|What: (Warning for death/dead body.) Agent Coulson just got shot. Bethany just found out she's a widow. The phone call that ensues doesn't include a thing about any of that.|
The sun is gone and the sky milky grey when Bethany finds what she's looking for at the back of an alley. Twelve hours since Conrad called to ask if she knew where Alex was, twenty-four hours since she threw her rings in Alex's soup and walked out on him. This is the same neighborhood where she met Spider-Girl while picking Alex up from a binge. Feels like a lifetime ago. Here she is again.
Bethany sits down on the moulding mattress next to Alex and stares at her phone while he stares at nothing at all. Sal is calling his contact in the NYPD and they're both headed this way with the coroner. They'll be here soon.
Bethany pages idly through her contact list. She should get some work done while she waits. Her finger finds a number and taps it before her thoughts catch up to who she's calling. She'll think of something to say.
Phil Coulson, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. is in the midst of what he likes to call with humorous understatement 'an interesting day' when his phone rings. Point of fact, he's settled shirtless on a bed with a medic hovering over him and an anxious junior agent outside when the bloody jacket off to one side starts making noise.
"Hand me the phone," Coulson asks politely, and then promptly cuts the medic's protest off with a far less polite repeat. "Hand me. The phone." He's a little surprised at the caller ID on the screen, and he takes a couple of seconds to settle himself before he answers with his good arm. "Coulson," his voice comes over the phone. "What can I do for you, Bethany?"
"Likely nothing, and I understand, but I thought I'd try anyway." Bethany's voice sounds like someone else's, light and indifferent with a little amusement in it. She didn't realize she'd become so adept at this. She should have, she's had so much practice. "I'm looking for anything you can give me on that park incident a while back. The magic thing."
Something is digging into her hip bone. A search through the watch pocket of her jeans turns up her rings. The restaurant returned them this morning. Alex is still wearing his. His hands are an odd colour. She knows better than to touch him to remove it even though--irrationally--she's afraid someone will take it.
He's a little impressed he only sounds perhaps slightly out of breath at best. "This is the... what was it... pixies thing?" he asks, taking a moment to sound like he's thinking instead of having a bullet hole prodded at by latex-clad fingers. "I'm afraid I don't have the data in front of me, but I'm pretty sure all there is to say is that we had a couple of agents present."
"Fair enough." The wall at Bethany's back is damp and warm, like a body. Alex is colder. The sharp pain of tears gets her in the throat, makes her swallow around it. She's not ready to cry yet. By the time she talks again, her voice is calm. "Wouldn't happen to be your two new kids, Harper and Wisdom, would it?" That's a good distraction.
"To be honest, I'm not full-up on this one. We've been pretty busy lately-- one moment," Coulson replies, then he can be heard slightly muffled, as he talks to the medic. "Yes, I know, I've done this before, too." he sits up, to let the bandages go on, and brings the phone back to his ear. "I assume by the question you've met?"
In the village, missing person." Headlights that Bethany would know anywhere flash past the end of the alley in the creeping dark, then the dancehall spinning lights of a police car block the way entirely. Reality pulls up and blocks her in with Alex. If they just don't come any closer, she'll be fine here in limbo. "Some grey tentacle face shapeshifter involved. Seem like good kids." She doesn't remember being that young--ever. "Harper's so new his badge still squeaks, though. Called me ma'am."
"Beth, *I* still call people ma'am," Coulson points out with an amused tone. "Politeness is effectiveness. Careful tossing that 'kids' word around, though. Wisdom's about as old as you are." Figuratively and literally. Pete's Seen Things. "Good to hear they're behaving themselves in the field without us, though."
"Well, I guess I can't call him a kid then. I feel about a hundred years old--I'd just rather keep telling myself I don't look it." The rings in Bethany's hand feel as though they weigh as much as another lifetime. As much as another person. As heavy as Alex sinking into the mattress beside her, pulling her in for the last time.
"They are behaving." Sal's looming over her now and Bethany gestures as she pulls the phone away to murmur, "Bag?" Sal magically produces a small bag from one of his pockets, frowning, and Bethany hands the rings over to him. "Wisdom better quit smoking if he wants to sneak up on anyone, though," she tells Coulson.
Sal offers her his hand. The rings have disappeared into his pockets somewhere. "Have to go," she says as she stands. The police, Farah, Gidi, and Adani stand at the end of the alley like a firing squad. She'd rather have the firing squad.
"Yeah, I don't see that happening," Coulson notes as the medic finishes and he's handed a shirt. Good timing--Ramsey's bound to be getting antsy about all this by now, the poor kid. Not that Phil was exactly happy about it. "Same here. See you when I see you."
Once he's off the phone, Coulson worms his way awkwardly into a clean SHIELD-logo T-shirt and lets the medic put the sling on his arm with only slightly exaggerated patience, then waves off the codeine. "Just get me some tylenol, a data reader, coffee, and a blueberry muffin then send Agent Ramsey in."
"You can talk to them later," Sal says. "Let me take you home."
Bethany doesn't answer him. She just points at Farah. "I want this quiet. Silent."
"Yes, ma'am. On it," Farah says quietly. "Do you want me to call Ling, or..."
Beth stops dead and holds up her hands to ward them off. The coroner rattles past her with the gurney, body bag neatly folded on it. "Let's just do this by the book." Their faces are scrawled with barely suppressed anxiety, clear even in the half-dark. "Let it go, all of you. I don't need anything."