Sitwell doesn’t knock at Peggy’s door like a normal person, he scrawls a phone number on a piece of paper, balls it up, and chucks it at her while she’s filling something out—which he’s sure is important, but can’t possibly be as important as this, because what is going on and how the hell did this just happen are completely occupying his brain and something has to be done by someone.
In short, Jasper Sitwell needs an adult. It just so happens that the one he chooses is also the director of SHIELD.
Peggy steps out, holding the paper and glaring. Fuck. This is bad, worse embarrassment than when he started balding at 17, because now the whole office is staring at him. Shit. “The number on the paper,” he managed. “I don’t know who the hell this guy is, or how he has my direct number, but he does, and he shouldn’t.”
Peggy blinks, and lets him inside, so he can cool off, and he doesn’t really but he puts on a great impression of it, like he learned to do when facing off evil crime lords and whoever. Because this is a problem of equal caliber. He manages the guy’s name, and an approximation of what he’d said to him. Dude had known his name, his number, the exact, correct title of his role. He wouldn’t be surprised if he’d known what he ate for breakfast that morning.
And then he’d asked to join SHIELD.
And Sitwell had hung up, because what the fuck else was he supposed to do? Say yes?
The other wrong part about this situation is—SHIELD is not like the military, though it likes to style itself that way. It isn't like the other agencies, either, because you can't apply to SHIELD. There is no form, no recruitment process beyond them finding you and making you an offer.
Jasper doesn’t get phoned. He phones people.
“I’ll get someone to do the lookup,” Peggy said, “go through our records and see if we’ve already interacted with him.”
But SHIELD doesn’t, because this guy isn’t even a blip on the fucking radar. They trace the number back to a telephone belonging to University of Michigan Ann Arbor and trace the name back to some freshman living in a dorm on campus.
He flies out early the next morning, accompanied by the scariest-looking agents he could dig up. Sitwell wants to scare the bajeezus out of this kid. The kid is still in bed, though, when they arrive, so his roommate answers the door, runs back, shakes him, and says something along the lines of “what the fuck, the men in black are here for you?”
So they interview the guy in his pyjamas. Interview, not interrogate, because this is still a dorm and they don’t want too much drama, despite the roommate running up and down the halls and spreading the word that Oh My God My Roommate Is Getting Arrested and Might Be An Alien to anyone who will listen. And the kid spills a story that is fucking unbelievable, except that they have nothing else to go on, so they believe it for now.
He brings out his notebook. It’s leather and it has snippets of xeroxes of history book pages and newspaper clippings—some of which describe actions by SHIELD’s shell companies, the ones it uses to act under the radar, how the fuck, and copious amounts of notes.
It’s all information they’d never thought to hide, or even purposefully used as a smokescreen to cover up their actual activities. And this college kid had seen through it. Just like that.
They take the notebook and he shows it to Carter and anyone else with the clearance to look at it—which is bizarre because the person who put it together doesn’t even have clearance—and one of those people ends up being Howard Stark. Who suggests actually recruiting the guy.
Sitwell is against it, at first. He’s against it for about three days, before Howard asks him where the hell is this guy and why isn’t he already in the Academy, for Pete’s sake, they have seasoned operatives who couldn’t pull this off.
The next day, he flies back to Michigan and offers Phil Coulson a place.