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15 July 2015 (Old Earth Date)

Milwaukee, WI

 

Daisy Johnson sighed, relaxing back into the plastic chair, taking a deep breath of the coffee and pastry scented air, glad to be away from the chaos of the Playground, if just for the day.

Things had been so nuts lately, and that wasn’t just counting her gaining some freaky superpowers.  Although, the freaky superpowers were also nuts, but she was finally getting a handle on them…which was what had allowed her to get away from SHIELD for a few hours, knowing that she wouldn’t accidentally cause any buildings to collapse was a good thing. 

It also meant that she could be all stalkery toward her dad, who didn’t remember her at all now.

Daisy needed to stop.  She needed to let her dad, now Dr Winslow, the friendly veterinarian, live his new life.  She needed to stop going to see him, when all it did was cause more heartbreak.

The former Calvin Zabo had been a homicidal monster, whose only motivation had been finding his daughter and keeping her safe.  He’d done that.  Now, he deserved his new life.

Besides, she had a new family now.  Her SHIELD family.

Daisy sighed, glancing at her watch.  They’d be expecting her back anytime now.  Trip had said he’d come and pick her up soon, and she needed to be at the rendezvous point shortly.

Taking the last sip of her coffee, Daisy reached around to the back of her chair for her backpack, just as someone took a seat at her table.

“Hope this seat isn’t taken,” a friendly, British-accented voice exclaimed.

“Not at all, I was just leaving – “  Scooting her chair out, Daisy stood, not even bothering to look at the table interloper.  Not that she cared, really.  The coffee shop was fairly busy and seats were at a premium.

“I was actually hoping I could speak to you, Agent Johnson.”

That got her attention.

She glared down at the man.  He looked young, but there was something off about him, something she couldn’t put her finger on.  He had dark hair that flopped down over a high forehead, a boyish face with just a little too much chin, and piercing green eyes.  From what she could see, he was dressed in a deep purple coat that didn’t quite blend in, and the dark blue bow tie didn’t quite match it.  A black waistcoat over a white shirt completed the strange ensemble.

Daisy had no clue who he was.

“I’m sorry, but I think you have me confused with someone else.”  He didn’t look like HYDRA, but that didn’t mean a thing.  Ward hadn’t looked like a traitor, either, and look what happened with him.

The man gave her a disingenuous smile.  “Daisy Johnson?  Once known as Skye?  Or Mary Sue Poots?” He made a face at that.  “I can certainly understand why you’d change it, why the nuns at the orphanage would have decided on that unfortunate name, I don’t know…”

Okay, he shouldn’t know that.  Hell, no one knew that outside of a few select people, and Daisy wanted to keep it that way.  “Who are you?” she hissed, sitting back down.  She could feel her power reacting to her anger and confusion, and she stuffed it back down, but not before the table shook, causing ripples in the man’s cup of…was that tea?

His eyes lit up when he noticed the mini-tremor.  “Oh, that’s beautiful!  I’d ask you to do that again but I don’t want to draw too much attention to us.” 

So, he wasn’t afraid of her.  That was actually…refreshing.  “I think you’re a little late for not wanting to draw attention.”  She waved a hand toward his outfit.

The man was outraged.  He reached up, straightening his bow tie.  “I’ll have you know that bow ties are cool.  And you haven’t seen me in a fez yet.  It’s quite fetching.”

This guy was a real weirdo, but Daisy didn’t dare get up and leave, not wanting to let him out of her sight.  Maybe she could get him to the pick-up point somehow and take him back to SHIELD…Coulson would know what to do with him then.

But then, he leaned across the table, his eyes catching hers and holding her gaze.  There was something in that gaze, something old and powerful, and it had Daisy wondering again just who the hell this guy was.  “Alright,” she said, “you have my attention.  How do you know me, and what do you want?”

“Two very easy questions, actually.”  The man took a sip of his tea.  “I’m called the Doctor, and I know you because Phillip Coulson told me about you.”

Daisy gave him the side-eye.  “You know Coulson?”

“Oh yes.  He and I are quite good friends…or we will be, in the future.  We haven’t actually met yet, to be honest, although I have met a member of his family, back in 1969, and we kicked a particularly nasty set of alien overlords off the planet together.”

“Wait…”  Alright, this was getting even weirder.  What was this guy intimating?  That he was some sort of time traveller?  Or was he just completely crazy?

It certainly said something that she wasn’t questioning the ‘alien overlords’ part of that.

“Okay, so that wasn’t so easy, after all.”  The Doctor looked put out.  “Well, it was, but I’m getting a bit ahead of myself…or is it behind?  Even I sometimes get the phrasing wrong, and I’m a Time Lord.”  He shook his head.  “And what is it about contacting people in coffee shops, anyway?  Although the last time I did that, it involved Merlin and Arthur and that mess with GenCorp…”  He took another sip.  “And this tea is awful.  But I can’t order coffee anywhere anymore, now that I’ve had Ianto’s…oh, I might not have wanted to say that, considering I won’t see him again for a couple of millennia…for him, at least. For me it’ll be a couple of hours from now, depending on how this conversation goes.”

Daisy felt as if she’d just had a lot of nonsense words vomited all over her, but she stiffened when she realised he’d just mentioned a ‘Ianto’.  “You know about Ianto?” she demanded, latching onto the one familiar thing in that entire, rambling speech.

“Do I know Ianto?” the Doctor grinned.  “Of course I know Ianto!  The Last Dragon?  His grandson is mated to my son, which I guess means that I’m family.  But that’s quite a ways into the future, so you might not want to mention any of that to him, the next time you see him.  After all, at this point in his history we’re not really on speaking terms, and chances are he’d try to warn you away from me.  It’s not that way now; well, in the future, but we still have to kiss and make up at this point in his history. Okay, not kiss, because Jack and River would most likely get really jealous, and I don’t want to get regenerated at this point in time.  I quite like the way I am now.”

Damnit, this really was getting surreal.  Daisy wasn’t at all sure how to take any of this.  

“I can see you’re confused and not really believing a word I’ve said,” the Doctor went on before Daisy could ask for some sort of clarification, “so let me start over.”  He sat up a little, offering his hand.  “Hello, I’m the Doctor.  I’m a friend of Phillip Coulson’s, and I need your help.”

Without even thinking about it, Daisy shook the hand.  The skin was a bit cool, which was strange since he’d just been holding the warm cup, but she didn’t bother with it.  She’d seen many stranger things than someone running a little chillier than usual.

Having her mother try to kill her was right at the top of that list.

“Let’s say I believe you,” she said, once she was done with the hand shaking, “how can I help you?   From what you said, you can’t just come out and ask Coulson, because of not knowing him now…which is totally bizarre, really…”

The Doctor waved the hand that she’d just shook.  “It’s timey wimey.  You get used to it.”

“Really?” she said snippily.

The guy didn’t seem at all bothered by her sarcasm, which was a shame.  “Anyway, like I said…I need your help.  Phillip assured me I could trust you, and that’s good enough for me, but there are also timelines involved and the last thing we need is a paradox.  So, I need your word that what I’m about to tell you is only between the two of us.”

There was another face at the taste of the tea, but he didn’t say anything else as he waited for whatever Daisy decided. 

If what he was asking was true, then he was asking her to lie to her team.  To her family.

And not just to them, because apparently this Doctor person also knew Ianto, and Jack, and they’d had kids…or at least one, in the future, and Daisy couldn’t say a thing about it.  She owed Ianto, for him trying to help her when she first got her powers.  And she owed Coulson more than she could ever hope to repay.

Could she lie to them?  Or, at least, not tell them what was going on?

If the Doctor wasn’t lying – and there was no guarantee of that – then Coulson himself had told him that he could trust her.  But, in the future. 

Okay, could she really not afford to help?

Besides, this guy was claiming to be a time traveller.  Maybe she could get a trip in the man’s time machine…

“Tell what you need,” she finally said.

The smile she got was almost blinding. 

“But there’s something I want in return.”

The smile vanished, to be replaced a scrutiny that, quite frankly, threatened to freak her out more than she already was.

“I want a trip in your time machine.”

The smile was back.  “One trip.  It’s a fair price to pay for you helping me.”

Daisy held out her hand this time, to seal the deal.

The Doctor took it, shook a little harder than was absolutely necessary, then said, “I would have offered anyway.”

Of course, he would have.

“I would have helped Coulson, too, without the trip.”

He gave her a knowing grin for that.

“Then how can I help?”

The Doctor stood.  “Let’s take this to somewhere a bit more private, shall we?  My TARDIS is right around the corner.”

 

**********

 

It turned out that the TARDIS – the Doctor’s time machine – resembled a blue box that had the word ‘Police’ written on it.

Yep, Daisy had definitely taken the looking glass to Wonderland.

“Why isn’t anyone noticing it?” she asked as they approached.  It was obvious; the machine was parked on the corner, and the pedestrians were walking around it as if they weren’t even seeing it, yet were completely aware it was there enough to avoid slamming into it.

“Perception filter,” the Doctor answered breezily.  He had a key in his hand, and with the flick of a wrist he had the door unlocked and thrown open, gesturing her inside.

For a split second, Daisy hesitated.  She had no real idea that the Doctor was telling her the truth, even though he’d known more about her than a lot of people she could name. Once she set foot in that box, she would be trapped…

But hey, she had her powers.  Surely, she’d be able to get out of it, if it came down to it.  The box itself looked a little rickety, so it wouldn’t be able to withstand her abilities.

Taking a deep breath and hoping she wasn’t making a mistake, Daisy stepped into the TARDIS.

And was floored.

“Holy shit,” she gasped, stopping just inside the door.

The Doctor strode past her.  “You can say it, you know.”

Daisy was stunned.  How in the hell did such a big room fit into that blue box?

She darted outside quickly.  Sure enough, the outside was still the box.

Daisy practically jumped back into the TARDIS.  “It’s bigger in the inside!” she exclaimed.  “That is freaking awesome!”

The Doctor was beaming.  “She is, isn’t she?”

He was standing in the centre of the enormous room, by what had to have been the controls.  It was a six-sided, mushroom sort of shape, set onto a floor that she could see through; the lower level was all cabling and wires, and it all hooked into the base of the console.  A tall, clear pillar rose to the high ceiling, and three concentric rings were at the top, with strange designs on them.  There were a couple of seats against the railing that encircled the controls. 

A set of steps went up to what looked like a hallway that went deeper into the ship, and another set that went down.  Daisy was amazed that the TARDIS was so much larger than just the control room, and she was itching to explore the entire time machine.

There was a muffled thud, and she spun to see that the door had closed.  Still, Daisy wasn’t afraid now of getting trapped; she was confident she could lose herself inside the ship if she needed to escape the Doctor.

But something was telling her that wouldn’t be necessary.

The Doctor was watching her as she nosed around.  “You convinced?”

Daisy was nodding as she turned back to look at him.  “So, what can I do to help?”

The playful grin he’d been wearing dropped from his face, making him look about as serious as a heart attack.  He leaned against the console, arms crossed over his chest.  “Okay.”  He took a deep breath.  “If I’ve got the coordinates right, then Phillip’s had his hand chopped off already, and it’s grown back.”

Daisy’s mouth dropped open even as she was nodding in acknowledgement.  That had just happened a couple of months ago.  Simmons and Owen Harper, Torchwood’s Chief Medical Officer, were both convinced it had something to do with the GH325 that Coulson had been doped with.  It had been the freakiest thing Daisy had ever witnessed, seeing Coulson’s arm go from a stump to having a completely new hand in a just a few weeks. 

“If you don’t know already,” the Doctor went on, “it has to do with the way Phillip was resurrected.  What you might not know yet, is that that’s just the tip of the iceberg, as it were.”

“What do you mean?” Daisy demanded.   “If there’s something wrong with Coulson…”  She didn’t want to think about it.  Coulson had been the closest thing she’d had for a father, until her own biological dad had shown up and tried to kill everybody.

“I come from the future,” the Doctor answered.  “Over three thousand years in the future…and Phillip Coulson is still alive.”

Daisy suddenly felt the need to sit down.

The Doctor was at her side before she could even register it, and he guided her over to one of the chairs, helping her to sit.  Her eyes met his, and there was such sadness there that Daisy had to catch her breath.

This… really was insane.  Coulson was still alive, three thousand years into the future?

She wanted the Doctor to be lying, but it was obvious he wasn’t.  Somehow, the GH325 had extending Coulson’s life far beyond what was normal.

Then her blood chilled. 

She’d been given the GH formula as well, after Ian Quinn had shot her.

Did that mean…?

“No,” he assured her, when she asked.  “You’re not like Phillip.  Different circumstances entirely, I promise.  For one thing, you weren’t stabbed with a magical spear.  Phillip was, and that just complicated things.  You, Daisy Johnson, might be Inhuman but you’re not immortal, so don’t worry about that.”

“Alright,” she murmured, getting better control over her emotions. 

A lot of people might have thought that being…what Coulson was, she couldn’t just say it for some reason…would have been amazing.  But she knew the truth; she knew Ianto and Jack, and understood just how badly things had been for them in the past. 

And now, she’d just been told that Coulson – that Phil, the man who was as close to her as a father – was in the same boat.    

It wasn’t fair.

It made her want to go, dig up Nick Fury from whatever hole he’d dug for himself, pull him out and shake him until his teeth rattled.  And then rattle him in another way.

“Hey, calm down,” the Doctor soothed her.  “You’re going to shake the TARDIS apart.”

That was when Daisy noticed that the machine was, indeed, shaking around her, and she reined in her power as best she could.  When she got upset, she was prone to let her power get out of control, and she needed to wrestle it back so she wouldn’t do any damage.  Yes, she’d learned a lot in Afterlife with Lincoln and her mother, but her control still wasn’t complete.

“It’s not as bad as all that,” he tried to reassure her.  “Phillip has friends, and family, and he’s quite happy.  But…something happened.  And I need your help to fix things.”

“Anything,” she vowed.  “What happened?”

“There was…an accident.”  The Doctor plopped himself down beside her, taking her hand in what was obviously an effort to comfort her.  “What Phillip is also going to find out – besides the immortality – is that, somehow, a part of Loki’s magic got transferred to him as well.  It takes him a long time to reconcile that, and he does learn to use it…but it’s not very pleasant for him.  He really hates it.”

“I can imagine.”  Anything that would remind him of his death at Loki’s hands wouldn’t have been a good thing, but magic?  How was that even possible?

Coulson had always prided himself on being the ‘Everyman’, the one that was ordinary and yet could stand up to extraordinary things.  It seemed as if he was becoming the very extraordinary thing that he’d always stood up to.

“The thing is,” the Doctor went on, “is that the magic and the GH325 have been in balance for millennia.  The magic wanted to completely settle into his DNA, but the formula wouldn’t let it.  But, as I said, an accident happened, and now the magic is stronger than the GH325 and it’s becoming more and more difficult for his body to maintain its equilibrium.  What makes it worse, is that it’s a form of ice magic, and the GH formula is also having to continuously heal the damage done by the cold that Phillip’s body keeps generating.  At the moment, we have things under some sort of control, but it won’t last.  We need to get things back into balance.  If we don’t…well, we don’t want to lose him.”

Daisy found it suddenly hard to breathe.  To find out that Coulson was immortal, but was slowly being killed by the very thing that had made him that way… “What can I do?”

Because, she would do anything to save him.  Phil Coulson had done the same for her, and this would only touch on repaying the debt she felt she owed him. 

“We thought we’d consult the notes on the original TAHITI procedure,” the Doctor answered.  “The problem with that is, we don’t know what happened to them.  Over the millennia, they’ve vanished.  Phillip is convinced he destroyed it all, a long time ago, but…humans aren’t meant to be immortal, and his memory is a bit fuzzy on the subject.”

She wouldn’t have blamed him one bit for getting rid of the thing that had made him like that, and she said as much.

The Doctor nodded sharply in agreement.  “I did go to Nicholas Fury first, but he assured me that the Phillip of this time had everything on the project…”  He looked at her expectantly, and Daisy got it in an instant.

“You need me to get the files for you.”

There wasn’t even a choice in it.  If they were to help Coulson in the future, then she was the logical one to do what the Doctor was asking. 

“I know it’s a lot to ask,” the Doctor rambled on, “but we need that to figure out the GH325 and the effects it has on Phillip’s biodata.  We’d normally just go and do a few scans, but the formula is now so integrated into his cells that it’s nearly impossible to differentiate between cellular function and just what the formula is augmenting.  We can tell it’s there, and it’s failing, but we don’t know anything beyond that.  We need that information if we’re going to get things back into some form of balance.”  He grimaced.  “We also sent to Asgard, although we didn’t expect Loki to help.  The last time Phillip approached him about the magic, Loki just laughed in his face. So, you can imagine the Trickster not volunteering to help now.  We also tried a healer, but because the GH325 is an artificial compound that’s simply grafted itself to Phillip’s genome, they couldn’t affect it.  We’ve managed to suppress the magic, but that’s only a temporary measure.  We suppress it too much, the GH325 fails, and Phillip loses his immortality.”

“Does he really want to live forever?”  Daisy had heard both Jack and Ianto saying that immortality had been a curse, until they’d found each other.  Being alone had been the worst sort of curse imaginable.

There was a soft smile at the Doctor’s animated face.  “He does.  He finally has someone to spend his eternity with, and he doesn’t want to lose that.  More importantly, he doesn’t want his family to have to lose him.”   His expression went grave.  “He’ll fight as long as he can, but eventually it won’t be enough.” 

That, more than anything, made Daisy’s decision so much more easy.  Yes, saving Coulson’s life was her number one goal, but knowing he had family who would stand with him meant he wasn’t alone. 

She stood.  “So, how do I get in touch with you when I have all the information?”

The Doctor bounced to his feet, that blindingly happy grin back in place.  He reached into the pocket of his outrageous coat – which really did fit the personality Daisy had seen so far – and pulled out a small disc.  “This is a teleporter,” he explained.  “It’s very short range, but I’ll be able to home in on its signal and park the TARDIS close enough for you to get back to once you have the files.”  He handed it to her.  “Don’t worry about anyone else picking up on it; the signal is a temporal harmonic that the TARDIS has been set up to trace.  I’d go myself, but it’s too dangerous to the timelines.  Phillip can’t meet me now; it’s too early.”

Daisy accepted the metal disc; it was cool against her skin.  There wasn’t anything on it for her to push, and she asked how to use it.

“Just rub your thumb across the surface in a circular pattern,” he explained.  “That will activate it.  Oh, and it’s only set to your biodata, so no one else will be able to make it work.  Not that I think you’d let it fall into the wrong hands…that’s future tech, and I’m sure I don’t have to mention disrupting timelines again…”

“No, I get it.”  Daisy slipped the disc into the pocket of her jeans. 

She should have felt guilty about this.  Daisy was about to do something that could be misconstrued as betraying her team...her Director, yes, but he was more to her than just her leader.  He was the man who had seen something in her, and forgave her for her earlier betrayal of him, back before HYDRA had made a mess of their lives. 

But there wasn’t even a bit of hesitation.  This was Coulson’s life at stake, if the Doctor was being truthful, and she didn’t doubt that he was.  There was something in his manner that made her trust him, and it didn’t help that he knew things about her that Coulson would have had to tell him. 

Coulson had been like a father to her, when no one else had wanted the job.  His life was worth a little espionage against friends.