A/N: Anytha84 and I have been bouncing around AOS FitzSimmons theories for a few days now and this one particularly stuck with me. Then later I saw a spec on tumblr from theagentsbehindshield that seemed to almost validate my speculation. So I decided to put it to paper, so to speak. We'll see if I end up right in the end! So I owe that blog a big ole thanks for the nudge in the right direction.
Initially this prologue was going to appear as part of "Story of Us" in chapter 10. Obviously, I cut it and I think it's better served with this particular story. It was also written as thank you to baker's huntress who was so generous with reviews.
The title is a quote from Ralph Waldo Emmerson that I first came across through the Rookie Blue fandom. I think it'll fit rather nicely here as well.
Nick Fury stands out in a crowd. His tall, imposing figure and one good eye call people's attention to him almost immediately. He'd never readily admit it, but most days he's glad to be out of the field and administering from Triskelion. From his office high above Washington, D.C. it's as though he can see everything and in spite of his ranking position, he's still easily able to keep up with his contacts in the field. When word arrives that there's an explosion at the A.I.M. Glasgow facility, he digs a little deeper and calls his contacts in Scotland.
What Fury discovers intrigues him: the victim was on S.H.I.E.L.D's watch list; but he can't investigate the matter himself. He's too noticeable, too much the public figure. Instead, he turns to an agent he'd personally recruited, someone that he knows he can trust implicitly.
Phil Coulson is a master at blending in. People tend to underestimate him, believing that he's a banker or a high school teacher or even a news anchor. It's his unassuming nature that allows him to so easily acquire pertinent information and it makes him an asset as a S.H.I.E.L.D agent.
It's because of these qualities that Director Fury sends him on his first international assignment to Glasgow, Scotland.
As a secret terrorist organization, A.I.M operates under the guise of creating effective technological inventions meant to assist the developing world. Too frequently, scientists and technicians were recruited by the allure of using their skills to better the world and wound up unknowingly facilitating insurgences.
Andrew Fitz had been one of A.I.M's leading developers and according to surveillance records, he was hired upon graduation from the University of Glasgow. What strikes Coulson as odd as he looks through the files, is that the dates listed don't sync up. The university's tech department had shuttered its doors well before Fitz's reported graduation and it would've been impossible for him to have had a degree in the subject listed if the dates were to be believed.
Coulson scours the internet for postings on the explosion and any local reports of strange occurrences. What he discovers is that the official word from A.I.M is that Fitz's body had been burned beyond recognition due to an incorrect transfer of tert-butyllithium. A fireball, they reveal, had erupted in the lab leaving everything in its wake destroyed.
What the reporters don't mention is why a technician, an engineering technician, was handling a pyrophoric substance that needed an exact cannula transfer. In his first report upon arriving in Glasgow, Coulson notes his suspicion that perhaps the explosion may have been more than just an unfortunate lab accident.
Outside of the southern sector of the A.I.M. technical facility, a collection of onlookers and mourners gather, whispering. They are likewise suspicious as many are quick to acknowledge their distaste for A.I.M's presence in their community.
"He was a bloody good man," says one onlooker as he shakes his head.
"A crying shame, I tell ya," adds another. His fingers point through the chainlink fence that surrounds the perimeter. "We should've run them out of here when we had the chance."
Coulson mingles among the crowd and pretends he's an American journalist on the hunt for an exposé. One especially talkative woman tells him that Andrew Fitz left behind a wife and young son, and she bats at tears when she says that it's a shame that a young boy is now fatherless.
He does his best to just listen. People, Coulson finds, answer without needing to be prodded and the community is quick to trust him, eventually introducing him to Susan and Leo Fitz.
The slim flaxen-haired woman clutches her son at her side and shakes Coulson's hand, thanking him for his condolences. The young boy, perhaps aged 7 or 8, stares up at him, his blue eyes are red-rimmed and his curly hair is stuck at odd, messy angles. Coulson offers the boy a weak smile and Leo looks away shyly.
The duo move toward the fence and while Susan cries and is consoled by her community of friends, the boy manages to detach himself from his mother's grip and weaves his way through the crowd.
Coulson makes a decision to follow Leo and watches as he walks the perimeter, his eyes affixed to the ground, disinterested in the action he leaves behind. He toes the dirt as he walks, his fingers dragging along the fence as though marking his route. Eventually, when he comes to the western perimeter of the factory the boy comes to a stop.
Coulson tucks himself behind a tree and hopes that he's well hidden as he watches Leo bend to the ground and trace the tips of his fingers in the wet dirt. There's a bit of an awkward struggle as he pulls at whatever is buried. With enough force he frees the object and dusts it off. It's a palm sized shard of metal and when the boy steps back, Coulson is stunned by what he sees next. His breath hitches in his throat and his mouth hangs agape, disbelieving.
As though nothing happened at all, the boy tucks the metal shard into his backpack and turns toward where Coulson is hiding.
"I know you're there," Leo calls out. "I wish you wouldn't hide. But that's probably whatcha do, in'nit?"
Before Coulson can answer, before he can explain himself, the boy runs off and retraces his path back to his mother and the crowd that envelops him.
Quelling his own curiosity, Coulson resists the urge to question the boy further. Instead, he remains in the shadows and eventually blends in among the mourners, lost among the many faces.
Later, when he reports his findings regarding Leo Fitz to Nick Fury directly, he's explicitly told to initiate Project Watchdog. Going forward, Andrew Fitz's young son, Leo will be monitored by S.H.I.E.L.D.
... to be continued...
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