If Anything, He's a Bother Figure

March 15, 2018:

Phil Coulson goes all Triskelion Dad on Agent Sloane Albright.

The Triskelion

Now with more health food.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Sally Stojespal, Darcy Lewis, Ms. Marvel, Impulse

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Since the day that she moved in, Sloane L. Albright, once-victim in need of assistance, now-Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., left the small apartment that she was assigned largely undecorated: She was unsure of how long she would stay, how long she would be welcome to stay. How long she would be /willing/ to stay. It didn't last horribly long, as the personal touches crept in, slowly but surely.

It's a little confusing. Is this a not-so-secret agent or a teenager?

The layout is more or less the same; a few autographed tour posters are in glass frames along one wall and she keeps her desk and laptop work area amazingly clean for someone so young. A weathered, well-loved electric guitar and amp are adjacent to her recliner on one side, and the remainders and reminders of her musical background remain scattered around the rest of the living space. Her room is wide open; a look through the door suggests that she makes a bad habit of throwing clothes across the end of the bed rather than hanging them back up immediately.

Of most vital importance is the kitchenette: She keeps it almost /obsessively/ spotless. The kettle is the most-used item on display, perpetually set on one of the burners with a jar full of tea bags off to one side, alongside labelled and organized sundry and spice. Her coffee pot has never once been plugged in.

But where is Sloane, in this silent on-campus apartment? Sleeping… just not in her bed.

The 'fish girl of SHIELD' is glad in a black and blue one-piece swimsuit and sports shorts, laying in her bathtub and … flat-out dead asleep, neck supported by a waterproofed cushion and looking oddly at peace with the fact she's sleeping inside a /tub/.

There's a chime at the door. Then a knock.

The thing about not just being a member of an International anti-terrorist organization with a tendency towards high-tech spying, but literally living on campus, is it's a bit like living in a…a…

(Sigh).

It's like living in a fish bowl.

Everyone knows everything about you. Like. If your idea of healthy eating is to eat a Hot Pocket that you don't even finish cause the microwave went scald-your-mouth on the ends and still-freakin'-frozen in the middle. And certain paternal types might take an interest in that. And decide to remedy it.

So here is Phil.

With a bag of groceries.

Noting Sloane's keycards and phone are registering as being in the apartment. But she isn't answering. It could be she just doesn't want company, but the Agent Albright he knows would answer the door and say so. He doesn't think she'd just hermit and pretend not to be in there.

So after a few more rings? He punches an override code in.

"Agent Albright?" he calls. Safety check. A 'is she here and her gear is not and if so why and is she in trouble?' check.

Sloane isn't exactly the heaviest of sleepers; she makes the occasional joke that her ears are so large now it's hard to miss anything, but she does miss the blip-beep of the door and the click of the lock and door opening. The lights are on— at least in the living room area, and dim in the bathroom— but it doesn't seem like there's anyone at home at first.

Her lanyard — and keycard— are on the kitchen counter; the clip-on holster containing her Icer set adjacent (and pointed toward the wall, of course), but her phone is absent from the living room area. The first signs of danger come from the quiet shift of a body-sized mass in water. It's the kind of sound you'd get from something, like a young and idealistic SHIELD agent being stuffed head-first into a tub and — and—

Just think of all of the kinds of horrible outcomes for the young agent…!

Which means Phil drops his grocery bag, draws his ICER, gets a grim look on his face, kicks open her bathroom door, yells, "FREEZE!" And…then actually kind of takes in the scene.

At least he didn't fire.

To be fair.

He has very smooth unknown assassins with links to MI6 and SHIELD stalking an elderly woman, knowledge that there are high-ranking Hydra moles still lurking undiscovered, with no good case to prove them, one of the very people he trusted to help him build that case sitting in Riker's Island prison because she offered intelligence to terrorists out of some misguided idea that this was the right thing to do, all without a single meeting, mention, plea, memo, or e-mail so much as drifting across his desk.

Agent Coulson is undeniably on edge.

It all happens at once.

The door goes from 'ajar' to kicked straight open. The cry of, 'FREEZE!!'

And there is Phil Coulson standing in her bathroom while she's trying to sleep, though the jarring moment is enough to knock her straight out of her sleep, sitting bolt upright with one arm thrust forward and the other drawing back at high speed. Water pellets are hovering around her, and her eyes are about as wide as saucers.

Sloane opens her fangy mouth, eyes wide as saucers. After a long pause, she states, "This isn't what it looks like."

The ginger girl looks down, then back up at Coulson. "Maybe."

Thank all that is Holy that Sloane sleeps in her bathtub in her PJs. This is already awkward enough.

"…"

Coulson clears his throat.

"I think that's my line," he says. As in, it looks like Agent Coulson has gone straight off the deep end. "I'll just…"

And he baaaacks out. And closes the bathroom door. To give her whatever time she needs to…

Yeah. Ahem. Awkward. Being the Triskelion Dad can be so awkward sometimes.

'I'll just,' he says. Sloane just closes her eyes and gives him a grim nod, waiting for the Agent to leave before she shifts and gets up out of the tub to dry off, drain the tub, and change. It doesn't take too long, thankfully.

When the door opens, her hair's a bit wet but loose, towel thrown around her neck. In one hand is her phone, and she's at least wearing a t-shirt and sweatpants, bare and scale-topped feet padding across the floor out into the rest of the apartment.

The Inhuman sniffs the air. "Sir, it smells like food in here," she says, looking up from the display and squinting. "Having someone over for dinner tonight? Why visit li'l ol' me first?"

"I brought you food," Phil says dryly. He pretends none of that other thing ever happened. THEY WILL NEVER SPEAK OF THIS AGAIN. At least, if the Agent has his way. "I get the impression you're living on Hot Pockets and things that Sally makes you eat when you go to her palace apartment. At some point, a fruit or a vegetable needs to cross your lips."

He reaches into the grocery bag and holds up a big bag of Halo oranges. "See? These are a smart choice. It says so on every single commercial they put out, so you know it's true."

Clicking her phone display back off, Sloane tosses it into her recliner. Crossing back into the kitchenette, the young agent's weight leans against the counter, not quite able to grasp the intention at first— but for sure still making fun of it. "I'll have you know, that /palace/ served us /enchiladas/. And I have the key, so like, make nice and one day I'll let you up. 'Cause I'm, like, adopted Sokovian barony now, I think."

He even takes out fruit and shows it to her.

"Oh my God," Sloane says, somewhere between flattered, amused, and cringing. "My dad is like two hundred miles that way," she says, pointing in an east-by-northeastern direction. "I think."

"And I'll have you know, a Hot Pocket has carbs and … vitamins and minerals … and protein."

Phil is unrepentant. Her father is 200 miles that way and he remembers very well they weren't exactly talking to her or interacting with her in any healthy way.

"I have also brought you broccoli," he says instead, holding up a bag with a smirk. "Which also has vitamins and minerals. And even, I think, a little protein. You could eat it over this pasta. Which also has carbs. Toss it with a little olive oil…" he's just bringing it all out now, "Which has healthy fats. Versus your hot pockets, which are oozing with some sort of golden poison that turns hard when it cools and never degrades."

One of the things that Sloane has had to get used to since becoming an Inhuman, since having that lineage awakened, is having to keep control of her facial expressions. Sure, it's easy to smile, or bare her teeth, but there are so many times when she has to be careful, like now, to not accidentally bite straight through her own lip with the /look/ on her face right now.

She can bench press a motorcycle and punch out the back of a giant robot's leg but she's being dressed down /this easily/ by Phil Coulson.

Her mouth bunches up into a line — not quite a smirk, but the corners of her mouth are definitely upturned. "Okay. Okay. … I get it. I get it. I'll eat something better. I just have had to run around a whole lot with this job, so … it's easier to just microwave something. I'm still learning every day what tastes good or not to this tongue."

"… and if you're cooking, pans are in that cabinet."

Truthfully? Phil is being a raging hypocrite right around now. He has been known to lick a saltine packet, toss some coffee, and get back to work. But taking care of his agents, especially the young variety of agent, is part of his joy and his job. SHIELD is the only family he will ever have, and so he works this accordingly.

She directs him to the pans, and he gives a laugh. "Well played," he says, because under normal circumstances she wouldn't have gotten him to cook too. But he does know how, and in short order there's water boiling on the stove and vegetables are getting chopped for a decent pasta primavera.

"How are you, Sloane?" He asks quietly. "There's been a lot going on." Because he might as well take this opportunity to check in emotionally, too.

Sloane clicks her tongue and winks, snapping a single finger-gun at Coulson.

She's good, she knows.

While the cooking takes place, she's off to sneak over to the fridge and snag one of the bottled iced teas before easing into a seat at the small dining-slash-kitchen table, snapping the cap off with a good twist and taking a drink. How is she?

"Tired. I mean the Genosha thing was a … special … brand of messed up," the Inhuman says, rubbing at the inner corner of her eye. "Cap and Mister Stark got us out of there in one piece. Checked on Ms. Marvel a little bit back, she's doing okay," she says, leaning… clearly, into her work. "Ridiculous amount of paperwork. I thought spy agencies had people that did that stuff for you?"

"We do have people. The lower ranking agents," Phil says cheerfully, hazel eyes twinkling. "The problem is, there's always someone who outranks you. The only one who doesn't do paperwork anymore is Fury. It's a nice break from all the glamorous nearly getting killed."

He gets the pasta in the pot, then gets out another one to get the broccoli steaming. "I wasn't originally too thrilled about that visit to Genosha, but I have to admit it worked out in the end. SHIELD got a very important prisoner out of the deal. I'll have to apologize to Tony for my long-distance threats, come to think of it."

He exhales. "That place is a mess, and it's going to be for a very long time. What are your thoughts on Ms. Marvel?"

Phil twinkles, and Sloane just gives him the thousand mile frown. "Clearly I gotta become the boss."

Scuffing at the back of her head one last time with the towel, Sloane slips her fingers around either end, letting the dry humor slip out in her voice. "I'm sure Mister Stark will be eternally grateful, sir."

"I like her. She didn't hesitate when we were down there. She threw herself at the problem, and when our team was in trouble, she was pretty quick to try to help." It isn't all smiles, however, as she adds, "She took those guys dying pretty hard— Magneto crushed them."

"She's an Inhuman, too. Only one I've met so far. I tried to talk to her about it, but … even I don't have all the answers."

Phil just keeps hearing "potential asset" every time Ms. Marvel is mentioned. Whether for SHIELD, or the Avengers, or just on call.

"I think I'm going to have to meet this young lady for myself," he muses. "It sounds like she's got a lot to offer." Always quick to spot and nurture talent, he is not going to let this one pass him by. He stirs the pasta a little, adds some salt and pepper and a little butter to the broccoli. For someone who rarely takes the time to eat a decent meal himself he is relatively okay at putting one together.

"See if you can't continue cultivating a friendship with her," he suggests. Sadly, 'cultivating a friendship' is sort of an operation in SHIELD. But it's not necessarily as dark and manipulative as it sounds. A great good deal in the world can get accomplished simply by making the right friends.

"She is my friend. I mean — I dunno. She's good to talk to. I don't know if she'd be willing to enlist, but she wants to do right by her home and her family and friends. I believe in her." Sloane says, perhaps far too earnest and idealistic for her own good.

"God, that smells good."

The Inhuman's scale-backed hand lifts, making a sideways gesture. "Anyway, Sally was on her way to talk to her, too, I think. I was just really tired, so, I… um. You know."

She points to the bathroom, and presumably her sleeping arrangements.

"I haven't heard back from her yet. Or Ms. Marvel— I gave her my contact info if she wants to get in touch, but I'm pretty sure she's doing it from a burner phone. I had a feeling you wouldn't be against it."

"I guess," Phil says slowly, as he drains pasta and brocolli alike, then combines them with salt, pepper, olive oil, garlic powder and onion powder into the pasta, tossing it, "that you are not really in danger of drowning if you fall asleep in your bathtub." He serves up two bowls…hey, he cooked, he's having some.

A small furrow appears between the Agent's brows. "I'm sorry, Agent Albright. It was inappropriate of me to barge in. I thought you were in danger. But that was a foolish assumption. I've…been on a hair trigger, of late."

It's not a great thing to admit to one's agents. He should be a rock. A steadying force in their chaotic worlds. He should not admit to having his own moments when he's just right on the edge, feeling ready to tumble over. He needs to be there to calm them when they feel that way. And yet in this case, failing to admit to it is worse.

He serves up two bowls. Sloane nods over at the fridge, grinning a bit. "For what it's worth, my wine menu is orange juice and iced tea."

"But … it's fine. I— I'm sorry, I didn't tell anyone. … I mean, I told Sals, but … I dunno. When I get tired out or I use my powers too much, I just … sleep in water. I don't know what it is, but I just /feel/ better when I do. Rehydrated, even. … God, I really am turning into a fish… dragon … thing," Sloane says, shaking her head.

"Is everything okay? Is it over the Genosha stuff, or …" The Inhuman stops short, waving a hand over her head. 'Above her level,' the gesture seems to say.

"Go with dragon. Dragon's cooler," Phil advises, because that definitely makes a difference. He pours himself OJ to go with the pasta, that's a good choice. This is probably one of the better meals he's stopped to have in awhile, after all.

Sloane asks, and he finally shrugs. "I had to arrest Darcy Lewis," he says, dropping what is perhaps the least damaging and yet most aggravating piece of information. "With all the best intentions in the world, she leaked classified intelligence on our warehouses to the Brotherhood of Mutants. In addition to misrouting relief supplies, they got their hands on all kinds of SHIELD weapons. We've seen some of them in the hands of common thugs around the city, so those are now being sold and distributed. It's…a whole lot of bad."

He glowers down at his bowl. He takes it hard, when someone betrays his trust like that, and it shows. And it's a huge problem. "Fortunately none of it was the 0-8-4 stuff. Talked to your speedster friend though. He's on board."

"Dragon it is, 'cause I'm pretty cool."

The first forkful of food makes it up to Sloane's mouth as Phil drops the bomb… and she just stops, a bit of broccoli falling off the end of the fork.

"Wow."

She takes a second to eat a little, shifting and mixing her food around in the dish. "Wasn't just SHIELD weapons, either, looks like Stark Tech ended up being in the mix all over the place. And whatever… whoever… made those giant purple robots, too."

"Impulse is a good guy. I know he's got a commitment to the Titans, but I was glad to get him on our side for this one." Another forkful of food is her pause before adding, "And I have not seen the inside of the building, just the courtyard."

"I met his cat. I have to say, despite never being home, I really wish I had a ginormous pink attack cat of my very own," Phil says. "I mean I could legitimately probably bring a cat like that into the field. I'd want a boy cat, and I'd want him to be slightly purple, and I'd want to name him Cheshire."

It's possible Phil spent way more time daydreaming about this cat than was strictly necessary. But the man's allowed to have a speck of whimsy right? Right.

But exhales. "I'm not sure the Stark tech problem was the same thing, as we didn't have any of his items in the leaked warehouses. But the truth is, Agent Albright, there are a lot of leaks in this ship right now. Be very careful who you you trust. Hold information close to your chest, don't volunteer anything you don't have to."

His features take on a grim cast, and he says, "You can see why I had concerns even here, right in the Triskelion. Do not neglect security. Even when you think you're safe."

Coulson wants his own Cheshire Cat? It's kind of … adorable, sort of, in it's own way? But there's something so weird about Coulson wanting something like this. Is this one of those tests where you mess with a subordinate and see what their reaction is?

"If I hear anything that sounds suspect, sir, I'll bring it to you as soon as I can. I mean — for as much as a junior agent gets trusted with … much of anything. Being front page in the newspaper also kind of put the kibash on the whole 'secret' thing."

Do not neglect security. "Yessir."

"Agent Coulson, I — also wanted to ask you something. It's kind of a favor."

Is it a test?

Anything is possible. It could be anything from yes, Coulson wants a Cheshire Cat, to this is a joke, to this is absolutely a test. The slight (Cheshire-catlike) smile on his face gives away positively nothing, as it so often does.

"Thank you," he says, to the offer of information. "And don't worry about your picture in the paper, Agent Albright. We're anti-terrorist, anti-alien-and-magical-destruction forces. Not all of us have to be spies. You might see more than you think. You just never know. I feel like the whole dragon thing put a kibbosh on the spy track for you a long time ago. And yet you have a place here."

But she says she has a favor to ask, and his eyes turn gentle and serious. He tilts his head at her in a way that indicates she should go ahead and ask him.

"I guess Cap seems to think so, too," Sloane says, shrugging faintly. "We keep getting sent out on missions together, even if they're … I dunno, I mean … getting shot at… it feels weird to call it a milk run, y'know? But anyway, that actually has something to do with it."

Sloane lifts her free hand a little. "SHIELD helped me a lot. Took me in. Showed me how to use my abilities and how to defend myself. I want to help others like I was helped, and I don't just mean, like, like I am now. I want to try to find other Inhumans, and help them too. That giant purple robot in Genosha could distinguish us. It wanted to catch us for something. I want to make sure any other Inhumans out there don't get caught off-guard."

"We're going to call all missions where we get shot at milk runs from now on," Coulson says, with mildly humor. Because that strikes him as hilarious. They can com that over. Time to go on a milk run, fellas!

He tilts his head as she makes her request though. And nods. This is a good duty to send her on. "We actually know very little about the Inhumans," he says quietly. "Less than I'd like to know, for certain sure. But I do have a scanner that looks for their unique genetics, something that you can use to track them down. Come by my office tomorrow. I'll give it to you there. It's just a little bracelet, pretty discreet. All I ask is that you report back to me on anyone and anything you learn. Names, powers, what they're doing with their time. If they're just living their lives, that's great, if they're doing the vigilante hero thing responsibly, I'd like to know so we can quietly give them a little shelter and support, and if they're being destructive then I'd like to know that too, so I can make sure the appropriate people go and have a chat with them about that."

A wrist strap? That's pretty discreet.

"That sounds pretty useful, sir. All right… I'll do it. It's the least I can do for the bountiful feast, and the gift of oranges. I won't let it get in the way of my normal missions. I don't know if I should really call it 'my spare tiem,' but I'm hoping to find more friends— more allies. Maybe someone that can give me a better explanation about our past, too."

Shelter, support, aid and comfort, or the occasional swat into the ground? Sounds good to her.

Lifting her bottle of iced tea like a toast, the Boston girl gives a big fangy grin. "Milk runs it is, sir."

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License