1964-08-26 - Whose Ego Is It Anyway
Summary: Teddy tries to make peace with Harper and it doesn't go well. Fortunately, Billy shows up to take over.
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billy harper teddy 

The meeting with Harper didn't exactly go the way Teddy anticipated. Who knew Bobbi was so lacking in anything involving diplomacy? Live and learn. The next day he calls the number Harper left him and leaves a message. "Sorry. The Park at eight. I'll be alone this time." Getting there a bit early, he finds a nice comfy spot to sit and then waits with a six pack.

Harper received the message. She thought about it for a good while. Lose the number was her way of cutting ties. She's gotten good at cutting ties lately. Having none is the best way to stay off the radar, to stay alive. But Teddy has ties to Billy, who has ties to the sorcerer, who knows something about her still that he hasn't shared. Cutting all of those ties would be…complicated. So she comes, but not until thirty minutes past the hour, and when she does, she's entirely invisible. Just in case there are any hidden friends.

"Gotta be honest," says a disembodied voice from behind him. "I'm not super impressed. Maybe that's her super power. Super disappointment."

Teddy looks around for Harper but then shrugs and takes a swig of beer. "Yeah, well, that didn't go as planned. I didn't know she was like that or I'd have asked someone else. Want a beer?" There's still three unopened.

"Thanks, but I'll pass." The voice hasn't moved, though neither has Harper revealed herself. "That's why I didn't ask for your help, Teddy. This isn't a weekend a project, some gang of drug dealers passing weed in a warehouse somewhere. This is bigger than that. This is something that takes strategy, and resources, and I don't care who your friend is or how many super-friends she has, but this isn't an off the books project. Not a whim. And I'm pretty sure your friend doesn't get that."

"I didn't offer help." Teddy points out. "I just said we're doing this. You can help us if you want but if you don't, it's not changing anything. Now, I don't know what her plans are or if she still has any. But she also doesn't speak for… the agency. What their response will be will depend on what she finds out. But whatever that is, it's not going to be 'we have nothing to do Tuesday so lets go break their door down'."

"Also, you don't get that." Still unseen, Harper scrubs a hand over her face. "Let me be clear, Teddy. I was ten years old when my powers manifested, and the unit picked me up from the orphanage. I was not the only person there. I was not the most dangerous person there. And for the most part, I had no objection to being there. You are talking about going into a place populated by soldiers who are sometimes the only family that the super soldiers who also live there have ever known, to rescue them from what they view as their lives. You think you're going to walk in there and find a bunch of traumatized kids who are happy to see you. That's not how it's going to go, Teddy. Do you know what they taught us? They taught us that we were the next generation of Captain America. What do you think Captain America would do if a group of people rushed into the place he called home claiming they were there to liberate him?"

"Did I say that's what I thought?" Teddy asks no one in particular. "No, I didn't say that and I don't think that. I don't think it's going to be quick or easy. I also don't think you can do anything by yourself especially since what you just said but that's up to you." He pauses to take another swig then says thoughtfully "Might be a good idea to get Captain America to help out."

"Sweet Jesus, does it hurt to be this stupid, or does the massive ego just anesthetize you to the pain to balance it out?" Harper may be invisible at the moment, but the exasperation in her voice is evident. "Leave it, Teddy. Pick another injustice to fight. You and your 'off the books' friends are not equipped for this one. You will hurt yourselves. You will drive them deeper underground if you succeed at anything."

There was a note left, and so Billy pops into existance over at the edge of the park awhile after this meeting was supposed to take place. Seeing Teddy, he strolls over towards the blond, even though he's not at all clear that the meeting is actually happening, what with the invisibility. Then again, Teddy looks like he's engaged in a discussion? Or something. He's got a bag of beef jerky with him that he's gnawing on.

"You might want to make one of those mirrors to look into when you're talking about egos." Teddy suggests. "You're the one claiming to know better than an entire agency that does this kind of thing all over the world. And off the books doesn't mean without agency support. Just not official agency support so they can deny things." Spotting Billy, he smiles and beckons him over. "Oh, there's Billy. I left him a note I'd be here but wasn't sure he'd see it."

"You have zero intel, and yet you think that you can pull this off. You know nothing. Billy. For God's sake, would you please rearrange the universe with Teddy not at the center of it so that he can realize what a colossal idiot he's being?" Harper's plea might have more impact if she was at all visible. Instead, there's just a disembodied voice. A very irritated disembodied voice.

Billy blinks slowly, looking between Teddy and the voice, not that looking towards the disembodied voice is very useful. "Well, I imagine he was planning on getting intel? That's usually right up there on the top of the checklist for planning an op. In fact whole ops might be the put into motion with the whole purpose of getting intel for later ops. Not that I am at all clear what we're talking about here." Pause, "What did I miss?"

"We have zero intel at the moment." Teddy corrects. "Did I say we were going to do this tomorrow? No, I didn't say that and we're not going to do anything till we know enough. You're pretty quick to assume everyone is an idiot but you. It's that ego, I guess." See? Billy gets it. "Oh, I arranged a meeting to try to start getting that intel but it didn't go well. Agent… Umm, Bobbi. Wasn't very diplomatic. Neither of them are. Too alike, I guess."

"Your agent friend led with the fact that the whole thing was off the books," Harper corrects. "And then yes, proceeded to be extremely condescending for someone who knows exactly nothing about what she's potentially going into. Who in the hell decides they're going into something no matter what before they have any intel? And she thinks she's going to back me into a corner? She can go straight to hell, thanks. I didn't leave the unit so that someone else could tell me to go do stupid shit." There's definitely arm-crossing going on. No one needs to be visible to know that.

"Wait, wait, wait." Billy lifts up his hands, "Both of you hush." His expression takes on a pinched aspect, "Let me catch up and stop insisting the other side is a reckless idiot with a giant ego; none of these things are true or useful to keep repeating. You too, Teddy. Stop." He pinches the bridge of his nose, "Are you talking about that whole mutant-grabby place and people? Why is it 'off the books'? Says who, Bobbi? She's not in charge. I'm not at all okay with this off the books thing. I'd take it all the way up to the Director before I accepted that position." But he does look back Voiceward, "Now, that said, there's a lot of things I'd decide I'm getting into no matter what— that doesn't mean there's not an intel-gathering phase. It means I know of something *unacceptable* and inaction is unthinkable. If I knew of a gang of kidnappers selling kids to the highest bidder, there's no question I'd act to stop it. I'd find out how big a gang and how connected they are before I decide if its a situation I need to bring the Agency or my parents into, though. Or if its something the Contingency can handle. But no amount of intel would make me let that gang keep kidnapping and selling those kids."

"And like I said, as you should already know, off the books does not mean without agency support." Teddy points out. Plausible deniability was covered in the first week when they were explaining undercover field work. He's going to say more but then Billy calls a halt so he just lets him talk. "Right." he agrees, without saying to which part he's agreeing with.

"Frankly, the wizard would do a better job than your friend," Harper snaps back at Teddy. "He knows how to keep a secret and he's a whole lot of nothing they're prepared for." She stalks away, only notable by a few footprints in the grass until she becomes visible…as a shadow, at least. It's something of a compromise. "It's not that simple, Billy. Which is what I keep trying to explain, but no one wants to listen to the person who knows the most about it, apparently."

"I'm right here, trying to listen. You're not so much trying to explain but complaining that I'm not listening. So, explain." Billy points out with a wrinkled nose, "Bobbi isn't a friend. Friend is a bad word in this context: it makes it sound like we're a bunch of people who just happen o know eachother and when we're bored we go try to rescue people. Its not like that at all. Its a professional organization with a chain of command and budget and …stuff I can't talk about." He half-shrugs, "But if this is more something for Stephen, then its something for Stephen. Remember, I'm more like him then I'm like anything they're prepared for too." He thumbs at Teddy, "He's … well I can't talk about that, either. But, he's hard to prepare for, in his own way. But. Explain. I'll shut up and listen."

"Same thing she did with Bobbi." Teddy tells Billy. "Just told us to mind our own business. Now, Bobbi did say off the books so I can see how that could have set her off but she didn't even bother listening to anything she wasn't saying." Yes, this is Teddy when he's annoyed.

"I'm still telling you to mind your own business, because it's none of your business. I shouldn't have to actually explain this, because you know nothing about it, and I know everything about it, and since you know that you know nothing, you should maybe just listen." Apparently Teddy isn't the only one who's annoyed. But hey, Harper hasn't gone for guns yet, so that's something.

"As I explained to Teddy, you're not talking about a bunch of kidnapped, traumatized kids here," she says, turning toward Billy. "They're not out snatching kids off the streets. They're recruiting. And they're not being stupid about it, either. This is a black ops division of the US Army. SSR, take two. They bring us in, usually from families that don't have a clue what to do with a kid with gifts, and they tell us they're training us to be the next generation of Captain America. Serve your country. Fight the Russians. Save the day. For most of the kids in there, this is the only family they know. You're talking about rushing in to 'save' people from something they don't want to be saved from. It's not that simple."

"I never suggested, or even implied, an action that could be described as 'rushing in to save people from something they don't want to be saved from'." says Billy in a mild tone of voice, "See? This?" He gestures between them, "This is me listening. You don't get to decide its none of our business, though. If a black ops division is recruiting powered people, I'm not entirely sure that's actually a *problem* — the Agency went out of its way recruiting powered people. Powered people are inevitably going to work for someone, be they Avengers or the Army. That's the world we're in. You know Russia is doing it. Buut, there's more to this then recruiting. That's where a problem might lie, though at that point its above my pay grade and maybe something the Director *needs* to know. Then again she might already know: I am bottom of the totem pole when it comes to official secrets."

"And since you ran away from them, they're obviously doing something wrong." Teddy suggests. "So they might be feeding you all some line but there's gotta be cracks in it or you'd still be there." Pause. "Well, less you just don't care about what they're saying."

"You didn't. Agent Blondie did. I believe her words were something along the lines of, we're doing it anyhow, with or without you." Harper shoots a look at Teddy, but it's lacking something when it comes from a slightly darker part of shadow where her eyes should be. "Which is why I wasn't particularly inclined to share the information with her. Anyone who's decided what they're going to do before they have the intel shouldn't get the intel. They wouldn't know what to do with it."

She takes a deep breath, the shadows rippling around her. "I got a look behind the curtain," she explains to Billy. "Most of what they picked up, what they recruited for, was brute force. That's not really my forte." Says the girl who can lift a motorcycle. "Turns out training the curious girl in espionage isn't a great idea when you're not one hundred percent honest about what you're doing. Had a mission that seemed…off. Take out a state senator with a swing vote. Didn't seem very 'Captain America.' So I went digging in an office on the base when I got back."

"Er, yeah." Billy nods, agreement at the 'offness' of the mission, "See, the Army having powered people I don't mind. The Army using them *against our own country* is by definition treason, which I'm pretty against, so… I don't know why you have this idea that you can't be set on needing some action without knowing what action is appropriate yet." He takes a deep breath and lets it slowly out, "I believe you, and believing you I am obligated to take this to the Director. And based on the conversation we had when she recruited me, I would be so shocked beyond comprehension if she didn't immediately order a debriefing and a taskforce." Pause, "Led by someone far more experienced then me, of course. But you don't think we should, you don't think its our business that there's a shadowy-organization acting against our country? That sort of thing is the entire reason why SHIELD *exists*. But I said I'd hear you out so I'll hear you out."

"If it's an officially sanctioned agency doing this stuff under the orders of the President, it could get real complicated Billy." Teddy points out. "That's what Bobbi was saying and why she thinks it might need to be an unofficial action. It all depends on whether what they're doing is sanctioned or not. That's going to need looking into and that's what Bobbi is doing."

"I don't think they're Army. Not anymore," Harper grimaces. "Maybe they were when they started. Maybe they were the SSR, take two. But something changed. Now they put on the image of the army, but underneath…underneath there's some other agenda. And honestly? I don't think putting powered people in the military is a good idea. It's like nukes. One side has them, so the other side gets some, then the first side needs more, the second side needs more, and by the time you're done? All you've got is mutually assured destruction. You might take us down, but we're taking you with us. And how does that make the world a better place?"

A shadow of a hand pushes through a shadow of hair as she shakes her head. "I don't trust SHIELD, Billy." Wait, when did she know it was SHIELD?

"If the President was giving orders like that, he would be committing a very serious crime and should be impeached and charged." Billy shakes his head firmly, "The Army is not allowed to act domestically. Posse Comitatus act of 1800 and some change. If the FBI was doing it or the CIA, there'd be all sorts of things wrong with it but it could get complicated. That this is the *Army* though makes it completely flat out illegal— there's no way its an official agency as the Army can not act domestically. This sounds like someone at the Pentagon got ahold of a black ops budget and started using it as their own fiefdom." He nods to Harper, grimacing as well, "Believe me, I don't like the idea of powered people in the military or under military control— but its inevitable. We know Russia is doing it." He eyes her a long moment, "I didn't trust SHIELD at first, either. I'm… my situation is complicated, but I have reasons to distrust the government when it comes to powered people. I don't trust the agency, as an agency, but I do trust the Director, personally. If she ever quit or was replaced I'd think long and hard about rewriting some history to make them forget I ever existed. The scariest thing in the world, to me, is someone with an agenda getting control of what I can do. I trust the Director's agenda."

Teddy gives Harper a look when she reveals she knows it's SHIELD but he doesn't comment. "We don't know it's the Army. It could be the FBI. It could be an agency we've never heard of that's official. No idea. Which is the point. We need to find out and SHIELD is best able to do that since they don't answer to the Pentagon but probably have contacts they can talk to."

"Teddy. Can you just not?" Harper drops her face into her hands, forcing out a deep breath. "You can't just 'ask questions' about this stuff. People notice. And then situations change. Intel goes bad." She pushes up again, pacing a few steps and shaking her head. "Just do me a favor and try not to tell the entire world that you know this is a thing that happens. Shut up about it for a few days. I want the advice of someone with a little more experience. And I know where to find it."

"Teddy, stop arguing with me. We know its not official because there they ordered the assassination of a US citizen on US soil. That's unconstitutional. Period. The FBI can't summarily kill someone: no agency can. It is not within the authority of the President to give such an order. Therefore it is not official." Billy sounds exasperated. He looks to Harper for a long moment, "I can sit on it for a little while, but I'm duty-bound to report this to the Director. That said, SHIELD is a covert agency: the E is for espionage. They know how to go about finding stuff out *without* people noticing. Its sort of the point."

"Seriously, do you ever listen to what anyone says?" Teddy demands, obviously out of patience. "Did I say I was going to be doing anything? Didn't I say like five minutes ago that Bobbi is starting to investigate it? You know, you had the right idea before. I'll lose your number." Standing, he picks up the six pack. "I'm done arguing period. Have fun."

"I heard you. I heard you say, multiple times, that you were going to push forward despite me saying don't," Harper snaps back at Teddy. "And by you, I mean you and the people you told, because you decided this was something that needed to be done, unilaterally. You don't get to act like I'm the one who's making decisions without the input of the people involved here. This," she points to Teddy, turning to Billy. "This is why I don't tell people things. Ugh!" she suddenly exclaims in disgust. "I sound like your dad. Just…handle him, please. Fixing this is important to me. Too important to take chances with, you understand?"

"We'll give you — as much time as we can, but this is exactly the sort of thing SHIELD exists to deal with, and not running it up the flagpole would be dereliction of duty." Billy pinches the bridge of his nose and looks pained, "You sound like my dad?" is what he decides to focus on. He pauses, "Oh, wait, so you did get to see him? What did he say?"

Teddy just walks away without another word.

"Not a lot," Harper grumbles. "Something beyond this world, being of immense power in the lineage, something something not wanting to say who in case he was wrong." She watches Teddy go, the set of her jaw shrouded in shadow. "Meaning more or less what we'd already worked out, but he probably knows, and I don't, and it doesn't help me avoid falling into any related traps. But hey. Confirmation. It's magic."

"Hm. If he said he didn't want to say in case he was wrong, it probably means he doesn't know but has a guess— but my impression is he doesn't like contaminating facts with guesses." suggests Billy, giving a long look to Teddy as he walks away, sighing softly. "He knows more then most but he is keenly aware of what he doesn't know. But, it was never really in question, the magic thing. My sight is different then say, my parents— she talks about 'auras'— but its accurate in its own way. Wait. Being of immense power in lineage? So you're not a mutant-magician hybrid, but… the descendant of something? You know I used to think I was Zeus's grandson."

Teddy goes home.

Harper shrugs, letting the shadows fade away as Teddy leaves. Though Billy can likely tell that the blonde with blue eyes who stands there instead is just another illusion. "Something. I ran into someone from Asgard the other day who called me a hedge witch, though, so I guess that rules out the Norse pantheon. I say. Like it's totally normal to discuss multiple sorts of gods."

"Believe me, I understand." Billy looks pained, "About the only god that doesn't seem to be real is the one *I* worship. Being a Jew mage is super complicated. I mean at the best of days I'm not an especially good jew— my family is more… Jewish-culturally then Jewish-religious…" This makes him pause, "I mean my other family. Not Stephen or Wanda. My uh…" He tries to think of how to explain this. "I have two sets of parents and each is really my parents."

"Like Jesus." Harper reaches out to pat at Billy's shoulder, a rueful smile tugging at one corner of her lips. "Sorry. I get it. Before the unit, I grew up in a Catholic orphanage, so. I definitely get it. Every kid who grows up in an orphanage has questions about their parents. That part's not new. Plenty of them make up stories about who their parents might have been, where they might have come from. Why they left them. So it's not a new question. Just…one with a lot more possible answers than there used to be."

Billy frowns a little bit: he doesn't mind the patting or the words, but something darkens his mood slightly, "The most annoying thing is that I don't know why Stephen and Wanda gave me up for adoption— and why they put my twin brother with another family— and worse, why my parents didn't *tell* me I was adopted, and none of them know the answer anymore." He looks sour about that. But he shakes his head, "Anyways, Teddy is stubborn sometimes. He doesn't especially trust SHIELD either; he's got a complex … thing. But he makes a better agent then me."

"Did you get two sets of loving parents out of it?" Harper asks, without waiting for an answer. She knows the answer to that question. "I'd say it worked out all right, Billy. Whatever the reason. And I might be a little irked at your dad for keeping secrets, but he seems like a pretty good guy. The sort who wouldn't do it without a good reason." She looks in the direction Teddy went, quiet for another moment. "I know he means well. I just don't get the sense that he has any understanding of how wrong things can go."

"He does, but I think Bobbi's attitude put you off of the level of competance in SHIELD doing the sneaky spy stuff." Billy notes, giving a little shrug, then adding, "I got the good end of the bargain, yeah. Two sets of good parents. Tommy— my twin brother— though… his parents were awful." He frowns at that, a hint of anger in his features. A long, familiar anger. "Anyways, like. I don't think he's keeping secrets from what you've said. If he knew, I think he'd tell you. It he thinks he might be wrong it means he has at best an educated guess, I think."

"That and the part where I walked into their place and read their files and visited their prisoner then walked back out, yeah." Harper is not perfect. Pride is definitely her sin. Even if she knows it's bad for her and tries to keep it under control. "It's not…your dad's fault," she admits with a sigh. "I got my hopes up. Like it could maybe be an easy answer. Not his fault that wasn't the case."

Billy gives a slight shrug, but he frowns, "Okay, so Headquarters needs some wards against magic. Magic invisibility is not something the current security can account for: let's call that my fault, I'm the first mage ont he payroll and am shit at wards, mostly because I can't wrap my head around how they're supposed to work. I'm going to be rectifying that soon. Against anything as banal as a shadowy quasi-military organizations our particular skills are adeptly suited to deal with, powered people included." He does nod a bit then, "In my experience easy answers are rare. My suggestion? Instead of going to him to ask for an answer, ask his advice for how to look for an answer. He won't outright tell you his guess, I expect, but he might point you in a direction to either prove or disprove that guess."

"Illusion, actually. Which is mostly mundane spy craft and observation, and those are lot harder to set up wards against, I'd imagine." Harper crosses her arms loosely over her chest, lifting one shoulder in a shrug. "Someone I knew was missing. Turns out it was his choice. Getting back out with someone would've been a different matter, so. It's not like it's a complete gut job in there." She rubs a hand at her brow then pushes it through her hair, sighing. "Yeah. Guesses. Stuff. I don't know. Maybe I'm just better off learning more about magic regardless. I guess it doesn't really matter where it comes from if I know how to defend against magic anyhow. I never needed to know before."

"I don't know, I'd pay to have a spy try to infiltrate the Sanctum." Billy's voice implies a level of fire and doom is the expected result. "Knowing where it comes from is almost always important, I think. Dad can tell you the sources of power he channels— I can't explain mine more then I'm my mother's son, though why mine works the way it does when its rules are different from hers? I don't know. But, knowing these differences are important to understanding me and what I can do. And understanding what you can do is very important in understanding what defenses you have— or need."

"I understand what I currently do," Harper says ruefully. "I've spent the last nine years getting to understand it. What I can do? That's another matter." She rubs at her arms, looking away. "I've spent most of my life trying really hard not to ask the questions about where I came from," she admits. "Figured I probably wouldn't like the answers. I don't…like suddenly needing to know."

Billy eyes Harper a long moment, "When I say 'can do', I don't mean the now. I mean understanding your potential. Heck, I barely understand mine. Sometimes what I can do seems… daunting. Then there's another thing to understand: what I should do. I unmade an extradimensional crystal spider once to save Stephen and I swear I got in trouble for it." He hmphs, then shrugs, "I understand that, not wanting to look back, not wanting to need to. I might be wrong, but source and ends are a lot like cause and effect. You can't understand the latter entirely without looking at the former."

"Well, you know. What's going to eat the extra-dimensional crystal flies now?" Harper looks back over with a slight smirk. "No, I get what you're saying. It's just a lot to work through, is all. Where I came from. What I can do. Magic in general. What I need to defend against. How to hide it. Actually, that last one is a big one," she grimaces.

"I… don't know that you can." Billy says with a frown, "I mean, from other mages. The Sight isn't common, but most people who use magic tend to develop it — now, I don't see anything special when you aren't doing any magicy stuff, but when you are…" He considers for a few moments, "Okay, on this stuff I'm not an expert, but I can't imagine there's a way to hide magic use from the Sight. For someone so adept at illusion I imagine that might be vexing, but I don't know how to make it sound better except to say the Sight is really rare. But… that's something Dad would be the person to talk to about."

"I get the feeling your dad's got more important things to worry about than me." Or maybe it's just that Harper is torn between her usual curiosity and a fear of what she might find out when it comes to a whole world of things she doesn't know about or understand. "I'll figure something out. That's what I'm good at, right? Figuring things out."

"Sure, he's got important stuff, but he can afford a conversation and advice." Billy grins and shakes his head, "I'm not saying ask him to find out what you come from, but to ask what he thinks you should do to find out yourself. He's smart and clued in— you earlier talked about asking experienced people advice on the prior issue. My parents are the experienced on this issue people."

"SHIELD crap first. Because you may have agreed to wait, but Teddy and Blondie didn't," Harper shakes her head. "And that's about people dying when they really don't need to. Once I know they're not all going to run off and get themselves and others killed, then I can get back to figuring out my own shit."

"Really." Billy says dryly, "We are not so incompetant as you suggest. 'Blondie' is not in command and Teddy could not be lower ranking in the Agency. If one of them goes to the Director, the inqueries will *not* be the kind that people will notice. If SHIELD was so inept we'd all be doomed." He shakes his head, "I don't know where any of you got the idea in your head that we act without intel, but its idiotic and so please stop with that. Knowing we need to act is not the same thing. The first stage in acting is intelligence gathering."

"If they go to the Director. If the two of them don't decide it needs to stay 'off the books' and be handled outside of normal, responsible channels. I didn't come up with the idea on my own, Billy," Harper shakes her head. "It's literally what they both said they were going to do. I'm just taking them at their word." She shrugs, taking a step back. "Anyhow. I've got people to talk to."

The look that Billy gives Harper is incredulous, "You're… totally a little bit crazy. Off the books doesn't mean it happens without the Director knowing. Nothing happens without the Director knowing. The question is if the Director files a report to the powers that be. That's all. Neither Teddy nor Bobbi have the resources to access to even do anything but jackoff against a wall: them trying to do this solo is hilarious. It not only isn't what they mean by 'off the books', but it would be pointless. You might as well wander around Time Square and ask random people in passing about the super secret whatever. Off the books means SHIELD acts without telling anyone *above* SHIELD that action happened." He waves away that entire idea, "Well, you know where to find me."

"Never underestimate someone's ability to fuck up your plans, Billy," Harper shakes her head as she walks away. "Usually they'll come up with something more impressively fucked up than you could imagine in the first place."

"It's not so much that someone can come up with an idiotic plan but that you're … completely misinterpreting the leeway an individual agent— or two— has, and the resources they can call. And dramatically underestimating the competance of the Director to control her agency. The idea that Bobbi and Teddy could run an op of any meaningful scale on their own is… inconceivable. That reality you're imagining of us is simply not the reality we exist in." counters Billy with his own shake of his head, "The Director is not the kind of woman who is hands-off and allows her agents to run wild."

"Cool. Then you talk to Blondie and confirm that, and when she tells you she totally meant she was going to read the Director in and take guidance from the rest of the agency, then I'll admit I was wrong," Harper says with a lazy salute that suggests she has no expectation of that being the case. "Wrong because she acted like a total bitch," she can't help but add. "But, you know. Wrong."

The incredulous look remains on Billy's face, "I don't need to because that's… crazy. I don't need to confirm something. Agents don't choose operations, they don't runt hings on their own. Anyone doing something like you say would get burned out completely, and… I don't even know. SHIELD does not work like you're saying it does. It doesn't function on an individual basis. "

"Some day, Billy, I hope I can have as much faith as you do in the idea that individuals will follow the rules and not do something stupid. Right now, though? I don't. It's got nothing to do with how SHIELD works," Harper clarifies. "That's why I want to talk to someone else, get their take on SHIELD. This has to do with the read I got off of Blondie. And maybe I'm paranoid, and maybe it was the wrong read. But I've learned to trust my instincts when it comes to this. It's kept me alive this far."

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