1963-12-11 - Meeting, Interrupted
Summary: Liv arranges for a meeting with Reed, Heather, and Fitz. The meeting is interrupted.
Related: Loki's death log; Out of Time Plot
Theme Song: None
liv reed heather fitz 


When Liv had originally been thinking of introducing Fitz to Dr. Richards, she had every intention of doing so at the Baxter Building. But with the Four's residence turned into so much rubble, she'd had to make some other arrangements, and she is honestly not entirely thrilled with them considering the way her last few trips out have gone.

But at least diners have coffee, right?

It's hard to miss the Asgardian, parked in a booth and drumming her fingers against the table while she waits on her colleagues to turn up. The radio's on but she's not paying any attention to it, busy trying to figure out how to even begin to keep up with the conversation once it gets going. Fitz and Reed are geniuses. She is very much not.

*

Fitz is out without one of the DWARFs for once. He and Simmons had spent hours reprogramming them to find explosives thanks to Coulson's orders. There'd been much bickering and objections between them with one seeing the other purpose more useful. But the other had replied that orders are orders and senior agents know priorities and intentions and… we'll… the argument went from there.

Which is why Fitz is here to meet Reed Richards without Jemma Simmons. He slides next to Liv and orders a cup of coffee as he passes the waitress. "Hey," his eyes reflect delight. "I tried on your armour this morning. Amazing. The materials are undeniable stronger than anything here. Malleability is incredible — "

*

Heather blows in with some snow and an icy chill that isn't entirely from the weather. She looks exhausted to the core. She makes for Liv with some trepidation in her gaze but says nothing, allowing Fitz to ramble on.

Instead, she shakes out her winter coat, tucks her hat and mittens in the pocket and her scarf in the sleeve, then slides into whatever place Liv indicates.

"I could use something stronger than coffee," she mutters.

*

Reed is late. Nothing new. Noone'll blame him— also nothing new. The day Dr. Richards has enough time in the day for everything he's supposed to do will probably be when they bury him. It sure isn't the case today, with Sue off dealing with Loki's trial and the Four's home still a surprise open-air environment.

He's covered over his uniform with a rumpled button-down shirt, jeans, and a pair of sneakers, and he looks approximately as harried and rushed as one would expect if one doesn't believe the magazine article photos have any bearing on reality. They don't.

He finds Liv's table, sliding into a free seat without preamble, and nods kind of vaguely to the gathering without *really* entirely taking it in right away. "Liv. Sorry I'm late. I had some things to check on and… well… taxis, New York…"

*

Liv looks up and offers Fitz a smile, immediately scootching further into the booth to make room for him to sit down with her. The smile actually widens when he says he tried her armor on. "Hey. Did you? I've never had someone else try it on before," she admits. "How, ah. How's the testing going?" She's not sure she wants to know, but. She kind of needs to ask.

She wiggles her fingers in a wave at Heather, her own smile going just a little anxious as she takes in the redhead's state. "I can buy you some scotch after work," she offers. "You got checked out, right? After the… you're okay?"

Before she can fret over Heather too much, though — there's the man of the hour. Liv gives Fitz a very light nudge with her shoulder, aiming a smile up at Reed. "No, no, you're fine. With everything that's happened, I'm grateful you came at all."

*

"I did try the armour! Surprisingly lightweight feeling on, even if heavy in well, every other way." Fitz shoots Liv a lopsided smile. "The testing is alright. Simmons and I have a lot on our plates, but don't worry, I didn't leave it for the nazis down the hall. I put it on our bench. No one else'll touch it. Jemma and I agreed on it. But it's pretty incredible! Never seen armour like it. The way its put together is," Leo's tongue clucks to finish the thought. He's impressed, there's no question.

Heather earns an easy smile, but Liv's words prompt concern. "Uh… something happen?" His gaze flits between them. "You sick? You ought to see Jemma if you are. She's a genius."

Fitz visibly straightens when Reed makes his appearance. He tugs absently his collar, smoothing it down as if he expects to make some vastly important impression with it. Or… that he might screw up the meeting just by having a rumple in his collar. His hands fidget absently and then tug on the base of his jacket.

The elbow at his shoulder has his throat clearing. Right. "Leo Fitz, I'm Doctor Richards — er — " he frowns. " — Doctor Richards, I'm Leo Fitz — " his nose wrinkles.

*

"Good to see you, Reed." Heather gestures at the waitress heading her way with cofffee. "Have you eaten today? Should I order for you?" That, she can do. The world is very much out of synch and Heather is happy to do something to help. If she thought she'd get away with it, she'd be in the kitchen here herself.

*

"I have no idea," Reed admits sheepishly to Heather, running a hand through hair as not-quite-neat as his shirt is. He looks like he just rolled out of bed, spent his entire day mussing himself with gestures like this one, or likely, both.

He grins, and stretches his arm across the table— normally, this time, he doesn't really want to be noticed and elongated limbs are rather conspicuous.

"Just Reed— ah, do you prefer Leo, Fitz? Liv has spoken highly of you— said you might need to talk to me about something. Though I suspect it may be considerably more mutual than originally thought, now."

*

When Fitz asks if something happened, Liv just offers him a very tired smile. "The Baxter Building," she explains simply, lifting both shoulders in a shrug. "Heather and Coulson helped us get out, and there was a lot of smoke. Thank you, though, for keeping an eye on my armor," she says, actually leaning over to give him a quick hug around the shoulders. "I'm probably worrying over nothing, but the thought of — "

She cuts off abruptly and blinks twice, slowly leaning back in her seat and bringing a hand up to her forehead. "…did. Did anyone else feel that?" Liv asks warily, already casting a very worried look out the window. "What was…"

*

"Uh… just Fitz. No one really calls me Leo besides me mom," he grins brightly towards Reed. His head shakes slightly at Liv. He didn't feel anything. "Yeah, I have some pretty complicated questions about the multiverse. Well, multiversal theory and what that means." As far as how he can help Doctor Richards, he shrugs, "If I can help, I will, but just so you know — "

A loud radio news announcement comes over the radio, interrupting Leo's thought. "This is an emergency news bulletins: The courthouse has seen massive destruction following Loki Odinson's arraignment this morning. Four are in critical condition and being taken to hospital, while Odinson essentially exploded at the scene… we are still learning more information. Sources say the shooter used a specialized alien technology to assault Odinson, and Odinson exploded like a star… greater destruction would've been anticipated if it hadn't been for the efforts of Miss Sue Storm…"

Fitz's expression falls and his jaw tightens. Just as he's about to comment, the radio announcer cuts back.

"Evidently, a shooter is in custody thanks to Captain Steve Rogers…"

*

"Oh, no." Heather reaches out for Liv. "Liv, I'm so sorry." She then turns to snap at the woman at the cash register. "Turn that up, please. This is important."

She doesn't want to find out who did it but she needs to know. She has some very, very bad feelings about this and she knows what's coming if her worst fears are realized.

*

Reed nods his head once, but doesn't quite reply to Fitz right away, first eyeing Liv oddly. "Unless you mean the sudden icy sensation of dread after hearing someone ask if anyone else felt that…" he notes, then stops as the radio cuts in. He frowns, frowns even more thinly, and reaches to pat Liv on the hand in brief sympathy as he pushes himself up.

"Excuse me, Fitz, ladies. I'll be right back." He manages to not look like he's in too much of a hurry to get to the diner's pay phone.

*

The woman at the register complies, turning up the radio so it's easier to hear. "…the shooter apprehended has been identified as Ichabod Jones… little is known about Jones or his motivations at this time… "

Fitz shoots Liv an apologetic gaze, but the name spikes his attention. "Ichabod Jones?" His expression sours. "I was doing some weapons testing for an Ichabod Jones back at SHIELD… last week…"

*

Liv doesn't even seem to realize Heather's reaching for her. For a long moment, she doesn't seem to be hearing much of anything. Right up until her hand flexes beneath Heather's, her fingers digging into the surface of the table like soft clay.

"Fitz," Liv says in a very quiet, very tight voice, sliding her eyes back towards him. "I need you to tell me that Director Carter did not order Jones down to your lab."

*

Heather waits for the answer, her hand gentle on Liv's. "I also would like to know. I can't even remember the personnel file for him." She may simply have gone past it, filing him away as mundane and obedient. That's terrifying in and of itself.

*

Leo can feel the frozen pulling at his lips. "I… don't know," Fitz replies earnestly. "It's possible," he shrugs. "Everyone comes to us for weapons testing." But then, defensively, his hands lift, "It wasn't anything strange or untoward. Just a regular pistol. I felt that he should be using something more elegant. Something to put people to sleep. Or stun them. Guns are so…" no, this is not the time to discuss that. "Right." He swallows hard. He needs to get his act together.

The radio cuts in again: "…Sources confirm that Jones worked for SHIELD, but it is unclear whether he worked solely on his own or in concerted effort in carrying out his duties…"

*

A muscle in Liv's jaw twitches. "Last month, I talked her out of ordering this," she says, her voice still very quiet and incredibly tense. She's not furious with Fitz in specific, but the anger rising up is still palpable. She's putting forth a very visible effort to try and keep her voice even and slow. "I thought I had talked her out of ordering this."

*

"There's no saying she did, not yet," Heather says quietly. "It could have been a rogue agent. She has her fans, Liv. People who will do anything for her. She's a powerful personality. We may never know. But I hope she didn't…if I even think she did." She rubs the back of Liv's hand. "Well, I won't be staying either."

*

Fitz's lips part wordlessly. The thought of assassinating someone already under arrest has him frowning deeply. "But… no…" he shakes his head "…we're building a prison so we can contain people who need it. She didn't…" His eyebrows knit together. "This is SHIELD. We don't do that when someone is already facing due process. That's not what we do."

*

"The only people in that room were the Director, myself, and Barney Barton," Liv says tightly, managing to force herself to look over at Heather. "For Jones to have done it for her, he would have somehow needed to know she wanted it done in the first place."

After a moment's pause, Liv withdraws her hand. "Let me up, Fitz. I need to go and speak with her. She'll tell me if she ordered it, I need to know."

*

"I'll go with you," Heather offers. "If she did order it, she may have already revoked your security clearance. That'll be the first clue. I don't think she'd expect you to stay on if she ordered it. You'd be a liability." She puts some money on the table, then grabs her purse as she gets up to get her coat.

*

Reed returns from his call, just in time to catch the tail end and the shifting to get up. "If I just overheard a confrontation brewing," he notes mildly as he comes up on the table, "I suggest we all sit back down before we very likely charge off into something we'll regret."

It's polite, gentle— and also carries an edge— the sort of firmness of suggestion one probably expects more frequently from the leader of the Fantastic Four. It sure is a far cry from the informal, rumpled, and vaguely scattered arrival.

*

"It doesn't make sense," Fitz calls back to the pair. "Genuinely." And not just because SHIELD is his employer. "We would've had that weapon to test. I would know if something that could kill an Asgardian was lying around — " which is probably a more logical defence than any. His face retreats into his hands. " — think through the problem! I'd be a terrible social scientist, but motivation doesn't fit here. Not if I'm still looking at your armour. If Director Carter had something to make Loki… explode," because details are sketchy still, "why bother testing armour? Theoretically explodey weapon makes all Asgardians explode… right?" He glances towards Reed. Science back-up would be good about now.

*

The good news is, Liv does not seem willing to physically lift Fitz out of her way, even with Heather getting up to leave. Between his and Reed's words, the Asgardian just makes a very grouchy noise and slumps back into her seat, tightly folding her arms across her chest. She is furious and afraid, but they both have a good point. Jerks.

"Theoretically," Liv grudgingly agrees with Fitz, glaring down at the finger-sized holes she's left in the table. "But my armor could still be of use to SHIELD. To shore up your own armor, if nothing else. That's rather what I'm hoping you'll use it for," she admits. "As opposed to… you know." Weapons testing.

*

Oh, good. Heather slips back into her seat, as much as she wants to go back to the office immediately. Timing will not improve this.

"It might not even have been him. It could have been a plant. A double agent. Either way, SHIELD is in trouble." She glances across at Liv. "We'll work it out. But was Loki wearing armour at the time? Wasn't he in prison garb or a suit of some sort? I thought he usually wore civilian clothing? Either way. The weapon is not familiar." She really doesn't want it to be SHIELD but it being someone else is almost worse.

*

No science from Reed this time, just hard logic. A bit cold, too, but sometimes one has to be to get the point driven home. He takes a moment to eye Heather and Liv, and then retakes his seat before the rest of the diner can clue in to the atmosphere at the table.

"It doesn't matter. You can't do anything about what's happened, now. If SHIELD ordered the hit, then storming in there and demanding answers will simply increase the body count by at least one more Asgardian." And there it is. Truth sucks. An eyebrow raised towards Liv. "…unless you think you can survive a weapon your Prince didn't." Truth also hurts.

He could add a few things about Act-F commitments and so on, but… Fitz makes this mixed company. "Set it aside for now, find a better angle when you're clearer."

*

"To be honest, I'm not sure the goal of testing your armour," Fitz offers towards Liv. "Besides…the obvious, which is the testing of armour." Because that's what he's been tasked to do. And he sees no problems with it. "I rather hope it's just a ploy to give me a fun job I want instead of a job I don't agree with — " which might be more telling than he intends, and so he backtracks, " — I mean, I'm grateful for SHIELD and the opportunities I have. I just don't always think attention goes where it should…" stop talking, Fitz. He zips his trap.

But back towards Reed's logic, Leo squints. "It's not just about the body count either. If you want to know what SHIELD is up to, they you're going to have to out-SHIELD SHIELD." Which is easier said than done.

*

"If he was at his arraignment, then he was almost certainly not wearing any armor," Liv murmurs to Heather, leaving her arms tightly folded across her chest. She doesn't trust herself to reach for her drink right now, she'd probably shatter the mug. "But we can't possibly have a weapon that could make someone like Loki just… explode. Not without you knowing," she adds, looking to Fitz.

She glances between Fitz and Reed, clearly still tense, but no longer seeming like she's ready to just get up and go charging off half-cocked. "I'm not… Fitz. I can barely SHIELD properly," Liv says with an exhausted laugh, one hand finally coming up to cover her face. "How can I out-SHIELD them?"

*

"We. Not you." Heather reaches over to Liv again. "We'll work it out." She's not sure that Liv has expressed her suspcions to Reed and Fitz. "That's why I'm not letting you go in there by yourself. This is going to have to be a team effort, if we're going to find the truth. But I disagree that confronting Director Carter is explicitly wrong right now — she'll be expecting you, Liv. Not going might look suspicious, given your heated conflict before. You just need to be expecting her first."

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