I’ve always had Sterling have an obsession with paper. Even in early posts with him he’s always been a fan of origami but I never explained why he loved it. I only knew he got it from his mother.
When Sterling was younger he asked his mother to help him get a present for someone. So, she suggested he make them something out of origami. It was hand made, it was cheap, it was thoughtful, and it was something a child could do. So she began to teach him. A secretary herself, she had plenty of paper around to use and show him, especially when she was forced to take him to work with her. It gave him something to do while she worked to keep him occupied and out of trouble.
One day while he was at school, he noticed a little girl crying. Eager to cheer her up, he quickly made her a paper crane that flapped its wings when you move it a certain way. Delighted by the gift, she instantly stopped crying and they began to play.
That little girl’s name was Leela Warren.
Even as an adult it’s his go-to thing for quick pranks [He frequently fills Agent Chess’s desk with paper cranes and it became their inside joke], decorations [Barton’s birthday was decorated with them for a bird theme] and small gifts [He’s taught the girls to do them as well and they once made Barton a jar filled with paper stars with little messages written in them].
Folded up in his wallet next to her picture is an old paper crane his mother made him. Frayed and worn at the folds, it sits safely in his wallet and goes with him everywhere.
Sterling is a level 4.
That being said, there is probably a great deal of people, events, objects, ect that are common knowledge to Marvel fans and common player knowledge… that he does not know. Hell, before Sitwell was promoted he didn’t even know there was such thing has a level 7 in SHIELD or that Coulson was one of them.
He knows the vague overview of the battle of New York. Barton was taken. Aliens. Loki. But the details are lost on him. He doesn’t have the clearance to know. As there are probably MANY events he has never heard of or seen files for. If he doesn’t seem to know what you are talking about, you might not want to keep talking unless you need him to know. There have been many times he’s been told things beyond his clearance so that he could assist with the present situation but otherwise he’s fairly in the dark about a lot of things. SHIELD hushes things a lot, from citizens and their own agents. Don’t ASSUME he knows something that is beyond his level.
Sterling is a fairly normal guy. Before SHIELD, before just 4 years ago, he had never encountered anything out of the ordinary. No ghosts. No demons. No aliens. No strange technology. No assassins or superheros. Just…
So while Sterling takes everything now without batting an eye because hey, it’s SHIELD, and crazy shit happens here, he can’t help but still be new to all of it. He’s still scared of supernatural things even if he powers through it for work. He still has no idea how to defend himself against them. He treats these sort of things as ‘oh great, MORE weird shit. Better phone unnaturals and step back.’
He reminds himself even more of an old man than just his wardrobe with the way he often thinks ‘Back in my day it was just criminals and terrorists you had to worry about.’ He’s not a hunter nor does he have a desire to be one. He lets Unnaturals handle that stuff. He’ll learn basics but there is something about learning how to defend against the supernatural that he is very resistant toward. He accepts that these things exist. He accepts that they are dangerous. But something beyond salt and salt guns he has just closed his mind from learning. It’s a world he just doesn’t want to step into. It is where he has, for some reason, drawn the line.
There is nothing normal about his current life but… I don’t know. Maybe he’s just trying to keep the strangeness to a minimum? For the girls? Even though Abby is all for it?
I don’t know. He’s just very resistant in my head.
Sterling is petrified of dogs. When he was about 7 years old an innocent prank from some kids in his neighborhood resulted in an attack of sorts from their babysitter’s large dog. They slipped dog treats in his jacket pocket and when they were sent outside to play [While the babysitter was on the phone not watching as usual] the dog smelled the treats. Sort of stupid and eager to eat, the dog easily knocked little Noah onto the ground and began digging and biting for the treats. Unfortunately it was not ground he was digging in, it was a small boy, and Noah ended up with bleeding scratches along his chest and face and painful bites on his arm and side. The other children, not wanting to get in trouble, said nothing and it wasn’t until Noah had wiggled desperately out of his jacket that he got away.
Even as an adult dogs are one of the few things Sterling is truly afraid of. Dogs can even sense his fear and tend to react negatively toward him so he claims the hate is mutual. On missions with guard dogs he carries mace. He doesn’t want to shoot them but he is NOT afraid to disable them. He may seem fearless in the adrenaline rush of a mission, but very few people have seen him interact with a dog outside of a mission to know his phobia.
And it is intense. If he knows you even OWN a dog he won’t even get out of his car.
So far, IC, Coulson, Penelope, Ace, and Barton are the only ones that know.
Since Sterling and his sisters fled the custody of their father, their Thanksgivings were celebrated like a good old fashioned A Christmas Story Christmas. They would all go out and eat Chinese. He was 18. He didn’t know much about cooking. The girls were too young to cook themselves or even know better so they never seemed to mind as they grew up like that.
Until he met Barton.
When Sterling found out Barton didn’t really have family to celebrate with he and the girls became determined to try and make their holidays… more domestic when Barton came over.
Unable to even fathom the concept of cooking a turkey, they bought sliced turkey from a deli and they ate it on sandwiches with chips. They watched movies and socialized like always only… dressed nicer. That’s a good holiday, right?
Sterling bought two rotisserie chickens and made them all pretend it was a turkey. The sides were all store bought and it was all the ones that were left since he got them last minute.
Slightly more prepared this year, Sterling had ordered a turkey but didn’t realize it was still uncooked so they attempted to try their hand. Barton met and got the number of a very nice lady firefighter. Despite the fire damage, setting off the alarms in the apartment building, and the sprinkler fiasco, they had a blast.
Abby was coming into her own as a cook and made all the sides. She declared next year SHE would be in charge of the turkey.
They never really had the NEED to celebrate the holidays traditionally until Barton came along. It was as though they felt that the addition of him was what made their little group a real family. Since they had someone else to work for. To include. Wanting to give Barton a good holiday was what essentially sealed them as a family and for that, Sterling and the girls are eternally grateful to call him brother.
Sterling has a number of strange little quirks. At 5:00 every Monday, like clockwork, he has to have a cookie. He keeps a stash of them either in his desk or in the break room. Everyone knows not to touch his cookies. He gets very hostile when he doesn’t have his Monday cookie.
He likes license plates that spell words and looks for them wherever there are cars.
When he has nothing to do at the moment, Sterling runs through the ASL alphabet out of boredom as a habit he developed when trying to learn it.
Nails on a chalk board don’t really bother him. He doesn’t know why but he always considered it like a super power.
He has never seen Rocky Horror Picture Show but he knows a lot of the songs by heart and will always do the Time Warp when it is played.
When he drinks, he tells secrets that he usually keeps locked tight in that vault of his.
Sterling’s relationship with his mother is a sensitive subject, one that he rarely brings up on his own. He will just plainly state that she passed away and let the subject die awkwardly there as the other party usually doesn’t want to bring up bad memories.
But they aren’t bad… In fact, when Sterling looks back he is so numbed to her memory he feels… nothing. No good. No bad. His memories are like watching a black and white movie he has no feelings one way or another about. He doesn’t let himself feel it. Whether he was close to her, whether she was just a passing figure in his life, whether she was ever even there at all, no one really knows.
Two things are certain though. Her death effected him as he has heard tires squealing and a crash twice in nightmare hallucinations. He owns only one picture of her that he keeps in his wallet. Abby owns a second picture and keeps it on her night stand in a frame.
In Sterling’s mind, the Marvel universe is real but the DC Universe is all franchise, comics, movies, action figures, ect. They don’t exist. They are just fictional characters to him.
That having been said, Ambush Bug is his favorite comic book character. His strange humor, his argyle sock of an arch enemy, even down to how his name sounds. He just can’t get enough of him. He is sort of a closet fan though. He doesn’t talk about it much, keeps his comics in his closet, and wears his fandom through his collection of argyle socks.
But he smiles whenever he sees a pair.
Sterling does not have his own office [a lot of people I rp with assume he does but he is only a level 3]. His desk is out in the open on one of the upper floors of HQ. It’s not a cubicle but there are other desks around him. He never feels crowded in his little corner, there is the perfect amount of space between himself and the next person. I actually picture it being a few yards from the nearest desk and tucked off to the side sort of by itself. It’s especially handy lately when he’s been feeling overwhelmed, at least the desk spacing doesn’t make him feel crowded.
Relationships have never been Sterling’s thing…
Ever since he was child he’s had trouble forming lasting relationships with people. Emotionally, yes. He can get involved. Romantic? Well… It’s a slow process that usually ends in the girl getting bored and leaving him before he has the chance to warm up to her. He’s had 3 major relationships, and by major I mean it lasted more then 3 months.
He believes in sex before marriage and has had sex, but only with 2 girls his age whom he had been in a steady relationship with. And believe me, it’s been a while. Sterling is wound in such a tight ball of sexual frustration it’s amazing he hasn’t exploded.
He has not been in a relationship since he joined SHIELD, not really wanting to date within SHIELD and not wanting to have to explain what he does to people OUTSIDE of it. So that pretty much ruled out everyone. Plus with taking care of the girls he has no life. No time to do anything else in his book. If he did end up with someone he would be glacially slow on the romantic end of things. He can’t seem to get himself to open up to someone romantically that easy. He’s secretive and is always out late for work or with the girls. It’s hard for him to get attached when he knows they won’t stick around through his crazy.
As for the physical, despite his uptight and prudish act in the office, it’s a defense mechanism for himself since dress clothes and office settings are his kinks. If he discourages all advances at work he can keep from doing something he’ll regret. Physically, he will go all out if the woman initiates…
Rules have always been Sterling’s security blanket. Things go wrong less when everyone follows the rules.
Rules kept him from getting in trouble at school and being a bother to his mother.
Rules and safety protocol keeps people from drowning.
Rules help prevent car accidents.
Rules help keep things in line so people are safer at work. So there is less chaos.
Bad things happen when people don’t follow the rules.
Sterling pushes them on people because he wants to protect them. When he becomes overly strict it’s usually because he is worried or uncomfortable. He needs that blanket of rules to cling to in order to feel secure again. He needs solid ground or he will feel himself begin to fall.
Ever since he returned to work from the Ray Merc incident he has been extra strict without really meaning to, getting short with people who treat proceedure so flippantly, even if it’s just a joke or all in good fun. They are there for a reason. They are there to keep everyone safe. To keep bad things from happening. Even HE feels he didn’t follow them well enough. If he had gotten backup earlier or something…
Everything has been spiraling lately. He wants order.
He needs Rules.
Sterling can have a way with words when it comes to business and being professional. He thinks very hard about what he says and how he words things and tries his best to say the right thing in the right situation when protocol, cheering someone up, or lives are on the line.
But when it comes to his personal situations he can be a bit of a flop. He’s TERRIBLE at pick up lines and flirting. Even his pet names for his sisters are uncreative at best and usually consists of playful insults or the names of food. He’s notorious around S.H.I.E.L.D. for telling jokes either incorrectly or… just plain not funny. The pressure of the job or the situation seems to be the only thing connecting his brain to his mouth.
Sterling is a SUCKER for 1950s DooWop. His ipod is full of it but he doesn’t often tell people. He just doesn’t think his music tastes are relevant. Whenever he needs to put a bounce in his step, he just puts on My Angel Lover on his headphones and he can’t help but smile his way through his paperwork.
On a related note…
Secretly he wishes he was born in the 1950s. Time of Pleasantville, sitcoms, and men’s fashion was just what he loves.
Most people think Sterling is only a paper pusher and that is true the vast majority of the time. That is his best skill and where his observation and attention to detail skill comes in handy.
He’s not the best gunman.
He’s not the best fighter.
Doesn’t even crack the top 25 in either category.
But he volunteers for every mission he has clearance to know about. He trains every week in hand to hand combat with any agent willing. He goes to the gun range within S.H.I.E.L.D.’s training facilities in his down time.
He wants to be known for more than just good paperwork. He wants to help. He knows what he does is important. Everyone at S.H.I.E.L.D. is important no matter what they do. But if he CAN do more… why not do more? He’s been itching for a promotion to clearance level 4 for a good while now and he was going to make sure he worked for it.