“I’m going to need you to take your shirt off.”
“What?” said Triplett.
Simmons looked back at her fellow womenfolk for support. “We wanted to ask you a few questions—”
“Yeah, I get that,” said Triplett. “You wanted to ask me about my time with Garrett. That’s one thing. Why do you need to do it with my shirt off?”
“… security,” said Skye. “Definitely security.”
May nodded, showing a little more enthusiasm than she usually did.
“And I also want to – to check on your wounds!” Simmons added, perhaps a little overexcitedly. “To make sure they’re healing properly, you know. It’s very important to ensure that wounds stay clean to prevent infection and scarring.”
“You just finished putting the bandages on,” said Triplett. This was his first experience with Simmons’ trying to lie. (It was certainly an experience.)
Skye decided to step in. “You know what happened with Ward. He was a part of our team – he was our friend – and he betrayed us. He was my SO, and I mean that in both senses of the word. He kissed me. We were going to have a drink together.” She thought about the time Sister Agatha from the orphanage had taken away her toy pony, and sniffed experimentally. “I thought we had something special!”
Simmons nodded vigorously. “He jumped off a plane without me. Saved my life. I wouldn’t be here without him, if he hadn’t decided to make that noble and selfless decision to risk his own life for mine—”
“What Simmons is saying,” said Skye loudly, “is that we really trusted Ward. He was one of us. So it really hurt when it turned out that Ward had been working for Garrett and HYDRA this whole time. That’s why we want to make sure that you’re really one of the good guys, so we don’t have to suffer that again. And it would save us a lot of gas if we didn’t have to chase you down in the plane after you kidnapped me. Like Ward did, you know. Imagine all the extra carbon emissions, ugh.”
She paused, and noticed everyone staring at her blankly. “I was an environmentalist before I joined the Rising Tide, okay?” she said defensively. “Someone has to think of the polar bears! And the monkeys. You like monkeys.”
“Monkeys?” said Fitz, entering the room. “Did I hear something about those cute little primates?” He looked around. “Wait, what are you all doing in here? Simmons, you’re not … making him a sandwich, are you?”
Now it was Fitz’s turn to get stared at.
“They want me to take off my shirt,” said Triplett.
“Do you know how we found out about Ward?” said May, entering the conversation for the first time. “Skye noticed that he had shaved his chest when he was pretending to be on the run from HYDRA. She noticed because of the visual incongruity between the stubble on his face and his bare chest.”
If he had been any less well-trained, Trip might have touched his beard self-consciously. “What are you saying? I’ve looked this way the whole time I’ve been with you guys.”
“Just take your shirt off,” said Skye. “Make it easier on all of us.”
(“He’s certainly easy on the eyes,” said Simmons, before Skye hissed at her to be quiet.)
Triplett shook his head, and obliged.
“Well!” said Simmons. “You certainly have such excellent—”
“Manscaping!” said Skye, elbowing Simmons sharply.
“Manscaping?” Simmons repeated blankly, before catching on. “Oh yes, he does, at that. Such shaping… and those well-defined lines…”
May didn’t say anything, but there was a certain gleam in her eye.
“Satisfied I’m not Ward?” Triplett said. “We had different workout styles anyway, I’m sorry.”
“And personal grooming habits,” said May. She was circling around him slowly now, casting her eyes over him hungrily, as if he were the proverbial sandwich. “Ward hated body hair, so he shaved it all off. He was consistent. But you shave your chest and grow a beard. Why?”
Thankfully for Triplett, Coulson arrived in the room then, preventing him from having to answer this question about his personal grooming habits.
“I’m not sure if I just walked into a sexual harassment case or the beginning of an adult movie,” said Coulson delicately. “What’s going on here?”
“Simmons is checking on Triplett,” said Skye.
“Updating medical records!” said Simmons, giggling.
“Double-checking our security procedures,” said May brusquely.
“Why is no one interrogating me?” said Fitz. “I’m dangerous too, I’m an engineer. I build things. If HYDRA had my Mousehole gadget, or your aïoli recipe—”
“Oh, Fitz,” said Simmons. “We don’t need to interrogate you. Everyone knows you don’t shave.”
“Monkeys don’t shave!”
“I think we’re done here,” said May, cutting off the two scientists. “Simmons, Skye, come with me. Phil, I’ll speak to you later about our fuel reserves. Agent Triplett, it was good seeing you.”
“You’re looking well,” Simmons chirped. “Now, don’t hesitate to come to me if anything on your wound changes. In my professional opinion – my completely professional opinion, that is – you should be sure to get plenty of rest to keep up your strength. It would be such a shame if you were to lose any of that muscle. You have such excellent muscle tone— and such well-defined –”
Skye kicked her.
“Don’t forget to drink plenty of fluids!” said Simmons hurriedly, before she was dragged out by Skye.
“I’d get a drink with you,” said Skye, winking, and left.
Triplett looked at Fitz. Fitz looked at Coulson. Coulson, who was having some disturbing thoughts about Fury again, looked anywhere but Triplett’s chest.
“Am I clear? Can I put my shirt back on?”
“Yeah,” said Fitz. “We wouldn’t want you to catch a cold, would you? That’d be the last thing you need with your wounds and your scrapes and all that. ”
Triplett put his shirt back on. “I’m sorry you had to see that, sir.”
“Something like that,” said Coulson vaguely. He coughed. “If you don’t mind, Agent Triplett, do you wax or shave your chest? It seems to come up a lot around here.”
“I shave. Garrett was pretty big on shaving. Every time we passed a barbershop, he’d go in to get his face done.”
Coulson could see this. Garrett had been quite vain when they had been trainees under Fury. He’d once walked into Garrett shaving his –
That train of thought inevitably led to a bad end. Coulson coughed. “There was a barbershop on the old SHIELD base in Cuba,” he said. “If HYDRA are there, we’ll know where to find him.”
“I think I’m due for a haircut,” said Triplett agreeably. “But sir, until then, if we want to keep up morale, I think we’d better get a subscription to pay-per-view.”
Coulson wondered how he was going to justify this to Maria Hill, who was now funneling resources to the Bus from her job at Stark Industries. Tony Stark himself would have been happy to sign off on that expense, but Stark still thought he was dead.
It was easier being dead, Coulson thought grumpily. He tried to remember if SHIELD had any other facilities in Polynesia. He missed Tahiti.