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Before our intrepid heroes of the day meet, let's get one thing perfectly clear: Although the evidence frequently pointed to the contrary (Fantomex, her family's connection to Weapon X, etc.), Dr. Ana Helden was not a spy.
That said, she certainly was acting like one.
For starters, Ana didn't do pubs. It wasn't out of snobbery; she just didn't have a reason to go to them most of the time, but today was different. She'd been hired by another metahuman-oriented agency -- S.H.I.E.L.D. -- to do an "informal checkup" on one of their own, which she'd realized after she'd started working with the Avengers meant she was going to have to evaluate a patient on the fly, in an uncontrolled environment, and somehow get a feel for them before informing them why she was there.
In short, it was a royal pain and skirted at least a dozen ethical concerns, but she was dedicated to the cause -- unconventional methodology and all.
The pub was celebrating some sort of game day when she arrived; she saw both football and soccer on the TVs above the bar, which was packed to the gills with people smiling, drinking, cheering and booing, all enthused to be where they were. There was one man at the bar who appeared intent on watching the TV, though, and he was the one who drew Ana's attention as she made her way inside.
Fitz? Oh, he did pubs. They were usually the only places he went to, besides coffee shops.
Yeah, he didn't get out much.
Honestly, he wasn't the sort to go off randomly into the midst of crowded bars and rowdy beer-drinkers, but there were times where it was absolutely necessary... such as, World Cup season. Though this wasn't that, at all, and the place was a little less busy than the last time he'd been by... it was still a crush of people, making it so that he'd been forced to sit at the bar, drinking a nice, crisp pint while inhaling chips, his head tilted up to look at the telly. After all, his favourite team was playing, and though many trashed Man U, he was still loyally bleeding red and yellow.
That was why he was wearing his lucky team jersey under the jacket, though wishing he'd taken off the heavy leather before he'd sat down. Now, with how many people were about, and how warm the room was getting, he was getting too hot. Then again, his hands were a mess of salt and grease, and getting that on his jacket might've been a bit more than he could stomach. His anxiety would have been through the roof.
Even so, the closest he got to socializing was when people would come over, ordering a pint, and there'd be a shared greeting before they were off again, back to their tables and groups. Didn't bother Fitz... because he was happy enough to be by himself, cheering on his team and randomly cursing out the coach as he made terrible plays. He might have been a bit loud about that last part...
But it was the addition of a person sitting down at his side that made him glance over, reaching for a serviette as he did so. Wiping his hands of salt and oil, he just nodded at her a moment, her kind eyes quick to be noticed, before he glanced away again, lest she think he was intent on hitting on her. Nope, as much as he liked a pretty brunette, and she was that... he had his heart set already. He could behave... mostly.
It was a football match... and his team was losing. He couldn't make any promises, for long, that his good, quiet behaviour would last.
Even so, as the woman spoke up from beside him, asking about the bartender, he paused a moment to push himself up a little, so he could see down the bar. "OI! Needed down here, mate," he called out, waving an arm to try and help get the bartender's eye... before plopping back down into his seat and gave the brunette a nod. "There, that should help. Not sure how long it'll be though... the place is a bit mad tonight," he added, and turned his head back to the telly.
Yeah, he was a real social butterfly.
Nothing was on fire, and as far as Ana was concerned, that meant she was off to a good start.
Her standards had fallen a bit lately for certain reasons. A year ago, she wouldn't have dreamed of working this way, but being one of very few in a brand new branch of psychology meant she and her peers were pioneering the way. Unconventional methodology needed to be employed, not that she liked it. She much rather would have called this Leopold Fitz in for a proper session in her office (which was also her home), but that hadn't been an option.
Ana caught a glimpse of the jersey beneath Fitz's jacket and glanced up at the screen showing the football game. The Manchester United were down 2.
Before she could stop him, Fitz hollered over the bar for the bartender on her behalf. That surprised her; she'd expected someone a bit more meek.
"Oh, no, I literally just got here -- well, thank you," she eventually submitted. No sense stressing it. What was done was done, and if someone down the bar gave her a side-eye, so be it. "Yes, I did notice that. It's not quite what I'm used to. I'm Ana, by the way."
Now that she'd wormed her way in without a cold introduction, Ana offered her hand for a shake.
"Nice to meet you. Are you here by yourself?"
She'd deduced that within seconds of seeing him (no ring, closed-off posture, not checking his phone), but it seemed like the most normal question to ask if she hadn't read 15 pages on him and annotated them all last night.
It wasn't often that people interrupted during a match, but honestly, Fitz wasn't going to hold it against some American. They likely didn't know the protocol for such things, and the rabid fan base that the teams seemed to have... himself included. Often, he and his friend Lance would argue loudly in the lab about just which team would be best and who had the worst coaches... but eh, it was mostly all in good fun.
Well, especially considering no one was as good as Man U.
But... he did feel slightly sorry that he'd been so quick to rush and call the bartender, especially since the woman beside him just sat down... but he knew the way this pub could be.. and getting the guy's attention fast was the only way she'd not go thirsty or starve. "Welcome. I mean, if I didn't do it now, when he's between customers, it could be a while," he said and motioned to the telly. "Because of this." Yeah, his team was going to lose and the need to drink was growing...
Even so, as she went on and introduced herself, he paused a moment, wondering what was going on... and then shrugged. What did it hurt, getting chatted up by a woman at one of these things? Hadn't that been what Simmons wanted, for him to go out, meet people, have a bit of fun? Eh, it wasn't what he was used to, but he'd play along. "Leo," he began, his smile appearing for a beat for how nice she seemed... before he nodded back. "Nice to meet you too..." At that, his head was turning right back towards the telly, even as he leaned onto the bar a little, so he could better balance upon that bar stool.
He was just starting to figure out whatever he'd missed, when her question caught him by surprise, making Fitz turn his head so fast that he was sure he heard something crack. "By myself?" he began and nodded. "Yeah. I mean, usually I have my best friend with me at one of these, but... Jemma's busy..." he said, drawing out the word, all because... both, Jemma WASN'T busy, not really... and he'd never been hit on in just this way by someone. People didn't hit on Leopold James Fitz and his utter and complete lack of experience with women was... of course, part and parcel as to why that wouldn't be changing anytime soon.
"Why do you ask?" he pondered after a moment, eyes going to Ana's face questioningly.
And that was the reason he was single.
Just as disastrously as the conversation seemed to be unfolding for Fitz, it was going smoothly for Ana.
Without any amorous intentions to get in the way, there'd been no misinterpretation for her to make; she took everything he said at face value, just as she'd noted to herself the evening prior. Fitz didn't read to her like the type of man who was sexually aggressive.
So following an exchange that caused a nearby bar hound who'd overheard it to cringe, Ana's response, instead of excusing herself to the bathroom as one might expect, was to grin in the face of discomfort.
"Sorry, I'm being less direct than I should," she admitted. Offering him leeway was important, and Fitz didn't seem all that interested in conversing with her beyond pleasantries -- she had to give him something to work with. "I'm working with your agency, and I was told you would be here tonight. Do you mind if I impose on your evening?"
There was a vague hint of a Southern accent to the "im" in "impose," coming from her.
"I don't mind waiting when the game's heated up," the doctor added, then, a tad more sheepishly, "... Although you might have to tell me."
She wasn't too big on sports. Well, at least not the kind without horses.
"Just coffee and water, thank you."
If Fitz could have honestly fallen through a crack in the ground, to get away from the awkwardness he'd created... he would have. Yes, he was aware that a blousy, blonde-haired woman nearby actually cringed at what he'd said to the brunette at his side.. but he wasn't going to say that it was the worst thing he'd ever done in a situation like this. Yep, it still didn't make him feel any more like a lothario, considering he knew that he'd probably shown his true level of inexperience with women by being so upfront and forthright... but, well, Fitz was Fitz.
Then again, it wasn't like he was quite going to change, anyway.
In fact, as the woman beside him started to smile, Fitz thought that a moment later, she'd probably make some excuse about needing to be somewhere else and she'd hie herself off as far as she could possibly get and still be in the same pub. What actually happened, though... was that she started to speak, making it so that Fitz had to pause and blink, trying to get his brain to fire again, considering he rather thought she was not making sense.
Then she did. And the entire situation came into crystal-clear focus.
"Wait," he began and held up a hand, leaning in a little to look at her. If he were being honest, SHIELD was this kind of sneaky, underhanded group... and if he were being honest with himself, this was exactly the sort of tactics that he, himself, had used in the past to get proper surveillance on targets that might not want to be seen. That he had already had counselling for some years, not only thanks to his injury but a myriad other reasons... he was actually intrigued that this woman would do this... rather than bring him into her office.
"You're my..." And then he raised a hand to wind it next to his head, in the age old sign for 'crazy' before nodding a bit. "... Doctor, right?" he asked her and then slowly smiled, his shoulders loosening as he did so. Now that he knew this wasn't really some kind of romantic situation, he was already relaxing, because this? He could handle. Talking to women who might touch him? Not so relaxing. "Thank God," he added after a beat and slowly grinned wider, even as Ana ordered her coffee and water. "That's a bloody relief.." he nearly muttered under his breath.
With that, he turned to the telly a moment and shook his head. "No, you're fine... they'll have a bit of a bant about the last play for a few minutes, so we can chat. And... I have to be honest: it's a re-run. The season's been over for a week. I saw this live," he added after a moment, shaking his head. "Isn't that the definition of futility, watching something again and again, thinking this time, it'll change?"
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