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The Piano Man

Chapter Text

“Hey. Hey, kid. Can you play that song? The Elvis one.” Fitz looked up at the man leaning against the piano, clutching a beer to his chest. “You know, the Elvis one.”

“Sure, sure. If you could just tell me which Elvis one, that might help.” Fitz drummed his fingers against the edge of the piano.

“I don’t remember,” the man slurred, “But you know it. Everybody knows it.” Fitz shuddered as the man’s beer-shrouded breath infiltrated Fitz’s personal space. “Come on, kid. Do it for me.”

Fitz closed his eyes, flipping through the records at Nan’s with his mind. He cautiously played the first chords of Can’t Help Falling in Love, and looked back at the man, who was now staring at the waitress, Bobbi, Mack had called her, across the room.

“Don’t stop there. Play, play.” As Fitz hit the final chord, the man let out a sigh. “That was beautiful. What’s your name, piano kid?”

“Fitz.” Fitz looked at his watch. Two hours until closing.

“Fitz, you’re an absolute beauty. That, that song, Fitz, is the most beautiful song in the world. And you know why it’s the most beautiful? Because it’s true. I can’t help loving her, even if she is a she-devil who took that song, took our first dance, and turned it into a hellish she-devil-chant I can’t get out of my head.” He slammed his fist against the top of the piano, and Fitz jumped. “It should be beautiful. It shouldn’t be here, taunting me.”

“And you shouldn’t be drinking this much, Hunter, but here we are.” Bobbi appeared behind the man. “Leave Fitz alone.”

“Leave me alone. You can’t tell me how much to drink. You forfeited that right when you broke our beautiful, perfect, marriage.” Hunter slammed his glass against the floor. “So yeah, take that Bob.”

Fitz winced, and Bobbi turned to him. “I’m sorry about this, Fitz. Sometimes Hunter gets a little confused about how our marriage ended when he’s drinking and listening to Elvis at 2 in the morning.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t know it would cause a mess.” Fitz looked around frantically as the noise escalated.

“Not your fault, it was real nice. I’m keeping you around.” Mack, the owner of the bar, tapped Bobbi on the shoulder. “Bobbi, take it outside.”

“Right, sorry.” Bobbi shrugged. “I don’t think I have anything else to say to him, considering how many times we’ve had this fight.”

“You’re freaking the kid out. Walk it off, Bobbi. Hunter, sit down, I’m getting you an Uber.” Mack turned back to Fitz. “I’m sorry you had to see that. Just- avoid Elvis tomorrow night.”

“Tomorrow? You mean?” Fitz tapped his fingers against his knee, waiting for Mack to respond.

“You’ve got the job. Can you be here at 8 tomorrow night?”

“8. Got it.”

“You don’t have to play more tonight. Most people are gone anyway, and we don’t usually get many new customers this late.” Mack looked around at the emptying basement. “Come on, I’ll give you a drink on me.”

Fitz looked around. “I think I’d better not- I mean- it’s not legal.”

“You’re playing in an underground bar, Turbo. It doesn’t matter if it’s legal. There aren’t any cops in here.” Bobbi caught his eye and nodded towards the corner. “Okay, there’s one cop in here, but May’s a regular. She liked the music.” Fitz glanced nervously at the woman’s leather jacket and holster. “Come on, Fitz.”

“I need to get home safe. I’m not drinking tonight.” Fitz set his jaw. “I don’t want to drink.”

“Okay, Turbo.” Mack narrowed his eyes. “I’ll get you a coca-cola on ice, and I think Pipes left some chicken fingers in the kitchen. You haven’t eaten tonight- the least I can do is give you some for the road.”

Fitz slid onto one of the barstools, watching Bobbi mop up Hunter’s spilled beer, jumping when Mack pushed the plate towards him. “Thanks.”

“Don’t mention it. I don’t sell day old stuff anyway. Where in town are you staying? I’ll call you a car if you need it.” Mack leaned across the counter.

“Nah, I’m fine. It’s not a long walk.” Fitz looked back towards the piano. “I’ll play a little while longer.”

“Sure.” Mack straightened. “Don’t forget to get your cash from the jar.”

As Fitz’s music filled the room again, Bobbi nudged Mack’s shoulder. “You think he’s safe, boss?”

“He’s not old enough to drink, but he doesn’t have anybody who cares when he’s back home, or else he would have taken the chance to leave half an hour ago. I’ll keep an eye on him. I don’t think he’s looking for trouble.”

“That’s not what I meant. He was scared stiff when Hunter and I were arguing.”

“About that, Bobbi-”

“Oh come on, Mack, don’t give me that right now. He’s jumpy, and he’s got what’s the end of a black eye, or makeup on a nasty one. He’s not old enough to drink, and he ate those frozen chicken abominations faster than anybody should eat processed meat. Somebody’s treating him badly, and he’s scared to go home.

“Damn, Bobbi. You sure?” Mack looked at Fitz again.

“Nope, just a theory. Ask Piper about him. Her girlfriend can probably dig something up. Skye’s good with computers, and all that stuff.” Bobbi disappeared back into the kitchen, but stuck her head through the door again. “Also, Hunter’s cab is here, and those chicken fingers really do taste awful. Find another brand at Costco, please.”

Chapter Text

“He’s dependable, I’ll say that much.” Mack nudged Bobbi as Fitz appeared in the doorway of the bar. “He’s shown up every day, always with his backpack, always- what’s up, Turbo?” Mack offered Fitz his hand. “You’re here like clockwork, buddy. Bobbi, get Fitz something to eat. It’s on the house for my piano man.”

“Thanks, but I can pay.” Fitz pulled his wallet from his pocket and opened it, his hands shaking as he pulled out a wrinkled bill.

“Come on, Turbo, it’s the least I can do. You know, business has almost doubled since you started playing here? I think word’s getting around that Leopold Fitz is one hell of a musician.” Mack grinned, but Fitz looked more nervous than ever. “What’s bothering you, Fitz?”

“Nothing.” Fitz shrugged his backpack off his shoulders. “I think I’ll just start playing now. I’m not hungry yet.”

Bobbi elbowed Mack in the ribs. “See? Something’s bothering him.”

“I think you’re overreacting.” Mack shrugged. “I’ll ask him later, but he seems to be a pretty private guy.”

“Piper said that Skye might know him. She went to high school in the city. Next time she comes in I’ll ask her.” Bobbi watched as Fitz began to play. “Damn, he’s good though.”

Skye made an appearance later that night, her hair in a messy bun and her shirt still carrying her name tag from the coffee shop. “What’s up, Mack? Where’s Pipes?”

Mack nodded at the kitchen. “Back there. I’ll tell her you’re here in a bit.”

Skye nodded, and leaned across the counter. “Bobbi said there was somebody you needed me to stalk, excuse me, research.”

Mack rolled his eyes. “She’s obsessed with finding out this kid’s backstory. He’s on the piano. Just goes by Fitz.”

Skye’s eyes lit up. “Oh my god, no way. Leopold Fitz? Hint of a Scottish accent? Curly hair? Prettiest blue eyes on the continent?”

“Gross. Should Piper be jealous?” Mack feigned disgust.

“I’m just pointing out critical features. Fitz and I were at school together a year or two back. Can I interrupt his set?” Skye looked over at the piano. “Oh my god, it’s him. I thought he was at MIT.”

“MIT? He plays piano.” Despite his dislike of Bobbi’s prying, Mack followed Skye’s gaze to the piano.

“I ate lunch with him during junior year. He’s a genius. Engineering, technology, anything. I’m pretty sure he was dual enrolled, and he was going to get his diploma a year early and go to MIT. We lost touch over the summer, and I didn’t end up back for senior year. I wonder what he’s doing here.” Skye got up and walked across the bar, weaving through the growing crowd towards Fitz and tapped him on the shoulder.

Fitz started and spun around. “What do you want?”

“Chill out, Fitz, it’s me, Skye. Do you remember me? We hung out junior year at the Academy.”

Fitz visibly relaxed. “Oh. Skye. Sorry.”

Skye pulled him into a hug. “Hey, it’s been a while. How’s Cambridge?”

“Cambridge?” Fitz sat down again abruptly.

“Yeah. You were going to MIT after junior year, right?” Skye drew back, embarrassed. “Or did I remember wrong?”

“No, no, you’re right. Just, things changed and I stayed here. You left.” Fitz’s look was almost accusatory.

“Yeah, well, things changed with that too.” Skye shifted her weight to her other foot. “My foster family decided they weren’t okay with the idea of a bisexual foster daughter, and some..stuff happened with Grant- you remember Grant, right?” Fitz’s color drained and he nodded. “Anyway, he’s an asshole, and Victoria Hand was a homophobe, so I ended up skipping senior year.”

“You mean you dropped out.” A grin played at the edge of Fitz’s mouth. “Before Mr. Sitwell expelled you, like we always planned?”

“Of course.” Skye smiled back. “Hey, I’ve missed you. Let’s catch up, okay?”

“Where can I find you?” Fitz asked. “I don’t have a phone.”

“Do you know Piper?” Skye asked, glancing over to the swinging door of the kitchen. “I live with her now. And it’s not platonic, before you ask.”

Fitz gave her a withering look. “Who’s going to tell Jemma that?” He raised his voice a few octaves. “Oh my gawwwd Skye, you and Elena are such adorable best friiiiends. Friendship goals.”

Skye laughed and then whispered seriously, “You know Elena and I broke up like two years ago, right?”

“Skye, just how dumb do you think I am?” Fitz shoved her away. “I didn’t completely lose my mind.” He froze, and turned around on the bench . “Maybe you can introduce me to Piper later. I need to play now.”

Skye opened her mouth, wanting to understand, and then stopped. “Okay. I’ll see you around, Fitz.”

Fitz nodded, his face burning red as he continued his set. Skye returned to the counter, where Bobbi was pretending to wipe peanut shells into a dish. “So, tell me about him. I’m a little worried.”

“Oh, he’s completely safe. He was the best kid at our table, hands down.” Skye said reassuringly, “No need to worry.”

“That’s not what I meant, actually.” Bobbi dumped the peanut shells into the trashcan behind the bar. “Do you know where he’s living? He looked like hell the first night he was in here. Black eye, really jumpy. More than normal, anyway.”

Skye pursed her lips. “His parents had a rocky relationship, but they were living together last I recall. I think there was a discussion about his mum or his Nan moving to Cambridge with him, but he said he never ended up at MIT after all. A pity, really. I’m surprised his Nan isn’t here to watch him play. She always showed up for his events.”

“He’s never mentioned her before.”

“God, I miss his Nan. She was a special ed teacher, but she would work out ways to pick him up, and she’d let me crash on her couch and she could cook like anything.”

“That wouldn’t be Ms Fitz from East Side Elementary?” Mack stopped pretending to ignore their conversation.

“That’s her.” Skye flicked a peanut shell at him. “Do you know her?”

Mack hesitated. “I’ve crossed paths with her. She was in a bad accident a couple years ago, I think.”

Skye stared at him. “An accident? Like a car accident?”

“I think so. It was on the news, I think. Look, Skye, you’re welcome to hang out here, but Bobbi and I have got to keep working.”

“Duh. Sorry.” Skye nodded and pulled out her phone, typing quickly as she watched Fitz. He appeared to be focused on the piano, but every now and then he shot a glance at the door.

Local Teacher In Critical Condition After Stormy Accident

Eleanor Fitz, a beloved teacher at East Side Elementary, has been confirmed as the driver involved in the accident on Ridge Road. Ms Fitz, who has served in the City school system for over 13 years, was traveling with her grandson during Saturday’s storm. Both are in critical condition...

Skye let her phone slide to the counter and looked back at Fitz. He was flipping through a folder in his backpack, probably looking for sheet music. The date on the article placed the accident right after junior year. That might explain why he didn’t go to MIT, and why they completely lost touch with each other. He hadn’t returned her texts that summer- or ever.

“Why the long face?” Bobbi bumped into her shoulder. “Quick, Mack isn’t looking.”

Skye shook her head. “I don’t know exactly. But something’s definitely changed with him and I think it started with the car accident.”

“His grandmother’s accident?” Bobbi looked confused. “I know they were close, but-”

Skye handed her the phone. “No, look. It wasn’t just his grandmother.”

Chapter Text

Bobbi started when Fitz’s music ended with a discordant bang. When she looked over at the table, his face was red with frustration as he glared at the music. The music started again, faltered, and ended with another crash of the keys. Bobbi put her tray down and walked quickly over to the piano. “Hey, Fitz.”

He looked up, flushed with embarrassment. “I’m fine, Bobbi.”

“Take a break, Fitz. Why don’t you go up to the bar and I’ll get Piper to set you up with some dinner. You’ve been playing for a while.”

“I’m fine , Bobbi.” Fitz turned back to the piano, ignoring her. When he placed his hands over the keys, Bobbi noticed his left hand shaking.

“Fitz, I think you should take a break.” Bobbi repeated quietly. “Just at least get some water or something.”

“Leave me alone.” Fitz’s voice spiked loudly and people in the bar turned and stared. Bobbi backed off quickly and returned to the counter. Fitz attempted to play again, but the notes ran over themselves again and he smashed his hand into the keys.

Mack came out from behind the bar. “Fitz? Take a break.” Fitz opened his mouth to protest, but closed it again as Mack folded his arms across his chest. “I don’t know what’s going on, but you aren’t yourself tonight.”

“I’m just tired.” Fitz pushed his fingers through his hair.

“Have some coffee.” Mack nodded towards the bar and Fitz reluctantly stood up from the piano.

The only seat available at the polished counter was next to a balding man in a suit, who looked up as Fitz slid onto the stool. “You’ve got skill, son. I’ve been enjoying your sets.”

“Thanks.” Fitz mumbled. “It could be better.”

“Phillip Coulson.” The man offered Fitz his hand.

“As in Phillip J. Coulson of SHIELD Tech?” Fitz’s eyes lit up. “Your work in brain wave technology is groundbreaking.”

“You’re interested in brain wave studies?” Coulson suddenly smiled. “Or do you just read headlines?”

“I read your latest paper. Your, uh, what is it called? The device that accesses dreams and buried memories?” Fitz snapped his fingers impatiently. “Theta. You did studies with people who had experienced memory loss due to trauma to try to help them recover memories from before their accidents.”

“You did read my paper.” Coulson looked impressed. “Are you into technology?”

Fitz flushed. “I was. Not so much anymore.”

“What made you stop?”

“Lots of things.” Fitz gestured vaguely. “There was an accident and I couldn’t start school.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, son. You know, if you ever find yourself interested again, give me call. I’d be happy to show you around the labs. You’ve been working for Mack for what, two months now? And if he trusts you you must be all right.” Coulson pulled out a business card and offered it to Fitz.

“Thank you, sir.” Fitz tucked the business card into his coat and stood up. “I should probably get back to the piano.”

“Sure, go back to your music. You’re too stupid for Mr. Coulson anyway. Does he know that you dropped out of school?” The color in Fitz’s face drained as the loud voice interrupted his conversation. The man standing behind Coulson sneered angrily at Fitz. “You’ve always been too goddamn stupid for technology, even before you lost your wits. Better run along to your piano, Leopold.”

“Shut up.” Fitz muttered. “What are you doing here?”

“I saw your name in the papers. Everybody’s talking about the new pianist.”

“What’s going on?” Bobbi noticed Fitz’s panic and stepped up beside him. “Can I help you, Mr-”

“Fitz. Alistair Fitz. The only real man left in the Fitz family, since this brat’s given up on education to play piano like the fucking fag he is.”

Fitz swung his fist toward Alistair’s jaw, but his father caught his arm. “You can’t even remember how I taught you to fight? Fucking fag.”

Fitz fell into the barstools from the force of Alistair’s hand driving into his face. Bobbi shouted angrily as Alistair knocked Fitz backwards again, this time sending his head crashing into the corner of the bar as he crumpled to the ground.

“Hey, calm the hell down.” Mack appeared on the scene, fury in his eyes. “What’s going on?”

“He started it.” Alistair nudged at Fitz’s unmoving body with his foot. “The fucking homo.”

“Get out.” Mack pointed to the door. “NOW.”

“Oh come on. He’s my son. It’s my duty to knock some discipline into him.”

“Actually, it’s child abuse.” Heads turned towards the new voice coming from the corner. May, the usually-silent cop, had stood up. “And it’s a crime here. What did you say your name was?”

“All right, all right.” Alistair backed towards the door. “I’m leaving.”

“Don’t ever let me see you here again.” Mack watched him leave before turning back to Fitz. Bobbi had knelt on the floor next to him, pressing napkins against the bleeding gash on his head.

Skye was beside them suddenly, her backpack dropping to the floor with a thud. “Fitz? Oh my god, are you okay?”

Fitz opened his eyes slowly. “Never better.”

“Okay, let’s get you some privacy.” Mack looked around. “We can go to the kitchen. Do you think you can stand?”

Fitz nodded. Skye and Bobbi helped him up, holding his arms as he swayed slightly. “I’m, uh, um-” he snapped his fingers impatiently.

“Lightheaded.” Skye supplied.

“Dizzy.” Fitz finished at the same time. “Let me talk.”

Under the flourescent lights of the kitchen, it was easier to see the blood staining Fitz’s hair and dripping from his lip. “I’m sorry I stained your shirt.” Fitz nodded towards the red splotches on Bobbi’s blouse.

“It’s okay. I have extras. You’d be surprised how much we’ve dealt with here. Don’t worry.” Bobbi handed Skye the napkins and disappeared into the break closet. A door slammed and her voice echoed back. “Hunter, what the hell are you doing back here?”

Skye and Piper laughed and Fitz managed half a smile. “Pipes, can I get a bag of ice?” Skye asked, placing Fitz’s hand on top of the napkins. “Here, hold that there for a little while. I don’t think you’ll need stitches. It’s just bleeding a lot.”

“Thanks.” Fitz’s voice was barely audible.

“Hey.” Skye knelt in front of his chair. “You know, none of that is true. What he was saying about you being stupid?”

Fitz shrugged noncommittally. “I’m not in school.”

“Fitz, I don’t think it’s entirely fair to blame yourself for that. Look, I didn’t mean to pry, but Mack said something a few weeks ago about your grandmother and so I looked it up, and I know you were in a car accident right after junior year.” Skye clapped her hand over her mouth, realizing what she had blurted out.

Fitz flushed. “Okay.” Piper took the bloodied napkins from him and gave him an ice pack for his face. “He’s still right. It makes him right.”

“Fitz, what the hell? You’re probably the smartest person I’ve ever met.”

“Before. Before the-the headaches, and the-” Fitz gestured at his head, “and the hands-” Skye suddenly recognized the shaking hands that had derailed his performance.

“You know that that doesn’t make you less important of a person, right?” Skye paused, “Look, your dad has always been an ass. You can’t just let him win. What does your grandmother say about all this?” Fitz shrugged and Skye saw tears shining in his eyes. Sitting down next to him, she wrapped her arm around his shoulders. “I shouldn’t yell at you. It’s not your fault.”

“I haven’t seen her since I left home.” Fitz held the ice pack closer to his eye and Skye chose to ignore the tears now slipping down his bruised cheek. “She moved away after the accident. To Uncle James. She needed help.”

“I’m so sorry, Fitz. How far away is she?”

Fitz shrugged again. “Further than I can go.”

Skye fell silent for a moment. “Where have you been staying? Is there somebody I can call?”

Fitz shook his head. “I don’t have anybody’s numbers except Mack and you.”

“What’s that?” Mack pushed open the door to the kitchen. “How’re you feeling buddy?”

Fitz shrugged. “Head hurts.”

“Wait, hold on. Fitz, you do have a place to stay, right?” Skye stared at him until he lifted his head to make eye contact with her.

Drawing a deep breath, he shook his head. “I’ve been staying here until closing, and then to the bus station or some 24 hour place. The-uh, the library is open during the day. I sleep there.”

Mack and Skye stared at each other, dumbstruck. Finally Mack spoke. “Fitz, I had no idea.”

“Good. I didn’t want you to know.” Fitz lowered his head again.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Skye asked, tears building in her eyes. “I’m a horrible friend- I didn’t even notice.”

“I didn’t want you to notice.” Fitz repeated. “Because I quit. School. Just Community Tech, but I quit. I couldn’t risk having him find me.”

Silence filled the empty space again. After a pause, Mack asked quietly, “Fitz, why are you so scared of your father?”

Fitz’s lip trembled and he shook his head. “Skye?”

Realization dawned on Skye’s face. “Alistair kicked him out because he’s gay. Right, Fitz? That’s what he was yelling about in there, wasn’t it?”

“Bi. I-I think I’m bi.” Fitz covered his face with his hands, letting the ice pack drop to the floor. “There’s no point in hiding it after what he said in there.”

“Fitz, that’s not something to hide.” Mack cut in immediately. “Don’t listen to anything he said to you. It’s something to be proud of, and I’m proud of you for accepting it.”

“Are you mad, Skye? That I didn’t tell you?” Fitz looked up at Skye, who hadn’t spoken.

“No. No, of course not. I mean, I wish I had known back in high school because we could have had so much fun with that, but I’m not mad. How could I be mad?”

Fitz shrugged. “Other people were mad.”

“That’s their problem, not yours, Fitz.” Mack said emphatically. “And your father isn’t welcome in the bar again, so you won’t have to worry about that either.”

“Thanks.”

“Most importantly, you don’t need to worry about having a place to sleep either. I’ve got a pretty comfortable couch, and we can get a bed set up if you need it.”

“That’s really not-”

“I insist. For tonight, at least. Tomorrow we can work on a plan, but tonight you need to rest and recover. Besides, I don’t want you walking outside. That asshole could be waiting.”

Skye nodded. “Look, now that I’ve found you again, we’re going to keep you safe, okay?”

Fitz shrugged. “Okay.”

“Great.” Mack checked his watch. “I need to get out front. You just hang out back here with Skye. There’s bandaids and gauze and ibuprofen somewhere back here, Skye, if you want to clean up that head.”

“Sounds good, boss.” Skye slung her backpack to a corner of the room. “Fitz, I have to ask. Did you ever think Ward was hot? I feel like this is a fairly objective question.”

Fitz’s breathing grew more shallow and his already-pale face lost what little color it had. “I don’t want to talk about Ward.”

“Great. No talking about Ward. What about-”

“Holy bloody hell what happened to you?” Hunter appeared in the door of the closet. “You’re the piano man, right?”

“I’m fine.” Fitz said quickly. “But yeah I play piano.”

“Damn. Who’s the bloke I’ve got to punch? That music is too beautiful for me to be deprived of it. Actually,” Hunter lowered his voice, “I credit your frequent repitions of Elvis for me and Bobbi getting back together.”

“Don’t listen to him. We are not together.” Bobbi emerged from behind him. “I don’t know what the hell he’s doing here.”

“Mack hired me to help with deliveries.” Hunter winked at Fitz conspiratorially. “He actually needed help, for the record.”

“It’s 10pm, you dumbass. He doesn’t need help.” Bobbi shoved him out of her way.

“Oh come on, don’t act like we didn’t just-”

Bobbi pushed open the kitchen door. “I’m leaving, Hunter, I’m leaving.”

Skye laughed as Hunter and Bobbi disappeared out of the kitchen. “They really do like each other, you know.”

“Funny way of showing it.” Fitz mumbled. “Mack won’t let him back in, right?”

Skye looked confused for a moment, and then quickly answered, “No, of course not. You’re safe now, Fitz. You’ll see- everything is going to be okay.”

Chapter Text

Mack unlocked the door of his apartment and pushed it open. “Make yourself at home. I don’t have a guest room, but the couch isn’t uncomfortable.”

Fitz nodded, and followed Mack into the apartment. There was a child’s backpack on the floor, the name Hope embroidered on the front next to the decal of a butterfly. Fitz’s eye was immediately drawn to the black and white photo on the wall, showing Mack laughing, his arms around the waist of a woman who was smiling up into his eyes. He didn’t recognize the woman.

“Elena, this is Fitz.” Fitz noticed abruptly that somebody was sitting at the kitchen table. A woman. Not the same woman from the photo. “Fitz, this is Elena.” Mack was digging in his pocket for his wallet. “She watches my daughter, Hope, in the evenings.”

“Oh. I didn’t know you had a daughter.”

“Yup.” Mack didn’t volunteer any more information. “How was she tonight?”

“Lethargic, didn’t have an appetite. We watched Doc McStuffins and then she fell asleep early.” Elena stood up, sliding her laptop into her backpack. “So, Fitz, how do you know Mack?”

“I work for him, at the bar.”

“He needed a place to crash tonight.” Mack explained. “Fitz, the bathroom is right there if you want to wash up.”

Fitz nodded. “Thanks.” Through the door he could hear Mack talking to Elena.

“Do you think I should bring her to doc tomorrow? How bad was it tonight?” Mack’s voice was worried.

“Hey, hey, take a deep breath Mack. She’s okay. Remember, they told you to expect some hard nights, especially on school days.”

“Thank you. I don’t know what I’d do without you, Yo.”

Fitz flushed as he realized what he was intruding on, and turned back to the mirror. There was still blood in his hair, and there was blood on the collar of his one good shirt, much to his chagrin.

When he emerged from the shower, hair finally rinsed clean, Mack was sitting at the table, head in his hands, reading from a massive packet of paper. “Feeling better Fitz?”

“Yeah.” Fitz dropped his backpack next to the couch. “Thank you, for letting me stay here.”

“Not a problem.” Mack gestured to the chair across from him. “Look, it didn’t much matter before now, but I want to talk to you about Hope.”

“She’s your daughter, right? I saw her backpack.”

A ghost of a smile appeared on Mack’s face. “That’s right. She loves that butterfly. She’s almost four.” He let the cover page of the packet he was reading fall back onto the stack. “About six months ago, they found a tumor in her brain.” He continued hastily at Fitz’s pale face. “I wouldn’t tell you this, but you might notice tomorrow. She gets tired pretty easily, and she has a hard time with some things, like walking and using her hands sometimes. Just don’t draw too much attention to it, okay? She’s little but she notices.”

Fitz nodded quickly. “I-I understand. Mack, if there’s anything I can do-”

“It’s okay, Fitz. We have a good doctor, and they said the outlook is good. I want her to feel as normal as possible, so just don’t treat her weird.”

“Of course not.” Fitz paused, and then continued. “I know what it’s like for people to treat you weird.”

Mack nodded, looking like he wanted to say more. “You don’t have to worry about that here.” He stood up and walked to his bedroom door. “There’s pillows and blankets on the couch. Use whatever you need. Oh, and before I forget-” he reached into his jacket and pulled out a business card. “Mr. Coulson gave me this for you. He said to call him if you’re interested in getting a tour of his office.”

Fitz’s eyes widened. “You’re serious?”

“Of course. I’d wait until tomorrow, though.” Mack laughed a little. “Rest up, Fitz.”

Chapter Text

Rain. The car swerved. The world turned upside down. There was a crash.

Fitz woke with a strangled scream, rolling off of Mack’s couch with a thud. He lay on the carpet, gasping for breath, hands shaking. Mack stood up from the kitchen table. “Fitz? What’s going on buddy?”

He heard smaller footsteps pattering towards him and opened his eyes to see the same girl from the photos standing over him. “Who are you?”

“I-I’m Fitz.” Fitz rubbed his hand across his eyes, shaking his head to brush away the last memories of the nightmare.

Hope stared at him critically. “You’re using my blanket.”

“Oh.” Fitz looked down at the butterfly printed fleece tangled around his legs. “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize this was yours.”

“Hope, be nice to Fitz. He’s going to stay with us for a little while.”

“Like Yo-Yo?” Hope inquired.

“Not exactly.” Mack laughed. “Fitz, are you okay?”

“Yeah, yeah, just forgot I was on a couch.” Fitz laughed nervously.

“Do you want to share my Puffins?” Hope put her hand on his shoulder. “Peanut butter puffins.”

“Um-” Fitz looked up at Mack, who shrugged. “Sure? I like peanut butter.”

“Yay!” Hope ran back to the kitchen. “You can use one of my bowls.”

Fitz stood up, disoriented for a moment by a wave of dizziness. Mack looked sharply at him, but said nothing as he helped Hope fill a bowl with cereal. “You know, Fitz, I don’t need you at the bar until later. If you want to call Coulson, I can give you a ride over there after Hope goes to school.”

“Did you know, did you know that at school we have colors and my color is pink.” Hope tugged at Fitz’s sleeve.

“Pink is good.” Fitz grinned awkwardly through a mouthful of milk and Puffins. “I like pink. Do you think it’s too early to call Mr. Coulson, Mack?”

“Well, he gave you his personal phone so I’d guess not.” Mack pushed the business card across the table. “Hope and I are going to the preschool, and then we can figure out a plan."


 

“Fitz! How are you feeling?” Skye waved from behind the counter. “You look better.”

“I’m great.” Fitz swung his backback off his shoulder. “I just had lunch with Mr. Coulson, from Mack’s. He gave me a tour, and it’s amazing, Skye. He told me about this scholarship they have, and I think I could go back to school. He said that if I do work in the lab on the weekends they could even maybe give me something extra to rent an apartment.”

“Okay, Fitz, okay. Let’s go, dude!” Skye offered him a high five. “Here, pick whatever you want off the menu. It’s on me if we can sit down and catch up a little. Last night got a little crazy.”

Fitz nodded, sobered suddenly. “It was a good thing, in a way. If-if he hadn’t shown up then Mr. Coulson would never have talked to Mack about me.”

Skye slipped out from behind the counter and gestured towards a booth. “How’s your head feeling?”

Fitz grimaced. “Could be a little better, but I’m walking on air right now.”

“Are you going to play at Mack’s tonight?” Skye asked, “I can give you a ride over if you are, since Piper’s working late and I have the car.”

“Yeah, I think so.” Fitz flexed his fingers in front of him. “He didn’t hurt my hands, thank God. And I can stick with simpler stuff if-” he gestured at his head, “I get fuzzy.”

“Is there anything you can take that’ll help with that?” Skye hesitated. “I know that’s kind of a personal question, but I just wanted to know.”

Fitz shrugged. “I did have something for, uh, for headaches. It gets worse when my head hurts. But after Ward- dad, you know - there wasn’t a lot of time to grab things and I don’t have money anyway.” Fitz trailed off and suddenly became very interested in the latte in front of him.

Skye bit her lip. “Hey, do you want to crash at my place tonight? Piper won’t mind and we can watch Doctor Who or something.”

Fitz shook his head. “I’m not done with Mack until really late and-” he flushed, “I promised Hope I’d watch Doc McStuffins with her tomorrow morning. She doesn’t have preschool on Tuesdays.”

“Hope- that’s Mack’s kid?” Skye smiled. “That’s cute, Fitz. Well, let me know if you ever want to hang out. You have my number, right?”

Fitz rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly. “Yeah, I just don’t have a phone.”

“Right, you told me that. Also, that’s probably definitely not safe. Can we get you one of those little flip phones from Kroger or something just so that we can keep track of you?” Skye whipped out her phone and typed quickly. “They’re not expensive.”

“I can get it myself.” Fitz said quickly. “I’ve saved some money from playing at the bar.”

“Okay. Do you want to just hang out here until my shift ends? I’m off at 6 and then we can go get the phone and I’ll drop you at Mack’s.” Skye stood up. “I’ll bring my laptop over if you want to look up some scholarship stuff or something while I work.”

“Thanks.” Fitz smiled gratefully. “I’d appreciate that.”

“Yay!” Skye scurried back to the counter as the bell on the door announced a new customer. “Let me know if you need anything.”

Chapter Text

“It’s not like Fitz to be late.” Bobbi glanced at the door for the third time. “He would have called, or something.”

“Relax, Barbara. He probably just got caught up with something at the lab. Besides, technically he doesn’t start until 9:00. Maybe he decided to get dinner with Coulson, or from a food truck or something on his way over. He has money now, you know.” Mack shrugged his shoulders. “Anyway, I’m sure he’ll be here for his gig. He always is.” 

“I think he would have called.” Bobbi folded her arms. “But you’re probably right.”

An hour later, Mack gestured Bobbi over to the bar. “Okay, Bobbi, now I think you might be right.” He glanced up at the clock. “It’s 9:30. He’s never been late before.”

“Thank you.” Bobbi bit her lip. “I’ll go to the back and get Piper to call Skye. Maybe she’s with Fitz.”

“Bobbi, my love, where’s Fitz?” Hunter leaned up against the counter. 

Bobbi swatted his hand away from her shoulder. “Lay off it, Hunter, I’m working. Remember our agreement?”

“Right, right, sorry. I just really wanted to hear him play tonight, and chat about the football game.”

“Well, we don’t know where he is.” Bobbi walked to the door of the kitchen. “Piper!” Just as she spoke, Skye came bounding down the stairs into the cellar. “Even better. Skye, have you heard from Fitz?”

Skye frowned. “No. Should I have? He’s usually here by now.”

“That’s why we’re asking.” Bobbi rolled her eyes. “Could you just call him, please?”

“Sure. Jeez. Hey, can I get loaded fries? I’ll be at the table over there.” Skye settled into a booth in the corner, pulling out her laptop before dialing Fitz’s number on her phone. Hunter watched her closely from the bar as it rang a few times. “Yo, it’s Skye. Are you-Fitz?” She could hear him breathing over the line. 

“Help me.” There was more heavy breathing over the line. A moan of pain. 

Skye stood up. “Fitz, where are you? I’ll come get you, where are you?”

“I was at the library.” His voice was slipping away from her. “I don’t know.”

“Okay. Okay, Fitz, I need you to stay with me. Stay on the phone with me, and I’ll come get you.” She was running over to the bar. Hunter was on alert now, pulling out his own phone. “Hunter, call the police for me. Something’s happened to Fitz, he’s hurt.” 

“My head hurts.” Fitz’s voice was even more faint than before. 

“Can you tell me anything about where you are? What can you see?”

“Trash. A wall.” He was hesitating between words, struggling to name the landmarks, Skye thought. “In a, uh...” his voice trailed off.

“Are you in an alley, Fitz?” Skye asked. Hunter had the police on the line.

“Yeah. Yeah.”

“Okay. Don’t hang up, we’re going to come get you.” Skye laid her phone on the counter and took Hunter’s from his hand. “Hi, my name is Skye Johnson. My friend, Leo Fitz, he’s hurt somewhere. I don’t know where exactly, but I have a general area. Mmhmm. Yeah. He was // studying at the Davis Memorial Library, and he never made it to work. He can see trash cans, so I’m guessing he’s in an alley. He’s on the phone with me, on another line, but I think he’s losing consciousness. He’s had a previous head injury- yeah, you can call me back. Should I give you my phone number? Okay.” Skye listed out her number before ending the call. Every head in the bar was turned towards her, and she realized how silent it was. Mack’s brow was furrowed, and he looked like he was about to say something. She held up a finger and picked up her phone. “Fitz? Fitz, are you still there? Dammit.” Skye sighed. “He’s not responding.”

“Okay, time to fill us in.” Mack folded his arms. “What do we need to do?”

“I don’t know. I can go look for him. I’m worried that his dad might have tried to kill him. He said he was by the library.” 

“Alright. Bobbi, you can handle the bar for the night. I’m going with Skye to find him.” Mack pulled his keys from his pocket. “That way, if it takes a while, Piper will have your car.”

“Hold up, I’m coming too.” Bobbi burst in. 

“Yeah, and me.” Hunter chimed in. 

“Bobbi, you have to stay here. I know Fitz- he lives with me, and if he needs medical attention, I can give them the information they need. Hunter- you’re responsible for yourself, and if you think that you can help, I won’t stop you. We’re leaving.” 

Skye swung her backpack onto her shoulder again, and followed Mack through the kitchen to the back entrance. The drive to the library was quiet, tense. Hunter had taken his own car, and it was just Mack and Skye. Fitz’s call was still on the line, but there had only been silence and static. When they got closer to the library, Mack spoke. “Where do you want to start looking? How far away do you think he got?”

“I don’t know.” When they parked in front of the library, it was impossible to miss the police cars circling the area. Skye jumped out of the car almost before Mack had put it into park, running towards the flashing lights. “Hi. I’m Skye, his friend. What should I do? Have you found him?”

The officer she had addressed, Officer Mace, according to his nametag, turned to her. “Ms Johnson. We’ve found your friend, and they’ve taken him to St. Agnes’s. I know you probably want to get to him as soon as possible, but we need to take a statement from you about your involvement.”

“My involvement?” Skye looked confused. Mack appeared at her elbow.

“You called in the report- we need to know about his father, and why you believe that he could be the perpetrator.” Officer Mace pulled out a card, and scribbled his number on it. “If you could come by the station tomorrow, we can take your official statement. There’s an officer with him at the hospital, Sergeant May, and you could also give a statement to her.”

“Oh my god, May’s here.” Skye breathed a sigh of relief. “Okay, okay we’re going to go to St. Agnes’s then, and see him. Okay.” 

Mack walked with her back to the car. “I’ll drive you there, obviously. I can drop you off at the emergency entrance while I park.”

“Thanks. I’m glad May’s there. I mean, I don’t know her very well, but at least she’s one of us. One of the regulars.”

“I know what you mean.” Mack slowed to a stop in front of the emergency room door. “All right, I’m going to park. Can you call Bobbi and update her? I’ve had people from the bar texting me, and she can just make an announcement.” 

“Yeah.” Skye hopped out of the car. May met her in the waiting room. “May! Can I see him? How is he?”

The normally emotionless detective looked rattled. “Somebody had it out for him, that’s for sure. They’re monitoring some bleeding in his brain, and they’re trying to get in touch with his family.”

“No! They can’t do that. I’m pretty sure that his dad is the one who did this. Has he told you anything?” Skye pushed her fingers through her hair distractedly. “Can I see him?”

“Not his dad, his grandmother. His mom is out of the picture apparently?” May’s statement was closer to a question, as if Skye should know.

“Fitz told me that they had divorced right before the accident- that’s why he was with his grandmother that night, and that his mom had moved back to Scotland. Then his dad told her that Fitz didn’t want to talk to her, and he couldn’t get in touch with her because of the disability problems, and then he didn’t know how.” Skye blew out an angry breath. “God, his dad is the worst.”

May snorted. “You could put it that way. Look, his grandmother won’t be here for a while. He’s not fully conscious, but it would mean a lot if you were there. I can authorize you to be in there.”

“You can do that?”

“I’m the officer in charge of the case. I found him.” May’s tone was matter of fact, but Skye wondered how much of a coincidence it was.

“Okay. Then I want to be there with him. Could you tell Mack where I’ve gone?”

“Of course.” May gestured to a nurse who had apparently been waiting. “This is Skye Johnson, Mr. Fitz’s friend. She’s his emergency contact.”

“Nice to meet you. If you would just follow me back this way-” the nurse handed her a visitor’s pass. “He’s still very groggy, and some of his obvious injuries could be a little disturbing.”

“I can handle it.” 

“All right.” The nurse pushed open the door to the private room. It must have something to do with the police, she figured. 

“Oh my god. No, no, no, no. Shit.” Skye whispered as she saw Fitz. His eyes were closed, one of them almost swollen shut, and strips of tape were covering gashes on his face. Whatever else had happened was concealed by the hospital gown, except for braces and bandages wrapped around his right hand. 

“Skye? Are you all right?” The nurse looked concerned. “I tried to warn you-”

“It’s not that.” Skye said quickly. “It’s just- the bastard broke his hand.”