A/N: I tried to resist playing in a new sandbox, I swear I really, really did, but I couldn't help myself! Fitz is just so, so...guh! Lovable! Which naturally means I'm required by my very nature to be terribly mean to him. Welcome to the club, Fitz. At least I wasn't too overly brutal for your first dip in my bloody fanfic pond.
As always, thanks to the gals over at The Beta Branch for giving this a readover. :)
He hadn't been reprimanded.
Maybe there hadn't been time for it amidst the ice storm, and whatever it was that was going on between Skye and Coulson and May, and dealing with Donnie breaking down after Seth...
Died, Fitz thought, swallowing hard as he stared aimlessly out his bunk's window.
It was his fault. He'd said as much, and yet there he was, sitting in his quarters after all was said and done without hearing so much as one utterance of blame from anyone else. It didn't make any sense.
Fitz had been reckless. Whether it had been his ego or simple excitement over new tech that had ultimately led to a cadet's death (probably both), there was no way in his mind that anyone could argue the fact that he was the one to blame. He'd been used, yes, but that wasn't a new concept to someone like himself. He should've seen the game for what it was a mile away. He should've known better. He was a bloody genius, after all.
Some genius. He'd practically gift-wrapped that power source for Donnie and Seth without even batting an eye. If a couple of kids could get to him that easily, who would he blab secrets to next?
Oh, hello Centipede. Let me help you adjust your little meltdown problem there. I'll go ahead and spill the schematics for a proton bomb that could decimate the entirety of Texas while I'm at it just so you can see how brilliant I am.
Brilliant. Right. He was a complete idiot.
An idiot who had gotten a boy killed.
Fitz closed his eyes against the growing sting that had been building up in them since he'd shut himself in his room, and instead focused on his physical pain. The ice pack had helped with the knot that had formed on the back of his head, and had helped dull the ache in his neck, but he he hadn't bothered to mention the state of his back to anyone. He could feel the bruises forming in near-perfect stripes across his shoulder blades and ribs where he'd made contact with the sturdy wooden shelves. Then there was the swelling forming in his knee where he must've twisted it upon landed - just a tweak, nothing overly serious, but definitely enough to slow him down. He hadn't really noticed the extent of the damage while stakes had been high and adrenaline was up, but now that everything was calm, settled, quiet, he could feel himself getting more and more stiff by the minute. It would be near impossible to sleep that night, he was certain, but he didn't particularly feel like sleeping anyway. He would only subject himself to nightmares of Seth's pale, lifeless face, coupled with the guilt and loneliness that had been written all over Donnie's.
Fitz hadn't killed one cadet with his obliviousness; he'd killed two. He didn't deserve to be on that BUS. He didn't deserve to be a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent at all.
Yet Coulson hadn't reprimanded him.
His mind having gone in full circle, Fitz let his control slip and allowed the burning sensation to transform into a single streak of moisture running down his cheek. Just one, and that would be it. Any more than that and someone would know. Simmons would know. She'd told him once that his face puffed up like an angry baboon's after he'd been crying, and he'd laughed at that. He didn't want to laugh now. He wanted to be punished.
Mind made up, he sucked in a deep breath and gingerly got to his feet, wincing just slightly as he put his weight on his bad knee. It would be fine once he started moving on it, he knew, so he clenched his jaw and made his way to the door, careful not to overextend his arm as he reached for the handle. The muscles in his back were too sore and tight at the moment to allow for full range of motion like that, but he could hide it. No one would notice if he was careful about the way he moved around.
Determination fueling him, Fitz started down the hall with his posture straight and his head held high, his lips set in a thin line as he made his way to Coulson's quarters. He was nearly there when the door opened and Skye came out, her eyes bright with tears of her own, not looking like an ugly baboon at all. She simply looked sad...or relieved...or some blend of odd emotions that Fitz couldn't quite place and knew he couldn't relate to. Whatever it was seemed vastly important, something probably much bigger than his personal need to get a proverbial slap on the wrist. No, now was clearly not a good time for him to lay his own issues on the table.
Too late to duck and hide, he stood fast as Skye made her way down the hall. She looked at him and flashed him a small smile, one that was just as conflicted as the tears, and a little bit embarrassed, he supposed. She probably didn't like to be caught crying any more than anyone else did on the team.
"Are you alright?" he asked quietly, not knowing what else to say.
"Yeah. I will be," she answered with a half nod. "It's just been a really rough night."
She ducked her head and moved past him, leaving Fitz to stare after her for a second. "Yes, it has," he muttered softly, and turned his head back towards Coulson's doorway. The senior agent stood there with his arms crossed over his chest, his eyes glued to Skye's back until she was out of sight, then he turned his attention to Fitz.
"You need to see me?" Coulson asked, his tone casual, but more than a little drained.
Fitz felt his own determination drain away, and he shook his head. "I just...wanted to make sure that someone from Academy was able to retrieve the machine. It's secure, right?"
Coulson's lips pulled into a quick, crooked smile. "It's locked down. So are the blueprints and files from Donnie's room. No one will be able to abuse that tech again."
"Good, that's good," Fitz nodded a little awkwardly. "Thank you, sir. That was all."
He turned his back to his superior, keeping up the appearances that he was healthy and not in any pain while moving away as quickly as possible. He could feel Coulson's eyes on him just as they had been on Skye, and he secretly, selfishly hoped that he would be called back for that reprimand, after all.
Nothing. Silence. He got all the way around the corner and paused as he heard the sound of Coulson's door closing. The guilt was his own to bear, and apparently so was his punishment.
Pain, then. He would accept the bruises and the swelling and the sleepless nights over a lecture or a black mark on his permanent record, and he would do it without shedding any more tears. He didn't deserve even that minor release of his inner turmoil.
He'd killed a kid, after all. A week's worth of stiffness and a lifetime of guilt was the least he could put up with in return for his mistake. His mistake, and no one else's. No one else ever needed to know.