The immediate rescue was something of a blur for Phil. There had been a normal amount of gunfire and screaming, but between the exhaustion and the pain, he’d found it increasingly difficult to concentrate. Then there had been smoke and more shouting while someone had stormed his holding cell. By that point, Phil had been mute for something like a week, and the coughing fit caused by the smoke bomb made his ribs flare with pain. He passed out.
When he’d come to, he’d found himself in a SHIELD hospital with Nick shouting into a cell phone just outside his door. He’d smiled, knowing he was safe and that he’d pull through because Nick was shouting. The next time he passed out, it was much more gradual, and the pain medication made it an effortless transition. He’d tease Nick about keeping a bedside vigil later.
Phil ran a hand over his abdomen and stared down at his feet. Pregnant. There wasn’t even a bump under his hand yet, but Doctor Sheppard had shown him the test results; there was no denying there was a little person growing in there, waiting.
He’d be a liar if he said he’d never had the desire for children, but never like this, still broken and bruised from his captors, and never without a mate beside him for love and support. It would be irresponsible to allow this child to enter the world without someone else there to love it and care for it, should Phil ever fail to come back from a mission. No one deserved that, let alone a child who hadn’t had any say in the life Phil had chosen for himself.
But he couldn’t help the track his imagination took: What it would be like to watch a beautiful child with straw-blond hair and soulful blue eyes running around, laughing and playing.
He glanced up at Nick, where his friend stood in the corner. Nick was very deliberately keeping his face blank of emotion, waiting for Phil to make up his mind about whether he was going to be keeping it or not, and though Phil knew he would need to put some serious consideration into this, he had a feeling it wasn’t going to be all that difficult. And besides, regardless of what his choice would be, he had Nick.
He was pregnant. There was a fetus -the beginnings of a whole other being- growing inside him, waiting for him to make up his mind about whether he was ready to become a parent. And he needed to choose quickly. Well, it was more like he needed to admit to himself what his heart had been set on since the beginning.
It’s not that he was nearing the deadline, necessarily, though he did have the date circled in red on his calendar. No, it was because Phil was well aware of his own nature, and he had already become attached to the thought of the child, regardless of whether it was the right thing to do. There was really only one more decision to make before he started the tedious process of filing paperwork and arranging to time off.
Phil’s hands hovered over the Enter key, all of SHIELD’s records laid out before him and accessible with only his passcode and a search by date, location, and agent involved. He just needed to submit the search. Just one press of a single key.
Squeezing his eyes shut until stars exploded behind his eyelids, Phil sighed and hit the backspace key, deleting the information he’d already typed into the search engine. While it would be nice to know the father of his child and what the alpha thought of having a child, the truth was that Phil had no idea who he was. Not only in name, but in personality; he had been gentle enough during their heat mating, but outside of that, would he be commanding and possessive, would he demand Phil keep the child to tie Phil to him forever, would he want it removed and forgotten? Phil didn’t even know if the alpha was still alive, as it was entirely possible he had been a part of the organization and had been taken out during SHIELD’s extraction.
No, it would all be on Phil, but then, that was what he was accustomed to.
“I’m keeping it.”
“Are you sure? You’ve got no alpha and a dangerous, time-consuming career.”
“I’m sure. I’ve always been excellent at time management, and it really is about time I took a more administrative role during missions. Besides, I don’t need an alpha when this baby is going to have the most badass godfather on the planet. Just make sure he can hold his own head up before you start grooming him to take over your job.”
“When people talk about pregnancy it’s always about the wacky food cravings and the glow,” Phil said, settling into the single comfortable chair Nick kept in his office.
Nick snorted and glanced up from his tablet. “I saw you outpacing the recruits on the way to the bunks the other day, Cheese. Don’t tell me you’re feeling slow or fat.”
“Slow? No,” Phil sighed, “but as of this morning I no longer fit into any of my suits.” Standing wasn’t too much of an effort and he hadn’t yet gained the pregnancy waddle, but when he pulled the edges of his suit coat together as proof, it just wouldn’t quite button.
Nick’s laughter had his head jerking up, and his scowl morphed into a full blown glare. “I’m sorry, but your face is just too precious.”
Standing, Phil very deliberately set his tablet on Nick’s desk as he turned to leave. “Correlated and annotated reports from the latest cock up in R&D.” He gave a small smirk and turned to the door. “Enjoy your evening. Sir.”
Phil laughed as he heard a petulant, “Fuck you, Cheese,” just before the door clicked shut.
“Absolutely not. The stats and consumer ratings for Petunia Pickle-Bottom are nowhere near what they should be for that cost.” Phil closed the tab and handed the tablet out to Jasper, trying to keep the disbelief out of his voice, conscious of the very public hallway they were in. “JuJuBe bags have teflon covering the outside, brightly colored silver-lined inner material to prevent bacteria and stains, metal hardware, tons of pockets, including insulated pockets for both hot and cold items, tons of accessories, and they’re machine washable on top of all that. I’m just waiting for the bag I want to go on sale again before I buy it. They are, by far, the safest option available, and I’ve already contracted with R&D to make it bulletproof, too.”
Jasper gave up on trying to hide his shit-eating grin as he took the tablet back. “Been hitting up the mommyblogosphere again, Coulson?” His voice did nothing to hide the fact that he was on the verge of laughter.
Years of espionage training came to play at that moment as Phil fought to keep his face from heating. “Thank you for your input into my child’s welfare, Jasper. I’ll see you this afternoon.” He kept his voice deliberately bland as he turned and hightailed it back to his office before Jasper had time to come up with something even worse.
“While I recognize you are a strong, independant omega who doesn’t need my help, I really think you could use some help.”
Phil scowled at Nick. As per fucking usual, he was right on the money. Phil had been alone for so long that accepting assistance, even from his own best friend while he was pregnant and miserable and lacking an alpha to care for him, seemed like the worst kind of torment.
The sad thing was, he did need it. He was sick every morning and couldn’t bear to stand long enough to make himself a healthy meal afterward, leading to just enough weight loss that Doctor Sheppard had started giving him critical little looks with each new check-up that he hadn’t started gaining weight. Between the hypervigilance and the recent addition of acid-reflux, Phil hadn’t had a decent night’s sleep in two weeks. He was sore and achy, despite the facade he put on at work for his coworkers, and while it shouldn’t feel like quite so much a betrayal as it did, the fact that his suits no longer fit had him self conscious in a way he hadn’t been since high-school.
Raising his head and glancing away from Nick’s face so he didn’t have to see the man’s smarmy face when he accepted, Phil gave a casual shrug. “Fine, but I want the guest room. I’m not sleeping next to your awful kicking legs, no matter what your alpha instincts want.”
A soft, high noise from Nick’s direction confirmed Phil’s instinct not to watch him; he would probably end up punching his best friend in the face if he caught Nick laughing at him right now. “Sounds reasonable. Any other demands?”
Phil paused long enough to seem like he was giving it thought before shrugging. “You’re not allowed to make fun of me when I can’t get off the couch, and you’re the one making all special food runs when I get a craving.”
Another laugh, this time blatant, with no attempt to cover or hide it, and Phil just had to turn to glare at him. Nick raised his hands in surrender, but he was grinning. “Alright. Sounds fine to me, Gracie.”
Phil threw a pen at his head. “Addendum: no whale-related nicknames, Star Trek references be damned.”
“Have you considered the name John?”
“I’m not naming my child after you, Garrett.”
“I’m not naming it after you either, Jasper. Don’t even ask.”
“What about -”
“He or she will have family names, and that’s all I ever plan to say on the subject ever again.”
“Barton needs a new handler,” Nick said, his eyes skimming the intel on the tablet Phil had just handed him.
“Give him to Sitwell.” Phil smirked a little. The words “mommyblogosphere” still haunted him, and from the hype, Barton would be sufficient punishment for all the shit Jasper had given him over his level of preparedness.
“Yeah, it’s already been pushed through.” Nick waved a hand when Phil huffed at him. “Don’t give me that. Just making sure we’re on the same page here.” He tapped the screen and leaned forward in his chair. “Now get out. You just ruined my lunch break; go get me a sandwich.”
Phil rolled his eyes, but obligingly walked out of the office. He wasn’t going to walk all the way down the to commissary himself, but oh look. The inconvenient intern that Nick had sicced on him a month ago had jumped up the moment Phil had appeared in the doorway. Nick would need him as soon as he finished reading the file and the intern could handle sandwich fetching while Phil propped his swollen feet up on a chair.
As his pregnancy progressed, Phil settled back into his own skin and stopped jumping when people came at him too fast or from behind him. After his kidnapping and ensuing… impregnation, he’d spent time with psych to work through the “trauma,” but moving in with Nick and the preparation and research that went into planning for his his future and his child’s had a grounding effect on him that no amount of time in psych seemed to equal. Or that’s what his therapist had concluded in their last session.
He had even stopped acting so hostile toward alphas and no longer rested his hand on his weapon upon entering a room. Doctor Katz had said she was very proud of him. Phil thought it had more to do with the fact that between his regular duties with SHIELD, his decreased energy, and the sheer amount of planning and purchasing that went into preparing for a baby, he barely had time to sleep, let alone fret.
Rubbing a hand over the prominent swell of his belly, Phil sent a silent thank-you to his baby before picking the tablet back up and interrupting Perry’s utterly ridiculous mission proposal.
“You’re six months pregnant, dammit. Would you please slow down?”
Phil glanced over his shoulder where Jasper was clearly struggling to keep pace. He stroked a hand across the top of his stomach and continued typing an agenda on his phone for his afternoon meeting with the other. “Perhaps you should dedicate your free time to the gym instead of flirting with Agent Kendricks if you’re going to whine.”
A growl sounded behind him, and Phil couldn’t help but laugh a little and increase his pace.
A hand shot out in front of him, aiming for his stomach. First reactions of a spy being what they were, Phil had to clench his hands around his phone to the point of pain to keep from doing something like breaking the hand. First reactions of a bureaucrat being what they were, Phil tilted the phone screen toward his chest to hide the rather classified documents he’d been reviewing.
“Oh my gosh. You are just adorable. How far along are you?” A woman in her late seventies was standing just beside him, her hand rubbing his pregnant belly and staring down at it with an adoring smile.
Phil sighed and gently removed the woman’s hand, considering the possible points of egress his team would have to secure for their op tomorrow. “Thirty-two weeks yesterday.” There seemed to be a magnet that pulled strangers’ hands to his belly every time he ventured outside, and he cringed to think about how much he was ruining his instincts in the effort it took to restrain himself from violence. He attempted to focus on planning his op instead of how appealing having “DO NOT TOUCH” screenprinted on all his shirts was beginning to sound.
“Your alpha must be so thrilled,” she said, clearly delighted by his response, and Phil made a conscious effort to stop dismissing her when she clearly was just trying to be friendly while they queued at the store. He smiled a little and nodded, unwilling to discuss the unusual circumstances surrounding his pregnancy with this stranger. “Oh, he’s thrilled. He can barely keep his knot from popping at the sight of me.”
Had he been less preoccupied, he may have noticed Nick’s approach well before the man’s hands landed on his hips, Nick’s chest pressed up against his back possessively. The urge to reach back and crush Nick’s balls was strong, and only grew when his friend opened his mouth. “It’s true,” he said, adopting a saccharine sweet tone as the woman’s eyes bugged slightly at the sight of him, “but I can’t help it when he’s just so adorable all the time.” One of his hands came up to stroke Phil’s belly just where her hand had been moments ago, a clear sign for her to back off.
The woman blushed and turned gratefully to the cashier when a rote greeting was called out.
Phil took the opportunity to grind his heel into Nick’s instep. “Perv.”
“Prude,” Nick shot back, but he grinned and released Phil, taking only a single step back. Phil wasn’t sure whether it was to maintain their cover, or because Nick liked to fuck with him, though it was probably both. “Stop lying to old ladies and I wouldn’t have to keep rescuing you.”
“I rescind my offer to make you godfather.”
“Then I rescind my offer to babysit.” Nick grinned at the Phil’s affronted look, and shrugged. “Don’t play games with me, Cheese. That baby is mine in all but blood.”
Phil rolled his eyes, but he had to laugh. “And to think the recruits call you a robot. You’re just a giant gooey teddy bear.”
“For that baby? I’m gonna be the best teddy bear in the history of the world.”
Phil’s eyes were glued to his screen with horror when Nick walked in. He didn’t bother pushing Nick away for hovering because it hit him; this was the kind of news that ought to be shared so the nightmare wasn’t his alone to bear. And Nick was going to be there for the birth, so he might as well be prepared.
Sure enough, “What the fuck, Cheese? Is this guy for real?” Nick’s face was was just as comically horrified as Phil guessed his own must be because when he nodded, Nick just closed his eyes. “And all of that nastiness,” he gestured at the screen where Phil had been reading the blog of an omega male who had just given birth the week before, “is going to happen to you, too?”
Phil nodded again. “Statistically, yes.”
Nick shuddered. “They really gloss over the details of this in high school sex ed classes.” A heavy hand fell on Phil’s shoulder and they turned in synchronized terror back to the screen.
Nick had bags stuffed in every office of every base Phil visited regularly. There was one in each of their vehicles, as well as an extra in case they had to change vehicles abruptly. There was one in Nick’s apartment where Phil had been living for the last several months, and in his rooms on base. Each was packed with two sets of clothes for both Phil and baby, and every item the parenting books suggested a newborn might need.
He may have been going overboard, especially for an omega that wasn’t his -and never would be- but even without his love for the baby already firmly cemented, Phil was his best friend. No way was Nick going to be anything but excessively prepared, no matter when or where Phil finally went into labor.
And if he took the opportunity when Phil was in a meeting to sneak a few extra items into the lone ready bag Phil kept in his office, well, Phil probably wouldn’t notice.