By Izzy

When Skye, just after their arrival at the Playground, began the task of tracking down all the other members of S.H.I.E.L.D. she had time for, she of course had to prioritize those who looked like the best candidates for recruitment. However, she announced she would allow everyone, including incoming recruits, to give exactly two names to her, of people whose fates they cared about most, and she would prioritize finding out about them too. Trip had his two names for her the instant she told him this.

Four days later she came into his quarters clutching a StarkPad to her chest, and said to him, “I’ve found out about your two people. Let’s sit down.”

They both sat down on the bed, and he said, “I’m afraid the news about Jerry Larson is bad. He was at the Triskelion that day, and he’s confirmed as among those killed when it fell. I wasn’t able to find any surviving footage of how, or anything to indicate which side he was on. I’m sorry.”

Trip had prepared for this possibility as best he could, but it still sunk in hard, a stone thudding down within him. “And Shirley?”

“Oh God,” said Skye. “I don’t know how to tell you this one, Trip…”

“Is she alive or dead, and which side was she on?” he asked, wondering just how bad it could be, since he surely Skye wouldn’t grope for words just to say she was dead or Hydra.

“Well,” said Skye. “For those two questions, the news is good. She’s just fine, and she was definitely loyal to S.H.I.E.L.D. In fact, she was among those whose heroics saved numerous lives on the Helicarrier, although…” she took in a deep breath, “she still was among the first group to evacuate, since she was heavily pregnant.”

Even sitting down, Trip nearly slipped down and off the bed at this news. Skye, seeing his reaction, said, “Yeah, it’s yours, isn’t it? And you had no idea?”

“None,” he said, “though it might not be. We were really on the rocks our last few months; it’s not impossible she might have cheated.” Which, he thought, would also explain completely why she hadn’t contacted him. That was obviously a very hard conversation, and if she wasn’t sure it was his, of course she’d put off having it until she was. Although even if she knew beyond a doubt it was his, she still might have been procrastinating.

Now, of course, with no records of him for her to find anywhere, she would probably have to eventually presume him dead, and be haunted by the possibility he might have been Hydra. And… “I can’t contact her, can I? It’s too dangerous for her, and for the baby. Unless Coulson recruits her?”

Skye shook her head, and showed him the screen of the StarkPad. On it was displayed an email, dated from the previous day, from Shirley to her parents, thanking them for agreeing to take her in until she gave birth and help her find a new job. “I think the government may be done with their grilling,” she had written. “And with that, I am done with my days of adventure. Honestly, I think losing S.H.I.E.L.D. might be the best thing that ever happened to me. I think I’ve known for years I wasn’t happy spending my life fighting people, even if I was so good at it.”

Was that, Trip wondered, what had made her seem so sad so much, and had she felt like she couldn’t tell him? Could he have done something different to make her willing to confide such a thing to him, or would she never have done so no matter what? Just another think he’d never know.

“There are lots of sentiments like these in her emails,” said Skye. “I think she was really fed up. Coulson actually identified her on a list of people he asked me to look up first, but I’m going to have to recommend he not go after her. I’ll probably tell him about the baby, if only as a big reason why not, but I can leave out that it may be yours if you want.”

“Please do,” said Trip, “at least for now. I suppose I’ll tell everyone about this eventually, but…”

“Not yet?” asked Skye sympathetically. “All right. This’ll be our secret for now.”

After she left, he opened up his phone, and flipped through some of the photos he had stored on it, all the ones of Jerry, and the handful of Shirley he hadn’t brought himself to delete. He thought about them, and about the child he wouldn’t know, to whom he would now have to be a deadbeat dad to for his or her own safety. He thought about the look on Marie’s face when, after getting his grandfather’s gear from them, he’d told her and his grandmother he thought they should wait on what they told the rest of their family about him. On one level, he knew this was the right course of action. On the other, he knew very well it was wrong.

Well, he decided, maybe he didn’t have to stay away forever. Maybe eventually they’d defeat Hydra and emerge from the shadows, and he could try to be a proper father then. Though if his kid was mad at him, he supposed he wouldn’t be able to blame him or her.

Or maybe even at some point before that, especially if some Hydra agent connected Shirley and the baby to him anyway, it would actually be more prudent to contact her, so she could be ready; so long as she was, he had no doubt as to her ability to protect her child. Though he really hoped she wouldn’t have to, since now that he understood what had been troubling her all those years, it was easy to see she’d hate it.