloane's case wound up on my desk for review. Other people's cases will wind up on other desks. It is certainly my hope that each person going through this transition will receive the same level of care and attention. I do spot-check other cases as I get the chance." For a moment another glimpse of the man beneath may show; there's a slight tightening of his mouth, as if it actually irritates him that he can't meet with thousands of people who are struggling and fearful as they undergo these changes. "There are some we'll never find," he adds. "Who will wind up fending for themselves as best they can, on the streets, or causing havok. A bare few of them may become independent operators who actually turn their abilities to the pursuit of good."

She says they protect 'theirs' and his expression of frustration simply morphs into another slight smile. "Perhaps you can come and work with her then. It might do her some good to work with someone she knows and cares about. I'll also take those documents, if you please— I'm a big fan of expediting processes."

She expresses her distaste for the term, and he nods a sympathetic nod. "I'm not sure who coined it. I dislike it. But I was in the Arctic at the time. I'd have gone with mist-triggered meta-humans. If I'd been feeling really creative I might have figured out how to morph that into something cool. It might have spelled 'myths'. Come to think of it that really is kind of a pity."

Don't mind him.

He shakes off his geeky moment and says, "So let's talk about what happened. Long ago an alien race known as the Kree was at war. They came to earth, picked a select group of humans, and genetically altered them. They used terigen to activate these living weapons when they needed them. When they didn't, the powers remained dormant, and thus no threat to them. Sloane is a descendent of one of these original experiments, though we've found the actual alterations are very precise and tend to skip generations. Terigen is nasty stuff; there are multiple ways to come into contact with it and to make it work. Someone formed a gas out of the stuff and released it into the atmosphere. The process forges a cocoon, I think so that the transformation can be completed safely, but also so handlers could have gone and picked up the weapon."

His mouth tightens in anger. "It is, as I told her, an evil thing. The equivalent of executing a mass medical procedure on unwitting victims against their consent. An assault. An abomination. And one we have no way to reverse. All we can do is make the best of what's been done."

—-

The smile that crossed her face earlier returns, a little smaller, when Phil answers. So her instruments have been returned, in addition to the flute that Rusalka had saved all this time. "That is good…I missed hearing her play. I suppose it's an anchor of sorts for her." Rusalka imagines, a moment, some kind of transformation coming over her, and she looks back to the Lotus in the parking lot. Whatever she became, her soul would still sing with speed. Sloane, she decides, is the same.

There's a nod when the Agent discusses his position and the amount of Terrigen victims there are. The Changed, perhaps. "I see. It is a sad thing, that such was done, but…" Rusalka glances around the skyline of New York, glancing past a gap in the skyline that happened one Tuesday morning when she was a very little girl. "I suppose it is the way of history. What is done is done, what is yet is in our hands alone. Baba's first lesson, I suppose."

It was a memory from four years ago, something that her great grandmother Dragana Stojespal had taught her after the murder of her father - and the balancing of accounts that had come a year later. You cannot change the past, the lesson taught, but you must grasp the future and do what must be done, as a Stojespal. Rusalka had understood the second half at the time…and now, she supposes, understands more the first as well.

The offer to come and help out gets a nod and a return of the grin. "That would be something I would appreciate a lot. I've Fridays open, and much of the afternoons; I prefer morning classes. If she's free after noon…" Well, it'd certainly make things more doable. "And, as for those documents, this is your best option."

She stands for a moment, fishing a thin wallet from her jeans. There isn't much she keeps in there, though one of the things she has is a business card - a fancy one, sleek and glossed with the family coat of arms as well as her information, address, and such. A pen is plucked from the jacket, somewhere inside, and she writes down several names and phone number on the back, before handing over the card. "Myself, of course, as well as my case officer and the family contact at the consulate. Anything you need, they will provide."

And then he explains deeper, the true incident behind the Terrigen Mist. For Rusalka, it had been a difficult time merely as a bystander - terrorism in New York, fear and retaliation and confusion widespread in the first weeks. Very nearly being dragged back to Sokovia kicking and screaming. Driving around the city, anywhere, to search for her friend. Perusing police files…checking the boards of the missing. Five months that Sloane had slept through, coccooned as Phil stated.

She frowns, thinking of these Kree, but…their work was long ago. There's little to be accomplished - she cannot change the past. But she can at least apply herself to the future, especially to her friend's. "An evil thing, indeed, but…not those who survived such a thing. Bogatyr, they might have once been called," she adds with a half smile. Men of legend and myth, those for whom songs and hymns still echo softly. "I am not a biology student, I'm afraid…further detail would be beyond me. But I am absolutely willing to help you, Agent Coulson. Whatever I can do for her, I will do for you."

Her hand settles on her chest, feeling the half-pendant under her shirt. "I know she would do the same."

—-

Phil Coulson has an appreciation for the way of history, this brings another slight smile to his lips, another one of those looks that's more genuine and warm than the mask-like one he often gives. It touches his eyes, which soften a little. She quotes her Baba's first lesson, and he inclines his head in deep agreement.

He accepts the card and studies it before taking out his wallet, placing it inside. "Thank you. I'll make good use of this. And the term Bogatyr, I think. It might be reassuring to someone else who has changed. Or to Sloane herself. You should share it with her."

He promised he had questions for her, but he has learned much simply by her own questions, answers, and reactions. Still, her final words touch on what is perhaps his biggest area of concern. "I need to know if you've already made contingency plan arrangements to try to sweep her out of the country and out SHIELD's reach should you decide you don't like what's going on," he asks. It may be a trifle blunt, but he softens it with a quick, if serious, smile, one that says he would understand if she had done just that. It's certainly what he would have done for a friend, had he her resources. "And, if you have, if you still feel like we are someone you need to protect her from, instead of, say, your partners in protecting her."

—-

That slight difference in his expression reminds her once more of her great grandmother. The difference between the face of a Stojespal hearing the request of someone…and the face of a parent listening to a child. Politeness has many flavors, and some of them are merely artificially sweet. There's almost something endearing to her in that similarity, and she decides to trust the SHIELD agent.

Rusalka laughs a little when he mentions using the term. "Well, perhaps only sometimes, but…if it helps someone, by all means. And," she adds with a guilty glance at the card, "I would appreciate it if you called me Sally. I and my given name are not always upon the best of terms, after all." Rusalka, the water-nymph, the siren that lures the unwary to their deaths in the river. Tradition is a bitch, sometimes. Besides, it's a lot more American, and easier to assimilate into New York with.

And then Rusalka laughs once, hard. "Hah! I doubt she would like me to choose names for her. I already suggested Firehose; she threatened to rain on me." The laugh turns into a giggle, something carefree - a teenager teasing her friend, and being teased in return. "I am sworn to never say that word again, at least where she can hear it." And don't you dare mention it to her either, that blue-eyed stare adds.

Though her eyes widen a little in surprise, before she looks away. "No…no, I had not considered such things. SHIELD is everywhere, of course, but…Sloane is here. I have no desire to whisk her away and become one of those people who would threaten to use her powers. Or any other thing. She'd be too terrified to get into a car with me anyway…" She snorts a bit, then stretches a foot out and nudges the table leg with her toes. "I simply wanted her back, where she belongs. Her family is here, her other friends are here." Shrug. "I am here as well. Besides, I believe my mother would skin me alive if I were to ask for her help in whisking her away."

Her head shakes, hair swinging slightly at her temples. "I don't believe she needs protection from you. I swear to not interfere in your work, as long as it is towards her good. I believe you are doing the /right/ thing," she adds, with a soft and fluid emphasis on the word. "And I thank you, for…for doing what I could not."

—-

"Sally," Phil says, trying it out. He nods, then. "It suits you."

Sally explains about 'Firehose' and his face takes on a wry cast. "I'd threaten to rain on you too," he quips. But there's also a faint grimace. He might use 'Bogatyr' as a general term for what has been dubbed 'Inhumans' by some other hand, but around SHIELD circles 'crap, they went and got themselves a name' is often bad news. He really wasn't joking about the number of times someone taking on a name or a secret identity works out vs. the number of times it actually really doesn't. But at least Sally's stab at it is unlikely to take. Ever.

"I have no desire to be rained on; it would wrinkle my suit," he says, raising his hands in mock surrender, amused. He is never going to bring it up, no.

"I didn't think you'd try to use her powers. I just thought perhaps you'd try to hide her away, try to keep her what you thought was safe. But good. I'm glad to hear it."

He softens a little more as she thanks him, and he says gently, "That's what we're here for, Sally."

He produces a business card with contact information; all of it. "I don't often answer my phone right away," at least, not the one printed on the card, "But I do strive to return non-urgent messages within 72 hours. If it's urgent, call the front desk at the Triskelion and give them the distress code Bravo-421; they'll patch you through." He trusts her not to misuse it. Like many of the resources he gives out, he does this with purpose, with reason, but also out of a simple gut feeling, one that tells him that Sally might have cause to actually use that code someday, whether on behalf of Sloane or for some other purpose.

"And let me know if you ever want to explore a career with SHIELD. We have some incredible cars."

He doesn't seem to be teasing her.

He taptaps his wallet, indicating the card he gave her, putting it away again. "I'm going to give you provisional clearance," he says. "I think, having met you, that I'm content with what I've seen and heard today. Feel free to visit Sloane today, if you wish. I'm going to put in the call before I take off."

—-

She gives a small appreciative nod at his use of her nickname. "Thank you. And well." The firehose joke, well. "I suppose sometimes the first suggestion isn't always the best answer, but well…it beats others." And well, she definitely understands his concern. Vigilantism, from those who could laugh at SWAT teams? They'd be, arguably, just as dangerous as the criminals they claim to chase.

She gives Coulson a moment of a wry grin, complete with lifted eyebrows. "Especially if the water were moldy, I imagine." She laughs, letting the jibe be a gentle comment on her previous basement thoughts. To that matter…Sloane really /could/ rain on her even in an interrogation room. Definitely not something to suggest.

"I understand. And I am glad." She reaches up, accepting the card and looking it over - SHIELD logo, contact information, all of it quite stylized as well. It seems Agent Coulson's organization doesn't lack for business panache, at least. She stands once more, sliding her own wallet out and tucking the card away before settling back in.

"Bravo four two one." Simple enough, and she nods - it is a key to a world she doesn't belong in, and is given only that she may hold it for a day it becomes necessary. A secret, of sorts. Well, her family has not endured so long without knowing how and when to use such keys.

Blue eyes whip back to his face when he mentions the automobile selection at SHIELD. "Unfair." She harrumpfs. "Temptation is a test, even if it is a cruel one." And she can't help but imagine the kinds of things in their garages…both public and private. For an engineer and racer, the purest Fruit of Knowledge possible.

"I believe I am as well. You are a kind man, Agent Coulson. And honest. I shall come visit later, at least…" She glances back to the Lotus once more, eyeing what little remains of the tire tread that she can see from here. "I might need to make a stop first, but yes. I appreciate that."

She turns back to look up at him, all at once nothing but a late-teenager placing hopeful faith in an adult's strength. "Protect my friend. I place her in your custody, as much as may be done." She sighs a moment, then stands when he does. Before making her way back to her own sportscar, she glances back with a quiet, low tone. An appeal to powers greater than even his own. "May the wolf of the harvest share her wisdom with you, Agent Coulson. I do not envy your tasks…but in her case," she adds with one last thought to the redhead at SHIELD, "I am more than happy you are at our side."

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