As his guards escorted him past, Garrett didn’t respond. He didn’t even look at him. He didn’t even show any sign at all he’d heard his former protégée.
Or the man who had thought himself his protégée. But now, on top of everything else, Trip was flashing back to that day at the Academy, and the questions he’d asked him then that suddenly, awfully, made sense. He remembered especially that last question, when he’d told him he’d rescue that drowning man even if were he under orders not to, the test he’d thought he’d passed. Now he understood that he had in fact failed, and he’d never been so glad over a failure in his life.
“WHY THE HELL DID YOU TAKE ME? WHY DIDN’T YOU JUST REFUSE AND LEAVE ME ALONE?” Still no response from Garrett.
Trip wanted to rip into him. He wanted to take his gun and just fire, and fire, and fire. He wanted to find a knife. He wanted to see that man’s blood all over the floor.
He’d never felt this rage, this need to murder, towards anyone. Not even that cop.
Agent Hand showed up, walked towards Trip as the line of prisoners continued, then reached its end. She took in him, and also Ward, who was standing at the far side of the hall, apparently too shocked to yell, and said, “If I’m right, you two are both lucky to be alive.”
“Ain’t that the truth,” breathed Trip, and Ward silently came over. He turned to him and said, “Just what did he put you through those first six months?”
Ward shook his head. “Maybe I’ll tell you someday.”
(Later, when Ward had replaced Garrett on the top of Trip’s list of people he would be happy to kill, he would mostly figure Ward had made the whole comment up, but he would never be entirely sure of that.)
“I know this can’t be easy for either of you,” she said, more gently than Trip had thought her capable of. “The only thing I can tell you is to not blame yourselves. Hydra fooled us all, and I think we’re all going to wonder for the rest of our lives at how well they did it. But that doesn’t matter anymore. What does is that we know they’re here now, and it’s our job to destroy them. You two need for forget about your SO. He’s off to the Fridge where he won’t be a danger to anyone anymore. If either of you wants revenge, the best way to take it would be to prepare yourselves against his buddies.”
“That,” Trip told her, “would be an honor,” and Ward echoed him. He meant it too. He thought of his grandfather, then, going to war and even breaking race barriers because he’d seen a threat to the world and he’d known it had to be stopped. He had always wanted to be like him at base, he knew, and while he hadn’t wanted the world to demand he be so this way, he was ready, willing, and able.
When she was gone, following the prisoners away, Ward said, “I want to go talk to Coulson about something,” and left too. Antoine Triplett was alone in a hallway, surrounded by cohorts, but not ones that had ever known him very well, and no one who could excite the trust and comradeship he’d made the mistake of giving to Garrett, which had kept him away from those he might have worked alongside instead. Although who knew if they might not have been Hydra too. The thought struck him that Jerry or Shirley might also be Hydra, or even both. The loneliness hit for the first time.
Even when the next day he didn’t wake up alone, he still felt that, confused and abandoned. He hadn’t prayed in many years, but that morning he crawled out of bed, naked body shivering, and got down on his knees. Remembering a spiritual from his childhood, he began whispering it, “Oh yes, fix me, Jesus, fix me….fix me so that I can walk on a little while longer…”
“Trip?” He’d woken Jemma up.
And maybe God did smile down and whisper in his ear then, because, just like that, he knew where his path lay. It was with her, or rather, with she and her friends, with Phil Coulson, and with his crew. At least if they would have him, but Coulson needed everyone he could get, and knew it. When it came down to it, Trip had always worked better and felt better when he’d been part of a team, and they would be his team now. Coulson could be the leader he really could trust and follow, and truly be to him what he had thought Garrett was. His five people would be his brothers and sisters, united by their cause and by the battles they would face together. With them he would be strong.
Jemma joined him on the floor, he heard her squat behind him. Her hands touched his shoulders, very cautiously, but he drew strength from it as if it was the strongest of grips. “Yesterday,” he said, “I felt like Garrett had destroyed me. But I’m not going to let him.”