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Stay: Prologue

 

 

“Who the hell are you?” Daniel Sousa demanded.

The woman — the beautiful woman — sitting at his desk dismissed him as she perused his files. “Who I am is on a need to know basis,” she said, picking one up to read it more closely. 

Daniel jerked a thumb at his door with his title, Chief of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s West Coast Division. “I need to know!” 

The woman looked up. “No, you don’t. Because I don’t exist and we never met. Now, can you shut the door? Please?”

 

*****

 

At thirty-six years of age, Daniel Sousa counted himself lucky to have the kind of job where he could make a difference. He still believed in Peggy Carter’s mission, still believed in the organization she started, and still counted her as a friend. He quietly looked out for her, as he always had, not to pave paths for her, but to keep an eye out for saboteurs and moles who might cause her trouble. That’s how he stumbled across HYDRA. 

They murdered him in 1955 for that knowledge. 

At thirty-six and a few months, he lived on borrowed time. Everything he knew was gone; everyone he’d known had moved on. Daniel’s solace was knowing Peggy lived a long, good life. 

At thirty-six years old, in a whole new era, Daniel liked someone.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: One

 

Ignoring a splitting headache, Daniel listened as the director gave instructions to the team. The familiarity of a briefing made it easier to set aside the roiling emotions that had accompanied him since he’d stepped off a train and onto an airplane. He was good at compartmentalizing--maybe too good, depending on who was asked. Discovering he wasn’t in 1955 anymore because he’d just been murdered in his day and this team decided to save him instead sounded nice in theory, but Daniel was the one who had to deal with the repercussions of being transported eighteen years in the future without a by your leave. At the moment, that meant focusing on the briefing as the director laid out the goals for the next day. 

There were six people in the room besides him and the director: Agents Johnson, Coulson, and Simmons who’d run the last op, Agent May who appeared to be the pilot, plus two others he’d only just met, Agent Rodriguez and a guy named Shaw who seemed to be more scientist than field agent. 

Director Mack finished laying out the timeline. “We’ll need local clothes and we should restock the pantry while we can before we reconnect with Enoch. It’s midnight local time. We’ll reconvene here at oh-eight-hundred for a supply run before we get started.”

Agent Rodriguez spoke up. “Do we have cash we can use in this decade?” 

“We’ll check inventory,” the director promised.

Daniel considered what he had in his wallet. Like most agents, he carried a fair amount of cash for contingencies. He reached inside his vest to fish a money clip out of a hidden pocket. “Don’t how much this is worth in 1973,” he said aloud as he passed it to the director, “but this might help.” 

Mack picked up the money. “Appreciate the assist, Sousa.” He fanned out the hundred-dollar bills. “Consider tomorrow covered,” he said with a touch of admiration. “All right. Eat something. Get some rest. Dismissed.” 

Agent Johnson stayed back as the team dispersed. The part of his brain not busy going haywire over the whole dying/time-travel revelation registered again that she was startlingly beautiful. Mentally, he smacked himself on the forehead for noticing because now was definitely not the time. He needed to keep his head in the game, and there was a lot of intel to process. 

She caught him looking. Her eyes danced as her lips faintly curved in delighted satisfaction, though shadows under her eyes told him how tired she must be. In spite of that, she had a genuine smile for him. “Hey, Sousa,” she greeted, as if they were old friends. 

“Agent Johnson.” 

“Quarters are this way.” She jerked a thumb to indicate one of the halls. “There’s food in the galley. Sandwich stuff, since it’s so late. I doubt anyone feels like cooking.” She tilted her head. “Come on, and we’ll get you settled.”

He followed. “How’d you get stuck with showing me the ropes?”

Agent Johnson looked over her shoulder. “I, uh, handle asset intake.” 

There was more to that, he was certain. Tired, sore, and thoroughly disconcerted by the chain of events of the past two days, Daniel followed the other agent at something less than his usual brisk pace. The ache of his bum leg checked his flare of interest, even if she had the prettiest sway to her hips. His luck had run dry in that arena a ways back, and he wasn’t sure he could handle a disappointment like that today. 

He was still a little pissed the team had infiltrated his base and his office. He supposed, though, that future-S.H.I.E.L.D. should be able to manufacture past-S.H.I.E.L.D. credentials. On another day, Simmons might have gotten away with her duplicity. Not for long, though. Daniel had to sign off on the visitor logs each day and would have noticed the entry. Since he spoke to Peggy at least twice a week — once for work and once for friendship — he would have asked. 

He’d fallen for Agent Johnson’s cover, a feat in itself, and one that didn’t exactly inspire a reason to trust her. On the other hand, she’d dropped any pretense from the moment she’d handed out an ass-kicking on the train. She also had a mean swing, which kind of impressed him. 

The lack of artifice explained why she handled asset intake. Anything else would compromise an already complicated situation. 

Agent Johnson didn’t seem to mind his pace as she pointed out various parts of the aeroplane. “Galley and game room are down, bunks and showers are up.” She stopped at a spiral staircase, her eyes flicking to the cane. “There’s a lift in the back of the ship, if that’s easier.” 

Hell, no. Call it ego, but he’d make it, one way or the other. He followed Agent Johnson, side-stepping his way up the stairs and knowing he’d pay for it in about ten minutes when his thigh finished knotting up completely. 

She showed him where a frosted glass door opened up into a locker room that looked like the lap of luxury, all white and grey with showers and lockers on one side, private toilets on the other, with sinks and mirrors in the middle. Huh. Boys and girls shared these days. That was … interesting. Seeing Agent Johnson fresh out of the shower might be something he’d have to avoid. 

Or not, given the smug smile on her lips again. 

She found masking tape and a marker in a cabinet and handed both to him. “Choose an empty locker and stick your name on it. There’s no point in putting a lock on it since we can all pick anything out there.” 

Daniel wondered if his own lock-picking skills worked on anything past 1955. 

Agent Johnson opened a large two-door cabinet, taking out a folded piece of canvas out of the bottom shelf that turned out to be a black duffel bag. “Use that,” she said, handing it to him. “Extra clothing is up here. T-shirts, sweatpants, socks, the basic stuff. We can pick up whatever else you want in the morning.” 

She opened another cabinet. “We keep extra toiletries in here too. Take whatever you need.” She glanced over her shoulder, eyeing him from head to toe. “Laundry is through here,” she said, walking through a set of doors on the far side of the room. Washers and dryers were double stacked along one side, and Agent Johnson opened a small door at the other end. “Dry cleaning closet. Hang your suit up in here, secure the door, and press the button. Takes twenty minutes and it will be ready to wear again.” 

“No ironing?” he blurted. He hated ironing. 

She grinned. “Nope. Hope you like starch, though. Coulson has it set on ‘high.’” 

Was there any other kind? “Works for me.” 

Johnson gestured to the doors across the hall. “Guest pods are here. Crew pods are that way. Only difference is a little more space.” At the press of another button, a portion of the wall slid to one side, revealing a small brightly lit room with a double bed. “This is yours,” she said, motioning Daniel to the bunk as she took up one side of the doorway. He eased past her to sit. Static jumped from her to him and back again — or maybe he imagined the sensation when his sleeve brushed hers. 

If she reacted, he missed it as he dropped down on the mattress. It was everything he could do not to grind the heel of his hand into his thigh. “Thanks, Agent Johnson.” 

“You’re welcome, Agent Sousa,” she replied with a touch of sass, followed by a rapid-fire explanation of technology and storage, only half of which he understood. “I’ll show you the entertainment stuff later,” she promised. “And, by the way--these things?” she waved a hand around to indicate the pod, “Not very sound-proof. There’s a reason we sleep every other bunk here when we can. Fitz keeps swearing he’ll fix it.” 

He laughed under his breath, remembering a ship headed to England with cots stacked three deep. 

When Agent Johnson turned to leave, she looked back with one hand on the door frame. To his surprise, she seemed genuinely distressed. 

“We didn’t ask you if you wanted to be rescued. But we knew what was going to happen, and we made a call,” she confessed. “You said you’d give your life for S.H.I.E.L.D. You did.” She lifted a shoulder in apology. “A few hours ago in 1955.” 

“You knew?”

“We all did. It’s on the first S.H.I.E.L.D. exam everyone has to take. When you died, Peggy Carter built a memorial. Yours was the first S.H.I.E.L.D. name on it. She wasn’t going to let us forget her partner.”

That sounded … exactly like something Peggy would do. “I’m really dead then?” 

“Yeah. As far as the world knows, but--” Agent Johnson’s eyes lit up as she playfully looked him over again, “I wouldn’t say that.” Before he could decide if she was flirting, she added, “Look, you gave your life for S.H.I.E.L.D.; I just don’t know that you owe us a second one.” Lifting a shoulder, she added whimsically, “It might be fun to check out the future without worrying about the bad guys.” 

Daniel wasn’t an idiot. He knew how to read the crowd. The dame on the train asking for a drink? Not a chance. Agent Johnson with her sparkling dark eyes as she eyed him from head to toe? His heart picked up speed. “Is that a choice?” he asked. 

Agent Johnson gave him a long, considering look. “Maybe not for people like you and me. But it’s worth thinking about.” She patted the wall. “Locks are here. Hold it until it turns red. Food’s in the galley, if you’re interested.” She ducked out before he could say good-bye. 

Daniel picked up the duffel bag and returned to the locker room while it was empty. S.H.I.E.L.D. or not, he wasn’t interested in dealing with his personal issues in front of the team. 

 

*****

 

Daisy arrived well after the others had made their sandwiches in the galley. She loaded up the bread with pastrami, swiss, pickles, lettuce, and mustard, slapped another piece of bread on top, grabbed a napkin and a bag of chips out of the pile, then pulled up a stool next to Mack to scarf it all down.

“How’s Sousa doing?” Mack asked.

“He’s good at rolling with the punches. I don’t think he’s had time to process any of it, though,” she replied after she swallowed a big bite. She really was starving. 

“He’s a good man, from his file.” 

“Haven’t seen anything to contradict that so far.” Good grief, she was hungry. The sandwich disappeared in about eight bites total and she contemplated making another one. Chips first, though. She loved Cheetos. 

Daisy wasn’t exactly watching for Sousa, but when he didn’t appear by the time she finished eating, she began to wonder. 

Deke started to clean up the kitchen; it was his turn on the board. 

“I’ll get it,” Daisy offered. “I’m still hungry.” She laid out bread for two more sandwiches. 

“Two? You must be starving,” Deke noted. 

“I thought I’d make one for Sousa.” 

Deke gave her a faint scowl. “That’s nice of you.” 

She didn’t really want to announce Sousa’s problems to everyone, but he’d limped hard when they got upstairs, and she wasn’t sure he’d make it back down for dinner. “We just pulled him out of his timeline. Figure we can show him we’re not terrible people.” 

“With a sandwich?”

“It’s all I’ve got.” 

Huffing a little, Deke got a disgusted look and left the room. 

She was too tired to deal with Deke’s jealousy, though to be honest, she suspected it wasn’t misplaced. Not everyone knew she could feel heartbeats. Sousa’s sped up everytime he looked her way. 

His reaction wasn’t particularly unusual, and Daisy was an expert at fending off unwanted advances. But that was just it: Sousa hadn’t actually made any advances, and if he did, Daisy wasn’t sure she’d ward them off. 

Her heartbeat, it seemed, liked to match tempo with his. 

It had nothing to do with the way she’d sat at his desk, appreciating the clever instructions and notes he’d jotted on the files. He had pretty handwriting, that was for sure. She’d been prepared to meet a legendary agent with the kind of political skill and intelligence commenserate with his role. She’d expected him to wield his power like most men--with condescension and a blunt stick. Sousa didn’t match up. The skill and intelligence, yes, and she’d seen him snap orders with zero consideration they wouldn’t be followed. Authority sat easily on his shoulders. But power? Sousa kept it in his pocket, only pulling it out when absolutely necessary. 

Whatever she’d thrown at him, he’d neatly countered. She figured out in the first few seconds that he could read her as well as she could him, and had done her best to be honest about her mission, if not the C.I.A. cover. He saw through that anyway, so it didn’t really count.  

His chill freaking amazed her. She could see him processing the crazy day, analyzing and sorting it into whatever slots he needed. He’d rolled with all of it, and was never, ever discourteous, even when he was pissed. Or hurt. He had to be sore from all the running around, but his only tell had been the slow pace he’d taken on the way to the bunks. 

None of that explained why Daisy had a stupid urge to hang out with him to find out all his secrets. It didn’t explain why the faint scent of him as he passed her in the bunk lingered in her memory. It definitely didn’t justify her fascination with the way his collar sat against his neck and why she had the urge to nibble that for a while. 

She wanted to touch his wavy hair to find out if it was soft or crisp. And to find out if his elegant hands were as strong as they looked. 

Oh she wasn’t a complete idiot. Sousa and Coulson were cut from the same cloth with their unassuming images and dry wit. But Coulson was only ever her dad. 

Sousa was … not. Definitely not. 

“Daisy?” Jemma cajoled. “Are you woolgathering?” 

Daisy jumped, realizing that the rest of the team was giving her curious looks. Mack had a raised eyebrow and a faint smirk. 

“Just ready for bed.” She took a bite of her second sandwich as she debated what to put on Sousa’s. Ham and cheese was safe enough. Maybe pickles and lettuce. Mack patted her on the shoulder, following Yo-Yo out the door, with May close behind, leaving just Coulson, Simmons, and Daisy in the kitchen. 

Daisy said quietly to Jemma. “Sousa was limping pretty bad when we got up the stairs.”

“Damn. His leg. Yes, of course. He’ll need crutches for certain. The bathroom has accommodations, but he’ll not have brought the things he needs. No wonder he didn’t come for dinner.” Simmons tilted a head toward the dishes. “I’ll get those in a few minutes. Let me run a few things up to his bunk.” 

Coulson rolled up his sleeves. “I’ve got it.” 

Daisy swiped a thin layer of mustard and mayo both on the sandwich and set it in a plastic container. She retrieved an insulated tote out of a cabinet and loaded it up with ice packs, the sandwich, an orange, and chips, along with a protein bar and a couple of bottles of water. 

“That’s a nice thing you’re doing,” Coulson told her. 

“Can’t have Sousa thinking the agency has gone to crap.”

“It kind of did.”

She laughed. “Yeah, it did.” She swiftly put all the foodstuffs from dinner away, then stopped by Coulson on her way out. She squeezed his shoulder. “Thanks for the talk.” 

“You’re welcome.” 

Daisy adored having Coulson back. It righted so many things that just felt wrong. 

She started upstairs, realized that Sousa didn’t have access to the messaging system or a phone, and detoured by her bunk where she had paper and pen in her backpack. She tore a sheet of paper from one of her notebooks and dashed off a quick note. Her handwriting wasn’t pretty, but got the job done. She tucked the note inside the bag. 

The door to Sousa’s bunk was still open, with a pair of blue forearm crutches propped up in the corner. Feeling like she’d invaded his privacy, Daisy set the tote on his bed, then hit the showers.

 

 

Chapter Text

Stunned by the idea that Daniel could have a different kind of life, a not-S.H.I.E.L.D. life, he found himself turning that over in his mind while loading up on the necessities from the locker room cabinet. Huh. Colgate was still around. So was Old Spice deodorant. The variety of birth control options on another shelf surprised him. That Trojans were still a thing, less so. He dug around to see what else was available. Small packages appearing to be alcohol-laced wipes might work for cleaning his prosthetic socket. 

A full shower wasn’t an option until he could get the leg off, but the shower stall was big enough for him to thoroughly sponge off. He noted the seat that flipped down at the push of a button and the walls had a variety of handles attached. Simple instructions explained how to tell the shower what temperature he wanted and how to increase or decrease the volume of water pouring from the shower head—which could be taken down and held by hand. All these unexpected touches told him how much things had changed, if this was considered standard these days. 

As he washed, he tried to wrap his mind around the idea that he was eighteen years in the future on a time machine—with a team who automatically included him in their mission planning simply by virtue of being S.H.I.E.L.D. Okay, maybe he did have a reputation that had outlived him. That was nice to know. 

The sound of voices in the locker room chivvied him into finishing up. Dressed in borrowed clothes with the S.H.I.E.L.D. logo across the front, he felt a little like a recruit on his first day. 

He checked the dry cleaning closet to find his suit was clean and pressed. Marvelling at such a thing, he retrieved the hanger, setting it on his shoulder for the short trip down the hall. His leg was sore though, and he leaned on his cane too much. His back was sure to ache tonight from walking off-balance. 

There was a small bag on his bed, but he ignored it for the moment to shut the door with another push of a button. 

More than ready to doff his leg, he shed the borrowed pants and dropped down on the bunk. He depressed the valve button just above the knee, relieving the socket’s suction on his stump. A few tugs and he was free to prop the leg against the wall. He stripped off the sock and the liner—laying both gently on a shelf over his head—and dug the heel of his hand into his thigh to relieve the knot. 

Daniel let out a sigh of relief. He’d been too long on it these past few days. The scars from the shrapnel blast tended to get irritated from the wood and plastic socket. He ran his hand over his stump, happy to not find any blisters forming. The science division had been eager to have him try out a new liner and socket custom-molded to his stump. It worked better than the last leg, that was for sure. 

Agent Simmons had intercepted him in the locker room as he stuck a piece of tape to an empty locker. Apparently there was some kind of amazing machine on board that could make any material in three dimensions. Simmons gave him a scanner, showed him how to use it to get the correct measurements of his stump, and promised anything he might need for comfort could be manufactured on the Zephyr. 

To him, it seemed more like science fiction than science, but he was game to try, especially since Agent Johnson’s suggestion of leaving S.H.I.E.L.D. wasn’t sitting well. 

When he’d lost his leg, the Strategic Science Reserve had scooped him up and given him a job. And after losing his mom six months into the war and his dad just before the end of it, the S.S.R. had become his family. Then Peggy came on board, teaching him how to reach for the stars and handing him half of S.H.I.E.L.D. to do it. When he’d accepted that love wasn’t going to be part of his life, he’d given himself to the job with hardly a second glance.

A few hours ago, he had the responsibility of thousands of agents. Now, he had nothing to do and nowhere to be. Yet, here was S.H.I.E.L.D. coming to his rescue, giving him a bunk and second shot at life. 

He didn’t have to stay. In 1973, Peggy was probably still around; she’d believe his strange story and find him something to do. Or she would help him set up a new life. Maybe even the kind with a picket fence and a 9-5. 

Daniel shook his head at the silly notion. He’d never be a regular joe. Punching a clock just wasn’t his style. 

A rumbling from his stomach announced it had been too long since breakfast. The ration Johnson had passed his way—a protein bar on the plane—was long gone. The knot in his thigh throbbed the moment he stopped rubbing it, reminding him that he sorely needed an ice pack. 

If he was home, he would have left off the leg and crutched his way to the kitchen for both. Here, he didn’t want to appear to be a weak link, nor did he want to put the leg back on. 

Annoyed with himself, he reached for the bag on the bed to see what was inside. He found a wrapped-up sandwich, an orange, a couple of bottles of water, and a note. 

“Made you a sandwich, just in case you miss dinner. Don’t get used to it. Extra pillow and blanket in the cabinet underneath you. Simmons put your hat and overcoat in the closet, and a first aid kit in the headboard. Ibuprofen will help with the icer headache and any muscle cramps. There’s a couple of ice packs under the sandwiches, plus one in the med kit. Break the middle of that one and it gets cold fast. Press the button with the red cross if you need her for anything. Pancakes and bacon, oh-seven-hundred. Coffee anytime in the galley. Sleep well —Daisy.” 

Her handwriting was a messy-but-readable scrawl of someone with more on her mind than practicing her penmanship. He found the ice pack and breathed a sigh of relief when it was in place on the knot. He stuffed a second pillow behind him so he could eat and read the note again. 

His heart thumped in double-time. Agent Johnson — Daisy — had gone above and beyond to lend him a hand. He had no doubt she was responsible for the doctor making sure he had what he needed, and she’d done it in a way that didn’t put him on the spot in front of the team. 

She was kind, playful, genuine, and dedicated to the cause — exactly his favorite kind of people. 

He touched the note to his nose out of habit, acknowledging as he did that it was a ridiculous move. Agent Johnson wasn’t flirting, and she certainly hadn't spritzed perfume on the paper. He sniffed it again, anyway. It smelled like pickles. 

 

*****

 

Daisy studied the picture of Lincoln on her phone, trying to understand why she had all these stupid dizzy feelings for someone out of the blue. 

She loved Lincoln. Three years after losing him, she was beginning to understand she would always love him. Maybe it was her conversation with Deke that made her understand. 

Poor Deke. She knew he had a crush on her. A big one. But being around him felt like having a slightly annoying younger brother that she’d go to bat for on any given day. Maybe she couldn’t get past the idea he was Jemma and Fitz’s grandson. She thought hard about him, trying to dig up some sort of romantic vibes. Nope. He just didn’t make her heart go pitty-pat. 

Sousa, on the other hand, did. 

Love at first sight didn’t exist in her book, but there was no denying the electricity in the air each time she and Sousa occupied the same space. She’d absolutely busted him checking out her legs more than once. 

This, though, was a bad time to catch feelings. Daisy firmly put Sousa out of her mind and flopped down on the bed. Tomorrow was going to be a long day. 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Three

 

The mission to infiltrate the speakeasy for intel did absolutely nothing to change Daniel’s opinion about Agent Johnson. Like Peggy, Agent Johnson had a powerful belief in her mission and the skills to back it up. Like Peggy, Agent Johnson had a grief about her. She’d seen battle and been the cause of death and destruction. She was learning to live with it. 

Agent Johnson’s gleeful needling was new. 

“Well, fortunately there are unfashionable squares in every decade so you are ... set,” she sassed when he couldn’t bring himself to buy those elephant pants. 

No one dared to do that with Daniel, not as the Chief and definitely not with a bum leg. It was nice. More than nice. Sometimes he just wanted to be a regular guy — maybe even a regular guy with a little bit of a crush on a regular girl. 

She teased Coulson, too, calling him ‘Dad’ at the speakeasy. They certainly had a father-daughter sense between them so it wasn’t out of line. Sousa had definitely caught Coulson eyeing him and Agent Johnson speculatively. It was disconcerting. 

As one professional to another, Daniel continued to be impressed by Agent Johnson. 

When the mark at the table pressed her for a more private scene, Daniel made his move. It wasn’t hard to let jealousy layer his tone. “Hi, sweetheart,” he called out to get her attention. “Who is your new friend?” His hand at the small of her back was part of the game.

Agent Johnson picked up on his “protective fiancé” schtick without missing a beat, allowing him to extract her from an uncomfortable situation. “This is Gideon Malick.” Her tone was conciliatory, so were the fingers she set on Daniel’s vest as she stepped into his embrace. “Gideon, this is—” 

“Her fiancé,” Daniel interrupted, annoyed to discover that this fink was his future boss. In the face of that, acting like a territorial asshole wasn’t hard. He leaned protectively over Agent Johnson, chiding, “Honey, I think we need to go.” 

“Oh.” She played up the chastised fiancee’ beautifully. “Excuse us,” she told Gideon, leading the way out of the room. 

For good measure, Daniel gave Malick a steely-eyed glare as he walked around him. It was fun. 

Daniel was less than happy with Agent Johnson’s use of a human shield to get out of the speakeasy, but utterly stunned when she used a superpower right out of a comic book to shove a pair of Chronicoms against a wall about eight feet off the ground. 

Okay, so maybe he had a crush on a not-so-regular girl.

He was still coming to terms with that revelation as the team reconvened on the Zephyr for the second half of today's plan. 

The ship made an unexpected time jump. 

Confounded by the sudden lurch forward to 1976, he snapped at Johnson first, then Simmons and Shaw when Daniel discovered they didn’t know what was happening any more than he did. 

It was Shaw who pulled him up short, and Daniel was ashamed at his own reaction after learning he wasn’t the only one jerked out of time. 

Daniel began to understand that this team was clinging to the mission by their fingernails. They had no idea of when or where they were going, or what they’d find when they got there. 

He was better than this, and it was time to lock it down, a job made easier as the team figured out in just minutes why the time machine had picked this date. They sorted themselves out, coming up with a plan on the fly—even coming up with a way to save the people imprisoned below the lighthouse. 

That was the kind of thing that made Daniel believe this was still S.H.I.E.L.D.

Agent Johnson’s job was to do something outside the lighthouse that would get eyes on the inside. That, at least, was something he could help with. Sort of. 

“I’m going with her,” he announced. “I’d rather be out there working the problem than be in here where we disappear at any moment."

In the midst of the insanity, Daniel noted the way Agent Johnson checked herself from protesting when he insisted on having her back. Sure, there was a chance she might be indulging him—she certainly had the firepower to not need backup—but he noticed the other agents noticing that Daisy Johnson didn’t seem to mind Daniel Sousa tagging along. 

On another day, in another time, Daniel would call it chemistry. It might just be curiosity.

As he followed Agent Johnson out of the ship, he got his head back into the game, coolly assessing the entire situation. 

Honestly, the super power answered a lot of questions, starting with why Agent Johnson didn’t carry a piece. Discovering she could take down an assailant with her bare hands and a few shakes answered that. It also meant she didn’t really need him.

He didn’t want to stay where he didn’t belong. 

But. 

Now that he understood the stakes, Daniel wanted in. These people were taking on the craziest, most insane operation in history. S.H.I.E.L.D. hadn’t forgotten its mission to protect the people. This was the front line under heavy fire. It was going to take everything this team had to fight through to defeat the enemy. 

And that wasn’t all. He wanted to see if he was right about Agent Johnson. It had been too long since he’d felt a spark of interest for someone—and even longer for that spark to be returned. He needed intel—fast. A spy rarely got a second chance to assess a mark, and he wouldn’t get one here. 

While he followed Agent Johnson out of the Zephyr’s hiding place, it wasn’t hard to play up the grouchy old man as they walked two blocks to catch a cab that would drop them near a lighthouse on the lake. 

She fielded anything he threw out, either poking fun at him or giving him the intel to bring him up to speed, or both. She called him “square.” 

She wasn’t wrong. Daniel made a living off the straight and narrow. He prided himself on staying calm in the middle of chaos. He liked having plans A, B, and C, plus a half-dozen other possibilities on the table. Calm didn’t echo; it soothed. Agent Johnson struck him as someone who needed that calm, but didn’t know what to do with it when she got it. She certainly didn’t know what to make of him, and he was sure that was half the reason for all the side-eyed looks he was getting. 

There was a chill in the air as he followed Agent Johnson into the alley. He ignored the twinge in his bum leg from the long walk. When she was distracted with her computer thing, he tested the waters. “It seems things get worse in time the later we go. I think this is my last stop.”

She glanced up in surprise before going back to her typing. “It’s okay,” she reassured him in softer tones than he’d heard from her yet. “This is just a setback. My software will crack it. It just needs a minute to load.” 

He heard what she didn’t say loud and clear. 

“Well, maybe you need a bigger computer? That thing is too … small,” he needled (and mentally apologized to Peggy; she would have kicked his ass all the way down the street for this). 

But instead of getting irate, Agent Johnson turned deliciously smug as she pulled a slim tool out of her back pocket.

“What’s that?” he asked, frowning. 

She held up a thin black rectangle. “This is a phone,” she said, as if he were five years old. He absolutely didn’t smile at her sass, though he wanted to something fierce. “Only old people use it for calls,” she added. She flipped it around with a smirk. 

His picture was on the screen, and Daniel lost every bit of cool as he stared at the phone-camera thing in astonishment. “How did you do that?” he asked in awe. 

“Check it out,” she told him, sliding her fingers on the screen to make the picture get bigger and smaller. 

“Wow,” he said like an idiot. He forgot to be grouchy as he copied the gesture and made his picture go in and out too. He loved neat technology, and this was super cool. 

“Yeah, you like that? You look go—you look okay for a guy who just aged twenty years.”

Daniel caught that: both the flicker of interest on Agent Johnson’s part and the reminder that this wasn’t just a mission where he’d go home at the end of it. 

“Looks like I missed a lot.” His dismay was genuine. Compartmentalization be damned, for just a moment, he leaned against the wall in an effort to absorb the last couple of days. 

Agent Johnson stopped typing. “I’m sorry.” She paused, shaking her head. “This is so weird and messed up. When the Chronicons jump, we jump. Without us, it’s way worse.”

“I get it,” he admitted, dropping all pretense. He did. He was an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., after all. “I just wish I could have said some good-byes.”

Three minutes later, he barely registered the threat before he and Agent Johnson took enemy fire. 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Four 

 

“Good to see you move.” 

Sousa’s voice seemed to be coming from a long way away. Something scratchy pressed against Daisy’s face. She opened bleary eyes to see wood and straw. 

“Oh, my head,” she mumbled, trying to lift it. “I can barely—” Ugh. She felt like … “Feels like there’s cement running through my veins.” Daisy had no idea where she was or why. Or why she couldn’t get up. 

“Drugs,” Sousa said. “I haven’t been this messed up since the field hospital.” 

That was a problem. “I wanna hear that story … when I can remember it,” she quipped as she figured out her wrists and ankles were bound with cuffs. She tried to focus her power, but it wouldn’t come. “I can’t quake,” she said in surprise. 

She tracked to Sousa, who squinted at the sun coming through the window. She didn’t know if that was morning or evening, but definitely some hours had passed since they’d been kidnapped from the alley by … by … “Malick’s little psycho!” she exclaimed. 

Malick strolled into the room. “Psycho? That’s unfair. And very well-timed,” he scolded. “Wow, right as I’m walking in.” He stepped closer. “Hi. Nathaniel?” he introduced himself. “You took me hostage and changed my life?” 

Powerless, Daisy was more scared than she’d ever been, but she brazened it out as she always did, with a big smile and a lot of snark. “How about you unchain us and we can hug it out.” She managed to sit up, knowing she needed better leverage to make any kind of move. “And HYDRA and S.H.I.E.L.D. can be together at last.” 

Malick pontificated about not being HYDRA but being incredibly interested in Sousa’s presumed longevity and in Daisy’s abilities. Sousa took a swipe at Malick, falling over from his efforts. He didn’t get up. 

“You haven’t seen the half of it,” she challenged, pulling Malick’s attention. When that only made the prick even snarkier, Daisy realized she and Sousa were up a creek without a paddle.

Then Malick mentioned Daniel Whitehall, and pure fear shot through Daisy. They were in far deeper trouble than just a HYDRA operation. “I will crush you,” she threatened.

“Yes, do it,” Malick challenged, crouching down to get in her face. “Just one bone shaker and it’s over. Show me what makes you so special.” 

But she couldn’t with all the drugs. Frightened, she tried to think of options, any options at all. 

“We start with her,” Malick ordered his goons. 

“No,” she said softly, darting a look at Sousa, who was still slumped on the ground. She had no way out and knew exactly what was about to happen. 

Terror lanced through her. She struggled with the two goons as they dragged her into a makeshift operating room, breaking free long enough to slam her hand against a beaker. When it shattered, she closed her hand around a shard. 

Before she could make a move though, Malick jabbed her neck with a needle full of drugs. He held her down until she was overcome by lassitude. She slumped onto the table, holding that shard and using the pain of it digging into her hand in an effort to stay awake. 

Daisy had no idea how long she was there as she drifted in and out. In spite of drugs, the needles in her spine made her scream. Knives at her neck, her back, her stomach … dozens of places lit up as Malick sliced into her, stitched her up, then did it all again. She opened her eyes at one point as Malick changed out the blood bag for yet another pint. She hadn’t even noticed the needles in both arms. 

She tightened her hand around that shard, wishing he would stop. She was terrified she’d end up like her mother at Whitehall’s hands.

Growing weaker with every ticking minute, she wanted to cry and didn’t even have the energy for that.

 

*****

 

Muzzy from the drugs, Daniel lost time when Agent Johnson had been taken out of the room. Bleary and pissed, he sat up, desperate to get a grip on the situation. Far too familiar with the effects of morphine after he’d lost his leg to shrapnel, he fell on old habits, focusing on each sense in an effort to shake the drug. 

He was in a barn with scratchy straw under his cuffed hands. Idiots. Tying someone’s hands in front of them was tantamount to giving them a key to the back door. All he needed was a sharpish anything to pick it with, and a barn was sure to have a loose nail somewhere. No animal smells though; the place must be used just for storage. Shackles on his ankles were hooked to a chain connected to the wall he was leaning against. 

Eyeing the shadows on the floor and remembering the bright light of the sun from earlier, Daniel decided he’d been awakened mid-morning the first time. Maybe an hour had passed since then. His head was clearer than earlier too, which meant they hadn’t hit him with any more drugs. 

He was missing his jacket. Come to think of it, Agent Johnson hadn’t been wearing hers either when they’d woken up. Malick and his buddies must have cut them off when they were drugged. It made Daniel sick to think about why. Malick was a little too fascinated about Whitehall’s experiments. Nothing out of Nazi Germany had been a good idea in his day. Time, it seemed, hadn’t changed that opinion. 

Daniel focused on what else they could use to escape. The horse stall had hay stacked on one side. A rucksack in the corner might offer something useful. The wall planks were too thick to bust through without some help, but a window up high looked just big enough for them to crawl through. All they’d have to do was shift a couple of hay bales and they’d have an exit. 

A dull throb started in Daniel’s stump as he sat on the floor with his legs outstretched. Still, the ache gave him something to focus on, as his thoughts had a nasty tendency to drift in the haze of the drug. 

Agent Johnson. He closed his eyes to listen. 

From his left, he could hear people talking — someone giving orders. He chased the sound to a hole in the wall to his left, probably courtesy of a horse with a temper. He scrabbled to get to his knees — difficult while drugged with feet and hands bound, but not impossible. He leaned up to peer through the crack. 

In the stall next door, there was an operating table with Daisy on it. Daniel swallowed hard at the look of her. Two of the men rolled Daisy (Agent Johnson, he reminded himself) to her side while Malick admonished them for mishandling her. Bloodied bandages at her wrists, neck, and stomach told one story. Her limp body told another. The two men moved Daisy out of his sightline; Daniel could hear them coming around the corner from that stall to this one. 

He rolled over to sit just as the door was shoved open, but he got back to his knees as they dragged Daisy into the room. He’d have better leverage in a fight on his knees than on his ass, and he’d take any advantage he could get. They laid her on the floor while Malick explained how he’d taken her blood, spinal fluid, and even a gland or two for his latest scheme. The first would leave her short of oxygen; the second, a splitting headache. The last— well, he wasn’t a doctor, but it sounded like a bad idea. Daisy’s quiet moan told him how much pain she was in. 

But even as the men left, Daisy tried to push up to elbows and knees, saying something he didn’t understand. Appreciation for her stubborn determination crossed his mind as she fought to get up. 

“Daisy!” Daniel leaned over to reach her. 

“Jay—jay—it happened. It happened before,” she babbled. He wasn’t sure if she was trying to tell him something or if she was delirious. 

She went limp, and Daniel worked his way closer to her. “Hey, stay with me, what do you mean this happened before?” 

“Jiayang.” She made an aborted effort to reach out with her left hand. “I can’t—” she gasped, collapsing and panting. “Ja—” 

Shaken, Daniel shifted over to put her head on his thigh. “Hey, hey, hey.” He frantically sought anything that might keep her awake. She was cold and clammy. With the drugs and the blood loss, it would be far too easy for her to fall unconscious and never wake up. 

“You wanted to hear my story, right?” he blurted. He wasn’t sure what part of her he could touch without hurting her further; he settled for resting his bound hands on her head. 

Hoping his voice would keep her distracted, he told the story of him and Mike Stevens, painfully aware of the similarities in situation. Daniel slid his fingers down Daisy's neck to check her pulse. The wildly unsteady beat made him slow his tempo, telling the story with careful deliberation as he patted her shoulder, then went back to stroking her hair. Maybe it wasn’t appropriate, but wasn’t there a dispensation for life-threatening situations? He’d have to ask when she was awake. 

Daisy’s head fell forward, sliding down his thigh. 

“Hey, hey, wake up, okay? Stay awake, okay?” he urged, lightly patting her head. He leaned down on an elbow to support her back with his hands so her head wouldn’t fall. He could see the blood soaking through her shirt in a couple of places and had to look away to keep his fury in check. He focused on his storytelling again, keeping his voice calm and sure. 

As Daniel finished, Daisy began to gasp--for air or from the pain, he wasn’t sure. He rose over her, stroking her hair. “We’re going home, Agent Johnson.” He rested his hands on her head. “You hear me? We’re going home. You’ve got to fight,” he urged. 

To his surprise, she held up a tightly closed fist. Blood ran down her wrist when he grasped it and forced her fingers open. As she let out a low cry of pain, Daniel drew out a shard of glass nearly the width of her hand. 

Stunned, he could only say, “Plenty of fight left in you, after all.” His admiration for her soared. 

The glass, not Daniel’s story, must have been what kept Daisy conscious. Moments later, she was out cold, and no amount of patting or calling her name roused her. Acutely aware of her body under his hands, he felt for the rise and fall of her breathing, shaky as it was. 

He’d been only days in Daisy's company, but he’d followed in her wake wherever she’d gone. She had a fire and a drive that he hadn’t seen since Peggy. Maybe that’s why he fell in step with her so easily; most people expected him to be a liability on their team. Daisy didn’t question his abilities, only his sensibilities, and he couldn’t really argue with that. 

Daniel’s thoughts weren’t quite so flighty now; the morphine must be easing up. He checked Daisy’s pulse again. It had steadied, though it was still too fast for his liking. Sweat dampened her hairline and she was distinctly cooler than even a few minutes before. He pressed his hand to her head again. “Stay with me, Agent Johnson,” he muttered. Even if she wasn’t awake, maybe she’d know she wasn’t alone. 

Noises from the other side of the wall jarred him into motion. It only took him a few seconds to stage the scene, moving Daisy so that she was curled up against the wall. He stretched out the chains hooked to his ankles, making a loop of one, and then he concealed the glass shard in his fist, making sure the sharpest edge poked out. 

When the bigger of the two guards came inside and headed straight for Daniel, he figured it must be his turn for the operating table. 

“Hey buddy, she’s not doing good. You need to get some help,” Daniel said, mostly as a distraction. He kept his cool, waiting for the right moment. 

The guard ignored him, kicking out Daniel’s ankle before unlocking the shackle. 

“Leave me alone; help her,” Daniel urged, though not with a lot of conviction. He gripped the shard. He had an opening when the big guy reached for his hands. “No?” 

Under a wicked slash of glass and a flurry of hard punches, the guard staggered backwards right into the loop of the chains. Daniel yanked, sending the guard down with a thump on the wood floor. Daniel rolled to his feet and, with one last swing with joined fists, made sure the guard stayed down. 

Scrambling for the fallen key, he made short work of unlocking his cuffs and the ones on Daisy’s ankles and wrists. She didn’t stir, not even when he pulled her up by the arms to sit and lean against his chest. “Okay, I've got you." He leaned her head on his shoulder, then slid his arms underneath her shoulders and knees. "Come on,” he encouraged -- maybe more to himself than Daisy. 

With a deep breath, he stood, feeling every bit of his precious load on his leg as he found his balance. Maybe the morphine wasn’t quite gone, because his head was faintly woozy from the fight. He supposed, though, his leg should be hurting worse than the dull ache he had now. 

“Here we go,” he muttered to Daisy as he turned toward his chosen exit. Damn. The window wasn’t an option anymore. There was no way he could get both of them up high enough and through the small frame with Daisy out cold. Or could he? Maybe he could push her out first—

—a tremor rippled under Daniel’s feet. He’d been stationed in LA long enough to know how to ride out the small quake as if he was standing on the desk of a boat. Debris fell from the ceiling, covering them in a layer of straw and dust. “Is that you?” he asked Daisy. She didn’t answer, and the shaking grew worse. He tightened his grip on her as he fought to keep his balance when the tremors grew stronger. 

Malick appeared in the doorway, bleeding and shaking. “My bones … are cracking,” he ground out in a voice laced with pain and terror. With no control over his stolen powers, part of the ceiling collapsed, knocking him unconscious. The tremors stopped. 

Daniel barely spared the man a glance as he tightened his grip on Daisy. He took a step on the uneven ground, gritting his teeth against the pain from the extra weight on his bum leg. 

The bright light of the midday sun danced off a cargo van speeding down the dirt road. The other guard must have fled in the quake. Without hesitation, Daniel began to walk. 

 

With burning arms, a fiery stump, and any last dregs of morphine gone, Daniel carried Daisy the last few steps towards a well pump at the edge of a farm — far enough, he hoped, for the owners not to notice the theft of a scoop of water or two. 

This well had a decent roof, a working pump handle, and a handy bucket that looked mostly clean. It would give the two of them shade and water until the Zephyr could come for them. He hoped the Zephyr would have a way to find them. There was no telling where Daisy’s phone had gone. 

He eased her down to the ground with quivering arms, relieved to have them safe — if only for the moment. She didn’t stir at all, not even while he worked the squeaky handle until a steady stream of water poured from the pump faucet. He splashed his face and drank handfuls of water until he’d satisfied his thirst, then rinsed out the bucket the best he could and filled it for Daisy. 

The fifties were good for something — namely that Daniel carried a handkerchief in his back pocket. Daisy’d teased him about that too. She'd never seen a real one. He dampened it, then sat down next to her to wipe her face and neck. 

“Come on, Agent Johnson. Wake up for me.” He dribbled a little water on her lips, hoping she’d swallow out of reflex. She had to be dehydrated from both the morphine and blood loss. 

She did, and under his patient ministrations, she began to stir. He slid an arm under her shoulders to help her sit up against the well wall. Daisy didn’t have her balance; he kept his arm around her as she gathered her wits. Her lashes barely lifted, but it was proof she was alive and one hell of a fighter. 

“There you are.” He dipped his hand in the bucket to bring water to her mouth.

“Sousa?” Daisy blinked in confusion.

“You need water,” he cajoled. 

She parted her lips, then drank greedily as he scooped handful after handful of water for her. Water ran down her shirt, but she didn’t seem to care. When her thirst was slaked, her eyes darted around, taking in their new location. It wasn’t his imagination that she leaned into him. For safety or comfort? He wasn’t sure. 

“Where are we?” she asked, her voice barely above a whisper. 

“Couple of miles up the road. Hoping the Zephyr will get here soon, but we should be alright for a while.”

She winced, bringing a hand up to her head. 

“Headache?”

“Like you wouldn’t believe.” Though he had to lean in to hear, her sass made him quirk a smile. 

“I might. What can I do?” 

“Hand,” Daisy whispered. “On my head.” 

Daniel shifted an arm around her again so that he could cushion her head against his shoulder. He cupped the back of her neck under her hair. 

Whatever energy Daisy had summoned up ran out all at once. She slumped against him, resting her hand against his shirt. Her fingers made a knot in the fabric, her palm bleeding into the white material. Daniel held her a little closer. Her hair tickled his cheek. 

The intimacy startled him. Here, in the quiet of the afternoon with only cicadas keeping them company, Daniel held Daisy close. He wished it was under better circumstances. 

He’d been in enough relationships to know that he was better off being honest with himself about his feelings, even if he wasn’t particularly inclined to share them. Not facing them had bought him too much trouble in the past. 

He’d hurt Violet when she’d confronted him about his feelings for Peggy. She’d been right to break off their engagement, but he still ached over it. Discovering he and Peggy weren’t destined to be together either hurt worse, but Peggy was meant to be the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., not Mrs. Daniel Sousa. When opportunity knocked, neither of them had to think too hard about which way she’d go. That love had settled into a solid friendship — he’d still drop anything to help her, and that went both ways. She certainly trusted him to run the West Coast Division.

Since then, he’d dated on occasion, but no one else was willing to take a chance on a one-legged man with penchant for being a mother hen and a dry sense of humor whose work was mostly classified and didn’t make for good conversation.

But Daisy Johnson had gone toe-to-toe with him in his own office. She’d seen him with cane and limp, teased him about being “square,” and she thought he looked good. 

Yes, he had feelings. A lot of them. And a thing for stunning brunettes, but that wasn’t news to anyone, least of all himself. He had a type; Agent Daisy Johnson kept checking off boxes. Still, none of it meant anything at all if he was the only one who had a crush. 

Daniel rested his head against the stone wall of the well, keeping his hand on Daisy’s head to give her whatever relief he could. 

He did not want to think about the blisters on his stump. Sweat made the socket loose enough to chafe. It burned now, and there wasn’t a damned thing he could do about it if he wanted any mobility at all. 

As the sun made a slow arc in the sky, Daniel woke Daisy every half hour or so to make her drink water. Each time was a little easier to get her to wake as the drugs eased off. Still, she went back to leaning on this shoulder. His shirt had bloody streaks where her palm rested. 

“Sousa?” she murmured. 

“Still here.”

She lifted her head, wincing as she did. “Zephyr’s almost here.” 

He listened, but couldn’t hear it. “How do you know?”

She squeezed her eyes shut against the light. “Vibration. Through the atmosphere.” 

“That’s neat.” 

“—such a dork.”

“You’re the one with the superpower,” he retorted. 

She was right, too. Moments later, the Zephyr descended onto a low hill not too far away. 

“Time to go.” He got to his knees to pick her up again. Daisy tucked her head into the hollow of his shoulder, and somehow, she had enough wit to pull her knees and shoulders in, shifting her center of gravity to match his. She let out a hiss of pain.

He stood, suppressing a groan as the scar tissue burned from the friction of the socket against his thigh.  When he had his balance, her fingers dug into his shirt again. 

She leaned her head back enough to see his face. “Thank you,” she croaked out. 

“For what?” he panted, watching where he stepped so he wouldn’t find a grassy hole by accident. 

“For not leaving me behind.” 

Daniel almost missed his step anyway as he stared down at her in shock. Wondering who’d done such a stupid thing made his heart ache and stirred up every protective instinct he had. He chose his next word carefully. 

“Never.” 

A ghost of a smile crossed her lips as she laid her head on his shoulder. 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Five

 

Daisy had trouble letting go of Sousa when he set her on the exam table. He put a warm hand on her cheek. “I promised you would get home.” 

“You did,” she whispered. The headache was a tiny bit better now that she was on her side, but opening her eyes made her nauseous. Though she knew it was time to let go, she couldn’t make herself do it. 

“Daisy, you’ve got to let me take a look at you,” Jemma urged. It took Simmons peeling her hand open where she’d gripped Sousa’s shirt, tsking at the deep slice across her palm that was still sluggishly bleeding. At least a blood sample was easy. Jemma took a smear from her hand to figure out what Malick had drugged her with. 

Sousa limped heavily to the chair at Jemma’s desk, shoved it over so he could keep an eye on Daisy, and all but collapsed in it. 

“Morphine. That I can work with, given how quickly it metabolizes,” Jemma murmured. “I can give you something for the headache, but it won’t really go away until your spinal fluid stabilizes. It’s best we get you in the healing chamber. Now let’s get you cleaned up.” 

She started with Daisy’s neck. Simmons was furious when she uncovered the first incision. “Ham-handed hack,” she swore. “I’m so sorry. I’m going to have to pick these out and start over. I haven’t seen stitches this bad since the Academy, and I seriously doubt they’ve been properly cleaned.” 

There was a pressure that pinched, then gentle tugging as Simmons worked. Hating feeling helpless once again, Daisy began leaking silent tears. Only the fact it was Jemma kept Daisy from screaming. 

A hand slid over hers. Sousa had scooted his chair so that he was close enough to prop a wrist next to her on the bed. She held on as Jemma patched her up in a dozen places.

When Simmons finished by wrapping Daisy’s ankles, Sousa conveniently disappeared long enough for Jemma to help Daisy clean up and change into soft clothes that wouldn’t irritate her injuries. The splitting headache made it hard for her to follow directions, but Jemma had a fair amount of experience in chivvying Daisy along.

Sousa came back when it was time to move to the healing chamber. It was only a short walk, but he and Simmons half-carried her to get there without straining the fresh stitches. Sousa helped her up onto the table, bracing her when she faltered with a hand to the back of her neck, then eased her down until she lay flat. 

“Get some rest,” he told her, cupping her cheek. 

Jemma keyed the controls and the chamber slid closed. The last thing Daisy saw was Sousa sitting in the chair next to her as the last of her energy ran out. 

“We’re about to jump.” That was Deke. 

Sousa had said he wanted to stay behind. 

“Last chance if you--” Jemma started.

“I’m where I need to be,” Sousa interrupted, his voice low and sure. 

Ridiculously comforted by his decision, Daisy slid into sleep. 



Hours, or maybe even a full day later, she woke alone. She searched for her teammates, painfully walking through the ship to the control room where her teammates tried to solve the problem of Yo-Yo’s powers. It seemed the time drive was tripping out and Yo-Yo might be the only one who could fix it. 

“Do you have any other theories as to what happened to Yo-Yo?” May asked.

“I wish I did, but I don’t know enough of Inhuman biology,” Simmons told her. 

Daisy knew the answer to this one as she stepped into the control room. “My mom does.” She concealed a gasp as the stitches pulled on her stomach. The others had dissolved already in the healing chamber, but this incision had been a little deeper. 

Sousa fretted. “Daisy, you should be resting.” 

His concern was nice. “I’m okay,” she assured him. She would be for a while anyway. “1983, right? Jiayang is at Afterlife.” She pressed a hand to the stitches. It was clear she was needed for the mission, even if it was just to brainstorm solutions. And if that was the case, they would need Coulson.

Mack practically carried her into Coulson’s lab, and honestly it felt really good to have even an extra minute with her old partner. Weird though, to find out he and Deke were another year older, Coulson had spent time in a television, and she’d missed a couple of jumps entirely. Too much was happening for her to waste time in the healing chamber. 

Sousa limped heavily on his leg as he darted through the lab on his way to the cargo bay. Daisy wondered what happened to his cane, but he seemed he'd given it up for the moment. They only had twenty minutes before they would know if Yo-Yo’s and May's mission succeeded. He also had an idea for a backup plan.

Daisy did not want to parachute out of the Zephyr. She was in bad enough condition as it was. 

She could, at least, keep Coulson company while his new body finished construction. He was complete down to his knees.

They’d grown closer these past few days, if that was even possible. 

“We are not in the best shape, are we?” she said to him as she gingerly sat on the side of his bed where he drank his third or fourth glass of water. 

“You know, I was thirsty for a year and a half, with no way to … no body, no stomach, no throat.”

“That must have driven you crazy.”

“It did.” He studied his water glass, then he looked up. “I’m happy to see you healing. At least it feels like happiness. I wonder how many ones and zeroes it takes to achieve that fuzzy feeling.”

Daisy felt guilty every time Coulson complained about being an LMD, but she was so damned happy to have him back that she’d listen to it as long as necessary. “Yeah, well, I got lucky. Sousa pulled us out of the wreckage and got us home.”

Coulson got that tiniest of head tilts. Curiosity, she was sure. 

“I’m glad he’s here,” she admitted, knowing Coulson would read that for what it was--

“That makes me happy too,” he added. 

--which made her absurdly pleased for some stupid reason. 

“He’s a good man.” Coulson got that tiny smile of amusement when he knew something she didn’t, but this time he seemed happy to share. “Sousa told me what you said about not having to stay with S.H.I.E.L.D..”

“Oh?”

“That’s not a nice thing to say to a guy like that. This is what we do. I think you broke his brain, and he’s dealing with a little much right now.”

She shrugged, wincing again as the movement pulled the stitches on her stomach. “At least it’s a conscious choice.” 

“True. Would you get me another glass of water? I’m a couple of feet short from getting to the sink.”

Daisy rolled her eyes. “That was awful.” She laughed though, then bit her lip against the pain. “Damn, this hurts.” She swiped Coulson’s glass and limped to the sink to fill it up. 

She handed it to Coulson and sat down again, just in time for Sousa to poke his head in the lab with good news. “Agent Rodriguez fixed the time drive.”

“It’s a good thing. I wasn’t looking forward to going through this again,” Coulson quipped. “Daisy? I think you should go back to healing.” 

“I second that,” Sousa said, chiming in. He held out a hand, waiting for her to take it. 

She did. “You’re not helping,” Daisy chided Coulson. 

His eyes positively sparkled with smug amusement, though he kept a straight face. “That’s not my job.” 

Sousa walked with her to the med bay. She was determined to get there under her own power, even if she had to do it slightly hunched over. By her clock, she’d been awake for less than an hour and really wanted to sleep again.

Simmons poked her head in the room. “Are you ready, Agent Sousa?” 

“I can do the rest,” Daisy assured him. 

He nodded. “I’ll be right back.” 

“Okay.” She watched him go, wondering why she wanted him to stay. She peeled off the medical tape from the bandages at her neck, elbows, and stomach, shoving the mess deep in the trash can where she couldn’t see it. Most of the marks were gone, a testament to Jemma’s brilliant creation. 

She unwound the rest of the bandages from her wrists. Those marks had faded entirely. Daisy dropped the mess into the waste bin and climbed up on the table. 

Sousa walked in as she closed the cover, dropping into the chair he’d claimed before. 

He’d kept his word. 

Daisy didn’t know what to make of it, except that it made her happy.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Six

 

Conversations in a Time Loop: 

 

Daisy woke, scrubbed at her face, and then rolled out of the healing chamber. The faint noise of her boots hitting the deck woke Sousa.

“Hey, what are you doing up?” he asked, stirring from the chair where he’d been sleeping. 

“How long have you been here?” she asked in astonishment.

“Well, I guess, uh, when did you go to sleep? Since then.” 

 

****

 

Daisy woke, scrubbed at her face, and then rolled out of the healing chamber. The thump of her boots hitting the deck woke Sousa. She looked around in confusion. 

“Hey, what are you doing up?” he asked, stirring from the chair where he’d been sleeping. 

“Wait, how—” she stuttered. “How long have—”

“When’d you go to sleep? Since then. I’m making sure you keep—” Daisy bolted out of the room. “—resting,” he finished. 

He darted after her. 

 

****

 

Daisy woke, scrubbed at her face, and then rolled out of the healing chamber. She set her boots down quietly on the deck. Sousa kept on sleeping in the chair beside her. 

 

******

 

Daisy woke and rolled out of the healing chamber. She stepped lightly onto the deck. Sousa kept on sleeping in the chair beside her. 

 

******

 

Daisy woke, scrubbed at her face, and then rolled out of the healing chamber. The thump of her boots hitting the deck woke Sousa. She looked around in confusion. 

“Hey, what are you doing up?” he asked, stirring from the chair where he’d been sleeping. 

Thoroughly flustered, she didn’t answer.

 

*****

 

Daisy woke, scrubbed at her face, and then rolled out of the healing chamber. She set her boots down quietly on the deck. Sousa kept on sleeping in the chair beside her. 

Something must have awakened him though, and he caught up with her when she found the bottle of cologne in Deke’s lab. “Hey, I’ve been looking everywhere for you. What are you doing up? You should be resting. What are you doing out of that bed?” 

Was it weird to say she was getting used to the nagging? If Sousa wasn’t chastising her to get back in bed, it felt like something was missing? Daisy explained the time loop and the possible booby trap to him. 

Again. 

“A time loop,” Sousa repeated. 

“Fun, right?” 

“That was why I wanted to stay with the team. Have you ever had a day where something crazy hasn’t happened?” 

“It’s been a while.”

Sousa grinned. “It reminds me of my SSR days.”

But he figured out that the trap was meant for Simmons. He died while Daisy desperately called his name. 

 

*****

 

Heart pounding, Daisy slapped at the button that opened the healing chamber, craning her head to make sure Sousa was still sleeping in his chair. 

He was. 

Relieved, she slipped out of the room without waking him, but not without a lingering look. She really didn’t understand him. Or her feelings. There wasn’t time to figure out either of them.

 

*****

 

Daisy woke, shaking her head in frustration. She sat up and slid out of the healing chamber. The noise of her boots hitting the deck woke Sousa.

“Hey, what are you doing up?” he asked, stirring from the chair where he’d been sleeping. 

In every loop she could remember, Daniel hadn’t once been anything other than genuinely concerned for her well-being. “Why do you care?” she asked in confusion.

He laughed softly. “Because you don’t.” 

She shook her head, too frustrated to examine the curious feelings he elicited in her. “I have to do something, and I don’t know how.” 

She wasn’t quite sure if she was talking about the time loop or Daniel Sousa. 

 

****

 

Daisy woke, slapping her thigh in frustration. She sat up and slid out of the healing chamber. The noise of her boots hitting the deck woke Sousa.

“Hey, what are you doing up?” he asked, stirring from the chair where he’d been sleeping. 

She went for broke. “Well, uh, believe it or not, I’m stuck in a time loop,” she said flippantly. “And I’m running out of ways to save us all.” 

Sousa sat up, clutching the arms of his chair. “Okay. How can I help?” 

Frustrated, she threw up her hands. “There’s no time," she sputtered, trying to understand how in dozens of time loops, this man had never let her down. Time loops, Chronicoms, torture, and tech—it didn’t seem to matter to Sousa. He absorbed it all with aplomb. He'd spent most of yesterday—the real yesterday—nagging her to rest. For some stupid reason, she didn’t seem to mind it. 

Why?

She really needed to find a solution to the time problem, but maybe this was important, too. 

“I can take a loop,” she announced, deciding to be selfish for a few minutes. She yanked out a chair, dragging it across the room to sit knee to knee with Sousa. “So. That wasn’t hard for you to swallow? The … time loop?” she asked, flabbergasted by his lack of freaking out. “Nothing seems to faze you.” 

Daniel let out a quiet huff. “It all fazes me, just … maybe not my face.”

Daisy needed to understand. “Every time I ask for help, you say ‘yes.’ Even if I don’t ask, you’re waiting here to make sure I rest, or whatever. Why? Be honest.”

“Honest?” 

She nodded. 

“I know your type,” he told her. 

Daisy raised an eyebrow, not sure if she should be flattered or irritated. “My ... what now?”

“I know people like you,” he said with a smile, crossing his arms as he spoke with confidence. “Some of my favorite people are people like you. Focused on the greater good, even at your own expense. You want people to think you like being alone, even though you always end up back with friends. You hate losing—”

“Everyone hates losing,” she interrupted. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. 

“Yeah, but you all keep running at the problem full tilt until you either solve it or slam headlong into a brick wall.”

“Some of those brick walls are literal,” she admitted. 

“I know.

“But how does that—” she started.

“—Because when people like you run into those walls, you should have someone there to pick you back up.”

His words stunned her. She fumbled to reply, “And you … you like to ... be that ... someone?” 

“Not for everyone.” 

Daisy’s eyes widened. 

Daniel leaned in, arms unfolding to rest his elbows on his knees, emphasizing his sincerity. He locked eyes with her. “It helps if they’re fun to be around, and say what they mean, and if they have that superpower where they can rock things around, which is very impressive.”

Whoa. Talk about laying it all on the line. She was proud of herself for leaning in, too.  Something warm and lovely unfolded in the middle of her chest. “That’s, um, that is awfully specific,” she said lightly. 

“Mm hmm … so what’s this problem you’re trying to crack?” Sousa seemed rather smug about the fact he’d knocked her socks off with his declaration. 

 

*****

 

He didn’t remember that conversation. She couldn’t forget it. 

When Daisy woke, his answers sent her into a tailspin of confusion. She sat up and slid out of the healing chamber. The noise of her boots hitting the deck woke Sousa.

“Hey, what are you doing up?” he asked, stirring from the chair where he’d been sleeping. 

Flustered by the new revelations, she sputtered, “I need you to do something for me.” 

“Of course,” he said as he rose to his feet. “What do you need?”

Daisy stared.

Fuck it. They were stuck in a time loop.

Her hands went to his face, and she kissed him. Just once. On the lips. It was perfect. Warm, tasty. Oh

Startled by her own actions, she let go.  

Daniel didn’t miss a beat, pulling her right back in with hands to her waist, kissing her this time. 

Her toes curled. All sorts of things tingled. “That was nice,” she told him with a soft smile. She patted his chest, deciding that he was definitely worth figuring out. All these time loops, and he still hadn’t let her down. She liked the stunned look on his face this time. 

“Now we need to go drop a space robot.” She marched out of the room, absolutely sure he would follow. 

 

***** 

 

Daniel didn’t remember the conversation or the kiss. 

Daisy did.

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Seven

 

The whole team was exhausted as they moved back into the lighthouse. Daisy wasn’t a fan of the place, even if Sousa's ‘wow’s’ echoed through the empty halls as he followed her and Simmons into the basement. 

She was glad he was behind her this time. Mack had busted her twice for staring. Rolled up sleeves should be illegal, given what Sousa’s naked forearms did to her concentration. 

While Daisy and Jemma set up the lab, Sousa headed for the bunks. When he left with Daisy’s duffel bag in spite of her initial protests, she realized he was sneakier and more charming than she thought. Just thought I’d put some weight on the new leg, is all … yeah, right. 

She absolutely watched him walk away. So what about it? He had a cute butt. And those shoulders … she turned back to Jemma, who had the whole “uh huh” thing going on her face. 

“What?” Daisy hissed. 

“Say what you will about the fifties, at least he doesn’t know chivalry is dead.” 

Yeah, and it was doing stupid things to her that she really shouldn’t like as much as she did. 

But Daisy set aside thinking about Sousa, because she was more worried about Jemma and her reaction in the time loop -- which Jemma didn’t want to know or talk about and was conveniently interrupted by Mack calling them to the control room. 

Jiayang arrived unexpectedly, unmarred by Daniel Whitehall, which was weird, and Daisy had no idea how to talk to her mom. She also discovered she had a sister, and that May and Yo-Yo knew about her from Afterlife. 

Daisy’s head was about to explode from half a dozen life-changing events all happening in just a few days.

She locked every bit of it down to focus on the mission. 

Still, she’d grown so used to Sousa following her in the time loops that when she stalked through the hallway at a brisk clip, she wasn’t surprised at all when he caught up with her at an easy jog. The short nap had apparently done him some good. She probably needed one too.

“Looking spry for an old guy.” She checked out the way he walked with the new leg. “How’s it feeling?” 

“Fantastic. I think I’m a fan of the twenty-first century.” 

Daisy was less cheerful about that. “Yeah, don’t get your hopes up. We make a mean prosthetic, but fascism is back.” 

“You mean that thing I helped wipe out ten years ago?”

“Yeah. The past won’t leave us alone,” she grouched. 

Sousa being Sousa meant he was worried about her. “Yeah, Mack caught me up. You know, you said her name to me when, uh, Malick was doing a number on you. Jaiy-ai?” 

She couldn’t say her mom’s name right now. “HYDRA did the same thing to her. They cut her up; they took her power. In my past and in her future. She can heal herself. Live a long time.” 

“Malick thought that’s what I could do,” Sousa realized. “He’s after the real thing now.”

Daisy stopped walking. “Did Mack say anything about what happened to her and I?” 

Sousa shook his head. 

“Things got really bad.” She couldn’t bring herself to say it yet. “It’s a long story. But it came to an end.”

“Maybe now is your chance to experience what she was like before then. You should talk to her,” he wheedled. 

Astonished, she protested. “No, I shouldn’t. She-she can’t know who I am.” 

“Why not?”

“Because of the timeline—”

Sousa shook his head, exasperated. “The timeline is screwed, pardon my French. Look who you’re talking to: a guy who served under ‘I Like Ike’ and was supposed to be dead by now.” 

“Ike?” She had no idea what he was talking about. 

“Point is, you’ve got a rare opportunity here. I've got a list of people long gone by now I’d do anything to have one last stolen moment with, regardless of what spacetime has to say about it.” 

“No,” she protested again. 

“I’ll be your chaperone. How about that? You need me to bail you out, I’ll be right there.”

A chape-- “You really are a square, aren’t you?” And sweet. And kind of adorable how he cajoled her into a different line of thinking. 

“Harsh, but yes.” He didn’t quite grin, the situation was far too serious for that, but the impression of it was there all the same. 

Daisy felt her world tilt a few degrees up. Any more and she’d slide straight into Sousa’s waiting arms. 



True to his word, when Daisy met with Jiayang, Sousa stayed until he was sure she had a handle on the situation. He eased out of the room, but she’d lay odds he was still somewhere close by. 

She found her mom and lost her in the same moment. This Jiayang defended Daisy with her life against Nathaniel Malick. Deprived of the one last chance she had to know her mom, she gathered energy from the Earth itself, vibrating the basement walls as she readied a lethal strike against Malick. 

He staggered to the side when May fired two shots at him, grazing his arm, and then chased him down the corridor. Daisy’s powers fizzled, leaving her to grieve over her mother and what she could never have. 

That it was May who stopped her from taking the Lighthouse out in the midst of her vengeance wasn’t lost on Daisy, but she didn’t know what to make of that either. 

 

*****

 

Combat never gave anyone time to process the terrible events coming at them with horrific speed. Jiayang was dead; Jemma had been kidnapped and delivered into Malick’s hands. 

Daniel could only follow in Daisy’s wake, knowing she was grief-stricken over her mom and terrified for Jemma. But even he was surprised when she put Kora—her newly discovered sister—up against a wall with a hard quake and held her there by the throat, demanding to know where they’d taken Jemma. 

Jemma Simmons was important to Daisy. Daniel mentally filed that intel under ‘Things to Know about Daisy Johnson.’ 

Given that, he was less surprised to find her sneaking out of the base an hour later, duffel bag in hand. “That’s … different.” He pointed at her change of clothes. Tac gear meant she was headed for battle. “Going somewhere?” 

She seemed frantic. “Look, I know you want to help. Believe me, I know. But just for once, don’t, okay?”

Daniel wasn’t letting her off that easy. He’d learned that lesson from Peggy Carter herself, thank you. “If you’re chasing a lead, you need backup.”

A soft touch of her fingers on his wrist did inappropriate things to him at an inopportune moment. “I have to do this on my own,” she insisted, walking past him—toward the cargo deck, if he wasn’t mistaken. 

“You know I learned a long time ago not to let somebody do something stupid on their own,” he called out as he turned to follow her. 

Daisy stopped, giving him a hard look. “You learn that in the army?”

“Brooklyn Scout Troop 87.” 

“Boy Scouts.”

It wasn’t a lie, but it was funny all the same, especially at Daisy’s disbelief he’d said such a thing. “We were kind of the bad boys of Boy Scouts.” 

Daisy narrowed her eyes. “Have you ever … left your post before? Like snuck off the base and, I don’t know, played pool and got drunk?”

“You think I’m the kind of person who would do that?” he said in all seriousness. 

“Then this will be your first time. You coming?” 

Helpless to do anything but follow, Daniel discovered Daisy’s destination in the hanger. “May said this ship can’t travel far in space.”

“It can’t,” Daisy replied as they boarded. “Sybil’s whole plan is based on her projections. So the only way to get ahead is to act unpredictably. Do things against our nature. Which for you—”

“Is leaving my post.” Now he began to understand. Lord, he was falling hard for this woman. Hook, line, and sinker, that was Daniel Sousa. 

“Sybil dropped Kora in my lap because she knew I’d want to save her. But I already have a sister to save. Her name is Jemma Simmons.”

As Daisy explained her plan and tried to get the ship online, Daniel realized that for one, they were aiming for a 100,000 mile Hail Mary pass into space, and two, she had no idea what she was doing. 

Still, he was game, and that said something for the lengths he was willing to go for a woman he had a crush on. He also wasn’t sure what that said about his predictability. 

No one, though, had to know that he was giddy over the prospect of even two minutes in space. In his time, Yeager and Grissom were still fighting over who could break the latest air speed record, sometimes dropping into S.H.I.E.L.D. facilities to do it. Spaceships were still a kid’s dream. Even Stark was toying with propulsion in his lab, eager to find a way to launch things with enough power to get past Earth’s gravity. 

Daniel happily gave up his seat to Director Mack who—thankfully—crashed Daisy’s party to pilot the Zephyr into space himself. 

The few seconds of weightlessness before Mack turned the gravity on were a few seconds of pure awe. And once they cut the engines and most of the power to the jet, Daniel resumed his seat in the cockpit, staring out at the shimmering stars above and the Earth below. 

“Used to hope for this, you know. Everyone in my time.” He let out a soft laugh. “It was a dream but a dream we all thought—”

“Sousa—” Mack interrupted with a sigh. 

“Preserve oxygen, copy that.” 

“What are your intentions?”

“Sir?” This was not the conversation Daniel was expecting. 

“With Daisy.”

“I don’t … have any intentions.” Nope. No intentions at all. He was already done for, and he thought, maybe, that Daisy was on the same page. 

“Well then, you’d better get some. And quick! ‘Cause this thing is coming for you.” Mack gave him a hard look. 

“This thing?”

“She’s into you. And I’m not even sure she knows it yet, but pretty soon, she’ll figure it out. And when she does, watch out! ‘Cause when she gets something into her head—”

“She won’t stop. Yeah. I noticed.” Daniel was damned happy to get a little confirmation that he wasn’t imagining things. He’d been out of the game so long, and this was a completely different decade. It was good to know he wasn’t wrong. 

“But listen, Daisy’s been hurt. Bad. So, I’m happy she’s ready to dive back in. And I’m happy it’s you. I like you. You seem like a good man—”

“Thanks.”

“—Even if you’re a little, straight ahead.” Mack indicated with a slide of his hand forward. 

Daniel had never been called out so much in just a few days for doing the right thing. “Wait, is that bad?”

Mack ignored his question. “But, I’m not about to let her get hurt again. You hear what I’m saying?”

“I think so. You’re threatening me.”

“No. Not just me. Every member of this team. We have technology at S.H.I.E.L.D. you’ve never seen.” 

“I hear you. Loud and clear.” Daniel tried to be as sincere as he could. “I would never hurt her,” he added quietly. 

Mack took him at his word, then began to chuckle. “Imagine that. The Man Out of Time and Quake. It’s like a damn comic book.”

Daniel laughed. “Quake?” 



He’d tease her about it later, casually dropping the nickname when she thanked him for sticking around. 

“It was nothing. But … you’re welcome,” he paused for effect, “Quake.” 

She gave him a dirty look. “I’m sorry, what now?”

“Nothing, just happy to help, Quake. Whatever you need,” he teased.

“Are you being funny?” she demanded. 

“Is it funny?” He checked the bullets in his gun and looked up, watching to see her reaction, “Not if that’s what you like to be called … Quake.” He stepped toward her as he finished loading his weapon and holstered it. 

Flustered, she protested, “I—the press call me that.”

“You know, you should put a ‘Q’ on your utility belt,” he shot a glance at her waist, “so people know it’s you.” 

She was clearly trying not to smile and failing. “That’s really smart. Yeah, yeah. Make fun of the person who can literally—” she poked him hard enough in the chest that he stepped back, “turn you to dust.”

“Yeah,” he drawled. “You can quake me. That’s why they call you that.” 

He grinned as she tried not to laugh. 



Pestering Daisy was much more fun than getting drawn into an alien spaceship. Daniel decided he had a bonus life and damned if he wasn’t going to steal a moment before he lost it. As Daisy left the control room to retrieve Jemma and Deke, Daniel bounded after her. 

“Daisy!” 

She halted, still adjusting her gauntlets as she looked over her shoulder. “Yeah?”

He slid a hand around her waist and pulled her in for a kiss. A real one where he caught her taste and it was delicious, where he learned exactly how soft her lips were, and he felt the zing of electricity where they touched. When he started to break it, she leaned in, stealing a kiss of her own before coming up with a brilliant smile that shorted out his brain. 

“I didn’t know I was going to do that,” he confessed. 

“I’m glad you did.” She gave him a tiny nod. “I’ll see you when I get back.” 

Full of hope for the future, Daniel did his best to put his game face on as he returned to the control panel that he was just beginning to figure out. 

“Impressive,” Mack murmured.

“Thank you.” Just for a moment, Daniel Sousa was on top of the world.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Interlude

 

When Deke and Jemma returned to the quinjet without Daisy, Daniel was all set to abandon his post and go after her. 

Mack stopped him, and Daniel had to remind himself that part of loving people who liked to break things meant waiting for them to finish breaking stuff and come back home. When Daisy did arrive, Mack let him blow up the hanger doors on the alien ship, and that was fun.

Daniel felt better after that. 



He did not feel better when the team realized someone was going to have to stay behind in 1983, especially when he offered to be that person and he saw the devastation on Daisy’s face. 

Deke put a stop to that notion. 

Daniel didn’t particularly like Deke Shaw, even if the man had loaned him a few shirts. But Deke loved Daisy, and for that, Daniel owed him everything. 



In the final moments of the mission, Daniel and Daisy were separated. Fitzsimmmons, Rodriguez, and Sousa would retake the lighthouse. Mack, May, Coulson, and Daisy would head back to space to retrieve her sister. 

There was no time for goodbyes. 

They won the lighthouse. They won the timeline. 

Fitz and Simmons tracked the Zephyr in space. The aeroplane pulled away from the lead Chronicom ship just moments before a massive explosion tore it to pieces. As the destructive energy traveled outward, it ripped the other ships apart, nearly taking out the Zephyr in the process. 

Fitz wiped away tears as they watched the battle play out on the Control Room screens. “It was the only way,” he muttered. Rodriguez put a hand over her mouth, flicking a look towards Daniel.

That's when he remembered the Zephyr didn't carry any weapons powerful enough to cause that kind of explosion. When he saw the Zephyr circle back around to the epicenter of the blast, his heart began to break.

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Eight

 

The Control Room in the Lighthouse was silent as the Zephyr made its final approach. Daniel crossed his arms, sure that the stray thread of hope he held onto with both hands would be for naught. 

In just days, his whole world had changed. He’d left his life, found a new one, and fallen in love all at the same time. A familiar thread of despair wound around his heart.

Two things happened.

Fitz and Simmons returned to the Control Room with a blonde-headed sprite not more than five or six in Jemma’s arms. Two people followed them in: a flustered teenaged boy and a woman with the demeanor of a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. Rodriguez hugged both of them. 

Then, as the Zephyr spiraled into a neat landing, the coms crackled to life. 

Daniel held his breath.

“Medical assistance in the cargo bay, now,” May snapped.

Hope flared to life. 

Simmons handed the little girl off to Fitz and made for the Zephyr at a dead run, snatching up a med kit from somewhere. Daniel and Rodriguez followed hard on her heels. They found Mack helping Kora walk down the ramp. She seemed exhausted, but otherwise fine. Rodriguez took up Kora's other side. 

Mack darted a look at Sousa. “Go to your girl.” 

Coulson and May flanked Daisy where she’d been laid out on the deck. Cold wafted from her uniform as Daniel knelt by her head, afraid to touch her ashen face or even her hands, grey as they were. Blood trailed out of Daisy's ears. But she breathed, if shallowly. 

“Sit rep?” Simmons snapped as May moved out of her way. 

“She’s alive,” Coulson answered, without looking up. “Used her powers to tear apart the Chronicom ships. Left herself exposed to outer space. Somehow, she kept herself from decompressing and freezing entirely.”

“That doesn’t explain why she’s breathing,” Simmons insisted as she swept her scanner over Daisy’s body. 

“Kora used her energy to warm Daisy up, maybe even gave her a little extra juice, I don’t know. I’ve never seen anything like it,” Coulson shot back. 

“She has a concussion, she’s fractured nearly everything, and her wrists are broken. May, I need a stretcher.”

“On it.” 

She didn’t have to go far as one was strapped to the wall of the cargo bay. Coulson and May slipped a thin board under Daisy, and Simmons had her buckled into the stretcher before Daniel could blink. Their teamwork was amazing, he noted absently. 

He and Coulson picked up the ends to carry Daisy into the Zephyr’s medical unit. At the doctor's orders, they transferred Daisy to the exam bed with May hovering close by. Lashes barely lifting, Daisy’s eyes tracked between May and Coulson. May rested her fingers on Daisy’s shoulder. Coulson pressed a kiss to her forehead. 

Simmons ordered everyone out. Reluctantly, Daniel pivoted to follow Coulson and May.

Except Daisy stretched out the tips of a pair of grey fingers, barely catching his hand as he was leaving. They were ice cold. Without thinking, he reversed course, carefully sandwiching her hands in his to warm them. 

Her mute protest didn’t go unnoticed.

Delicately, Simmons unhooked the broken gauntlets from Daisy’s arms and set them to the side. “You were a paramedic, right?” she asked, giving him the barest of glances as she divested Daisy’s uniform through a series of cleverly concealed zippers, buckles, and straps.

“Paratrooper.” He averted his eyes while Simmons pulled the clothes away, but it seemed Daisy wore a tank top and shorts under her tactical gear. 

“Close enough. You’re an agent. You ought to be able to handle a little first aid.” She pulled a warmed blanket and fleece hat out of a drawer and tossed both of them at Sousa while she started an IV line of fluids. “Cover her with those.” 

“Yes, ma’am.” He shook the blanket out, tucking it neatly all around Daisy. He couldn’t help brushing his thumbs across her cheeks as he pulled the cap down over her ears. She leaned into his touch with unsteady breaths and dazed eyes, trying to stay focused on him. “Stay with me, Daisy,” he ordered softly.

She gave him a faint nod, then began taking longer, steadier breaths that made Simmons smile. The beeping of the machine behind Simmons evened out, too. 

“Keep doing that,” Simmons told Daisy. “Now for the less fun part.” There were shots to prevent radiation sickness, shots to promote bone healing, one for pain, and two others she didn’t bother to share the details about. Simmons looked up, briefly. “Can you splint her wrists?” She jerked a chin at the supplies in a different drawer she’d opened. “I’ll set them later, but we’ve got to get her warm first and I need them stable so we can move her.”

Even if the materials were softer and lighter than any he’d seen, he managed to successfully brace both of Daisy’s wrists without causing her too much pain. 

“Good. Now we need to get her into a bath.” She pointed to the bathroom off to the side of the med bay. “40 degrees Celsius, no more.” 

It took him a moment to figure out the faucet controls, but it was common sense enough that he had warm water filling the tub in seconds. 

By the time he returned, Simmons was inspecting Daisy’s toes. “They look better than your hands,” she told Daisy. “But you’ll be fine with a little TLC.” 

Daniel began to understand that the blast of energy did more damage than the few minutes in the cold vacuum of space, and she’d recover from both. “How are you alive?” he asked in wonder. 

Simmons rattled off a detailed explanation involving vibrations and counterpressure and Daisy’s abilities while she studied her tablet and made notes on it. She added more speculation about Kora’s abilities but he didn’t follow that at all. 

Daisy roused enough to see his confusion, curving her lips in a weary smirk. “‘s why they call me ‘Quake,’” she teased in a voice barely above a whisper. 

With that attitude, was it any wonder he was head over heels for her? 

Simmons pulled out a wide brace and wrapped it around Daisy’s middle, with Daniel lending a hand. “We don’t want anything breaking while we move you,” she told Daisy. “We’ll get you into the tub, and then you get to stay the night in the healing chamber again.” 

“ ‘S no credit for saving the world,” Daisy complained as she made to get out of bed. 

"And the pain meds have clearly kicked in," Simmons said wryly, setting a hand on Daisy's chest to keep her from getting up.

Daniel set a gentle hand on Daisy's ankle. “Nice try, Agent Johnson,” he scolded. To Simmons, he offered, “I can be your orderly.” 

“Have at it.” Simmons stepped to the side to pluck the IV fluids off the pole while Daniel lifted Daisy into his arms.

Unlike a few days ago, this time she was awake, if a little loopy. “Trying to impress me, Sousa?” her voice was barely audible. 

“Hardly.” But she impressed him. Maybe he should tell her that before it was too late. “I know people like you,” he said as he navigated around the bed. “Some of my favorite people are people like you. Focused on the greater good, even at your own expense,” he frowned at her for good measure. “You want people to think you like being alone, even though you always end up back with friends.” 

From behind him, Simmons laughed. 

“You hate losing--” he added, turning to clear the doorway. 

“Everyone hates losing,” Daisy interrupted in a whisper. 

“Yeah, but you all keep running at the problem full tilt until you either solve it or slam headlong into a brick wall.”

“Some of those brick walls are literal,” she admitted, glancing down at herself. 

“I know.”

She gave him a soft smile, “And how does that—”

“Because when people like you run into those walls, you should have someone there to pick you back up.”

Inexplicably, Daisy laid her head on his shoulder. “And you like to be that someone?” 

Daniel stood at the side of the tub. “Not for everyone.” 

His heart pounded as he held her for just a moment longer. But he caught himself, remembering why he was here. He let her legs down, then lowered her the rest of the way so she wouldn’t overbalance and try to catch herself with her hands. Not that she could with the splints, but he’d rather not take the risk. 

Kneeling beside the tub, he locked eyes with her. “It helps if they’re fun to be around, and say what they mean, and if they have that superpower where they can rock things around, which is very impressive.”

“That’s, um, that is awfully specific.” Daisy seemed bemused by the whole conversation, a smile playing around her lips as he helped her lean against the back of the tub to let the water cover her up to her neck. 

He adjusted her hat to make sure it stayed over her ears, humming agreement. “Isn’t it?” 

Simmons stepped around him to hang the IV bag on a hook above Daisy’s head and activated a panel to show the water temperature. She punched other buttons and the word “Hold” appeared in red next to the temperature. She set a warm washcloth across Daisy’s nose and cheeks and handed Daniel a second cloth. “Keep changing those out until her face feels warm to touch.” 

She waggled a finger at Daisy. “Don’t move. You two can stare at each other all you like for the next twenty-five minutes. I’ll get clothes and come back.” She left them alone. 

Daniel dropped his hand in the water, resting his fingers lightly against the inside of Daisy’s elbow. 

She startled, eyes popping open, then smiled at the connection. “s’ nice.” She tipped her head back against the back of the tub. “Can feel your heartbeat. It’s how I know when someone’s honest.” 

“Isn’t that cheating?” he protested, though he filed that information away for future use. 

“Jus’ one o’ t’ perks o' bein' Quake.” Daisy closed her eyes, letting the medications and time do their work. 

He was toast. 



Daisy slept in the healing chamber while the team transitioned to the Hub. Daniel stayed by her side for most of the next three days, only leaving whenever Simmons looked Daisy over or got cranky and insisted he rest in a proper bed. 

Coulson and May took turns checking in on both Daisy and Daniel. He had to admit knowing someone gave a damn about how he was adjusting to, well, everything made it easier to not feel lonely. That was S.H.I.E.L.D. though, and one of the reasons he stayed. The other was busy recovering from saving the world. 

In a way, he was glad Daisy didn’t have to watch her friends pack up their gear. Fitz and Simmons stayed on the ship with their daughter, though: Fitz to give the Zephyr a thorough once-over, and Simmons to keep an eye on Daisy while she broke down the lab. Daniel had to conceal a smile at the pair’s constant bickering that was nothing more than a language of an abiding love and friendship. And they weren’t the only pair on the team. Mack and Elena were less connected at the hip than Fitz and Simmons, but to anyone paying attention, their partnership was just as solid. Elena’s excitement at going home had been contagious, spreading to the rest of the crew as they cleaned out bunks and lockers. 

At first, Kora stayed by Daisy’s side, eager to get to know her sister. But Daisy wasn’t in any condition to do anything but sleep as she recovered, and Kora had little patience for waiting. May and Coulson herded her off to the Academy along with the kid, Flint, who’d come in with Agent Piper. It seemed Flint was from the future, Kora from the past, and both from alternate timelines. 

Daniel was going to need a lot more intel to put all those pieces together. 

In the meantime, Daniel had a cell phone, courtesy of Coulson, clear instructions on how to use it, and everyone’s numbers. He’d been subtly and not-so-subtly threatened with a variety of repercussions if he let Daisy down. Which, if he was being honest with himself, was sort of awkward considering how new things were. 

It was Coulson and May who’d quietly pulled Daniel aside to assure him that if things didn’t work, Daisy had them to count on. He did have to promise to let them know if that happened. The entire team had made it clear that Daisy wasn’t to be left alone for long. Apparently, Daniel’s vigil allowed the team to move on with their own lives without feeling as if they were abandoning their teammate, but that would change in a heartbeat if Daisy needed them. 

In the quiet that followed, Daniel was amused to discover that Alya considered the Zephyr her playground. Fascinated by a new person on the ship, she occasionally dragged him off to some part of it he hadn’t seen yet. Fitz had done an incredible job of concealing the child’s playroom and bedroom behind her parents’ quarters. 

Whenever Simmons came in to check on Daisy, Alya used Daniel as a stool to peek inside the chamber. Tiny handprints dotted one side of the glass. 

“Mama? Daisy is still sleeping?”

“Yes, darling.”

“I can’t wait to see her again.”

“And she can’t wait to see you.” Jemma tapped a finger on Alya’s nose. 

“When will she wake up?”

“In a few minutes. She’ll need to eat and freshen up.” Jemma eyed Daniel. “We’re on base. It would be good to see how Daisy does on an outing. There’s a pretty good hamburger place I know she likes, and it would be fun for Alya.” 

“I’m always up for a good burger. Hey, is Coca-Cola still a thing?” 

“The soda? Yes, of course,” Jemma answered. She blinked. “I haven’t had one in—” she glanced at Alya, “too many years to count.” 

Daniel grinned. “It’s strange to think I had one just a few weeks ago.” 

“A lot has happened since then.” 

He glanced at Daisy. “Yes, it has.” 

Jemma didn’t bother to conceal her smile. “This is rather sudden, isn’t it?” 

Alya frowned at her mom, trying to figure out what was being said. 

Daniel shrugged. “When you’ve been an agent long enough, you know you don’t always get a second chance.” 

“Excellent point. Alya, take Agent Sousa to Daddy while I wake Daisy. Tell Daddy to play nice.” 

Alya took her job seriously, taking Daniel’s hand and leading him to the command center where Fitz poked at one of the open panels with a tool of some kind. 

 

*****

 

Like effervescent bubbles rising through a glass of champagne, Daisy roused from the healing sleep with memories and nightmares dancing around her. She’d awakened before, but only enough to eat and check in with Jemma—and to see Sousa still sitting by her side. 

An untold number of time loops had given her a crash course in all things Daniel Sousa. She’d seen him in action—the same scenario, played out fifty different ways. He’d fought for the team, died for Daisy, served as a sounding board for her crazy ideas, and always, always, followed her around either to lend a helping hand or nag her into resting. 

He’d never yelled at her. Never told her to not do whatever needed to be done. 

She also knew he looked damned good in that blue button down. It might be her new favorite shirt. Or it might just be his forearms. Or the way he looked in suspenders. The gun harness was even better. She kind of got the bra thing now; she really wanted to slide that strap off one of his shoulders just to see his reaction. 

Daisy skimmed fingers along the clear glass of the healing chamber before pressing the buttons that opened it. 

She automatically looked for Sousa, but found Jemma smiling at her instead. “He’s just around the corner. You know how I feel about patients having privacy during check ups.” Jemma helped Daisy to sit at the edge of the pod. “How are you feeling?”

Daisy wiggled her fingers and toes, stretched out her arms and legs, and poked at her ribs. “Sore. Really sore. But not like stuff is broken. I’ve still got a headache.” 

“And you will for another day or two. Try not to use your powers until it goes away. In fact, I’d rather you didn’t use your powers for another couple of weeks. Are you hungry?” 

“Starving. Two weeks? Why?” 

“Because you’ve pushed your body beyond even your limits. Between the concussion, the fractures, and the exposure to space, you’ve got a lot to recover from.” She rolled up Daisy’s sleeve to study the bruised marks lacing up her wrists. “The chamber dealt with the residual freeze damage, thank goodness, but you might get chills for a while.” She handed over a set of flexible sleeves. “Fitz made these last night. They’ll help your arms finish healing. Don’t use your power without these or your gauntlets.” Jemma tapped on her tablet, making a moue of disappointment. “You really should spend another night in the chamber.” 

Daisy groaned. “I’ve seen more of the inside of that thing than I have my own bunk since the 70’s.” 

Jenna snickered. “We’ll see how you do at lunch. I’ve promised Sousa and Alya we’ll go to that diner you like so much.”

A nice, drippy cheeseburger sounded perfect. Her stomach growled as she worked the new guards on. Fitz had made them full-length, from knuckle to bicep. The reinforced wrists and forearms meant she didn’t have to wear splints, and they were thin enough to wear under a shirt. Not terribly comfortable though. The healing energy matrix itched, making Daisy wrinkle her nose when she got them in place. “I’m going to miss you and Fitz designing stuff for me.” She couldn’t resist reaching out with her powers, sending a tiny ripple across the water in the bottle next to her. 

“Oh, no worries. S.H.I.E.L.D. is keeping us on as consultants, so you can ask us for whatever you need. I said, don’t do that. Did that hurt?” 

“Not really? But it took more energy than it should.”

“Don’t do it again. I only set your wrists two days ago. It wouldn’t take much to rebreak them, even with the chamber helping you heal.” Jemma checked her tablet again. “You look better than yesterday. Now go freshen up.”

Daisy groaned. “I need to pack up my things and check in at HQ.” 

“It can wait. Now shoo and get cleaned up. I can hear your stomach rumbling from here.” Jemma’s cheery voice reminded Daisy how much strain her friend had been under before. 

“I still can’t believe you’re a mom,” Daisy blurted, throwing her arms around Jemma. She’d found that out when a tiny blonde head peered over the edge of the bed yesterday. Alya was adorable though, and Daisy’d mumbled something about godparent rights. Alya was about the only part of yesterday she remembered. Exhaustion made everything fuzzy. 

“And I still can’t believe you picked up a boyfriend between here and 1931,” Jemma shot back, giving her a hard hug back. 

“He’s not—” 

Jemma arched a brow. “Really?”

Daisy had to get a hold of her feelings for Sousa. It all seemed too easy. “Jemma, this is crazy. I’ve known the guy like, a week, not counting the time loops.” 

Jemma waggled a finger. “You have to count the time loops. Even if we don’t really know how long that was. You like Sousa. He likes you. You’re already ahead of the curve.”

“I can’t count the time loops. He doesn’t remember any of it.” 

“It counts. Mack told me you kissed him.” 

Daisy covered her face. “Oh, no.” 

“Plus Sousa told you that you were his favorite kind of people.” Jemma handed Daisy the bottle of water. “That was the most romantic declaration. Drink that.” 

“He told me that twice. Once in the loops, and once out of it.” Daisy took it by the bottle cap. Anything cold hurt her fingers. “He’s so square,” she whined. 

“Maybe you need a little square,” Jemma told her. “He’s a regular guy who did a lot of important things. He’s not a slouch, just … earnest. Go get in the shower. And wash your hair.”

Daisy absolutely would have taken a three minute shower, skipping washing her hair because cheeseburgers, right? But she did as Jemma ordered and scrubbed until every inch of her was squeaky clean. 

Jemma blew her hair dry for her while Daisy swiped on enough makeup to hide the fact she wasn’t exactly rosy-faced at the moment. 

“He’s square,” she told Jemma again.

“He’s nice.”

“He’s a dork.” 

“Intelligent.”

“Extra square.”

“You like him.”

“He wears suspenders. Real ones that hold up his pants.” 

“So does Deke. And they’re cute.” 

“Deke’s your grandson. You have to say that. Sousa was a Boy Scout. In Brooklyn. In the thirties.” 

“He’s got a unique perspective on life.” 

“He thinks ‘Quake’ is a stupid name.” 

“Well…” Jemma drawled. 

“You don’t have to agree with him,” Daisy exclaimed. 

Jemma laughed. “He kissed you, right? Out of the time loops? So it definitely counts.” 

Daisy touched her own lips, remembering. “He did.” 

“That’s not very square.” 

“No, it’s not, is it?”

“You might be a bad influence on him.” 

“That’s a given.” 

Jemma paused their verbal wordplay and turned off the blow dryer. “Daisy, has anyone told you what happened when Agent Sousa brought you back? From the barn?” 

Daisy put down the cheek brush she’d been using. “I was pretty out of it, except for the part where he kept nagging me to rest and get back in the healing chamber.” 

“You were out of it. He refused to leave you except when I insisted he get cleaned up.” Jemma leaned against the counter. “Sousa walked over three kilometers to get you to safety.” 

“Three—but he didn’t have his cane.”

“No, he didn’t. And he was carrying you. On a 1950’s prosthetic limb.” 

Daisy’s mouth fell open. “Is that why you gave him an upgrade? Did he get hurt?”

Jemma tilted her head. “You know I won’t share personal information about a patient.” 

Something about the way Jemma answered her made Daisy think hard about what Sousa might have gone through. “So he’s a square badass.” 

That made Jemma laugh as she turned on the hair dryer again. “You should tell him that.” 

“You know, I think I will.” 

“Good. Now hurry up, I’m hungry.”

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Nine

 

Daniel had the urge to tuck Daisy right back in bed with a dozen blankets and chicken soup. She had a tired smile for him though, looking lovely in her purple sweater even if the color matched the circles under her eyes. The black slacks and boots were the same he’d seen her wear before and must be favorites of hers. He didn’t miss the extra layer under her sleeves or the gloves that ran right down over her knuckles. 

He wanted to hold her hand and was a little afraid of hurting her further. Delicate wasn’t a word he associated with Daisy, but she looked it now. 

Alya scampered around her parents, delighting in the bright sunlight and the trees in the courtyard in front of the Hub. Daisy and Jemma kept up a quiet conversation as Fitz chased Alya and scooped her up in a flurry of giggles. 

The diner in S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters involved a decent burger and better than passable French fries. Daniel was grateful to find that some things were timeless. Alya chattered at all four adults; the sudden addition of more people in her life seemed to not bother her in the slightest. Daniel hadn’t expected Daisy to take to the little girl as well as she did, but Daisy scooped Alya up into her lap without missing a beat, and Daniel filed that under Things He Needed to Remember. 

Simmons had been right to get Daisy moving. There was color in her face as she, Leo, and Jemma animatedly traded stories that told him a good deal about the team dynamics and the friendship they’d formed. And then he found out where the three of them had been

“Space?” he said in shock. “Like traveling to planets and meeting other … aliens? What’s it like?”

“A little more Star Wars than Star Trek,” Daisy quipped. “It would have been a lot more fun if we weren’t worried sick about Fitz.” 

“Sorry,” Fitz replied as he handed Alya a cup of water. “It wasn’t exactly my idea.” 

“I’ll tell you later,” Daisy promised Daniel. “But if we ever go back to Kitsom, don’t eat the marshmallow puffs.” 

At Jemma’s sudden blush, he ventured, “High as a kite?” 

“Higher. Much higher,” Daisy agreed. “More like an acid trip.” 

“At least I didn’t get into a bar fight,” Jemma retorted. “Was it four-on-one or five?” 

Daisy shrugged. “I have no idea. I won, though.”

Daniel nearly choked on his French fry at her smug attitude. 

When Jemma and Daisy traded taking pictures at the table with their phone-cameras, Jemma winked at Daniel. 

“Alya, show Agent Sousa how to take a picture,” she instructed. 

Knowing by now that Daniel didn’t mind, Alya crawled right up in his lap and picked up his phone. She held it over her head as he held her around the middle to keep her from sliding off. 

“Put your finger on the dot,” she instructed. 

Oh, right. That unlocked the phone. He touched the dot. 

“Good job,” Alya sang out. “Now touch the picture of the camera.” 

Daniel did that too. Alya praised him cheerfully as she held up the phone and framed Daisy in the window. 

“Touch the circle.” 

He did.

“All done! You saved the picture. Now I’ll show you a selfie!” 

She leaned against him, touching a pair of arrows in the corner that flipped the camera to show him and Alya, though quite up close. She grinned up at him, then looked back at the picture. “Hold it way far away.” 

Daniel stretched out his arm, and oh, now he could see all of them. 

Alya reached out and touched the circle again. “All done!” Then she took the phone back, and tapped a different little picture. “Here’s where your pictures are saved.” 

Sure enough, he now had a photo of Daisy and one of him with Alya. He toyed with it, making them bigger and smaller. “Thank you, Alya.” 

A notification appeared on his phone, and Alya tapped it. It turned into a message with Daisy’s name at the top of the screen. It was a picture of him following Alya’s direction and he was glad to have it. Daniel shook his head at the resolution. Modern tech had evolved far beyond anything he even suspected was possible. 

Moments like this made him feel out of touch, a hard thing when just a couple of weeks ago he’d been on the cutting edge of technology and intelligence. He schooled his feelings so they wouldn’t show on his face. 

When Alya slid off his lap and ran back to Jemma, Daisy reached under the table for his hand. She held on to him for a while, and he honestly wasn’t sure if it was to warm her cold fingers or to comfort him. 

After lunch, Daisy protested staying another night in the healing chamber on the Zephyr. “I feel fine,” she told Jemma. She didn’t look it, though. Her face was ashen again, and he could tell she had a headache by the tension in her brow.

“Take a nap,” Simmons insisted. “Just for a couple of hours. I’ll meet you back at the Zephyr to release you for rest and recovery.”

Daisy shook her head. “I’m going to check in with HR first. I don’t even have a place to sleep tonight.”

Simmons grew unexpectedly stubborn. “It can wait. You can bunk one more night on the Zephyr. You’re looking peaky.” 

To Daniel’s surprise, Daisy didn’t offer any more protests. Since Simmons was only pleased instead of worried by her reaction, he offered, “I’m with Daisy. You can go with your family.” 

That pleased her too. “You remember how to set the chamber?” 

“I do.”

“Excellent. I’ll see you both in a bit.” Jemma and Fitz took Alya off to play in the grass, leaving Daniel to walk with Daisy back to the ship. 

The Zephyr was quiet, too quiet without the ambient noise of the engines running. Daisy halted in the cargo hold, folding her arms in on herself. “Mack and Yo-Yo are gone,” she said suddenly. 

Daniel set a hand on her waist, tracing tiny circles with a fingertip. “They stopped in yesterday to tell you they caught a ride going south to visit Elena’s family in Colombia. They’ll be back this way before long. Mack said you’d better be on your feet by then.” 

Daisy abruptly started walking again, rubbing her forehead. “What else have I missed?” 

He ticked off points on his fingers. “You’ve seen Simmons and Fitz. Kora stopped by early this morning. Coulson’s already got her and Flint enrolled at the Academy. May and Piper checked in at the Hub. Piper’s headed home. May’s still here.” 

“Kora’s going to the Academy?” 

He chuckled as he leaned against a counter while Daisy lifted herself onto the bed. “You really were out of it. Coulson explained it all a couple of visits ago. You’ll be dirtside until S.H.I.E.L.D. figures out their next move with all the intel the team brought back. You’ll probably have your pick of jobs after that. Since you’re the only one who can keep Kora in check, Coulson’s told S.H.I.E.L.D. to keep you two together. But until you take an assignment, he’s going to see that she gets as much training as she can. Kora seems excited.”

“She needs someone to believe in her.” 

“I think she found the right people this time.” 

Daisy gave him a weary smile as she stretched out and pressed the buttons to close the lid. With practiced hands, Daniel keyed in the sequence Simmons taught him and the chamber began to pulse with healing energies. 

 

*****

 

Daisy slapped at the button to open the healing chamber, more than ready to be done with it. 

Sousa set down the tablet he’d been reading. “Hey, you’re awake.” 

She took a moment to admire him in his maroon button down and black suspenders. Though she loved the blue, this was a good look too. “Yeah, I think I am.” She sat up gingerly, half-expecting her head to still hurt. There was a dull throb at the base of her neck, but it was manageable. “You’re still here. Don’t you have …. stuff … to do?” 

“Besides reading a stack of reports that’s supposed to bring me up to speed? I’d rather do that here than in an office.” He waggled the tablet in his hand. 

“Sounds boring either way.” 

“Doesn’t bother me. Analyzing intel has always been my job. I do like being here with you, even if I am just your messenger boy.” 

That brought heat to Daisy’s cheeks. “Definitely not a boy,” she said under her breath, though apparently loudly enough for him to hear. 

Sousa grinned. “Simmons is bringing Fitz and Alya so they can see you one more time. It seems they are catching a flight in the morning to England.”

That made Daisy cross. “Already?” She wasn’t ready to say goodbye to all her friends. 

Sousa held out his hand to help her off the table. “On your feet, sweetheart. You’ve got time to pack before she gets here.” 

“Sweetheart?” she asked, startled by the endearment. He’d said it with an intensity that gave it meaning far beyond a casual nickname. 

Pulling his hand back, he stuttered. “Ah, um, is that the wrong thing to say now?” 

Daisy slid off the bed and caught his fingers. “No! It’s … unexpected.” Sousa gave her a searching look. “I like it,” she assured him. 

That got a proper smile out of him. He brought her hand up to graze a kiss across her knuckles. “Lead the way, sweetheart.”

Her fingers tingled. She shook her head, thoroughly off-balance by all the swirling feelings she had for him.

It didn’t take long to pack the rest of her things. What little she had was still in LA. Here, she only had the one duffel, the backpack with her laptop, plus a few odds and ends she’d accumulated in her locker and bunk. The hula dancer always traveled with her. Mostly, she needed to strip the sheets and muck out the trash, neither of which took long to do. She would not admit how much her wrists hurt from the effort, or how she dreaded carrying the duffel.

Sousa met her in the hallway with his own bag at his feet. 

“When Coulson stopped by last time, he made arrangements for a place to stay,” he told her. “Seems that S.H.I.E.L.D. has a hotel just off campus.” He slipped a key card out of his wallet, along with the hotel’s business card. “Your room is next to mine.” 

Daisy raised an eyebrow as she plucked the cards out of his hand. “That’s . . . interesting.” 

I thought so,” he said, tucking his wallet away again. “I’ll take our bags. You can get checked out by Simmons and go see HR.” 

She wasn’t quite sure what to make of him just … doing all the things a partner would do. After the time loops, she was sure he didn’t have any villainous schemes in mind, but it was hard to believe being together could be this easy. 

“Aren’t you tired of babysitting me?” she asked, aiming for flippant, though it was borderline cranky. 

He ducked his head to look her in the eyes. “I thought we agreed we like each other.” 

Daisy blew out her breath, long and slow. “Yeah, we did,” she admitted. “But don’t you have stuff to do, like, you know, S.H.I.E.L.D. knowing you’re alive or something?” 

Drily, he quipped, “Apparently, when Agent Coulson vouches that someone isn’t dead, it clears all sorts of red tape.” 

She let out an inelegant snort, and Sousa’s eyes lit up. She liked his dorky sense of humor. “Fine. I’ll find you later.” 

“Can I kiss you first?” 

Daisy’s toes curled in anticipation. “Yeah, you can do that.” 

He set the bags down to cup her face with both hands. Her lips parted, and when they touched, it was everything she could do not to tip him to the cargo deck to figure out what else she wanted to do with him. 

Not here and not now. 

He broke off the kiss, his face flushed just a little. He had that same startled look he had in the time loop, and Daisy just had to press her lips to his one more time before stepping back. 

“Hey, Sousa? That was still nice.” Deliberately, she sauntered off to see Jemma, knowing damned well he was watching her walk away.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Ten

 

Jemma keyed in notes on her tablet. “Rest and recover. Go on a date with Sousa. Get to know your sister. In a few weeks, you’ll be as right as rain.”

Daisy threw her arms around her best friend. “I’m going to miss you.” 

“I’m only a phone call away,” Jemma promised, returning the hug even as she sniffled back tears. 

“I still can’t believe you’re a mom. You have to tell me all about it.”

“I will. I promise.”

When the trio departed after long hugs and more tears, Daisy felt lost. Jemma had a whole family now and had been gone years in her time. Fitzsimmons had been gone for longer than they’d known Daisy in the first place. And had a kid. No wonder the connection between Daisy and Jemma had felt stilted at times, instead of the easy camaraderie they’d had before. 

They were still close friends, but it would take time and effort to bridge the distance--both literal and figurative. 

Daisy walked the Zephyr one last time, fingers dragging across the surfaces as she left the latest iteration of home she’d had these past who knows how many years. 

At last, she left the ship and crossed the tarmac to the Hub. 

Daisy didn’t often feel like a newbie these days, but the rebuilt S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters was wholly unfamiliar. Getting into the main building required invoking May’s name and a S.H.I.E.L.D. ID card that was two years out of date. Security sent her directly to Human Resources to get that straightened out. 

HR was surprisingly helpful, making sure she had current access to her bank accounts (she’d never lost it), a place to stay (thanks Coulson!), transportation (seriously, Uber was a thing), and an offer to transfer her stuff from the LA office that she accepted. It was noted that she was on ‘rest and recovery’ for four weeks under Simmons’ care, though she still needed to submit her AAR as soon as possible and could they possibly schedule her debrief for Monday? She had two months' leave scheduled after that. A meeting was set for sixty days from now to discuss possible assignments, but in the meantime she was free to use the facilities to keep up her training. 

With a new ID in hand and feeling slightly better about her future, Daisy headed for the hotel. 

She elected to walk and enjoy the sunshine, exchanging texts with Kora along the way. Her sister bitched goodnaturedly about the new classes while Daisy assured her she could handle it. In truth, Daisy had never attended the Academy, so she had no idea, but it seemed like a big sister thing to do. Kora seemed to like the other new recruits and already had plans to hang out with them on Friday night, but promised to spend the rest of the weekend with Daisy. 

Wasn’t it weird that she had a sister? Kora should have been twenty-five years her senior instead of barely out of her teens. Daisy frowned, doing the math. She’d been born five years after Kora had died. Her head started to hurt again after that revelation, and she shut down all those thoughts in favor of pulling out the cards from where she’d stashed them in her back pocket. 

Sousa had written a room number on the hotel’s business card. She recognized his neat handwriting, though before this moment, she had no idea that numbers could be written in cursive. 

An elevator took her to the fifth floor, where her room was tucked in the corner at the end of a long hallway. 

Daisy’s duffel sat in the entryway. The room had a king-sized bed on the left, a living area with a full sized couch on the right, a table in front of the windows, a desk and a mini-fridge in the far corner, and a fabulous view of the Potomac. 

Oh, and a connecting door next to the bed to what just happened to be Sousa’s room, the old-fashioned kind made up of two doors back-to-back to each other. Either or both could be locked or opened, but only from their respective sides. 

Somebody was meddling, though she wasn’t sure if it was Coulson or May. She took a picture of the door and texted it to both of them with the message, "Subtle, guys."

Coulson sent her a picture of the sun with sunglasses.

May texted back, “Must have been a mix-up in HR.” 

She had to admit that having both May’s and Coulson’s approval gave her a boost of confidence to pursue this thing with Sousa. 

It would be different now, without a mission, without the crazy hops through time. 

Daisy dropped her backpack on the table, at a loss as to her next move. She occupied herself by unpacking her clothes and setting out her few toiletries in the bathroom. The hula dancer went on the nightstand. After that, she didn’t know what else to do. It was too early for dinner, too late for a nap, and she didn’t want to bug Sousa just because she had no idea how to entertain herself off-ship and without her crew. 

Sousa apparently didn’t have the same reservations. A double-knock on the connecting door sent a little shiver of anticipation dancing through her. The ridiculous lock that she could pick with a paperclip made Daisy frown as she flipped it and opened the door. “Hi.” 

With a faintly apologetic tone, he told her, "These walls aren’t exactly sound proof either. I heard your door close earlier. How are you feeling?” 

“Fine at the moment. Come in.” She stepped back, but he held his ground.

“If you’re up for it, there’s a bar downstairs. Can I buy you a drink?” Sousa’s easy confidence settled her agitation, a reality she decided she needed to think about later. 

She swept him a look in appreciation. “Maybe. Are you wearing actual skinny jeans with that button down?” 

With a grin, he made a little circle, and yes, that was a fine ass in those jeans. “They’re better than those elephant pants.”

“Who told you about skinny jeans?”

“Mack, of course. There’s a place down the street that sells them.” 

“Of course. Yeah, drinks sound nice.” She turned to pick up her jacket and halted in her tracks. “Is this a date?” she blurted. 

Turning his hands up, Sousa admitted, “I’m guessing ‘going out for drinks’ isn’t code for asking someone out anymore.”

Daisy flashed him a smile. “I think it works in any decade. And you look good. Give me five minutes. Don’t move.” 

“I won’t.” 

She dashed into the bathroom to change into a long-sleeved dark green Henley. A pair of hoop earrings and a trio of necklaces finished off the outfit, making her look a little more dressed up than usual. She slicked on lip gloss and brushed her hair, feeling better for making the effort. The back of her head still ached, but she could ignore it. 

She debated taking Fitz’s sleeves off so she’d blend in better, but decided Jemma would find out and she’d be in trouble. 

Sousa whistled softly under his breath when he saw her. “Wow.” 

Inside, she glowed at the admiration. It had been a long time since she’d wanted to put her heart on the line. 

He held out his arm when they stepped into the hallway. She set her hand on his elbow. Not only was it warm there, but she could feel his tricep flex. He covered her hand with his, squeezing it once. 

Drinks in the bar turned into dinner at an Italian restaurant with tiny booths sporting squeaky leather seats, little more than candles for lighting, and a manicotti to die for. 

“We did not get this on the Zephyr,” Daisy complained.

“I’m guessing ricotta wasn’t on the grocery list.” 

“Nope.” She hesitated, wondering how much she should tell Sousa about the last couple of years. “So this wasn’t our first trip through time.” 

He studied her curiously. “Deke said something like that.” 

“It’s a really long story and you practically need a map to sort it all out. But post-apocalyptic Earth is not my favorite place to visit, even if we did pick up Flint and Deke there,” she said lightly. “The food was awful.” Now she wished he hadn’t brought it up. She wasn’t ready to talk about that yet. She wasn’t ready to talk about a lot of things yet. 

“Has anyone told you about Spam?”

“It’s still around. Dare I ask?”

“I’d rather you didn’t,” he answered with a sour grimace. “So tell me why everyone calls Alya’s parents ‘Fitzsimmons'.” 

She smiled, grateful for the change in topics. “They met at the Academy; two crazy-smart people who had no idea they were in love.” 

The conversation flowed easily for the rest of dinner. At least until a young woman approached the table. “Ah, are you … Quake?” 

When Sousa started to grin, Daisy kicked his ankle. The one not made of fancy electronics. “I am,” she answered.

The woman tried not to babble, but lost that battle as she waved her phone at Sousa. “Can I … I .. a picture?”

Daisy nearly burst out laughing at his cross-eyed confusion. She rose to join her newest fan, leaning over to show Sousa where to press the shutter button. “Take two, just in case.” 

He did, and the young woman gave Daisy the briefest of hugs. “Thank you.” 

When she left, Sousa propped his chin on his hand, mouthing, “Quake.” 

“Shut up,” she chided, digging into the tiramisu they’d ordered for dessert. 

Afterward, Sousa walked her to her door. He took her hands in his and sweetly pressed his lips to hers to end the evening. She shivered. Everywhere. It was kind of awesome. 

“I had a good time,” he told her. 

“I did too.” Daisy squeezed Sousa’s hands. “Not bad for an old guy.” 

“Good night, Agent Johnson.” 

If he was smug, she couldn’t blame him. “Good night, Agent Sousa.” She was pretty sure she’d see him in the morning. 



As she undressed for bed, Daisy didn’t know what to think about Sousa’s approach to dating. Drinks. Real conversation, not just stolen moments in a crazy trip through time. Daisy had certainly slept with guys with a lot less investment. And it had been years since she’d been willing to give someone a chance. 

Every one of her teammates had given her the wink and a nod at Sousa. Having their approval went a long way to alleviating her fears about making the wrong choice. 

She’d forgotten that dizzying sensation of liking someone, of being liked in return. All she could think about was the heat of his hands at her waist, the feel of his lips against hers, and the steady beat of his heart.

She wanted. 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Eleven

 

At two twenty-one in the morning, a vibration woke Daniel, his whole body buzzing from the sensation. It only happened once. He lay awake for a long while though, hoping Daisy had gone back to sleep.

He didn’t wake again until the sun beamed through the cracks in the drapes. He didn’t mind the early morning, even if it wasn’t quite seven. He sat up, automatically flipping back the sheets to examine his stump.

The mission had been hard on it. Some of the old shrapnel scars had ruptured and a half dozen blisters had burst before he got Daisy to the Zephyr that awful day. Simmons had prohibited anyone from coming into the med bay so Daniel could stay with Daisy and rest his stump at the same time. She’d insisted on a thorough examination and treatment, doing her best not to be appalled that a prosthesis should cause such pain. 

He treated the healing marks with an ointment Simmons had given him and let it dry while he stretched out sore muscles. She’d warned him that he needed to keep up his physical therapy to keep himself fit enough to use the new leg. There was something comforting about knowing he still had to do his part to make it all work. Daniel’s quadricep ached from the extra leg weight, not so much this morning, but he suspected it would take a few weeks to build up the proper muscle.

He picked up a thin liner and rolled it smoothly over his stump. Donning the prosthesis itself was simple. He set his limb inside the socket and ran his fingers along the top edge. The whole socket “woke up” to settle around his stump firmly enough for him to stand, then “rippled” one more time to apply even pressure around his limb and to lock the whole thing in place. Since the socket automatically adjusted to natural changes in his stump size throughout the day, Daniel didn’t have to carry around stump socks to keep the socket from slipping or worry about blisters from chafing anymore. 

The new leg was incredibly comfortable and had enough tech in it to make him smile every time he put it on. So far, he only had to get used to the slightly heavier weight and the fact that the foot, knee, and ankle had microchips in them that let him wear any shoe, climb stairs, and go down ramps with ease. He could jog in it, though Simmons mentioned he might want a different model entirely for running. 

It was nice to be able to get back to his daily routine of push ups, sit ups, and the rest of the conditioning drills he liked to do in the mornings. He’d hit the fitness room later, maybe with Daisy if she was up for it, to put in a solid workout. This was just to keep him in good form, and he didn’t even break a sweat. 

He pulled out the same pair of shoes he’d worn since 1955, along with the last of the shirts he’d borrowed from Deke. A neat selection of clothing had been left in Daniel’s bunk without a word—though since Deke was the only one of a similar size and who wore suspenders, it wasn’t hard to figure out who had been the donor. 

Daniel had tried to thank him at one point and gotten a brush-off for his efforts. Deke might be good at heart, but he’d been jealous all the same. 

With good reason. 

Daniel had picked up the new jeans for dinner, after Mack wrote down exactly what and where to buy them. He’d found shirts that he liked, but they nearly matched what he had been wearing, and he didn’t want Daisy to think he was a one-trick pony. Maybe he could talk her into going shopping with him—if she even liked to do that sort of thing. 

Dressed and ready for a good cup of joe, he smoothed the covers straight on his bed before opening his side of the connecting door. Daisy’s side was still closed, and he didn’t figure knocking at this hour was a good idea. He did, however, find a pen and memo pad in the desk drawer and wrote out a quick note that he slid under her door. 

He took the stairs to the lobby to work out the kinks in his balance with the new leg. The foot and knee on this thing were pretty incredible. 

The bar area from last night had an array of coffee options and anything up to a full breakfast, if he was interested. The coffee was decent and the cream was fresh. He made up two of them, just in case Daisy wanted one. He liked more cream in his than she did; he’d learned that in the Zephyr’s galley in 1973. 

Pleased to find the hotel had a selection of newspapers, Daniel bought one of each, folding them and tucking them under his arm as he carried the coffees upstairs. He marveled at being able to do this without a cane. 

When he discovered Daisy’s door still closed, her cup went into the little icebox in his room. He sat at the table with his coffee, shook out the first newspaper, and began to read. 

It was mid-morning before he heard water running on Daisy’s side, but when she appeared in the doorway, she looked like she’d hardly slept at all. Her hair lay in damp waves down her back, so she’d showered, but he wasn’t sure if the leggings and long sleeve shirt she wore counted as pajamas or real clothes these days. They’d debated that at one point on the Zephyr. All he concluded is he couldn’t tell if this was nightwear or daywear.

“Coffee?” he offered. “It’s not exactly warm, though.” 

“Please, it’s coffee. It doesn’t really matter.”

“Daisy, my apologies for this, but you look like hell.” 

“I feel like it,” she mumbled. She dropped into the office chair and put her head on his desk with both hands on the back of her neck. 

Daniel retrieved the cup and set it beside her, but he also called room service—interestingly enough, that process hadn’t really changed at all except the telephone had buttons instead of a dial. He ordered eggs, toast, and orange juice for both of them. 

He talked her into eating; she talked him into watching a space movie. 

“I downloaded a bunch of them to my laptop,” she told him. She plugged something into the back of the television, then did something to her computer, and the movie on her computer appeared on the television screen. 

“Whoa. How did you do that?

She was adorable as she scrunched up her face to figure out how to explain. “It’s kind of like a shortwave radio, but with video. I’ll text you a link.” 

“All right.” He loved how she figured out ways to bring him up to speed without making him feel stupid. Most of the others on the Zephyr had been less patient--except for Mack. But he understood Wikipedia now, and Daisy had bookmarked a dozen science and history websites for him to use for reference. The tablet was quickly becoming his favorite piece of new tech, especially when he discovered he could use an electronic pencil with it. 

Daisy settled on the sofa, curling up on one end under the blanket she stole off his bed. She also handed him her phone. “Play, pause, volume up, volume down. The phone is the remote control for the movie.” 

That was easy, and he played with it through the opening sequence. The Right Stuff flashed onto the screen. 

“What’s this about?” 

“Space. The Mercury astronauts. Late fifties, early sixties. Should be about your speed. We’ll watch Hidden Figures next.” Daisy stretched out and put her feet against his leg—exactly where one landed on his thigh and the other rested on the prosthesis. “Is this okay?”

He liked that she asked, and that she seemed comfortable. “I’m good.” He set a hand on her ankle as he marveled at the sound and picture—it was as good as being at the movies in his day, and he suddenly had a craving for popcorn. The movie started with Chuck Yeager breaking the speed of sound in ‘47 and took him right through the Mercury space program. Though riveted by the story, he was fully aware of Daisy drowsing next to him. He watched the antics of the pilots while stroking her ankle. 

Astronauts. The few hours he’d spent in space showed him exactly why these pilots reached for the stars. He squeezed a silent ‘thank you’ on Daisy’s ankle. She remembered how in awe he’d been and took the time to find movies he could appreciate. 

He’d discovered on the Zephyr that Daisy quietly checked up on all of her friends, mostly without them being aware--except for Coulson and May, who always noticed. It wasn’t hard to see that Daisy treated the pair of them more like parents than commanding officers. Coulson hadn’t blinked when Daisy called him ‘dad’ at the speakeasy. Daniel had known a few recruits like that—not one had any sort of home to speak of. Building up their confidence so they didn’t blindly follow their C.O. wasn’t easy. He wondered how Coulson had done it. 

Daisy woke as the movie ended, scraping her hair out of her face as she sat up and got her bearings. 

“Feel better?” he asked, happily pressing the correct button on Daisy’s phone to stop the credits from playing. 

“Actually? I do.” 

“Good. I need to work on my balance. You up for a walk?” 

“Sure, if you don’t mind me calling Jemma first. I’m supposed to do a daily check in. She should have landed by now.”

“Have at it.” 

Somehow, having Daisy in his space didn’t seem awkward at all, though she, her laptop, and her phone all migrated back to her room for the video call. The door between their rooms stayed open, and he heard Daisy talking to Jemma. 

He left her to it, finally remembering to check his own phone for messages. There was one from Coulson making sure Daniel picked up his new documents and S.H.I.E.L.D. ID at HR today, and one from May offering to spar with him when he was free. Typing answers wasn’t so bad, and Daniel decided this was a perk of the new century. These cell phones were pretty handy. 

He heard Daisy snap her laptop shut. “I need shoes,” she announced. 

Daniel took that to mean she was almost ready to leave, and he propped himself in her doorway to wait. “Good check in?”

“The usual. Time, rest, don’t quake anything, blah, blah, blah,” she called around the corner-- likely the bathroom, assuming their rooms had the same layout. “Where do you want to walk?”

“HR first, I need to pick up a few things. After that, maybe we can get ice cream? There’s a parlor a couple of blocks from here."

“Ice cream?” Daisy popped out of the bathroom wearing jeans and black boots. “Like Ben & Jerry’s or a banana split?” She carried the sleeves and a black leather jacket that she dropped on the table. Yellow-purple bruises covered her arms, starting at her wrists and ending just above her elbows. She seemed to be unaware of how they looked as she worked one of the long sleeves in place. 

“Banana split, but I’m up for something new,” Daniel said absently, sure Daisy’s bruises had looked better on the Zephyr. “Is this what happens when you quake?”

“Mostly, no, but it happens.” Daisy glanced up. “It’s not that bad.” 

He crossed his arms, giving her a look of disbelief. 

With a roll of her eyes, she admitted, “Okay, it’s sort of that bad, but really, it could have been a lot worse.”

“I got that. Want to go back to the ‘mostly no?’ That seems kind of important.”

Daisy turned her other wrist up, where the blackest of marks bloomed. “I feel vibrations in everything. Me. The clock. Your heartbeat.” She flashed him a mischievous smile. “If I pay attention, I can feel the river. I’ve literally moved mountains because I can feel the vibration of the Earth itself.” She looked away. “That other time travel trip? That was to the future where the Lighthouse floated in space and had become a terrible city controlled by aliens. What was left of Earth’s population scuttled around in the basement trying to stay alive.”

“What was left? Why?” 

“Earth had been torn apart.” 

“What could possibly do that?” It didn’t even seem plausible. 

“It seems that my powers plus gravitonium equals an earthquake big enough to crack the planet in two. They called me the ‘Destroyer of Worlds,’” Daisy said lightly, her tone at odds with her words. 

Daniel didn’t miss the implication that someone wanted her powers, not her in particular. He picked up the other sleeve and held it open so she could slide her hand inside. 

“In retrospect, ‘Quake’ isn’t all that bad,” he gently teased. 

Daisy snatched up a pillow and whacked him with it. 

He held up a hand to block it, happy he’d deflected her mood. “And Deke is … Fitzsimmon’s grandson, right? That’s not terribly far in the future.”

“Seventy-two years. We were there long enough to change everything. We had to.” 

“It seems you succeeded. And, you know, none of that explains why you have bruises on your arms.” 

Nothing fazes you,” she said in wonder.

“It all fazes me,” he admitted. “Just maybe not my face. Bruises?” he prompted. 

She startled, giving him a searching look. Then she went back to settling the other sleeve in place. “I have to keep the vibrations outside me. Fitzsimmons made my gauntlets to protect my arms and to focus my power. These in particular have an electrical current that helps me heal. They itch, but they work.” Daisy looked over the fabric, making sure it lay smooth. “The latest gauntlets protect me from just about anything.” 

“‘Just about’ doesn’t include breaking Chronicom ships, I take it.”

“Apparently not.”

“But your focus is good enough that you—” he counted on his fingers, “broke all the bad guy ships, kept yourself safe from radiation and decompression while turning into an ice cube, and still protected the Zephyr from your energies.” 

Daisy shrugged on the black leather jacket and tugged her hair out of the collar. “Quake, remember?” 

“Remind me not to make you mad,” he teased, making a show of looking her over. “You forgot your utility belt, honey. I can’t see the ‘Q’ anywhere.”

“You are such a dork.” But she was laughing when he leaned in to kiss her. 

“I am. I really am.” 



Daniel held out his arm, and Daisy looped her hand around his elbow. They walked along the riverfront to the Hub, appreciating the sun on a cool day. 

“You said all of this fazes you,” Daisy said out of the blue. “And when you first arrived, May touched you. She was pretty freaked out. Which means you were freaked out. How are you dealing? Be honest,” she warned. 

“Honest?” Daniel studied the trees on the edge of the river, looking for the right words. “I miss my job. I miss being on the cutting edge of tech and intel, of finding threats and snuffing them before they become problems for the public. I miss my house and my friends.” He smiled at Daisy. “But here there’s technology I’ve never dreamed of, S.H.I.E.L.D. is still around, and there’s you.” He lifted her fingers to kiss her knuckles where the gloves stopped. “Before, there were a lot of reasons relationships didn’t work for me. Now? Not only have I stumbled across a lady who is worth risking everything for, but I can. There’s a lot to be said for that.” 

“What if we don’t work out, Sousa?” Daisy asked softly. 

“I’ll always have S.H.I.E.L.D., Daisy, same as you.” 

She stepped off the sidewalk, taking him with her. “You get it,” she said in wonder. 

“There are agents who think this is just a job, and there are agents who don’t know any other way to live.” Daniel noted her fingers were cold again, and he held her hands between his to blow on them. “Relationships don’t always make the cut. Especially with civilians.” 

Daisy searched his face. “Someday, we’re going to dig into why relationships didn’t work out for you, but today isn’t that day.” 

“Okay. Any particular reason?” he asked as they resumed their walk.

“Because I’d have to share, and there’s too much to process from the last two weeks to add that to the mix.” 

He chuckled. “Amen to that.” 



Either the walk or the sugar crash from a shared three-scoop banana split sapped Daisy’s energy. He’d guess the former because she ate every bite of the soup and sandwiches he’d ordered from room service. 

He handed her the blanket off his bed after they’d eaten. “You need to rest.” 

“What about you?” 

He picked up his tablet. “I’ve got plenty of reading to do.” 

She carried the blanket to her room. She stopped in the doorway, started to say something, and shook her head as she kept walking. 

Daniel followed. “What is it?” 

Daisy stood at the edge of her bed, not quite looking at him. “Would you read on my couch?” 

He didn’t have to think about his answer. “Of course.” 

She let out a weary laugh. “Of course,” she echoed as she crawled on the bed, taking his blanket with her. 

“I’ll let you know when we get to the hard stuff. This is duck soup, sweetheart.” 

Daisy lifted her head, started to ask, then shook her head and pulled the blanket up around her neck. 

Pleased at her reaction, Daniel settled into the sofa with his tablet. He liked poking at Daisy—not enough to make her mad, of course, but she seemed to like his sense of humor. 

He read until just before midnight, keeping watch. Then he retrieved a pillow from his room and slept on Daisy’s couch until morning.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Twelve

 

Daisy had no idea what to do with a little sister, but Kora seemed to have all sorts of plans that she was happy to roll with. For one, Kora had never lived anywhere but Afterlife. She’d visited a few cities, mostly to shop, and she was jonesing to explore. For two, Kora assumed Daisy and Sousa were together, and Sousa was dragged along in their reconnaissance. 

They were together, just not for as long as Kora seemed to think. Still, it was nice, because Daisy didn’t really want to abandon Sousa just yet. 

Since Kora and Sousa needed whole new wardrobes, they headed to the shopping district. Kora had a strict budget, courtesy of May and Coulson. Daisy didn’t really know what to do with all the money she had in the bank from unspent paychecks and didn’t mind covering for her sister. As Sousa had a brand new S.H.I.E.L.D. ID, she figured he was on the payroll somehow. He certainly seemed comfortable with a credit card. 

Kora flitted through every single shop on M Street, with Daisy and Sousa hard-pressed to keep up. Though, at times, Sousa was nearly as bad, fingering shirts and examining seams. He liked the soft fabrics. The stitching? Not so much. Kora had an eye for patterns. She and Sousa chattered about styles in a way that might have bored Daisy if it wasn’t so much fun to listen to them. 

Two weeks ago, the three of them didn’t exist in the same time and space, but at least two different timelines — and likely three — had come together to make this day happen. Daisy wasn’t sure how any of it would work out with Kora or Sousa, but she wanted to try. 

She bought a grey fedora for Sousa, trimmed in blue. He wore it for the rest of the day with the ease of someone used to wearing hats. He also found a razor that made him happy, and Kora talked him into a pair of low cut boots. 

Kora picked out the brightest shirt patterns she could find, with sneakers to match, and when she’d spent her budget, Daisy slid her card over for the pair of orange Vans Kora had put back on the shelf and a single pair of earrings for herself. 

They were searching for a winter coat for Kora when Daisy discovered her sister had expensive taste. 

“Hey, this looks like yours!” Kora pulled out a leather jacket that was a near match to the one Daisy had on now. 

“Uh huh.” 

“I want one.” 

With practiced fingers, Daisy flipped over the tag. “Not for four g’s. There’s a decent vintage shop a couple of blocks over we can try.” 

Kora blinked. “This isn’t where you usually go for clothes?”

“Uh--” Daisy glanced at Sousa, unsure of how much to explain to both of them. “Only if Jemma and Yo-Yo made me. I usually hit up army supply stores or thrift shops.” 

“Why?” Kora asked. 

Her sister’s innocent question had only loaded answers. 

“I’ll tell you, but not here,” Daisy decided. Sousa must have overheard, because he put down the sweater he was holding and came up beside her to rest his fingers on her waist. He’d been doing that a lot today. She leaned on her back foot just enough to increase the pressure. 

They found a café with a burbling fountain one block over that gave them a decent amount of privacy. Daisy picked at her bowl of pad Thai, trying to find a way to keep her answers from breeding too many more questions. 

“I, um, grew up in an orphanage. I left when I was fifteen or so.” 

Kora frowned. “Where did you go?” 

“Nowhere at first. Shelters sometimes. Once in a while I’d crash on somebody’s couch.” There was more, but Daisy wasn’t ready to admit to the string of boyfriends she’d acquired for no other reason than to have a hot shower and a bed to sleep in. “I won a laptop in a bet and taught myself to code. Then I made money setting up websites for people. When I had enough, I bought my van and headed across the country. Eventually, I landed in LA.”

“Your van?”

“My van. Big blue clunky thing I could barely keep running, but it was my house, you know?” she said wistfully. “In any case, I shopped a lot at Goodwill. It’s hard to break the habit when you know you can find a thousand dollar jacket for twenty bucks if you know where to look.” 

Daisy glanced at Sousa, hoping he wasn’t too weirded out by her story. She couldn’t tell, though he reached for her hand and held it. 

Kora stuffed a noodle in her mouth, then asked, “So what happened with you and Mom? Why didn’t you grow up at Afterlife?”

Even though she knew the questions were coming, Daisy clutched Sousa’s hand like a lifeline. 

She kept to the facts, like a briefing. “After I was born, a horrible man kidnapped Jiayang to experiment on her so he could steal her healing powers. My dad — Cal — managed to find her and put her back together. I’d been left in the village. S.H.I.E.L.D. got wind of the fact my mom had special powers and sent a team to find me. When my parents found out, they killed a whole village and a lot of agents. S.H.I.E.L.D. wasn’t going to hand me over to people like that.” 

Daisy closed her eyes, and Sousa tightened his grip on her hand. “Cal caught up with me a few years back and figured out a way for me to get my powers. That’s when I met Jiayang at Afterlife, and for about five minutes, I had parents. But they were really messed up. Cal had an awful temper, and Jiayang — I watched her take the life energy out of someone who disagreed with her.” Daisy stared down at her bowl. “Cal killed her to keep her from doing the same thing to me.”

“Where is he now?” Kora asked. 

“I called in a favor. S.H.I.E.L.D. wiped his memories. He’s a veterinarian now. He doesn’t know me.” 

Her sister’s mouth fell open. “That’s … horrible.”

“She wasn’t the mom you knew. Your Jiayang loved you.” Daisy loosened her grip on Sousa’s hand when she realized how tightly she held it. She dashed away the tears that had formed in each eye. Sometimes, when Daisy tried to comprehend the sheer magnitude of shitty that had been her life, it threatened to overwhelm her. Deliberately, she thought about Coulson. He’d known every corner of it and still loved her. 

Sousa rubbed his thumb over her fingers, holding tight while she pulled herself together. 

“The S.H.I.E.L.D. psychologist thinks my powers have an element of empathy,” Kora stated. “I can feel strong emotions. It’s really easy for me to be swayed by them because they feel real to me, like they make perfect sense in the moment. Right now, I can feel how horrified you are and it makes me want to punch everyone in this café.” 

Daisy pulled herself together, suppressing all of it in an instant. “I didn’t mean to do that to you.”

Kora shook her head. “When I walk away, those feelings go away. Agent May wants to train with me. She thinks she can help me stay grounded so they aren’t used against me.” 

“That ... actually explains a lot.” Her sister’s flip-flopping allegiances had been hard to swallow for the team. 

Kora pursed her lips. “Do you mind me staying at the Academy for a while? I think I like it there. You’re not going on assignment for the next couple of months, right?” She looked unhappy. “I want us to be sisters. Real sisters. But I feel like I should do this.” 

Daisy understood completely. “Fitzsimmons had all these awesome stories about their time at the Academy. Coulson thinks it’s a good idea, and if you’re happy there, then yes, of course, I want you to stay as long as you want. I want us to be sisters too.” 

“See? I can feel all that,” Kora said bluntly. “Your fear, your loneliness, and how worried you are about me.” She turned to Daniel. “You’re angry, like incredibly angry, and proud? Yeah, you’re proud of Daisy for surviving. And a little freaked out by pretty much everything.” 

“Way to lay it all out there, little sis,” Daisy chided. “Pro tip: you might not want to tell all your friends what they're feeling. It’s not nice to out them like that.” 

Kora rolled her eyes. “I know that. Who else am I going to tell this to? You’re all I’ve got.” She flicked a look between Sousa and Daisy. “It’s not like you guys are keeping secrets from each other, right?” 

Sousa coughed abruptly and stood up. “I’m going to refill our drinks.” He gathered up the cups and fled. Traitor.

“I’ve embarrassed him,” Kora said, dismayed. “But all of your emotions — and Daniel’s — make sense. Malick and Mom each had just one. Malick’s was greed. He wanted everything from everyone. And it was overwhelming. Mom’s was fear. That’s all I ever got from her once I got my powers.”

Daisy suppressed a shiver at Malick’s name. She’d done her best to try to not think of him. She didn’t want to think of him if Kora could pick up on that nightmare. “Hey, I have to use my power to keep the vibrations outside my body or I can do real damage to myself. Can you use yours to keep other emotions out?” she ventured. Her arms itched from the sleeves, and she scratched at her elbows and wrists. 

“Like a shield?” Kora squinted as she thought about it. “Maybe I was doing a little bit of that. When I use my powers, I can’t feel anyone else.” She closed her eyes, and Daisy could feel the subtle swell of her sister’s energies. Kora’s eyes popped back open. “Hey, that works! I can still feel you, but it’s not as strong.” 

“Get good at it. Keeps you being you, but learn from May so you can use it if you need to. Anything can be a weapon. Knowing what’s coming from inside you and what’s on the outside could be a real advantage.” Daisy picked up her chopsticks. “Shielding yourself expends a lot of energy, so eat and sleep to make up for it.” She ate a bite, adding, “Trust me on this one.” 

“That all makes sense.” She gave Daisy a curious look. “Why are you so scared?” 

Daisy leveled a bleak look at Kora, rubbing at the side of her neck. “I’ve had a few really crappy weeks that will give me nightmares for a while. I met a guy that I think might be for the long haul, and I met a sister I didn’t know I had. I don’t want to mess up with either one of them. And I already miss the team. They’re the only family I’ve had.” 

“Daniel really likes you,” Kora said. “And Coulson’s like your dad, right?”

“Yeah, Coulson’s like my dad.” 

“He loves you. A lot. While you were healing, he talked to me. Asked me what I wanted to do. Where I wanted to be. The whole time, there’s this feeling of pride and love whenever he thinks about you.” 

“You can feel emotions from Coulson?” 

Kora nodded. 

“You should tell him that. May can’t. I wonder why.” 

Sousa popped up between Daisy and Kora, setting the plastic cups on the table. As he took his chair, his fingers trailed along Daisy’s shoulder, eliciting a whole variety of emotions that flickered so quickly Daisy couldn’t quite identify all of them, but desire and safe claimed the two top spots. There was no reason for such a small touch to give her such outsized reactions. 

Kora grinned suddenly, without saying why. “Eat up guys, I want to see these shops Daisy is telling us about.” 

 

*****

 

Daniel used the hotel’s fitness center to burn off his anger. The little snippets of Daisy’s life she’d shared horrified him. He understood, at last, why Daisy was different from Violet or Peggy. 

His former girlfriends both had what Daisy might call a ‘square’ upbringing, as did Daniel. They’d grown up with families and good homes. The war — a singular event with a thousand repercussions — had been the driving force to change their lives. 

Daisy had none of that. Her whole life had been one of survival. He didn’t have to urge her to fight; she didn’t know how to be any other way. She could be ruthless in getting what she wanted — mostly if her family was involved, but not always.

He’d known, on some level. He’d met others with that same feral determination to claim some piece of existence they’d been denied. For Daisy, it was a need to belong. No, more than that, a need to be cherished. It would be terribly easy for the wrong person to exploit that need. 

In light of Mack’s fierce protectiveness, Daniel understood that had likely already happened. He’d have to win Daisy’s trust with honesty and integrity. The moment he put a wall between them, she’d be out the door in a flash. He’d have to be patient, but he had patience to spare. 

He leaned into the stationary bike, putting mileage between him and those thoughts. The exercise cleared his head but left his quad and hip cramping again. He wiped his face with a towel and slung it around his neck when he finished, then limped through the hallway, half-wishing he had his cane to ease the pressure on his stump. Daniel dropped the key card in the slot and pushed the door to his room open with a shove of his shoulder.

The door between the suites was open. He heard laughter from the other room, and he poked his head in the doorway to find Daisy and Kora sitting on the bed. 

“Hi, ladies.” He held on to his towel with both hands, still unsure of the protocol of being underdressed around women. 

They looked up, and Daisy gave him a long, appreciative look. “Good workout?” 

“It was.” 

“Gee, Daisy, you didn’t tell me he was so hot.” Kora grinned at him. 

“Mine. Back off,” Daisy said mildly. Then she looked embarrassed. “Did I say that out loud?”

Daniel’s earlier emotions were swept away by Daisy’s declaration. He wasn’t screwing things up. He laughed. “You did. I’m going to take a shower now.” 

Daisy bit her lip, giving him that look — the one that said she knew exactly what he was trying to do. “We were waiting on you to order pizza. What do you like?”

“Load it up. I’ll eat anything.” 

“I’ll hold you to that,” she quipped. 

Daniel didn’t really think anything could shock him these days, but that might have done it. Now he was the one with uncomfortable thoughts. 

A small smile toyed around her lips as she tapped on her laptop. “I’m putting the order in now. Looks like you’ve got forty-five minutes, Danny-boy.” 

“Good to know,” he paused, adding, “Quake.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Thirteen

 

Kora flopped on the bed, pulling a pillow under her neck. “I still can’t believe you haven’t slept with him yet.” 

Amused by her sister’s nosiness, Daisy retorted, “We literally had our first date two nights ago.”

“But you want to.” Kora gave her a knowing look. 

As she finished putting the pizza order in, Daisy wasn’t quite sure how to explain. “Sousa’s from a different place. They took things a lot slower.” 

“And you’re okay with that?”

“Yeah, I really am. I don’t think he’s a casual sex kind of guy.” She squinted at the screen, waiting for the confirmation to post. 

Kora propped her head up on an elbow. “But you would.” 

“Duh.” Pizza ordered, Daisy set her laptop aside. “I’m guessing you’re feeling all that from me.” 

“You seriously have to think about something else for, I don’t know, five minutes,” Kora sassed. Then she bit her lip before asking, “Have you ever hurt anyone? In bed, I mean.” 

Surprised by the question, Daisy shook her head. “With my powers? No. I waited until I had control. It’s not a time and place you can afford to slip. Didn’t anyone talk to you about this at Afterlife?”

“We didn’t get that far. Everyone was afraid of me.” Kora rolled to her side, curling up in a ball. 

Honestly, Daisy didn’t get that at all, but she could only imagine how much emotional strain Kora must have been under. She ruffled her sister's hair. “Ask me anything, then.” 

“Later. I’m a long way from that. Thanks, though.” Kora gave her a small, appreciative smile. “It would help if you could think about anything other than Daniel.” 

With a laugh, Daisy changed the subject. “Tell me something good about growing up in Afterlife.” 

Kora launched into a string of tales about her childhood that proved she’d grown up in a safe place, with people who cared for her. It was only when she’d acquired her powers that things went bad. There was no doubt that her sister was somewhat spoiled — with her mom as the leader of the community, Kora was used to getting what she wanted — but not so much she was a lost cause. Daisy had a feeling Coulson and May were already nipping that in the bud.

“How are you managing with your powers at the Academy?” 

“Okay, so far. They shielded my room, and I get to pick where I sit in class. Seriously, someone’s got to have really strong feelings and I have to be pretty close by. You’d think a classroom or a party would be the worst, but all the emotions sort of make a white noise. It’s not so bad.” Kora wrinkled her nose at Daisy. “You’re harder to block out. You’re kind of intense, you know?”

“I can see it,” Daisy quipped. “We could practice shielding later, if you want,” she offered. 

“I’d like that,” Kora fervently agreed. “I’ve been trying all afternoon and it hurts my head.” 

“I’ll try not to think about Sousa and maybe you can relax for a little. You probably need to eat, too.” 

“Okay.”  

“So, what do you like about S.H.I.E.L.D.?” Daisy wondered. “I didn’t peg you for the agent type.” 

“I can’t go where you go unless I’m an agent,” Kora answered bluntly. “Agent Coulson made that crystal clear.”

Ah. That’s how AC did it. “Good point.” 

“And Agent May is willing to teach me control. She says she helped you.”

“She did.” 

“She doesn’t have any powers, right?”

“Nope. She’s a badass all on her own.” Daisy considered her sister. “There’s a Tai Chi routine May taught me. I could use the exercise. Want to do it with me? At least it won’t be brand new when she makes you do it for the first time.” 

Kora was game. They shoved the couch out of the way to give them room. Mostly they laughed instead of meditated as Kora twisted herself into the new shapes, but Daisy felt better at the end of it. She neatly timed finishing with the call from the front desk saying the pizza had arrived. 

“I’ll get it.” Kora bounced out the door, leaving Daisy to move the couch by herself. 

She thought about quaking it back in place, but decided it was too much strain on her arms when a good shove with her hip would do the trick. 

With her sister gone, Daisy could relax a little. Not-thinking about Sousa was kind of impossible. A small part of her mind seemed to be occupied either thinking about how much she liked being with him or trying to figure him out. No wonder Kora fled the room for five minutes of peace. 

Speaking of … Daisy poked her head into Sousa’s room. He sat on the bed in a blue dress shirt and suspenders — god, he was cute — and with an ice pack resting on his thigh over his khaki pants. 

“Kora went down to pick up the pizza,” she told him. “Hey, is the new leg giving you trouble?” 

“Just getting used to it.” But his eyes were tight, and there was tension around his jaw. 

She wanted to hug him, but she wasn’t sure if he was into that. She turned up her hands instead. “Can I help?” 

He shook his head, once. “I’ll be fine,” he said, setting the ice pack aside as he rose from the bed — a little unsteadily, but he got his balance quickly enough. 

“I think you’re already fine,” she quipped, wondering what was wrong. 

“Is that a line?” he asked. That got one of his amused smiles as he reached for her hand to kiss her knuckles. 

“Did it work?” she teased, shivering a little. 

“Hmm. Maybe,” he said slyly. 

Ugh. Why did she have to be so stupid for him. He wasn’t that charming. Daisy leaned in to touch her lips to his. “Is that better?”

“Definitely.” 

She hooked a finger around one of his suspenders and used it to pull herself closer. Wrapping both arms around his neck, she leaned in for the kind of kiss that made her want to kick the door shut and turn the radio up really loud. 

Sousa kept his hands firmly planted on her waist, though his fingers jerked as she opened her mouth to trace his lips with her tongue. He let out a soft squeak when she rested her fingers on the vee of his shirt, just brushing skin. He took that as permission to slake his thirst at her mouth, and she twisted the fabric of his shirt as need and want took possession of her with sharp desperation. 

Remembering her conversation with Kora about waiting, Daisy leaned back, not enough to pull away, but enough to catch her breath. “Wow.” 

“You’re stealing my words,” Sousa complained good-naturedly. 

“It’s a good word right now.” She couldn’t stop looking at him, especially not with him looking back at her with wonder. “Ah, how slow are we taking this?”

“At your speed. But—” he swallowed, his adam’s apple bobbing as he did, “I need you to be sure.” 

There was enough hesitation for Daisy to ease back. She licked her lips, sending him a wink. “I can work with that.” 

Sousa wobbled a little, not quite losing his balance, but he sat down hard on the bed. He blinked up at her, searching her face for a reaction. “Look at that, you knocked me off my feet,” he quipped. 

Daisy only reached for the ice pack and set it on his thigh with a pat. “If it’s bugging you that much, Danny-boy, lose the leg. Now, what do you want to drink?” 

He didn’t take it off, and when Kora arrived with the pizza and bottles of Coke, the ice pack disappeared. 

To keep Sousa from going anywhere, Daisy took up a spot on his bed where Kora didn’t think twice about plopping down next to her. Sousa gave Daisy one of those looks that said he knew exactly what she was doing. Which was fine. He needed a break. 

Eventually, Sousa pulled off his socks and shoes to join them, and it was clear that his feet didn’t match when he stretched his legs out next to Daisy. Kora ignored the whole thing while she piled slices of pizza on her plate. 

Daisy dropped her fingers on Sousa’s right ankle, idly stroking the skin-like covering. 

He twitched at the unexpected sensation. “I .. felt that?” Sousa reached down to touch his own foot. “That’s … weird.” 

“I know. I asked Jemma,” she said softly, “When the liner and prosthesis are working just right, you can sort of feel stuff. But it’s new and makes your muscles sore. Which means you need to give it a rest,” she admonished. 

Sousa raised an eyebrow. “Are you nagging me?”

“Can’t take what you dish out, Sousa?” she retorted. 

The look he gave her was by turns embarrassed, touched, and grateful. She’d left him speechless, and Daisy’s heart ached as she began to understand the hard road he’d had after losing his leg. She’d watched AC and Yo-Yo fight their battles, winning and losing sometimes in the same hour. 

Daisy reached for Sousa’s hand, pressing a kiss into his palm before asking Kora to pass the pizza boxes. 

 

*****

 

When the sisters returned to Daisy’s room to practice Kora’s shielding, Daniel closed the door to give them privacy. He didn’t miss the concerned looks Kora gave him, and he figured he’d better get some distance. She must be picking up too much from him.  

Spending the day with Daisy and Kora had been fun in a way he hadn’t had in a very long time, probably since his college days, when he and his buddies would pair up with the ladies from St. Joseph’s to walk about town. 

He shrugged on his shoes, coat, and hat to quietly slip out the door. He made it to the elevator before his stump cramped up in a nasty knot that made his whole hip ache. Pure stubbornness got him into the bar, where a television behind the bartender had a baseball game on that might be a good distraction.

Daniel found a bar stool where he could keep one eye on the game and the other on everyone else. He set his new fedora on the chair beside him. He couldn’t remember the last time anyone other than Peggy had given him a gift that wasn’t for a work-related event, and even Peggy tended to send him neat prototypes from S.H.I.E.L.D.’s lab for his birthday or Christmas. 

Casing entries and exits was old habit, as was assessing the other patrons for potential threats. Both were easier when one’s eyes weren’t burning from cigarette smoke. He’d left that particular habit at Bastogne and hadn’t picked it up again. He was slightly ashamed to admit he’d made it all the way through seven decades to the Hub with Fitzsimmons and Daisy before clocking the fact that most places didn’t allow smoking indoors anymore, and only because he’d seen a number of agents enjoying a smoke in a patio-style area with a sign indicating its purpose. 

“Can I get you something to drink?” the bartender asked. She had a friendly smile, a traditional white shirt, and a black tie that made him feel a little at home.  

“Bourbon on the rocks.” 

“Good choice,” she nodded, making her thin braids dance. “Got something so smooth you’ll forget it’s got a burn until the time is right.” 

Pleased, Daniel replied, “Sounds like my speed.” He propped his bum leg on the foot rail to ease the cramp. He watched as she poured up the bourbon in a short glass and set it on a napkin in front of him. 

“Need anything else?”

“I’m good.” 

“My name is Angelique, if you do.” She nodded again and moved down to the other end of the bar to offer a refill to another patron. 

Daniel turned his attention to the game. He recognized the uniforms and was happy to see the Dodgers playing. He studied the data on the side of the screen. The immediate intel impressed him. Bottom of the fifth with the Dodgers up to bat, one strike, one ball, no outs, and one man on base. 

But what in the hell were the Dodgers doing in Los Angeles? He poked at his phone to look up the team and found they’d moved out of Brooklyn in ‘57. 

The fact that Daniel didn’t have a single soul who could commiserate with him over that travesty put a lump in his throat, especially since they were down 2-5 to the damned Yankees

He sipped his bourbon to wash it down.

Daniel came here precisely to keep Kora from sensing these kinds of emotions. She didn’t need the burden of his struggles, and Daisy damned sure didn’t need any grief from his direction at this stage of things. She was barely out of the med bay. 

Right now, he missed his house. If he was home, he could lose the damned leg long enough for everything to rest and heal properly. He missed the stack of sci-fi novels he’d left in his bedroom. He’d only just started Andre Norton’s newest paperback, too. He missed — he firmly shook his head. There was no point in this particular exercise. 

He focused on the television. Angelique noticed and reached under the bar to set out a bowl of nuts for him. “Enjoy the game.”  

Appreciating the simple gesture that wouldn’t have been out of place three-quarters of a century ago, Daniel stayed until the Dodgers went down 3-7. He knocked back the last watery dregs of his drink in disappointment. There was no way he could go back to his room just yet, but he was out of excuses for staying here and wasn’t interested in another glass of bourbon. 

“Sorry about your team. Guess you’re a Dodgers fan?” Angelique offered as she slid the receipt his way. 

He added a good tip, filled in his room number, and signed his name. “I am.” 

“Dodgers are going to the playoffs this year, you’ll see.”

“One can hope.” 

She glanced at the receipt. “That is some damned fine handwriting, Mr. Sousa.” 

He donned his hat. “Thanks for the excellent drink. You have a good night, ma’am.”

“You, too.” 

Daniel tucked his hands in his pockets, exiting out of the hotel to walk off the rest of his mood. 

If he limped a little, there was no one to notice.

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Fourteen

 

Kora stayed the night, crashing out on the bed. Daisy didn’t bother to sleep. Her relationship with her sister was too new, and the horrors of the mission too close, to risk a bad night. They really didn’t need to break the hotel just for a sleepover. 

Instead, Daisy sat on the couch to play with coding for an entirely different kind of security system. Her time in space with Simmons, Piper, and Davis had given her a few ideas she hadn’t been able to explore at the time. 

When she got bored with that, she hacked into the hotel’s servers and set up a delivery to Sousa’s room. Good grief, she had it bad for him if she was willing to do silly stuff just for the hell of it. 

She worried, though. Sousa was out of sorts tonight, even if he’d joked easily and was as polite as ever. Daisy suspected Kora had picked up on something, but she wasn’t sharing, and Daisy wasn’t about to ask. His leg was giving him trouble, that was for sure, but she had a sneaky suspicion that wasn’t all. She’d have to pay attention tomorrow. 

With a jaw-cracking yawn, Daisy checked her email, working her way through a dozen email addresses she had set up for various purposes. She still had her website business, of all things. Fielding the latest requests for updates was always fun. She swapped emails with a couple of old friends, two of whom had no idea she was Quake, and one who gleefully needled her about it just as much as Sousa did. 

She scratched her arms under the healing sleeves. The itching kept her awake, if nothing else. She yawned again. 

Daisy desperately needed a few days of normal sleep, and she wasn’t sure how she was going to get it. Sleep in the healing chamber was different from regular sleep; the electrical pulses and highly pressurized and oxygenated atmosphere forced the body into a speed-healing state that kept one in a deep sleep and didn’t allow for normal dream patterns. 

But the moment Daisy closed her eyes, Malick was right there with his taunts and needles and knives digging under her skin. She rubbed at the thin red line on her neck. 

She’d much rather be thinking about Sousa and how he made her stomach feel like it was full of butterflies and the way his kisses made her toes curl. Like Jemma and Mack, he exuded calm in the midst of chaos. (May was tightly controlled fury, all the time. Fitz had this chaotic energy about him, and Coulson was only ever chill, not calm. There was a difference.) 

It was scary how easily she and Sousa clicked. Scary enough that she should be automatically suspicious — except she had the time loops and conclusive evidence that he really was as decent as he seemed. 

She snickered, realizing she’d come full-circle to thinking about Sousa again. 

Daisy tapped on her keyboard to check another email address and laughed when she found a link Jemma had sent to what was apparently several thousand pictures and dozens of videos from her and Fitz’s time away. Settling in, she whiled away the rest of the night paging through the pictures from the very beginning, pinning comments and emoticons to her favorites and adding questions on others. 

At eight-thirty in the morning, Sousa slid another note under her door. He really did have pretty handwriting. Gone for a walk. Text if you want to meet somewhere for lunch. 

“What’s it say?” Kora asked, bleary-eyed as she leaned over the edge of the bed to see.

“Ah, Sou--Daniel wanted to know if we want to go to lunch.”

“I think I’ve had enough of you two gazing romantically into each other’s eyes,” she grumbled. “Can I borrow your shower?”

“Go for it.” 

Kora was out the door before ten citing homework as her excuse, and it was probably true to a certain extent.

Daisy didn’t dare even look at the bed or she’d pass out and lunch wouldn’t be a thing. 

Brunch? Daisy texted, then wondered if brunch happened in the 50’s. 

But Sousa sent a message right back, Meet at the bagel shop? 

Have you had an everything bagel yet? 

??

She brushed a thumb across the screen, delighted with how Sousa texted with ease. See you in 20. 



Tired of the itching, Daisy swapped her healing sleeves for the purple gauntlets she slept in sometimes, then picked out a hoodie with sleeves falling well past the wrists. She kept the hood up as she walked, hoping to avoid another celebrity sighting. Not everyone was as starstruck as the woman in the diner. 

Daisy could see Sousa waiting outside the bagel shop. He brightened when he saw her and brushed a kiss to her lips in greeting, as if it was something they’d done a thousand times instead of the first. A zing went straight down her spine. 

“No Kora?” he asked. 

“In theory, she has homework. In reality, I think she had enough of her big sister and her new boyfriend.” She bit her lip. “Thank you. For being okay with her.” 

“Of course. She’s family. What’s an everything bagel and can I still get schmear?”

Relieved — and a little astonished — by Sousa’s easy acceptance of Kora, Daisy quipped, “Apparently good food does not go out of style.” 

She got two bagels with a pair of coffees while Sousa scoped out and scored a table by the time she made it through the line snaking through the shop. He half-stood, remembered, then took his seat again. 

As she slid into the chair beside him, she teased, “It’s killing you not to pull my chair out, isn’t it?” 

“I can hear my dad’s lecture loud and clear." He took her hand, expertly dropping a kiss on her knuckles. “I’ll have to show my manners in other ways.” 

Her hand danced with sparks that had nothing to do with superpowers. “You already do.” 

While Sousa investigated the cream cheeses, she sipped her coffee and looked her fill. He looked good, as usual, this time in his new clothes. Today, he wore a grey button down, a darker grey sport jacket, and a pair of jeans. She really wanted to run her fingers through his wavy hair. He pretended not to notice as he spread his choice on his bagel and took a bite. 

“How is it?” she asked. 

“Not Brooklyn, but not bad. I like the flavors.” 

“What's ‘not Brooklyn’ about it?” 

“I’ll take you sometime.” 

The edge of the gauntlet peeked out at the wrist. She tugged her sleeve over it, aware that Sousa caught the small motion and noted the change in hardware. He wouldn’t ask, she was sure, not where anyone could overhear. 

He saved those questions for their walk back to the hotel. He tucked her hand into his elbow. She was getting used to that. The move was too natural to be anything but a habit. At first, she’d gone along with it for the novelty. Now, she could see the appeal. Private conversation was much easier at close range.

“Did you sleep?” he asked in a low voice, practically in her ear. 

“Do I look that bad?

“You’re beautiful, but you look exhausted.” 

“I am.” 

“Can’t sleep?” 

“Didn’t think it was a good idea.” 

Sousa considered what she said, then gave her a short nod. “Understood.” His whole demeanor changed into something lighter. “We could watch another one of those space movies. I can catch up on history, and you can rack out for a few.” 

It sounded perfect. “Seems like I do that a lot.” 

“Seems like someone is recovering and is used to sleeping in a secure space with a team at her back,” he countered. 

Daisy shot him a sharp look, wondering for the first time just how well he was sleeping, especially given last night. “You—” 

“Have plenty of experience dealing with assets coming off complicated missions.” 

If that was a deflection, it was a good one. She leaned into his shoulder because she had to ask. “What about people you’re, uh, dating?” 

“Less,” he admitted with a sweet smile, “but I think we can manage.” 

She patted his arm. “It’s so easy when you get it. How’s the leg?” Sousa’s gait seemed steadier than yesterday. 

“Getting better. I wish I knew more about how it worked.” 

“Want me to tell you or do you want to talk to Simmons?”

Sousa raised an eyebrow. “How do you know these things?”

“Coulson lost his hand a few years back. Fitzsimmons made him a bunch. You should have seen the one with the built-in shield.”

“An actual shield?”

“A localized forcefield with enough power to block a falling wall or small explosions. He was proud.” 

“I think I’m jealous.” Sousa seemed disappointed. “And to think I was happy when our guys figured out a way for me to stash cash and an extra piece in my leg.” 

“You could do that?” Daisy lit up. “You should talk to Fitzsimmons.” 

He seemed mollified. “So, how does this thing work and why am I starting to feel … stuff?” 

Daisy cheerfully explained about microprocessors and neural feedback connections. Yo-Yo had been chatty one night after Jemma gave her the newest set of arms. Daisy had gone on to ask Jemma a million questions and was happy to share what she knew. 

“So the more I use the leg, the more neurons will start firing, and I’ll be able to sense more with it,” Sousa concluded as they stepped into the hotel’s elevator.

Daisy let go of his arm and sidestepped to follow him in. “Exactly. And that’s just with a socket-style prosthesis. You’ve got a lot more options now.” 

“That’s … not what I’m used to,” he muttered, seeming flustered as the door closed behind her. 

“Options?’

“Ladies not going first.” 

“Wasn’t the purpose of that to give cover? If that’s the case, Danny-boy, consider it done.” 

He cupped her elbows, pulling her close to graze a kiss across her lips. Daisy promptly ignored everything but the feel of his mouth. She parted her lips, finding his tongue with hers, and stepped in to deepen the kiss. 

He slapped one hand against the wall of the elevator, letting out a soft growl of approval. At the ding of the elevator, he lifted his head, eyes dark and shining. “Dais, you are a heady drink.” 

She walked backwards, leading him to their end of the floor with both hands. “Good. Let me know when you’re ready for the whole bottle.” 

Sousa stopped in the middle of the hallway, mouth opening and closing like a fish. 

Daisy waited with pure delight at his reaction. 

A smile appeared, with something intense and raw in his eyes. “I will.” He pulled her into a quick kiss. “It’s not going to be when I’m worried about you.” 

“Right now? I’d fall asleep on you anyway.” 

“That would be okay.” 

And it was okay. She shed her boots and jacket while he tapped on his tablet to bring up the movie and cast it to the TV. She tugged the gauntlets off because her wrists itched. Then she stole Sousa’s pillow to curl up next to where he’d stretched out on the couch. It smelled like him. She promptly fell asleep. 

 

******

 

The movie about three ladies working in the heart of NASA dovetailed nicely with the last movie Daniel had watched, from a completely different point of view. Peggy would have knocked him sideways if he didn’t have women at every level of his organization, but watching these particular women stirred up guilt and anger that he hadn’t done enough as Chief to change things even more. 

McCarthy had spent the last five years — of his years — whipping up the country into a fear of communism. Anyone even slightly suspected of being “different” was put on trial — by senate, by judge, by family. That alone had meant sheltering any number of good people who lived outside McCarthy’s box. 

Daniel scrubbed his face in frustration. He’d fought battles on every front, but it was never enough and never fast enough. Judging by the composition of Daisy’s team, some battles had made clear progress, and that was a good thing. Reading the paper showed him there were still miles to go. 

Hidden Figures caught him up in the story again. He stroked Daisy’s hair while she slept. The one time he stopped, she woke up enough to fumble for his hand and put it back on her head. 

He marked that on the list for Things Daisy Liked. 

Katherine Johnson furiously recalculated the rocket flight when Daisy shivered. Daniel pressed the back of his knuckles to her cheek, hoping to either comfort her or wake her. She flexed her hands as she trembled. 

He leaned over, lightly patting her shoulder. “Wake up, sweetheart,” he called.  

She bolted upright, eyes wide and dazed as she touched her neck, arms, and stomach — all places Malick had cut into her. 

Familiar with these battles, Daniel kept his voice calm and steady. “Daisy, it’s just the two of us in here.” He glanced at the clock in his room, automatically noting she’d slept just over ninety minutes. 

Blank eyes cleared as she focused on him. She shook her head, scraping one hand through her hair to pull it off her face. “I … yeah … okay.” She slumped backward onto the other end of the couch. “Who needs sleep, right?” 

Daisy shoved her feet against his thigh and cuddled his pillow while she watched. He set his hand on her ankle; she curled her toes and didn’t move them. The casual theft of his pillow charmed him. He didn’t mind if she kept it. He’d like it better if he got to sleep on hers too. He worried, though. She needed more than a combat nap. 

When the credits rolled, Daisy rose to her feet. She stretched her arms overhead, and Daniel would be lying if he said he averted his gaze when her shirt pulled up to reveal a strip of skin underneath. He wanted to touch. He didn’t, getting to his own feet instead. 

“Good movie,” he told her.

Daisy licked her lips and took two steps closer to rest her hand on the vee of his shirt. “Your heartbeat gives you away.” 

“Does it?” He was acutely aware of the bed and their privacy. He was equally aware that Daisy had ninety minutes of sleep in the last two days. 

“Yeah. It does.” She leaned up on her toes to kiss him, one hand going into his hair and the other sliding inside his shirt to rest on his clavicle. 

He set his hands on her waist, carefully keeping an inch of distance between his body and hers. 

“Sousa,” she murmured against his mouth, “I’d really like it if you’d touch me.” 

“Ah, where?” 

She laughed. “Let’s start with about two inches up and under my shirt.” 

He snickered, sliding his hands exactly so. He ran his thumbs over her soft skin, liking the way she shuffled a half inch closer to him. “So what you’re saying is I need to step up to bat.” 

“Baseball metaphors, Danny-boy?” 

“Hey, it used to work. How am I supposed to know what is considered good etiquette these days?”

Daisy nipped his bottom lip, and Daniel had to chase that for a minute or two. 

“What do you want?” she asked. 

“You,” he said bluntly. “All of you. But not when you’re tired and healing.” There were other reasons, but none that Daniel cared to get into right now.

She startled, giving him a wry smile. “That’s nice.” 

“Not that nice,” he said, kissing her again, this time sliding his hands around her waist to drag his thumbs under her breasts--not going there, but letting the idea of it sink in. His right thumb hit an unexpected ridge — scar tissue, his brain registered. His left pinky found the sensitive edge of the newly healed incision. 

Daisy sucked in a sharp breath at the rude reminder of what Malick had done. 

Daniel pressed his forehead to hers, dropping his hands to the safety of her waistband. He’d misstepped. It was too soon. “So, uh, how do you feel about dinner?” 

She didn’t exactly retreat, but she eased backward and picked at her nail. “I need to work on my mission report for a while. Dinner later sounds good.” 

“Did they schedule your debrief?” 

“Tomorrow morning.” 

“It will be good to get both of those out of the way.” Daniel inwardly winced as he said it. He wanted to be a boyfriend, not a boss. 

“It will. Knock on my door at six?” 

“Six on the dot,” he promised. 

Daisy nodded and darted into her room. To his surprise after his stumble, she left the door unlocked and wide open. 

Annoyed with himself for moving too fast, he plucked the tablet off the table and settled in to read another history lesson. 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Fifteen 

 

Daisy wished she’d asked Sousa for a hug. The kiss was pretty incredible, and she loved his gentle touch. But he’d rested his fingers on her newly healed scar — and she hadn’t reacted well. Though she was glad he’d instantly let go, she felt cold at his absence. Empty, in a strange way. 

Writing the AAR didn’t help. She had to go all the way back to the crap with alien-Coulson, the shrikes, and the temple. It all seemed like months ago instead of just weeks. 

She sat on the couch to write the report, keeping to the facts. Shoving all the residual emotions down wasn’t easy, but it was the only way to get through the insane sequence of events. She’d have to explain the decisions she’d made along the way, but she’d work on that later. She found her earbuds, queued up a playlist, and got to work. 

At six on the dot, Sousa sat on the back of the sofa. He smelled good. Not particularly like a cologne or soap, just … yummy like a French vanilla candle or fresh coffee. Or both. She tugged the buds out of her ears. “Hi.”

“How’d it go?” His heart beat a little faster than usual. She wondered if he was still nervous about earlier. 

“Almost done.” Without the distraction of the report, the tension in her shoulders made itself known. She stretched her arms overhead to loosen the muscles. 

Sousa jerked a chin toward her laptop. “How’d you get that back, anyway?” 

“Deke did a recon of the farmhouse to make sure we didn’t leave any future-tech behind. He found my phone and my laptop. Did he find your cane?”

He shook his head. “Not exactly future-tech.” 

“Do you want another one? We’re right here at the Hub; I’ll bet Sci-Ops can make whatever you want in a couple of days.”

“That might not be a bad idea,” he admitted. “Why aren’t you wearing anything on your wrists?” 

“The sleeves make me itch, and I can’t type as fast in the gauntlets.” As soon as she said it, she rubbed her elbows where — she quashed that thought. 

“Ready for a break or do you need to finish?” His heartbeat slowed into its usual steady thump. She found it soothing. 

“Break,” she said firmly. Her stomach grumbled. “What do you know about Korean barbeque?” 

“Two words I don’t think I would have ever put together.”

“We’ll do something new, then.” She set aside her laptop to fumble for the boots she’d kicked off. “Let’s call for a ride; I don’t think I’ve got enough energy to walk both ways and still finish this when we get back.” She slid a hand under the coffee table and came up with one.

“I can do that.” 

Successfully retrieving the other one, Daisy popped her head up. “You can?” She didn’t think Fitz had put Uber on Sousa’s phone. 

He walked to the hotel phone on the nightstand, pressed a button, and waited for someone to answer. “Yes, I need a car in fifteen minutes.” He paused, listening. “Excellent. Thank you.” He smirked at Daisy. “There. Car acquired.” 

“How’d you do that?”

“The hotel has concierge services. It’s their job to make things happen for their guests.” He was ridiculously smug. 

It said something that Daisy found him adorable, instead of annoying. “Fine, but I’m driving. You can play with all the buttons.” 



Sousa did play with all the buttons. He even pulled out the instruction manual the rental company had left in the glove box to figure out what everything did. “Automatic road sensors? What’s the point of having a car if you’re not going to drive it yourself?” he complained. “That’s the fun of it.” 

“Because traffic sucks.” Daisy waved at the street in front of her. Thankfully, they didn’t have far to go. 

“Yeah, but I still like driving.” 

Korean barbeque turned out to be a success, except for the part where Sousa didn’t touch her at all unless she took the initiative. Which was understandable, appreciated, and still frustrating — mostly at Malick for ruining a good thing. Nevertheless, she held Sousa’s hand all through dinner. 

He also insisted on driving back to the hotel. He took an extra lap in the parking garage to get a feel for the new leg and the modern car. Only the slightly exaggerated movement from his hip as he moved his foot from pedal to pedal gave any indication of the prosthesis, and Daisy decided it was subtle enough she wouldn’t have clocked it if she hadn’t been paying attention. 

She kissed him this time, when they stopped at her door. She loved hearing his heartbeat dance. But, as the door shut behind her, she wished she’d hugged him too. Her friends had grown used to Daisy’s occasional hug-ambush. Mack was a hugger, too, and usually beat her to the punch, which was nice. She wasn’t sure about Sousa yet and didn’t want to scare him off. They were having enough trouble figuring out how to transition from a meet-cute in the middle of a warzone to a real relationship. 

Daisy picked up her laptop and carried it to the desk. She had one more part to finish writing, and it was all about Malick and the farmhouse. She’d skipped it earlier in order to get the rest of the mission report done. Steeling herself, she tapped it out, then moved on to completing the details on the decisions she’d made throughout the op. 

It was midnight when she sent it off to Mack. Her head hurt, and her thoughts weren’t far from the freaky little psycho at all. As she crawled in bed, she tried to console herself by remembering that whatever parts of him that didn't get incinerated were floating in tiny pieces out in space. 

She wondered if she could swipe Sousa’s pillow somehow. It smelled nice. 

Setting her laptop on the other side of the bed, she opened the playlist of movies she’d created to keep her company while she slept. There was too much in her head tonight to not have some kind of distraction. 



Scenes with Malick replayed in her head, from using him as a shield, to the drugs and not being able to quake, to Malick’s needles and knives. He held her down against the cold steel table, jabbing a needle into her neck. She gathered energy this time--

“Daisy, wake up!” 

Hands on her face, cupping her cheeks.  

“Wake up, sweetheart.” Sousa was there, at the edge of her bed, panting. 

“Malick—” 

“Is gone. He can’t hurt you.” Sousa pressed a kiss to her forehead, pleading, “Daisy, I need you to wake up.” 

The bed trembled, and he caught the lamp before it tipped off the nightstand. Daisy flinched, pulling back the energy she’d gathered. She gritted her teeth as it lanced back up into her arms with a flash of pain. She tucked them against her chest, half-hoping Sousa wouldn’t notice. “Damn,” she hissed. “The people in the hotel.” 

“Hey, hey, none of that,” he cajoled. “You’re in a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility for a reason. In California, that kind of tremblor is just a walk in the park.” 

Daisy grimaced, and on cue, the telephone rang. 

He picked it up. “Sousa.” He didn’t move off the edge of the bed, and Daisy could hear every word. 

“An anomaly was detected in this room, is everything all right, sir? Do you need assistance?” the operator asked. 

“No, thank you. I just knocked over a chair.” he replied. “We’re all good here.” 

“Copy that. Standing down.” 

Pissed at herself for losing control, she held her right arm where it throbbed the worst. “I need some ice,” she said quietly. 

“I’ll get it.” 

By the time he got back with a hand towel full of ice, a dark red mark had spread across her forearm. She took the towel and set it over it. 

“Did you re-break it?” 

“I don’t know. I’m not supposed to quake right now. I need my phone. Fitz put a scanner on it. The readings will go to Simmons.” 

Sousa found her phone on the floor and opened the app. Daisy sent the scan, and Jemma called only a couple of minutes later. Daisy put the phone on speaker so she wouldn’t have to hold it. 

“Hey, Simmons.” 

Daisy, what did I tell you about quaking without the gauntlets.” 

“I was asleep!” 

“Isn’t Sousa staying with you?” 

Sousa snickered as Daisy’s mouth fell open. “No!” 

“Oh. Oops. Is he there now?” 

“Yeah, now he’s here. He wasn’t before. Is it broken again?” 

“No. You’re lucky this time. Why did you take the sleeves off?”

“They itch.” 

“You need something, even those purple and black ones you like to wear with your hoodies. Take it easy, Daisy. Don’t make me put you in the healing chamber again.”

“Where are they? I’ll get them, and you can visit with Simmons,” Sousa offered. 

Daisy gave him a grateful smile. “Top drawer on the right.” 

He opened the dresser drawer, and she wondered what he made of all the tac gear. But he came up with the gauntlets in question and helped Daisy latch them in place so she didn’t have to put too much pressure on her wrists.

Then he kissed her on the temple and left, leaving the door open. 

His bare shoulders, the tank top, and the open door all registered at the same time as he disappeared into his room. Her heart zipped up into triple time for a completely different reason. 

Daisy?” Jemma called out from the phone’s speaker. 

 

*****

 

It should have been strange to open a drawer to find weapons and tac gear neatly lined up inside, but Daniel had his own just like it. He supposed they would need a better system when Alya came to visit. 

He helped Daisy with the gauntlets, then went back to his room to give her privacy for her call and to pull a shirt on so he wasn’t just wearing the tank top. He hadn’t even fastened the buttons when the phone he’d left on the bedside table lit up with a text from Simmons. 

If Daisy quakes by accident, she pulls her energies. Watch for bruising from microfractures, bloody nose, splitting headache. 

Like a three in the morning quake and then she can’t wake up the next day? he texted back. 

Damn. 

What do I do? 

She used to bunk in with me when things got bad. 

Copy that, he texted. 

Daisy wasn’t long in finishing her call with Simmons. It wasn’t even six a.m. in England, but Daniel appreciated Jemma being so quick to respond. He leaned around the corner, then took a couple of steps inside when he saw Daisy was still sitting on the bed. Her eyes widened when she saw him. 

“Hey, are you okay?” he asked. 

“Sure,” she mumbled, staring at him. 

He glanced down at himself, double-checking he hadn’t missed covering anything important this time. “Is this inappropriate?” he asked, reaching for the buttons to close them up, “I, uh, can get a robe.” 

“Noooooooo,” Daisy said with what he now recognized as admiration. “Look, it’s been a while since I’ve, you know, gotten any. And you’re awfully pretty, Sousa.” 

Daniel felt his cheeks heat up, and he suddenly didn’t know what to do with his hands. It didn’t help that now that the crisis had passed, he could see she was wearing only an old S.H.I.E.L.D. t-shirt and those legging things she liked. All of it clung to her in ways he shouldn’t be noticing right now, but he definitely was. 

She crowed with glee. “Wow. Wait until I tell you what I think about your arms.” 

“How about you tell me what woke you up, and then we can talk about my arms.” Daniel desperately tried to change the subject. Heaven only knew how much he wanted to take Daisy to bed, but there were … logistical issues he wasn’t sure she was ready to deal with. He reached for a chair, but she shook her head.

“Hey, don’t do that.” She tugged on his hand so that he sat on the edge of the bed again. 

“Nightmare?” he prodded, not wanting to get distracted. 

“Malick. Being helpless.” She pulled her knees up to rest her chin on them. 

“Ah.” Daniel raised his eyebrows. “I recall someone hiding glass in her fist. How’d you get that, anyway?” 

Daisy opened her hand to look at the bright red scar on her palm. “Grabbed one of the beakers. Smashed it. Kept the pieces.” 

“So not helpless, just biding your time.” 

“We both know where I’d be if you hadn’t been there.” Daisy tilted her head. “And we both know who the badass is who hiked a couple of miles carrying yours truly. That can’t have been easy.” 

“We made it, didn’t we?” Talking about it made his stump ache, but he ignored it. 

She frowned as she looked him over. “Why are you wearing your leg in the middle of the night, anyway? Even Yo-Yo needs a break so the muscles can rest, and Coulson left his hand just about everywhere, but that might have been to freak everyone out.” 

It took him a while to answer. “It’s a long story,” he said at last, echoing her words about her mom. 

“Does it have anything to do with the fact I’m sleeping next door?” 

“It might.”

“Ah.” Daisy hugged her knees again. “So ... if you were to go next door, would you keep it on?” 

“I would.” He loved how swiftly she could link facts together into a cohesive story. 

She patted the bed next to her. “Then, um, any chance you’d stay here. Just to sleep? For now.” 

Even after Jemma’s text, Daniel hadn’t expected Daisy to ask. Refusal didn’t cross his mind. “Of course.” 

And we have an unbroken streak,” she muttered. She moved her laptop to the floor and slid down under the covers to wait for him to turn out the lights in his room and come back. He took the other side of the king-sized bed as Daisy clicked off the lamp above her head. 

It had been a long time since he’d slept next to anyone. Daisy held out her hand. He took it, pressing a kiss to her fingertips. She scooted until she was only inches from him. 

“Hey, Sousa?”

“Yes, Daisy.”

“How’d you get through my door?”

Daniel chuckled as he stretched out on his back and tucked his other arm under his head. “As you said, there’s no real point in putting a lock on anything. We all know how to pick ‘em.” 

“Badass square,” she mumbled. 

He brought her hand up to kiss her fingers again, absurdly happy to be here.

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Sixteen

 

Just like that, everything changed. 

Daisy asked Sousa to stay because it guaranteed she wouldn’t dare fall back asleep. Holding his hand kept the nasty memories at the edge of her psyche. 

It kind of wasn’t fair how Sousa could sleep anywhere. He’d kissed her fingers and less than two minutes later, he breathed with quiet, steady huffs. 

A single tear leaked out of her eye, dripping onto the sheets. She knew this couldn’t last. In spite of Sousa’s pretty words that were everything she wanted to hear, there was no way he’d want to deal with her mess. She wasn’t the legendary Peggy Carter, who had her crap together even on her worst days. Daisy had found out the hard way she wasn’t meant to lead, much to Coulson’s disappointment. She was too blunt to inspire a team and too pragmatic to always take the high road. But she was good at holding a director accountable, and that made her a decent second-in-command. 

Sousa was a natural leader, and it was so, so easy to fall in step with him. With his charm and wit, and the fact he was just decent, she found herself going along with whatever he suggested. Though, to be fair, he hadn’t tried to stop her from doing anything, he’d just coaxed her into doing it in a slightly more sensible fashion. She wondered what would happen the first time they disagreed on something important. 

Then again, there didn’t need to be a first time because Daisy was a mess, and it wouldn’t take long for Sousa to figure that out now that the dust was settling. 

S.H.I.E.L.D. had put them up in a hotel because they needed to keep an eye on Daisy. Sousa apparently understood the risks of being around her and had code phrases in place. She wasn’t sure if she was mad about that or not. 

She fisted her hand, grimacing as her arm throbbed. Sousa — even in his sleep — patted it where it rested against his chest until she flattened it again. His heartbeat never wavered, keeping a calm, steady rhythm. 

How was he real? 

Instead of sleeping, Daisy tried May’s meditations, working to clear her mind of the horrors dancing at the fringes. The warmth of Sousa’s chest through the thin cotton of his shirt pulled her focus, but worked all the same. She held on, using the beat of his heart to count the minutes until morning. 

Daisy pretended to be asleep when Sousa woke and headed back to his room. If he noticed, he didn’t say anything. But she was exhausted. All she really wanted to do was crawl in next to him with her head on his shoulder and stay there for a week. He’d let her if she asked. 

Both ideas terrified her. 

Sousa stepped into her life and everything clicked. She wanted to be with him morning to night. When he was gone, her thoughts didn’t stray far from him, and there was an emptiness she didn’t like.

She’d loved Lincoln, but they had too many secrets and too much baggage to even begin to trust each other the way Daisy wanted to trust Sousa. 

Did trust Sousa, if she was being honest. And that scared her silly. 

It felt … it felt …. it felt too much like Hive. That addiction. The craving. 

She waited until Sousa was in his shower, then closed her connecting door. She locked it on principle. 

Daisy cleaned up in record time, texted a quick note to him about the debrief, and bolted for the Hub. She was stupidly early, but Deputy Director Ng didn’t seem to mind and arranged for a conference room right away. She already had Mack’s report, along with everyone else’s AAR. 

Walking through it all out loud was worse than writing it up. The deputy director asked good questions about Daisy’s thought process and actions. She definitely gave off the vibe that the team had done well in the face of a ridiculously challenging situation. At the end, Ng slid over a sheet of paper with names and phone numbers on it. “S.H.I.E.L.D. therapists are available to your whole team. Don’t be afraid of asking for help.” She looked over her tablet. “Anything you need to add before we dismiss?”

“Nope.” 

“Dismissed then.”

Daisy’s phone vibrated with a message. From Sousa. 

At the range. Lunch? 

She sent back: Going to be while. Catch up with you later. 

Sousa didn’t reply. She almost broke down there in the middle of the hallway when she realized he wasn’t going to respond, even to nag her a little. 

She left the Hub, desperate to find the quiet in her head. As soon as she cleared the campus, she flipped the hood over her hair, not wanting to be recognized. There was a liquor store one block over, and she pulled a couple of bottles off the shelf. 

She knew exactly how to keep from quaking in her sleep. 

 

*****

 

Daniel got Daisy’s text and proceeded to unload a full clip out of his new Sig Sauer into the target fifty yards out. 

Until now, her dodge this morning hadn’t made sense. He’d thought he’d left her sleeping, but given the speed she’d left the hotel afterward, that wasn’t the case. He knew a brush-off when he saw one. He just hadn’t expected it from Daisy. 

He reloaded, reset the target, and fired at that one too. 

They were both coming down off the mission, but he’d thought they were navigating that pretty well, all things considered. He’d missed the mark, apparently. 

He finished the training drills with his new weapon, then broke it down and cleaned it properly before reassembling it, reloading it, and tucking it into the holster under his jacket. He needed a shower, but that would wait. 

Unwilling to sit in an empty hotel room, Daniel took himself on a self-guided tour of the Hub, mostly to see where his access card worked. He found Sci-Ops and talked to them about a new cane. The team offered to introduce him to their prosthetics expert, but he declined. 

Daniel ran into May outside the fitness center. She had a towel slung over her shoulder and ducked her head in acknowledgment. “Sousa.”

“May.” 

“Where are you headed?”

“Nowhere, really. Getting my bearings.”

She sniffed. “Gun range?”

He nodded. 

“Daisy’s not with you?”

He shook his head. 

“She’ll come back. She always does,” she announced, looking him over. “Want to spar?” 

“Not yet.” He didn’t want to admit his stump was still healing; it sounded like a great way to burn off his frustration. 

May narrowed her eyes. “Let me know when you’re cleared for it.” She walked off, leaving him confused, yet oddly comforted by the short conversation. 



When he returned to the hotel late in the afternoon, he found a bucket of daisies with a basket of fruit in his room. No note though, leaving Daniel utterly baffled. If she hadn’t brushed him off, he’d blundered in not replying.  

Feeling sick to his stomach, he knocked on her door with the back of his knuckles, hoping he hadn’t screwed this up entirely. 

She didn’t answer. 

Knowing he was crossing a line, he tested the door knob. But she’d locked it, and he didn’t pick it. He did send her a text asking about dinner. 

Frustrated when he didn’t get a response, he doffed the leg and liner to give his stump a chance to rest. He stretched out on the bed, hating feeling helpless. Daniel ate dinner in his room and kept the connecting door open — just in case. 

But he didn’t hear from her that night. 

Nor did he hear from her the next morning. He made himself leave the hotel room to explore DC, eating by himself at a lunch truck of foodstuffs he’d never tried before. The loneliness scared the hell out of him. He spent hours walking it off, wandering through the streets of the familiar and the new. 

He knocked on Daisy’s door again that evening, his heart aching as he berated himself for moving too fast — or maybe too slow. Angelique served him another bourbon in the hotel bar. Dinner seemed pointless. 

Daniel slept restlessly, wondering what he’d done wrong. 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Seventeen

 

On Wednesday morning, Daniel woke with a clear head.

In ‘55, he would have gotten the message loud and clear. But this wasn’t 1955 Daniel, and Daisy wasn’t the type to blow a guy off. She was off-balance from the injuries, exhausted, and still reeling from the last few weeks.  

This had all the hallmarks of a post-mission crash, one that was confirmed when he received twin texts from Jemma and Mack wondering if Daisy was okay. She’d missed two check-ins with Jemma, and Mack hadn’t heard from her since Sunday. 

There was a third text from Coulson, checking in on Daniel himself. 

Pissed at himself for missing the obvious, he was pretty damned sure he’d had his own sort of crash, and now he got why Coulson wanted them at S.H.I.E.L.D.’s hotel. Far enough to give them space; close enough to catch them. 

Daniel felt like an idiot. He knew how to handle assets. Now it was time for him to act like it. 

He checked at the hotel’s front desk first. “Can I get a record of Agent Johnson’s key entries?” he asked the concierge.

“I’m sorry, sir, that’s private information,” she replied, apologetic. 

Grimacing, he added, “Authorization Sierra 616 Charlie.” 

“Yes, sir.” She keyed something into her computer, then printed off a sheet and handed it to him. 

“Thank you,” he said absently as he read. Daisy hadn’t returned to her room since she’d gone to the Hub. Honestly, he had no idea where to start looking. 

But he knew who might. He picked up his phone. 

“Coulson.”

“Sousa here.” 

“Good to hear from you. What’s going on?” 

“Is this a secure line?” 

“Probably not since I’m at HQ. Meet me on the waterfront in an hour? In front of the taco stand. We’ll get lunch.” 

“Copy that.” 

 

Coulson brought Daniel a new cane from Sci-Ops. The weight of it was comforting, even if he didn’t need it at the moment. 

The tacos were good, though he wasn’t particularly hungry. They found a secluded park bench that Coulson told him was popular with the agency for conversations like this. 

“So what’s my girl done now?” Coulson asked.

“You say that like nothing I tell you will surprise you,” Daniel grumbled. 

“Daisy doesn’t always have the best frame of reference to interpret what’s happening to her. She’s the first in a fight and the last to believe she deserves anything good. I’ve been working on that for a while now. We’re making progress.”

“We had a couple of nice days,” Daniel started, “including the one with Kora. They’re both trying to make it work. And Kora’s sweet in her own way. The three of us had a good time.” 

“That’s good to hear.”

“Kora asked a lot of questions. Daisy answered them. She couldn’t sleep much after that.”

“Anything Daisy told you,” Coulson said, grimacing, “it’s a hell of a lot worse.”

Daniel got that just from the little Daisy had shared with him on the Zephyr. “Mack said she’d been hurt,” he volunteered. 

“Sousa, that doesn’t even scratch the surface. She’s the strongest person I know.” Coulson leaned against the bench. “And I’m not talking about her superpowers.” Eying him, Coulson added, “I’m guessing Daisy quaked in her sleep?” 

Daniel nodded. “I don’t think that was all though. The front desk called and I gave them the all clear. She seemed upset.” 

“Damn. I should have told her about that.” Coulson seemed contrite. 

“She didn’t know?”

Coulson shook his head. “Daisy has either been fighting or healing since ‘73. Not a lot of time for details, and she was sort of preoccupied by you. Which isn’t a bad thing, just, re: see above about not always having a good frame of reference. What else?” 

“She hasn’t gone back to the hotel since she went in for debrief on Monday.” 

“And you know this, how?”

“Checked with the front desk,” he admitted, crossing his arms. “Maybe took advantage of my brand new S.H.I.E.L.D. rank.” 

“Not a bad idea. Did they use a computer?” 

“Ah, yes.” Daniel studied Coulson. “You knew this would happen.”

“You didn’t?” Coulson seemed disappointed. “Just the whole part with Jiayang knocked her off balance. Malick? You saw what he did to her.” 

“I thought we had a little more time before she discovered I really am as square as she thinks. I figured it would all come out then,” Daniel admitted. 

“Daisy doesn’t do things halfway. And she likes square. She’s starting to figure that out,” Coulson said drily. “Come on. Let’s go see what she’s been up to.” He rose from the bench, waiting for Daniel to do the same. 

When they turned up the path to the hotel, Coulson shot him a curious look. “How are you holding up?” 

“I’m fine. It’s strange reading the final reports on things I was working on, but at least I know how it all turned out.”

“That’s not what I’m asking,” Coulson countered. 

Daniel took his time answering. “There’s a lot of fallout. I’m hoping there will be something worth fighting for when we get through it.” 

“And if there isn’t?”

“I’m sure S.H.I.E.L.D. will find something for me to do, maybe in Archives.” 

Coulson snorted, amused at his answer. “There is that.” They rounded the hotel to the front entrance, but before they went inside, Coulson stopped Daniel with a hand to his shoulder. “Don’t give up on her. She’s worth it. I’ve been waiting a long time for somebody to see it.”

“I’m not giving up,” Daniel insisted. “That’s why I called you.” 

That got a happy grin from Coulson. 

“Where do you think she went?” he asked as they got off the elevator. 

Coulson shrugged. “S.H.I.E.L.D.’s right here, so probably not far. But the answer depends on how attached she is to you.” 

“Not enough to count on me.” And that hurt. Right in his heart. 

“Daisy is powerful enough to kill you and everyone in this city in her sleep,” Coulson admonished. “Control didn’t come easy, and her first reaction to anyone she loves is to protect them.” He flicked at the “Do Not Disturb” sign hanging off the knob of Daisy’s room. “I always hedge my bets with my girl.” Holding up his phone to the slider where the key card went, the phone beeped and a green light appeared on the lock. He opened the door. 

Daniel wasn’t expecting a full-scale bender. The lights were out, the drapes pulled shut, and the room stank of alcohol. He couldn’t smell the rust of blood or the funk of death, and that was an awful kind of relief. 

Coulson hit the light switch to the entryway. A quick search of the bathroom turned up damp towels and a stack of clean dishes from the hotel by the sink. That was a good sign, as was the lack of any evidence of drugs. Vodka seemed to be Daisy’s poison of choice. The trash can held enough empty bottles that when Daniel did a quick mental calculation, he felt ill at how much she’d had to drink. 

Crossing the living room, he jerked back the curtains so light flooded in. The bed had been stripped of pillows and blankets, and it didn’t take long for them to find all of it piled by the connecting door with Daisy in the middle of the mess. She slept leaning against the connecting door, tangled hair covering her face, and one gauntlet-covered hand resting on a half-empty bottle. Tear tracks warred with dark shadows under her eyes. Wadded up tissues scattered across the blankets added proof that this was more than just a desire to drink. 

Damn. 

“Well,” Coulson said drily, “now we know the answer to how she feels about you, Sousa. You couldn’t have just picked the lock?” 

Flustered, Daniel babbled, “I, she, the desk said she wasn’t here.” 

“From a computer and the first thing Daisy would have done is wipe everything. At least she hasn’t been in a fight with anyone this time. She usually comes in needing stitches.” 

“At least she comes in,” Daniel said with a sigh. He’d known too many assets who didn’t. 

“Exactly.” Coulson knelt down, setting a hand to her cheek. “Daisy.”

Daniel figured she was three sheets to the wind after everything she’d downed, but she opened blood-shot eyes. 

“AC.” She grimaced and tried to sit up, missed, and fell back against the door. 

Prying the bottle out of her hand, Coulson chided, “Really?” 

She winced in dismay as she tried again, succeeding this time. “It seemed like a good idea.” 

Coulson handed the bottle off to Daniel without a word. Daisy tracked the movement, caught sight of him, and looked away as her face crumpled. 

Daniel carried every last bottle to the bathroom to dump out the dregs. He found a clean cup and filled it with water. But he kept out of Daisy’s line of sight, giving Coulson time. 

Coulson tipped her chin up. “Talk to me.” He sat down on the floor, suit and all. 

“Can’t sleep ‘cause of the noise in my head. You know the drill.” She turned up her arm. “Gotta make sure I don’t hurt anyone. Can’t quake if ‘m drinking.” Her words were slow, though not quite slurred. “Almost broke my arm again. It’s not safe here.” 

Angry for the first time, Coulson snapped, “And you think this is the right answer? Come on, Daisy, you could crash in the containment module for a few days. You’ve done it before.” 

She shook her head. “S.H.I.E.L.D. is watching. Waiting for me to lose it.” 

“We are not being hunted anymore,” Coulson insisted. “Yes, this hotel is keeping an eye on you — to protect you, not to arrest you. I put the protocols in place myself. Yes, Sousa has code phrases for assistance, and yes, I even gave him an ICER if you were compromised. You’ve had nightmares in the past. Bad ones. I figured you were due.” 

“Did you tell him?” she blurted, as if embarrassed. 

Coulson shook his head. “I’d hoped you would stay with him and it wouldn’t be a problem.” 

“Why is everyone telling me to sleep with him?” she whined. 

“I said stay with him, not sleep with him. Daisy, are you telling me you didn’t bunk in with Fitz or Simmons or Mack when things got bad?” 

“You know I did.” 

“Then don’t be surprised if your friends are worried about you. The last few weeks have been hell. There’s bound to be repercussions. Now, explain to me why you’re sleeping against Sousa’s door instead of being with him.” 

Daniel raised an eyebrow, giving Coulson top marks for asking exactly the right questions. 

Daisy let out a soft hiccup of a sob. “It’s too … perfect.” 

“That’s not what I expected you to say.” 

Daniel echoed the sentiment exactly. 

“I want to be with him. I want to watch movies, and walk to HQ, and eat dinner, and bore him with all the crazy stuff I can do with a computer. I want to figure out what makes him tick and why he’s so dedicated to S.H.I.E.L.D., and why he likes space so much.” 

“Sounds pretty good. So what’s the problem?”

“Because the only other time I’ve felt this way was with Hive.” Daisy began to cry somewhat hysterically. 

Her sudden shift in temperament shocked Daniel, though it was a testament to how much she’d been suppressing. 

“I left Lincoln for Hive,” she babbled. “I went back. I asked Hive to take me back. He couldn’t. And I needed him to. Lincoln and Lash died to save me from that.” 

“How did Hive make you feel?” Kudos to Coulson for staying calm in the face of that. 

“Like we were one. We were together and it was beautiful and whole. We were complete.” 

“And you’re saying that’s how Sousa makes you feel?” 

“Yes,” she sobbed.  “Exactly like that.” 

“Ah. And you think Sousa is acting like Hive?” 

“No!” she protested violently. “No. But he doesn’t … he doesn’t tell me ‘no.’ He’s right there, every time I need him. If I said I wanted to sleep next to him, he’d let me. He did. No questions asked.” 

“Since Sousa clearly isn’t Hive, are you thinking you’re Hive in this scenario? Help me understand.”

“I don’t want to take advantage of him. He doesn’t know what he’s getting into.” 

“First, are you sure you’re talking about Daniel Sousa? The man who went toe-to-toe with Peggy Carter for a decade? Second, that doesn’t sound much like Hive to me. Hive didn’t give a damn about your feelings. He infected you, flooding your brain with enough endorphins to block everything else so he could use you. All he wanted was your memories and your blood. He wanted power, not your love.” 

Daniel tipped his head against the wall, listening. Mack had said it was bad; Daniel hadn’t imagined anything like this. She’d been brainwashed and used against her will. Malick hadn’t been the first to hurt her like that, just the most recent. No wonder she was terrified. 

“It feels …” she sobbed. 

Coulson pulled her into his arms with a rustle of blankets. “The same, I know. But you, Daisy, are creating all these endorphins on your own. Because you like what you see. You know Sousa is the real deal, and you like being with him. Your brain is patting you on the head and saying ‘yes, this is a good thing' because it wants you to do more of the thing that makes you happy.”

“Like an addiction,” she blurted. She slumped against Sousa’s door again. 

“Yes, I guess being in love might seem like an addiction. Except it goes both ways. You’ll hurt when he hurts. I’ll bet that’s part of why you’re so messed up right now. Because you know he cares.” Coulson made her sit up. “Love makes us do stupid things, sure, but it’s because we want to protect and cherish those we love, not because we can’t function without them. Addictions don’t give a damn about you at all.” He held out a box of tissues. She pulled one out and blew her nose. 

“Death follows me wherever I go.” Daisy sounded utterly lost. “Even Sousa died in the time loops for me.”

“Everyone died in the time loops, Daisy,” Coulson chided. “And now you’re just making up reasons for this not to work.” 

That was enough. Daniel rounded the corner so Daisy could see him. “If death is a requirement, can we check it off the list, sweetheart, and move on?” He handed her the glass of water. She drank it, but she wouldn’t look at him. 

Coulson dug in his jacket pocket, coming up with a set of keys. “There’s a safe house a couple of hours from here. Good place near the ocean.” He held them up. “Stark bought it for someone he loves when she was having issues with her new skill set. Unless you’re really trying, you won’t break it.” 

“Kora—”

“Kora is fine. I’ve got an eye on her. Better yet, May has an eye on her. Kora took your last name, you know. It bought her a lot of street cred at the Academy. We’ve talked. A lot. And she knows you’ve got to deal; same as she needs to come to terms with her mother and Afterlife.”

“She knows about this?” Daisy sounded forlorn at that. 

Coulson shook his head. “She doesn’t need to know the finer details.” He shook the keys, making them jingle. “Caveat: I won’t let you go alone. I’m not a fan of this version of self-care.” 

Daisy slumped against the door, swiping at the keys. She missed the first time, but snagged them on the second. “I’ll go.” 

Daniel cleared his throat. 

We’ll go,” she said, not quite meeting his eyes. 

Coulson stood, pulling Daisy up with him. She was a mess, but he kissed her forehead. “Shower. Pack. I’m sending housekeeping up here.” He tossed Daniel another set of keys that were wholly familiar. “Turns out, S.H.I.E.L.D. kept your car. Director Carter had it in storage all these years. I got them to make a couple of upgrades, plus there’s a few other things we had that I put in the trunk.” 

Daniel grinned for the first time in days when he caught the spare keys to his baby. “I’d just bought her.” 

“Did she have a name?” 

“Didn’t have one yet. I’d threatened to name her after Peggy, just to irritate her.” 

“You two really were friends.”

Daisy groaned. “He’s gonna fanboy on you, Sousa.” She was a little unsteady, pulling the blanket around her to keep it from slipping off her shoulder. 

“Fanboy?” Daniel asked. 

“Maybe just a little,” Coulson admitted. “Director Carter always spoke highly of you.” 

“So I understand.” It was disconcerting to hear people speak of him in the past tense, even if he had read the files himself and seen his own name on the memorial wall at the Hub. 

“Sorry. That must be annoying,” Coulson quipped. “Shower, Daisy. I’m not leaving until you two do. It will save all the awkward conversations with Sousa until you’re on the road.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Eighteen

 

“Really?” The sunlight didn’t help Daisy’s impending hangover, and neither did Sousa’s gleeful shout as he caught sight of his car. 

It really wasn’t fair how cute he looked in the new Ray-Bans he’d bought in the hotel gift shop on the way out. Daisy had a crappy pair of shades she’d found in her duffel, and Sousa shot her a look of disbelief when he saw them. In the shop, he’d dropped three different ones on the counter for her to choose from, and she didn’t want to think about how he had a better eye for fashion than she did. He paid for them, too, when she wasn’t paying attention. She didn’t know how she felt about that either. 

Sousa ran his hands along the car’s fenders in a way that made her wish he was running them over her. “1955 Ford Thunderbird Soft Top Convertible in Raven Black. Radio, heater, power steering, power brakes, power windows, power seat. I barely have a thousand miles on her but she’s a dream to drive.”

“We figured out the rear main seal problem, and now you have seat belts, air conditioning, and Bluetooth.” Coulson said. At Sousa’s quizzical look, he added, “Daisy can explain.” 

“Does it fly?” she asked, sotto voce. 

“Not yet, but I sent a picture to Mack. He and FItz said they need about a week if you can pry it out of Sousa’s hands now.” Coulson pulled out his sunglasses. “Go to it. Get better. Let me worry about Kora. May and I can handle her.” 

“Like you handled me?” 

“It’s what we do for people we care about.” 

Daisy stepped in to give Coulson a hard hug. “I love you.”

“I love you too.” He held her until she’d blinked back fresh tears, then helped her load her gear into the trunk. She set her backpack into the passenger floorboard and slid in after it. 

Coulson handed her a water bottle. “Drink that. Text me when you get there.” 

“Yes, Dad.” 

He gave her a smirk, then headed for the waterfront for the walk back to HQ. 

Sousa set his own duffel in the trunk and shut it with a slam that made her wince. He took the driver’s seat, turned over the engine, and spent a happy few minutes adjusting seats and mirrors. “Top up or down?”

“Dealer’s choice,” she mumbled, sinking down and strapping in. “Don’t forget the seatbelt.” 

He found it hanging off the side of the seat and drew it across his shoulder and lap. “This is new. And we’ll leave the top up for now. I don’t think you’re up for that much sunlight.” 

“‘k,” she said, leaning her head back with her eyes closed. The vibration of the car’s rumbling engine was soothing. 

Sousa shifted into drive. 

She was silent, partially because the fully-deserved hangover was kicking in, partially because she wasn’t sure what to say. Sousa navigated out of the city with better skills than she might have had more than half a century later. The interstate highway system was new to him, but when she pointed out the on and off ramps, he negotiated it easily enough. 

They were on Highway 50 headed toward Dover when Sousa spoke. “Does your superpower include metabolizing alcohol? I would have been down for the count a lot longer if I’d had that much to drink.” 

“Sort of,” she admitted. “Comes in handy when I’m matching drinks with a mark. Doesn’t help with the hangover, though.” 

“I’ll remember that.” 

She kept her eyes closed. 

“I heard you and Coulson this morning.”

“Probably better to hear it that way than make me tell it,” she answered. “Knowing AC, he did that on purpose.”

“Seems like the kind of thing he’d do.”

Daisy sighed. She absolutely did not want to dredge up all the memories, but it wasn’t fair to freak out on Sousa without any context. Slowly, with plenty of halting pauses, she explained, “Hive was HYDRA. The HYDRA, squid-face and all. Jemma ran into him on another planet courtesy of a stupid portal. Don’t ask her about it because it still freaks her out. Gideon Malick helped open that door a bunch of times.” 

“Small world.” 

“You’re telling me,” she muttered. “Our original S.H.I.E.L.D. team had another member. Grant Ward was my C.O. He turned out to be a HYDRA minion, tried to kill Fitzsimmons by shoving a containment module with them in it into the ocean, and he betrayed our team multiple times. Malick got him out of jail and made him his pet. Ward killed Coulson’s girlfriend just to be petty.”

“I take it he’s not still alive.”

“Nope. He didn’t come back from that alien planet. Unfortunately, Hive decided to use Ward’s body as a host and came through the portal Malick opened. Hive had all of Ward’s memories, and all the memories of all the hosts it occupied for a couple of thousand years.”

“So this Hive knew exactly how to get to you.” 

“Yeah. You could say that.” She looked away, trying not to think of it as any more than a crappy mission. 

“Did you and Ward—” 

“Date? No. But he played me pretty hard.” Daisy stopped talking after that. Field after field went by for long minutes. 

“Who were Lincoln and Lash?” Sousa gently prompted. 

“The reason I’m still alive.” Daisy's throat thickened at the memories. Her voice was hoarse as she answered, “An alien race called the Kree tried to make soldiers of humans thousands of years ago. The descendants of those experiments are still here, and if they are exposed to terrigen crystals, it activates their Kree genetics. I’m one of them. We call ourselves ‘Inhumans.’

“I had no control, and I was terrified. Fitz tried to help until S.H.I.E.L.D. got wind of my powers, then they tried to contain me. But Lincoln and Gordon — you met a younger version of him — rescued me and took me to Afterlife. Lincoln showed me my powers were a gift, not a curse.

“We were trying to make a relationship work, but a lot of things happened, and I didn’t know Lincoln had battled his own addictions when he was getting his powers under control.” Daisy wrapped her arms around her middle, trying to ignore all the itchy places on her arms and neck. “Lash’s real name was Andrew. He was May’s ex-husband and a S.H.I.E.L.D. psychiatrist. He broke Hive’s connection to me before Hive killed him.” 

She stared out the window. “Lincoln died to keep Hive from winning, saving me because that was supposed to be my job.” Daisy made a fist as she wiped away tears. “I didn’t react very well after that either. At least this was only a couple of days instead of six months.” 

“What brought you back?”

“Coulson and May, of course. Coulson just … never gives up. And May’s really good at giving you a kick in the ass when you don’t want it. I’m not looking forward to sparring with her.”

“Is she good?”

“They don’t call her ‘The Cavalry’ just for fun.”

Daisy picked at her fingers, then took off her new sunglasses and looked at Sousa for the first time since she’d had the nightmare. The hard line of his mouth and the shadows under his eyes told her how much she’d hurt him. “I’m sorry.” She set her hand on the seat between them. “I hear everything I’m saying to you and it sounds like a crazy person talking. Even if you do believe me, no one wants this mess. It’s a lot. Maybe it’s too much.”

“That’s not for you to decide, Daisy. Brick walls, remember? I’m here to pick you up.” 

Why?” That came out in a burst of shock and frustration. “Why aren’t you getting a real life with —with— a house and a dog and a normal person who fits.” 

“Into what? What makes you think I want that kind of life?” Sousa’s mild tone pulled her up short. 

“I … uh … Boy Scout?” she offered tentatively. 

The car was quiet for a long time. Long enough for Daisy’s stomach to twist into knots. She’d screwed this up too much to fix. 

“I thought I did, once,” he said quietly, “when I wasn’t being honest with myself. I hurt someone who deserved better when she figured it out before I did.”

“Ouch,” Daisy said softly. 

“I’m an agent. I need to know I’m making a difference.” Sousa changed hands on the steering wheel, dropping one to cover hers. “And that tends not to happen from nine-to-five.” 

“Oh.” His fingers felt good. Warm. She held on. 

“Which means—” he shot her a look of pure frustration before looking back at the road, “—this isn’t the first time I’ve encountered rifts in space and technology beyond anything I can comprehend. You do know what Area 51 was, right?”

She blinked. “I’ve heard rumors of spaceships and little green men.”

With a faint smirk, Sousa told her, "There’s a reason I was getting tech to Stark when I … died in my time. It wasn’t from around here. We’re S.H.I.E.L.D., sweetheart. We’re the ones everyone calls for the weird stuff. Learning that you’re part alien?” He lifted a shoulder. “Not the first time.” 

Daisy was pretty sure her mouth fell open. This man astonished her every time she turned around. 

Sousa let out a soft laugh as he stroked her hand with his thumb. “I’ve never met anyone who could rock things around before, if that helps.” 

“I definitely missed that part of your file,” she quipped, relief unfolding in her middle. “What do you want?” 

He sighed. “I’m thirty-six years old and I’ve been in love twice: once to a woman I didn’t love enough, and once to a woman I loved too much. After that, I thought I’d blown all my chances.” He squeezed his fingers around the steering wheel. “I’ve got a bum leg, a job I can’t talk about, and apparently, I’m square. Those aren’t exactly marketable traits when it comes to dating.”

Daisy listened, trying to understand. Wanting to understand. 

“You don’t—,” he started, then fell silent. 

“I don’t what?” 

“You don’t see me as broken. You see me as … me. Not a crutch, not a liability, not less of a man.” 

“Okay, maybe I already knew you were a badass, and I was going to have to be on my game. I read at least some of your file.” Teasing him was instinctive, an effort to lighten the mood. 

“Boss thing, I get it.” He seemed disappointed. A light started to go out in his eyes. 

But, maybe she did get it, and maybe it was past time for some honesty on her side. She squeezed his hand. “I guess you mean the part where this really hot guy walked into his office while I was reading the papers on his desk — nice handwriting, by the way — and for the first time in a very long time I wanted to get to know him.” Daisy shook her head. “I don’t take chances like this anymore.” 

Sousa glanced at her. “Why not?” 

“Because everyone who has ever loved me has betrayed me, gone mad, died, and/or tried to kill me,” she said flippantly. “Kinda puts a damper on things.” 

He slow-blinked, something she was learning usually preceded a snarky comment. She wasn’t disappointed. 

“Technically, I’ve died in this timeline.”

“And in the time loops,” she reminded him. 

Sousa grinned. “So it looks like I haven’t broken your streak.” 

“That’s … one way to look at it.” Daisy could not believe she was hearing this. 

“And you’re saying that I love you.” 

Her mouth fell open again. “I didn’t — okay, that’s a hell of a conclusion to draw out of all that.” 

“I’m a details kind of a guy.” Sousa brought her hand to his lips and kissed the back of it. 

That still did weird things to her.  She liked it a little too much. 

“Look, I thought I was getting a real life. With you.” He squeezed her hand. “I want this. The real question is: do you?” 

Daisy had expected the hard questions. She hadn’t expected the hardest one of all. “Yeah. I really do,” she answered.

“Then start by trusting me to back you up.” 

“You don’t ask for much, do you?” Daisy leaned her head back against the seat, wondering how she was supposed to do that. Sousa wanted her whole heart, not just the pieces she might be willing to dole out. 

 

*****

 

The long drive helped Daniel sort out the last few days. Driving gave him time to work through a problem, or in this case, draw a few conclusions he hadn’t clocked before. 

Like the fact that for someone whose instinct was to run, Daisy hadn’t gone very far, and she’d come around quickly enough when the cards were on the table. Progress, Coulson called it. 

Daniel had never been one to question his own rationality. Daisy, it seemed, couldn’t always claim the same confidence, especially when it came to her heart. She was here and trying to make things right. That counted for a hell of a lot in his book. She held his hand as she slept off her hangover with her head against the window. She’d squeeze it from time to time, but never loosened her grip.

He was still irritated with himself for not seeing the signs, but given the circumstances, he supposed he’d have to cut himself some slack. Daniel was learning about Daisy’s battles; he was no stranger to his own. 

In this line of work, it was easy to become cold and jaded. He wasn’t quite there, but he’d all but given up on finding happiness for himself. Few women were unmarried at his age, even fewer were willing to take a chance on him. Unlike a good many of his coworkers, he wasn’t the type to have an affair. 

He’d been lonely then, but the last two days had been awful, without a single old friend to call. Peggy had passed on just a few years back, and Daniel didn’t want to look up anyone else. He suspected a roll call of the people he knew would be worse than coming back from overseas. 

In spite of that, 2019 was a breath of fresh air into a stale life.  

S.H.I.E.L.D. promptly made him a director with a brand new ID and paycheck while they figured out his next step. He’d written a highly detailed report of the mission and submitted it to Director Mack, who’d passed it along to the other directors to review. That was new. After HYDRA, power was spread out democratically to prevent the kind of nasty infiltration that had happened before. Though having only one person in charge made decision-making faster, it made abusing power easier. As a director, he had full access to see how the new setup was functioning. He had a lot of reading to do before he’d make any kind of judgment call. 

None of that was important right now because, like Daisy, they’d sent him off for R&R. In his case, they wanted him to acclimate to this century before deciding his next step. 

Daniel had slightly different priorities at the moment. He squeezed Daisy’s hand. She grumbled sleepily and held it a little tighter. He liked it. He didn’t mind being her talisman against her nightmares. 

It was late afternoon when he pulled into the carport under the two-story beach house with a pat to the dash of his baby. “Good girl,” he murmured. He could see signs of age in places: mostly faint cracks in the finish that weren’t there a few weeks ago. 

This, more than anything else, brought home that the time jump was real and he was going to have to get used to a whole new era. A part of him half-expected to be able to go home and at least pack up all of his things. It was easier to think that way than to accept that all of it was long gone. 

Daisy didn’t stir when he opened his door, and he left her sleeping while he unloaded the bags from the trunk. 

His heart pounded when he found a familiar wooden box underneath Daisy’s duffel. He knew what he would find when he opened it, and he was right. His dad’s watch. His mom’s wedding ring. Photos of the three of them before he’d shipped off to England. A handful of pictures of him as a kid. His high school graduation picture. Another from when he’d enlisted. 

But there was also a letter on thick vellum paper, yellowed with age, with his name on it in Peggy’s unmistakable cursive. Turning around to lean against the fender of the car, he unfolded it to read: 

Daniel.

He could hear the irritation in her voice just by that period.

It is absolutely ridiculous for me to write a letter to you at this point, knowing you’ll never see it. But I can’t quite wrap my head around that idea, and writing to you lets me pretend for just a moment that you’re still here. 

Wasn’t he just saying something like that? 

My investigators tell me you died getting a key piece of technology to Stark. After you got it to Stark, of course. Failure simply isn’t your style, darling. 

Nope. It never was. 

They couldn’t find your favorite cane, which upsets me, as I had a need to keep it. I’ve stolen one out of your house when I packed up your things, but you’ll probably know that already. Don’t worry, I’ve settled your affairs, even the ones you thought I didn’t know about. I’m not dense, Daniel. You had every right, and you’ll be pleased by the way things turned out. 

That put a lump in Daniel’s throat. It was just like her to handle the details, even the sticky parts. 

I couldn’t sell your car. I know you loved the silly thing. It was perhaps the only indulgence you’ve ever allowed yourself. I’m putting it in storage with a few things of your parents'. I know you’ll want them together. 

I did. I do. Do you have to be so darned perceptive all the time? 

Your ashes are in the ocean along with those damned Hawaiian shirts you wore the whole time you were in LA. I won’t miss those at all. 

Just for that, Peggy, I’m buying new ones. 

Howard is already irritated with me for the memorial I’ve planned, but he’s got the money and I’ll expect him to spend it. I won’t let you be forgotten. 

You succeeded, of course. S.H.I.E.L.D. remembers. 

I miss you. You’re my best friend, and I will always regret that we couldn’t make it work between us. 

That makes two of us. 

Damn it. Now I’m sniffling, and that just isn’t my thing. 

See what you started? 

I love you, Daniel. 

I love you too, Peggy. 

Peggy

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Nineteen

 

“Sousa?” Daisy slid a hand down his shoulder, concern in her dark eyes as she caught him shedding a few tears. 

He tugged a handkerchief out of his back pocket and wiped his face with it. He held out the letter. “It’s from Peggy.” 

She delicately took it from him. 

He had no idea how to explain the love and friendship he had with Peggy. This just might be the moment Daisy decided he was too attached to take a chance with him. His heart beat in double-time as he waited for her reaction. He wondered what she would make of that, too. 

“I see why you love her,” she said after reading it and handing it back. She didn’t seem to be judging him, just stating a fact. “Take a few. I’ve got this,” she insisted, indicating the bags. 

Setting the box in the trunk, he walked toward the ocean, dodging the sand because that was more than his new leg could handle. He found the deck out back and leaned on the wooden rail. The stretch of beach was empty, probably owned by Stark too. The sun behind him cast long shadows, coloring the sand a bright orange.

He could hear Daisy unloading the car and the squeak of the steps as she carried the bags up the flight of stairs and into the house. Doors opened and closed as she moved about. Tracking her movements was easier than accepting he wasn’t ever going back to his old life. 

Peggy’s letter cemented the past in its place. Now he had to focus on the future. For certain, he’d learned on the fields of war that one could never go back. 

Daniel gripped the railing hard as emotions swamped him. His heart raced and his head hurt — all things he knew too well from when he’d lost his leg. It was grief, they’d told him, for more than just the loss of a limb. He’d come home with his friends either dead or still overseas, his mom gone, and his dad soon after. The loneliness had been hard to shake. 

The soft tap of bare feet coming down the back steps made him straighten up and wipe his face again. 

Daisy set a short glass with ice and a bottle of bourbon on the rail. “Your turn.” 

He tipped a finger’s worth over the ice and sipped it, carefully setting the old-fashioned down on the wet ring it left on the wood. 

Light pressure on his back turned into a warm hug from behind, with Daisy’s hands sliding around his middle. Daniel shuddered at the solace of her touch. He turned in her embrace, pulling her closer until she was sealed against him from shoulder to knee. 

“I, uh, I wanted to give you a hug. You look like you need it,” she said, her words muffled by his shirt. 

“I guess I did. I do.” He leaned his cheek against her hair, and it felt amazing. 

Daisy curled her fingers around the back of his neck, sliding into his hair as she pressed a kiss into the side of his throat. His headache eased as he held her, taking her with him when he leaned backward against the rail. 

“This is nice,” he muttered in a croak, a hazard of too many emotions all at once. She tightened her arms around him. He closed his eyes, soaking up her scent, her warmth, her comfort. He steadied, finding his calm again. 

He held her for another long moment until she squeezed him one last time, letting go with a pat on his shoulder. 

“I’ll leave you to it. I think I’ll figure something out for dinner.” 

But Daniel caught her hands. “Daisy. Thank you.” 

“You’re welcome. Uh. Take your time out here.” She looked away, as if to summon up courage from somewhere. “Can we do this again? Later? Maybe on the sofa?” 

“Of course.” 

With a short nod, she darted up the stairs. 

He leaned against the rail again with arms crossed and bourbon forgotten as he tried to figure out what was going on in Daisy’s head. 

One thing was for sure, giving up yesterday was a hell of a lot easier when he looked forward to tomorrow. 

 

*****

 

Daisy pressed the heels of her hands to her eyes to keep from crying again. The last few days had sucked, and being held by Sousa felt amazing. So perfect and comforting and right that she’d nearly dripped tears all over his shoulder. Which wasn’t fair, because he was in the middle of his own existential crisis, and she’d had enough of those to want to give him space for it without stepping in her mess. 

The connection between Peggy and Sousa didn’t surprise her at all. Peggy was a dynamic, magnetic woman by all accounts. That she and Sousa figured out how to still be friends in the aftermath spoke of the respect they had for each other. Daisy had feelings for Lincoln, that was for sure. Those hadn’t gone away just because she had a thing for Sousa. Jealousy on either of their parts over something that had already not-happened wouldn’t do anyone any favors here. 

In any case, her stupid moves meter was already maxed out for this week. The fact that Sousa hadn’t bolted meant he either was a glutton for punishment or had a lot more faith in her than she deserved. 

Mack and Jemma were used to it, at least. Mack had sent a frowny face icon with a GIF of a big bear hug. And when Daisy sent scans of her arms to Jemma from the car, she had to read screen after screen of a lengthy lecture about making her friend worry. Since it was exactly like every lecture she’d been giving Daisy for the last five years, it kind of made her feel better and that maybe less had changed between them than she thought. 

If nothing else, she’d managed to not quake anything. The bones in her wrists had healed up enough to be out of the danger zone, and the bruises had faded to yellow-green. She stretched her wrists and elbows through the healing sleeves, trying not to think about why they itched. 

Daisy gathered up all the laundry she’d accumulated in her duffel. Most everything in it needed to be washed. She sorted it all into a couple of loads and stuffed the first one in. The routine chore settled her mood, and when the machine happily sloshed about, she headed for the kitchen. 

Studying the pantry, she didn’t recognize much more than a third of the ingredients. She wanted to make mac and cheese, but didn’t see that familiar blue box anywhere — or any of the half a dozen knockoffs either. 

Of course, this was Tony Stark’s beach house, and he probably had people cooking for him and didn’t need little blue boxes to help get dinner on the table. He probably had chefs who could make everything from scratch. Daisy couldn’t cook anything that couldn’t be made in a microwave or on a hot plate. 

There were eggs in the refrigerator. She also found a frozen hunk of bacon in the freezer, but it looked nothing like the strips she was used to, so she put it back. She found a block of cheddar cheese in a drawer in the refrigerator, along with a tomato and sliced deli ham. 

Daisy dropped a chunk of butter in the pan, shredded a little cheese and ham, diced the tomato, and cracked four eggs into the pan that was probably too hot but she wasn’t sure. She stirred up the eggs to break the yolks, dumped everything else in, and sprinkled pepper on top. It took ten minutes, tops. She divvied it up and slid half each onto pretty yellow plates she’d found in the cabinet. She eyed the matching yellow glasses in the cabinet and opted for the red plastic cups instead for the ice and water she poured up. 

The back door alarm beeped as Sousa pushed it open, carrying the bottle and glass with him. He set both on the counter. His eyes were red but dry, and his heartbeat had evened out into its usual steady thump. 

“Good timing.” She set a plate in front of him with a fork, curling up on one of the four bar stools lining the island. “You get clean-up.” 

Sousa picked up the plate and sat next to Daisy. She noticed him casing the place and remembered he hadn’t seen it yet. “Two exits, front and back on the first floor. One off the second if you count the balcony. Twenty foot drop out the windows on this floor, so add ten feet to that upstairs. There’s a chimney, but it's got a security grid at the top. Access to the roof from the balcony. Panel is off the kitchen to engage the security system that would take me seven minutes to hack.” 

Scooting a tomato off to the side, Sousa took a bite of his eggs and swallowed it before asking, “Anything else?” 

“Three bedrooms: yours, mine, and a spare, two bathrooms: an en suite in mine and one in the hallway, all upstairs. Half bath, extra closet, and laundry on the other side of the pantry downstairs.” She waved with a fork to indicate the rest of the space, with the living room on one side, an island in the middle, and the kitchen on the other. “Otherwise, you’re looking at it.” 

“Smaller than I’d expect for a house Howard owned.” Daniel seemed to be willing to make idle conversation. 

“He didn’t. Tony picked it up when he wanted a safe house for Pepper Potts. My bedroom is made of materials like the containment module: adaptive tech to anything an Inhuman can throw at it.” 

“Ms. Potts is Tony’s … wife?”

“Still his girlfriend, I think, and CEO of Stark Industries.” Daisy pointed at Daniel with her fork. “Do not mess with her. Anyone who can keep a Stark in line is to be feared, and she does it in Louboutins.” 

“What are those?”

“Shoes. Very expensive shoes.” 

“So how did we end up in one of their houses?” 

“Coulson and Potts are besties who have lunch anytime they’re in the same city. They have this crazy calendar that a couple of security agencies would kill to have the intel on. And all they use it for is to book lunch dates at anything from five-star restaurants to taco trucks, depending on their mood and how pissed off Potts is at Stark.” 

“What can she do?” 

“It’s a variant on Extremis, so she can set stuff on fire.”

“What’s Extremis?”

“Another bad idea. People keep trying to make the super serum and none of them have any idea what Erskine was doing. Closest was Bucky Barnes, but that’s because HYDRA sucks.” Daisy poked at the last bite of her eggs. “Everything I’m telling you is stuff you’re already cleared for, but most of it's still kept pretty quiet.” 

“Bucky Barnes got the super serum? From HYDRA?” 

Daisy caught an edge to his voice. “You know Barnes? And Rogers?”

“Not the way you might think.” 

“Sounds like another story there.” 

“For another day.” Sousa picked up Daisy’s empty plate and washed the handful of dishes she’d dirtied making dinner. “Thanks for the eggs.” 

“No tomatoes next time, got it.” 

He leaned over to kiss her on the lips. Soft and sweet. “Give me a half hour to clean up, then I’ll meet you on the couch. Maybe we can watch the next space movie?”

She nodded. “Apollo 13 it is.” She turned to leave.

“Hey, Daisy?”

“Yeah?”

"How’d you know I like bourbon?” 

She didn’t. She’d studied Stark’s bar and made a wild guess. “C.I.A. We know all,” she quipped. 

Daniel got that cute little smile as he went back to washing dishes. “I’ll remember that.” 

Daisy turned her laundry over and carried her bras upstairs to hang in her en suite bathroom to dry. She passed by Sousa’s room, but he wasn’t there to notice. Which was probably a good thing, she really didn’t want to break his brain just yet. 

She splashed water on her face, hardly believing everything that had happened since Coulson had interrupted her drinking this morning. She’d texted him once she’d set the wooden box on Daniel’s bed, mostly to get past the temptation to peek inside. Five minutes later, she got a sternly worded reminder to sleep in some form or fashion that did not require alcoholic assistance. 

She didn’t know how to do that. Malick was right there. She tensed up, her hand going to her neck. 

With a shake of her head, she shut that down to focus on she wanted to wear for her “date.” With most of her stuff in the laundry, she only had a pair of jeans — the ones with an artful hole in the thigh — and either a soft lavender peasant blouse or a thin grey tank top to choose from. She went with the purple, and a pair of dangling earrings made her feel a little dressed up, even if it was just for a date on the couch. She traded the sleeves for her softest gauntlets, then made her way back downstairs, laptop in hand.

A trio of candles flickered on either side of the sofa. Two glasses of wine and a big bowl of popcorn took up the middle of the coffee table. Sousa had changed clothes, too, this time into a pair of slacks and a short-sleeved button down shirt in a dark grey. He was barefoot, like she was. She wondered if this was as casual as he got by modern standards. 

“This is … pretty cool, actually,” she complimented. 

“You made dinner. Thought I could handle the date.” He sat on the edge of the couch. 

“If you’re impressed by eggs, your standards are awfully low, Danny-boy.” She studied Stark’s set up. “Hey, wake up.” She tapped on the TV to see if it was touch- or voice-activated. 

The screen popped up with an array of options. Daisy squinted suspiciously. “Play Apollo 13.” The movie appeared. “Huh,” she said softly. 

“What is it?”

Daisy made a little circle indicating the walls. “The whole house is set up for audio commands. I’ll bet we can tell the house a grocery list and it will order it and arrange for delivery.” 

Daniel considered that information as he moved to the middle of the sofa with his arm stretched over the back. “Sounds kind of cool.” 

“Only if you happen to be the owner of a proprietary, dedicated, closed system. Otherwise, it’s a hackable nightmare and you’re putting all of your personal data out in the universe for the whole world to see. There’s a reason I erased my footprint.” She shook her head. “VPN’s are your friend,” she added with emphasis as she curled up next to Sousa so that he could rest his arm on her shoulder. 

She didn’t bother to conceal the smile when he leaned forward at the tiny image in the corner of the screen of Armstrong walking on the moon. 

“Is that the real footage?” 

“I think so.” 

Sousa gave Daisy a long considering look. “Ah, Jarvis? Would you show us the moon landing?” 

To her utter shock, an electronic voice — a very good electronic voice — answered. “Of course, Agent Sousa. And I might commend you for your excellent powers of deduction. Sir will be quite pleased.” 

“Sir being …”

“Anthony Stark, of course. Jarvis served the family for his whole life, and Sir was quite distraught at his passing. Thus, I came into existence.” 

Daisy blurted, “Wait, wait, wait — I thought J.A.R.V.I.S. was Vision now? How are you still here?”

“Vision and Sir recreated me in a smaller setting, suitable for a house such as this, because Sir has a sense of humor and thought the two of you would find it rather funny. Sir also says it will take you twelve minutes to hack the first layer of my security system and only if he isn’t paying attention.”

“I’ll take that challenge, but not yet because we’re on a date. Stark has to promise not to change anything until we have a match.” 

“Sir agrees. If you have further need of my services, please speak my name. Until then, I will be in passive mode, only monitoring for security concerns.” 

Sousa had the biggest, silliest grin on his face. “Wow.” 

“Who is Jarvis to you?” Daisy asked. 

“Howard’s butler, Edwin Jarvis. Nice guy. Constantly covering for Stark’s antics.” He shook his head. “I have no idea what Howard did to inspire that man’s loyalty, but he had it. Jarvis and Peggy were good friends. Really good friends, and they took turns keeping Howard on the right path. I didn’t envy them that job.” 

Daisy had a lot of questions she wanted to ask, but since this was a date, she said instead, “J.A.R.V.I.S., play the moon landing for Danny-boy, then we’ll get back to the movie.” 

Sousa kissed her temple and leaned forward to watch the Eagle make its precarious descent.

She had fun watching Apollo 13 with him. It took them nearly four hours to get through the whole thing because he would pause it to ask questions about technology, or history, or to tell a backstory about something he recognized. Daisy pointed out important elements he might have otherwise missed. She also stayed awake, which was nice since she’d missed the other two movies entirely. 

It was midnight when Daisy blew out the candles while Sousa washed out the popcorn bowl, his empty glass, and her untouched one. He headed for bed. She carried the last of her laundry upstairs, then dug out a pair of sneakers from her duffel, changing into sweats and a t-shirt. 

She rapped on his door. “Hey, I’m going for a run.” 

Sousa was mid-way through unbuttoning his shirt when he yanked the door open. Daisy lost her train of thought at the pretty curls of dark hair peeking out from the vee. 

“Daisy?”

“Ah,” she jerked her head up to look him in the eyes. “Run. I’m going for a run on the beach.” 

Baffled, he asked, “How are you not tired?”

“I am. I just — I can’t sleep yet.” In truth, she was still terrified of sleeping and hoped that if she dropped out of utter exhaustion, she wouldn’t dream. 

“How can I help?”

Daisy shook her head in wonder. “Never fails.” She pecked a kiss on his lips. “Nothing. Truly. I’m going to pound sand for a little while and come back.” 

It was clear Sousa didn’t like it, but he only said, “Will you take your phone with you?” 

That was easy. “Yeah. I can do that. I’ll even take my earpiece.” She went back to her room and came back with a comlink that Fitz had designed for the team. “Fitz gave you one of these for your phone, right?” She set it in her ear to show Sousa. 

“So that’s what that does.” 

“Turn it on. I’ll bet he’s already paired it so you don’t have to do anything to make it work. It’s just a speaker for your ear.” She set a finger on the unbuttoned line of Sousa’s shirt, dragging it downward until she hit the one button holding the fabric together. “You look … nice.” 

He lifted her fingers to kiss the tips of them. “Good to know.” 

They tingled. 



The packed sand of low tide gave Daisy a decent surface to run on. She left her shoes on the dock, tied her hair back with an elastic band, and took off toward the south at a steady pace. 

She needed this time — both to work her body and to figure things out with Sousa. 

It was easy to see he was trying to bridge the 1950’s expectation of what a good partner should be to whatever it was now. He had a protective streak a mile wide, though he’d carefully stepped back from suggesting she shouldn’t run alone or at night. 

Daisy had never been in a relationship with someone like him. She and Miles mostly fell into bed together after crazy days hacking for the Rising Tide. She and Lincoln had been too rocky to get much off the ground. Her previous boyfriends had been a means to an end rather than an endgame. 

Daniel Sousa was exactly the kind of guy who would have scared her to death five years ago. Steady as a rock, funny, could see through her crap, and still found her likeable. He was S.H.I.E.L.D. from its infancy and incorruptible, and that was a big green check mark in the ‘yes’ column. 

Wow. Okay. Daisy just learned something about herself. After Hive, trust extended to exactly the six people on her team. Deke and Enoch didn’t make the cut. No wonder Deke couldn’t get anywhere with her. 

Not only had history proven Sousa’s character already, but AC’s approval and innate trust probably did most of the work of getting Sousa past Daisy’s defenses. The rest Daniel did by himself in the time loops. 

That revelation actually got her to stop and walk into the waves just enough to splash her ankles. 

Could she do what Sou—Daniel seemed to be doing? Just … start walking down the path together and deal with whatever came their way? 

Possibly. 

She picked up the pace again, turning that over in her mind while she worked up a decent sweat. The sand under her feet made for good exercise. Sparring with May would be better, and might exorcise a few ghosts along the way. 

Crawling into bed with Daniel might work for that too. She really wanted to touch one of those springy curls popping out of his shirt tonight. He wasn’t ready yet. He seemed comfortable with people knowing he had a prosthesis, but Daisy was pretty sure only Jemma had actually seen him without it. 

Daniel’s biggest fear was that she would think less of him for needing to take care of himself, which was silly because you need what you need. Daisy apparently needed to be stupid every so often and he seemed to be willing to deal with that. 

She checked her phone and decided it was time to head back. She wasn’t quite ready to drop yet, but she was getting there. 

Which brought her full circle to why she was running in the first place. 

The moment Daisy closed her eyes, she was right back on psycho-creep’s table with needles and knives, which brought back the horrific memories of the old Fitz ripping out the blocker and even Hive himself draining her for his own use. She could feel Malick holding her down with the press of cold steel against her face. 

Sober and awake, the vivid scenes had her stumbling into the ocean to puke before she pressed herself to run even faster back to the house. 

She didn’t bother to turn on the lights as she brushed her teeth and ducked into a cold shower, a last ditch effort to chase away the sensation of knives slicing through her skin. 

It didn’t work. She slapped a palm on her neck, covering twin scars from two different hands. Vodka was beginning to sound like a good idea. Her hands shook as she dressed, and, scared of breaking anything again, she buckled on her silver gauntlets that went all the way past her elbows. 

The bedroom was lush with soft, nubby fabrics and pillows in white and grey, but sparse on furniture. All of the electronics and knickknacks had been stored behind blinding white protective panels. The king-sized bed took up one entire corner, but without a headboard or side table, it seemed more of a cell than a place to rest. Only her pile of clean laundry on the paneled floor broke up the stark palette. 

She turned off all the lights, flopped on the bed, and started up a movie on her laptop. But that didn’t stop the cold touch of the scalpel slicing into her stomach as she began to doze. 

Yanking herself awake, she bolted soundlessly for the bar downstairs. With vodka in hand, she slid down to the floor to lean against the cabinets, hiding in the dark from ghosts and monsters. 

Daisy unscrewed the cap, lifting the bottle for a healthy swig.

And then she set it back down without taking a drink, thinking about what Daniel had said in the car. Could she trust him to have her back on this? Should she? 

She crept up the stairs again, one hand hovering over his door. She’d done this a dozen times already in the hotel. Each time, she’d retreated. Both times he’d knocked, she’d shattered into pieces.

In the dark, she hesitated. Scared of going back. Scared of asking for help. 

She rapped on his door with the back of her gauntlet. 

So little time passed between her knock and the door opening that he must have been waiting. 

“Daisy?” He was tired, a little scruffy, wearing only a tank top again and a pair of sweats. 

She reached for him. 

He caught her, held her tight, one hand over the middle of her back and the other buried in her hair. She shuddered, trying not to think of psycho-creep. 

“What do you need, sweetheart?” 

Frustrated and exhausted, she spat out, “I need to not feel Malick’s hands on me. Or his needles, or his scalpel. It’s all I can think about and it’s driving me crazy.” She slapped her hand over the scar on her neck again as she pressed her forehead into Daniel’s bare shoulder. “I’m going to crash soon. I can feel it. And I won’t be able to stop from quaking the psycho in my sleep if I can’t get his hands off me now.” She breathed in that warm vanilla-coffee-Daniel scent in an effort to get her stomach to stop twisting in knots. 

Daniel cupped the back of her neck, holding her to him. Then he began to thread his fingers through her hair. She sighed at how good it felt. 

“Maybe I can help,” he offered. “It’s something that worked for me.” 

“I’ll try anything. Because the next stop is the bar downstairs and I might not have the will to put the bottle back this time.” 

Daniel seemed uncomfortable as he asked, “Can we move to your bed? I don’t want to wake you if you fall asleep.” 

“That’s an awful lot of confidence, Sousa,” she said, turning to lead the way. “And is it going to offend your sensibilities if we’re on my bed?”

“Only a little,” he teased. “Do you have gauntlets that aren’t as heavy-duty?” 

Daisy opened a panel and found out her purple ones where she’d left them on a shelf. “I usually wear these.” She unbuckled the silver ones and pulled the others on. 

“You wear those under your jackets sometimes.” 

“Yeah, I do.” 

Daniel turned off most of the lights so only the bedside lamp lit the room in a soft glow. He sat on the bed, leaning against the wall with his legs outstretched, and patted it for Daisy to join him. “Put your back to me.” 

Literally having my back. Okay. I can work with that.” 

He chuckled as she crawled on the bed and plopped down in front of him. Just being with Sousa made her feel better. She closed her eyes, focusing on the steady cadence of his heartbeat. 

He started by running his fingers through her hair in short, slow strokes from her forehead to the nape of her neck. “Tell me to stop if it’s too much.” 

Daisy decided if she needed a distraction, this worked nicely. It was hard to think about anything icky when he was doing that. “So far, so good.” 

She dropped her head, using May’s meditation techniques to consciously relax. Daniel slowed his touch to match her breathing, this time dragging his hands all the way to the ends of her hair. 

Only Jemma had ever played with Daisy’s hair, usually to braid it. 

Daniel’s touch was decidedly sensual, and Daisy wasn’t sure if that was all her or if he felt it too. When he pressed a kiss to the back of her neck, she shivered—in a good way, and it was impossible to think of anything but the delicious sensations he stirred up. Not only did she relax, but sparks began to stir within her for wholly different reasons. She let out a soft moan when he kissed her neck again. He dove both hands into her hair, pulling her locks down and out over her shoulders. 

He changed direction, brushing his fingers right across the scar Malick left on her neck. Daisy jerked in shock, a low level of panic bursting through her stomach. 

“Tell me to stop,” he reminded her. 

She shook her head, forcing herself to relax under his hands, now that she understood what he was doing. “I’m okay.” 

He traced the edges of the incision. Daisy hissed as her stomach twisted again. “Ah, tell me something. Anything. Talk to me,” she babbled. 

“Of course.” Daniel went back to stroking her hair. Once her heart stopped racing, he started, “I wanted a tattoo when I was in the army.” 

“Doesn’t seem like a good idea if you’re supposed to be infiltrating the enemy,” she mumbled.

“It’s not.” He dropped a kiss on her neck again, not exactly on her scar, but close enough that she hunched her shoulders. He nuzzled the line of her throat until she forgot about anything but his lips. He traced dizzying circles across her shoulders and down her arms, fingers skimming the places Malick had touched.

“Bastogne was … ugly, to say the least,” Daniel continued, “Most of us weren’t going back to the front lines, and not by choice.” He lifted her left wrist to press a kiss in the palm of her hand. “This scar says you’re a fighter, by the way. I think it’s going to be my favorite.” 

That got a choked giggle out of her. “A favorite scar?” Her palm tingled. 

“Of course.” Daniel went back to pulling strong fingers over her scalp and through her hair, this time drawing a line down her back on either side of her spine. 

She stiffened in anticipation. 

“It’s okay, sweetheart. It’s just me.” He swiped her hair to the side, setting his thumbs on the vertebrae at the base of her neck. “So we were in the hospital at base camp, and a couple of guys brought in this corporal with a decent hand. He made sure we all knew we were still part of the 28th, even though we were headed home.” Daniel brought his thumbs down about four inches. 

“Where is it?” She flinched, digging her nails into her hands when he passed right over where Malick had set the first needle.  

“You’re safe, sweetheart,” he soothed. “It’s just me, and I will never hurt you.” Daniel brushed another kiss to Daisy’s neck, his hands sliding to the small of her back where she could still feel the fat needle piercing through to take her spinal fluid. 

The pain in her mind was too sharp. She jerked away, rolling off the bed to come up on her feet facing Daniel. Power shimmered in her hands. He waited, unafraid, even though she’d gathered up enough to seriously incapacitate him. 

She knelt on the floor to discharge the energy into the panels lining the room. “I’m sorry.” 

“Don’t apologize for having the instincts to protect yourself. But I do appreciate your excellent control in not sending me through the wall.” 

Daisy locked eyes with Daniel. When her breath and nerves steadied, she climbed on the bed and sat with her back to him. “Do it again,” she demanded. 

“Can I kiss you first?” 

Flipping over, she straddled Daniel to attack his mouth with the desire she’d banked from having his hands and lips on her. She braced herself with one hand against the wall and one on his jaw and gasped at the sweet flare of need screaming through her senses as she tasted him. 

Daniel clutched her waist, his fingers digging into her hip bones while she slaked her thirst with one hand scraping the stubble of his jaw. 

When she gentled the kiss, pulling back enough to see his face, Daniel drew his hands straight down her spine again. Though his eyes were shadowed in the low light, they were intent, dark, and held her steady when his fingers reached the same place he’d touched before. 

She shuddered as Daniel warmed the area with the palm of his hand. She slapped a hand onto the wall behind him, refusing to tell him to stop. 

It was her body, her mind, and she would win this battle. 

He kissed her throat, sucking lightly where it pulsed. Daisy hissed at conflicting signals. And then he pulled his hands away, sliding down to her hips again, pausing for a fraction of a moment when one thumb brushed the scar on her back. But that one didn’t bother her, and she was too busy enjoying the hickey he was leaving on the other side of her neck.

Daniel came up for air, his hands clutching Daisy’s waist. She concealed a smile at the way he was trying not to move his hips so his extremely perky body parts didn’t connect with her thoroughly interested ones any more than they already had. She rocked backward to give them some space and was gratified by the frustrated pout she got in response just before Daniel rearranged his face into something better suited to the situation. 

With incredible care, he set a hand on the small of her back, skin-to-skin and just above where he’d touched before. She still flinched, but the indirect contact kept her from flipping out again. He held her — forehead-to-forehead — until she wasn’t panicking over the proximity.

And then he held her until she sagged against him. The moment she relaxed, exhaustion slammed into her. She couldn’t stifle the yawn she covered with the back of her hand.

Seeming pleased, Daniel pointed at her laptop. “Why don’t you start one of your movies?” 

Daisy set her laptop on the corner of the bed and started up her playlist. She looked over her shoulder where Daniel still sat against the wall. She didn’t want him to go, but maybe she’d already asked too much. 

She stretched out on her stomach, tucking her pillow under her chin. Reaching out with one hand, she curled it over Daniel’s ankle. 

To her happy surprise, he took that as an invitation to stretch out beside her, setting a hand on the curve of her hip and nudging her so she’d roll to her side. She could feel the heat of him where they didn’t quite touch. 

He drew long lines along the side of her body, from her hair to her waist to her knees and back again, going over her shoulders and down her arms, sliding back up under her shirt to touch bare skin each time where he could. 

Daisy couldn’t remember ever having this kind of sweet intimacy with anyone. She slumped against Daniel, laying her head on her pillow. He pressed a kiss on her temple. She closed her eyes. 

It was enough.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Twenty

 

When Daisy’s breathing evened out into true sleep, Daniel savored his victory. He reached over her to close the laptop with a soft click, then rolled onto his back to stretch out his bum leg, where the muscles in his thigh had cramped up from the awkward position. He slid his hand under the waistband of his sweats to run a finger along the catches. The socket came loose with a snick as it released the pressure on his stump. He left the leg in place, though; Daisy was punchy enough that if he needed to move, seconds counted. 

Tucking an arm under his head, he was more than ready for a few zzz’s himself after the last three days. Even a combat nap would do him some good, and he’d rest easier here within arm’s reach of Daisy. Like a good soldier, he promptly fell asleep.

The room was still dark when Daisy twitched restlessly on the bed. Daniel snapped awake, automatically reaching down to slide a hand on the electronics of his leg. He leaned up on an elbow to make sure it set properly. 

She bolted upright, slapping a hand to her neck as she did a quick recon. 

“Hey, sweetheart,” Daniel called out, inadvertently yawning as he said it.

Looking over her shoulder, she said in astonishment, “You’re still here.”

“Of course.” For a second, he wondered if he’d misread the situation. 

But Daisy promptly tucked into his side, lying so her head rested on his shoulder with one knee propped up on his good leg. Curling an arm around her, he supposed he’d better get used to being snuggled. She shifted to get comfortable, accidentally bumping his prosthesis with her toe. 

“You’re not supposed to sleep in it, Daniel,” she chided in a drowsy voice. “Jemma said.” 

A warmth unfolded in his chest as she wound an arm around his middle to get a little closer. “Okay.” He ran his hand over the catches again so the socket would release. “It’s off.” 

“mmmkay.” 

This was nice. Really nice. She’d called him by his first name, and he wondered what that meant.

He woke twice more in the night, once because Daisy got cold and fished for more blankets before sliding back under his arm, and once because he lost his pillow. He found it under Daisy’s head. Daniel plucked hers off the other side of the bed, stuffed it under his neck, and fell asleep with his nose in her hair. 

 

Daisy bounced out of bed early enough to justify breakfast instead of brunch, judging by the angle of sunlight streaming through the one narrow window in the room, which was entirely unfair given the last few days. She rattled Daniel’s keys over his head before his eyes were open, waking him with a kiss and the reasoning that Coulson let her drive his ‘Vette and she’d be fine in the T-bird. 

Daniel would be lying through his teeth if he said the sound of his car driving off down the road didn’t bother him a bit. 

On the other hand, he’d stayed the night in said thief’s bed and he was in love, which meant she could get away with most anything and he might even help her cover it up. 

There was a strip of town about fifteen minutes to the south. If that was her destination, he had maybe an hour to shower and shave, depending on her errand. In his bedroom, he traded the leg for crutches to give his stump a break from the liner he’d slept in. Simmons wasn’t going to be happy with him for that or with his scars that weren’t healing like they should. 

The bathroom wasn’t nearly as easy to navigate as the one on the Zephyr, but Daniel’s house had been worse before he'd attached a bar overhead so he could get into the tub without the crutches. Here, he had to sit on the edge of the tub, swing his body around and stand up again on one foot. His balance was damned good, but it would be nice if he had something to lean against that wouldn’t end with his ass on the porcelain. He had to reverse the whole maneuver to get out too. 

He propped his stump on the counter to get a good look at it. He needed to let it rest so it could finish healing, but this wasn’t really the time for that. Swiping ointment over it, he let it dry while he stretched a clean tank top over his head and pulled on the dark blue short-sleeved shirt over it. Feeling a little daring, he left the buttons unfastened. He slipped on a new liner, donned the leg, and adjusted it before stepping into a pair of khakis that were loose enough to go over the immobile foot.

Daniel made his bed, retrieved his pillow from Daisy’s room to finish it, then made hers, too, since he’d been the last one out of it. And that thought made him grin all the way to the kitchen. 

He was happy to discover his thief had left him a pot of fresh coffee. He had that and a tablet full of new reports from Coulson to keep him company, and so he made his way out to the deck to enjoy the morning sunshine on one of Stark’s loungers.

He had to admit he liked reading the intel Coulson passed along. The reports were clearly the agent’s personal files with comments and notes included. Now that Daniel had a broad outline of events past the Korean War, it was getting easier to slot information relevant to modern issues into place. Discovering Rogers and Barnes had made it to this decade was a hell of a thing. He tucked that information away for future use. 

The thrum of the T-bird’s engine grew louder as Daisy zipped down the road with the top down and music blasting from speakers that were better than the ones he’d started with, judging by the clarity of the sound. 

She darted up the stairs at the front of the house. A few minutes later, she peeked out over the balcony and saw him. Instead of going back into the house, she twisted over the rail and dropped onto the deck. How she did all that with a couple of shopping bags dangling from her arm, a white box of what was probably donuts, and a tall cup of coffee was a mystery. If she quaked her landing, he didn’t see it. 

He set his tablet to the side. Daisy’s legs seemed a mile long in those army green shorts, and Daniel wondered if they were at a point where he could pull her into his lap to admire them up close. “Good morning.” 

Daisy tipped her new sunglasses down. “Hi. Donut?” She handed him the box as she leaned in for a very thorough kiss that made pulling her into his lap sound like the perfect idea. But she dropped cross-legged on the lounger by his knees with a Cheshire cat smile. “Look at you,” she said in admiration, sliding her fingers down the line of buttons he’d left unfastened. 

She unabashedly looked him over, and Daniel opened the box to hide his nerves.

Two donuts were missing, at least one of which explained the powder dusting the front of her black t-shirt. “You’re rather cheerful this morning,” he said as he picked one out, setting the rest of the box on the side table. The first bite of a good glazed donut was always the best, and he hummed a little in appreciation. 

Daisy grinned at his reaction. “I slept without pain meds, a healing chamber, or vodka. Damn straight, I feel good.” She checked her phone. “I’ve got about three good hours before I crash again, so we might as well make the best of it. How do you feel about the beach?”

“The beach sounds great. I like swimming. But I didn’t bring a swimsuit,” he said apologetically. More like he didn’t have a swimsuit at the moment, but it was best not to think about that. 

Daisy plopped one of the shopping bags on his lap. “Problem solved.” 

He peeked inside, pulling out a pale yellow Hawai’ian shirt and a pair of dark grey swim trunks with one hand, still holding the donut in the other. He grinned. “Excellent work, Agent Johnson.” 

She flashed another smile at him, idly scratching the inside of her elbow, and then ran one hand along his left pant leg to land in the middle of his thigh. His eyes popped open as desire jolted his whole body. 

“Dock or shoreline?” Daisy asked. 

Since Daniel had just taken another bite of his donut, he coughed, making her laugh, and he had to drink his coffee before he could answer. “Ah—” Want scorched through him just from the tiny circles she made exactly four inches above his knee. “Dock, if there’s a ladder.”

“There is.” She snickered at his reaction, leaning in for a swift kiss. “I’m going to change into my new suit.” 

Thoroughly flustered — and aroused — Daniel needed a full five minutes before he was in any condition to do the same. 

 

*****

 

Daisy dressed in a purple and black tank with simple lines that was better suited to working out than showing off. This morning, she’d found it and a gauzy black cover up she thought looked pretty with her bare legs, along with a canvas hat, matching sandals, and chunky silver earrings to complete the ensemble. 

Since waking up, her modus operandi had been to keep on the move and simply not think about the icky parts of the mission. She’d stayed curled up next to Sousa until nervous energy drove her from the bed. If they were doing the sex thing, she had about five different ways to wake him up that would have been a good use of that energy. But they weren’t, and she was trying to respect his wishes. Which honestly sucked, but she was determined to do this relationship right. 

As if she knew how to do that. 

In any case, he’d been adorably flustered when she’d awakened him with a kiss and a set of keys dangling over his head. 

She glanced in the bathroom mirror at the swimsuit and decided it was good enough. She found a tote bag in the kitchen that she loaded up with her towel, a pair of water bottles, and sunscreen. 

Daisy wondered how Daniel was going to handle the trip to the water. Salt and sand didn’t play well with the delicate electronics of the prosthesis, though Fitzsimmons swore they would fix that for next time. It simply hadn’t occurred to Simmons on the Zephyr that Sousa might want to hang out on the beach.

“I like my shirt,” Daniel complimented as he walked in wearing his new outfit, carrying his crutches in one hand and a towel in the other. Jemma had done a bang up job on his new leg. If it wasn’t for the fact the prosthesis was hairless, it was a near match to Daniel himself. 

Daniel seemed to be waiting for her to say something, but the leg wasn’t what really had her attention. He’d left the top two buttons on the Hawai’ian shirt undone, and Daisy had a sudden need to unfasten those, too. “You’re awfully cute,” she told him, holding the bag open for him to stuff his towel on top. “How do we do this?” 

“I’ll use my crutches once we get to the deck. The stairs have enough sand on them that it would be easy to lose one on the way down.” 

Daisy hadn’t noticed. As she followed him down the steps, she saw how difficult the house would be for him to navigate without a leg. Even with it, he had challenges. He hadn’t said a word. 

Daniel perched on the edge of the lounger. The hem of his shorts rode up just enough to expose the top of the prosthesis, his thigh making a thin pale strip between them. His hands hovered over his leg, as unsure as she’d seen him yet, clearly unable to bring himself to take it off in front of her. 

Abruptly, she announced, “I, uh, left my shoes out on the dock last night. I’m going to go get them. And then I’m going down the ladder to get into the ocean, which is probably a bad idea because I can’t swim. Don’t be long, Danny-boy.”

She stepped off the deck, with Daniel calling after her, “What do you mean you can’t swim? You’re a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent!” 

With a wave of a hand over her head, she yelled, “I’ll explain later.” There. That should keep him annoyed and distracted for a few minutes. 

Daisy paid attention to the depth of the sand, wondering how Daniel was going to manage it. The dock would be easier since the wind had blown it clean. She picked up her shoes where she’d left them last night and stuffed them in the tote, along with the coverup and her new hat. Of course, that meant the sunscreen was at the bottom of the bag. She dumped everything in a pile, kicked off her sandals, and sprayed herself thoroughly. 

A swift glance over her shoulder confirmed Daniel was crutching his way across the sand. She made a show of rubbing in the sunscreen thoroughly and stashed the bottle before she stepped onto the ladder. 

It was old, just one board pounded onto the deck for leverage and a handful of wooden slats descending along the side of the dock into the rolling green waves. She had no idea if the cloudy water was two or twenty feet deep, though she could see shadows of tiny fish darting about here and there.

Waves splashed the ladder. She climbed down, yipping as the cold water caught her by surprise. She waited for Daniel, clinging to the bottom rung. 

When he reached the dock, the click of the crutches was followed by a soft thump. She listened as Daniel set the crutches on the deck, and then sprayed himself with the sunscreen too. There was a shuffle she couldn’t place, and a splash as he went into the water. 

Eyes wide, Daisy frantically looked around the thick brown piers to try to see where he’d gone. “Sousa?” 

He popped up just a few feet away from her with a grin. He’d left his shirt on the dock, and Daisy was instantly fascinated by the freckles on his shoulders and the dark curls on his chest. And by the hickey she’d left on his neck last night. Whoops. At least it matched the one she had too. 

Daniel took one glance at the way she held onto the wood. “You weren’t kidding about not knowing how to swim.” 

“Nope.” She peered down into the water, trying to figure out again how deep it was. With a laugh, he swam right up to the ladder to slide one hand along her waist, using the other to pull himself up on the rung high enough to steal a kiss. Her lips tingled. 

“How’d you pass the physical to be an agent?”

“I lied.” Daisy let herself down into the water, reaching a toe for a sandy bottom that was nowhere to be found. She flailed with one hand and pulled herself back up with the other

“They didn’t make you get in the pool?” Daniel treaded water next to her. All trace of wariness was gone, and he was as happy as she’d seen him yet. 

“I did my training in the air … on the Bus.”

“You have a bus that can fly now?”

“No, our C-17 Globemaster, a really big airplane—”

“I know what that is,” Daniel interrupted. 

“We called it ‘The Bus.’ It didn’t have a pool. By the time Coulson figured it out, it was too late to do anything about it.” She instinctively ducked as a pelican flew overhead to land on the dock. 

“Come on.” He held out a hand. “Paratrooper, remember? I’ve got this.” 

She gave him a dubious look as she took it. “What does jumping out of airplanes have to do with swimming, and who the hell knew you were part fish?” 

He grinned as he backed away. “Might have something to do with the fact that we didn’t always come down on dry land.” 

She let go of him, keeping one hand on the bottom rung and cursing as she got a full dose of water that was cold enough to give her goosebumps.

“Put your feet where your hand is and hold onto both sides of the ladder,” he instructed. 

She did what he said. “I don’t think this is going to get me anywhere but the dock.” 

Daniel dropped a kiss on her neck as he came up behind her. “We’re going to float on our backs.”

“I’ll sink,” she protested.

“Not with me holding you up. Lean backward so your head is on my shoulder. Look up at the sky, okay? But keep your feet on the ladder.” 

She shivered, but did as he asked. “Okay.” She leaned against his solid frame.

“Look up, sweetheart.” 

She did, and Daniel was right there with her, cheek to cheek, his arms swirling the water to keep them from going under. She copied his movements. When her feet slipped off the ladder from her own motion, Daniel simply pressed a hand on her forehead to hold her against his shoulder. “Keep looking up,” he reminded her.

And then she was floating, riding the waves as they rocked her from side-to-side. “This is so cool,” she squealed. They drifted away from the dock. “How’d you learn to do this?” 

“It’s how I teach the three- and four-year-olds at the YMCA.” 

“Of course, it is.” She drew a little square in the air. Then she glared at him with one eye. “Are you making this up?”

“Nope. I’ve been using the pool there in LA since I was with the SSR. I did a lifeguard certification there once, so they knew I was good for it. They got short-handed with the kids one day and asked me to sub in. I liked it. Since then, I help out whenever I’m in town and they need back up. The little ones figure if a one-legged guy can swim, they can do it with two.” 

“And you don’t do anything to encourage them to think that way.” 

“I’m sure they come up with it all on their own,” he quipped.

After that, it wasn’t hard for Daniel to show her how to swim on her back. He kept one hand under her neck until she stayed afloat under her own power. 

Flipping over to do it face down wasn't nearly as easy. She promptly sank and started kicking to keep from getting a mouthful of salt water. Daniel reeled her in to hook her arm around his neck and kissed her, treading water powerfully enough to keep them both afloat. He stole one more kiss before pulling her through the water a few feet to the north. 

“Stand up.” 

She did, finding soft sand under her feet a good ten yards from shore. She was still chest-deep, though, and on her tiptoes. “How--” 

“We’re on a sandbar. Water’s quiet enough to practice swimming without waves breaking over you.” 

Now that she wasn’t perpetually sinking, Daisy got a better look at Daniel’s arms. And his chest. Where little curls of hair were plastered to his skin. “What’s an old guy like you doing with muscles like that?” She traced a finger down the line of his bicep. 

He tsked at her. “Agent Johnson, are you not keeping up with your conditioning drills?” Daniel made a lazy lap around her while she tried to keep her balance in the rocking waves. He came up behind her, lightly touching her waist with both hands. “Do what I’m doing and see if you can keep yourself vertical.” He treaded water again, showing her the motion. 

When she had the knack of it, Daniel cut through the water in front of her with clean strokes to demonstrate. Since they were both well-versed in combat training, his explanations made sense, and Daisy copied his movements easily enough. 

Once she got it, she pushed off the sand, taking tentative strokes that propelled her into Daniel’s arms. He laughed at her squeal of victory and spun her around in a little circle. 

It wasn’t long before Daisy could swim short distances on both her front and back. It probably helped that Daniel was more than happy to reward the slightest success with kisses that made her toes curl. Her first swim from the dock to where he waited on the sandbar got rewarded with a kiss that was better than that. She wrapped her legs around his waist to suck on his bottom lip, and Daniel had no choice but to slide his hands along her thighs to keep her in place. Well. He had a choice. He could have let go. 

His dark eyes glowed with happiness. Out here, she could see little flecks of bronze and green in his irises. “You really like it out here.” 

“I do. I don’t need anything when I’m in the water. Not a crutch, not a prosthesis. No socks or liners or creams to keep everything working right,” he admitted. “Anywhere I went that had a pool handy, I’d swim every chance I got.” 

“I like seeing you happy.” She kissed his nose and slipped out of his arms to dart a few feet away. Daniel stayed close, not about to let a neophyte swimmer drown. They played in the waves while Daisy gained confidence in her swimming abilities. She might even have copped a feel of those crispy curls as she came up behind him to kiss his shoulder and wrap her arms around his middle. 

When the cool water made her hands ache, she found another sandbar closer to shore where the water was only hip deep. She stood up to let the water warm her upper half, rubbing her hands together to chase away the chill. 

Daniel came up behind her to chafe her arms and nuzzle her neck. “Had enough?” 

“Of the water, yes. Of you? No.” She’d burned through some of the energy from this morning, but not enough that she wouldn’t be willing to drag him into bed. “I’m hungry, though.” 

“I think it’s my turn to feed you.” Daniel followed as she made the short swim to the dock ladder. 

He sent her up first, and Daisy was reaching for her coverup when Daniel came up the ladder. She wasn’t sure how he did it, but when she turned around he was sitting on the edge of the wood, pulling on his new shirt before she caught more than a glimpse of the shrapnel scars on his torso. 

“Can I help?’

“Go on ahead. I’ll catch up,” he urged. 

“I’m not in any hurry,” she retorted, plopping down on the dock with her legs stretched out to catch a few more rays of sun. The warmth chased away the chill in her fingers.

Daniel gave her that slightly exasperated look that she was beginning to adore. “I’m not getting away with it this time, am I?” 

“Nope.” Daisy licked her lips. “Are we doing this or not?”

“Are we talking about walking back to the house together or being in a relationship?” he wondered. 

“Aren’t they the same thing?” she asked bluntly. 

“Good point.” 

Daniel reached for his crutches, and with neat efficiency, used his stump to give him a boost to stand up on the other leg. From this angle, Daisy could see a spray of divots and scars across his left leg. His stump was hidden by his shorts. 

She held up a hand, and as she expected, Daniel easily shifted his balance with the crutches to give her leverage to pull herself up. 

“Badass square,” she muttered. “Do you spar like this?”

“I have.”

“You should talk to May.” Daisy picked up the tote and shrugged it over her shoulder. “She’ll keep you in good form.” 

“She already offered.” Daniel leaned forward with his crutches to take a step. “Why not with you?” 

Daisy fell in beside him as they made the slow trek to the house through the sand. “She’s the best. I wouldn’t want you picking up my bad habits.” 

“Which are?”

“Getting overrun by bad guys and quaking someone’s ass to regain control. May says I’m lazy. She’s right.” Daisy flashed a smile at Daniel. “It’s fun, though.” 

“Don’t think I have to worry about picking up that one,” he mused.

“I meant the getting overrun part.” Daisy eyed his crutches. “Have you talked to Fitz or SciOps about what you want in those bad boys? The balance on them is crap if you’re using them as a weapon.” 

Daniel shook a clump of seaweed off the tip of a crutch before answering. “No. I will, though. The ones I had before were better. You should check out my new cane. That thing is a work of art.” 

“You do know the leg can handle a fight, right? The servos and microprocessors will give you a really powerful kick when you learn to use it.” 

“Really?” 

“Yo-Yo can pick up concrete blocks. It’s pretty badass.” 

“And here I was happy just to be able to walk without a limp.” 

Daisy shrugged. “It’s up to you.” She pursed her lips. “I’ll spar with you, of course, once I’m cleared. We both need to stay in shape. But I’m not the trainer May is. She’s always five steps ahead of everyone else and will teach you to make the most of your body—whether you’re wearing a leg or not.” 

“I’d like that.” 

They rinsed off in the outdoor shower first to get rid of the sand and salt before going in the house. Daisy’s teeth chattered by time she got the sand out of her hair, in spite of the warm day. But she refused to leave Daniel, waiting around the corner while he finished. 

“Daisy, you should be in the house,” he chided when he saw her. 

“I was protecting you from bad guys. You never know when one might sneak up out of nowhere,” she quipped. 

Daniel slung his towel over his shoulder and started toward the house. At the short stair leading up to the deck, he zipped up with an easy motion of crutches and propelling himself up all three steps at once. It was kind of like parkour on one leg. 

“Huh,” she said with admiration. 

“What?”

“That takes a lot of coordination and upper body strength.”

He nodded. “Push ups, chin ups. I keep in shape.”

She admired his butt as she followed him up on deck. “Yes, you do.” 

Daniel looked over his shoulder with the first real smile she’d seen this whole walk. “It really doesn’t bother you.”

“Nope.” Daisy trailed her fingers over his shoulder. 

He ducked his head to look her in the eyes. “All right, now you’ve seen me without the leg. Will you go get in a real shower so you’ll stop turning blue? It’s not your best color.” 

Any protests she might have made died away at his genuine concern. “Okay.” 

She was halfway up the stairs before she realized she’d forgotten to ask about his tattoo. 

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Twenty-One

 

Daisy conked out on the sofa with the pillow she’d stolen from Daniel’s bed while he’d been in the bathroom. He leaned over to kiss her forehead, catching a whiff of coconut from her damp hair. Her fingers were flush with color, too, so he figured she must have had a turn in the shower. The tank top she wore proved most of her bruises had faded, though she had on a purple and grey pair of gauntlets he hadn’t seen before, so maybe they weren’t all gone. 

They’d taken steps both last night and this morning that he hadn’t expected to take for days, if not weeks. 

But someone had told him that being with people like Daisy meant tagging along in their wake as they dove headfirst into their vision of the future. Since that future looked pretty damned good, Daniel willingly revised his plans on the fly.

Daisy needed him to trust her. She might cut him a little slack for now because they were new at this, but he wasn’t going to get too many chances to get this right. Knowing now what he did, Daniel wasn’t sure why she’d let him get this far. Whatever it was, he was grateful. 

He found the bottle of vodka she'd left out and moved it back to its place on the shelf above the bar. He was happy she’d let him help. He’d slept better too, even with the interruptions. 

A quick conference with J.A.R.V.I.S. got a promise of groceries to be delivered later. In the meantime, Daniel found a hunk of bacon in the freezer and set it in the icebox to thaw for another day, then got busy making thick sandwiches from the cold cuts he found.  

Daisy stirred about the time he finished, shedding blankets as she stood. He automatically checked the clock, noting she’d slept forty-three minutes. She rubbed the sleep out of her eyes as she rounded the island. He set down the dish towel, and she walked right into his chest, sliding her arms around his waist without a word. 

He held on as her hair tickled his cheek. He could get used to this. “How are you feeling?”

“Mmmm.” Daisy leaned up to nibble on his jaw. “Better. I think.” 

Daniel knew all the reasons why moving too fast was a bad idea, but that’s all it took to get his motor running. He cupped her face for a thorough kiss that left Daisy gasping for breath. 

“Holy crap, Sousa,” she panted. She boosted herself onto the kitchen counter and pulled him in so that he stood between her legs. “Do that again.” 

He did, sliding his hands along her knees, her hips, and up the lines of her waist — avoiding her newly healed incision this time — to draw circles with his thumbs just under her breasts. 

Daisy slapped a hand over his and yanked it up a couple of inches so that he cupped a soft mound through her thin bra. He brushed one thumb over the peak. She swore softly, making him laugh as he did it again. 

“Batter up,” he teased, pressing a kiss under her ear before sucking on that patch of flesh. 

“At least you got on base, Sousa. At this rate, we’re going the whole nine innings before anyone gets a home run,” she complained as she ran her hands up his arms and under his shirt sleeves. 

“Patience, sweetheart. Some of us enjoy the journey,” he retorted as he nipped her bottom lip. 

Daisy broke off the kiss to lean backward on her hands. Daniel reluctantly pulled his hands out from under her shirt. Her stomach growled. “If I turn into a cranky mess, it’s all your fault,” she pouted. 

He reached for one of the loaded plates behind him and handed it to her. “We’ll get there,” he promised. 

“We’d better.” She frowned at the plate as she slid off the counter to take a seat at the island. Delicately picking up one of the triangles he’d cut, she nibbled on a corner. 

Worried she didn’t like it, he offered, “Ah, it’s the same as what you made me on the plane. I can do something different though.” 

“No, it’s good. Really good.” She sat up straight when she noticed the napkin and water glass Daniel had set out. 

Her compliment was genuine, but there was something amiss Daniel couldn’t place. Still, it must have tasted okay, because she ate every last bite. 

“I think it’s my turn to make dinner,” Daisy said. “But maybe I need to hit a grocery store if we don’t want eggs again.” 

Daniel sipped his water. “If you don’t mind, I’m getting a few things delivered already. I can grill a decent steak.” 

“Wow. Okay. Going a little caveman on me and burning our dinner over an open flame?” she teased. 

“I think it’s a requirement for owning a house. The neighbors judge you on your grilling skills and how neatly you cut the grass.” 

“You mow?”

He shook his head. “I’m not interested in perfecting my technique when I can hire experts and nobody complains about how long it gets when I’m not in town.” 

“Sounds reasonable.” Daisy picked up their empty dishes to wash them. 

When he passed over the water glasses, in a flicker of motion, she jerked her hands away, then reached out to take them as if nothing had happened. 

With mischievous eyes completely at odds with the movement he’d seen only seconds before, Daisy asked, “Would you get my laptop, honey? I want to show you the Space X rockets.” 

Unsure of where she was going with this, he answered, “Of course, sweetheart. I think it’s still on the bed.” It was, and Daniel decided he despised the way Daisy’s bedroom looked like a cell. She deserved better. He wondered why Stark hadn’t done something about that. 

When Daniel returned with the computer under his arm, Daisy had slipped on the sandals and coverup she’d worn yesterday, lending her an air of elegance and polish similar to what he’d seen in his office. The gauntlets were gone, too. She looked like a socialite on a holiday. 

She flashed him a smile. “Deck or balcony?” Daisy tilted her head toward the deck. 

“Deck, I think,” he answered as he passed over the computer. 

She pushed the door open. Curious, he followed her down the stairs where she gracefully perched on the sofa facing the house.  She patted the cushion. “Sit here so you can see.” 

He did, dropping a kiss to her shoulder as she lifted the lid on her laptop. The tiny smile she shot him was real. With a flicker of her fingers on the keyboard, she opened the software he recognized as the same as what she’d used at the Lighthouse in ‘76. She clicked a button and a timer started. 

Another window popped up with a spaceship in the corner with a trio of rockets. She tapped it. “That’s your screen. Wait ‘til you see them land. It’s pretty badass.” Then, while Daniel reacted appropriately to the spaceships, Daisy proceeded to engage in the hacking contest she’d promised Stark. 

Her hands danced on the computer, creating lines and lines of text that covered her part of the screen. She wrote over parts of it, brought up new screens, changed one or two elements and closed them again. The timer ticked up as Daniel watched. 

“Oh, there we go,” she murmured. “That’s awfully clever.” She pulled up a new screen and made a whole thing start running by itself. She moved that off to another corner, going back to her first screen. 

She tapped the video again. “Hey look, here’s where the rockets land on the ships.” 

Daniel lost track of what she was doing in favor of watching two rockets land simultaneously on two different barges. “How’d they do that?” he asked in wonder. 

“You are such a dork. Drone technology. No more very expensive rockets falling in the ocean,” Daisy answered as she began to giggle. With a last flurry of typing, she executed one more command and every last light in the house came on. “Ha. Suck it, Stark. First layer of security, my ass.” 

Her cell phone rang. She pulled it out of her pocket and set it on the laptop with a satisfied smirk. She poked at the button to answer it on speaker. “Six minutes, forty-three seconds, Stark. It’s not my fault you and your AI weren’t paying attention.” 

“Har har. I’m following your code; congratulations. That, Sousa, is called a zero-day exploit. Meaning she invented something brand new, and, son-of-a-bitch, you targeted that just for J.A.R.V.I.S.. How in the hell did you do that?” 

“Invite me to the compound to spar with Rogers and I’ll tell you.” 

“Not Romanov?”

“Nope. I don’t want my ass kicked.” 

“You think you can match Captain America?”

“I wanna see what my powers do with his vibranium shield.” 

“Okay, now I need to see that too. Consider it done. Ciao.” 

Sousa leaned back on the sofa, impressed. “How’d you learn to do all that?” 

“Only record I had of my parents was a redacted S.H.I.E.L.D. file.” 

“How’d you get that?” 

“Hacked into other stuff.”

“Like maybe a database for an orphanage?”

“Among other things.” Daisy set her laptop to the side and crossed her legs to rest her wrists on her knees. “I spent a lot of time in the library. It was safe, and I could use their internet. They had these free classes about learning to code websites. I figured out how to do that to help out a few friends. I owed them a favor and it was a way I could pay them back. I got a good rep for it.” 

“How old were you?”

“Seventeen, give or take.” Daisy rose from the sofa with extraordinary grace. “I bought my van a few months after that and thought I was living the dream.” She held out a hand, fingertips pointing down like the ladies used to do back home. “Now tell me about Twin Falls, Idaho while we find some shade.” 

Daniel took it, trying to understand Daisy’s shift in character as he stood. “Small town, rural. My parents had a grocery store. There were dances on Saturday nights during the summer, church on Sundays year-round. Nice place to grow up, but not a lot happening.” 

Daisy leaned against the rail when they were nearer to the house, where the patio cover gave them a break from the bright sun. “So how did you get to New York?” 

“Lost the store in '31. We packed up and moved to Brooklyn. Dad had a cousin who got him a job in a warehouse. I’d pitch in on weekends and sometimes after school. Didn’t get paid for that, but Dad kept his job when the boss knew he could get a little bonus help. We got by. When things got better, Mom worked in a dress shop.” 

“1931? That was the Zephyr’s first stop.” Daisy’s eyes widened. “How old were you?” 

“I turned thirteen just before we moved.” Daniel answered carefully. 

“I’m tripping on the idea I was at the speakeasy while you were just a few blocks away,” she said, dumbfounded. “Wow. So, uh, your parents, did they ever want to go back to Idaho?” she asked. 

“They talked about it. But I’d been accepted into NYU and things were heating up overseas. We all knew it was a matter of time. I took a job with the FBI as an analyst for a couple of years after graduation. When the war started, I enlisted. And when I came back, I got in with the SSR. I thought I could do some good.” 

“What happe—” Daisy started to ask, then fell silent. 

He answered anyway. “My mom passed while I was overseas; my dad packed up and moved to New Jersey where I did my convalescence. I lost him just a month after we moved back to New York.”

“How?” she asked softly. 

“Mom caught a cold, turned into pneumonia on the wrong side of a hard winter. Dad had a heart attack.” Talking about his parents put a lump in his throat. “I miss them.” 

Daisy set a hand on his arm. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bring up something sad.” 

Daniel gave her a wry look. “How else are we supposed to get to know each other?”

She shook her head in confusion. “I don’t really know. I’ve never done this part.” Her phone buzzed and she pulled it out of her back pocket to look at it. “That’s Jemma. I’m due for my check in.” 

“Tell her ‘hello’ for me.” 

Daisy hesitated, then leaned in to peck a kiss on Daniel’s cheek. She didn’t run up the stairs like she usually did, she ascended with a lightness of step he hadn’t seen … here. 

It clicked. This was Daisy’s CIA character that she’d played in his office — cool, elegant, and controlled. And it had started when he’d passed her the water glasses. He frowned, replaying that scene in his head. The way she’d changed her posture at the island made him realize it was even earlier than that. 

He’d poured up the wine last night into crystal goblets. She didn’t touch hers, not even to move it to the kitchen at the end of the evening. 

He had no idea what to make of it. 

 

*****

 

Alya giggled at Daisy in the video chat. “Hi, Daisy! You’re far away now!” 

“I am. I’m too far away from you and your mommy,” she agreed. 

“Will you come see us?” 

“Just as soon as your mom and dad are ready for company.” 

That perked Jemma up. “That would be fun. You can bring Sousa, of course.” 

Something in Daisy’s face must have given things away, because Jemma sent Alya off to play and then gave Daisy a dirty look. “You are still with Sousa, right?” 

“So far. He should be running for the hills by now.” 

“Stop that. You know, not everyone could deal with a man plucked out of time and you’ve managed just fine.” 

“I like him.” 

“And he likes you, so stop selling yourself short.”

“Yes, ma’am.” 

Jemma softened. “You deserve someone nice, Daisy. Don’t sabotage this because you don’t think you’re worthy.” 

“I’m not trying to, I swear. I just … don’t know what I’m doing.”

“No one does. You saw that firsthand with Fitz and me.” 

“Not all of that was your fault.”

“And it’s not yours either. It’s a journey, Daisy. You talk along the way and see some of the same sights, and if it’s working, then you keep walking in the same direction together.”

“Daniel makes it easy to want to do that,” she admitted. “He handed me a water glass, Jemma.” 

“Oh. You’re going to have to tell him.” Jemma’s sympathetic face put a lump in Daisy’s throat. 

“There’s so much. I keep giving him these heavy bricks that make up all these awful things about me. He can’t carry them all.” 

“He doesn’t have to. You’re already carrying them. And if he can’t appreciate how strong you are, then he doesn’t deserve to be with you.” 

Daisy scrubbed at her face, wanting desperately to believe what Jemma was saying. “Okay.” 

“Good. Now, let’s talk about your latest scans. Last night’s sleep did some good.” 

“When can I spar again?”

Jemma smiled. “Give it until this weekend, if you wear the gauntlets, but no quaking for another week. You’ve healed, but not entirely. How are your fingers?”

“Still cold.” 

“They might be that way for months. You’ll be prone to chills, so you might want a heavier coat and gloves this winter.” Jemma gave her a sly smile. “Or you could snuggle up to Sousa.” 

“I’m working on that, but your instructions are duly noted.” Daisy rolled her eyes at her friend. “Anything else?”

“Fitz and I found a cottage. We’re closing on it in a few weeks. We’ll probably fly to California before that though.”

“Why?” 

“It seems Deke left his business to us. We’ve got to decide what we’re going to do with it. And it appears Mack has a fifteen percent stake in it, too.” 

Daisy was taken aback. “That should be interesting.” 

“Coulson would like to move Deke’s team into S.H.I.E.L.D.. Fitz wants to shut everything down because of the Framework.”

“What do you think?” 

“I’m not sure. I’ll let you know.”

“Do that.” 

Jemma nodded. “Same time tomorrow?”

“Same time tomorrow.” 

Daisy clicked off the call, then rolled over on the bed to return the texts from Mack, Coulson, and Yo-Yo. Yo-Yo sent a picture of her family in Colombia, with Mack giving Yo-Yo his besotted face. Daisy saved it to her phone. 

She closed her eyes. 



Forty-five minutes later, Daisy’s shaking bed jerked her awake. Pissed at the entire mess, she dug out her running shoes again. She’d rather be whaling on a punching bag, but that wasn’t a good idea at the moment. So, running would have to do. 

She opted for a sports bra, running shorts, and a pair of black gauntlets that weren’t exactly low-profile.  She strapped a Band-aid over the newest scar on her pelvis and made sure the waistband covered it. Sunscreen and a hair band later, she just needed a water bottle for a middle of the afternoon run. 

Daniel had a book lying on his chest where it had landed when he fell asleep on the sofa. Daisy softened when she saw him. He had to be worn out — and not just from her crap. Being out here was better for him than the city. Sand and water didn’t change, and the house predated Daniel, even if Stark had put in some seriously cool tech. The beach house bought Daniel time to adjust to his new life at a slower pace. 

She’d like to kiss that dusting of grey hairs at his temple, but she didn’t want to chance waking him. She left him a note instead, delicately setting it in a little tent on his book. Then she slipped out through the front door, instead of the back, so she wouldn’t disturb him. 

The sweat she worked up burned out the worst of the bad memories — enough, at least, to put some perspective on them. Jemma was right, of course. Daisy needed to tell Daniel these things so when she weirded out over something perfectly normal, at least he’d know why. 

She wanted this to work. Somehow, they needed to get past her pile of issues so they could get on with the journey. Well, not just her issues, though Daisy was pretty sure most of Daniel’s could be solved by stripping him naked and proving that she liked all of him just fine. 

Okay. Maybe not all of them. 

Daniel was too damned good at kissing and touching in all the right places not to have plenty of experience — go Danny-boy — so there was something else holding him back. The pretty dance he was doing drove her just a little bananas, and it couldn’t be chalked entirely up to her being in a med bay a week ago. 

Still, she was pretty sure they would get there. Eventually. Probably when she had grey in her hair too. 

At the three mile mark, she turned around and headed back, stepping up her pace so she had to focus on the running itself, not any particular worries. With a last sprint to the finish, she darted up the stairs, sweat pouring off her body. She drank half of the water that was left in her bottle and dumped the rest over her head, pacing just outside the back door to cool down. 

Daniel opened it, poking his head out. “Good run?” 

“It was. Good nap?” She propped a foot up on the railing to stretch, fully aware that he couldn’t take his eyes off her. 

“Better than I expected.” He held up her note with a small smile. “This was nice to wake up to.” 

“Good,” she said, “that means I’m doing something right.” Daisy stretched out her other leg, then gave him a firm nod. “I think I need a shower.” 

Daniel stepped back to let her in the house, halting when he saw the mess of scars on her stomach for the first time. “Dais—“ His fingers hovered over her sweaty belly, shocked. “Is this from last week?” 

She laughed, stepping forward so that his hand landed on the red-purple ridges and pulling the door closed behind her. “No. I’ve had these a while.” Daisy thought about what he’d said last night. “You know, I think these are my favorite scars — on me, at least. I don’t know about yours. You want to know why?” 

“Of course.” His touch was impossibly light as he curved his hand around her waist. 

“I took two bullets at point blank range. One went through,” she twisted around to show him the exit scar on her back, “and one didn’t. Ricocheted off a rib and took out most of my internal organs. It was also when I found out someone thought I was important enough to save.”

“Coulson?”

She smiled. “The best surgeons couldn’t put me back together. Coulson flew halfway across the continent and tore apart an entire secret base to find the one thing that might save me: an experiment that turned out to be Kree blood. It worked, and I’m still here.” 

“That’s a damned good reason to be a favorite scar,” he said, looking her over once more. 

Daisy caught his chin with a finger and pressed a kiss to Daniel’s lips. “Someday, soon I hope, you’ll show me yours.” 

Slipping past him to head for the shower, she caught a glimpse of Daniel as she rounded the newel post of the stair. He had a stunned smile on his face as he opened the note once more. 

She practically skipped up the steps.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Twenty-Two

 

Daniel unfolded the note Daisy’d left on his book to read it again. 

Out for a run to clear my head. 

I want this, Daniel, whatever this thing is we’ve started. What I feel scares the crap out of me, which means it’s something that feels a lot like love. I know that’s too soon to say, but I want it out there so you know this is real for me too. 

Be back soon, Daisy. 

He leaned against the kitchen island, a little dazed, a little impressed, and little amused at Daisy’s nonchalant way of smashing right through the obstacles to get where she wanted to be. 

She was laying her heart on the line, daring him to pick it up. He supposed that was only fair; she already had his. 

The chime of the front door interrupted his thoughts, and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. With Daisy in the shower, he dumped the groceries on the counter to carry his surprise to her room. By golly, if he had a girlfriend, he wanted to treat her right. 

Having more than just the milk delivered was pretty neat, and he spent a happy few minutes slotting groceries away in the kitchen. Even better, he plucked a whole armload of spices out of the pantry and set them on the island. 

Fresh from her shower, Daisy folded herself onto a barstool, one foot propped on the seat to watch as he prepped a marinade for the steaks. Her faded grey S.H.I.E.L.D. t-shirt had to be another favorite, with the threads unraveling from the sleeves and a hole at the collar. Thin black shorts showed off her legs. She set her chin on her knee. She’d left off the gauntlets, proving those bruises had faded as well. 

“Thank you for the flowers,” she said, looking pleased, if baffled. 

Daniel liked putting that expression on her face. “You’re welcome.” 

“I, um, had to look up what they were,” she said awkwardly. “I guess daffodils are for new beginnings. I like them. A lot.” 

Daniel ducked his head in acknowledgment as he started down the line of seasonings. He dumped the pepper in the palm of his hand, eyeballing the amount before sprinkling it on the steaks. “You’re welcome. And I can say the same.” 

She brightened. “You got the ones at the hotel.” 

“Hard to miss a whole bucketful of daisies.” He pointed an elbow at his phone. “I took a picture.” 

Daisy snatched it up, winked at him, and keyed in his passcode to scroll through his photographs. 

“I’d ask how you know that, but you probably set it up, didn’t you?” he asked. 

“Everyone knows my generation plays tech support to yours. I’m just keeping it real.” She found the picture, and her whole face softened. “You liked them?” 

“I did. When you fell off the radar, I was pretty sure someone who sent me a bucket of flowers wasn’t trying to tell me to get lost.” 

With a wry smile, she agreed, “Looking back, that was probably the only good decision I made.” 

Daniel flipped the steaks over and started the seasoning process all over again. “Given the number of assets I’ve dealt with after a bad mission, I’d have to rate you as an underachiever.” 

“Ah, what now?” 

With a straight face, he told her, “No drugs, no sex, no loud music. No cops or bar damages. Didn’t have to post bail. Didn’t have to drag you back into HQ with threats or bribes.” Daniel bumped the faucet lever to make the water run so he could wash his hands in the sink, then shut it off. “It was kind of tame. Boring, really. Hardly qualifies as a meltdown.” He wiped his hands on the dish towel. “And you sent me flowers.”

She laughed. “I have no idea what to say to that.”

As he covered the steaks with foil, he teased, “If you try harder, maybe I’ll get room service and a bottle of champagne next time... Quake.” He set the whole dish in the icebox for later. 

When he turned around, Daisy had her chin propped on a hand, a bemused smile on her lips. “Danny-boy, you really are something else.” 

“Come help me make popcorn. We’ve got a couple of hours before the steaks are ready for the grill, and I haven’t seen The Martian yet.” He held out his hand, waiting for her to take it. She did, unfolding from her chair. He reeled her in to nip at her bottom lip, then reached for the bag of popcorn kernels behind her. 

With a narrow-eyed glare, Daisy pouted as he turned away. “Is that all you’ve got?” 

“For now.” He liked needling her, and from the faint smile, she liked it too. 

She leaned against the counter to watch as he drizzled oil in a saucepan to heat it, then dumped the kernels in. “You like popcorn?” she asked. 

“Every time we watch a movie, I get a craving.” Daniel darted a look over his shoulder. “Am I the only one?”

“Nope. It’s cool to have the real stuff. On the Zephyr, we used the bags you put in the microwave.” 

“Which do you like better?” 

“The real stuff, of course.” 

The first kernel popped, and Daniel turned the heat down as he covered the pan. 

“I, uh, used to make it in my van,” she said, picking up the salt shaker to turn it around in her hands. “Oil and popcorn were pretty cheap. I had a hot plate that I plugged into the cigarette lighter. I’d get one of those little packages of salt from McDonald’s and sprinkle it over the top, then climb on the roof to watch the sunrise or sunset, depending if I was in the city or not.” 

“Let me guess, sunset in the city and sunrise in the country?” As soon as he said it, Daniel knew he’d gotten it backwards. His heart broke a little as she explained. 

“The other way around. I’d usually work all night in the city, then find a grocery store parking lot to sleep in during the day.” 

“What did you — oh, the websites.” 

“That and I became a member of the Rising Tide.”

“What’s that?”

“A hacktivist group. We spilled corporate and state secrets to keep people accountable.”

“How’d that work out?”

“Pretty good, considering where I am now. Coulson let me hold him accountable. He knew I needed that. And maybe he did too after—” she gave Daniel a sharp look, “Tahiti. I’ll let him tell you that one.” 

“I read it in one of the files he gave me.” 

Her mouth fell open. “Wow. Coulson does not share that story with just anyone.”

Daniel shook the pan to keep the kernels popping. “It’s because of you, I think. It’s easier when we have the same clearance.”

“Or he’s fanboying on you again,” she said with a laugh. 

“Fanboy? I still don’t know that one.” 

“Did you ever have a celebrity crush?” 

He winced, keeping an eye on the lid of the saucepan as the popcorn popped underneath it. “Now I get it.” 

“If you think this is bad, you should see his Captain America collection. He’s very proud of his trading cards. He made Fury get every last one of them signed after the Chitauri incident. Rumor has it that Fury had to bribe Rogers with a hella nice bottle of bourbon and a big donation to some hospital out in Brooklyn.”

Daniel choked back a laugh as he turned the heat off the pan. “Honestly, Dais, I think it’s more so you and I don’t have secrets from each other. Coulson is the most important person in the world to you. Believe me, I get that.” 

She narrowed her eyes. “Did the team say something to you?”

He side-eyed her as he dumped the popcorn in a bowl and sprinkled salt on top. He handed it to Daisy and plucked a couple of cold bottles of water out of the icebox. 

She smirked. “Oh. They all said something.” 

“Coulson texts me daily, though it’s not always about you. May, every other day, and it’s never directly about you but implied, Mack, every third day and it’s always about you, and Jemma whenever she doesn’t hear from you. Fitz threatened my car this morning if I screw this up, pardon my French. Yo-Yo sent me a picture from her house an hour ago and reminded me that there are plenty of places to hide bodies in the woods behind her. This is after they ask if you’re better, of course.” 

Daisy led the way to the living room, setting the bowl on the coffee table as she collapsed on the couch. “That’s nice. In a weird way. I think.” 

“It’s like meeting a mafia princess. If I do this right, there’s gonna be family spilling out everywhere to count on. If I don’t, I might as well dig my own grave. They love you.” 

She rubbed her hands over her elbows and wrists. “I miss them like crazy.” 

Daniel set the bottles on the table to sit beside her. “Yo-Yo said they’ll be back next week.” 

“Yeah, and May’s waiting for Jemma to clear me to spar, then she wants to bring Kora here for the day. You can do basic hand-to-hand training, right? Kora’s starting from scratch.” 

Pleased at being asked, he lifted Daisy’s hand and kissed it. “I can.” He loved the way her dark eyes widened when he did things like that. He tugged her fingers, and she rolled onto her knees to straddle his lap. “Better.” 

“So, are we going to watch a movie and neck on the couch?” Daisy teased. 

“Why bother with the movie?” Daniel said absently, as he leaned up to kiss her. 

It started as a lazy exploration. They had all the time in the world to learn what each other liked. Daisy wasn’t afraid to slant her mouth here and there to see what worked. Daniel followed her lead, with one hand in her hair and one on her waist, while Daisy clutched both sides of his head to take what she wanted. 

When she found it, Daniel got lost in a sea of sensory heaven. With her hair falling around him, she fastened her mouth to his, sucking, tasting, nipping at his lip. Every bit of need he’d put away last night came roaring back, and he slid his hands under her t-shirt to find soft skin underneath. 

She took that as an invitation to dive her hands under the collar of his shirt. “Sousa, it’s time to get on base,” she demanded, hardly breaking the kiss to make her demand. 

He took her at her word and cupped one lovely breast, finding the weight and shape of it through the thin satin. “Second base, you mean? First base is just kissing.” He nipped at her jaw as he stroked the hardening tip. Daisy scooted a little closer, and he groaned as she settled into his lap. In spite of the material between them, there was enough heat and friction there to chase off rational thought. 

“Whatever. Just keep doing that.” 

He didn’t notice Daisy unfastening the buttons on his shirt until she pushed it open to suck on his collarbone. Daniel yipped at the flash of want. It would be so, so easy to hook his fingers under her bra strap and yank it down to get his mouth on every inch of her. 

He fisted his hand instead, and Daisy sat up, her face flushed. “Everything okay?” she asked. They were still connected at the hip, and she rocked just enough to keep him hard and needy. 

“Dais — would you let me get you off?” He didn’t quite plead, but he really wanted to get his hands on her. To show her he could be good for her. 

Mischief bloomed into a smile as her eyes danced. “Are you going to let me return the favor?” 

“Of course not,” he automatically protested, shocked. 

With a peal of laughter, Daisy kissed him once more, thoroughly, then rolled over to lean against the arm of the sofa. “Sex is sex, Danny-boy, and I don’t want it to be one-sided.”  She draped her legs across his thighs, adding flippantly, “I can wait.” 

Flabbergasted, Daniel tried to protest, but nothing made sense. “I was not expecting that,” he said at last. 

“Which part?” 

“All of it.” 

“Is it that you aren’t ready for sex in general or because good girls don’t do that kind of thing,” she challenged, drawing one finger over his ear. 

Just the idea of Daisy doing … that … Daniel stuttered, “I-I think you broke my brain.” 

“You’re telling me you’ve never had a blow job?” she said in disbelief. 

“Yes, of course I have. But—” He had no idea how to explain. 

“I’m sensing a double-standard here.” She squinted at him while playing with a curl at the back of his neck. “You do know there are a lot better options for birth control these days, right?” 

“Simmons mentioned it when she vaccinated me for everything under the sun and tested me for everything else. There was required reading.” This at least, he could answer with confidence. 

Daisy snickered. “Then what’s holding us up?” 

He desperately tried to come up with something coherent, but she had that lovely smirk on her face, and she was in his lap, and he didn’t know where to put his hands at all. 

“Forget about the sleeping and healing thing,” she said with a dismissive wave. “What else?” 

He should not be astonished by her insight. It was exactly this kind of thing he found incredibly attractive. He crossed his arms over his chest, pretending that her touch wasn’t completely dismantling his senses, but it took a hell of a lot more concentration than it should. 

Daisy smirked at his stance. “You do that on purpose.” 

“What?”

“You mix up your tells. Most people would read that as someone becoming defensive. So you trained yourself to do the opposite. Every time you’ve really opened up to me, you do it with your arms crossed.” 

Absurdly happy she’d figured it out, he still had to ask, “And how many times has that happened?”

“Counting the time loops?” Her short nails made four little lines across the back of his neck as she scratched lightly there. 

He damned near purred, but frowned instead. “How many were there?”

“I counted around five hundred. Coulson says there’s another five hundred or so I didn’t remember. And there’s no telling how many he doesn’t remember. Fitz did the calculations and said we were in there for more than a month.” 

“So you saw me reacting to a situation hundreds of different times with small variable adjustments,” Daniel mused, willing certain parts of him to settle down in light of Daisy’s questions. “That might count as an unfair advantage.” 

“It put us ahead of the curve of where we should be after only knowing each other for however long it’s been. At least on my part. You seem to be willing to dive right in. Except for, you know, the sex thing.” She pulled her nails away to rest an elbow on her knee, chin in hand with a gleam in her eyes. “So, be honest.” 

Instantly missing her touch, he could not keep the smile off his face at her reasonable logic. It did call for a straight answer, though. He tucked a lock of her hair behind her ear. “For one, you just lost your team, Daisy. A team that you counted on for all the backup and support I’ve been giving you. You need it, no question, after a hard mission like that. I don’t want you to feel—” he stopped, not wanting to put her on the defensive. 

Daisy’s face fell. “You don’t want me trading sex for a hug,” she finished. “Wow.” 

She clasped her hands together and might have moved off the sofa if Daniel hadn’t caught her leg at the calf. He didn’t want her pulling away from him right now. 

Unhappily, she added, “I can’t say I haven’t done that either. Good call.” 

“Dais—” 

She shot him a quizzical look. “I could say the same for you, as far as losing your team,” she said in surprise. 

“And I can’t say that I haven’t made a similar kind of trade,” Daniel admitted. He stroked Daisy’s ankle with his thumb. 

“The one you didn’t love enough?” she asked quietly. 

“Yes,” he agreed, picking her hand up to kiss the scar on her palm. “I don’t care to make the same mistake twice.” 

“And what has to happen to keep you from making that one with me?”

Her blunt question wasn’t unreasonable, just unexpected. “I don’t know,” Daniel admitted. “I’d like to think I'm going into this with my eyes open this time.”

Her eyes sparkled with glee. “What if I just really want my mouth on you because I’m incredibly horny, and you’re very attractive.” 

He felt his cheeks heat up at her frankness. “Thanks for that. I’ve had enough trouble keeping my salacious thoughts to myself without having that in my head.” 

“Salacious, excellent double-word score, Sousa.” 

“Scrabble is still a thing? And there’s no way you could play that word.” 

Daisy barked out a laugh. “You are such a dork. Yes, Scrabble is still a thing. So is Monopoly.” 

“Should have bought stock,” he quipped. 

“And you’re deflecting,” she countered. “What’s the second reason?” 

Daniel sighed, already feeling awkward. “I’m going to earn you calling me ‘square’ for this.” 

She raised an eyebrow.

“I’m not going to insult your intelligence by telling you I’ve never had sex.” He looked away, hunting for the right words to explain. “And I’ve had relationships that weren’t ever going to go anywhere.” Daniel laced his fingers with Daisy’s. “But if it was, the right thing to do was to marry.” 

“Why?“

Her innocent question dug into the heart of all the changes that had happened between his generation and hers. “A lot of it has to do with respectability, the probability of having kids, and — on my part, at least — being a good provider. I was taught to take care of the people I love.” 

“Explains a lot,” she said with a smile. “But I don’t have a family who would care one way or the other about being married; the team is the closest I’ve got. I have an IUD, so I can’t have kids until I take it out. I’ve got a good job and money in the bank. Kind of shoots down all your reasons, Sousa.” 

“All of which means I’m not going to wait until marriage before making love to you, Daisy.” He kissed her fingers. “In whatever form that might take,” he added teasingly. Now that he knew what was on the table, he mentally added a half dozen things he’d like to do with Daisy when they got there. 

Though she flashed him an appreciative smile, she searched his face. “It’s still going to bug you. To not be married.” 

Her perception was scary sometimes. Daniel locked his eyes on hers as he answered, “I was also taught marriage is about letting the one you love know they can count on you to be there. For all of it, and for always. I’m the kind of guy who isn’t going to give up when things get hard. If you’re in, I’m in.” 

Daisy scrambled off his lap to go pace in front of the windows. “You can’t say things like that to me, Danny-boy,” she shot back, desperate hope warring with despair in her voice. She scraped her hair off her face. 

Daniel followed. This might be the most important conversation they’d had yet, and he wasn’t going to let her walk away because she was afraid this might be real. “If it takes a ring and vows to prove to you that I won’t, I’m willing to do that,” he said with determination. 

Incredulous, she spun around. “After three weeks, or whatever?” she blurted. “You don’t even know if I leave the towels on the floor or have some awful habit that’s going to drive you bonkers in a month.”

He took her hands. “You pick up every towel, fold it in thirds and hang it on the rail to dry. Cooking isn’t something you do for fun, but you won’t let anyone around you go hungry. You can’t stand for you or anything you own to be dirty, but your room is always a mess because you don’t really know what to do with your stuff when it’s not packed away. Water glasses scare you. I don’t. You take your hula dancer everywhere with you. You love clothes, but only indulge when you can justify it, like when you bought the earrings so Kora wouldn’t feel bad about you buying her another pair of shoes. I’d lay ten on it that you haven’t owned a swimsuit until this morning. I’d also bet you’ve got a safe house that maybe only Coulson knows exists, but all you’ve got in it is a bed because you don’t know what to do with it. I do know you, Daisy Johnson.” 

Stunned, she stared at him, tears welling up in her eyes. Yanking her hands free, she stormed out of the house without another word. 

Daniel sat on the edge of the sofa, rubbing his hands over his face as he reeled from the entire conversation. It was too much and far too soon. But she needed honesty, and he didn’t know how else to make this work. His heart ached as he wondered how in the hell he was going to salvage this one. 

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Twenty-Three

 

Daisy sat cross-legged on the edge of the dock as the sun made a slow descent behind her. She could hardly believe they’d only arrived yesterday. She didn’t think things could be crazier than time travel, but Daniel pulled out every hope and fear she had in the deepest parts of her heart, scaring her silly with the possibilities. 

The splashing waves calmed her. There was something about the random vibrations echoing from the water to the sand and back again that settled her senses, especially the Inhuman ones. 

Her phone dangled from her fingertips; she’d instinctively picked it up on her way out the door. She stared at it, desperate to call someone — anyone — who might have an idea of what was going on in her head. 

The person she settled on surprised her. She punched a contact and set the phone to her ear. 

“Hey, Daisy.” 

“Hey, Fitz. How’s it going?”

“Fine. What’s going on? Are your gauntlets giving you trouble still? Jemma says the ones I made you itch too much." 

Daisy wiped away another stupid tear at Fitz’s concern. “They’re fine. I’m healing. The bruises are nearly gone.” 

“Good. Good. Then why are you crying?” His puzzled sincerity felt so good to hear. 

“How did you know Jemma was, you know, the one?” 

“I didn't know at first, but it didn’t take long. She’s my person.” He chuckled. “I had to wait for her to catch up, though. She’s a bit slow that way sometimes." 

That got a laugh out of Daisy. “But how—”

“We fit. I could tell her anything. I could say all the wrong things and be selfish and stupid and mess up, and she’d never go away. And I’d be right there for her when she got scared or nervous and her emotions overwhelmed her. We’d mess up, and then we’d fix it. I trust her, for sure. I trust her more than I trust myself sometimes. Most of the time, really.” 

Hearing Fitz’s blunt assessment unlocked something in Daisy. She dragged a fingertip through the sand that had blown onto the dock. “I don’t know why I expected you to say anything else. It’s so you.” 

I’m awful at people, Daisy. That’s your thing. You know people better than anyone. But I guess you’re feeling this way about Sousa, am I right?”

“You know me. I don’t believe anything that sounds too good to be true.” 

“Eh. And most of the time, I wouldn’t blame you. Not after what happened with Ward. But you already know Sousa isn’t like that, so I’d think you can trust your judgment. Beside that, you have all of us to back you up if things go the wrong way.” There was a pause, then, “You really don’t have anything to lose, Daisy. If it doesn’t work, then at least you tried. If you don’t try, you’ll never find the answer.” 

“Spoken like someone who spends all day in a lab.”

He laughed. “Yeah, well, you know me too.” There was a long pause. “Hey, uh, Daisy? Jemma’s told me about some of the things that happened in the Lighthouse, including the—”

She interrupted, not wanting to hear him say it. “It wasn’t you, Fitz. Not this you.” 

“But it could have been,” he admitted. “That’s why I have Jemma. She’s the conscience I need. I forget sometimes, that one person is worth the whole damned world — if it’s somebody other than Jemma, of course. I kind of get it when it comes to her.” 

“That’s sweet.” Daisy rubbed the scarred ridges behind her ear, trying not to remember the agony of having the nerve blocker ripped out the hard way.

“But you see, Daisy, what I — the other me — did, it can’t be justified, even if it worked. And I’m sorry. I’m so damned sorry.” 

Knowing that this Fitz wasn't that Fitz, and distinctly remembering what she’d done to Mack, the words came easily to Daisy. “Fitz, I forgive you. Just — don’t ever think about doing anything like that again. Okay?”

“Jemma’s making me see a therapist now that we're back. The Framework really messed me up.”

“The Framework messed all of us up. Tell me you’re taking Deke’s version offline.”

“I want to. Jemma wants to see it for herself. At the moment, I’ve put it in stasis. Are we done now? I’ve got to put Alya back in bed for the fourth time. She keeps sneaking out into the yard to lay in the grass and stare at the stars.” 

“Sounds like her mom. Give her a kiss for me. And thanks, Fitz. I’m glad you’re back.”

“Me, too.”

After promising to call Jemma in the morning, Daisy set her phone between her feet. 

Fitz’s apology — while totally unexpected — was something she needed to hear. Hearing Fitz refer to Jemma as his conscience struck something deep in Daisy. Fitz was so bright and fascinated by possibility that he often didn’t stop to think about the consequences. 

She hunched her shoulders, recognizing that she, too, could get so blinded by whatever she thought was the right thing to do that sometimes she made terrible choices. 

Over the sound of the waves splashing against the dock, she heard the click of Daniel’s crutches. She turned her head to find he’d changed into shorts and was making his way across the sand.

It occurred to her that if anyone else followed her around like this, she’d be pissed and want her space. When Daniel did it, it made her happy, even if she was still freaked out by the whole conversation. She could barely wrap her head around being in a relationship, much less one with the kind of future he had in mind. 

When he got to the dock, he used the crutches to give him leverage to sit next to her. He set them to the side and propped his knee up to rest an arm on it, keeping his eyes on the horizon. “I wasn’t judging you, just stating what I saw. Maybe I shouldn’t have done that.” 

Daisy pressed her lips together, still irritated, though she couldn't quite pin down why. 

With cool assessment, she told him, “Your parents were the kind everyone hopes to have. You grew up in a good home. Not rich, but food was always on the table and you had chores on Saturdays because your parents wanted you to appreciate what you had. You had a job you liked before the war. You dated, but you saw what was coming and didn’t want to leave someone at home, especially not any kids. You enlisted because you thought it was the right thing to do, even though you knew exactly what was at stake.” 

Daniel kept his eyes on the waves, not confirming or denying her assessment. In a soft voice, she added, “When you got back, no one could see anything but what you’d lost, and you lost the rest of yourself in the face of that. You fought for it, though, and made a place for yourself where no one questioned you. But you still feel like a life got stolen from you. You resent both the truth of that and that you haven’t found anything to make you think differently.” 

He grimaced, but nodded, still not looking at her. “Close enough.” 

Daisy thought about the way Daniel embraced this new century. “And all that was true until now,” she realized. “This really is your second chance.” 

“Daisy, I haven’t wanted anything this much since the doctors offered me a way to walk again. If I wanted to escape the life I had, I would have stayed in ‘76. But S.H.I.E.L.D. and everything it stands for is too important to me to ever leave it. You? I’m having a hard time believing we stumbled into each other’s lives the way we did, but I’m damned well going to do whatever it takes to convince you this is real.”

She stared at the horizon, willing herself to believe. The tears that shook loose became a flood. 

“Dais—” 

At his weary, frustrated tone, she turned into his shoulder to cry out her fears and confusion. 

“Hey, hey, sweetheart, it’s gonna be okay,” he murmured, stroking her hair. 

When she was done, she sat up, wiping her face as she discovered she’d soaked his new shirt. She swiped at it ineffectively. “I didn’t mean to do that.”

“The shirt or the crying?”

“Both?” 

He gave her a dubious look. “I, uh, have no idea if things are better or worse.” 

Daisy let out a broken laugh, scraping a hand through her hair. “Better. I think. God, I’m a mess.” 

Daniel leaned onto his elbow, stretching out on one side to face her. The sunset painted him in oranges and reds. “Seems like we found a brick wall we didn’t know was there. I didn’t mean to put one up, and I’m sorry for that.”

“I don’t think you did, but it was there all the same,” she admitted. 

She traced the wood grain along one of the planks of the dock. “I copped some scotch in a foster home once and dropped the crystal decanter it was in. I got sent back to St. Agnes for it. It took me three tries to get a glass out of the bar so I could put ice in it and carry it down the stairs to you, but when Coulson needed more water on the Zephyr I didn’t think anything of it. I made eggs yesterday because I couldn’t find any boxes of macaroni and cheese in the pantry and I have no idea how to make it from scratch. The websites I built were for the friends I made on the street. I sublease office space from an insurance agent so I can host them on my own servers. Means nobody can take them down, and they are free to do business the way they want. They got my name out, and I made enough to buy my van.”

“You’re talking about—”

“Yeah.”

“And you’ve never been caught.”

“Please,” she scoffed. “Neither the NYPD or the LAPD have the resources to take on someone like me. As far as anyone’s been able to track, those servers are somewhere in the Caymans.”

“Color me impressed.” 

She rolled her eyes. “And you’re right about all the rest, except the safe house. Coulson helped me with the first one. It came furnished, or you might have been right about that one too.” 

“Should I ask about the others?” 

“I think I’ll surprise you with that on another day.” 

“Fair enough.” Daniel reached out, stroking a lock of her hair. 

Daisy caught his hand to press a kiss into his palm. “It was weird when I realized the team knew stuff about me. The longest I’d been anywhere was, like, two years, and no one knew me. Not really. It took me a while to get used to it. A lot of who I am is really hard, and it’s not anything I care to explain to people.”

“They don’t need to know,” Daniel agreed. “You think I go around telling people I spent half a year in a hospital? Let me assure you, even the guys in the SSR were assholes about having someone like me around. You don’t hand out ammunition to people who will use it against you.” 

The bitterness in his tone wasn’t a surprise to her, even if it was new. “And how do you know I’m not one of them?” she asked. 

He rolled his eyes at her. “Please. You made me a sandwich and brought me an icepack. I was halfway in love with you by the time I finished reading your note.”

Daisy burst out laughing. “Does that make you an easy mark?”

“Not for everyone.” Daniel trailed his fingers through a lock of her hair again. 

“Your file made no mention of your being this charming,” she said lightly. 

“Again, not for everyone.” There was a smile toying around his lips.

Daisy shook her head in disbelief. Throughout the whole conversation, Daniel’s heart beat steady and true. He meant every word he said. 

“So, what’s the next step?” she asked, her heart pounding hard enough to make her catch her breath. 

With an delighted smile, Daniel tilted his head to look around her at what was left of the sun. “Are you hungry? I’d like to get the steaks on before it’s completely dark. My grilling technique isn’t that good. I might serve you a piece of charcoal instead of meat.”

She leaned forward on her hands to kiss him. “Let’s go show off your caveman skills, Danny-boy.” 

Maybe, just maybe, it might be this easy. 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Twenty-Four

 

Stuffed with a better-than-decent steak, wine served in a silver goblet that Daniel had dug up from under the bar, and strawberry ice cream, Daisy fought to stay awake through The Martian. She managed by not slumping too low on the sofa, though snuggling with her boyfriend was not making it any easier. More fun, though. 

They’d only had to repeat one part because they were too busy making out on the sofa to pay attention. Okay, two, but the last time was only five minutes so it didn’t really count, right? 

“How accurate is this one?” Daniel asked as the credits rolled.

She waggled a hand. “The storm isn’t realistic because Martian atmosphere is too thin, and the Hermes doesn’t exist yet, but the space exploration aspect of it is pretty accurate if you’re going to slowpoke your way from point A to point B, N.A.S.A.-style. I’d much rather stick with the Zephyr since Fitz figured out how to jump through time and space.” 

“S.H.I.E.L.D. beat N.A.S.A. to another planet?”

Daisy started to answer affirmatively but— “No,” she said slowly, shaking her head. “There was an astronaut on Maveth. He got there in 2001, I think, and got stuck. That was the planet Jemma found.” She hated thinking about those days when Jemma had disappeared. “Hive took him too.” 

Daniel set a comforting hand on the back of her neck. “Damn. I’d hoped we would be first.” 

She rolled with his quip to lighten the mood. “Fitz still invented the jump drive. Gonna be hard to explain the whole Martian exploration thing when we can get the Zephyr there in under an hour.” She sagged against Daniel’s shoulder again, taking advantage of his warmth for one more moment. She’d be perfectly happy curling up right here for the night, but she sat up instead and stretched. “I’m gonna take a shower and head for my bunk — my bed, I mean.” 

“I’ll lock up, and I’ll be right behind you.”

She didn’t bother telling Daniel that she could do a perimeter check from her laptop. If making sure all the windows and doors were locked let him sleep at night, she wasn’t going to mess it up for him, especially since she had to do her own quick peek at the security grid before she went to bed. 

Daisy managed to sleep in her own bed, and without Daniel as a security blanket — probably because she had a sternly worded conversation with her psyche about the lack of sex being directly correlated to her stupid nightmares. 

It got her one night, anyway. 

 

Daniel must have had sex on his mind too. After a morning run (Daisy), a dip in the ocean (Daniel, joined by Daisy), and breakfast (she made eggs; he fried bacon; they stole a lot of kisses in between), they were content to keep each other company in the beach house. While Daisy answered emails on her laptop at the island, Daniel sat on the sofa with his tablet. 

“What kind of IUD do you have?” he said out of the blue. “Copper or the kind with hormones?” 

“Hormones, so my periods are shorter or I skip them altogether. It’s easier for mission planning,” she answered, keeping her tone casual. “I’ll have to replace it in a couple of years.” She couldn’t quite keep the smile off her face. She loved Daniel’s curiosity, and the fact he cared enough to look up information from an off-hand comment she’d made last night meant a lot. A quick glance proved his cheeks were pink. He was such a dork. 

Her check-in with Jemma ended with a go-ahead to spar, and a quick text to May confirmed plans to visit the next day. Daisy bounced out of her room to give Daniel the happy news. She found him folding socks out of a small pile on his bed. 

“I’m clear!” she caroled, planting a kiss on his mouth. “May and Kora want to drive up tomorrow morning.” 

With an amused snort, Daniel shoved his laundry to the side to make room for her. “Will they stay the night?” 

She shrugged, plopping down to watch him finish rolling up each pair of the funky dress socks he’d picked out in DC. “Maybe? Mom can have the spare bedroom. Kora can take the couch. We’ll be fine.” 

“Where do you want to set up?” 

“They’re bringing mats. You and Kora can have the deck. May and I will take the sand. Ground’s crappier and we’ll get a better workout.”

“Sounds like a plan.” Socks finished, Daniel abruptly leaned in to kiss her. 

She was happy to return it, happier when he nipped at her collarbone, and outright delighted when she stopped him from playing with her boobs and got that frustrated pout from him again. 

Daisy caught his hands, scolding, “Hey, hey, Danny-boy. Fair’s fair. You wouldn’t let me under your shirt last night; I’m not letting you under mine.” Which sucked, because heaven only knew how badly she wanted his hands everywhere. She kissed his knuckles. “Say the word, and I’m yours.” 

For about five seconds, he scowled, and Daisy let out a giggle because in a zillion time loops, she had no idea he knew how to even make that expression. 

Then he leaned in for the softest, sweetest kiss — nibbling on her lips as he cupped the back of her neck. His next move was even better. He tilted her backward until she landed on the bed. Daniel rained kisses over her cheeks and forehead, then traced her lips with his thumb. Every part of her melted under his touch. 

“Daisy?” he said, “It’s going to be worth the wait.” He pushed up so that he hovered over her, dropped a kiss on her nose, and got to his feet. “Dinner at seven? I’m buying.” 

Daisy cracked up laughing. “Now you’re holding out to be contrary.” 

“Possibly,” he said with a grin, holding out his hand. “There’s a seafood place about a half hour up the road. How do you feel about shrimp?” 

She took it. “Favorably. Is it casual or dressy?” 

Daniel shrugged, pulling her up to stand and sneaking another kiss when he got his arms around her. “I have no idea what that means these days.” 

“I look amazing in a skirt,” Daisy told him. “And I really love that blue shirt with those grey suspenders.” 

“We can do that.” 

Daisy still had the yellow sweater and black pencil skirt from the mission. She fished out a pair of heels from her duffle that put her nearly eye-to-eye with Daniel. 

“You’re right. You do look amazing,” he told her. So did he. She still wanted to peel him out of his suspenders. He kept sneaking peeks at her legs. 

They had dinner on the boardwalk in a little town nearby. There was a cover band playing rock songs from the 50’s to the 90’s, enough seafood for three people, and a decent local brew to wash it all down. They sat side-by-side to watch the band and pick off each other’s plates. Daisy curled one foot around his ankle. Daniel dropped a hand on her bare thigh. 

“Since when did ladies quit wearing stockings?” he asked, sliding a thumb across her knee in a way that made her squirm. 

“When we quit wearing skirts when it’s only forty degrees outside. Or a couple of decades ago, depending on how you look at it.” She ran a toe up his sock, finding crispy curls where it ended. 

Daniel drank his beer to hide his smile. 

She sighed in pure frustration. He wasn’t wrong about waiting. If she pushed, he’d cave; she was sure of that, and it wouldn’t do either of them any good. He’d told her in the hotel to be certain of what she wanted. Now that she knew what was on the line, she understood his hesitation. A few more days to think it through wouldn’t kill either of them. 

There was a half-assed excuse of a dance floor. When the band played cheesy power ballads from the 80’s, Daniel dragged Daisy into the two square feet left in a space jammed with tourists. Like everyone else, they swayed to the music and stole kisses under the disco lights. 

It was kind of perfect. 

 

*****

 

Daisy hoped for a second night of unassisted sleep, but as she fastened her gauntlets in place after her shower, just thinking about sparring with May brought back the last battle with Malick. Which, of course, spiraled right into the barn. She scrubbed at her itchy neck and elbows again. 

She paced in her room, looking for another way to get her bearings, but she couldn’t shake the touch of his scalpel. The memory of it awakened a thrum of power. She slapped a hand against the wall to discharge it. 

Pissed that the freaky asshole was ruining a perfectly good day, Daisy yanked open her door. 

Daniel stepped out of the bathroom into the middle of the hallway, his tank and sweats proving he was about to hit the sack. “Is everything okay?”

“Will you—” she looked away, hand clutching the door frame. “I don’t know why I ask. I know you’ll say ‘yes.’ You always say ‘yes.’ How do I know when it’s something you don’t want to do?”

He ducked his head to catch her eyes. “I say ‘yes’ to you because I want to. I’m pretty good at telling other people to buzz off. Now, what do you need, sweetheart?” 

“The other night, that thing you did. It worked. Bought me a couple of decent nights.” Daisy stared at her toenails that were in desperate need of a coat of polish. “Would you do it again?” 

“Give me a minute, and I’ll be right there.” Daniel disappeared into his room. 

Her heart thumped with the sweet ache of having someone right here who gave a damn. Relieved she didn’t have to do this alone, she turned off all the lights except the lamp at the side of the bed and stashed her electronics away. She really didn’t want to quake her laptop. As touchy as she was, it was a real possibility. She’d been lucky so far. 

Crawling to the middle of the bed, she closed her eyes to wait, focusing on her breathing. The bed sagged on one side as Daniel slid in behind her to lean against the wall once again. He ran his hands under her hair. 

She tried not the tense up in anticipation, but that was a lost cause. She set her hand on Daniel’s ankle, needing the connection, needing his warmth on her cold fingers. 

“Geez, Dais, you’re freezing.” He pulled her backwards so she leaned against his chest, folding his arms around her. 

The sudden heat came as a shock, and she let out a gasp. And maybe it wasn’t the heat at all. She shuddered, curling her hands around his wrists so he wouldn’t let go. This wasn’t like sitting side-by-side on the sofa, or laying next to each other in the dark. Or even learning to swim with her head on his shoulder. But it was all of those things too.

“Daisy?”

“I didn’t know,” she said in surprise, sinking into his embrace. “I didn’t know I liked being held like this.” 

Daniel rested his chin on her shoulder. “I can safely say this is the easiest thing you’ve asked of me.” His whole chest rose and fell as he chuckled. “I like it too.” 

It was almost enough to chase away the phantom sense of knives and needles. 

The almost part is what made her tense up again. Daniel relaxed his hold, drawing his hands through her hair on either side of her head. His fingertip caught the edge of the scar behind her ear. Tonight, he pulled her hair aside to get a better look. He didn’t ask.

She told him anyway. “Future-Kree put in a nerve blocker to give them an on/off switch to my powers. Going in wasn’t so bad, mostly because I wasn’t awake for it. Coming out was a different story.” 

The memory of it, compounded with being on edge already, sent a flare of energy through her. She didn’t think twice about riding the edge of the ripple until it smoothed out again. 

“Holy smokes,” Daniel said breathlessly, “Was that you?” He turned up his hands to inspect them. 

Appalled by her lack of control, she jerked away, rolling to her knees on the bed with her hands up. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean—” 

But Daniel stopped her. “Oh no. Don’t get up on my account. That was pretty neat.” She shot him a look of disbelief. He mock-glared right back at her. “You didn’t hurt me. It felt like … water, when it splashes against your arm. Or maybe the T-Bird when the engine starts.” 

“Are you comparing me to your car? I don’t know if that pisses me off or not.” Daisy, still on her knees, put her hands on her hips.

He shrugged. “Hey, I’m just telling you like it is. And you know I like my car. Call it a perk of being you. Come back.” He patted the bed. 

Disarmed by his humor, Daisy settled back in place. “I didn’t mean to do that. I've never done that before while … someone was this close to me. I didn’t know you could feel it.”

“If I may ask, what did you do?” 

“When I gather energy — even by accident — I have to do something with it. It’s a vibration and you can’t just make those go away. If it’s really small, like just now, I can ride it out. If I try to keep it inside me — well, you’ve seen what that does.”

Daniel cupped her elbows, then slid his hands down and over her gauntlets to lace his fingers with hers. “So you have to discharge it somehow.” 

“Which is why I’m in a containment room. One bad dream and I can bring a whole building down. My instinct is not to pull power. I usually have to be awake to do that.” She leaned into him, hardly believing they’d navigated that hiccup. 

“And how often do you get like this?” 

That was a fair question. “Often enough that I knew better at the hotel.” She stifled a yawn, wishing she could sleep. “There was this cute guy, and I was being stupid. Trying to pretend things were okay because I didn’t want to scare him off.” 

“Hey,” Daniel pressed a kiss to her shoulder as he drew her backward for another little hug, “You haven’t scared me off yet.” 

“Which might be saying something about you, Danny-boy,” she retorted, only half-teasing. She fell silent, concentrating on his touch. 

Daniel brushed his fingers across the other scar on her neck. “Tell me to stop,” he reminded her when she flinched. 

“I’m okay. Ah, talk to me. Please. It helps. Tell me how you know how to do this.” 

“Of course.” His voice was low and blurry with weariness, but calm and sure. He gathered her hair into a loose ponytail, only to let it fall before doing it all over again. “I don’t know what I’m doing here — only that it worked for me.” He slowed his strokes, pulling his fingers through all the way to the ends of her hair so that it lay flat on her back on either side of her spine. “When I lost my leg, the surgeries were hard. Rehabilitation was even harder.” 

Daisy tipped her head forward, listening, as he brought his fingers right up the nape of her neck to start again. 

“There came a time when I simply didn’t want anyone else to touch me. I was tired of being poked and prodded, of going through fitting after fitting for each new leg, even if it was better than the last. Everything hurt. If it wasn’t my leg, it was my arms or my back from walking off-balance. Seems like I had a headache for a couple of years.”

Daniel drew her hair to one side. He traced the scars on her neck with a fingertip, then kissed each one. “After Peggy moved back to the East Coast, dating wasn’t my thing.” He drew the flat of his hand down her back. 

Daisy tensed, even though she liked the way it felt. 

“It was easier to put all that effort into the job, same as I did before she came along. Eventually, I got lonely,” he admitted. “I tried dating again, but having to answer the same questions all the time was more frustrating than it was worth. Half my dates treated me like a child or like I was stupid. Nearly all of them asked whether I could … perform ... in bed. Or have kids. I despised that one.” 

He changed tactics, pressing his fingertips on the inside of her elbows, right where Daisy was developing a real phobia if anyone but Jemma wanted to take her blood. She curled her fingers around his knee. 

“I can, by the way. Nothing wrong in that department,” Daniel stated, with the same bitterness she’d heard on the dock. 

“I didn’t ask,” she reminded him with a squeeze. 

“I know.” He made little circles inside her arms and that felt better. “I’d been investigating a case. It was mostly wrapped, but we were still taking statements. One of the eyewitnesses, well, she was a—” He paused long enough for Daisy to draw her own conclusions. 

“Professional?” she interjected. Great. Now she was thinking about Daniel and sex again. She’d like to see him … perform …. yeah, she was going to save that one for later. Just because she could. 

He laughed — so openly and freely that she’d almost call it a giggle. “She would have liked that. Yes, she was a professional. When the case was done, I went to see her.” Daniel shifted his hands to the back of Daisy’s neck, drawing a long line down her spine. 

She jerked when he hit the place where the first needle had gone in again. “What was her name?” she asked, breathless. 

“Helen. Her name was Helen. And she taught me to like being touched again.” 

“Daniel Sousa, are you telling me you had a mistress?” she teased, though she clutched his knee again. 

“On a government salary?” he scoffed. “Let’s just say I was lucky to have a standing date every other Tuesday.” He unerringly rested two fingers on the vertebra where Malick had set the second needle. 

This time she managed not to freak out. Once was enough, thank you. But her voice came out in a croak when she realized— “Oh. That’s what Peggy meant in her letter.” 

“Uh huh. Can’t think of anything else that would make sense,” Daniel agreed, increasing the pressure on her back. 

That, of all things, completely distracted Daisy from what Daniel was doing with his hands and why. “You’re that square?” She spun around on her butt to sit cross-legged in front of him. “You have exactly one thing that you left for someone else to clean up? What about your house? Your car? Your things?” 

“I left it all to Peggy. Told her to use it where it would do the most good.” Daniel looked away. “There was no one else.” 

Daisy blurted, “Were the women in the fifties idiots?”

He gave her a wry look. “Maybe I have high standards?” 

She had to give him that one. “Considering your former girlfriend is Peggy Carter, I can buy that.” 

Daniel rolled his eyes. “I was talking about you. And just how much clean up would you need?” 

“I don’t exist, so there’s nothing to clean up. Assuming you could find it in the first place,” she quipped. 

“Your websites? Your safe houses? And what do you mean, ‘you don’t exist?'”

Daisy shrugged. “I know how to cover my tracks, and everything I do has contingencies. Before I was Daisy Johnson, I was Skye. Skye doesn’t have anything. No social, no driver’s license, no birth certificate. And before that, I was an 0-8-4 who’d been left at an orphanage. So, I don’t exist. Legally.” 

“Coulson didn’t fix that?” 

“I don’t want it fixed,” she insisted. “I don’t need a government entity telling me who I am.” 

“I’d ask how you get paid, but I’m guessing you’ve got an alias set up.” 

“Came in handy when the HYDRA shit hit the fan and I wasn’t on the books. There’s a printing company in Illinois that does regular business with S.H.I.E.L.D., though. I hear they do good work.” 

Daniel nodded in appreciation. “I can see that.” 

Daisy crawled over him to straddle his lap. Nothing itched; she just wanted to hold him. It was so easy, the way he pulled her close. She kissed his temple; he tightened his arms around her in response. “Thank you,” she murmured against his head. The curls had grown out just enough to tickle her nose. 

“You feel better?”

“Yeah, I do.” She stifled a yawn. “I think, maybe, I can sleep now.” 

Daniel helped her pull the covers back, then leaned against the wall with his arms crossed. He didn’t offer to sleep next to her, and she didn’t ask. She curled her fingers over his ankle, threading them through the dusting of hair there until she fell asleep. 

 

*****

 

Daniel eased out of Daisy’s bed. He turned her light out, but left her door open just in case she needed him. 

It was a good thing she was asleep. His stump throbbed in the socket, and it was hours past when he should have left the leg off. He dropped his sweatpants, leaving him in his preferred boxers where he could get in and out of his prosthesis without much trouble. 

Daniel peeled the liner off his stump, wincing as the material stuck to a scab and pulled part of it free. He dug a med pack that Simmons had given him out of the nightstand to clean up the bleeding, then spread the ointment over the scars. 

He needed a few days without the damned leg to give himself time to heal. Swimming gave him some relief, but Simmons wasn’t going to be happy when she saw how little progress he’d made since his last check up on the Zephyr. Too much leg and not enough sunshine, she’d say. 

But the clock was ticking. He had just over sixty days to court Daisy before they got their next assignment. Daniel played to win, and this wasn’t the right time to be laid up.

He reached for the pain reliever he’d left on the nightstand, dry swallowing a pair of tablets he dug out of the bottle. He counted the minutes until the ache in his hip became bearable, hoping Daisy would manage the rest of the night without him. 

Stretching out on the bed, he hoped he’d be able to sleep through the night. 

The pain was worth it though. He hadn’t danced with anyone since going overseas. 

Dancing with Daisy, well, that was worth everything.

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Twenty-Five

 

Daniel sipped his coffee in amusement as Daisy did her Tai Chi routine on the deck. She’d radiated excitement all morning. She'd already gone for a short run; now she was killing time until May and Kora arrived. He’d have to learn what Daisy was doing, he supposed. It was damned good exercise and would be great for his balance. 

He didn’t hear anything, but Daisy popped her head up, coming out of her stance. Daniel looked over his shoulder to see a black car — no, Daisy called it an SUV — coming down the road. 

May pulled into the carport. Kora bounced out of the car before the engine was off and into a long hug with Daisy. To his surprise, she darted over to give him one, too. Kora burst into tears with her arms still around him. 

Rolling her eyes, May got out of the car. “Use your words, Kora.” 

“You’re both happy to see me!” 

Daniel exchanged startled looks with Daisy as he patted Kora on the shoulder. “Of course we are.” 

Kora let go to wipe her face with the heels of her hands. “No, seriously. You’re both happy we’re here. You aren’t afraid of me or anything.” 

Daisy hugged her sister again. “Nope. I am afraid of Mom, though, if we don’t help with the mats.” She hugged Kora one more time, then lightly shoved her toward the back of the SUV. Daniel heard them chattering about the Academy. 

With a backpack over her shoulder, May held a hand out to him. “That’s new. The mom thing.”

“Is it? She said it yesterday, too, after she texted with you.” He did his best to clear his mind of emotions before shaking her hand. “How are you?” 

Her grip was firm, without being harsh. “You don’t have to worry about me, Sousa. I can feel you being protective.” 

“Of course I worry. You’re Daisy’s family.” 

May scowled. “You know, it used to be Coulson with all the ducklings. I liked it better that way. Where can I stash my stuff?” 

“Third floor, east bedroom. You and I are sharing a bathroom,” he added apologetically. 

“Just pick up your underwear and put the seat down. We’ll be fine,” she shot back. 

Daniel ducked his head, keeping a straight face. “Yes, ma’am.” 

May rolled her eyes at him this time and stalked up the stairs to the house. 



Laughter echoed through the beach house as Daisy and Kora caught up on the last week. They’d been upstairs since deciding Kora would share a bathroom with Daisy. 

“You would think they hadn’t seen each other in months,” May said wryly, pouring herself a cup of coffee. “They haven’t even known each other a whole month.” 

“Are they that much alike?”

“They talk,” she said flatly. “All the time.”

“Daisy only does that when she gets excited. Or nervous,” he mused. 

May glared at him. “Really?” 

Daniel held his hands up. “I’d noticed, that’s all I’m trying to say.” 

She sipped from her cup. “What are you going to teach Kora?”

“What do you want me teaching Kora?”

“She had some basic martial arts training, mostly blocking and offensive strikes. The Academy handles general fitness with all the trainees. I’m working on Kora’s balance, how to fall, and situational awareness. I’d like you to start with breaking holds since you’re bigger than she is.”

“Consider it done.” 

“So tell me, what’s going to trigger Daisy when we fight?” 

Daniel didn’t like talking about Daisy as an asset instead of his girlfriend, but they were all agents and May was right to ask. “A strike between the L1 and L2 vertebrae,” he answered. “I’ve just started working with her on it.” 

“Does she know?”

“She knows.” 

“Coulson gave you an ICER?”

He grimaced. “He did. I take it you want me carrying?”

“You’ve got the two most powerful Inhumans on this planet sparring in the backyard. One is in her first round of combat training after a mission where she was tortured and mentally compromised. The other was also mentally compromised, has a personal connection to her, and has crappy control of her abilities. What do you think?”

It wasn’t hard to imagine a shell-shocked Daisy quaking May in mock-battle; and there was no telling what Kora might do under stress — either to protect or retaliate. 

“When you put it that way,” he admitted, “it’s not a bad idea.” 

“Just don’t shoot me. I hate the headache.” 



Daniel changed into his black S.H.I.E.L.D. t-shirt, thin grey sweatpants, and a pair of sneakers that would give him better traction on the mats. He also strapped the ICER to his thigh in one of the holsters he’d picked up with his new Sig Sauer. 

He found the ladies on the deck, where Daisy and Kora dropped the last mat in place to to make a neat square. The deck furniture had been moved to the car port, giving them plenty of room to work. May and Daisy wore full tac gear; Kora looked like Daniel, only with a S.H.I.E.L.D. Academy t-shirt in dark grey. 

Daisy’s eyes widened in appreciation when she saw him. “You really do hide all that under a suit.” 

Daniel might have preened just a little, crossing his arms while she looked her fill. 

“You two stop that,” Kora scolded. “I can feel you both all the way over here.” 

Not particularly chastised, Daisy winked at Daniel. She tilted her head, studying the holstered ICER for a moment. Then she set her fists on her hips, nodding once in understanding. “All right then. Let’s do this.” 

May led all of them through a warm up that left Daniel loose and limber — a nice change from the last few days and reaffirmed his decision to learn Tai Chi. Then she and Daisy moved to one corner of the deck while Daniel took the other with Kora. He started with putting Kora in front of him, her back to his chest, and walked her through all the ways she could get free, no matter which way he restrained her. 

Though they also worked on breaking holds, May worked Daisy differently — restricting Daisy to using only her feet or only one hand. Daniel watched in admiration for a few seconds before turning his attention back to her sister. 

He couldn't believe how the new leg moved with him as he took Kora through the basic movements. He had his balance already, but he didn’t have to make the small, deliberate adjustments to make the knee work right or to set the foot down just so. He had just enough sensation to know where and how he stood. Only the ever-present ache in his thigh reminded him that the leg wasn’t his own. 

Kora paid attention, which was nice, so they spent more time practicing than teaching. She was a quick enough study that Daniel started making her work to break his holds, rather than just demonstrating the right movements. 

When she faltered, he patted her on the shoulder. "Good job. Go get some water and we'll go through it again."

Daisy and May had moved off the deck to spar closer to the beach. Daniel sipped from his water bottle, watching them work. Daisy laughed as she chased May across the sand, diving to catch her by the ankle. May rolled with it, snagging Daisy's wrist as she came to her feet. Daisy wriggled free with a twist and a somersault, planting herself on the sand again as she waited for May's next move.

"They're really good, aren't they?" Kora asked.

"This is just a warm up for both of them," Daniel told her. "May is letting Daisy burn off some energy before they get to work."

Kora blinked owlishly at him. "They've been at it as long as we have." She squinted at him. "You're not tired either," she said in dismay.

He grinned. “That’s why the Academy has you in conditioning drills. Hands up, trainee. We've got work to do."

A half hour later, Kora was pissed off and weary enough that she put some serious muscle into breaking Daniel's grip. He countered to catch her in a second hold, and she reacted exactly like he hoped she would. Kora caught his hand and twisted. He followed the movement down to the mat, rolling on his knees and back to his feet to break it.

"Well done!" he exclaimed. 

Startled, Kora broke into smiles. "That was cool!" 

"Water break, and we'll work on that again."

Kora wasn't the only one surprised. Old instincts had Daniel reacting as if he had two good legs — and the prosthesis still hadn't let him down. First, dancing; now, combat drills. It was more than he’d ever allowed himself to dream. 

He went back to watching May and Daisy. When May noticed, she signaled Daisy, and the two of them squared off.

"Hey, Kora, come take a look. Now you can see them spar for real.” 

She stood beside Daniel as May began a relentless attack on Daisy. “What would you call the other stuff?” she asked. 

“Combat means reacting by muscle memory and being able to think clearly in spite of exhaustion, pain, or the conditions you’re fighting in. May’s spent an hour and a half letting Daisy wear herself down, and this is after Daisy went for a run this morning too. May’s got the upper hand in both experience and energy. Now she can push Daisy into becoming a better fighter,” Daniel said. “Anyone can fight when they’re fresh. The ones who survive are the ones who can do it to the end.” 

May and Daisy clashed on the sand, grappling for dominance as they exchanged punches and kicks. They fought in a no-holds-barred martial arts style new to Daniel. Their speed astonished him. For sure, both ladies would kick his ass on his best day back when he had two good legs. 

“Daisy’s job is to stay on her feet,” Kora murmured.

“That’s one of them, yes.” 

“Agent May is making me do these drills where I have to keep my balance.”

“Uh huh. Balance is the key to good fighting. You’ve got to be able to react.” 

May stepped up her speed and ferocity, challenging Daisy to counter her moves with creative thinking and accuracy. Every time Daisy missed an opportunity to strike or block, May exploited that weakness. Daniel saw what Daisy meant about getting overrun. May was clearly trying to train that out of her, and Daisy certainly had motivation to learn after being drugged and unable to use her powers. 

With no more than the slightest angle of her chin, May telegraphed her next move to Daniel, though Daisy took it to mean something else entirely. May caught her by the shoulder, spinning Daisy around and kicking her leg out so they both fell to the sand. May planted an elbow square on Daisy’s spine. It was a pulled strike, but got the reaction May wanted. 

“Get down,” Daniel ordered Kora. She didn’t respond. Instead, she slapped a hand to her neck with a low cry. Daniel remembered Daisy doing the same thing; Kora had to be picking up on Daisy's mental state.

Daisy flipped over, throwing May off with blinding speed. May rolled to get her hands and knees under her, but stayed in place. Daisy slowly got to her feet. 

Without taking his eyes off Daisy, Daniel knee-checked Kora as he drew the ICER. He sighted on Daisy as he cross-stepped to the left to stand protectively over Kora where she’d fallen. 

With both hands outstretched and aimed at May, Daisy held her position. May stayed where she was, talking to Daisy in a low voice. 

Kora started to cry. 

“What are you feeling?” Daniel asked. 

“She’s terrified. She feels trapped.” Kora covered her head. “It hurts.” 

Daniel kept the ICER trained on Daisy until she dropped her hands, slumping a little as she regained control, her eyes locked on May. 

He holstered his piece and held out a hand to help Kora up. She stumbled into Daniel’s embrace. He held her as Daisy walked, shoulders slumped, to where she’d stashed a water bottle. She took a long pull, dropping it back in the sand when she was done. 

May got to her feet, waiting for Daisy to come back. “Let’s do it again,” May ordered. 

Daisy nodded, settling into her fighting stance. 

“Good girl,” Daniel said under his breath. He was incredibly proud. 

“Why would you say that?” Kora protested, stepping back to scrub at her face. “She’s completely freaked out.” 

“She’s a fighter, Kora. A hesitation like that in battle gets you killed. Daisy has to work through it, and the best way to do that is with people you trust. Agent May’s got this. I’m just here for backup.” 

Kora’s face clouded over. “That’s not fair. She’s scared.” 

Daniel wouldn’t deny knowing that made his heart ache, but Daisy was in excellent hands. “No. It’s not fair,” he said firmly. “Facing an enemy is never fair. Lock it down, trainee. No one here will hurt your sister.” 

Kora struggled, but some of the tension left her face. Out on the sand, Daisy settled into another round of serious sparring with May. 

“Come on. We’ve got work to do,” he told Kora. 

“Have you told Daisy you’re in love with her?” she blurted. 

“Nope.” 

“I can feel it, you know. Just like I can feel that you actually like having me around. I don’t get that very much. People are still afraid of me.” She looked him up and down. “Why aren’t you?” 

Daniel chuckled under his breath as they faced each other across the mat, happy to have a good answer. “Because I’ve made a career out of stuff this world never knew existed. I’ve also seen evil face-to-face in a forest, a conference room, and a barn. You aren’t it.” 

Startled, Kora let out a smile. She glanced over her shoulder to see Daisy tumbling across the sand and popping up on her feet. “Let’s do this,” she insisted, facing him. 

Pleased, Daniel settled into his own stance. “Now, if I grab your arm like this, what are you going to do about it? And blasting me with your superpowers isn’t an option.”

Kora giggled. 

 

Dinner that night was fun. The four of them clustered around a small table where May drily told stories on Daisy that made Kora laugh. Daniel played with Daisy’s hair while he listened, and it was nice to lean against her side while they ate blue crab sandwiches and French fries. Her shampoo must have coconut in it, because he caught the scent of it every time she turned her head to look at May. 

They weren’t in any rush to leave, and nobody seemed to care when he tugged an extra chair over to prop his foot on the bottom rung. It made it easier to rest his nicely cold bottle of beer against the ache in his bum leg. 

Daisy dropped her hand on his other thigh, idly making circles on the denim of his jeans with her thumb. With Kora sitting right here, he captured Daisy’s hand to kiss her knuckles. 

Still, Kora rolled her eyes. “Daisy, it’s hard enough to block you out. When you start doing that to him? Then I have both of you to deal with. Stop that.” 

“How’s that going, anyway?” Daisy asked. She didn’t tease him anymore, but she did keep his hand. Daniel didn’t say anything, just sipped his beer like a good boy. 

“It’s getting easier. Mostly.” Kora looked down at the table. 

May picked up her own bottle to take a long drink. “You two resonate off each other. Someday, we’ll figure out how to make that work. Right now? You slip through her shields.” She glared at Daisy. “I don’t have shields, so consider me annoyed at everyone.”  

Contrite, Daisy offered, “That makes sense. A lot of sense. Sorry, guys. I’ll do better.” She asked Kora about Flint and that got the conversation back on track. 

Daniel opted for a second bottle of beer, mostly to keep his leg cold. 

When the check came, he didn’t think twice about discreetly tucking his credit card in the folder and handing it off to the server. Daisy didn’t notice until the server returned and he signed the receipt.

“You didn’t have to pay,” she blurted. “There’s four of us.” 

Daniel closed the folder and set it on the table. “Is it not a future thing to take your girlfriend and her family out to dinner?” 

May smirked as Daisy’s mouth fell open. Even Kora snickered at her sister. 

For a split second, Daisy looked on the verge of tears. Then she quipped, dry-eyed, “Next time we’ll go for lobster, Danny-boy. And thank you. For dinner.” 

“You’re welcome.” He loved flustering Daisy. This one was unintentional, but delighted him anyway. 

He ignored his stiff hip on the short walk to the parking lot, but didn’t quite cover the limp. Kora didn’t notice, but Daisy and May did. He wished he’d brought his new cane. 

Kora chattered all the way back to the beach house, with Daisy making snide quips to egg her sister on. May drove, giving Daniel a dirty look when the girls started giggling about a TV show they’d both liked. 

It was late when they got home. While Daisy made up the couch for her sister, Daniel ducked in the bathroom to wash up. May intercepted him as he headed to his room to change into a tank top and boxers for the night. 

“Well done, Sousa.” 

“It was nothing.” 

“It wasn’t nothing,” she insisted. “The little things … they mean a lot.” 

Since Daniel still had a note in his duffel that smelled like pickles, he understood. “Yes, they do.” 



He tried to sleep. Every time his mind drifted, he sighted on Daisy. Only this time, he fired his piece, and her body fell in the same way a man had collapsed in a Belgian forest. 

With sweaty hands and a racing heart, he rolled over, finding the cool side of his pillow in a pathetic attempt to clear his mind. 

An hour later, his stump throbbed so badly that he reluctantly donned his leg for a trip downstairs for ice packs and water. He tried not to wake Kora as he retrieved both from the kitchen. She didn’t say anything, and he had to achingly side-step his way back up the stairs to his room. Twice, he stopped, breathing through the sharp pain. Pure stubbornness got him walking again. 

He set the glass on the nightstand and tossed the ice packs on the bed before collapsing on it. His whole hip and lower back had locked up, undoubtedly from the unusual exercise of the day. More than ready to get the leg off, he panted through the pain as he shucked it and set it to the side. 

Daniel dug in his med kit for the bottle of the better painkillers Simmons had given him. He shook out a pair and made to set the bottle on his nightstand. He missed, knocking it over into the water glass. They tumbled to the floor together, splattering water every which way as the medicine began to dissolve into tiny white puddles. 

Exhausted from the battle with his own body, Daniel fisted his hands in the bed covers, frustration and anger vibrating through him.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Twenty-Six

 

Daisy paced in slow circles around her room, drinking water as she cooled down from a hot shower. She ached after the day’s long workout — though not as much as she would tomorrow. The exercise felt great though, and she felt better for it. The scans she’d sent to Jemma came back with a smiley face and a thumbs up. She was bruised from the sparring, but hadn’t done any real damage. 

She was calmer, that was for sure. She wasn’t entirely sure if she could sleep on her own, but she wasn’t itching either. That was a nice change from the last few days. 

Daniel had looked pretty badass today in his t-shirt and sweats, and his form had been something to appreciate as he worked with Kora. She worried though; he’d been limping after dinner. That didn’t stop him from cornering her in her bedroom for the kind of kiss that made her glad they were in containment so neither Kora nor May could feel a thing. That had been half the reason for the hot shower. 

She was a little surprised at the big brother/little sister vibes between him and Kora. It did something funny to Daisy’s brain at dinner to have them and May all in one place and chilling just like she’d imagined a real family might do. She still wasn’t sure how she felt about her boyfriend’s sneaky habit of paying for stuff. 

Daisy rolled her neck to keep it loose. Maybe she would be able to sleep after all. 

There was a single knock at her door, with Kora pushing it open before Daisy could answer. She looked awful, like she’d been crying. 

“What happened?” Daisy asked, pulling Kora into a tight hug. She could feel her sister’s heart fluttering with a high, rapid beat. 

Kora rubbed at her eyes, looking five years younger. “I need to sleep in here. In containment. I can feel too much and it’s scaring me.” 

“Of course. But why? What are you feeling?” 

“You--Daniel needs you. You should go to him,” Kora said wearily. She looked overwhelmed and uncertain. “He’s okay, but … he’s not.” 

“All right. I’ve got this, sis.” Daisy gave her sister another squeeze before nudging her toward the bed. “Get some sleep.” 

Kora crawled under the covers, clearly relieved to have someone else in charge. 

Daisy snached up her phone and laptop, turned out the lights, and closed the door. 

She double-knocked on Sousa’s door, but didn’t wait for his answer either. In one glance, she took in the doffed leg, spilled water and medicine, the ice packs on his stump, and the grimace on her boyfriend’s face. 

“Dais — don’t,” he said with weary exasperation. 

Setting the laptop and phone on his dresser, Daisy rolled her eyes. “Don’t, what? Don’t do anything? I can’t do that.” 

She picked up the glass, darting to the bathroom to refill it. There, she plucked a couple of towels out of the linen cabinet, slipped back into Daniel’s bedroom, and quietly closed the door behind her. She handed him the cup and dropped the towels on the floor to sop up the water. She glanced at the pill bottle and the dosage, then hunted for a pair that weren’t sopping wet and passed them over too. As Daniel downed them, Daisy capped what was left in the bottle and set it upright. 

When she dried off the side table and the floor, Daniel protested, “Stop, please. I can clean up my own mess.” 

That earned him a dirty look. She stopped though, chucking the towels into the laundry basket in the corner. “Scale of one to ten, how bad is it?” 

“Five or six.” His mouth made a hard line. 

Right. She added a couple of points to that reading. More than familiar with the meds Simmons handed out for various levels of pain management, Daisy figured Daniel had to be feeling like shit. “What do you need?”

“I’ll be fine. I promise. You can go back to bed.” 

“Kora’s in mine, so I was planning to sleep in yours. Preferably with you in it,” Daisy said bluntly as she dropped cross-legged on the foot of his bed. 

Daniel looked miserable. “I don’t know if I can do that tonight.” He shifted the ice packs, and Daisy realized his boxer shorts didn’t cover as much as she thought. He had medical tape and gauze wrapped around his stump, leaving only the reddened end of it exposed. He saw her looking and dropped his hand to cover that too. “I’ll be fine,” he said again. 

“I’m calling bullshit, Sousa. What do you need?” 

“To get off the leg for a few days, a hot bath with Epsom salts, and about three sessions of PT,” he snapped. Daniel shifted on the bed, clearly in pain. “The first and second aren’t options right now, and I’m pretty damned sure you aren’t a physical therapist. Which means these,” he picked up the bottle of pills and rattled it, “are all I’ve got.” 

“You weren’t limping this much on the Zephyr. What’s happened since then?” 

“You aren’t going to let this go, are you?” he asked irritably. 

“Not when you look like I need to drag your ass to S.H.I.E.L.D. medical. When was the last time you sent scans to Simmons?” 

“I don’t need anyone telling me how to take care of myself. I’m pretty damned sure I know the drill.” But he didn’t quite look at her. 

Pissed at his answer, she snapped, “1955 is calling and wants its toxic masculinity back. I can handle a few fucking scars, Sousa. You act like I don’t know anything about having a body that breaks down every time I use it to its full potential.” 

“Dais—”

“No,” she said, temper flashing. “You don’t get to do this thing where you suck it up because you’re too stubborn to ask for help and just make it worse. I thought we weren’t going to do this crap, because if we are, you already know I am hella good at it.” 

Daniel glared at her with fists jammed into the bedcovers. 

Her heart pounded, scared maybe she’d pushed him too far. But this was important. Really important. 

At last, he nodded, shoulders slumping a little. “Fair point,” he admitted. Reluctantly, he set the ice packs aside and began picking at the med tape on his stump. “I left my phone downstairs. Can we use the scanner on yours?”

Daisy unfolded from the bed to retrieve her phone from the dresser. 

Daniel peeled the gauze back, revealing a patchwork of scored flesh and old incisions. 

She let out a small hiss of shock at the damage before she clamped her mouth shut. She knew what shrapnel and surgical scars looked like. More importantly, she knew what overstressed scars looked like, and here was proof that Daniel didn’t leave her in a horse barn to be sliced and diced by a psycho-freak. 

“Daisy, it’s okay. I know how bad they look.” Daniel sounded utterly miserable. 

“Hush,” she said absently as she knelt between his legs to look him over. “Has Simmons had a look at these lately?” she asked again.

“I might have dodged a reminder or two,” he admitted. 

She opened the scanner and handed it over. When he finished, she insisted, “Send them now.” 

“It can wait until morning.” 

“No, it can’t. I’m betting at least one of those is flirting with an infection. Where’s that healing cream she makes all of us use?” Daniel pulled the side table drawer open and pulled out a small med kit. Daisy plucked the tube and an antiseptic wipe out of the bag. “Can I do it?” 

“If you want. But Daisy, you didn’t sign up for this.” 

She cleaned her hands with the wipe and gave him a don’t-fuck-with-me look as she dropped it in the trash can by his bed. She unscrewed the cap and dabbed some of the cream on her finger. For a moment, she hovered over the violently red, deeply pitted, scabbed-over lines that wrapped around his stump. “I’m a fan, actually.” 

“A what?” he said in disbelief. His mouth was tight. 

With the lightest of touches, she started at the one near the middle of his thigh, spreading the ointment along the entire length, divots and scabs and all. She darted a look at Daniel, fully aware that this moment was as important as the one they’d had a few days ago. “I can stop.” She held her hands up. 

But he shook his head. 

“Good. Because these are my favorite scars,” she said firmly as she coated his skin. “It’s proof of two very important things: for one, you’re a square badass, which isn’t exactly breaking news, but hey, a little extra intel when proving a point is never a bad thing.”

She moved to the second one, getting up on her knees to make sure she didn’t miss the other side. “For two — and it’s pretty selfish on my part — but these mean you didn’t leave me behind.” Daisy’s voice broke as she spread the cream across the third mark that was scabbed from tip to tip, where he’d split it open carrying her to safety. “So, yeah, I’m a big fan.” She finished by dotting ointment on the shiny raw patches of healed-over blisters. 

With as much sass as she could muster as she screwed the top back on the tube and set in the bag, she added, “I’d put my lips on them but I think you might fall over if I did that.” 

Daniel had that dazed look on his face again, like when she kissed him in the time loops. 

She had no idea if she was doing this right, or if she’d gotten it all wrong. She stood up, sliding her arms around his head and shoulders. He leaned into her, pressing his forehead against her stomach. After a long moment, he brought his arms up to hold onto her. She threaded a hand through his hair. “It’s okay, sweetheart,” she murmured. 

He shuddered, squeezing her even tighter. Daisy stayed put until he sighed softly. 

“Hey, Daniel?” He lifted his head, blinking reddened eyes. She pressed kiss to his forehead. “Let’s see if I can do something about the pain, okay? I might be able to help.” 

“The medicine is kicking in. It’s a little better now,” he told her.

“Better like you can sleep?” 

“Probably not,” he admitted. 

She knelt on the bed. “Hold out your arm.” 

When he did, she rested her hand on his bare shoulder. Closing her eyes, she listened. With an infinitesimal vibration, she dragged her fingers downward, feeling the tension in his bicep ease under her touch as the “sound” of the frequency changed. 

“I thought you weren’t supposed to quake?” Daniel ran his fingers over his bicep in curiosity. 

“This is … not that. It’s more like letting my shields down. Kind of like what happened last night,” she acknowledged. “If I didn’t have the control, I wouldn’t offer.” Daisy held her breath. It was one thing to know your girlfriend could move stuff around. This was … a lot more intimate. 

“Let’s give it a shot.” 

Elated, she moved over on the bed to make room. “Tell me where it hurts.” 

Daniel stretched out on his stomach with his head pillowed on his arms. With his thumb, he traced a line from mid-back to the middle of his thigh. “All of it.” 

“Have I mentioned that your butt is incredibly cute? It’s one of your better assets.” 

“Good to know.” That got a ghost of a smile in her direction. 

She started at the middle of his back, sliding her hand under his shirt. She didn’t need to be skin-to-skin, but it felt good to touch him. 

Daniel turned his head, his dark, weary eyes telling her that he trusted her without saying a word. 

She closed her own to concentrate on sending the first tiny wave through his muscles. Tension made the vibration different, and she focused her efforts on those spots. 

“For a couple of hours today, I forgot,” Daniel said quietly. “I was teaching Kora like I taught the privates in the army. Didn’t have to think about how to make my leg do what I needed it to do. It just felt … real. For a little while.”

Following her instincts, she increased the vibration to relax the muscle under her fingertips. “Why does it hurt so much now?” 

“‘Cause I’ve got a quarter of a leg left, and the rest of me is trying to pick up the slack.”

His explanation made sense. As the tension eased in one area, Daisy followed the strain down, listening to the frequencies and not really paying attention to where she was going. 

At least, until Daniel murmured, “Didn’t know you were going to try to find my tattoo that way.” 

She halted, eyes popping open to note her hand hovering over the curve of his hip. “Here?” Not that she could see anything through his boxers.

“Wanted someplace discreet. Show you later. Jus’ don’t stop ‘cause that feels fantastic.” 

So much for worrying about his girlfriend’s abilities, especially not with that promise. Daisy reached over Daniel to turn the light off, then set her fingers on his hip again. She closed her eyes again to concentrate, chasing down each cramping muscle to vibrate away the knots until he let out a relieved sigh. 

“That’s incredible, Dais,” he said sleepily. “Hasn’t felt this good in weeks.” 

It was unfair, really, the way he breathed out and fell sound asleep right under her hands. She didn’t stop, though, until the last taut string of muscle gave way under her ministrations. 

Satisfied with her efforts, and more than a little smug at her success, Daisy sat cross-legged on the bed, thinking about her next move. 

She had a solution for Daniel’s predicament, a really good one, in fact. But it meant revealing something intensely private, something only Coulson knew. If she shared it with Daniel and things didn’t work out, it might not ever be the same for her again. 

But it was the right thing to do. 

Without disturbing her snoozing boyfriend, Daisy retrieved her phone off the side table and slipped out of the room without a sound. She sat in the hallway, sending a series of texts. 

“Daisy?” May stood in her doorway. “Are you okay?” 

She’d forgotten about May sleeping one room over with her new empathy. “There are no secrets in the house, right?” Daisy said by way of apology. 

May huffed a laugh. “I could use a drink,” she admitted. 

“I’ll get the wine.”

They sat side-by-side on the sofa on the deck, listening to the waves curling over the sand as they sipped from yellow plastic cups. 

“How’s the feelings thing going?” Daisy ventured. “Is it getting any easier?” 

“My emotions are coming back. Sensing everyone else’s is exhausting sometimes, but I’m learning to tune some of it out.” She drank her wine. “I think it helps Kora to know there’s someone else dealing with it too.” May shook her head. “What I can’t figure out is why Jiayang didn’t catch on. Afterlife was supposed to know how to handle these things.”

Daisy turned her cup in her hands. “If all Kora ever got from anyone there was fear, then Malick’s interest must have seemed like a godsend.”

“Makes sense. Who has more power? You or Kora?” 

“I don’t know. Kora maybe, when she’s trained.” Daisy shook her head. “But I haven’t reached the limits of what I can do either.” 

“What’s that feel like?” 

Daisy didn’t quite know how to put it into words, but she tried. “When I was in LA after I got my powers, the ocean was just a few miles away. I could feel it no matter where I went. I can feel ocean currents like a low, deep rumble running through me all the time. And I know that if I wanted to, I could make them move.”  Daisy sipped her wine with both hands on the cup. “Which is why, when Deke and Fitz told me I’d broken the Earth, I knew they were right. Mostly Fitz, but I’ll give Deke—” she held her fingers a half-inch apart, “that much credit.”

May rolled her eyes. “Deke’s fine where he is. I’m sure of it.” 

"Yeah, I know.” Daisy slanted a look at May. “I, um, have enough trouble with me. I can’t imagine what it’s like for you and Kora to have to deal with everyone else.” 

“Kora will learn to use her power to block. Thanks for teaching her that, by the way. It’s a good solution, and she’s getting better by the day. Me? I’m too stubborn to let it get the best of me.” 

“You said it, not me,” Daisy teased. 

“You called me ‘Mom’ this morning. Sousa told me you said it yesterday, too.” 

Mortified at her lapse, Daisy looked away. “I’m sorry. I think it just slipped out. Having a sister is messing with my brain.”

May chided, “Don’t apologize. You meant it when you said it. And I don’t mind.”

To keep her hands from shaking, Daisy swirled her wine in her cup. “Kora’s taken to you.” 

“We have a lot in common,” May agreed. 

She bumped shoulders with Daisy, and it was so out of character that Daisy looked up in surprise. “Huh?” 

“I think I can get Kora on the right path. She can’t hide from me yet, and that’s a good thing. You and Sousa need time to figure things out anyway before you get your next assignment.”

“Is there any point to trying to make this work, May? I mean, you and Coulson dodged it for years.” 

“We were afraid.” 

“Of what?” 

“Of being happy. We get jaded in this business, and we don’t believe we can take a little bit of happiness for ourselves.” May shifted on the sofa to face Daisy. “Let me tell you, it’s hell finding out you were wrong right before losing someone you love. I’ve done that a couple of times.” 

“Sousa said something along those lines. He’s like, all in. And I’m not even sure I can be the kind of person he needs me to be.” 

“No,” May scolded, “You’ve got it backwards. Daniel’s already chosen you. Now it’s up to you to decide if he’s what you need.” 

“I’m the last person I’d trust to know that,” Daisy said drily. 

May smiled. “Sounds like that’s where you need to start.” 

“Okay, Mom. Can we change the subject now?” 

“Fine. Tell me about your grades and if your room is clean.” 

Daisy burst out laughing as she picked up the bottle to refill their cups. 

 

 

When May went to bed, Daisy slipped into Kora’s room to check on her. Since her sister was sleeping peacefully, Daisy closed her door with a happy smile. 

She eased into Daniel’s room without making a sound. He was still faceplanted where he’d fallen asleep on top of the sheets. Daisy picked up the blanket at the foot of the bed and pulled it over both of them as she crawled in on the other side. She shivered as she put her head on the pillow, watching him. 

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Twenty-Seven

 

A faint knock on the bedroom door woke Daniel. Extricating himself from the toasty cocoon he and Daisy had made in the night took a little longer. She’d tucked her feet around his leg, and he’d curled an arm around her waist so they spooned nicely. He was now intimately familiar with the curve of her ass in ways that he’d like to appreciate later. 

With only a little grumble, he sat up and reached for the crutches he kept on the floor beside the bed. With a yawn, a few steps, and a grunt as he balanced on a crutch, he opened the door. 

Kora smirked, handing him his phone. “Agent Simmons is trying to reach you.” 

“Ah.” He winced, remembering why Daisy was sleeping with him in the first place. “Sorry about last night. Didn’t mean to keep you awake.” 

“I know. You and Daisy make me happy though. So it’s okay.” Kora tilted her head. “May’s making breakfast, if you’re hungry, then we’re heading back.” 

“We’ll be down in a minute.” He tucked the phone under his arm. 

She flashed him a smile and pulled his door closed. 

Daisy reluctantly sat up as he crossed the room. Daniel had to admit he loved the way she looked in the mornings: tousled and sleepy in her t-shirt and lacy shorts. He dropped the phone on the bed, the crutches on the floor, and himself beside her so he could press a kiss to her lips. “Good morning.”

The way she startled every time he did something he thought was a casual touch told him how much she wasn’t used to that kind of thing. The way she melted when he did it told him how much it meant to her. 

“You look like you feel better,” she said with a shy smile, stretching her shoulders as she checked him out. 

“I do. I’m still sore,” he admitted. “But not like last night.” HIs phone buzzed. Daniel glanced at it. “Simmons. I’d better take this.” 

It was his turn to get a lecture. Simmons was not happy with him. “It’s called Rest and Recovery for a reason, Agent Sousa. I’ve made an appointment for you after lunch with Dr. Manyok at the Hub. I’ll send you the details. Dr. Manyok has all the resources you’ll need and will be checking the fit of the prosthesis. I should have made time on the Zephyr to do that.” 

“We were busy.” 

“Not an excuse for either of us. We both know better. I’m not a prosthetics expert. Dr. Manyok is, and I’ve consulted with them on multiple occasions.”

Daniel slanted a look at Daisy, who batted innocent eyes at him. “All right. We’ll be there,” he agreed. 

“Manyok is sending me a full report, so don’t think you’re wiggling out from under my care. I’ve dealt with Daisy, remember. I’m not afraid of you.” 

“Understood,” he said, laughing softly under his breath. 

“Remind Daisy she needs to check in with me today too.” 

He couldn’t resist. “Hey, sweetheart? Call Jemma.” 

Daisy rolled her eyes at him. 

“Oh. She’s with you.” Jemma seemed smug. 

“I’ll pass the phone over.” 

Daisy threw him a dirty look, but took the phone as she scraped her hair off her face. “Hey, Simmons.” She listened for a second. “Yeah, last night. I’ll get my phone.” She looked around. Daniel found it on the nightstand, and she took it with a grateful smile. With one phone tucked against her shoulder, she used the other one to try to scan her forearms. When she dropped it by accident, Daniel did it for her, running the beam of blue light from her fingertip to elbow as she turned it this way and that. 

There wasn’t anything particularly sensual about it. Still, Daisy flushed and laced her fingers with his as she spoke with Simmons about the results. 

Daniel suspected Daisy had confessed to using her powers on him, no matter what she’d said about it not really counting. 

“Jemma!” she protested. “No!” Daisy seemed embarrassed, pulling her hand away from him. “I’m going now. Give Alya my love, okay?” 

She clicked off the phone, handing it back to Daniel, and picked up hers to look through it. 

“You love Alya?” he asked slyly, getting up to fish a shirt out of his duffle. 

“Of course I do,” she answered as she sent a text off to someone. 

He propped the crutches against the dresser and drew on a green short-sleeved button down. “You’ve only met her a few times.”

Daisy scowled at him. “She’s Fitzsimmons’ kid.” 

“You barely know her.” He slid his hands in his crutches again to cross the bedroom. 

She set down her phone, eying him suspiciously. “All right, Danny-boy, what’s your point?” 

“I love you,” Daniel told her with confidence. “And if it’s not too soon for you to love a little girl that you’ve met only a handful of times, then it’s not too soon for us.” He leaned on the crutches to kiss the tip of Daisy’s nose. “Let’s go get breakfast. We can’t have May thinking we don’t appreciate her.” 

Shocked by his admission, she twisted her hands in the covers. “I, uh—”

“Come on, sweetheart.” He freed a hand by resting one crutch against his elbow, then tugged Daisy off the bed. 

Wide-eyed, she rose, still stuttering to speak. He kissed her on the lips, just a quick nip that left her flushed and flustered, then he headed for the door. 

“You can’t say stuff like that,” she said at last.

“Sure I can, when I mean it. And I will. You coming?” 



Throughout breakfast, Daisy did a damned good job of pretending to be wholly focused on Kora’s antics, laughing with her sister as they buttered toast and fried up bacon. It was Kora who gave away Daisy’s real state of mind with her giggles and sly looks at Daniel. 

He laid out dishes and silverware along the island for the four of them while May scrambled eggs at the stove. He opened the cabinet for juice glasses, but didn’t take them down, remembering what Daisy had told him. And yet, she hadn’t hesitated to pick up the glass last night in his room. 

He started to close the door anyway. 

“Use them,” May said quietly. “You don’t like people making exceptions for you. Neither does she.” She darted a pointed look at his crutches. 

“It’s not the same.” 

“We all have our battles, Sousa. She’ll tell you if she needs help fighting this one.” 

“Right,” he said with a touch of sarcasm. But he took the glasses out of the cabinet. 

May let out a soft huff of a laugh. “She’s watching. She knows you care and that makes all the difference.”



As soon as May and Kora hit the road, Daisy didn’t waste any time. “Pack up, Danny-boy. We’ve got an appointment to make.” 

He’d assumed they were coming back here. “We’re staying at the hotel tonight?” 

“Maybe. How do you feel about LA?” 

“Favorably. I used to live there.” He frowned. “What about my car?” 

Daisy let out a peal of laughter. “Seriously? That’s the first thing you ask? Peggy was right about how much you love that thing. Yes, I’ve made arrangements for that too.” 

It did something funny to Daniel each time Daisy acknowledged his past relationships without jealousy or rancor. “What arrangements?” 

“That’s for me to know, and you to find out,” she teased. “After you keep your appointment.” She glanced down at his crutches. “Looks like I’m driving.” 

“Um, nope.” He did not want Daisy to get in the habit of babying him. Cleaning up the mess last night was bad enough. 

“You’re not driving for two solid hours, Sousa. You heard what Jemma said about resting.” 

“It’s called cruise control. I’ll be fine.” 

She shot him a dirty look, then darted up the stairs — presumably to pack, though it worked nicely to avoid the issue too. 

Like any good agent, she had her room clear in five minutes and her duffel and backpack by the door in ten. She narrowed her eyes when she saw him coming down the stairs on two legs, with his parents’ box in hand and his duffel strapped to his shoulder. 

“Where are your crutches?”

“In my bag.”

“Huh.”

He followed her to the car where she dumped her duffel in the trunk and waited for him to do the same. He did, setting the wooden box carefully on top. 

Daisy held out her hand for the keys. 

“I drove from the Hub. I can drive back,” Daniel told her, standing his ground. 

A myriad of emotions flickered across her face, starting with anger and ending with frustration. “You can’t do this,” she insisted. 

That pissed him off. “I think I know what I can handle, Daisy,” he retorted. 

“Do you want to be in this relationship with me?” she snapped. 

Thoroughly confused by the way the conversation went from zero to a hundred in ten words, Daniel reached for a little more patience. “That’s not even a question. I think I made that clear this morning.” 

Daisy flinched at the reminder, both hands curling into fists. She paced a couple of steps, shaking her head. “It’s not … it’s not about what you can handle,” she stammered, wrapping her arms around herself. 

Daniel leaned against the car, waiting for Daisy to work out the real problem because he didn’t have a clue. 

She wouldn’t look at him when she said in a low voice, “If you’re going to have my back, you have to be here.” 

That was not what he expected her to say. Understanding dawned, and Daniel took her hands to reel her into a hard embrace. He didn’t have a good defense either; technically, he should be dead at least twice over. “All right, sweetheart.” 

She held onto him, hands digging into the back of his shirt with her face pressed into his shoulder. He stroked her hair, pressing a kiss to the top of her head before resting his cheek there. 

The earlier teasing and sharp retorts had been a cover for a fear that ran deep in Daisy’s psyche. The wonder of it was that she’d managed to tell him instead of letting it dig at her like a splinter under her skin. 

When she reluctantly let go, he held out the keys. 

But she didn’t take them. She picked at her nails instead. “Just, pull over when it hurts, okay?” 

That concession wasn’t hard to make, given where the conversation started. “Okay.” 

Daisy squinted at the car. “Can we take the top off until then?” 

His pride demanded a comeback, even if she was right. “So you’re saying you want the top down all the way to DC?” 

She rolled her eyes at his answer. “So how do we do this?” 

 

*****

 

Daisy was a lot fazed when she dropped into the passenger seat. Daniel slipped his sunglasses on and backed the car down the driveway. 

She was pretty sure they’d just had their first real fight somewhere between last night and now. She got pissed at him, he got pissed at her, and weirdly enough, they’d worked out a compromise and nobody slept on the proverbial couch. There was an ‘I love you’ in the middle, and she had no idea what to do with that

As the car picked up speed, whipping her hair into her face, she dug in her backpack for something to tie it back with. Daniel shot her a quick look as she looped a ponytail through a hairband. “What?” she asked. 

“You’re beautiful, Daisy.” 

She glanced down at herself. They’d dressed for work: boots, pants, a nice shirt, and a jacket for each of them. Confused, she shook her head.

“Not the clothes, sweetheart, though they do look nice. I’m talking about you.” He tapped the radio. “What kind of music do you listen to?” 

Daisy pursed her lips. Her boyfriend was very good at dropping little bombs on her and moving on to the next subject before she could process what he’d said. He just … said it. He didn’t seem to be changing his mind, either. 

She wasn’t going to think too hard on that right now. “What did you think about the rock band the other night?” she asked, instead. 

“It was ... interesting,” he said with a laugh. “Some of it I liked. Do you have a favorite? 

Daisy snickered. “I think I’ll skip the stuff I play when I’m working out. That might break your brain.” She pulled up IKON’s “Bet On Me,” instead. 

After a minute or two, Daniel nodded. “That’s not bad.” 

“What do you like?” she wondered. 

“Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman. There’s a new song by …” Daniel drummed his fingers on the steering wheel, “Bill Haley and his Comets. It’s got a good beat.” 

“And here I thought you’d be a Sinatra fan.” 

“Not particularly. And don’t get me started on Perry Como.” 

Daisy studied her phone to figure out what kind of stuff Daniel favored. “Swing music?” she asked, surprised. 

That got a real smile, if a sad one. “You could usually find me out dancing somewhere on Saturday nights.”

“No wonder you were willing to dance to a crappy cover of a bad 80’s song,” she teased. 

“You take what you can get.” There was a touch of bitterness there, and he must have realized it because he was quick to add, “I had a lovely date; I couldn’t resist.” 

“And there’s that charm again.”

“Only for my best girl.” 

Daisy laughed. “Alright, old man.” She studied her phone again. “Oh. You don’t even know about Elvis yet.” 

“Elvis?” Daniel shrugged. “I’ve heard of him. He’s all right.” 

She laughed, hitting play on “Jailhouse Rock.” 

Lighting up, he shot her an incredulous look. “Now that you can dance to.” 

They talked music and genres as Daisy played tracks from all over the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s. Daniel was little agog that she could play practically anything from her phone. She saved all his favorites, plus a few she liked too. 

“I’ll show you,” she promised. “You can make your own playlists, kind of like making up a whole album just of the stuff you like.” 

“I’d like that. Hey, are records still a thing?”

“Vinyl? Weirdly enough, yes,” Daisy told him. “They died out in the 80’s and 90’s when music went digital, but about ten or fifteen years ago, suddenly it was a thing again.”

“Good to know. I had a pretty good collection.” 

Daisy pursued her lips. There were some old records in the boxes she’d packed up from her house and put in the garage--all part of the stuff she’d been half-afraid of quaking on a bad night before the panels went up. Maybe Daniel would get a kick out of flipping through them. 

They’d just dipped a toe into early 60’s music when he eased off the interstate and pulled into a gas station. 

“Ready for a break?” she asked. 

“That and the car needs a fill-up.” Daniel pulled up to the gas tanks, peering around in confusion. “No station attendant?” 

Daisy snickered as she climbed out of the car. “Strictly DIY.” 

“DIY?”

"Do-it-yourself.” 

Daniel unlocked the trunk to find the cane he’d stashed in his duffel. He leaned on it while Daisy slid her credit card in the slot. 

“Uh, the car takes leaded gas, Dais.” 

She hooked the pump in the tank and let it run. “Not anymore. Lead’s bad for people, so no more putting it in cars. No worries, though. Coulson had your baby’s engine upgraded. Modern fuel makes it a little less fuel efficient, but the upgrades make up the difference. Ask Mack if you want to know the details.” 

They took the time to put the top back on the car before heading into the gas station. Daisy finished in the bathroom first, then headed to the counter with a couple of bottles of water to pay for them. 

The attendant, a skinny blond who looked too much like Malick for Daisy’s taste, crossed his arms. “You’re not welcome here, Quake.” 

“Wasn’t planning to stay,” she shot back, sliding her wallet out of her front pocket. 

“You can leave those. I’m not selling to you.”

“What did I do to you?” She was honestly curious when she ran into people who hated her on sight. She deserved it, sometimes, but this was a little off the beaten path to encounter someone like this. 

“You’re an abomination,” he spat out. 

“Good to know,” Daisy said under her breath. She spun on her heel and stalked out, having learned long ago that people with narrow minds would never change an opinion off a smart-ass remark. She was pissed though. She really wanted the water. 

But Daisy was used to not getting what she wanted. She slumped against the car, waiting for Daniel.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Twenty-Eight

 

Daniel overheard the whole exchange. The knot in his thigh gave him a good excuse to take his time getting to the counter where he jerked a chin at the bottles. “I’ll take those.” He fished a ten out of his wallet and handed it over. “What’s your name, son?” 

“John,” the attendant answered warily, putting the money in the register and handing back the change. 

“Seems like you have a beef with the lady,” Daniel commented, tucking the bills and coins in his jacket pocket. 

“Everyone knows people like her shouldn’t be here.” 

“Everyone?” 

“Everyone who matters.” 

“Ah.” Daniel picked up the bottles in one hand, leaning on his cane with the other. “It’s a good thing she doesn’t think the same about you.” 

“What’s that supposed to mean?” 

“Because she’s already saved your dumb ass twice over, and you didn’t even know it. You owe her your life, son. Next time, you might give her a little courtesy.” 

“What’s it to you?” 

“I’m someone who can make things miserable for you if you can’t learn a few manners. John at the MiniMart on I-50 in Ridgely,” Daniel recited. “That’s all I needed to know. Good day.” 

He found Daisy leaning on the hood of the T-bird with her arms crossed as she faced the interstate. It was an image Daniel wouldn’t soon forget, but now wasn’t the time to tell her how attractive he found it. 

“Hey.” He held out the bottles. 

She turned her head, then reluctantly took one. “Hey.” 

Daniel shifted the extra bottle and his cane to his left elbow and dug in his pocket for the spare keys to the T-bird. “You might as well keep this set. I’ve still got mine on my keychain,” he explained, dropping them in her hand. “Ready to go?” 

“Sure.” 

As Daisy pulled out onto the frontage road, Daniel tried to lighten her mood. “The temptation to quake idiots like that must be hard to resist on occasion.” 

“Happens often enough that I’m used to it,” she said hollowly. “It’s not a battle worth fighting.” She pressed the accelerator to get up the ramp and onto the freeway. “You don’t have to fight them for me either,” she added in a firm voice. 

He held his hands up with a sigh. “I know. Peggy already gave me this lecture.” 

That got a ghost of a laugh. “Which one was that?”

In a high British accent, the same one he used to mock Peggy with, he recited, “I know my value. Anyone else’s opinion doesn’t really matter.”

“It’s a good lecture,” Daisy said, her voice softening. “What did you say to the asshole, anyway?”

Daniel raised an eyebrow in her direction. “How’d you know?”

“Boy scout. You wouldn’t let an insult like that pass by.” 

“Damn. You caught me.” He cracked his water bottle open and took a sip. “Mild threat. Made sure I got his name and location. I’ll run him through the database later to flag him. S.H.I.E.L.D. will keep an eye out to make sure he doesn’t cause you or any other Inhuman trouble. Someone’s feeding him negative intel. People don’t use words like ‘abomination’ unless it’s spoon fed to them. It might not hurt to chase it.” 

“I took a picture as I was walking out the door and uploaded it to Security,” she told him. “Feel free to add your notes to the case file I opened.” She jerked a chin in his direction. “You can do it from your phone.” 

“I like the way you think, Agent Johnson. How does this work?” 

Daisy talked him through the process as she drove. 

“That’s neat,” he said in admiration when they were done. “You have no idea how much paper we generated just tracking people. How secure is it?” 

“Stark cracked it once, but his dad built it, so I’d imagine there was some like-minded thinking going on there. I laid a pretty good trap in it when Coulson caught up with me. Still, the whole thing had to be rebuilt from the ground up after Romanoff and Rogers spilled everything open.” She grinned. “The Zephyr, on the other hand, is my baby. So was the Playground.” 

“Was? The Playground is still around?” Daniel’s thigh finished cramping up, and there wasn’t a comfortable position to be had. He dug the heel of his hand into his thigh. 

Daisy shot him a concerned look. “Kind of? It’s being rebuilt, too. That was a whole fiasco. Ask Coulson for those reports.” 

“I will.” He refused to admit that driving probably aggravated his bum leg, even if he knew what ‘toxic masculinity’ meant now that he’d looked it up on the internet, but he wasn’t fooling either of them when he dug the bottle of pills out of the pocket inside his jacket and downed a couple of them. 

Daisy darted a worried look his way, not saying anything. She didn’t have to.

The medication made him sleepy, and it was his turn to doze in the passenger seat. 

 

*****

 

Daisy had to admit the old Thunderbird was fun to drive. Daniel wasn’t anywhere near as fussy about his baby as Coulson was with Lola. Daisy’d been a nervous driver the few times she’d been behind the steering wheel of the Corvette. 

Judging by the way Sousa kept looking between Daisy and the T-bird whenever he thought she wasn’t paying attention, she figured he had a few interesting ideas in mind that might involve a scuff or two on the finish. She was honestly okay with that. If they ever got there. 

After seeing Daniel’s scars, she got why he hadn’t been in a rush to dive into bed with her. He was self-conscious enough to not need her freaking out over the damage he’d taken on her behalf. Since she’d kind of done that already, his caution was justified. 

Then again, he’d nagged her for hundreds of timeloops about resting, so she didn’t feel that bad about insisting he take care of himself. 

She let Daniel sleep until they were just a few miles from the Hub. To wake him, she slid her fingers under the hand he had resting loosely on his thigh. She picked it up, kissing his knuckles. 

He came awake with a parted lips and a delighted smile. 

Daisy ignored the goosebumps she got from the way his dark eyes glowed when they landed on her. “We’re ten minutes out,” she told him. 

“Copy that.” He stretched without letting go of her hand. 

It was unfair how he could make her breathless just from something as silly as that. 

She kept his hand in hers until they reached the Hub and she needed one hand to drive and another to scan their S.H.I.E.L.D. IDs at the gate. She passed Daniel’s ID back to him, dragging her fingers along the underside of his wrist as she did. 

He stilled his hand just long enough to make sure he didn’t drop his ID, but he flashed her a smile of appreciation. 

Daisy wound through the base to park outside the medical wing of the Hub. To her surprise, Daniel unloaded both his old leg and the crutches out of his duffel in the trunk. 

“You still have that thing?” 

Her boyfriend snorted. “They’re all custom-made, so I had a dozen of ‘em at my house. You might have to get used to that. In any case, Dr. Manyok wants to see it.” 

“Why?” 

“Stare and compare, I guess. They also want to see the crutches. Seems there’s a whole team between Medical and SciOps specializing in this stuff. Simmons is pretty adamant about bringing Manyok in to consult.” 

“If Simmons vouches for them, they’re certain to be top in the field.” Daisy stopped Daniel. “Good use of pronouns, by the way. Any questions before you go in?”

“That was part of the required reading while you were in the healing chamber, and I had to state my own pronouns when I filled out the new paperwork. Still getting used to it, but,” he gave her a wry smile, “I knew some people who would have been a lot happier if this was a thing in my time.” 

Nothing fazes you,” Daisy teased. She held out her hands. “What can I carry?”

“The leg, if it doesn’t bother you.” 

Daisy rolled her eyes as she shut the trunk. “Hand it over, Sousa. I’ve carried weirder things.” 

“Like?” He passed it over, then changed his grip on the crutches so he could carry them in one hand and keep his cane in the other. 

She fell in step with him as they headed for the building. “An atom bomb once, after it exploded.” 

He paused, shot her an incredulous look, then shook his head and kept walking. “I’m not sure I want to know about that one.”

“You don’t. You really don’t.” 

They rode the elevator together, and when they stepped off, Daniel looked around for directions to the lab. “You know, I’m a little worried about this.” 

“Why?” Daisy pointed at the door down the hall. 

“Because I want to put my best foot forward, and since you’re carrying one of mine, I’m not sure who should go in first.” 

Daisy had to look away to keep from laughing. “That is a terrible joke, Sousa.” 

“But I can get away with it,” he told her with a smile, waving his access card over the lock. The door slid open. 

She scanned herself in, too, as someone called out, “Agent Sousa!” 

There were no worse gossips than spies, and the entire floor burst into wild applause. Stunned, Daniel glanced helplessly at Daisy, who slipped the extra crutches out of his grasp so he could shake hands with the descending hoards. 

Dodging people this way and that, Daisy wound her way around to an office suite with Dr. Manyok’s name on the door. She knocked. 

A tall thin person appeared in the doorway with a scowl. 

“Dr. Manyok?” she asked.

“You’re not Sousa,” they said abruptly, peering around Daisy to see what the noise was about. 

“He’s back there,” Daisy indicated with her chin. “Can I put these somewhere?” 

“My exam room is there,” they said, indicating the room next door, "I’ll shoo off the lackeys.” 

Daisy deposited the leg and crutches on the table and waited for Dr. Manyok to return with Daniel. 

Manyok whistled loudly with two fingers in their mouth, silencing the room. “Manners, agents. You’re acting like bobby soxers when Elvis came to town.” They turned their attention to Daniel. “Agent Sousa, this way please.” 

When the three of them were behind closed doors in the exam room, Daisy shook hands with Dr. Manyok. “I’m just the bellhop,” she told them. To Daniel, she added, “I’m going to make a couple of calls, and I’ll meet you wherever.” 

She slipped out the door, shutting it quietly behind her, only to hear in a small voice, “Holy shit, it’s Quake.” 

“I usually go by Agent Johnson,” she chided. 

It appeared that the entire room of lab rats looked at her, looked at the door Sousa was behind, and then looked back at her. “Quake and Agent Sousa?” someone else squeaked. 

Any other day, she’d laugh, but the last thing she wanted to do was undermine Sousa’s authority. Or her own. She put her hands on her hips. “Do you seriously have nothing better to do? Sousa needs crutches that actually have balance so he can use them as a weapon in a pinch; the ones he has are crap. Who can work on that?” 

Two hands went up in the back of the room. 

“Excellent. Get a prototype ready, and hide a couple of stilettos somewhere in them. Smoke bombs would be good too. Now, who’s working on the modifications with Dr. Manyok.” 

Three more hands went up.

“Make sure to include a way to stash money, an extra piece, and a set of lockpicks,” she ordered. “And it needs to handle sand and salt water.” She looked around the room. “Who designed the cane?”

Another pair of hands went up. “He likes it. Make him another one.” Daisy swept the lab rats with a hard look. “Agent Sousa does not have time to waste; he’s got to be on a plane tonight. Any questions?”

She got a chorus of headshakes. 

“I’ll be back in an hour to inspect the prototypes. Get moving,” she ordered. 

In the midst of the burst of activity in the lab, Daisy stalked out the door, channeling Nick Fury for all she was worth. She really needed a coat for the full effect, but the boots worked just fine. 

“I didn’t even see her come in,” one of them complained as the door slid closed. 

She made it to the elevator before cracking up with laughter. 

 

With coffee in hand, she wandered down to the waterfront where she could sit in relative privacy under a tree. She had details to wrap up before she and Daniel hit the road.

After she scanned and disabled all the bugs in the area, her first call was to an old acquaintance. Daisy didn’t have many of those. They weren’t close confidants, but they respected each other’s talents and had been known to trade favors on occasion. 

“Hey, Lanita.” 

“Ah, the skinny bitch decides to call.”

“I texted!” Daisy grinned. In seven years, Lanita had never called her by any other name. 

“Do you know how hard it is to fix a house for someone who just pays me money, hardly has any opinions, and doesn’t bitch about anything?” 

“Really easy?”

“Amazingly easy. Hire me anytime. Are you going there?”

“We’ll be there tomorrow.” 

“We? Since when do you rate a we? I thought this place was off-limits?” 

“It kind of is. But we need a place to rest,” Daisy admitted, as her stomach twisted into knots. “One story, tub, pool, handles in the bathroom. My house fits all the requirements.” Not to mention containment panels in the bedroom. 

“ADA? Are we talking wheelchair access? I’ll need to build a ramp if you do. And I’ll need to do a walk-in shower. That will take a couple of days.” 

“He’s on crutches. Sometimes.” Daisy’s heart fell. She really didn’t know what Daniel might want. Maybe he needed a walk-in shower instead of one of the two tubs she had in the house. "Honestly, I'm not sure. Something to sit on in the shower, maybe?"

“Ah, like my tío. Your house has some accommodations already. The pool has a good handrail, too. But if you need something else, I’ll get a crew there to fix it.” 

“I can’t wait to see the pool,” Daisy told her. “The pictures look incredible.”

“I just wish you’d let me do the rest of the kitchen, instead of just the island. It’s old, chica. Looks like somebody’s grandma lives there.” 

“That’s why I like it. You know that.”

“You’re crazy, that’s what I know. Hey, I got a shipment for you at my warehouse. Want me to drop it off?”

“That’s actually what I was calling about.” 

“I’ll put your crap in your garage. And if you’re coming tomorrow, I’ll stock the fridge too. Send me a list.”

“I’ll text you a few things, but can you do it like last time? I kind of need everything.”

“Can your boy cook?”

“Better than I can.”

“That’s not hard.” 

“Yes, he can cook,” Daisy retorted. 

“Good. You won’t starve then, and I can buy real food.” 

“You’re a lifesaver.” 

“You pay me to be one.” 

You’re worth it,” Daisy said with emphasis.

“I know, chica. You are too.” 

Lanita clicked off, leaving Daisy alone to be nervous about taking Daniel to her safe house. She wasn’t going to tell him, of course, but he would figure it out. 

She shot a text off to the team’s group chat to let them know she was heading to LA. Mack was first to ask if she was going alone. Yo-Yo was second. May sent a sappy picture she’d snapped of Daisy and Daniel in the kitchen this morning as an answer. Daisy saved it to her phone. 

Coulson texted her privately. Do I know the address?

You do, she replied.

Then take care. I’ll see you when you get back. 

Daisy texted Kora too. Her sister sent happy face emojis and told her the same thing Coulson did.

As she studied the texts, Daisy wondered if this was anything like a regular family. There’d been a steady stream of photos and snarky comments throughout the week. The team didn’t know about the house though. Coulson had given her the keys and a thick manila envelope before he’d gone to Tahiti with May. 

Daisy had holed up in the house for months, unable to deal. 

Jemma had known Daisy had somewhere to go at least; she’d made the panels for Daisy’s bedroom and shipped them to Lanita’s warehouse. But Jemma had been too heartbroken over Fitz to challenge Daisy’s non-committal answers about where she was staying. 

Daisy had a lot of regrets over not being there for Jemma in those days, and that counted as reason number one she didn’t blink twice about heading off to space with her to find Fitz. 

The house had been in desperate need of a good cleaning, a paint job, and a hundred little repairs. With no idea how to do any of it, she’d called Lanita Gomez. Lanita had taken one website business and turned it into another. She managed houses for a living, with whole teams under her command to handle renovations, cleaning, and repairs, to take deliveries and pick up mail, and to occasionally stock the fridge. Lanita took care of Daisy’s house herself. Daisy paid Lanita double whatever she charged.

When the panels arrived, Lanita and Daisy had installed them together. Lanita didn’t ask what they were for, and Daisy didn’t offer an explanation. Lanita wasn’t an idiot though, and Daisy hadn’t bothered to hide either the gauntlets or the bruises. 

Lanita made Daisy a notebook of all the things that needed to be done by day, by week, and by season. Daisy did what she could. Lanita did the rest, and Daisy quietly promoted Lanita’s business to get her name out to the right people. Not bad for a couple of girls who’d spent their teen years on the streets doing things that rarely qualified as legal. 

When May'd passed the word that Coulson was gone, Daisy and Jemma had bolted for space with Piper and Davis. The house had been empty ever since.

Daisy had done better with the house than with herself in those days, and she honestly didn’t know how things would turn out this time. She did remember to text Lanita, asking for measurements of the spare bedroom to give to Jemma. Kora would need panels too.  

Her phone lit up with a text from Daniel.

What did you do? I was accosted by three different teams when I walked out of Dr. Manyok’s office.

You’re the celebrity, she sent back. 

I’m not the one with scary superpowers. 

Daisy smiled at the teasing. Her boyfriend had acted the idiot this morning, determined to drive while he was already down for the count. At least he hadn’t bitched about the appointment Jemma had set up for him. On a Sunday, no less. 

She checked the time, finished her coffee, and headed back to the Hub. 

The lab fell silent when she stepped inside, but the chattering promptly started up again with Daniel in the center of it as he tested out a new pair of crutches. His wry smile made her heart do fluttery things that made no sense in the middle of HQ. 

She sat on the edge of a desk near him. “Hey.”

“Hey.” He shook his hand loose of the crutch he’d been testing and passed it to her. “Have a look.” 

Balancing it in the middle and giving it a decent swing, she nodded. “Much better. What do you think?” 

“You can hide a smoke bomb in this thing!” Daniel’s gleeful excitement as he popped open a tiny door in the handle made her snicker. 

Dork, she mouthed at him. “Or a real bomb, if it’s small enough,” she mused aloud. “Did you get your other cane?”

“It’s finishing up, but we're still working on the design for the new leg."

“Another one?” 

“I think I’m in for a longer day than we planned,” he admitted. 

Daisy shrugged. “I can occupy myself.” 

Judging by the sparkle in Daniel’s eyes, he had a snarky retort ready. But with a flicker of a look at the team surrounding him, he only gave her a brief, professional nod instead. 

They hadn’t talked about how public they wanted to take their relationship. Just being seen together already had the rumor mill flying, and that was enough for Daisy. Daniel seemed to be on the same page. 

She eased off the desk, drifting to an abandoned table at the back of the lab. Daisy slipped her backpack off her shoulder and dug in it for the cheap little netbook she kept around for whenever she was in a S.H.I.E.L.D. office. It gave S.H.I.E.L.D. something to track, and all she ever used it for was watching movies and company email. Since she hadn’t looked at it in months, she had a lot of catching up to do. She did, however, slip a headset on so she could listen in on the lab rats as they chattered with Sousa. 

Daniel followed one of the lab rat’s explanations — or did a damned good job of faking it. When he turned around to answer someone else’s question, he clocked on Daisy. She was pretty sure it wasn’t her imagination that his shoulders loosened, as a tension she hadn’t known was there fell away. 

She covered a smile. He'd just figured out that she had his back, too.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Twenty-Nine

 

Dr. Manyok, three of the scientists, and Simmons — via a video call — collaborated on Daniel’s new prosthesis. It certainly wasn’t the first time he’d been used as a guinea pig for S.H.I.E.L.D.’s latest idea. Mostly he didn’t mind, it was cutting edge tech, after all. 

He thought he did okay following the rapid-fire conversations, but he kept getting distracted by the sight of Daisy in the back corner of the lab. She’d set up her laptop so that she could keep an eye on the room. In spite of her own celebrity status, she’d faded into the background, looking like nothing more than a researcher with a computer and yet another cup of coffee. 

Daniel hadn’t expected her to stick around for this, but he couldn’t deny having her here was nice. 

The check up with Dr. Manyok had gone well enough. They were concerned about the prosthesis, speculating it might be too heavy for Daniel’s frame. Dr. Manyok liked the function of the one Simmons had made, but they wanted to make a few adjustments. Daniel liked the function of the one she’d made, as it was far better than any prosthesis he’d had before. He’d been reluctant to give it up until Manyok brought in Simmons on the redesign. 

When his phone vibrated, he glanced at it. 

Tell blondie no wi-fi, no apps, nothing that can be hacked half a world away. If Simmons wanted those in, she would have put them in. 

Daniel leaned over to an eager young scientist. “No wi-fi, or any other transmissions. Doesn’t exactly help if I can be picked up on a sweep.” 

“But we can make adjustments anywhere!” she protested. “We can remote in and fix anything you need on the fly!” 

He crossed his arms. “How about we make it so it doesn’t need to be fixed in the field?” 

She sighed, clearly disappointed. “What about upgrading the software?”

“Simmons?” Daniel called out. “Exactly how much software does the hardware need to have?” He was so proud of himself for putting that sentence together. 

Jemma gave him a sly smile. “The microprocessors use computer code and algorithms to adjust to your movements, but it’s nothing that can’t be maintained by local personnel.” She turned to the scientist. “D’Angelo, there’s a data port inside the storage module already. The software can be accessed from there, and Agent Sousa doesn’t have to worry about somebody hacking his tech.” 

D’Angelo muttered as she deleted out the changes she’d made on the hologram. 

Daniel’s phone buzzed again. 

I can’t tell if you’re fazed or just dazed by the shiny new toys. 

Little of both, he texted back. How much of this are you catching?

All of it. Directional microphones are a thing. 

I’m impressed. 

By the shiny toys?

By you. 

Daisy didn’t look up. She stilled instead, one hand curling in on itself. Satisfied he’d made his point, Daniel went back to listening to Simmons and Manyok. He’d rather spend the afternoon darting looks at Daisy, but besotted fool wasn’t the impression he wanted to give SciOps. Though, it might be too late for that, judging by Simmons’ occasional raised eyebrow. 

Daniel’s phone buzzed again. 

We’re catching a cargo flight at oh-two-hundred if you want your baby in LA. Otherwise it’s sitting in a parking garage and we fly commercial in the morning. 

He tucked the phone in his jacket pocket. “So, tell me, how long is this process going to take?” he asked the team. “I’ve got a flight to catch.” 

 

 

The strangest part of building the new prosthesis was the specialized room where he tried on a virtual version under Dr. Manyok’s watchful eye. He could even put weight on it, which didn’t make any sense at all. Simmons had a video feed in here too. They started with a mockup of Daniel’s current leg. 

“Agent Sousa, is this prosthesis too heavy?” Dr. Manyok asked. 

“Maybe. None of my other legs weighed this much,” Daniel admitted. 

“I thought so. You simply do not have enough muscle tone to support an extra kilo or two.” They stepped back. “Dr. Simmons? How would you lighten the load?” 

“I should have thought of that, Agent Sousa,” she said in apology. 

“Hey, I’m not complaining. It feels fantastic compared to what I had before,” Daniel assured her. 

Mollified, Simmons nodded. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to bring Fitz in on this. He might have an idea.”

Fitz popped up a moment later, peering at the model. “Oh, sure. Let’s replace the lower third of the socket with that new titanium alloy we used on the Zephyr.” He did something to the diagram, and Daniel’s leg was suddenly lighter than before. 

He “walked” on it. Jogged a little. Tried the same cross-step maneuver he’d done yesterday. Then went down on his knees and back up again. “It’s better. But maybe it’s too light now?” 

Fitzsimmons chattered back and forth about weight distribution, alloys, and tension on the socket before Simmons made an adjustment. The weight increased slightly above the middle of his thigh. 

“Oh. Wow.” Daniel bounced on the new “leg.” “That’s good. Really good.” 

Dr. Manyok took him through a series of exercises to check the initial fit. “Any pain?” they asked when the test was complete. 

Daniel waggled a hand. “Usual places on the scar tissue, but not as much of a strain on the hip.” 

“Good. I think, perhaps, you will continue to have some level of discomfort if you wear it for long periods of time or use it vigorously. Periodic rest will be critical to both pain management and skin care,” they instructed. 

In other words, plenty of downtime to keep his bum leg healthy, and don’t be stupid with the prosthesis to keep his back from aching. Daniel had heard the same advice since ‘45. 

Dr. Manyok turned to Simmons. “The new model is remarkable, allowing for both increased comfort and a greater range of natural movement. I would like to study your ideas for incorporation into our program here.” 

Simmons glowed under Dr. Manyok’s praise. “It’s good to have a proper prosthetics doctor looking after Agent Sousa.” 

“You’ve done well, Dr. Simmons, especially considering the circumstances.” Thanking Fitzsimmons, they sent the pair back to finalize the design with the prosthetics team and get it into production. 

Daniel dropped his pant leg over his old leg … his old new leg? … donning it before pulling his slacks in place. 

“You seem to be adjusting reasonably well to this century, Agent Sousa,” Dr. Manyok said while making notes on their tablet. 

“I’ve got a lot of help,” Daniel admitted as he fastened his belt. “Director Mack’s team has been staying in touch.” 

“That is good. I will check in with you in a week’s time. I expect to see much improvement,” they said sternly. 

“Copy that.” 

Daisy didn’t look up when he returned to the lab, but a text came through only seconds later. 

ETA from Simmons says the team needs you back for fittings in about three hours. I’m starving. How do you feel about enchiladas? 

 

*****

 

A physical therapist arrived after dinner to work with Daniel while the new prosthesis finished construction on the Zephyr, which was undergoing its own rehab in one of the Hub’s hangers. 

It didn’t complete until late in the evening, and took Simmons and one of the senior scientists acting as her hands another two hours to test it. Daisy loaded the software herself, making small adjustments in the programming as Simmons dictated the changes she wanted. 

Daniel’s own movements would keep the internal battery charged. The battery gave the microprocessors the tiny bit of power they needed to make the leg function more naturally. Most importantly, if the battery died, the prosthesis would continue to work in an entirely mechanical manner, so Sousa would never be compromised in the field. 

Really, the tech was brilliant, especially for something Simmons had dreamed up in the middle of an insane mission. But, as Jemma privately messaged to Daisy, she hadn’t had the opportunity to make the fit be exactly what Daniel needed and found the most comfortable. Daisy got now why Simmons had been adamant about getting Sousa in to see Manyok at the first sign of trouble. 

The liners, too, had been remade. Dr. Manyok designed the new ones so the sensors wouldn’t cross Daniel’s scars. He’d lose some of the feedback he could get from the leg, but Daniel seemed okay with that. Daisy wondered how much the relays had contributed to his pain. 

Shortly before midnight, the prosthesis was complete. Simmons and the other scientist gratefully bowed out. Daisy continued to wait in the empty lab while Dr. Manyok tested the final fit, Daniel’s balance, and his gait in the PT room next door. 

Daisy was jittery. It might be the coffee. It might be the destination. It might be that camping out while Daniel got the care he needed seemed to be a steady girlfriend thing to do. No one had ever called her ‘steady,’ but she wasn’t budging. 

The loneliness of her vigil bothered her more than she expected, moreso when she noted the intrigued glances her direction. But each time Daniel returned to the lab area, he clocked on Daisy first, and his heartbeat would settle into its usual steady rhythm. Beyond that, he’d managed the whole day just fine. Keeping the lab rats focused was second nature to him. He and Dr. Manyok got along well; they both had the drive to finish before Daniel left for LA, which explained why Daisy was still sitting in an uncomfortable lab chair at this ridiculous hour. 

At last, he was done. 

Daniel and Daisy barely made the early morning flight out of the Hub. She drove the T-bird straight into the cargo bay of a freighter headed to California. They strapped into their seats bare minutes before its departure. 

“How’d you manage this?” Daniel asked, a little breathlessly. The dash from the medical center to the tarmac had been a scramble, even if he’d been happy to do it on his brand new leg. 

“Luck, really,” she told him. “The next cargo flight that direction isn’t for another week, so I wasn’t kidding about the parking garage.” 

Daniel reached for her hand. “Thank you. For today.” 

“You’re welcome.” Sparks danced where their fingers laced together, and Daisy wondered how either of them had the energy to generate that. She tucked his hand in her lap as the plane taxied down the runway. 

Once in the air, the copilot jerked a thumb to a narrow spiral stair in the cargo area. “Bunks are up there if you want. Flight time is six hours. We’ll land at oh-four-ten local time. You’ll have fifteen minutes to clear out, then we’re back in the air.”

“Copy that,” Daisy answered. She darted up the steps to see what kind of setup the cargo jet had. For some stupid reason, the cold steel of the hand rail made her think of Malick. She found two narrow bunks separated by an aisle. Daniel might be able to rest up here, but she knew better than to try to sleep in a strange place. She could crash in the safe house tomorrow without the fear of breaking something important. 

“Dais?” 

She dropped back down to the deck. “There’s room for you to sleep. I’ll hang out down here.”

Daniel took her hand again. 

She was twitchy enough that she jerked when they touched, but she didn’t let go. 

“Hey, hey, it’s just me.” He stepped into her space, folding her fingers against his chest and sliding his arm around her back. 

She shuddered, tipping her forehead onto his shoulder. Vanilla-Daniel-coffee scent wound into her brain, soothing the spiky edges. “I, um, shouldn’t sleep here,” she admitted, clutching his shirt at the waist with her free hand. 

Daniel murmured, “I was thinking we could hit up the bathroom and get out of these work clothes, then maybe we can see if the two of us can fit on one of those bunks.” 

“Why is everything so simple to you?” she complained. 

“Because sometimes it is, Daisy.” He ran a knuckle under her chin so she’d look up, pressing a warm kiss to her lips. “I’m not leaving you alone, and if we’re going to make this work, we might as well be comfortable.” 

Someday, his reasonable directions were going to piss her off. Apparently, today wasn’t that day, especially not with that promise. 

The bathroom had a ridiculous excuse for a shower — a showerhead over a toilet, of all things — but she was clean and comfortable in a t-shirt and sweats when she finished. 

The twitchiness hadn’t gone away though. She climbed into the bunk area to find Daniel had stashed his duffel and brand new leg on one bunk and taken up residence on the other. Reclining on an elbow, he thumbed through his tablet, looking like he belonged in 2019, not 1955. 

“Hey,” he greeted. He’d changed and showered too, judging by the damp curls sticking to his forehead. 

Daisy dropped her things next to his. “Hey.” She eyed the narrow bed. “This brings new meaning to the ‘window’ or ‘aisle’ question,” she quipped. 

“Where do you want to sleep?” 

She shrugged, still not sure if this was a good idea. “Doesn’t matter. Ah, maybe I should stay downstairs. I can wake you before we get there.” 

Daniel sat up, setting his tablet aside. “Okay, let me rephrase. Do you want to sleep on the leg side or the no leg side?” 

Flabbergasted, she crossed her arms. “A: I don’t care; B: How about the side where I don’t quake this plane out of the air? C: What the hell, Sousa? What kind of question is that?” 

In response, he scooted to the right side of the bed, next to the single round window on the wall of the plane. “Leg side it is.” He flipped the blanket back. “Can we argue about it in the morning? I’m done for.”

Daniel had more faith in her than he should, and Daisy wanted to be with him too much to say “no.” She kicked her shoes off, gingerly sitting on the edge of the bunk to tuck her feet under the blankets. He stroked her hair at the back of her head, and she leaned into his touch. With a little tug on her shoulder, he coaxed her down onto the bed.

He brushed his fingers along the nape of her neck in a slow, steady rhythm. 

The jitters eased, not entirely, but enough. 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Thirty

 

In the pre-dawn light, Daisy drove from the military base where the jet had dropped them off straight through the heart of Los Angeles. Stunned by the amount of traffic, Daniel could only goggle at the city he hardly recognized. Though the mountains were old friends, the last vestiges of hills in the city had been flattened, and the skyscrapers were entirely new. A faint haze hung over the Valley. 

“Would have figured we’d have the tech to fix the smog by now,” he mused. 

“They try. Climate change makes it worse.” Daisy sighed wearily. 

They were both wiped. She’d been restless last night. The only way she’d slept at all was with Daniel’s hand on the back of her neck. Though he didn’t mind, he’d slept on cots more comfortable than that bunk. 

As they wound through Santa Monica to the southern part of the city, and Daisy stifled yet another yawn, he asked, “How far out are we?”

“Twenty minutes, maybe more?” 

“Mind if I drive? I figure it’s side roads to wherever we’re going at this point.” He knew this side of town well, and Daisy was practically falling asleep at the wheel. If most of the buildings had changed, the street names hadn’t, and there were enough markers for him to know exactly where he was in the city. 

She shot him a startled look, but seemed relieved. “Oh. Sure.” She pulled into a restaurant parking lot where they swapped seats. “I guess the roads haven’t changed much. Few more lights, maybe,” she ventured as she strapped in. 

“Where are we headed?”

Daisy pointed. “Straight down Slauson. Left on Vermont.” 

He startled, but flipped the blinker up to get back out on the road. He’d driven this route on a regular basis. The trees might be bigger, the houses older, and most of the shops were new, but Daniel recognized the neighborhood. Street by street, he got closer to where he used to call home. 

When he made the left, Daisy offered with another yawn, “Take a left on 56th. Fourth house on the right.”

Stunned, Daniel darted a look her way, but she fiddled with her phone and didn’t notice. 

Was she playing a joke on him? 

The fence across the front of the property was new. Daisy touched her phone to open a gate across the driveway and the garage both. Daniel accelerated to get the car up the slight incline and pulled into his usual spot. He waited for her to say something as they climbed out of the T-bird. The gate trundled closed behind them. 

She didn’t though. With her backpack slung over her shoulder, she wearily pulled her duffel out of the trunk and shlepped to the house with keys in hand to unlock the side door. She glanced over to make sure he had his box and duffel before she touched the phone again to close the garage door. 

“High tech,” he commented. Rainy days had meant diving out of the car to open the garage by hand. He was aware of his heart racing and breathed through it to get it to slow down. 

“You’re such a dork,” she mumbled affectionately. 

Daniel followed her inside, through the laundry room with a newer washer and dryer than he’d had a month ago, and into the kitchen that still had painted white cabinets and green tiles on the backsplash and floors. But what used to be a galley now had an island on one side opening right up into the living room. A white glass-looking counter replaced his speckled white Formica. 

At the other end, thin spindles stacked on a half-wall still separated the kitchen from the front entryway, and Daisy dropped her keys into the little ceramic dish between the first two that Daniel had set there nearly seventy years ago. 

The living room had enough of his things to feel like home. His photos were gone, but the brown leather couch, matching armchairs, and the coffee table hadn’t moved more than a couple of inches from where he’d left them. The walnut dining table had his mom’s rose-covered china bowl sitting on top of a lace doily that a neighbor in Idaho had made for her. 

He used to have carpet, though, instead of wooden floors, and he had to admit the dark paneling and the inset bookcases on either side of the fireplace actually looked better painted in a pale green. There was a television mounted over the mantel and a new shaggy green rug. A fuzzy purple blanket draped over one arm of the couch, with matching green and purple pillows dotting the corners. The bookcase had a couple of cell phones on one of the shelves, a notebook on another, and little else. 

“Didn’t peg you for someone who liked this kind of décor,” he said as he looked around. “I thought you’d like something a little more …now.”  

She gave him a soft smile as she dropped her bags. “Weird, right? The house mostly came this way. Kind of felt like home, though. I upgraded the tech, but it’s all wireless, so I didn’t have to dig into the walls.” She pointed to the kitchen. “That used to be closed off, but Lanita talked me into opening it up. I’m really glad she did.” 

“Who is Lanita?”

“We met when I got to LA. She does this kind of stuff now.” 

There was probably a story to that, but Daisy darted across the room. New gauzy curtains ran the length of the wall, and she jerked them to one side. 

“Holy shit,” she said under her breath.

Daniel agreed. What used to be a small bank of windows and a back door to a postage stamp backyard was now a wall of glass with a pool and deck on the other side. Daisy unlocked the glass panels. They folded back accordion-style to stack on one side. 

“Is … something wrong?” he said as neutrally as he could manage with his heart pounding a mile a minute. He was definitely fazed. 

Daisy goggled. “This is the first time I’ve seen it. It’s incredible.” She reached for his hand, pulling him through the doorway. “Lanita finished it a few months ago, but I’ve only seen pictures.” 

On the left, a waterfall made up of a pile of rocks spilled into a pool filling the left two-thirds of the yard. The other third on the right had a fire pit, loungers, and chairs. Palm trees speared up into the sky surrounding the space, giving it a fair amount of privacy. 

“What did it look like before?”

“Nothing really. Concrete and grass.” She waved at the glass wall, still peering about. “This was all closed up.” 

“What’s with the cameras in the trees?” He clocked one in each corner of the yard. 

“Security, of course. But it’s also cloaking tech. Coulson put those in when Google started mapping streets by drone.”

He only understood about half of that sentence. “Daisy,” Daniel had to ask, “Why did you put in a pool if you couldn’t swim?” 

“The splashing water acts like white noise to my Inhuman senses. I can chill, you know?” 

“How’d you find that out?”

“Story for another day.” She yawned again, covering her mouth behind a hand as she led the way back into the house. Daisy left the glass panels stacked to one side, leaving the living room wide open. The fresh air and mist from the waterfall refreshed the house in no time at all. 

Daisy waved toward the back of the house. “Ah, there are three bedrooms: spare room, one I’ve put gym equipment in, and I use the bigger one.” She picked up her duffle and backpack. “It’s safe for me to sleep here,” she assured him. “And I need to bunk down for a while.” 

“I might take a lap in the pool and do the same,” Daniel said as he followed. His photos and diploma no longer hung in the hallway, but it had been freshly painted in the same pale green tint he’d picked out years before. 

Daisy brushed a kiss on his lips at the door to the spare bedroom. “There’s salt in the bathroom,” she explained before shuffling down the hall. 

Daniel didn’t give her the attention he usually did as he dropped his duffel on the floor, stunned to see how little the room had changed. The bedspread had been replaced with soft blankets, but his mom’s white quilt still covered the foot of the bed. He brushed fingers over roses he’d thought he’d never see again. A lump formed in his throat. 

Was it possible Daisy didn’t know? 

With firm resolve not let his emotions get the best of him, he sorted out his duffel, retrieving everything he needed for a good long soak.

The hall bath sink had been swapped out for one on a pedestal, but the bathroom still had green tile floors. He drew back the white shower curtain. Same white and green tile. New showerhead. The handrail he’d installed was still there. But there was a stool sitting in the tub now, with a big box of Epsom salts resting on top.

He smiled when he saw it. 

Clearly, Daisy’s vision of the future involved Daniel getting the break he needed to heal up right. Some of the shock of coming home faded as his girlfriend’s message to get his head out of his ass came through loud and clear. 

Message received. 

He was sure he fell a little more in love with her in that moment. He pivoted, needing to tell her how much he appreciated her. Darting down the hall, he peeked into his … her room. 

Daniel found Daisy sound asleep on the bed. His bed. With the headboard he’d bought just last fall in his time, along with the matching nightstands and dresser. The white duvet was new. The heavy blue patchwork quilt she’d tugged up under her chin definitely wasn’t, and he couldn’t stop his heart from thumping at the way her fingers curled over the edges. 

He leaned against the doorframe, unable to walk away, and utterly bewildered by this turn of events.

Daniel took in the containment panels lining the room. Daisy had painted the ones on the walls a dark blue to match the quilt, kept the ceiling panels white, and she’d covered floor panels with a deep brown rug to match the furniture. 

She’d left her indelible mark, but there was still enough of him here to feel like home. The whole house felt lush in its comfort and colors now. 

Given that she’d fallen asleep mere minutes after arriving — with the back door wide open — Daniel understood this was her safe house in every sense of the word. 

She didn’t know. He was sure of it. 

He had no idea what to do. 

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Thirty-One

 

The scent of something cooking tickled her brain. Daisy stirred into wakefulness as she tugged the quilt up to her face to rub it against her cheek. Sturdy, heavy, and soft, it was her favorite thing in the house. She had a tendency to drag it from room to room so she could finger the embroidery decorating each panel.

Leaning up on an elbow, she fumbled for the phone. Her stomach growled as she checked the time. She blinked, checking again. 

She’d slept almost fourteen hours straight. 

Mortified to discover she’d walked into the safe house and practically fallen face-first into bed without another thought for Daniel, she stumbled out of it and into the bathroom for a desperately needed shower. She tripped on her duffel, hopping a couple of times so she wouldn’t fall on her ass. 

Five minutes later, she stepped out with a towel around her middle as she dug for clean clothes in her bag. Finding a pair of leggings, she wiggled into them, leaving the towel on the bed. She snapped her bra in place as Daniel poked his head in, knocking on the door she’d left wide open. 

“Hey—oh.” He let out a low, appreciative whistle. “Wow.” He winced, turning around on his crutches. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to stare.” 

If he was staring, so was she. His tight white t-shirt tucked into a pair of blue shorts showed off an awful lot of skin and whipcord muscle. “Square, Daniel Sousa. Did you forget we all shared a bathroom on the Zephyr?”

“Yeah, but I didn’t want to sleep with Mack. Just tryin’ to be respectful to my girl.” 

She pulled a t-shirt on over her head, then tapped him on the shoulder. When he looked over at her, she touched her lips to his. “Is that what I am? Your girl?”

“My best girl?” he asked, facing her again. 

“What, like you have others and I just rose to the top?” 

Daniel laughed. “Hardly. That’s just what we called our steady girlfriends in college. Are you hungry?” 

“Starving. I’m pretty sure whatever I’m smelling woke me up.”

“Good. Come on.” 

“One second.” She picked up the towel off the bed, started to drop it on the bathroom sink just to make a point, then gave up, folding it into thirds to hang it on the towel rack. 

Daniel looked her over with another soft whistle of appreciation. 

She swatted at him. “Enough of that.”

He snickered as he headed down the hallway. 

Daisy absolutely appreciated his perky butt in those fitted shorts. His nicely-muscled leg had dusting of dark hair from thigh to ankle, and his stump didn’t look nearly as red as it was a couple of days ago. “I didn’t mean to ditch you like that,” she said apologetically. “I didn’t even show you where to find towels and stuff.”

“I figured it out. Even took a few laps in the pool and a nap on the lounger.” He caught her looking when he turned the corner to the kitchen.

“What?” she said innocently. 

“Are you watching me walk?”

“Nope,” she sassed. “Better things to look at.” She glanced at the oversized black and white clock above the kitchen cabinets. “I cannot believe I slept until 8:30.” 

“You must have needed it.” Daniel tucked a crutch into his elbow. 

“You cooked?” 

“What did you think you were smelling?” There was a pot and a pan on the stove, and he lifted the cover off the pan to peek at it. Seeming satisfied at whatever was inside, he dropped the lid back over it. “Come here. I’ve got something to show you.”

Daisy eased around him, careful not to knock him off balance. Daniel slid an arm around her waist and nudged her so she faced the stove. He’d laid out a couple of bags of grated cheddar cheese, a stick of butter, and the carton of milk. “What am I doing?” she asked. 

He plucked the cover off the pot. “Making macaroni and cheese. I’ve cooked the noodles. You can do the rest.” Daniel nuzzled her neck, and she pretty much forgot everything he’d just said — until he pressed a kiss to the side of her head and hugged her tight. “Mac and cheese?” he reminded her. 

“Fuck the mac and cheese, I want you,” she complained. Then she slapped her hand over her mouth, looking over her shoulder with wide eyes. 

He cracked up laughing. “Food first. I can hear your stomach complaining. And I know how to say ‘fuck,’ Daisy. Nobody lives in Brooklyn without knowing all its wide and varied uses.” 

“That’s not very square,” she chided with a grin. 

“No,” he said, pressing a kiss to her shoulder, eyes dancing. “It’s not.” 

“You’re in a good mood.” Daisy flicked a look over her shoulder, still a little worried about how he was healing up. But he was at ease and his eyes were bright with amusement. 

Daniel’s rock solid confidence messed with her brain. It was one thing on the Zephyr, where she had the upper hand with the mission and all. Here? Where he was comfortable enough to ditch the leg and make dinner in her house without missing a beat? This Daniel scared the hell out of her. 

But she stuffed every bit of that down to give him a challenging smirk. “All right, Danny-boy. What am I doing here?” 

He walked her through draining the noodles using the lid of the pan, then setting it back on low heat to add butter and milk. “If you have pepper, you can throw that in,” he told her. “After that, it’s the cheese. And apparently future-cheese comes grated, which makes my knuckles happy. Turn the heat off if you’re ready for that.” 

“How much do I put in?” she asked as she turned the knob to “Off.”

“However much you want.” 

She shot him a look of disbelief. “Right.”

“Seriously. You can use pretty much any kind of cheese too.” 

“I’m not sure I buy that.” Daisy shook out the cheddar into the saucepan and stirred it. “How do I know when it’s enough?”

“Taste it.” Without letting go of her, he reached for the drawer behind him and pulled out a fork, holding it up like a prize. He stabbed a noodle and held it up between them. 

She couldn’t resist. Instead of taking the fork, she leaned over to close her mouth around the tines and slide it off, keeping her eyes locked on Daniel. 

His pupils dilated, and his heart beat sped up. “How is it?” he asked with a straight face. 

“Pretty fucking good, Sousa,” she said when she swallowed. She licked her lips. 

He chuckled at her answer, eyes on her mouth. “And now you know how to make mac and cheese from scratch.” 

She scowled, glaring into the saucepan. “That’s it? That’s actually not too different from the box.” 

“That’s it. Give or take a few thousand variations.” He reached over her head, found a bowl and set it on the counter one-handed because he still had the other on her waist. 

She looked over her shoulder to find his crutches leaning against the counter. 

Daniel slid his hand in one, shifted his balance, and brushed another kiss on her neck. “If you’ll put that in the bowl, I’ll plate the chicken.” Side-stepping Daisy with the crutches, Daniel stationed himself next to the bigger pan and doled out the chicken breasts. 

Daisy filled the bowl as Daniel scooped some of the leftover sauce out of his pan to drizzle over the chicken. He pointed with his chin. “Will you get the salad out of the icebox?” 

“Why do you call it an icebox?” she asked, pulling a plastic wrap-covered bowl off the middle shelf. A pair of metal tongs had been tucked inside. She wasn’t entirely sure she knew she had tongs. 

He laughed, moving the plates one at a time from the counter to the island. “Habit. My parents got their first refrigerator when I was in college. Before that, we had an icebox.” 

Rounding the counter, he sat in one of the chairs there, and Daisy saw that he’d laid out two place settings. He pulled the plates across and slid her chair out a few inches. 

Daisy suspected he wasn’t going to lose that habit anytime soon. Bowl and dish in hand, she sat, and they companionably dished up the rest of their dinner. She ventured, “I knew World War 2 changed society, but I’ve always heard about the after part. I don’t really know much about the before. Like the refrigerator thing.” 

“It was cheaper to buy a car than one of those in the thirties. Would you be shocked if I told you we only had an outhouse in Idaho until we moved into town?” 

She blinked. “The snow must have sucked. There’s a reason I drove south when I got my van.” 

“You have no idea.” Daniel poked at his mac and cheese. “The house I bought in LA seemed like an unimaginable luxury. Couple of bathrooms, window units for air conditioning, all new appliances, carpet on the floors. Didn’t exactly grow up with all that. We had some of it in Brooklyn, but not all of it in one place.” 

“Where was it? Your house?”

“I’ll show you,” he promised. “It’ll be fun to see if my key still works.” 

Daisy chuckled. “You know, Coulson told me he put deadbolts on the doors here, but he had them keyed to the original locks. I’ll bet they’ve never been changed either.” She cut up another bite of chicken. “This is really good. Where did you learn to cook?”

“After college, I lived in Brooklyn and worked in the city. Couldn’t afford much, but I had my own place. Since I wasn’t married like most of my friends and I lived just a few blocks from my parents, I think I dropped in one too many times for dinner. Mom decided I’d better be able to fend for myself. She came over every day for two weeks straight and taught me the finer points of keeping house. She was not happy to find out I had a dozen boxes of macaroni and cheese in the pantry. So you’re in good company.” 

Daisy snickered. “I like her.” 

“She would have adored you,” Daniel said with emphasis. 

“That’s … novel.” She wasn’t exactly the kind of girlfriend people brought home to their parents. 

Daniel looked down at his plate, poking at the last cheesy noodle. “When I cleaned out my parents’ apartment, I found out my mom had been a suffragette. She never talked about it, but I found her pins and ribbons from the big march in Washington D.C. I do remember bundling up and going out in the freezing cold rain on election days. She never missed a chance to vote. Dad didn’t either. Looking back, I think he knew how important it was to her.” 

He reached for his water and took a long drink. “I’ve never told that to anyone.”

“Then I’m honored you told me.” Daisy loved hearing Daniel’s stories. Hers weren’t all that great, and it was nice to know that good families weren’t just a fairytale. “So, uh, I forgot to ask if there’s anything we need to do in the house. For you, I mean. Lanita said she could put in a walk-in shower in a couple of days, or whatever else.” 

“The house is perfect, Daisy. I wouldn’t change a thing,” he assured her. 

“If you come up with something, Jemma’s making panels for the spare bedroom so when Kora comes here, she’ll have a place to sleep. Lanita will be out in a couple of weeks to help me put them up.” 

“You would bring Kora here?”

Daisy poked her fork in the last piece of chicken on her plate. “Weird, right? I made such a big deal out keeping this place private. No one knows about it, except Coulson and now you. But it’s a real home. Kora’s going to need one.” 

“And you don’t?” 

There were times Daniel was too perceptive, and this was one of them. Hazards of dating a spy though, and she was guilty of the same. She put her finger to her lips. “Shh. Don’t jinx it.” 

He started to say something, then nodded in understanding. By the way his heartbeat tripped, she wondered what that was about. She didn’t ask. Instead, she picked up the empty plates and carried them to the sink. “Want a beer?” 

Daniel raised an eyebrow. “Am I breathing?” 

She laughed, opening the fridge. She pulled out a pair of Alaskan Ales and a bottle opener from the drawer. Popping the tops, she slid one across the island and sipped from hers before she tackled the kitchen to clean it up. 

Her boyfriend magically appeared in front of the sink. 

Daisy tapped him on the shoulder and opened a door under the countertop. “This is a dishwasher,” she said in the exact same tone she’d used to show him her phone. “The dishes and soap go in. It makes noises for a while, and clean, dry dishes come out.” 

“Wow. That’s a thing?” he played along, pretending he hadn’t used one on the Zephyr. 

“That’s totally a thing. Let’s load it up and go for a swim.” 

“Won’t it be too cold?”

“Pool has a heater. I turned it on before I crashed. And before you think that’s amazingly cool, I’ll have to admit that I could do it from an app on my phone.” 

“There’s an app for everything,” he said with admiration. 

“Pretty much.” 

It was weird-but-nice the way they worked together. Daniel rinsed off the plates and cleared the part of the kitchen he could reach. Daisy shuttled everything else to the sink and wiped down the countertops. It felt like the way the team did things on the Zephyr.

It would be awfully easy to get used to this, especially when Daniel caught her mid-stride to cup her cheek and kiss her on the lips.

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Thirty-Two

 

The pool glowed in purples, greens, and blues when Daisy turned on the lights. The music from her playlist piped through the speakers, and she shot off a quick text to Lanita about how amazing everything was. 

She drained her beer, then ditched the bottle, her phone, leggings, and t-shirt on a lounger to jump in wearing only her black lace bra and matching thong. It was her pool, right? She came up, flailing a little for the edge, but caught it, finding her footing to stand. The water was perfect. 

Daniel leaned on his crutches at the edge, watching. 

“You coming?” Daisy figured her invitation couldn’t be more clear, but if Daniel still wanted to hold out, at least he’d know what he was missing. 

“How deep is it?” he asked. 

She bounced on her toes. The water splashed at her collarbone. “Five feet where I am. Eight under the waterfall. Shallows up on the other side. I thought you went swimming earlier?” 

“Just making sure.” He tugged his shirt off and dropped his shorts, leaving him in a pair of blue briefs she definitely didn’t know he had. The crutches got left on the ground. Daniel dove in at the waterfall, darting to the middle of the pool, somersaulting under the water, and swimming back again with clean strokes. He popped up in front of Daisy. 

“Now you’re just showing off,” she complained. 

“Probably.” Daniel pulled her off the wall and into his arms. 

He slid his hands down her thighs so she’d lock her legs around his hips. Everything tingled. 

“Breathe, sweetheart.” 

Daisy didn’t know she’d been holding her breath. Days of wanting him coalesced into urgent need, and she attacked his mouth with desperation. She kissed him as want clawed at the back of her brain, diving deep to taste and explore. She was panting by the time she greedily kissed a line up his jawbone. 

“Dais--”

She shuddered, pulling back. “Yeah?” 

“I want you.” Daniel’s dark eyes focused on her with laser intensity. 

“But?” 

He shook his head, his gaze softening with something like relief. “No, buts. I’m yours.” 

“Oh, thank fuck, Sousa.” She nipped under his ear, fingers sliding down his arms. “Please put your hands on my ass.” 

“Yes, ma’am.” He did, hitching her closer and, wow, Sousa was hard as a rock already. Hard enough to make her clit twitch where lace met cotton. He dipped his fingers under her thong. “Now this is truly one of the finer modern inventions.” 

“Is it?” She got busy figuring out all the new places she could touch as she kissed him again, sliding her hands over freckled shoulders and biceps. Daniel cupped her ass to pull her even closer. Giving serious consideration to how she could strip him out of those briefs, Daisy rocked against him, swearing a little as she found an angle that made her dizzy. 

With a laugh, Daniel freed a hand to drag a bra strap down her shoulder, his nails lightly scraping her skin under the water as he left kisses on her shoulder. 

Daisy sucked a bruise into his neck, loving the little groans he let out. 

He peeled the bra off her breast to cup it, thumb circling the tip until she squirmed from the sensation. She flicked his nipples in retaliation, realized all those curls were right there, and slid her hands all over his torso, loving the feel of his skin under her fingers. 

When she felt the first divot of a shrapnel scar across his stomach, she had to ask. “What can I touch?” 

“Everything.” 

“Helen made sure of that?” she teased, running her hands up his chest and over his shoulders. “I’d like to send her a gift.” 

Daniel chuckled. “Only you have the audacity to say something like that.” He grew intent, picked up her left hand to kiss her scar. “I’ll tell you anything you want, just, maybe not while I’m making love to you .” 

“Nobody calls it making love. It’s just sex.” 

“Do they?” He kissed her neck as he loosened her bra from the back. The water swirled over her breasts, and Daisy shook the bra off so it floated away. Daniel plucked at a nipple as he sucked a line along her collarbone. “Because it will never be ‘just sex’ with you.” 

“There’s that charm again,” she blurted, flustered by his words. 

“Only truth, Daisy.” Daniel slid his hands under her ass again and lifted her up just enough to get his mouth on first one taut peak, then the other. 

She let out a shocked gasp at the sharp need he elicited. She dug her hand in his hair as she flailed the other for purchase, finding the edge of the pool to grasp.

“Now that gives me an idea,” he mused. Twisting his hips so that she had to let go with her legs, he lifted her other hand and set it on the edge too so that she faced him with her back to the wall. “Don’t move.” Daniel nuzzled her neck, cupping both breasts as he flicked the tips with his thumbs. When her whole body danced, he lifted one, licking the tip of it as he held her gaze. 

She shuddered with the first hard edge of pure need. He glided his hands down to her hips and ass and back again as water swirled over her skin. He lifted the other breast and licked that one too, laving it with his tongue. “Damn, Sousa, you’ve got game,” she marveled. Her needy clit throbbed, demanding the same attention and getting nothing but the vague sensation of water swirling over it. 

Then he pulled away entirely, leaving her bereft of his touch. “What — no.” She reached after him. 

Daniel laughed. Like a dance she didn’t know the steps to, he caught her hand and spun her around to set her fingers onto the side of the pool. “Like this,” he murmured in her ear. His body radiated heat from behind her. He crossed one arm over her to cup her breast, his thumb sliding over the tip, while he ran another hand down her belly. He dipped his fingers under the lace of her thong to rest there, skin to skin. 

“Am I going too fast?” he murmured, dragging his fingers through her little patch of curls. 

Daisy was losing patience. “Not fast enough,” she chided. “And I’d rather be holding on to you than concrete.” 

“In a minute, sweetheart.” He dipped his fingers lower, sliding into her folds. 

She sucked in her breath at the first drag along her clit. “Okaaaaay, you found it,” she said in a singsong. Suddenly, the concrete didn’t seem so bad. She clutched it as Daniel explored with lingering touches and little circles that made her shiver. There were short taps on her clit, followed by long strokes along the edges of her folds as he mapped out her body. 

“Geez, Danny-boy, are you trying a little Morse code?” 

“Just scouting out the territory.” He snickered in her ear, then ducked under the water to draw the lace down the length of her legs. He came up with her thong and a delighted smile. “This is nice.” He set it on the edge of the pool. 

She turned around in his arms, pressing a kiss to his collarbone as she shoved his briefs down an inch. “Daniel,” she said sweetly, trying to get her fingers on his ass without drinking chlorine. 

“Yes, honey?” He lifted her out of the water, just enough to get a mouth on her breast. 

So much for getting her hands on his butt. Since he nipped at her peak while she dug her hands in his hair, she figured she could take one for the team. She arched her back as Daniel sucked lightly on her nipple. 

“Sweetheart?” he prompted.

She loved that they already had a code for the games they played, even if she nearly forgot what she was complaining about. “Between the two of us, you’re the last one to hit a home run,” she admitted. “It’s been years, Danny-boy. Literally years. I’d really appreciate it if you would save some of this teasing for when I’m not ready to quake something out of pure frustration.” 

Daniel smirked. “And so we’re back to baseball metaphors.”

“You started it.” 

He slid his hands to her hips and lifted her out of the water to the edge of the pool. “Stay there.” 

The pool lights illuminated his biceps as he set her in place, and, oh, she knew exactly where he was going with this. “Daniel,” she called in a low voice, leaning back on her hands. 

With dancing eyes, he set her feet on his shoulders, and made sure her ass was barely on the concrete. “I believe I have a promise to keep.” 

He ran a hand down one thigh, gliding along her skin until he traced her folds with his thumb. The softness of his touch was intoxicating. Daisy closed her eyes, half wishing he would keep doing what he was doing, half wishing he would get on with it. 

He stopped. Her eyes popped open to discover him sucking her juices off his thumb. 

“That’s not very square, either, Danny-boy.” Daisy grinned, adoring this playful side of Daniel. She didn’t have a lot of hangups about sex itself, and apparantly, her boyfriend didn’t either. 

“Nope,” he agreed, leaning down to brush his nose along her pubic bone.

At his first hot breath on her clit, she dropped her head back, shuddering. There was nothing tentative about the way Daniel dove in, licking into her with abandon. Need flared, so acute it almost hurt. Her foot kept slipping off his shoulder as she tried to bring him closer. 

“More,” she growled.

This time, he slid fingers inside her. Like before, he took his time figuring out what she liked, eventually working his way up to a steady stroke that electrified her senses. He alternated sucking at her clit and licking it. And there was something he did with his thumb that she couldn’t quite place, but it hit just the right spot to make her lean up into his mouth. 

Her legs fell open as need clawed over her, razor-sharp and demanding. 

Like the faint clicks and vibrations of a lock tumbler giving up its secrets, one by one, Daniel figured out the combination of what she liked. A steady, hard stroke of his fingers, a flicker of pressure on the underside of her clit, and the heat of his tongue and breath with just the right suction. 

Twice, she was almost there, fighting to lose herself. 

Daniel ran a thumb over the top of her clit. She shivered on the edge, and he did it again, a little harder, timing it with an upstroke. 

Lock picked.

She shattered. 

He didn’t stop either as she convulsed under his hands. She'd thank him later but right now she was too busy surfing the exquisite wave of her orgasm all the way to the last ripple at the water's edge.

“Enough.” Her voice was hoarse, and her mouth was dry. Daniel pressed a kiss to each of her knees as he set her feet down in the water. 

He helped her to sit up. “Feel better?” 

“I’ll let you know,” she quipped, not letting go of his hand. “Just as soon as I can feel my legs. My ass is numb.” She shivered, and she wasn’t sure if it was the insane orgasm or the cool air. Either way, it seemed like the most natural thing to lean forward and let Daniel pull her back into the water, into the heat and weight of his body. “Ten out of ten, Danny-boy, would do again.” 

He laughed. “Anytime.” 

“Your turn,” she promised in a husky voice she didn’t recognize. She kissed him, slower now. The want for him hadn’t gone away, it was only tempered for the moment. This time, it was Daniel who shuddered as she slid her hands over his chest, scraping her nails down his stomach to his briefs. She peeled them off, using her toes to drag them down to his ankle so he could shake them off. She cupped his length, loving the way his breath hitched when she did. 

She didn’t understand this wild need to seal herself against him, as if she could be any closer than she was at this moment. She scraped her wet hair out of the way so she could fasten her mouth to his collarbone and suck marks in a haphazard pattern until she reached his throat. She circled his shaft at the base for a couple of strokes that made his hands tighten on her ass. 

But she wasn’t the swimmer Daniel was, and she was about a half-foot too short to be able to pull off the same moves he had. She really wanted to get more than just her hands on him.

“Living room,” she demanded. 

“Living room,” he agreed. 

Daisy kissed him one more time, diving her tongue in his mouth. She could taste her own flavor there, and apparently, her kissing him like that was another turn on, because he dug his fingers into her hip and let out a soft groan. 

She wriggled free, half-swimming to the edge of the pool, where she clambered out and found towels in a neat stack behind the waterfall. Daniel, too, swam to the edge. He was a little prettier about getting out, and his butt was a thing of beauty as he reached for his crutches and got to his feet. Foot. Whatever. 

With a soft whistle at the dark mark on his hip, she noted, “So there’s your tattoo.”

Daniel’s heart sped up when he turned toward her, naked, hard, and hiding nothing from her. 

He was nervous, she realized. Still holding the towels, she darted over to kiss him again. “Now I really want my mouth on you.” 

A slow, shy smile appeared. Daisy shook out a towel and held it out. Shifting a crutch to his elbow, Daniel took it and dried off one-handed. She watched, mouth dry with want

“Daisy?” 

“Living room, now,” she ordered. “My salacious thoughts are getting the best of me.” 

“Maybe you want to dry off first?” 

She’d forgotten, towel still in hand. “Oh.” 

Daniel chuckled at her chagrin. “I’m enjoying the view.”

“So am I.” She made a cursory effort to dry off and draped the folded towel on the lounger. Daniel followed her inside the house, where she turned off the lights and closed the glass doors. Tugging the purple blanket off the couch, she spread it out on the rug, dropping the pillows on top. “We can warm up here,” she explained. With a touch of a button, the gas logs in the fireplace flared, sending a wave of heat into the cool room. 

“Now that’s neat. And kind of romantic.” But he only gave the fireplace a cursory glance. To her surprise, Daniel touched her wrist to say, “I, uh, need to go get protection from my bag.” 

Thrilled by his consideration, Daisy dropped to the blanket. “We’ve both been tested for infectious diseases, including STDs, per S.H.I.E.L.D. post-mission protocols. I’m clear, and I’m confident in my IUD for birth control.”

“I’m clear, too,” he ventured. “So we don’t have to use … protection?” He gave her a doubtful look. 

Daisy laughed at his delicacy. “Condoms? If that’s your preference, I’m all for it. But given the circumstances, they aren’t required.” As she said it, she realized her boyfriend had probably never had sex without one. 

When he settled to the blanket without making the extra trip, she discovered the amount of trust he was placing in her a little mind-blowing. 

Daniel stretched out on his right side, leaning on an elbow to face the heat. Curious, Daisy ran a hand along his calf to his thigh and, with a hand on his taut stomach, tipped him to his back so she could see. He found one of the pillows and stuffed it under his head. 

The flickering light danced on the tattoo etched in black on his right hip, no bigger than her palm could cover. 

“A parachute with wings?” she asked, tracing the edges of the faded ink. 

“Paratrooper,” he agreed, brushing his hand through her hair.

Daisy leaned down to press a kiss to it, then crawled over Daniel, straddling him to press another one to his lips. “I’m glad you came home.” 

He made a show of looking her over, his hands drifting to her stomach. “That goes for you too.” He traced her scars with a single fingertip, and her heart skipped a beat at the featherlight touch that seemed more intimate than anything they’d done in the pool. 

Daisy leaned down to rub her nose with his and steal a kiss. She sucked on his bottom lip. Judging by all the interesting noises she elicited from him, he liked it. 

Raising up on her knees, she ran a hand down his torso, chasing the dusting of hair under her fingers. His breath hitched as she shifted backward, reaching between her legs to thread her fingers through the curls at the base of his shaft. 

It would be so, so easy to take him inside her right here. He wouldn’t mind, she was sure. 

But Daisy had spent a couple of weeks fantasizing about exactly this, and she wasn’t going to let the opportunity pass her by. She sat on her knees with his pretty dick jutting up between her legs. 

Now you decide to take things slow?” Daniel complained wryly. He rested his hands on her thighs, rubbing little circles there. 

“Your idea.” She ghosted a fingertip along his length, discovering the shape and feel of him. He twitched violently when she reached his foreskin. “Oh, you like that,” she purred as she stroked it. 

“Yeah, I like that.” He let out a long, slow breath, closing his eyes when she curled her hand around him. His heat and hardness delighted her as she explored. A bead formed at the tip of his slit. Daisy swiped a thumb over it to gather it up, then rubbed the slickness under the head of his dick. 

He rocked into her hand with a stifled moan. When she did it again, he let out a shuddering exhale.

Daisy really couldn’t wait a single moment more. She scooted down his body to lick his salty flavor from the tip. “That’s nice,” she said. 

“You talkin’ to me or my johnson?” he said with a chuckle, looking down to see what she was doing. 

“I’m talking to this very pretty cock, if you must know,” she sassed. Locking eyes with him, she closed her mouth over the head of his dick, savoring the heavy weight of him against her tongue as she drew off. 

His eyes glazed over, but he didn’t look away. She changed angles so she could stroke the rest of his length with her other hand, sucking firmly as she did. 

Daniel inhaled sharply, his stomach contracting. 

She did it again, coordinating her mouth and the slide of her hand on the downstroke. He bucked up into her mouth, making her laugh as she came off. “Settle down, cowboy,” she teased.

He exhaled slowly, eyes closing again as she found a rhythm of stroking and sucking that seemed to work best. His heart danced in a crazy beat as his lips parted in a steady pant. 

When Daisy popped off to breathe, Daniel reached down to squeeze the base of his dick. “You’re not the only one who’s punchy, Dais,” he ground out. 

“Is that so?” She lowered her head, sucking him off in earnest.

Daniel brushed her hair out of the way so he could watch, his fingers resting on the side of her head. His jaw tightened as his shaft grew rigid, the veins swelling under her hand. “Dais — you don’t have—”

She tightened her grip, stroking hard, and Daniel lost it with a soft sigh. As he tangled his hand in her hair, he jerked in her mouth. She stayed with him until the last, appreciating the taste of him as she swallowed. 

When she pulled off and sat up, Daniel reached for her hands, drawing her to him so she’d lay with her head on his shoulder. His hands drifted over her back as his heartbeat steadied once again. He kissed her temple. The sweetness of it made her shiver. 

“That was pretty fantastic,” he offered, rubbing a thumb against her cheek. 

She kissed his palm. “Same goes. So, uh, how long until you can go again?” 

Daniel let out a low laugh, a sound that Daisy was getting used to hearing. “I suppose it depends on how determined we are. If you stay right there, probably not long at all.” 

His fingers drifted along her spine, and for the first time since the mission, all she could think about was how much she liked his gentle touch.

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Thirty-Three

 

Daniel blinked awake, coming up on an elbow to get his bearings. Flames still danced in the fireplace, but he’d been out long enough for Daisy to drop the heavy blue quilt over him. It was old habit to brush his fingers along the embroidery, and he only barely resisted the urge to rub his face against the cotton. He focused instead on the instrumental music with a low beat and soaring strings filling the air. He liked it. 

He sat up, automatically looking around for Daisy, craning his neck to check the clock on the wall in the kitchen while he was at it. He’d slept for fifty-two minutes. 

“Sleeping Beauty awakens,” Daisy cackled from where she’d curled up on the sofa with her phone. She’d dressed again, this time in a tank top, shorts, and a loose button-down shirt.

Mortified, he gave her a sheepish smile.  

Daisy snickered as she skirted the coffee table to drop down on the quilt next to him. “I had time to wash and dry my hair, old man.” She fluffed her hair as proof. 

Flustered by his unexpected nap, the ‘old man’ comment wasn’t sitting right. “Am I that much older than you?” 

“I turned thirty-one over the summer. You’re definitely not robbing the cradle,” she promised, absently setting her hand on his bum leg. “You’re, what, thirty-six? Thirty-seven?” 

“Thirty-six.” Her gentle touch felt fantastic. “Five years then. When is your birthday?” he wondered. 

“July 2nd, 1988. When’s yours?” 

“December 8th, 1918.” 

Daisy goggled, laughing. “That is so weird.” 

“You’re telling me.” Daniel rested his hand on her ankle, and she smiled at his touch. 

“What did S.H.I.E.L.D. put on your driver’s license?” 

"Uh, 1981. Easier to explain transcribed numbers in a pinch if I forget.” 

“But it makes you a year older than you are. Does that bother you?”

“It does,” he admitted. “It’s bad enough having to change the date in the first place. I’ve already got grey hair. I don’t need any help getting closer to forty.” 

“I like your hair. It’s kind of hot.” She quirked her lips as she slid her hand a little ways up his thigh. He definitely liked how that felt. “I get it though,” she said. “It happened for real to me.” 

He tried to keep a straight face at her inching fingers. “Suddenly becoming a year older?” 

“Uh huh,” she agreed, scooting over on the quilt to get closer to him. “I didn’t know my birthday until my parents told me. The orphanage wrote down that I was born in 1989. Turns out I was born in ‘88.” 

“That’s a pretty big difference for an infant.” Daniel picked up her other hand to brush a kiss across her fingertips. 

“I, uh,” she stuttered, “I — easier to hide me, I guess, if the dates don’t match up.” 

“True,” he acknowledged, loving the way she responded to him. “It worked, too.” 

Her mouth fell open a little. “I never thought of it that way.” She squinted at him. “You really are S.H.I.E.L.D. through and through.” 

“I am.” He pressed a light kiss in the palm of her hand. Her fingers curled, but she didn’t pull away. “Daisy?”

“Yeah?” She seemed startled that he’d said her name.

“What are the chances you’d let me make love to you, here, in front of the fire?”

Her eyes widened. “I — okay.” She shook her head. “You don’t have to romance me, Sousa. I promise you, this is kind of a sure thing,” she said, reaching for her shirt. 

But Daniel caught her hands. “Let me, please.” He had the feeling he was asking more than she might be willing to give. 

She studied him for the longest time, though she kept her hands in his. “You were wrong on the dock. Right now, you scare the hell out of me.” 

“I know.” He shrugged. “I’ll just remind you that I’m the one who’s naked under the blanket, and if I screw this up, pardon my French, it’s gonna be really fucking awkward.” 

Daisy burst out laughing. 

Daniel grinned, delighted that she liked his silly sense of humor -- and that the tension in the air had fizzled. 

“All right, Danny-boy, let’s see your A-game.” Daisy pulled out of his grasp to lean back on her hands, crossing her long legs at the ankles. “I’m all yours.” 

“Now I’m the one who’s nervous.” He wasn’t really kidding as he scooted close enough to kiss her. 

“Are you fazed?” she teased.

“Maybe a little.” But he leaned in to nose at her cheek, breathing in her scent before capturing her lips in an open-mouthed kiss. He trailed the back of his fingers down her throat as he slaked his thirst at her mouth, tucking one hand under her shirt to slide it to the curve of her shoulder. The softness of her skin contrasted beautifully with the hard lines of her muscles underneath, another reminder that she was a fighter in every sense of the word. 

Clutching the fabric so it didn’t fall, Daniel nipped at her collarbone until he reached the hollow of her shoulder. He tangled up one hand in the fabric, making a token effort to trap her arm in it. Then he shifted his attention to her other shoulder, this time sucking a mark into the curve of her neck while he twisted the shirt on the other side. 

Daisy shuddered as he held her still, her pulse pounding in her throat. And then he unwound his hands and pulled the shirt off her entirely. She shivered in the cool air. 

He swept his hand down Daisy’s arm. The last of the bruises were gone, and he smiled. “You’ve healed,” he noted in satisfaction. 

“Simmons is pretty good at patching me up,” she agreed. 

Daniel picked up her hand to nuzzle at her wrist before pressing a kiss to her jumping pulse. Daisy’s hand flared out at his touch. 

“Daniel—” she breathed. 

She was nervous, he realized. “Should I stop?” he asked, wondering — not for the first time — if anyone had ever appreciated Daisy like this. Or maybe the better question was: had she allowed someone to appreciate her like this? He doubted it, counting himself damned lucky to have the honor. 

Slowly, she shook her head. 

He nipped the tip of her middle finger. Daisy let out a soft gasp as he closed his mouth over the whole of it, drawing off to tease the tip again with his tongue.  

“Okay, mark that down for things I didn’t know I liked,” she said, swallowing hard. 

“I’ll make a note,” he said, after swallowing her forefinger down and pulling off that one too. 

“You do that.” 

Daniel eyed what she wore, deciding what he was going to do next. He tucked his fingers under her tank top. “Let’s get this off.” 

Together, they stripped it off, with Daisy giving him a smug grin as she leaned back on her hands again. “Looking for second base?” she teased. 

“Gonna stop me this time?” 

She shook her head. 

“Good. Anything you don’t want me to do?” he asked, drawing a line down the curve of her breast. 

“I’m not opposed to a bruise or two, but I’m not a fan of actual pain,” she said in a quiet voice. “I get enough of that on missions.” 

Daisy wielded raw honesty as a weapon sometimes, challenging Daniel to match her, not with his usual deflections or sharp retorts, but with his own truths. He also heard what she didn’t say. 

With the lightest touch he could manage, Daniel dipped his finger just under the satin edge of Daisy’s bra. “There isn’t a single timeline where I would be willing to hurt you for my own pleasure,” he promised. “Or even yours,” he realised, shaking his head in chagrin. “Maybe I’m even more square than I thought.” 

Daisy quirked a smile. “Square is looking pretty good at the moment.” 

“Just for the moment? Let’s see what I can do about that.” He unhooked her bra with a twist of his fingers. 

She pulled it free, tossing it on the coffee table. Confident of her body--with damned good reason--Daisy shook her hair off her shoulders, leaving her lovely breasts bare to his gaze. 

“Lay down, sweetheart.” 

Daisy eased down so that she was lying fully on the blue quilt, biting her lips as she did. Bare to the waist with her hair in a halo, for a few seconds, Daniel was utterly amazed at the tides of fate. She had no idea what the blanket meant to him, or the tears and blood and sweat he’d shed on it over the years. 

To make love to Daisy on it—  

He stopped that train of thought, knowing damned well he was getting ahead of himself. 

Easing down on his side, he braced one arm over her head to close his lips around a dusky peak. Daisy let out a low exhalation. He drew her nipple into his mouth, sucking lightly at first while he explored her curves with his other hand. The soft peak hardened as he mouthed at it, and Daisy couldn’t stop twitching when he rolled her other nipple between his fingers. 

Then he cupped that breast, bringing it to his mouth to give it the same sort of attention. Time, it seemed, made all the difference. Daniel patiently laved her increasingly sensitive peaks as she twisted and gasped under his touch. He wondered if he could get her off like this. 

But Daisy unbuttoned her shorts, and Daniel helped her wiggle out of them. There was another scrap of lace that made him appreciate the twenty-first century all the more. 

Daisy kicked those off, too, demanding, “Touch me,” as she sneaked a quick stroke to his johnson. 

“Of course,” he said with a teasing smile. He was achingly hard already, and he’d rather save it. He pulled her hand away with a kiss to her palm before tracing a path from her knee to the dip of her hipbone with his fingertips. Daniel went back to draw the hard tip of her breast into his mouth once more, only this time, he found her slick folds with his fingers too. 

“Okay, there, yeah. That’s it,” Daisy murmured, pinning him with glazed eyes as she began to writhe under his touch. He dipped his fingers inside, her velvety folds clinging as he pressed deep. 

Daisy came off the quilt, reaching for him, hands dancing on his shoulders and in his hair as he circled her clit. 

She wasn’t far off, that much he knew. It turned out, he only had to slide his thumb over her knot for her to shudder and cry out. He buried his hand into her softness, stroking hard as her body clamped down on his fingers. 

He didn’t stop; he only slowed his tempo as she recovered her breath. She came up on her elbows with a challenge in her eyes and a flush in her cheeks. Daniel found her nipple once again, pushing Daisy right back down the path. Her head dropped back as she propped a knee up, opening her body up to him even more than before. Finding her knot flushed and full, he toyed with it, flicking it the same way she’d liked earlier in the pool. 

“You’ve got thirty seconds to get inside me, or I’m taking over,” she threatened. 

He grinned. “Copy that.” Daniel leaned down to snatch the pillow he’d slept on, rolled over Daisy and jammed it under his bum leg so that he could do this. 

She raised an eyebrow. “Nice move. Did you practice?” 

“I got tired of being on my ass all the time,” he admitted as he settled between her legs. 

He braced himself on his elbows over her head and kissed her. Thoroughly. It wasn’t hard to find her entrance, and in one slow move, he eased into her — shuddering as he did. Daisy was heat and light and sparks, and he was so in love that it was nothing less than perfect. 

“Have I mentioned I haven’t done this without a rubber?” he said in a choked voice, trying his damnedest not to act like an untried idiot and lose it right then and there. 

“Years, Danny-boy, years,” she countered, flexing her hips in an effort to get him to move. 

He did. She tucked her heels into his thighs and her hands on his ass to pull him deeper each time he sank into her slick heat. As his control slipped and balance wavered, he admitted, “I can’t do this and touch you, Daisy. I’m close and damned sure don’t want to leave you behind.” 

“You won’t,” she promised. “I’m there,” she panted, locking eyes with him. “I just need you.” 

Her words shattered him. The moment he lost himself, Daisy shuddered with a cry, her body clamping down on his in a cluster of contractions that left him helplessly pumping into her. It was sweet and slick and desperate and everything he’d ever wanted. 

She slipped a hand around his neck, pulling him down for a scorching kiss as they rode out the last sweet moments of ecstasy. 

They breathed in tandem until their heartbeats returned to normal. He kissed her temple a couple of times. 

Daisy opened her eyes and licked her lips. “Wow.” 

Daniel did a push up, stealing one last kiss, before easing off to his side. He’d hate to lose his balance now and ruin the moment. “Wow, indeed.” 

She slid a hand up the back of his neck. A little pressure there had him tipping his head onto her shoulder, nose pressed into her skin, just breathing as Daisy ran her nails over his back. 

When she shivered, it was the most natural thing for him to reach for the edge of the quilt and cover both of them with it. 

She brushed her lips against his, slow and sweet. “That was nice.” 

“Just nice?” he teased. 

“I was trying to give you a compliment,” she protested. 

Daniel grinned. “I was hoping for ‘incredible,’ ‘amazing,’ or maybe even, ‘stupendous.’”

“I’m going to need four solid orgasms before anything qualifies as stupendous,” Daisy retorted. “And I’m usually done after three.” 

“Good to know.” He dropped a kiss on her lips, then had to savor her taste for another moment. “Thank you, Daisy.” 

“For what?” she asked in confusion. 

“For being you.” 

She flushed. “There’s that charm again.” 

“Hey, you’re the one who wants me to be honest.” 

Daisy leaned up on her elbow. “Shut up and hold me for a while, okay?”

“Of course.” 

“Never fails,” she muttered, winding her arms around him. 

Daniel pressed a kiss in her hair. He was very, very happy.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Thirty-Four

 

While Daniel showered in the other bathroom, Daisy closed up the house and carried the quilt back to her bed. She traded the tank and shorts she’d had on for a t-shirt, boxers, and her grey gauntlets out of her duffel. 

She really needed to put that away, but yawned instead as she turned on the lamp beside the bed, where it cast soft shadows over the room. 

Her sleep schedule was seriously screwed up. In spite of spending the better part of the day napping, a good dinner followed by fabulous sex was enough to get her thinking about going right back to bed, preferably with Daniel in tow. She was nervous about asking, especially when she already knew what his answer would be.

She crawled to the middle of the bed and pulled the quilt into her lap, its weight and softness lending its own kind of comfort. She picked up her pillow and hugged it too. 

With one hand, she idly opened her phone, clicked the link to the house’s security system, and shut it again when she didn’t find any reason to be concerned. With the other, she traced the stitching on the quilt. It was at least as old as Daniel, that much she knew from the dates and descriptions she’d found embroidered in the patchwork. Daisy liked to pretend Coulson had an aunt or an uncle who had graduated junior high in 1932 and attended a senior prom in 1936, giving her a connection to the house and its former occupants. She’d deliberately not looked for more. 

Coulson hadn’t told her much about why he had the house, only that his mom had passed it down to him and he felt right giving the keys to Daisy. Her bullshit radar had pinged when he said it, but he was dying and she was devastated, and it wouldn’t be out of character for him to do something rash just so she’d have a place to call home. 

Like a lot of things about this house, if she looked too close, it might spoil her fantasy of family and connections. 

She clicked the messaging app on her phone, scrolling through to make sure she hadn’t missed anything, and closed it again when she hadn’t. 

Daisy didn’t want to put Daniel on the spot but she really wanted to be with him tonight. Not only had the sex been worth the wait, but after seeing the full extent of her boyfriend’s scars, she didn’t want him getting any stupid ideas about how she felt about them. She was good, thank you, now he could get his fine ass in here and cuddle. 

She buried her face in the pillow, annoyed as fuck for not being able to make up her mind about asking. 

“That’s one way to sleep, I suppose,” Daniel teased from the doorway.

Popping her head up, she lost all her words when she found him leaning on his new crutches in a pair of blue plaid boxers and a white tank that showed off his shoulders and chest and arms and leg and — “Guh,” she blurted intelligently. 

“Come again?”

Daisy cleared her throat to try again. “Whatever you’re offering, the answer is ‘yes.’” 

Daniel flushed a little, but he didn’t hide his smile. “How do you feel about company tonight?”

Insanely relieved that he’d asked her, she blurted, “Answer is still ‘yes.'” 

She couldn’t take her eyes off him. She really needed to investigate the fine, dark hair covering his forearms since she hadn’t done enough of that so far. He turned to walk away and-- see? That butt was impressively cute. She’d had her hands on it and already wanted more. 

He came back wearing his leg and gun harness, carrying his crutches, a glass of water, and his med kit. He started around the bed, then stopped, unsure of where to go. 

Daisy rolled her eyes. “Don’t make me guess, Danny-boy. I’ll get it wrong, and you won’t want to tell me why because you don’t want me to feel bad for not getting it right. Then you’ll be unhappy and won’t have what you need. It’s just gonna get awkward from there. So… what do you need?” 

Daniel shot her a grateful smile as he set the crutches on the floor on her left and sat on the edge. “I’d rather sleep over here. It’s easier to get out of bed.” 

She made a show of holding up her pillow and dropping it on the right side. “Anything else?” 

“Got a place I can stash the leg?” 

“Yeah, it’s probably not a good idea to leave fancy electronics somewhere I can quake them.” She crawled off the bed on Daniel’s side. “Simmons would not be happy about that,” she said in a singsong. One of the wall panels just a couple of steps from the bed had a hidden handle. She showed Daniel where to touch so it would pop out, and she opened it rather proudly. “Closet’s behind here.” 

“I’m impressed. Got any other secret doors?”

“Maybe one or two,” she teased, though it wasn’t a lie. “Top drawer of the nightstand is mostly me-proof, so it’s a good place to store your weapon and phone. I don’t have a gun safe since I don’t carry. We should probably get one for you.” 

Daniel's heart sped up as he started to say something, stopped, then said only, "Good idea."

She wondered what that was about.

He unloaded the clip from his gun, checked to make sure the chamber was empty, double-checked the safety, and put both parts in the drawer, along with the harness.

Daniel straightened his right leg and ran his fingers along the top edge of the prosthesis. It loosened so that he could pull it away from his stump. He set it upright, shooting Daisy a quick look to make sure she wasn’t freaking out or anything. 

She wasn’t. “Can I put it in the closet for you? Since I’m right here and all?”

“Thank you.” 

She shoved the pile of shoes to the left and gingerly moved the leg inside before shutting the door panel. 

Daisy also picked up her phone off the bed and dropped it into the drawer, then made the rounds to close up the bedroom. She nudged her backpack out of the doorway and into the bathroom to make sure it was safely tucked away for the night and stepped over her duffel to get into bed. The panels muffled every last bit of sound. It was impossible to hear the usual LA noises.

“Am I sleeping on your side of the bed?” Daniel asked, opening the drawer again to touch the protective panels inside it. He peeled the liner off his stump and dropped it in, too. 

“I kind of … sleep in the middle?” She’d never been asked that question. If Daisy had shared a bed, it had always been someone else’s. 

“I can work with that. So why aren't the glass windows covered?” he asked, pointedly looking at the two facing the backyard pool. “Stark’s weren’t either.” 

“I don’t want to sleep in a box. Glass is cheap enough that Lanita keeps extra panes in the garage, just in case,” Daisy admitted, wondering how much he was bothered by sleeping in what was essentially a containment module. “I guess Pepper felt the same way.” 

“Got it. This is better, though. The colors make it nice.” Daniel unzipped his med kit and gave his scars a thorough examination before coating everything with the cream and wiping his hand on a green cloth he’d taken from the bathroom. He set the whole kit in the drawer, then leaned back against the headboard to let it dry. 

“Is it my imagination, or do those look better?” she asked, crawling over to see. His skin was tan from the sun instead of red with irritation. Some of the scabs were gone, showing off nicely healing marks instead. She marveled at the freckles that had appeared, matching the ones on his shoulders. 

“Soaking in Epsom salts, a little sun, and not wearing the leg for a full day works wonders.” He took her hand to kiss her fingers. “Thank you for giving me a place to do that. This house means a lot to you. Bringing me here couldn’t have been an easy decision.”

She shrugged it off. “It kind of was. But you’re welcome.” 

Daniel did that dance maneuver-thing where he pulled her hand to his chest to draw her closer, and used the other on her hip to get her to straddle his lap. 

“Slick,” she complimented.

“Can’t make you go where you don’t want to be,” he countered, sliding his hands under the back of her shirt to rest on her waist. He leaned forward to capture her with a sweet, soft kiss to her lips. 

Daisy wasn’t expecting the sizzle, nor the way it flared into white heat that had both of them yanking at hems and gauntlets and waistbands to strip. She dove her hands into his hair as he laved her throat with kisses and guided her down onto his pretty dick with his hands on her hips. With the way she was still swollen and slick from earlier, they slotted together with only a little extra effort. 

“You're up for a third round, Danny-boy? I’m impressed.” 

“So am I, honestly, but you’re you and I’m having trouble keeping my hands off m’ girl.” 

Daisy loved Daniel’s nicknames for her, because she was certain he actually meant them. She slid her hands around his neck. “Your girl is perfectly happy with your hands on her.” She nipped at his bottom lip. “Unless, of course, you don’t move.” 

“How about I keep my hands on you and you drive?” He trailed his fingers over the curve of her breasts.

“I can do that.” 

She wasn’t expecting to take the lead, but she did, biting at his lips and jaw as she rose and fell with increasing abandon. She scraped nails through the curls on his chest, thumbing his nips until they hardened under her touch. Daniel palmed her ass with both hands as he kept pace.

In spite of her boyfriend’s previous demonstrations that he knew his way around a clit, she wasn’t expecting him to find it when she needed it the most. She was the one who pulled him over the edge with a shout as she came apart. With both arms wrapped around her back, Daniel buried himself so that her orgasm dragged him deep inside her in frantic pulses. 

She wasn’t expecting to love the sensation as much as she did, nor the way Daniel’s shout gave her pure feline satisfaction. 

She wasn’t expecting him to fumble for the light and click it off without breaking their connection. 

She definitely wasn’t expecting to stay right there with her head on his shoulder as Daniel caressed her back and couldn’t stop pressing kisses into her hair. 

But given all that, she wasn’t surprised to hear him whisper, “I love you, Daisy,” as he held her close. She locked her arms around him in reply, his words making her shiver, just a little. 



She was a sweaty, sticky mess when she came awake in the middle of the night with her Inhuman senses buzzing. Daisy started toward the bathroom to take a shower, remembered she had a pool, and pivoted to change destinations. 

She didn’t bother with clothes as she crept through the house in the darkness, though she snatched up the gauntlets from where they’d landed on the floor of the bedroom and a hair band off the coffee table in the living room. She fastened both in place before climbing the rocks of the waterfall to sit where the water rushed through a gap to spill over her back and legs. 

The water washed away the sweat and sex, even as she thought having about Daniel’s hands on her again. Square or not, he had a way of making her feel like she was precious to him, challenging her to do the same for him — which was really fucking hard when he scrambled her brains so she couldn’t think at all. 

Breathing out, she focused on the frequencies coming off the waterfall. The water divided around her, leaving her sitting on bare rock. With a smile, she raised her hands, forcing the water to arc over her back and splash down into the pool in front of her. 

Other than the tiny bit she’d used to help her boyfriend out — and that really didn’t count — Daisy hadn’t used her powers since she’d destroyed Malick and the Chronicom ships. It felt good to loose the reins and play.  

She made a bubble in the water with herself inside. Daisy poked at the wall, laughing when she splashed herself in the face at the hole she made. She did it again with the same results. Then she expanded the bubble until it popped, the water crashing down onto the rocks on either side of her with a resounding thud. With both hands, she played with the water, making zigzags and spirals out of the streams. 

Holding her hands out, she forced a solid wall of water to shoot straight up in the air. As it fell, she split it into four streams to crash into the pool. Curious to see what else she could do, she waited for the waves to settle, then she made the water dance from below the surface. She toyed with it, causing a swell that splashed onto the steps. 

With energy left to burn, Daisy climbed to the top of the rocks where it was dry and squatted. Holding her hands to either side, she quaked with just enough power to hover a foot or so off the waterfall. She held the position, riding the vibrations until she needed to stop. 

She let go, dropping to the rocks to stand up. She was Quake, Destroyer of Worlds, and she was playing in the water like a child. Daisy laughed at herself. 

The cool breeze made her shiver as she dropped down off the back of the waterfall. Without really thinking about it, Daisy sent out a vibration to flick the water off her skin. Suddenly dry, she chortled in astonishment. “Okay, that’s a neat trick,” she said to herself, turning her arms over as she walked back to the house. 

“What’s that?” 

She snapped her head up to find Daniel leaning against the glass with his arms crossed, her shirt draped over his arm, and a soft look of wonder on his face. 

“Okay, my situational awareness has gone to crap if I didn’t notice you there,” she complained. 

“You were playing. I wanted to watch,” he admitted. “So what’s a neat trick?” 

“It seems I have a built-in dryer.” She looked over her shoulder, to check her back. “I’m completely dry. I didn’t know I could do that.” She wrinkled her nose at the gauntlets. “These are still wet, though.”  

“That’ll save money on towels.” He held her shirt out. “You want this?”

“Actually, yes. I’m starving again. What time is it?” 

“About five hours earlier than I’ve seen you get up yet.” 

She snickered as she pulled her t-shirt over her head, then stripped out of the wet gauntlets. “Should I go get donuts?” 

Daniel shook his head. “I’m not even sure they’re open yet. It’s not quite three-thirty. I’ll make coffee, if you want.” 

“No. I might actually go back to sleep. Quaking uses a lot of energy.” She swept a look over him. “How’s the newest leg?”

“I didn’t think it could be better than the last, but I’m impressed.” Daniel shot her his own assessing look. “Maybe we can see what kind of trouble we can get into with it later?” 

Daisy grinned. “I’m game. Want some cereal? I’ve got a couple of different kinds.” She was rather smug as she pulled them out of the pantry, knowing both dated back to Daniel’s day. She’d looked it up. 

He picked up the box of Rice Krispies. “Apparently, some things are timeless.”

She set out cereal bowls, the carton of milk, and a couple of spoons. She poured up a bowl of Cheerios, then boosted herself onto the island to eat. 

Daniel caught her hand, inspecting her arm. “No bruises?” 

“Not for that. I was just playing. And I had my gauntlets on. That’s kind of the whole point of wearing them.”

“Copy that. I didn’t know you could hover.” 

Daisy set her spoon back in the bowl, thinking over the last few weeks. “You really haven’t seen me do much.” 

“Just the day at the speakeasy, the thing with the water glass at the Lighthouse, and what you did for me the other night.”

“We’ll go down to the LA S.H.I.E.L.D. office in a couple of weeks and play in the range. It’ll be fun.” 

“Why wait?”

She quirked a wry smile at him. “I’m still recovering. I think that’s why I slept so much today. Yesterday. Whatever. Just that little bit out there,” she waved her spoon at the pool, “let’s just say, I’ll probably sleep well for the rest of the night.”  

“You weren’t kidding when you said using your powers takes a toll on you.” Daniel gave her a curious look. “You sense vibrations, right?”

Daisy nodded. “Vibrations at all different frequencies. Felt like bees buzzing around inside me, at first. I learned to put a tiny vibration of my own between me and the rest of the world when it gets bad. It’s what made me think of Kora’s shield.” She tilted her head toward the pool. “Splashing water acts like white noise to my Inhuman senses. Mutes out a lot of the ambient vibrations and doesn’t cost me extra energy. Showers do it too. Even a running faucet can help.” 

He searched her face. “What was it like when you got your powers?” 

Daisy set her bowl down. Those days had been horrible. “I can’t.” She shook her head, looking away. “I can’t,” she said again, as sudden tears welled up. “Not here,” she tried to explain. She didn’t want those memories to sully her safe house. 

Daniel was on his feet, reaching for her hands before another second passed. “Understood,” he assured her. “I don’t need to know right now.”

Relieved he wasn’t going to press, she counted with her breathing to get her pulse back under control.

In another one of those slick moves, her boyfriend tugged her off the counter to hold her close. The way he set his hands on her back without touching anything triggering impressed her as much as she hated the need for it. 

She rested her head on his shoulder, listening to his heartbeat as she tentatively set her hands on his waist. 

“What’s the neatest thing you’ve done with your powers?” 

Grateful for the easy question, she answered, “I can sort of fly? If I aim just right?” She squeezed Daniel in a quick hug, then curled up in the chair next to him and reached for her cereal to finish it. “How are you doing?” she asked. “I keep expecting you to have a major freak-out at some point.” 

He turned up his hands. “Pretty sure I’m not allowed, according to the S.H.I.E.L.D. handbook. On the other hand, I do need to run a few errands. Seeing 21st century LA might do it.”  

“It might,” she agreed. “I’d say it can’t be worse than space, but it is Los Angeles, so I might be wrong about that.” 

Daniel’s eyes widened. “I forgot. Will you tell me about it?” 

“I don’t know, Agent Sousa. Are you cleared for that intel?” 

He gave her that same frustrated scowl she got at the beach house. “You can be sure I’m going to check first thing in the morning.” 

She laughed outright. “Do that.”



They talked until whatever energy Daisy had that got her out of bed ran out. Daniel had stifled a few yawns at that point, but he’d stayed with her despite his weariness. 

He offered to lock up the house while she rinsed off the chlorine in a slapdash shower. She took him up on it and dressed for bed again while he doffed his leg, stored it, and got under the covers. 

Daisy came up with a clean set of gauntlets that weren’t quite as comfortable to sleep in. “Don’t we make a pair,” she muttered as she latched them in place. 

“Why is that?” Daniel settled into her bed, looking awfully comfortable there for a guy who’d been in it for only a few hours. 

She held up her arms. “We both come with accessories.” 

That got a genuine laugh out of her boyfriend as he lifted the covers for her. 

She crawled up into middle of the bed, pulling the duvet and quilt up to her chin. “This is so weird.” 

“What’s that?” He turned off the light and stretched out beside her, shoulder-to-shoulder. 

“I think we just moved in together, and we’ve been dating for like, five minutes.” She shot Daniel a look to see his reaction, but it was too dark for her to make out anything but his shadow. 

“I think I need some closet space and a drawer or two, but it works for me,” he mumbled. “This mattress is amazing too. Better than my old one.” 

Daisy got a weird feeling in her stomach and a cold shiver. She traced the embroidery on the quilt with a fingertip. “Hey, Sousa?”

“Hmm?” 

That was the sound of weary exasperation. But she had to know. “The team told you I would crash with one of them when the nightmares got bad. And that’s true. But they didn’t know how often I slept in the containment module, especially after everyone started hooking up and I didn’t want to bother them. Even if I wasn’t having nightmares, I’d know everyone was safe, just in case.” 

“So long as it’s not that white monstrosity at Stark’s place. This is better. A lot better,” he said with another stifled yawn. He rolled over on his side, rucking up her shirt to curl one arm around her middle. “I kind of like the quiet, to be honest.” He sighed in her ear and, as usual, fell asleep between one breath and the next. 

So much for Daniel getting weirded out by the sleeping arrangements.

Daisy softly laughed at him, lacing her fingers in his where he’d rested them against her skin. She counted his heartbeats until she, too, slept.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Thirty-Five

 

Daniel propped up on an elbow, rubbing sand out of his eyes with one finger. Finding Daisy still sleeping one pillow over made him unreasonably happy. She’d sprawled out on her back, one hand curled into the edge of the quilt, and the other arm splayed out. If her fingers weren’t in a loose fist, she would have been touching his chest. 

He picked a long strand of hair off the sheet with a grin. He’d waited a long time for someone like Daisy. A month ago, he’d given up on this kind of happiness. Today was an impossible dream come true. 

Daisy wasn’t quite all-in, but that was okay. Bringing him here was a big deal for her and an even bigger step in the right direction. Her reservations weren’t particularly about him either. He could live with that. 

Yeah, he was in love. 

Glancing at the dresser where his clock used to sit out of habit, all he saw was a stack of his girlfriend’s clothes, some scattered pieces of jewelry, and her hula dancer. He had no idea what time it was. Judging by the light of the sun and an urgent need for coffee, he’d guess it was after eight. 

He rolled over to tap the closet panel where Daisy had put his leg. 

“Nuh uh,” she protested, sliding an arm around his middle to press her head on his shoulder blade. “Need to rest, Daniel,” she said sleepily. “We can swim, or whatever. Jus’ heal today.” 

He chuckled, turning over so she could lay on his chest. “I can do that.” 

Daisy reached over him to fish around in the drawer for her phone. He braced her middle so she wouldn’t fall off the bed. Peeling one eye open, she glared at the screen. “It’s eight-twenty. Why are we awake?” she demanded as she dropped it back in the drawer, shoved it closed, and propped her chin on his chest. 

“Things to do, places to be,” he quipped, sliding one hand under the hem of her lacy shorts to palm her lovely ass. He’d woken up half-hard, already. It wasn’t going to take much--

Daisy scowled as she rocked her hips to grind against him. “Let’s start with people to do, then you can figure out the rest.” 

That did it. Daniel flexed his own hips to nudge her right back. “It’s not wise to disappoint the lady,” he said solemnly, trying not to smile at Grumpy-Daisy. And failing. 

She shivered, her shoulders hunching up as her body shook. He had no idea how she could be cold with both of them pressed together and a sheet and two blankets covering them, but he tugged the quilt over her shoulders. 

Their hands roamed freely as they kissed. He cupped her soft breast, a thumb rubbing over the peak as she palmed his johnson. There was fumbling to tug clothing off for better access, and he sank his fingers inside her with something like relief. 

Daisy kissed him with increasing fervor, stroking his length until she slung a leg over him, ready to take what she needed. 

“Hold on,” he pleaded, coming up on an elbow to give himself better leverage and balance. He urged her onto him with a hand to her hip. “There you go, sweetheart,” he muttered when she settled her slick entrance over him. He snapped his hips up to find her; she met him halfway. Intoxicated by the drag of the velvet warmth of her body, he pumped into her, wanting to stay right here, like this, for always. 

“Whatever you do, don’t stop,” Daisy demanded. She braced her hand on the bed, too, her dancing hair tickled his chest as she rocked with him. 

He didn’t, but it took them a few minutes to find the rhythm and angle that worked for both of them. 

When they did, she hissed, “Oh, damn it, there it is.”   

He could feel it, that brief fluttering on his johnson before her orgasm took over. And then he was helpless to do anything but keep the rhythm her body set as he spent himself inside her. 

When Daisy shivered again, Daniel swept his hands up her back, tugging lightly at her shoulders so she’d lay on his chest and let him hold her as he tugged the quilt back over them. He could definitely get used to waking like this. 

She didn’t seem cold when he pressed a kiss to her cheek. Instead, she rubbed the tip of her nose into his shoulder with a soft sigh. “Coffee,” she muttered, putting her head down. “I need coffee. But I don’t wanna get up.” 

“Can’t help you there.” Daniel wasn’t about to move, not since discovering this part of making love — holding Daisy in the aftermath until his body slipped free of hers — meant something too. 

When he did, she kissed him, then peeled herself off his chest to poke him lightly in the sternum. “You got me up. You can make coffee. I’m going for a run.” 

“How did I get suckered into this?” he complained, though he didn’t mind at all. He would be happy to make it for the foreseeable future if it meant waking up with Daisy every day. 

Daisy sat up to stretch her arms overhead, shooting him a sweet smile. 

“I, uh—” he started. She raised a curious eyebrow as she unlatched the gauntlets and set them on the nightstand. “Are you okay … with the bum leg? I know the … positions … aren’t normal.” 

Her mouth fell open a little, then she flipped the covers back and leaned over to kiss the scars on his stump. She was right, his mind was blown at the touch of her lips on the sensitive skin — though in a very good way. 

“We literally just had sex while I was wearing gauntlets,” she said when she sat up again. “And you didn’t give a damn about those or having to sleep in containment because your girlfriend could bring the house down in her sleep.” She brushed fingers along his thigh, floated a hand over the scars on his torso, and continued right up to his jaw to cup his cheek. “Consider yourself reassured, Danny-boy, that I’m just fine with what we’ve done so far.” She looked him over again, licking her lips. “Do we need to do it again as proof?” 

Daniel flexed his abs to sit up and capture her mouth in a sweet, intense kiss with one hand to the back of her neck so he could feel her hair spilling over his knuckles. “I’m reading you loud and clear, sweetheart. And you’re right. I don’t give a damn about gauntlets or containment rooms as long as I get to be with you.” 

It was her turn to be slack-jawed. “Copy that,” she said softly, with wonder in her dark eyes. “I'm, uh, going for a run.” She turned around to set her feet on the floor, giving him a look at her back for the first time. 

Startled by the marks on her shoulders, Daniel rested his fingers on the raised circles. “How many times have you taken a bullet?” He knew about the two on her stomach, these made four. 

With a wry look, she held up five fingers, tapping the fifth on the back of her thigh as she stood, then disappeared into the bathroom. 

Daniel scratched at the stubble on his jaw, coming to several conclusions. First, his brick wall assessment was correct. Second, he had an absurd need to wrap Daisy in the quilt and park her on the lounger by the pool that was surely not going to go over well if he tried. Third, no wonder she didn’t have issues with his body, other than she seemed to like having her hands on it. 

That was fine with him. He liked having his hands on hers. 

She was out the door five minutes later, stepping over her backpack and leaving a trail of discarded clothes and toiletries from her duffel to the bathroom. He watched her go before retrieving his crutches off the floor.

Daniel looked around at the wreckage in the room and decided they’d work on that later. He wasn’t kidding about the drawer and closet space. He wasn’t living out of a duffel if he didn’t have to. 

He ran through his conditioning drills in the room next door and happily dove into the pool afterward. In retrospect, he should have put in a pool a long time ago, though it wouldn’t have compared to what Daisy’s friend had dreamed up. 

After a shower and shave, he was more than ready for coffee and a little sun by the pool. The coffee maker didn’t look too different from the drip machine on the Zephyr, even if he reached for the coffee grounds out of a cabinet that wasn’t there anymore. 

“Please tell you you’re making enough for two?” Daisy smelled like coconuts again as she hugged him from behind. 

“Of course.” Daniel reached an arm around her to drop a kiss on her lips, wondering if this is what a honeymoon felt like. Her hair was damp from her own shower. She nuzzled his nose with hers, then kissed him again before he went back to scooping coffee into the filter. She leaned into his side as he pressed what looked like the correct button for the machine to start humming. 

“Well done,” she congratulated him. “For that, you can sleep in my room again tonight.” She set a pair of coffee mugs and the carton of creamer beside him, then proceeded to pull out eggs and butter too. 

“Didn’t you say something about moving in together?” 

“That was before I knew you were going to wake me up at the crack of dawn. I’m on vacation, you know,” she teased. 

“I’m not the one who went swimming at three a.m.” He leaned on his crutches as the coffee machine burbled. “What time do you get up when you’re working?” 

“You make a good point; I guess I did wake you up at a ridiculous hour. And it depends on if we’re on base or on a ship, but five or six, usually.” 

“Why does that surprise me?” 

She shrugged. “You know I don’t sleep all that well. Sometimes it’s just easier to keep moving.” 

Daniel filed away that bit of intel — not only about her sleep schedule, but her assumption that he already knew it. Both seemed important. “I don’t have much, but I could use a drawer or two.” Asking to put stuff in his own dresser felt strange, but since his bedroom came with Daisy now, he decided he would live with the trade-off. 

“Go ahead. Most of them are empty anyway.” She set out a pan and turned on a burner to heat it. 

“Where do you keep your clothes?” 

“Tac gear in the go bag, extra gauntlets in a drawer. The rest usually never makes it out of a clean laundry basket,” she admitted, “unless I can hang it up.” 

“I can work with that.” The coffee finished brewing, and he poured up a cup for each of them. He handed one to Daisy and proceeded to drink his standing at the counter while she scrambled eggs for their breakfast. From this angle, he had a great view of her bare legs and the delicate chain hanging from an ankle. It complemented the trio of necklaces she wore over her shirt, though none of them particularly matched. 

Whatever she’d done, or not done, to her hair today, it fell in long twists down her back. “Is that … purple?” 

Daisy turned around again so he could see the other streaks in her hair. “It’s temporary while I decide what I want to do with it. I’ll color it for real in a few days.” She put a hand on her hip. “Too weird for you, old man?” 

Her look was different from the way she’d dressed on the mission, or even at the beach house. But it was her, no doubt. “Not at all. Can I touch it?” 

“Of course,” she said, taking two steps to stand in front of him. “As much as I like having your hands in my hair, it would be stupid to make it so you couldn’t play with it.” 

Adding that intel to Things Daisy Liked, Daniel picked up a purple strand and let it fall through his fingers. “I’m used to ladies having their hair pinned up or curled. Strictly off-limits, for the most part. I like this better.” 

“I was surprised how much prep we had to do in the 30’s and 50’s on the mission. The 70’s were way more comfortable,” Daisy admitted. She glanced at his hands. “The ladies were missing out if they didn’t know what you could do with your fingers.” 

He was not used to these kinds of compliments. “Seems the charm runs both ways,” he murmured. 

“I got lucky last night. I’m on my game,” she purred, stealing a kiss that left him wanting another taste.

When she went back to stirring the eggs, he traced the line of the first chain around her neck. “I like these, too.” 

“They were in my bathroom. I forgot they were there.” 

Daisy looked over her shoulder, and Daniel was surprised to see her face a little crumpled. 

“I haven’t been here in almost a year,” she confessed. 

“Before you went to space?” 

She bobbed her head in a single, sharp nod as she scooped the eggs onto plates for both of them. She didn’t expound on her answer. 

He could only surmise it had something to do with Coulson’s passing, which might explain why she didn’t know more about the house. It bore thinking about. In any case, she’d made a point of telling him, so it must be important. 

Daisy set the plates on the other side of the island, and while he picked out forks out of the drawer, she sneakily refilled their coffee cups and moved them too. 

“I saw that,” he muttered. 

“You were busy,” she retorted. “What would you have done if you were alone?” 

As he came around the island to sit, he admitted, “I don’t let things get as bad as they did. Most days, I’d wear the leg from morning to night, unless this gave me trouble.” He tapped his bum leg. 

“How are things this morning?” 

He rolled up the hem of his shorts to look for himself. Sue him. He’d been distracted earlier. “A lot better,” he noted. “I’ll soak it in salts one more time and giving it another day to rest is a good idea. That should do it.”  

To his surprise, Daisy rested her hand on his thigh. “Good.” She left her hand there while she dug into her eggs, one thumb tracing his scars. 

The last month had been nothing but an astonishing series of shocks and surprises, but Daisy’s easy acceptance of him topped them all. 

“Your eggs are getting cold,” she chided. But she had a tiny smile on her face as she ate. 



Not only was Daniel told he had clearance due to his director-level status, he was given Agent Johnson’s report about her time in space, as well as the ones Agents Fitz, Simmons, Piper, and Davis had submitted. Given his previous position with S.H.I.E.L.D., Daniel was asked to write up an assessment of security threats based on the intel. He had a sneaky suspicion S.H.I.E.L.D. had something else in mind, but that was fine by him. 

Though he was technically on R&R, he appreciated having a job to do, even if it was something he could write up in his sleep. He needed a typewriter, but supposed he’d have to figure out how to write a report on something like Daisy’s laptop. For now, he had a pad of paper and a pen he’d picked up at the Hub for his notes. 

He settled on the lounger with his tablet and notepad, keeping one eye on his girlfriend as he worked. 

Unlike this morning, Daisy seemed at loose ends. She started a load of laundry, brought in a few things from the garage to dump on the dining room table, then retrieved the cell phones and notebook from the bookshelves before going back to the bedroom for her backpack, more specifically, for the laptop she pulled out of it. Twice, she glanced over her shoulder, looking toward either the living room or the bedroom, he wasn’t sure. Idly, she rubbed at her neck. A few minutes later, she shut her computer and disappeared into the back of the house. 

She came back wearing athletic gear — he was proud of himself for knowing what to call it — and shoved the couch in the living room out of the way to do her Tai Chi routine. 

He managed to get some reading done in between admiring looks. Daisy caught him twice, but didn’t pause her movements in the slightest. 

Curious, he texted May. Can Tai Chi be done with one leg? 

A while later, he got five video links for a variety of options, but no other response. 

“What are you laughing about?” Daisy asked, plopping down in the chair next to him with a bottle of water. 

Daniel handed his phone over.

“You’d do this?” she asked curiously.   

“Seems like it would be good for my balance. Maybe better than what I’m doing now.” 

“May’s teaching Kora,” she said, passing the phone back. 

“Then we’ll be in good company.” 

Daisy ran her fingers over her elbows, absently scratching until she caught him looking. “I’m going to beat up the bag for a while.” She jumped up and stalked out the room. Unfamiliar music with a heavy beat started thumping.

Her restlessness worried him. They’d had a good morning, and she'd seemed fine over breakfast, but she wasn’t now. Daisy didn’t strike him as the kind of person who needed to be on the move all the time. He’d seen her quietly working on the Zephyr and at the beach house. 

Daniel finished a first pass on the reports and took the time to soak in the tub. He could hear Daisy over the beat of the music she was playing. Judging by the pounding the bag was taking, she wasn’t working out so much as she was burning off something, though he couldn't say what. Unfortunately, even he could come up with a number of reasons she might be struggling and not all of them could be blamed on the mission. 

He wanted to help, but in this case, it seemed he’d have to wait to see where she landed. 

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Thirty-Six

 

Daisy needed a distraction again and wished May was here. 

The local S.H.I.E.L.D. office would surely have someone willing to spar with her, but if she did that, Daniel would want to go. Today wasn’t the day for that, even if his thigh looked way better. She definitely didn’t want to be alone today; even she could tell that was a bad idea. 

This morning had started out so well, too. Waking up with Daniel in her bedroom seemed like something she’d done her whole life, even though it was only the first time.

The guilt she felt for being so happy wasn’t something she would tell anyone, ever. The whole team would give her grief. But so many people had died for her — Lincoln had died for her. What gave her the right to feel like this? 

She shoved her hand through her hair, resolutely setting those thoughts aside in favor of tackling a few chores while Daniel read his reports by the pool. His t-shirt clung in all the right ways, showing off the cut of his biceps while he made notes on the pad resting on the arm of his chair. Occasionally, his dark eyes flickered upward to land on her. Every single time, he got a faint smile — the same one he got every time he told her he loved her. 

She rubbed her arms above the gauntlets as a chill made her shiver.

Daisy unloaded three of the boxes Lanita had left for her from the garage. She unpacked the new router and left the others — probably clothes found in the rubble of the Playground — for later. Fishing out a power strip from the drawer of the buffet, she plugged it in, along with the burner phones she’d left on the bookcase. The power strip cord trailed over the edge of the table and into the wall. 

She also pulled out Lanita’s notebook, snorting at the big, neon-pink sticky note on the front reminding her to pay the taxes before she disappeared again. They weren’t due for months, but given her crazy missions, it was a good idea to get next year settled up before anything could go wrong. Intending to do just that, she retrieved her laptop from her backpack, set it on the table, and opened it just long enough to know that she didn’t have the concentration for that kind of work. Actually paying the taxes online wasn’t the issue. Moving the money from where it was stashed through the four entities she used to cover her tracks was a different story.

Tai Chi got her blood flowing, but May would be disappointed in her lack of focus. 

Without any better ideas, Daisy cranked up the beats, wrapped her hands, and landed a couple of hard hits on the punching bag. To get in the rhythm of working it, she alternated hits with kicks and sweeps to keep her body moving. But even with the hard rock music pounding, she couldn’t stop her brain as it careened from shitty topic to shitty topic in the horrific pinball machine that made up all the crap in her head. 

She hated this part of having downtime. She’d been through enough half-assed counseling sessions and self-help books to know that this was “processing her trauma.” She’d much rather be kissing Daniel by the pool or playing house with him. 

With memories playing on repeat in the front and center of her head, Daisy rained strikes on the bag. She couldn’t stop until her knuckles stung in spite of the wrappings. 

Sagging with exhaustion against the doorframe, she panted as she peeled off the fabric, giving her reddened fingers a cursory glance. She slapped the music off, rubbing at her neck now that her hands were free.

Pissed, she stalked down the hall to the kitchen, pulled a protein shake out of the fridge, and drained half of it. Daniel had moved to the dining room table with a sandwich and his tablet. Daisy didn’t realize she’d been working out long enough to miss lunch. Not that she really paid attention to that kind of thing.

She refused to scratch in front of her boyfriend. Sweat dripped between her breasts, not helping the itching at all. 

“Good workout?” he asked. 

“It’ll do. May sent the names of a couple of people who might be interested in sparring.”

“I’ve got the name of a trainer at the LA office I’d like to work with, too. You don’t have to wait on me, but I’ll be up for it in a couple of days.” 

She gave him a brief nod as she sucked down the rest of her drink. “It’s a date.” Seeing her stuff scattered from one end of the table to the other, Daisy darted over to make more room for Daniel. 

“What’s that?” he asked, nudging a chin toward the notebook. 

Edging backward so she didn’t stink up the place, she told him, “Oh. I don’t know anything about taking care of houses, so Lanita made me lists and a lot of instructions. I check it off as I go, and when I get called out, she knows what I did.” 

Daniel lit up. “That’s a good system. Mind if I look? I can give you a hand.” 

She shrugged. “Sure. Lanita’s taken care of everything for this week. That will give me a chance to clear out the stuff in the garage and clean up my mess in the bedroom.” 

“Doesn’t bother me,” he said as he pulled the notebook in front of him. 

“And that, Sousa, is an outright lie,” she retorted. “I don’t even need to hear your heartbeat for that one.” 

He grinned, unrepentant at being caught. “Okay, it doesn’t bother me at the moment.” 

In spite of her irritable mood, she softened at his teasing. “Better.” 

Pointing to the sticky note, he asked, “Property taxes, I’m guessing?” 

“You want your mind blown?”

“I’m not sure,” he replied, suspiciously. He pulled the note off, turned it over to look at the glue strip, then stuck it on the notebook again. “That’s neat.” 

Daisy flipped open the cover and plucked out the tax bill, holding it out. 

He took it, whistling softly. “You pay this each year? That’s nearly what I paid for th— a whole house.” 

“I don’t, actually.” She nodded at the billing address. “Jordan Enterprises does.” 

Daniel raised an eyebrow, looking up at her.

“Jordan is AC’s middle name,” she told him. “He’s got this crazy Swiss bank account that’s got enough in it to fund anything this house needs and all the taxes on it for as long as someone wants to keep it.” 

“Including the pool?” he asked slyly. 

Daisy looked away. “No. That was all me.” 

Her boyfriend tilted his head. “Because it’s an indulgence?”

“Dating a spy sucks sometimes,” she commented wryly, without answering him. 

“It’s your home,” Daniel emphasized, “and the money came with it. I can’t imagine Coulson putting strings on it. Not with you.”

Aware that his heartbeat had sped up, she gave a little shake of her head. “We’ll call it rent, okay? And I know better than to get too attached. It’s just a house. Someday, something’s going to happen, and I won’t be able to keep it. Two years seems to be my limit on stability.” 

“I don’t like that you think that way.” He seemed honestly upset. “If Coulson gave it to you, it's gotta be in the clear.” 

“Danny-boy, I’m still coming to grips with having a steady boyfriend. I’m using up whatever luck I’ve got on you,” she shot back. 

Daniel peered up at her. “You don’t think this is going to last?” 

“I don’t ever get what I want,” she countered. Then she got pissed at herself again, crossing her arms. “I’m sorry. I’m in a terrible mood, and I’m dumping it on you.” 

She caught herself scratching at her elbows again when he took one of her hands to frown at the bruises on her knuckles. 

“Those need ice.” 

“I’m okay. I’m going to take a shower though and see if I can shake this.” She glanced down the hallway, making an effort not to be morose. “Maybe then we can figure out where to put your stuff.” 



The shower helped, but not enough to stop the itching. She pushed open the bathroom door to find Daniel sitting on the edge of the bed, dotting his leg with Simmons’ cream. The bottle of pain meds were on the side table, along with a sandwich and strawberries on a plate.

“You okay?” she asked as she traded the towel for a t-shirt and loose shorts. She didn’t bother with a bra or underwear, figuring both would just be in the way later. 

Daniel noticed, his eyes skimming down her figure before handing her the plate. “A little birdy told me you like grilled cheese, but wouldn’t tell me his secret ingredient.” 

“I think it’s gouda, but I’m not that picky.” She took it, her stomach grumbling as cheesy goodness wafted into her nose. “Thank you.” 

“You don’t eat enough for all the calories you burn.” 

“That’s what the protein drinks are for.” 

“Yeah, but that’s not enough,” he chided, passing her the water bottle he had on the floor. 

She took the corner of the bed to eat her lunch, amused at Daniel’s not-so-subtle way of looking after her. “What’s with the meds?” she asked. 

“Sore from the fittings, I think. And the crutches.” He gave her a tiny smirk. “Maybe some of it can be blamed on my new workout regimen.” 

Daisy pursed her lips, charmed in spite of her shitty mood. “So if I’m part of the problem, can I be part of the solution?” She held up one hand, wiggling her fingers. 

Daniel smiled. “What you did the other night felt amazing.” 

“Good. I’ll work you over. Maybe we won’t need the meds.” 

“Promises, promises,” he teased. “But I’d like that.” 

Daisy finished her lunch, setting the plate on the dresser, then washed her hands, hung up the towel, and came back to find her boyfriend had scooted to the middle of the bed. “You know, we all got pretty good at PT on the Zephyr,” she told him. “Jemma is ruthless when it comes to rehabilitation. Piper gave the best massages, and Davis did this head rub thing that could put anyone to sleep in five minutes or less. Kept us sane sometimes when we all got a little touch-starved.” 

“Touch-starved? What’s that?” 

Daisy tilted her head. “Why did you start seeing Helen? Was it about sex or physical affection? Or both?” 

“That … makes a surprising amount of sense,” Daniel admitted. 

The thoughtful look he gave her meant she’d revealed more about herself than she’d intended, in spite of admitting to absolutely nothing with her answer. Damn spy. 

She wasn’t sure how she felt about him figuring out her secrets, even if she was smart enough to know that a relationship would never work unless she could find a way to trust him with those too. 

With a flash of a smile to change the subject back to safer ground, Daisy added, “So what I’m trying to say, is that if you want to see a professional masseuse or physical therapist, then go get one. But if you just need an occasional cramp rubbed out, I’m more than happy to help.” 

Daniel leaned on an elbow. “Thank you. Is the Zephyr where you learned to do … what should I call it? A quake massage?” 

“Nope, and I don’t call it anything.” Daisy found the purple gauntlets in her duffel and latched them in place. “It’s not something I’ve done for anyone else. I tried it when I had a bad muscle cramp and figured out how to make it work.” She ran her hand through her hair and crawled on the bed to sit. 

“You've never …  thought about what else you can do with that?” he asked slyly.

“I didn’t say that,” she countered with a laugh. “Of course I got curious.” She held up two fingers. “Especially since these don’t need batteries.”

Daniel raised both eyebrows. “Batteries? What am I missing?” 

She pulled out her phone, thumbed a search, and handed over a picture of the first vibrator that came up. “I’m guessing this wasn’t really a thing in your time?”

He chuckled as he tried not to look shocked. And failed. “Not like this.” He scrolled through the website, his eyebrows drawing together. “No wonder you call me ‘square,’” he muttered, studying yet another picture. 

Abruptly, Daisy plucked the cell phone out of his hand and tossed it on the floor. “That’s my boyfriend you’re talking about. We’re doing just fine,” she said firmly. “Now, tell me where it hurts.” 

With a gratified smile, Daniel rolled to his stomach. “Same places, mostly.” He rested his head on his arms. 

“Cute butt.” Daisy leaned over to press a kiss to his shorts, smiling at his startled squeak. She stretched out beside him, cradling her face against her right arm and setting her left hand under his shirt. With closed eyes, she followed the tension in the muscle fibers. It wasn’t anywhere as bad as the other night, but she could feel the taut strings give way as she dragged her fingers here and there. 

She hit a particularly tense spot, and Daniel let out a soft groan. She jerked her hand away.  

“Nonono, that was good. Really good.” 

Daisy set her hand there again, and he let out another moan. She snorted. “I’m not sure if those are feel good noises or sex noises, because they sound an awful lot alike.” 

“If you keep doing that, we’ll get from one to the other,” he mumbled into his arms. 

“Promises, promises,” she echoed his words from earlier. 

She didn’t exactly relax, because doing this took too much concentration, but it was nice not to think about anything else for a while. 

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Thirty-Seven

 

Daniel wasn’t quite as sore as he made out to be, but Daisy needed something to do and fussing over him distracted her from whatever was in her head. She’d figure it out, he was sure. 

If not, he’d have to add it to the list of things he needed to tell her, starting with the house and ending with the company that owned it. He had a long list of questions for Coulson, but didn’t dare call or text from here. He’d have to wait until he ran his errands tomorrow to gather intel so he’d know the best way to handle the situation. 

He figured he had a day, maybe two at the most, to find a way to tell Daisy — hopefully in a way that she’d understand the place was hers now and he didn’t want it back. Well, he did, but not at her expense. An idiot could see how much having a home meant to her, especially now that her family had scattered across the globe. 

He hoped like hell that the paperwork was in order. A simple transfer of the shares in the company would have done the trick, but since he’d left the house to Peggy, there was no telling what she might have done in the years since.  

For now, he closed his eyes as Daisy chased away every last cramp in this thigh until he sighed happily. She ran her hands over his back without the added boost, and he liked that even better. Maybe he had been touch-starved, as she called it, because he loved having her hands on him. 

"My heavens, Dais, that feels good," he murmured.

She tapped him on the shoulder, and he looked around to see what was up. 

“How much pain are you really in?” she asked, suspiciously. 

Daniel grinned, flipping over on his back. “Enough to do something about it, and I am never going to turn down having your hands on me. But if you hadn’t offered, I would have skipped the pills and gone for a swim first to loosen everything up,” he admitted, tucking a strand of her hair behind her ear. “If that didn’t work, then I would have taken the medication.” 

Daisy quirked her lips. “I’m not sure if I’m annoyed or not.” 

“You needed a distraction, and I was right here. It seemed like a good solution.” 

“Fine. You owe me a massage then,” she retorted.

Daniel winced, giving Daisy a wry smile. “I'm not very good at them.” 

“There’s this thing called ‘YouTube,’” she demurred, saccharine-sweet. Then, in a completely different tone, she told him, “You can ask. I don’t mind. It’s nice to do something that isn’t breaking stuff all the time.” 

“Thank you. I will.” He pulled a pillow up under his head. 

In that same grave tone, she said quietly, “I’m sorry I said what I did earlier. I don’t want you to think I don’t want this relationship.” 

“You didn’t say anything about not wanting this,” he countered, “and you were running on fumes.” 

Daisy picked at her nails. For a spy, it was a terrible habit, but he wasn't going to call her on it.

Instead, he wrapped a lock of purple hair around his finger. “Look, I get it. When you’re in the field, you get used to being hungry and tired all the time. You come home and forget you don’t have to live like that.” 

“You seem to be okay,” she said doubtfully.

“A few weeks in the field does not compare to the space mission I read about this morning, and then there’s the stuff with Sarge and that temple. That must have really messed with your head.” 

Daisy’s posture and demeanor completely changed as she started to make a funny quip with a little smile to deflect the conversation.

And then she stilled, giving him a long look with pain flickering in her eyes. “It did. It does,” she admitted, turning her hands over to inspect the bruises on her knuckles. “For a few minutes, I’d lost both Coulson and May. If they hadn’t come back, I don’t know where I’d be.” She looked away, but not before he saw the shimmer in her eyes that she blinked away. 

Surprised that she’d trusted him with that bit of intel, he sat up. “Dais, you still have them, and you still have your family. You’ve got me. And Kora. You’re not alone,” he promised, resting an arm across her shoulder. 

Daisy swiped at her cheek with the back of her hand.

Daniel reached for the quilt and gave her a corner. He’d shed enough tears on the damned thing; it could handle a few more. 

She curled up against his shoulder with her hands tangled in the dark blue fabric. She didn’t break down like she did on the docks, but she didn’t — or maybe couldn’t — talk. 

He understood now that Daisy kept a tight lid on an insane amount of pain and tragedy. Given the small pieces she’d told him, it was a miracle she still believed in love and kindness, if not for herself, then for others. She cared about people in a way he rarely saw, even in S.H.I.E.L.D. But all that agony and horror simmered under that lid, ready to bubble over the moment she relaxed her vigilance. 

He'd seen it last night when he’d asked about her getting her powers. One moment, they’d been having easy conversation, and the next, she’d been on the verge of tears. She’d recovered nearly as fast, clamping down on her emotions, though he might have had something to do with that. 

He was beginning to understand why Coulson called her the strongest person he knew. 

She’d survived, but the cost had been to give up any hope of having good things for herself. Daisy certainly didn’t believe her family would stay together. They would; Daniel could see it, but as Coulson said, she didn’t have a point of reference to know it for herself. 

Their relationship was no different. She wanted it; he was sure of that, too, but she didn’t really believe they would make it. No wonder the way he talked about them as a done deal baffled her. 

He counted himself lucky that Daisy let him see her pain. He might not be able to do anything about it, but he could be here for her. 

She curled a hand around his forearm, one finger stroking circles and lines in a pattern he couldn’t identify. At last, she asked, “Why are you doing this?” 

He suspected he was going to have to tell her a hundred times before she’d begin to accept the truth. “You already know the answer,” he assured her, “starting with brick walls and ending with the fact that I love you.” He brushed a kiss on her temple before resting his cheek against her head. “Why are you doing this, Daisy?” 

“Because you're you. And you care,” she said softly. 

“That I do.” 

 

They stayed like that for a good while, until Daisy rose from the bed and picked up the duffel she’d left on the floor — the same one he’d hopped over twice already. She seemed to not know what to do with it other than to scoot it to her side of the room. 

Of the six drawers on the dresser, she opened the three closest to him in quick succession to check if they were empty. She found a couple of t-shirts in the bottom drawer and moved them to the middle one on the other side. 

“All yours,” she told him, scraping a hand through her hair again, a tell that he hadn’t quite figured out. Maybe it was just her hair falling in her face at odd times. 

“Later. Feel like watching a movie?” 

“You can. I’ve got some reading to do. But I’ll sit on the couch with you.”

Daisy pulled the quilt off the bed and wrapped up in it as she sat on one end of the sofa with a tablet he didn’t know she owned. 

Taking a chance that she wouldn’t mind, Daniel dropped his crutches on the floor and stretched out so that his head rested in her lap. 

She gave him a steely-eyed look. “You already got a back rub. I’m not doing your head too.” 

He laughed. “What if I just don’t want to be that far away from you?”

“Sap,” she teased, flicking her fingers through the hair over his ear. “But I like it.” 

“Good. What are you reading?”

“It’s a book on leadership I picked up from the library.” 

“I can borrow books and put them on my tablet?” 

“As soon as I make you a library card.”

Daniel sighed. “Good point. Guess my old one has expired. Why leadership?”

“Because I suck at it. Coulson put me in charge of the team. I was so bad at it, I fired me and put Mack in charge. Nobody voted against it.” 

“Why were you bad at it?” 

“S.H.I.E.L.D.’s psych eval will tell you that I’m too focused on the end goal and don’t know how to build a coalition and consensus.” 

“And you say?” 

“Coulson was dying, we were trying to stop the world from breaking in two, and nothing else really mattered. I was compromised. So the eval wasn’t wrong.” Daisy rubbed at the scar behind her ear. “I also suck at following orders I disagree with, so I’m not sure where that leaves me.” 

Daniel snorted. “Have you ever met Steve Rogers? That’s practically a textbook definition.” 

Daisy gave him an odd look. “Story is that Peggy Carter and Steve Rogers were a thing. That must have been a hard act to follow. Is that why you two … didn’t make it?”

His girlfriend’s frank questions gave him pause sometimes. She didn’t know the rules of propriety that had marked most of the social discourse in his time. Of course, he had no idea if she didn’t care about that sort of thing or if they simply didn’t exist these days. He suspected the former, but didn’t have enough experience in 2019 to be certain. 

In any case, he’d come to terms with the situation long ago. “Peggy didn’t need me to back her up,” he said simply. “Rogers needed backup, and Peggy wanted to be that person.”

“She really loved him.”

“She did.”

“Coulson told me Rogers spent a lot of time with her before she passed.”

“That’s good to hear,” Daniel told Daisy, his heart aching. “She deserved to have even that.” 

“It’s just awful for Rogers. To be in love that way. He didn’t get a chance not just once, but twice. No wonder he went after Barnes. I don’t know that he could lose his best friend too, not after everything he’d been through.” 

It was his turn to be curious. Current intel on Rogers and Barnes had been thin. “Where are they now?” 

“After they defeated Thanos in Wakanda?* Nobody knows for sure. Seems like every few weeks somebody snaps a pic of them on the streets. It’s always a different town, and they’re always together. That’s something, at least.” 

Hearing that made Daniel absurdly happy. 

Daisy peered at him. “I — you knew them. Both of them.” 

“I did,” he answered as neutrally as he could under her gaze. 

“So what do you know that the rest of the world doesn’t? Because you’re entirely too smug at what I just told you.”

Damn. She was good. “They were best friends. It’s good to know that hasn’t changed.” 

Daisy’s eyes widened. “ Oh. My. God. They weren’t just best friends, were they?” She jammed her tablet beside her. “Oh, now that puts a whole different spin on Azzano… and the plane crash… and the helicarriers. Damn.” She covered her mouth in shock. “Are you telling me that Rogers fucked over HYDRA in two different centuries because they messed with the love of his life? Wow. Talk about compromised.” 

Then her face fell. “Peggy didn’t have a chance, did she? No wonder you two became best friends. You were both in the same boat.” 

Daniel gave her a soft smile at the truth Daisy had inadvertently discovered. “Peggy’d just told me that she’d met someone. Turns out, she married him in ‘56 and even had a couple of kids--a girl and a boy. By all accounts, she was happy. That’s all I ever wanted for her.” 

“Sounds like what Deke said,” Daisy muttered. 

“He loved you, in his way.” 

“He didn’t know me. He loved the fantasy of me.” 

Impressed that she’d picked up on the difference, he said, “You sound pretty certain of that.” 

“I can spot that one a hundred yards out,” she replied in annoyance. “It got old.” 

Ouch. Sore point. “That sounds … exhausting.” 

“It is.” With a whimsical smile, she flicked her fingers through his hair again. “You just like my legs.” 

“I did. I do,” he admitted. “Among other things.”

Resting her hand on his shoulder, she pursed her lips. “I still can’t believe what you told me about Rogers and Barnes.” 

Daniel craned his head around, looking her straight in the eyes. “If you’ve drawn conclusions about them, that’s all you.” 

“Wait, rewind—” She glared at him. “No, you didn’t actually confirm they were together. And you won’t. Because you’re still keeping their secret. You know it’s legal now, right?” 

“I do. So, what movie should we watch next?” he asked innocently. 

“I’m not getting any reading done, am I?

“My beautiful girlfriend is on the couch with me. I’ll admit to being completely distracted and thinking a whole lot about kissing her.”

“Just kissing?” she asked with an eyebrow raised. “Can’t imagine you’d want to stop there.” 

Daniel lifted her hand to suck on her first fingertip. “I like kissing you. I like touching you, too. But if you need me to behave so you can get some work done, I can do that instead.” 

Daisy dropped the tablet on the floor beside the sofa and wiggled out from under him. “Do you want popcorn?” 

“Is that a rhetorical question?” 

She rolled her eyes at him as she headed for the kitchen. “Let’s watch Star Wars: A New Hope. I set your phone up to work with the A/V system.” 

“A V? When did you do that?”

“Audio/Visual. And I’m a hacker. I don’t actually have to touch your phone to make changes.” She shrugged. “I can stop doing that.” 

Daniel gave her a sardonic look. “When I need you to not have access to my tech, we’ll talk.” He spent a happy few minutes poking around his phone until he successfully found the movie. 

Daisy pulled the curtains shut to make the room darker. “Turn the sound up,” she instructed as she sat down with the popcorn. “You’re gonna want to hear this.” 

 

*****

 

Daisy had fun watching Daniel see the movie for the first time. It was weird to think he might have seen the original in an actual theater if things had worked out differently. 

She’d taken a seat next to him, but that wasn’t close enough for her boyfriend. He wedged himself into a corner of the sofa, propped one bare foot on the cushions and coaxed her into sitting between his legs so she could lean against his shoulder. 

She wiggled around just enough to be able to see his face and pulled the quilt over both of them. LA nights tended to be just cool enough to give her a chill, now more than ever. 

“This came out in ‘77?” Daniel asked after the first opening scene, digging into the bowl of popcorn he’d set on the arm of the sofa. He dropped one on his chest as he stuffed the rest in his mouth. 

“Yes.” Daisy stole the piece, popping it into her own mouth. She shivered a little, and Daniel tugged the blanket up over her shoulders with a pat. 

“You’re still cold?” he asked.

“Jemma said I might be this way for a while. Side effect of getting frozen in space.” She shivered again, pressing closer to Daniel as she did. 

He pressed a kiss to her temple, chafing her arms until she warmed up under the quilt.

Toward the middle of the movie, Daisy patted her boyfriend to get him to stay put while she steamed rice and stir-fried veggies, peanuts, and chicken in a sesame oil. When that was ready, she took a seat beside him, passing over a bowl. 

Daniel ate every bite as he watched the movie to the end. “There’s another one, right?” he asked as soon as the credits started rolling.  

She laughed. “Yes. The next one is the best of the bunch.” 

Daniel gave her puppy dog eyes, silently pleading as she finished off her dinner.

“Stop,” she protested, holding her chopsticks up between them. “Just give me a minute to put the dishes away.” 

He studied his empty bowl. “What did I just eat? It was good.” 

“Stir-fry. Coulson was big on all of us eating our vegetables. Carbs, veg, and protein in one handy container.” Daisy plucked the dish out of his hand before he could protest and carried it to the kitchen. 

He didn’t argue, but he made it to the sink to wash dishes while she cleaned up the mess she’d made cooking. She supposed this counted as figuring out relationship stuff. 

She leaned on the counter to return texts while Daniel made a trip down the hall. Apparently, he’d sent everyone an identical note yesterday while she was sleeping that they’d made it to LA and all was well, saving her from a half-dozen nagging comments. Daisy was going to have to show him how to send a group text. 

With rapid thumb taps, she sent a pic of the pool to Coulson, thanked May for the links she sent to Sousa, and asked Jemma for a good time to video chat tomorrow. She sent a smiley face to Yo-Yo’s outfit for a family party, and told Mack to give his girlfriend flowers for putting up with him. Then she asked Fitz to make her some extra soft gauntlets to sleep in — not just on the inside, but the outside too. He sent her a thumbs up. 

She also checked on Kora, who promptly sent her a wall of text complaining about the amount of school work and reading she had to do. Daisy fielded that one as she wandered outside to sit by the pool, pressing a button to call her sister as she dunked her feet in the water. 

“Hey, sis," Kora answered. 

“You okay?” 

“Why did I think this was a good idea? I’ve got to take an aptitude test in a couple of days, and I have no idea what even makes sense. How did you know you wanted to be a field agent?” 

“It was a lot like stuff I was already doing, only a lot more badass and came with hella more back up,” Daisy told her. “There’s a lot of other stuff you can do. Even May worked in admin for a while.” 

“She did?”

“Uh huh. Until Coulson pulled her out to pilot the Bus.” 

“Huh. I didn’t think of that.” 

“Still want to quit?”

“No. I want to go with you. You listen. People at Afterlife stopped listening. May listens too.” 

“She does. She’s also good at kicking you in the ass when you need it. Or maybe that’s just me because you’re smarter than I am.” 

Kora giggled. “Are you okay? You don’t sound okay.”

“You should not be able to pick up on that from 3000 miles away.” 

“I’m not? Your voice sounds funny to me.”

Daisy wasn’t sure how she felt about having a sister who could read her. “Fair enough. And I’m okay. Really.”

May’s got me talking to a therapist. I guess you’ve talked to one, too.” 

Daisy had no idea how to explain to her sister that it was hard enough telling Daniel the things he needed to know, and she’d had one too many therapists on somebody else’s payroll to trust any of them. “How’s that going?" she asked instead. 

“It’s weird, but okay, I guess. She gives me homework.” 

“Well, that sounds like fun.” 

“I don’t mind. It’s kind of nice having someone to talk to when I’m angry. I can save it for then and get it all figured out.”

“Doesn’t it bother you to feel her emotions while you’re telling her stuff?” 

“We do it by video so her emotions don’t spill over into me.” 

“That’s really smart.” 

“And now I feel better talking to you, too. Let me get back to my homework.

“Okay. Call me whenever.” 

“I will. 

Daisy shook her feet dry as she took in the beauty of the pool at sunset. She pulled the doors closed behind her and touched the fireplace so the flames would take the chill off the room. 

“How’s Kora?” Daniel asked as he plucked a couple of bottles of water out of the fridge and tucked them under his arm.

“She’s doing okay.” 

“Good to hear.” He set the bottles on the coffee table. Daisy lifted her feet so he could lay his crutches on the floor, then curled up against him like before. He tugged the blanket over both of them. 

Empire was as good as she remembered, and Daniel hardly took his eyes off the screen. She had to work really hard not to recite the best lines. 

“Space is like this?” he asked at one point. 

“Less Galactic Empire, more Purple People Eater, but it’s not far off,” she quipped. “And Bespin is way cooler than anything we saw.” She sank her fingernails into her palms when Vader appeared in the Bespin conference room as she clocked on what scene was next. 

The moment Daisy saw Han Solo strapped to a torture device, she was off the couch and all the way into the bedroom before she realized what she’d done. She’d stolen the quilt too. 

Dropping it on the bed, she shuffled to the sink to splash water on her face, making a concerted effort to get her heart rate down. 

“Daisy?” 

She flinched, losing the battle as her heartbeat spiked wildly. She tried again to breathe it out, but it wasn’t working fast enough. As she clutched the sink, Daniel appeared in the mirror, standing in the doorway behind her. 

She flinched again, sending a ripple through the house as her control slipped. 

“Come on, sweetheart, three steps to the bedroom,” he coaxed, holding a hand out. 

Jamming her hands under her armpits, she pivoted to take the three steps. Daniel turned off the water, then pulled the door, with its protective panel, closed behind her.

“You shouldn’t be in here,” she blurted, still panting shallowly. 

Instead of arguing, he leaned on his crutches. “I’m where I need to be.” 

Daisy slumped against the wall, locking eyes with Daniel as she regained control. 

She hated this. Hated that she still felt Malick’s needles and knives. Hated that she couldn’t stop thinking about Coulson and May and Jiayang and Cal. She wanted Mack with his low voice and big hugs, and Yo-Yo because she got Daisy’s need to do the right thing, even if they argued about how to do it sometimes. And she wanted Fitzsimmons here because listening to them talk was the background noise in her universe. 

It wasn’t right to put all of her mess on Daniel. She’d brought him here so he could heal, not so she could fall apart on him. 

She wasn’t doing a very good job of that. 

Annoyed with herself, she pushed off the wall. “Let’s go finish the movie. We missed the best part,” she insisted, even though she wasn't breathing normally yet and had the desperate urge to scratch. 

He raised an eyebrow, though he didn’t contradict her. “All right. We can do that.” He leaned on one crutch to pick up the quilt and passed it to her. 

“I feel like Linus with his blanket,” she complained as she took it. 

“Charlie Brown’s Linus?” Daniel asked as he followed her down the hallway.

Daisy nodded. “I take it you’re a fan?” 

“Who doesn’t like the comics? That’s like not liking baseball.” 

She didn’t say anything.

“You don’t like baseball?” Daniel asked as he sat on the couch. 

“A bunch of grown men spitting, scratching, and taking a million years to hit a ball?”

“It’s baseball, Daisy,” he protested, propping his foot up on the coffee table as he settled into his previous spot. 

“I’ll take your word for it.” Happy to have found a way to shift the focus off her freakout, she picked up Daniel’s phone to turn the movie back on.

Before she hit ‘play’ though, she wrapped up in the quilt and sat on the sofa a little ways away from Daniel — not because she didn’t want to cuddle up with her boyfriend, but because she figured he’d dealt with enough of her crap today. Any more might push him over the line of what he was willing to put up with from her. 

She made a mental note to get another pulse tracker. May would be disappointed that Daisy couldn’t keep her emotions under control. Her heartbeat kept spiking in a counterpoint to Daniel’s steady thump. 

Daisy held up the phone to start the movie.

“Hold on.” 

Her pulse zinged up again. 

Deliberately looking over the two feet of space between them, Daniel said lightly, “I’d like to hold you for the rest of the show. Lady’s choice of how and where, even if it’s just holding your hand.” 

Daisy wanted that badly enough not to argue. She eyed his outstretched leg, thinking of the way he’d put his head in her lap earlier. She eased down to the sofa until she rested her cheek against his thigh. 

It was a lot like the barn, and yet, there was no comparison — not when he wound his fingers into her hair and stroked it throughout the rest of the movie. She could feel his pulse, and its steady beat calmed the rocky waves of her psyche.

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Thirty-Eight

 

When Daisy hit the shower again after the movie, Daniel fretted. She was off-balance in a way he hadn’t seen before, and he had the uncomfortable feeling of missing something important. She’d all but fled the moment the movie finished. 

Reluctantly — because he’d rather be having this conversation with Daisy — he sent a text to Mack. The last thing Daniel wanted to do was make things worse. Daisy’s had a rough day. Is it cheating to ask for advice? 

His phone rang not five seconds later. “How rough?” Mack asked, not bothering with a greeting.

“Edgy. Quiet. Beat the hell out of a punching bag for a while. Quaked a little after a scene in a movie.” 

“Which movie?”

“The Empire Strikes Back.” 

“Yeah, I know the scene. Makes sense.” 

“Does everyone know that movie?”

“Pretty much.” 

“What am I missing?” Daniel asked. 

“Has she cried? I’m not talking about getting drunk like she did at the hotel. That doesn’t count, in my book." 

“Does everyone know about that?” 

“Sure we do. We’re all worried. Tremors goes off the grid when it gets to be too much, and she’s had a lot of too much. We all had a hard time with this mission, but she got a triple dose. I’m serious about the crying, Sousa. It’s the only way she’ll let it out.”

“Once, a few days ago. Out on the dock at the beach house. Not for long.” Daniel sighed, thinking of how many times Daisy had been on the verge of tears and put them away. The dock had been the exception. “She’s locking it down.”  

“Crying is the only way I’ve really seen her let go. She won’t talk about the big stuff. Not to anyone, and we’ve all tried. When Coulson died last year, no one knows where she went, which was both impressive and scary. Believe me, we looked. The time before that was after the crap with Hive. We lost her for months. You’re at ground zero for whatever’s in her head right now, and she's overdue.” There was a short pause. “Yo-Yo and I can fly out tomorrow morning, if you need an assist.” 

Daniel frowned. “What parts does she not talk about?” 

Any of it. She’ll give you a tidbit of useless intel to make you think you’re getting somewhere, or makes light of it with something silly, then changes the subject. Even if you know exactly what she went through, she still won’t tell you how it made her feel.” 

That intel didn’t quite correlate with Daniel’s observations, but it wasn’t exactly wrong either.  

Is she talking to you?” Mack asked. “Because that’s big, man.” 

“I think she’s trying,” Daniel decided. 

“That’s the best news I’ve heard today. And Sousa? It’s not cheating if you really give a damn about her.” 

“She already knows my feelings,” he confessed. 

“Well, hell. Now I owe Coulson twenty dollars. He said you wouldn’t beat around the bush,” Mack let out a low chuckle. “And that’s exactly why Daisy’s sticking around. Good man. Go to it. Call me if you need back up.”

“Will do.” The line clicked off, and Daniel leaned back on the sofa to think. 

The shower stopped with a familiar thump of the water pipes, a sound that hadn’t changed since ‘55. In the silence that followed, he missed his records. He tapped the app on his phone to play something familiar, but it just wasn’t the same coming out of a little speaker. He listened, though, thinking about what Mack had said.

Daisy padded through the living room in one of the legging and t-shirt sets she seemed to favor. She stopped in the kitchen, coming out with a bowl of blueberries to sit cross-legged on the sofa. Twisting around to face him, she ventured, “I like your music. Who is it?”

“Nat King Cole. If you leave some of those, I’ll make blueberry pancakes in the morning,” he offered, stealing one and popping it in his mouth.  

“That sounds nice," she said, setting the dish between them. “I’ve heard of him. His daughter, Natalie Cole, did a cool crossover song with him, like years after he died.” 

The shock of hearing that someone he’d admired was gone hit hard. “Which one?” 

“Unforgettable.” 

“Damn. I had that album in my collection.” 

Daisy brushed her fingertips over his knee. “I’m sorry. I don’t know if it helps, but he recorded a lot of music. Maybe there’s new stuff you haven’t heard.” 

Appreciating her kindness, Daniel picked up her hand to kiss it, taking care to avoid her bruised knuckles. “That does help.” 

When he let go, she flared out her hand, still looking as shaky as she did during the movie, then she picked out a blueberry and set it in her mouth. 

“Want to tell me what’s on your mind?” he prompted. 

Daisy swallowed, opened her mouth to talk, then fell silent again. At last, she said, “There’s so much in my head. I was fine yesterday. And this morning was perfect. But the minute I stopped, I don’t know, being your girlfriend, I couldn’t stop thinking about … everything.” 

Her phrasing startled him. “You've never stopped being my girlfriend, Daisy. I’m not a mook who can’t deal if you’re not dancing attendance on me.” He ducked his head to catch her eyes. “I can entertain myself if you’ve got things to do.” 

“No!” she protested. “That’s not what I meant. I mean, that’s good to know, and the same goes, but that’s not what I was trying to say.”

Daniel clasped his hand on his knee. “You do know that I can handle the ‘everything’ part, right?”

She looked away without answering him, fidgeting with the bowl instead by fingering the edges. “The boyfriend stuff you’re doing, just … don’t stop, okay?” 

Yikes. Mack wasn’t wrong, after all.  “Any … stuff … in particular?” he asked. 

She scraped a hand through her hair, looking miserable as she struggled to answer.

Trying not to let his frustration show, Daniel dug up a little more patience. No frame of reference. And she was here, trying to make this work with him in spite of it. “I’m going to need a little more intel,” he encouraged. “I've run across some oddball situations, but I still can’t read minds.” 

“It’s just you being you.” Daisy wouldn’t look at him. 

“Oh.” He let out a soft laugh when he got it. “The part where I love you.” 

She shivered at his words, a whole body tremble that made her fingers clamp down on the bowl. But she finally looked him in the eyes. “Yeah. That.” 

“Duck soup, Dais.” At her look of confusion, he added, “That’s easy.” 

“Says you,” she muttered, the tension unraveling from her shoulders. 

“Says me,” Daniel assured her, trading the bowl for his hands. 

She laced her fingers with his. “Why do I have to be the one who freaks out? You’re like, chill, all the time.” 

He pressed a kiss to her forehead, and then one to her lips. “Not true, and you know it. But this? This I can do.” And he could. Because she was here, fighting for a future she didn’t quite believe was possible.

For that, he had plenty of patience. 



Daisy watched a movie on her phone while Daniel finished reading the last half of the book he’d started in ‘55. When she fell asleep, he turned her movie off, dropped the phone and tablet in the drawer beside him, and clicked out the light.

Sometime later, he roused enough to know Daisy had slipped out of bed and into the bathroom. He dug for one of the phones in the drawer and noted the time at twelve-forty-two. They’d been asleep for forty-seven minutes. Nothing he heard concerned him, so he dropped it back inside and closed his eyes. 

His eyes popped open the moment Daisy set a knee on his side of the bed. Moonlight angled through the window, barely bright enough for him to see her face. He caught her as she crawled right into his arms. Seeing he was awake --for a given definition of it-- she planted a kiss on his mouth that finished waking up the rest of him in short order. He let out a groan that only spurred her even closer. She tugged up his tank top to slide her hands over his chest. 

“Touch me,” she pleaded. “I need you to touch me.” 

He pulled her down so that she was half-sprawled against him to brush his fingers over the scar on her neck. “I’ve got you, sweetheart.” 

She dove into another kiss with need that fired every ember of want he’d banked that evening into a raging flame. He chased her taste, sliding his hands from her neck to her back, tracing the scars to remind her it was him and no one else. He pressed his fingertips to her spine.

Daisy jolted hard enough to shake the bed without using her power, her nails digging painfully into his shoulders. Her back muscles jerked and twitched under his hands as he held her. 

“Tell me to stop,” he reminded her. 

“No.” Her voice was harsh and thready. “I’m not letting that rat bastard win.” 

“You’ve already won. You’re here, aren’t you?”  

With a surge upward, Daisy latched on to his mouth, taking possession of it. His brain babbled at him about what he was supposed to be doing, but the rest of him was too busy enjoying the sensations, especially when she dove her tongue inside.

She kicked his ankle out with one foot and pressed her knee into his other thigh, pinning him to the bed while she traced the outline of his johnson over his boxers. 

His brain shifted abruptly southward as he drowned in her. He wanted. He wanted. He pulled back from the kiss, breathing hard as he tried to get a gauge on what she needed.

“Daniel,” Daisy said in a low voice. “I need you to say you’re okay with this.” 

His heart raced as she dragged her finger in that same vague outline that didn’t quite touch but had his johnson jerking against the fabric, desperate to make the connection. Any kind of connection. Her hand would be a good start. 

“Daniel?” Daisy asked again. She ghosted one finger down the length of him, and he damned near came off the bed. 

He was an agent for pete’s sake. He could handle a little questioning under duress. But no one taught him what to do when the object of your heart’s desire was the one doing the asking. 

“Daniel?” she asked for a third time, leaning back to set her hands on either side of his shoulders. 

"Yes, yes, yes, damn it," he growled, hands digging into her hips. 

She yanked down his boxers, laughing. “Folded like a house of cards, Agent Sousa.” Without warning, she closed her mouth over him, and he shouted at the heat and suction and feel of her lips and tongue and he was lost to her. Any control was a fantasy because Daisy had all of it.

He barely had enough sense so push her hair out of the way and the sight of her tasting him slammed him right up to the edge. “Dais, you gotta—” 

She laughed around him and kept up the slide of her mouth over him. 

He was gone. Gone on her, gone on the feel of her. So, so in love with her. He jerked uncontrollably as he spilled over. 

She held on to his hips until the last pulse emptied out. Daisy eased off, looking like a cat in the cream as she licked her lips. “That was nice,” she declared, slipping his boxers back into place. 

Daniel swallowed against a dry throat as he tried to put some semblance of a brain together. “You didn’t have to do that.” 

“I know.” 

Though she seemed calmer as she reached for the covers, instinct had him catching her forearm over the gauntlet. “Oh, no, sweetheart. I’m not leaving my lady wanting.” 

“I-uh,” she stuttered. “That was for you.” 

Finally understanding why his subconscious was digging at him, Daniel blurted, “Didn’t you say something about not wanting sex to be one-sided?” 

With a rueful smile, Daisy admitted, “Yeah, I think I did.” 

Her mouth tightened, and Daniel was sure she’d just figured out that they were dangerously close to trading sex for comfort. He’d been an enthusiastic participant, too, and that didn’t sit well. 

He dragged his hand down to her fingers, where he dropped a kiss over the scar on her palm. “Then may I return the favor?” 

She raised an eyebrow, her mouth tilting up at one corner to blossom in a surprised smile. “Have at it.” 

“Maybe we’ll take it a little slower.” He lifted himself so he could prop up against the headboard and pillows. He considered her shorts and camisole. “Lose those.” 

She pointed at his boxers and tank. 

“You’re going to kill me,” he muttered as he shoved them off. His johnson half-heartedly chubbed up, as if he were nineteen again instead of the wrong side of his thirties. 

Daisy stripped, leaning over to kiss her way up his thigh, his stomach, one nipple, and his throat. He sucked in his breath as the tip of her breast brushed into the hair on his chest. 

He framed her face with his hands and kissed her. “You are so damned beautiful, Dais.” 

She looked him over. “You’re not so bad yourself, Daniel.”

“I wasn’t fishing for a compliment. Turn around.”

“Kinky. And I wasn’t handing them out for free.” She sat between his legs to look over her shoulder. “You are seriously underestimating how incredibly attractive I find your ass. And shoulders. And your chin. I’m a big fan of your forearms. And the little dusting of hair over your wrist. And—”

Daniel clapped a hand over Daisy’s mouth, embarrassed by her frank appreciation. “Yeah, yeah, I get it.” 

She caught his hand and pulled it away with a little twist of his wrist, proving she had the leverage to do whatever she wanted. “Where do you want me?” 

“Lean back.” 

Daisy did as he asked so that her head was on his shoulder. She lay fully against his chest, and he could see every last gorgeous line of her body in the bright moonlight. “You’ve got this weird idea that you aren’t sexy as hell, Sousa.” She wiggled her rear against his johnson, which was making a valiant effort to get back in the game. “And your dick thinks the world of me.” 

“Yeah, well, he’s had his turn,” he muttered, bringing his knee up between Daisy’s legs. She cupped his cheek with her hand, giving him full access to her body. He brushed his fingers along the side of her pretty breast. 

“No tickling,” she warned, leaning into his hand as he began to draw a line south, dipping into her navel before continuing on the journey. 

“Copy that.” Daniel reached low to draw his middle finger along the edge of her fold, finding her damp enough to make the slide easy. He repeated the movement on the other side, only this time, he made a circle of her nipple with the tip of his other finger. Daisy’s breath caught. 

He did it again, and again, feeling her knot swell each time he bumped it along the way. He only had to tilt his head to graze his lips on her shoulder. She pressed into him, twitching in frustration when he never quite landed where she wanted. 

“Danny-boy, I know you know what a clitoris is.” 

“You want the technical definition?” He slid his finger straight up to flick her nub, and she swore aloud. 

“Now, you’re just playing me.” 

He went back to drawing slow lines in her folds, only this time, he began to fondle one nipple, making soft circles until one peak stood straight up. “Maybe a little.”

Daisy gripped the back of his head. “Didn’t we set some rules?” 

“You said you didn’t like being tickled. You said nothing about being teased.” 

“I hate the fine print,” she griped, squirming in a useless effort to get him to speed up. 

He snickered, circling her clit. She nearly came off of him, but he anchored her to him with one arm across her middle as he played. It took the same combo he’d figured out in the pool to have her shouting as the orgasm swept over her. But that was only the first one, and Daniel didn’t stop with the circles and taps against her clit. He began to pluck her nipple too, increasing the pressure on both. 

All at once, she began to move with his hand and writhed against his chest at the twin points of contact. He slid his middle two fingers right into her slick heat again, taking care to keep steady pressure bumping against her clit until her legs fell open. 

“You’re going to spoil a girl this way,” she gasped out. 

“I can't have you thinking I'm not up to snuff."

“Sousa,” she said firmly, if a little breathless, “You have nothing to prove. Believe me, I’m pretty sure about you.” 

Daniel pressed a kiss to her cheek. For someone who struggled to put her feelings into words, she was making it damned clear she liked him.

She blossomed right under his hands, shivering, arching, and dancing against him as the second orgasm took over. He swept a finger over her knot until she abruptly jerked out of his grasp. 

“Enough, enough,” she protested, panting and rolling to her knees to face him. “Damn, Sousa. A girl could really like having a guy like you around.” 

He laughed, bringing his fingers to his lips to taste her sweetness. “Isn’t that the point?’ 

Her eyes widened as she reached for his johnson to give it a slow stroke that brought him to full hardness in one move. "I think we found one of your kinks.”  

“Really?” he said as innocently as he could with her fingers sliding over his balls. "What's one of yours?

"Square, apparently." Daisy straddled him and sank down until he was fully seated inside her. “I want to come with you this time, so keep up, Danny-boy.” 

“Yes, ma’am,” he snarked, even snapping off a crisp salute to make her laugh.

“Oh, shut up and fuck me.” 

“Challenge accepted.” He eyed her with a sly smile. “Lock your hands around my neck.”

When she did, he rocked forward to hold her hip with one hand and to brace himself on the bed with the other. 

Daisy figured out how he was going to do this and settled her weight on her knees to help. He snapped his hips up, driving into her. She hissed, digging her fingers into his hair and leaning back on one hand to give him room to work. “Oh my god, that feels good.”

They were getting better at this, fitting together like a lock and key. “How do I get you there?” 

He flexed his hips; she changed angles by a degree or two. “Do that. Keep doing that,” she insisted. 

As good as it was, it got better, and then it was a hard rush tipping into an exquisite point. She shuddered with the first vice grip of muscles contracting around him, and he was gone, pulsing into her body as she chanted his name. 

She leaned in, pressing her forehead to his in the aftermath while still holding on to the back of his neck. He loved this; loved feeling her body soften with his as she curled into him.

Daisy cupped his cheek with her other hand. “I wasn’t—I just wanted you. I didn’t think about the rest. I wasn’t thinking about using you. I’m sorry.” 

“You’re not using me if I’m on board. And I was. I am.” He took a long, slow breath, sliding his hand over the curve of her hip just to feel her slick skin against his palm. “I need—” he faltered. 

“What do you need?” 

“I need you to not have regrets in the morning,” he finished, laying out his own insecurities for her to see.

Daisy kissed him, soft and sweet, with dark eyes glittering in the moonlight. “I copy.” Then she rained kisses over his face and throat. “I copy,” she repeated. “Really isn’t going to be an issue, Danny-boy, but I copy.” 



Daisy’s startled cry, not the shaking bed, woke Daniel a second time. He patted her on the shoulder, then tucked his arm around her middle. “‘s not even a four pointer. Get ‘em all the time in LA.” He yawned as he drifted back to sleep. 

It wasn’t until she rolled to her knees to press her hands against the panels over the headboard that he realized it was his girlfriend making the bed shake, not the San Andreas faultline. He fumbled for the light. 

She gripped the wood of the headboard with both hands as she fought for control. When she had it, she slumped onto the bed. The strap of her camisole fell off her shoulder. 

“Bad memory?” Daniel fought to shake off the dregs of sleep. Judging by the brain fog, he’d guess no more than an hour or two had passed since they’d crashed. 

Daisy nodded, looking up at the ceiling in an effort not to cry. 

“Can you tell me?” 

She shook her head. 

Daniel arranged himself against the headboard and held his hand out. “Come on. I’ve got you.” 

Hollow-eyed and tense, she let him pull her into his lap. She pressed her forehead to the curve of his neck where his tank gave way to bare skin. He reached for the quilt and set it in her hands. Her fingers curled over the edges.

“Daisy, I get why you try to hold it all in. When you’re holding on to so much, you think if you let go, you’ll never put yourself back together.” He brushed his fingers along her arm. 

“You go into battle, thinking you’re ready. But the things you see and you do — you can barely comprehend any of it, much less accept that it actually happened. Then you come off the front lines and all that stuff plays on repeat until you’re ready to tear your own head off just to get some peace.”

She listened, settling somewhat as he talked. His stories seemed to help her in her worst moments. Given what Mack had said, Daniel hoped this one would too.

“I held it together from the field hospital, to London, to DC. Made it all the way to Jersey where I had the first surgery to clean up what they’d had to do in the field.” Daniel picked up the corner of the quilt, running a thumb over the stitching. “Everything hurt. It hurt just to lay on that damned bed and breathe.

“There were ten other guys in the ward, and we’re all trying to save face, coming up with the most awful jokes to try to make light of the fact that our lives have gone to shit. The only privacy is when the nurse comes to pull a little curtain around your bed, but everyone can still hear every damned thing behind it, so you keep everything buttoned up tight. It didn’t help that I was an officer and expected to put on a good show for the troops, so to speak.” 

A lock of Daisy’s hair fell in her face, and he tucked it behind her ear as he continued. “I wanted my mom. And my dad, of course. But I really wanted my mom.” 

Her breath hitched as she listened. 

“She’d been gone three years by then. I didn’t have a wife or a girlfriend waiting for me back home, either. But Dad showed up, and it was the first time I’d seen him since I’d shipped out. I was this broken mess, and I remember thinking how old he looked. He had this big bag with him as he walked through the ward. I couldn’t take my eyes off him because I was so damned happy he'd come.

“The nurse came over and drew that flimsy curtain around us. Dad sat right on the bed, like he used to do when I was kid. Like he didn’t care that I was missing parts, and he really didn’t. He asked me how I was doing. I gave him the same answer I gave everyone else. I was fine, you know?” 

“Then he pulled a heavy quilt out of the bag. Mom had made it for me. It's been on my bed for as long as I can remember. Dad handed it to me, and I lost it. Bawled like a baby right there with all the other men listening, and Dad just patted me on the shoulder the whole time to let me know it was okay.

“Dad stayed in town for the next six months, and Mom’s quilt never left my bed. It irritated the nurses, especially when the other guys started asking their families to bring them blankets and stuff from home.” 

Daisy shivered, and Daniel tugged the quilt a little higher on her shoulder. “When I lost Dad, that quilt and the S.S.R. were the only two things holding me together. 

“So I know what it’s like to be alone and hurting so much that you think it will never stop. But you’re not alone, Daisy. Not this time.” He patted her hair before pressing a kiss on the top of her head. “It’s time to let it go, sweetheart. I’ve got you.” 

She began to cry, in a heartbreaking, aching way. When the quilt started to slip, Daniel pulled it over both of them, holding her tight underneath it. 

For a couple of hours, she wept, sometimes with violent sobs, sometimes silently with tears sliding down her face. There were times the bed rocked, and once she fumbled to put her hand on the wall to discharge her powers again. 

She was utterly exhausted by the time he brought her a bottle of water and coaxed her into getting back under the covers. He set his crutches on the floor and crawled in after her, laying on his stomach to stretch out properly after sitting for so long. 

When Daisy rearranged herself to rest half-sprawled across him so that her head was in the middle of his back, he hummed a little, liking the weight of her there. She worked a hand under the waistband of his boxers so they were skin-to-skin where the gauntlets ended. But when she sought out one of the shrapnel divots on his hip and rested her fingers in the indentation, Daniel fought not to startle and dislodge her. 

It didn’t hurt, and he had given Daisy blanket permission to touch him wherever, but he’d never expected her to voluntarily put her hands on his misshapen skin. Her breathing evened out and she grew heavy against his back. 

When he was sure she was out, Daniel wiped at his own eyes, hoping things would be better in the morning.  

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Thirty-Nine

 

Daisy woke to sunshine and an empty bed, with a pounding heart and a headache both from the crying and the nightmares that never quit. It was Sousa this time, and the four different ways he’d died in the time loops. The last time, he'd bled out under her hands with shocked eyes. 

She pulled the quilt closer, fingers on the stitching as she sat up, pressing her forehead to her knees in an effort to shake the image.

When that didn't work, she rolled over to rummage for her phone in the nightstand and caught Daniel’s coffee-vanilla scent on his pillow. With phone in hand, she hugged it, burying her nose in the soft cotton as she thumbed through her texts. 

Yo-Yo sent pictures of her twin two-year-old nieces and Mack adorably carrying both kids, one in each arm. Our boys were talking last night. You okay? she’d texted not long ago. 

Daisy sent back: Am now. Yesterday, not so much. Thanks for checking. Things okay for you?

Yo-Yo must have had her phone in hand. All good. Call you later. 

Just that brief exchange with Yo-Yo helped clear Daisy’s head. She liked knowing that Daniel was in touch with the team. More than that, she liked knowing Mack and Yo-Yo still had her back. 

But with the nightmares not quite faded, she needed to see her boyfriend. Scrambling out of bed, she tripped on her duffel on her way out the door. Catching herself in the hallway, she slowed her walk into something resembling a normal pace and sneaked into the kitchen where Daniel flipped a pancake at the stove. 

Knowing it was ridiculous, she slid her hands under his shirt, fanning her hands over his now-familiar scars to make sure he wasn’t hurt or bleeding. Finding him intact, she pressed her head between his shoulder blades. 

Daniel didn’t even startle. Instead, he curled his fingers around her gauntleted wrist as he moved the pan off the burner and flipped the dial to turn the heat off. He caught her hands, and one sneaky dance move later, pivoted so that he faced her with one clasped hand between them and another around her waist. “Hey.” He dropped a kiss on her lips. 

She kissed him back, a quick peck that made her want to linger. “Hey. Are you really making blueberry pancakes?” She dragged one thumb over his stomach … just to make sure. 

“Mmm hm,” he agreed. 

Daisy leaned up on her toes to hug him. And maybe to sniff him too. 

“You had a rough night there, Dais,” he said, giving her a little squeeze. “Bad dreams?” 

She really didn’t want to talk about it and pressed her face in his shoulder like she did last night, soaking up his touch. 

He pulled back enough to search her face. “Be honest.”  

That one was coming back to bite her in the ass. Daniel brushed a kiss on her temple and set one comforting hand on the nape of her neck. He did that a lot, and damn it, it worked. Her brain chilled out. “Memories, not dreams,” she admitted, “some of them of you dying in the time loops.” 

“Loops, plural? How many?” 

“Four that I can remember, because you got the whole time loop thing and did stupid stuff so that I wouldn’t get killed and reset everything. What if you had died and it turned out to be the last loop and then—” 

Daniel kissed her lightly on the lips. “If you didn’t leave me to die in 1955, you wouldn’t have left me for dead in a time loop, not if there was one more chance to get me back. And I wouldn’t have taken the risk unless I knew you had a handle on things.” 

Daisy scowled. “You sound awfully sure of yourself. And technically Mack made the call in ‘55.” 

“You were making the calls in the loops. I like my odds. Would you get plates? I’m almost done with the pancakes.” 

“I—” Flustered by Daniel’s logical assessment, she reluctantly unwound herself from him to retrieve the dishes and set them on the island. “I need pants,” she blurted.  

“Don’t bother on my account. I like the view.” He darted a look at her bare legs as he set the pan back on the burner and turned up the heat. 

She pursed her lips, sliding past him to retrieve clean clothes out of the dryer. From yesterday. She’d forgotten. Damn. She dumped everything into the laundry basket, found a cute pair of panties and shorts, and stepped into them while Daniel flipped pancakes with one appreciative eye on her. 

He stepped out of her way again as she carried the basket to the bedroom and dropped it on the bed. 

Daisy groaned at the sight of the room. With the bed unmade and her crap literally everywhere, she made a promise to herself to clean it up today. After last night, she was already pushing her luck in the girlfriend department. At some point, Daniel was going to get tired of cleaning up all her messes. 

Deliberately shoving the shitty night out of her head, she flirted with him all through breakfast. The pancakes were pretty damned good. So was the dip in the pool afterward, where Daisy discovered she could quake to propel herself. She beat Daniel in a short race to the other side of the pool.

He laughed when he came up out of the water not even a half-second later. “I’d say that’s cheating, but it’s really not.” 

“Not very sneaky though.” Daisy rubbed at her bare wrists, chagrined at the waves she’d churned up. “I definitely wouldn’t do that again without gauntlets.” 

“Did it hurt?” Daniel swam to her, reaching out to see for himself. 

Daisy let him look, mostly because she liked having his hands on her. “Some. Jemma’s going to lecture me,” she said in dismay. “I’ve got a call with her in an hour.” Irritated at herself for being stupid, she pulled out of his grasp and waded out of the pool at the shallow end. 

“An hour?” Daniel climbed out of the pool on the other side, reaching for his crutches. 

Daisy dried off with a towel as her left arm began to ache. “Yeah. Supposed to be just to catch up, but you know Simmons. She’ll ask.” 

“I’ll go get the ice.” 

“I’ve got it,” she insisted. “Don’t you have errands to run today? I don’t want to stop you.” 

“I do. I need a haircut, and Coulson told me where to go for a good suit,” he said, wiping himself down with a towel before draping it around his neck. “I could use a few other things, too. Are department stores still around?” he asked hopefully. 

“I can point you to a Macy’s.” In spite of her idiocy, Daisy clocked on Daniel’s excitement. “You like clothes.” 

“I like to be well-dressed,” he said, straight-faced.

Bemused, Daisy crossed her arms, keeping pressure over the ache on her wrist. “So when I called you ‘unfashionable’ in the 70’s, you weren’t too happy with that.” 

“I’d never been so insulted,” Daniel agreed, pretending to be affronted. “Though I’ll fully admit that being two decades out of fashion didn’t sit well either.” He leaned forward on his crutches to kiss her on the lips. “Don’t be so hard on yourself. I can’t count the number of times I fell out of a bed because I forgot I only had one leg. There’s a reason I sleep where I do.” 

He shifted his crutch to an elbow to tap a finger on an imaginary buckle on her stomach. “You’re Quake. You should be able to have fun with your abilities. Your head is just a little more badass than your bones.” 

Daisy sighed, knowing he was right. “Maybe I’ll ask Fitz to make me waterproof gauntlets next.” 

“There you go.” Daniel looked her over. “Purple ones. To match your hair.” 

She quirked her mouth. “Tell you what. You get with Fitz and design something, and I’ll wear them.” 

Her boyfriend sagged a little on his crutches. “You trust me enough to do that?” 

“Of course.” She shoved her wet hair off her face. “Why wouldn’t I?” she asked, confused. “Fitz knows what works for me, and you’ll make it look good. Fitz can get a little clunky sometimes in his designs. I mean, you’ve seen the Zephyr. My uniforms got way cooler when Yo-Yo came on board.” Speaking of Yo-Yo— Daisy looked Daniel over. “When you get a suit, get something to go clubbing in.”

“What’s clubbing?”

“Ask Mack when you tell him how I'm doing today. I’m gonna go get some ice.” 

"How—"

Daisy snickered at Daniel's dumbfounded expression. 

 

*****

 

Daniel donned his leg and the first pair of slacks he’d worn since leaving the Hub. 

Simmons’ new design made getting the shoe on the leg easier, even if he still had to fit it to the foot first before donning the leg.  

Daniel ran a hand over the smooth wood of the cheval mirror he used to have in his bedroom. Daisy must have moved it to the spare room to keep it safe. He straightened his collar and turned around to make sure his pants hung straight over his leg. The new half-boots Kora talked him into looked great and felt even better. 

He picked up his wallet and keys, sliding both into his front pocket. Both were relics from the fifties, just like he was. The gun harness was next; he’d need it to make sure his new suits were cut to conceal it. The familiar weight, his mirror, and his house contrasted abruptly with the Sig Sauer he strapped into place. 

He opened his parents’ box on the dresser and strapped his dad’s watch to his right wrist. He’d only needed to wind it to have it working properly again, and wondered if it was Peggy or Coulson who'd looked after it.

Though the new leg seemed to be working fine, he brought along one of the new canes, just in case. 

Daisy rested on the sofa with an ice pack on her forearm, watching a show that she paused when she looked up. Her gorgeous dark eyes wandered over him, and it didn't seem to matter if he had a leg, cane, or crutches, she got the same faint satisfied smile every single time. 

“How bad is it?” he asked, a little dizzy from her frank appreciation.

She pulled the ice off to show him. “No new bruises. It’s just sore.”

“What can I do?”

“Your errands. I’m okay,” she assured him. “House keys are in the bowl in the kitchen, just in case I’m in the bedroom when you get ho— here.” 

That slip made his heart ache. He leaned over to kiss Daisy, a quick nip on her lips that made her cheeks flush. 

“Daniel?”

“Yes, dear?” he teased. 

Her mouth fell open a little, and she lost her words. When she recovered, her eyes fell to his shoulders. “Maybe keep the suspenders?” she asked wistfully. 

“Of course.” He hadn’t worn them since the Zephyr, but they were going right back into rotation. 

“Still want to do this on your own?”

“It’d be more fun if you went along. But I think I need to prove to myself I can deal with 2019.” 

“You did okay in DC.” 

“I didn’t live in DC. This was home. I guess I’ve got to see how much of it is really gone.” 

“Call me if you need me to bail you out,” she told him, echoing his words from the Lighthouse. Those days seemed like months ago, instead of mere weeks. 

“I will.” Daniel stole one more kiss before plucking her house keys out of the bowl and pocketing them on his way out the door. They were the same set he’d given to Peggy when he’d bought the house, with a red, white, and blue shield, in honor of the newly founded agency, still dangling from the key fob. 

As he backed out of the garage in the T-Bird, his heart ached — both for the loss of his best friend and the worry that Daisy wasn’t going to react well when he told her about the house. He had to figure something out today. 

He pulled into the street, then tapped the app on his phone to close the gate and garage. One more tap brought up a map. At Daisy’s instruction, he fitted the comm device to his ear, and a female voice with a smooth British accent gave him turn-by-turn directions. 

Nice one, Dais. He would get her back for that later. Peggy would have found it hysterical. 

The dry cleaner just up the street was his first stop. Seeing that Daisy had added a couple of her shirts to the pile he handed over made him smile. The cashier gave his gun a nervous glance. 

Some things don't change.

Daniel struggled to recognize landmarks as he drove through the heart of Los Angeles, but at least he could see where he was going. The smog wasn’t anywhere near as bad as it was in ‘55. He could even ride with the windows down if he wanted. Which he did. 

He parked in front of the clothier and clicked the map off his phone. Before he went inside, he texted Mack. What’s clubbing?

Insanity, esp in LA. Music, drinking, flirting, dancing, cranked up to chaos-levels. Need A+ fashion game to get in. You going? 

Ordered to find something suitable. 

Four photos appeared, from jeans and jackets all the way up to a very nice suit that Daniel would be more than happy to wear. 

Got it. Thanks for the tip. 

You’re welcome. How Tremors today? 

Advice was on the money. Rough night, but better day so far. She knows we talked. 

There are no secrets between our ladies. You didn’t know?

I do now. 

Daniel wasn’t sure how he felt about Daisy’s family knowing every last detail of their relationship. On one hand, he wanted the two of them to have the space to find their way together. On the other, he’d been the one reaching out for advice. He supposed he shouldn’t be surprised they all stayed in touch. 

He opened the door to the shop to find a well-dressed man about his age behind a work table.

The man gave him a swift once-over, stopping briefly on his piece. “Mr. Sousa? Kelvin Phillips,” he introduced himself. “Mr. Coulson told me about you.” 

“I understand I’m in good hands.” 

Kelvin grinned broadly. “That you are. Now,” he indicated the whole shop, “let’s walk and talk. Show me what appeals to you.” 

Daniel sorted through a rack of jackets, flipping each of them open to examine the seams and fabrics. 

“Ah, my favorite kind of client,” Kelvin noted. “Come. Let’s look at what we can make for you. Silk and wool, for starters, yes? I’ve got a linen blend you will love. And our new bamboo shirts are,” he kissed his fingers for emphasis.  

Daniel tried on various jackets in the latest styles, settling on one similar to Coulson’s suit and another with a slimmer cut that Kelvin urged him to try. The stylist was right; it did flatter him in all the right ways. 

Kelvin eyed the jacket and the way it lay over the harness. “Tighten that for me, Mr. Sousa. I think you’ll find it looks better under that particular cut.” 

The stylist was right; one would have to have sharp eyes to pick out the piece under the jacket. 

"So my girlfriend wants to go clubbing," Daniel mentioned. 

Kelvin got positively gleeful. “We’re going to make you look good,” the stylist assured him. 

Though the new prosthesis wasn’t as finicky as his old one, having a discreet zipper on the inside seam of his pant leg still made sense, and Kelvin didn’t blink at the request. 

By the time Daniel left, he'd made healthy inroads on a new wardrobe, with suits and shirts on order, a pair of pants hemmed on the spot--though without the extra zipper — a couple of off-the-rack shirts, three good ties, a sports coat, a leather blazer, and two new sets of suspenders. Kelvin had his assistant carry out it all out the T-bird, where the three of them spent a good twenty minutes talking about the beauty of vintage cars.

Kelvin referred him to a barbershop, where Daniel got a shave and a haircut. He texted Daisy to see if tips were still a thing. They were, and she had firm instructions about tipping at least twenty percent, but thirty would be better. He tipped thirty and rounded up on the receipt. 

He tried to find a diner for a decent pastrami sandwich, got lost twice, and settled for a drive-thru burger. He sat in the parking lot to eat it, texting Daisy to see how the day was going. She asked him to pick up milk on the way home. 

Daniel wasn’t sure if she was serious or teasing on the last one. They had a half-gallon left in the icebox. She might just be getting back at him for calling her “dear” earlier. He thought she'd liked the endearment, but now he wasn’t so sure. 

The burger was awful; the French fries nearly made up for it. 

In spite of the throbbing headache and feeling antsy about the rest of his errands, he refused to admit to bring rattled. He had things to do.

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Forty

 

Daisy hooked up the new router in the laundry room. She screwed it into the wall by following the detailed instructions Lanita had left her and using the impact wrench her friend had included with the box. Baffled by the reality of owning a power tool that didn't have anything to do with electronics, Daisy set it in the cabinet above the washing machine. 

Texting with Daniel and programming the router took the last few minutes she had before her call with Jemma. Just as the unit came online, her computer pinged

Alya, Jemma, and Fitz smashed into a single screen, waving as soon as they saw Daisy. 

The chorus of ‘hi’s’ made her tear up, but she blinked them away to say her own ‘hello.’ 

“Auntie Daisy, you’re still too far away!” 

“I know, sweetie, and I agree!”

“Mama? I want to see Auntie Daisy.” 

Jemma hugged Alya. “We’re flying to California at the end of next week. We can stop in Los Angeles for a couple of days.” 

Daisy nodded, swallowing the lump in her throat. “I’d like that.” 

Fitz peered into the screen. “Where are you? Is that a house?” 

“Yeah. Coulson helped me with it before … you know.” 

“Can we see it?”

She leaned over so Fitzsimmons could see the living room. “It’s a mess. We just got here a couple of days ago. I’ve still got to unpack everything S.H.I.E.L.D. rounded up for me.”

Alya waved at Daisy. “I’m going to go play with my turtle. I can’t wait to see you.” 

“Love you bunches, sweetie.” 

“I love you, Auntie Daisy.” Alya slipped off Jemma’s lap and out of view. 

Daisy raised her eyebrow. “A turtle?”

Fitz shrugged. “She insisted on having this anatomically correct toy turtle we found. You can take it apart and see all the parts inside.”

“Sounds like her mom.”

Fitzsimmons exchanged a look, and Jemma nodded. “She loves biology. But she’s fascinated by circuitry too.” 

Fitz waved at Daisy. “I’m off to watch the tyke, but I wanted to say ‘hello.’ Be good.”  

Jemma raised her eyebrow. “Is this where you stayed last year?” 

"It is.” 

“And Sousa is there with you?”

“Uh huh. Well, not at the moment. He’s shopping. I did not know Sousa is a fashionista. You wouldn’t have known from the old man complaints in ‘73.” 

With a laugh, Jemma asked, “A whole house? Seems like a big step up."

“I don’t have a lot of good places to sleep, and he can get around on crutches, if he wants.” Daisy dodged the comment on their relationship. “And Kora will need a place to stay.” She tapped her phone, sending the scans from this morning. “How do my wrists look?” 

Jemma sighed, letting Daisy get away with it. “What did you do?” 

“We were playing in the pool. I quaked underwater to beat Daniel in a race.” 

“Did you?”

“I did. Barely.”

Jemma rolled her eyes. “Of course, you did. But you didn’t crack anything, so you’ll be fine in a day or two. Your knuckles are bruised. Is that from sparring?”

“Working the bag. You know how I can get lost in my head." Before Jemma could ask about that, Daisy continued, “Thanks for checking the scans. So when are you guys coming here?”

“We’ll stop in Santa Barbara first to figure out what to do with Deke’s business. Maybe two weeks from today?” 

“I’d like that.”

“We thought we could rent a place near the beach. Alya hasn’t seen the ocean yet.” 

Daisy wanted the three of them here, but she couldn't make herself say the words. “She’ll love it. How’s Alya doing with having grandparents?” 

“Overwhelmed, but the sweets and gifts are winning her over.” 

“And how are the grandparents doing with having a fun-sized kid around?”

Jemma laughed. “They were startled, to say the least. I’d told them we’d married and Fitz was missing. Having him home with a four-year-old was a little bit of a surprise.”

“How did you explain all that?”

“We haven’t. We sat down with my parents and his mom all at the same time and told them that Alya was ours and we couldn’t talk about the timing of it all, but asked them to trust us and love her in spite of it.” 

“They’ll do that?” That seemed like a lot to ask. 

“They will. They are. Having photos helped, I think. We tried to take plenty that didn’t have to be classified.”

“I love the one of Fitz holding her when she was born.”

“Thank goodness for Enoch. Fitz went to pieces when I was in labor.” 

Daisy laughed. “I can see that.” 

Slyly, Jemma added, “I don’t think Daniel would do the same.” 

“Yeah, no. Not going there,” Daisy protested. “We … barely have a relationship. I’ve known him, what, a month? Two? Ish?” 

“You’ve spent nearly every waking hour with him since he came onboard the Zephyr. That’s more time than some couples spend together in a year. The topic of having kids has never come up?”

“No! — or, not really?” 

Jemma smirked. “Which is it?” 

Daisy huddled up on her chair. “Just that … kids aren’t an impossibility for either of us.” She gave her sister a stern look. “Daniel’s also told me he isn’t into the 9 to 5, so don’t get your hopes up for cousins for Alya, okay?” 

“Then you’ll have to be the brilliantly cool auntie,” Jemma conceded. 

“That I can do,” Daisy said with relief. “Do you have pictures of the cottage yet?” 

“I’ll send them, along with our itinerary for the trip.” 

“I can’t wait. It’s going to be fun.” 

Jemma signed off with a soft smile and a wave, leaving Daisy feeling lonely after the call.

Kids? Ironically, Daniel was the only person she’d dated that she could envision having them with, and he’d already told her it wasn’t his thing. That was fine though. She had no business being anyone’s parent. 

She checked her texts to find her boyfriend navigating modern-day LA okay for now. 

Jemma was right about one thing: Daisy had never spent this much time in anyone’s company except the team. And while she was fine with Daniel being gone for the day, she already missed him. 

Without the background noises of the Zephyr — from the engines and the team moving about — Daisy had latched onto Daniel’s heartbeat to keep her grounded. The times they’d been apart didn’t particularly bother her, but she was aware of his absence in a way that was different from the team. 

Daisy pressed her face into her hands, shivering as she blocked out truths she wasn’t ready to face. 

She shoved out her chair, determined to get a few things done while she had the house to herself. She tucked her phone in her pocket and her earpiece in her ear, just in case her boyfriend called while she was moving stuff around. 

There were three boxes stacked inside the garage with Lanita’s loopy handwriting on them. The LA office had ended up with a hodgepodge of Daisy’s stuff they’d found in the rubble of the Playground, but she’d been too raw to go near anything S.H.I.E.L.D.-related last year and left it alone. She was pretty sure most of it was clothes, shoes, and tac gear. Everything else stayed in Daisy’s backpack, and that went everywhere with her. Even space. Daisy carried the boxes into the living room, then went back out to lock everything up. 

She sighed at the other boxes stacked along the wall. The house had a lot of breakable stuff when she’d moved in: pretty glassware, an old record player with two whole shelves full of albums, a globe with countries that didn’t exist anymore, among other things. Daisy had packed all of it away, leaving only the china bowl with roses because it matched the pattern on the quilt in the spare bedroom. So far, the bowl had survived her mishaps. 

Daniel might like to look through the music, she decided. She carried the boxes of albums into the house, and went back for the record player before locking up the garage. She sneezed at the dust she stirred up.

Ten minutes later, as she opened the first box from S.H.I.E.L.D., her phone vibrated again. Without checking to see who called, she touched her earpiece. “Hey.” 

“Hey, Daisy.” 

“Yo-Yo!”

“Put me on video. I want to make sure you’re in one piece.” 

Daisy slipped her phone out of her pocket and switched to a video connection. She waved. “I’m here. How’s your family?”

“It’s been fantastic, but when I come, it only takes me a day or two to remember why I don’t stay long. We’re flying back to the Hub tomorrow.” Yo-Yo squinted at her. “Mack’s on the phone with Sousa, and they’re talking about sweaters versus suspenders. You slept with him, didn’t you?” 

Daisy rolled her eyes. “May...be," she sing-songed. "But not until we got here. So who wins the betting pool?"

Yo-Yo laughed. "Mack owes me twenty. He thought you’d do it last week. I told him, no way, Turtle Man. My girl’s got her head on straight.” 

“We had a lot to figure out.” 

“Duh. Hey, where are you anyway? That doesn’t look like a hotel.” 

Daisy flipped the camera around to show Yo-Yo the living room and kitchen. 

She whistled. “I didn’t know you like mid-century modern.” 

“Mid-what?” 

“The furniture. The house. Looks like it’s from the fifties. It’s, like, high fashion now. Except for the dining table. That’s a little older, I think.” 

“I wouldn’t know. It came with the house,” Daisy admitted. “How did I not know you know this stuff?” 

“Never came up. Somebody has good taste, though. Is that a pool?” 

“Yeah, let me show you.” Daisy walked Yo-Yo through the backyard and the rest of the house. When they finished the tour, Daisy set the phone on the island so she could go back to opening boxes. 

“This looks like a home to me,” Yo-Yo said firmly. “You really love it.” 

“It’s just a house,” Daisy countered. “You know these things don’t last. In a couple of months, I’ll get a new assignment, and we move on, right?” 

Yo-Yo fell quiet for a moment. “Okay. I hear you. So tell me, what’s Sousa like in bed? Is he really old-fashioned?”

Daisy snorted. “Less than you’d think. Our first time started out in the pool, and uh, he hit all the right buttons.” 

“Good for you. It’s about time you had somebody treat you right.”

“Where is your next assignment?” Daisy blurted to change the subject. 

“We’ll find out our options in a few days. Technically, we can take the next two months off like everyone else, but I’m already bored. I don’t want to be far from Mack, though, right? So we’ll see if we can find something close together. Rumor has it everyone on Coulson’s team gets their first pick of whatever’s on the table. I guess we’ve earned it.” 

“Who told you that?” Daisy vaguely remembered Sousa saying something similar at the Hub. 

“Piper’s got ears on the inside. She’s also the one who spilled the beans about Quake and The Real Daniel Sousa freaking out the lab rats a couple of days ago. It’s all the gossip boards* can talk about. There’s memes and everything.” 

“How do you know more about this stuff than I do?” 

“Simmons insisted on radio silence until the both of you had a chance to recover. But if Sousa’s asking Mack about going clubbing, then you’re going hunting, and that means you can quake, right? So no more radio silence.” Yo-Yo shrugged, glancing over her shoulder. “Mack’s off the phone. Let me know when you go. I might keep you company. Bye now.” 

The screen went blank, and Daisy promptly texted Kora. Memes about me and Sousa?

Kora replied with three pictures in a row. Keep it up, sis. If everyone was afraid of me before, now they’re freaked out too. But they’re all going out of their way to make sure they’re on my good side. It’s weird. It’s like you guys are the new power couple, but nobody’s totally sure you’re really together and everyone's too scared to ask. 

Whoops. Sorry, sis. I’m working on containment panels for the spare bedroom. They’ll be up in a few days, if you need a place to go. Want me to call?

No. I’m fine, just annoyed. Gotta go. I’ve got class. Agent Macabare is glaring at me. 

Daisy shook her head. Memes? Pick of assignments? She had no idea what was even on the table. 

She scooped out an armful of clothes from the box and added it to the pile on the bed, then sat cross-legged on the floor next to her duffel while she unpacked what was left in it. The bag smelled kind of funky, which meant the clothes she'd left inside did too. She carried all of it to the laundry and started another load. 

Daisy headed back to the bedroom with another armful of gear to try to make heads or tails of it before Daniel got home. Even she was dismayed at the mess. The house had looked beautiful when they’d arrived. Now, she’d exploded all over it. 

Daniel hadn’t complained yet, but it was only a matter of time, she was sure. His office had been incredibly neat, and she’d bet his house had been organized all the time—

—which reminded her that he’d side-stepped her questions a couple of times about where it was, and that seemed odd. She would have been horribly curious to see what it looked like after seventy years. 

She closed her eyes, sliding to the floor to lean against the bed. Her stomach clenched up, and she got goosebumps. 

Hating the twisting sensation, she rolled to her feet and stalked next door to yank the wraps off the wall. She wound the fabric around her hands and wrists, then gave the punching bag a firm jab with her right hand. Ignoring the residual bruises from yesterday, she punched it again, then proceeded to beat the crap out of the bag with fists and feet in an attempt to chase off whatever was twisting her up into knots. 

When she was done, Daisy stripped the wrappings off her hands as she walked through the house and out to the garage, finally understanding why she had the feeling of wrong sitting in her head. 

Daniel had driven up the driveway, knowing exactly where to accelerate to get up the incline coming off the street without bottoming out the car like she did with her rental last year. 

She retraced their steps from the last few days.

The night they’d made love in front of the fire, Daniel had leaned backward to get eyes on the kitchen clock around the spindle posts. His body explained the handles in the bathrooms. And there was the way he skirted the furniture, even on crutches, without really looking. And how he’d reached for a cabinet that wasn’t there anymore while making coffee. He had yet to miss a light switch — or even look for one. 

But that could be blamed on careful observation. Mostly. 

Daisy picked up the box cutter and sliced the tape on the boxes of albums. Flipping through them, she discovered a variety of artists, including Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, and Miles Davis. In the second box, she found Nat King Cole’s Unforgettable

Telling herself it could still be a monumental coincidence, Daisy darted back to the bedroom to pick up the quilt. She turned it over to find the panel Daniel had been stroking with his fingers last night while she’d been freaking out. Sure enough, there was another date and description stitched into the patchwork. NYU Graduation May 18, 1940. And that wasn't the only time she'd seen him rubbing the fabric.

This could not be happening. Two timelines converging and somehow she had Sousa’s house? Why the hell didn’t Coulson say anything on the Zephyr? Unless—

With a racing heart, she shut the bedroom door. A sharp quake at the baseboard behind it forced the wood to shake loose, and Daisy set the board to the side. She reached up inside the wall to extract a thin plastic bag. 

Inside was an old, thick manila envelope neatly labeled “Jordan Enterprises, 126 East 56th Street, Los Angeles, California” in a beautiful cursive that she now recognized. Her stomach twisted again as she turned it over to lift the metal brads holding the flap closed. 

Before he’d died, Coulson had given her a set of keys and two envelopes, this one and a plain white envelope with the tax bill. He’d given her firm instructions to pay the bill with the account information he’d included with it. That much, at least, she’d done. 

But Coulson had also left her a folded-over note clipped to the manila envelope. Like the one he’d left on her bunk, she couldn’t bring herself to read it. She’d never looked at the rest of the papers for fear of seeing his handwriting. Instead, she’d stuffed the note inside the envelope and hidden them away in the walls of the house for safekeeping. 

With an aching heart, Daisy opened the flap, drawing out a leather portfolio and the note. She unfolded it, knowing her whole world was about to change.

Daisy--

Just one last thing. You’ll understand that the things you hold closest to your heart are the ones that count the most. My mom inherited this house in 1955, when her best friend died unexpectedly. She named me for him, and it’s been a hell of a thing to live up to both his legacy and hers. I think I did okay, but you were hard enough on yourself that you would have never given yourself a chance to be who you are if you’d known.

I wanted you to be you, not the granddaughter of a legend. 

She would be proud of you, just like I am. 

She gave the house to me when I joined up, saying it was the right thing to do. The house has had only a few occupants over the years, and only for short periods of time. It deserves better than that. 

Passing it on you is the right thing, too. There is no one more deserving of a good home. 

All my love, 

—AC 

Stunned by that revelation, Daisy clutched the portfolio tightly enough to leave fingerprints in the leather. If it wasn’t for the other bomb she held, she might have called to yell at him for a few minutes. Of course, he’d yell right back for leaving good intel locked away for a whole year. 

After last night, she didn’t think she had tears left, but one tumbled down her cheek as she opened the portfolio. Inside, she found two sets of papers. 

The first was the deed to the house in the name of Jordan Enterprises. That wasn’t a surprise. She’d known that much from paying the tax bill. 

But the second was ledger, bound in what looked like smooth cardboard. She opened it with a crackling squeak to find an old-fashioned incorporation document for Jordan Enterprises. The date of the incorporation at the top read “September 25, 1949.” The line at the bottom was signed “Daniel Jordan Sousa, President.” She traced a finger over his familiar signature. She bit her lip as she turned the page. 

The company had issued one hundred shares of stock to Daniel Jordan Sousa and no one else, making him the sole owner of the company he’d created. The paper was unblemished; not a single transfer or cancellation stamp marked the ledger. 

Daisy dropped the papers in her lap to cover her face. 

Not only did the house belong to Daniel in 1955, it still did.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Forty-One

 

Daniel shifted the car into park and shut off the engine, but didn’t get out just yet. The joke he’d made with Daisy about future-LA being the thing that broke him wasn’t so funny now. At the moment, the Thunderbird felt like the only thing grounding him to reality, and it wasn’t to this reality. 

He had to get a hold of himself. He’d managed just fine in DC and the beach house; there was no reason for one day in LA to knock him off-balance. 

Picking up his phone, he scrolled through the last few texts with Daisy, knowing damned well it wasn’t the city at all. He had to tell her about the house. She was already dealing with too much, and it wasn’t hard to see how much having a home meant to her. She barely believed it was hers in the first place.

In a restaurant parking lot looking over the ocean, Daniel climbed out of the car to lean against the hood and think through his options. Not telling Daisy wasn’t one of them. 

He sent Coulson a text to gain intel on how this had happened. Oh, when he’d learned Coulson’s middle name, judicious research told him why Coulson had the house. Daniel should have known at least one of Peggy’s kids would be as dedicated as their mother to the cause. He was honestly flattered that Peggy thought enough of their friendship to pass his middle name along to her son. 

His phone buzzed. “Agent Coulson,” he drawled, not bothering to hide his irritation. 

“Sousa, I gave her the paperwork, the keys, and a note laying it all out,” Coulson stated, contrite. “The only explanation is that she didn’t read it. When she told me you guys were headed to LA, I figured you knew, and maybe the house was one of the reasons you two clicked. But the fact she doesn’t know tells me how she really feels about you. I’m pretty happy, all things considered.”

Daniel pinched the bridge of his nose. “Tell me the shares are in her name, at least.” 

“Daisy wouldn’t sign them even if I tried. I thought the set up was pretty sweet. The company is old enough to be completely off the books, and she has someplace to call home.”  

“And let me guess: Peggy didn’t transfer them either.”

“That's what made it work.”

“So, technically, I still own the house.” 

“That’s what the papers say.”

“Damn it, Phil. Daisy loves the place. You should see the pool she put in.” 

“It’s a nice pool. And I might remind you, I’ve only been powered up a little longer than you’ve known her. I didn’t even know she’d been there.”

“Long enough to put a fresh coat of paint on everything and full containment paneling in my--her bedroom. She’s installing more panels in the spare room for Kora.” 

Coulson snorted. “Never does anything halfway. It’s a wonder you even recognized the place.” 

“That’s just it. She’s kept most of it and … added in her own thing.” Daniel sighed. “I wouldn’t change any of it. It’s perfect.” 

“Spoken like a man in love.” 

“I am in love. And I could use a drink.”

“They usually go together.”

Daniel let out a ghost of a laugh, then— “I don’t see how this isn’t going to blow up in my face.” 

“Have faith in my girl. She might surprise you.” 

“She surprises me every day,” he admitted. 

“To be fair, you probably surprise her, too.” 

“Got any advice? Because I screwed up my last two serious relationships, and I'm … bothered ... that one of them was with your mother.” 

"Try growing up in a house where the moral standard ranged from Rogers to Sousa and then we can talk about who is more bothered by the situation. I, for one, am not going to think too hard on it, especially since you're dating the woman who is my daughter in every way but name."

"I'm game," Daniel promptly agreed. "Advice?"

“Not any I’m willing to give. If you can’t figure this out, then you won’t be the kind of partner Daisy needs. If you can, she’s going to give you everything you’ve ever wanted. But you already know that.” 

“I do. What a tangled mess,” he grumbled as his head throbbed. “I’m not sure I know how to unravel this one.” He looked out at the pretty scene, not really seeing any of it. “Daisy’s kept your secret. I had no idea you were Peggy’s son before all this.” 

If Daisy doesn’t know about the house, she doesn’t know that either. Same note. I’m sorry.” 

Feeling like everything he’d ever wanted was slipping through his fingers, Daniel flipped his wrist over to check the time. “Nothing like stacking the deck, Coulson,” he said in exasperation. “I don’t suppose you want to give her a call this afternoon.” 

It’s too late for that, I think. She can get mad at me later. ” 

“All right. I’ll … figure something out.” But he didn’t feel any confidence when he said it. 

“If things don’t go your way, let me know.” 

“Copy that.”  

 

Five o’clock traffic on the 405 proved to be the tipping point of what Daniel could handle in the modern world. Crawling along the freeway at five miles per hour when all he wanted to do was get home and level with Daisy so they could get on with their future tested even his patience. 

Finding a florist meant backtracking a couple of exits, and then he had to detour two blocks over to pick up the milk that could be just Daisy’s way of teasing him. 

He wanted to take her out to dinner tonight but might have missed his chance, given how late he was coming home. 

Daniel parked in the garage, noting that quite a few boxes had disappeared, giving him an indication of how Daisy had spent her day. He needed two trips to get all of his purchases from the car to the house. The milk went in the icebox. He laid the flowers on the island. 

Daisy wasn’t in the main part of the house, but the living room had two open boxes that proved to be Daniel’s record collection resting on the coffee table. The dining room table had been cleared of everything but his mom’s bowl and doily — and his record player sitting at the far end, covered in a layer of dust. He wondered what else might be in the garage.

The kitchen and living room were otherwise as pretty as the day they’d arrived and the doors to the pool pushed wide open. Daniel found the sound of the waterfall soothing, though not enough to stop him from splashing bourbon over ice and knocking it back. 

The stiff drink didn't do half as much to chase off the stress of the day as Daisy did just by coming down the hall.

She breezed into the room with a bright smile, eyes popping wide at the pile he’d set on the counter. “Whoa. You’ve been busy.” 

Scooping up the bouquet of lilacs, Daniel greeted her with a kiss. “These are for you.” 

She took them in one hand and practically wrapped herself around him for a slow, delicious kiss that melted the world away, leaving just the two of them here and now. “Nice haircut,” she murmured against his lips. 

“I like coming home like this,” he confessed. “I’m sorry I’m late.” 

With a shrug and a nip to his jaw that trailed to his throat, she told him, “You didn’t say you’d be ho— back at any particular time. Can’t be late in that case.” 

“Good point." Daniel was coming to despise Daisy’s continual dodge of calling this place her home, when she so clearly wanted it, but he couldn’t call her out on it until he came clean. Which had to be sooner rather than later. He also wasn’t happy that Daisy had no expectations of him. She took what he offered, but that was it. 

But perhaps he was being unfair. 

He felt like he was home and this was a permanent thing. Daisy hadn’t committed to anything at all except to a place for them to rest and heal. He tightened his arms around her. 

“Did LA get the best of you?” Daisy threaded her fingers through his hair. 

“Mostly the 405." Daniel sighed in contentment as he rested his cheek against her head. "I used to know Los Angeles like the back of my hand,” he told her. “Today, there were things I recognized, things I should recognize but the context is out of kilter, and there are things that don’t make any sense at all.” 

He closed his eyes as he held Daisy. She was worth anything LA could throw at him. 

He had a plan. Now wasn’t the time to get derailed. Easing back enough to capture Daisy's hand, he pressed a kiss on her gauntlet-covered palm, right over her scar. “If you haven’t had dinner, I’d like to take you out tonight.”

“I’d like that.” Daisy set the flowers on the counter to run her fingers over his chest, her eyes dancing. “It seems I missed you though.” Her fingernails scraped down the back of his neck, sending shivers along his spine in a very good way. 

Maybe his plan could wait a few minutes.

He chased her taste, smiling against her lips when he felt the top two buttons on his shirt give way. Needing his hands on her now, he tugged at the hem of her thick grey sweatshirt. Daisy pulled it off to reveal she’d left off the bra entirely. He cupped a breast with one hand, her ass in the other, and sucked at the soft patch of skin under her jaw. 

“Damn, Sousa. You missed me too?” She snickered as she peeled his new jacket off his shoulders. 

He shook it off, only for Daisy to slide her hands down his forearms before dropping to his belt to unfasten it. He retaliated by unsnapping her shorts and pushing them off with a kind of freedom and urgency he’d never taken with anyone. She danced backwards, kicking them off her feet, leaving her in nothing more than black lace panties that matched her fingerless gauntlets. 

He followed, but before he could touch, Daisy shoved him backward two steps so he pressed against the entryway wall. Cool hands unzipped his fly as she knelt, pulling his boxers down and his shirt up just enough to get her mouth on him. 

“Dais—” he muttered, diving his hands in her hair. He cupped her face, breathing hard as she worked him over with her soft mouth. He rocked his head against the wall, loving every damned thing she was doing to him. But before he went past the point of no return, he murmured, “Enough. Enough, sweetheart.” 

She came off, and Daniel locked wrists with her to help her stand. The fact that he could conveniently pull her into another kiss was a bonus, and he smiled when she mock-glared at him. 

“Smooth operator, Danny-boy.” 

“You like it,” he countered, shrugging out of the gun harness. He opened the hall closet and draped it on a hanger for now, noting that his overcoat and hat had been moved inside. When he closed it, he caught a flash of uncertainty from Daisy. 

“Too much,” she admitted. 

He leaned against the closet door, reassuring her, “Never. Turn around.” 

With a raised eyebrow, she began unfastening the rest of the buttons on his shirt with uncharacteristic patience. One by one, they came free, her hands electrifying his senses whenever she brushed against his skin. The button-down came off, and Daisy pushed his undershirt over his head to bury her nose against his chest, pressing a kiss there before turning around.

Daniel loved that they were alike enough in height that he could slide his fingers into her center while kissing her neck. She leaned into him, dipping her knees whenever he did something she liked. When she curled her hands around his forearm, she came apart with a soft gasp and a hard shudder. 

“There you go, sweetheart,” he murmured. “First one’s for you. Always for you.” 

“How are you real?” she breathed. 

Daniel grinned, kissing her neck again, where she arched like a cat getting scritches in just the right places before pushing off him to stand. “Dais, I can’t be the only one who has figured out that sex is better when the lady’s on her second or third round.” 

She fisted her hands on her hips as she faced him. “No, but it doesn’t seem to be common knowledge for some stupid reason.” 

He laughed. “Bedroom?” 

“Danny-boy,” Daisy said, saccharine sweet, “There’s a couch and a variety of chairs in here, plus the counter. Surely we can make use of one or two of them?” 

“Exactly how creative are we going to get?” 

She strolled to the island, leaning on her elbows against the edge. She swept him a look over her shoulder. “I’m game.” 

Daniel considered himself to have above-average intelligence. No one would know it by the way he stared, slack-jawed, at the pretty pin-up pose Daisy made.

“Thirty seconds or I’m using my built-in vibe to get myself off again.” She held up two fingers. 

”Now that I’d like to see,” he admitted, unfastening his watch and setting it out of the way. “But I need a little more than that to get out of my pants.” 

It took him just under two minutes and a chair to kick his shoes and socks off, drop trou to doff his leg, slide the pants off, retrieve the prosthesis and don it again. He stood up to make sure his stump settled properly inside the socket. It did, with the rippling adjustments that made it so comfortable. 

Daisy raised an eyebrow. “That’s a process.” 

He shrugged. “Faster than anything else I’ve tried unless I put a zipper on the inseam. Did I lose my chance?” 

“Not if you kiss me first.” 

“Gladly.” 

Even Daniel was hard-pressed to call what they did on the island “making love” but it sure as hell counted as something special. And unforgettable.  

 

*****

 

For the rest of Daisy’s life, anything lilac-scented brought her straight back to this scene, with Daniel licking her senseless as she lay on the glass countertop with the bouquet resting over her head. 

He’d already fucked her against the island. She’d come once on his fingers, twice on his pretty dick, and apparently square didn’t extend to the taste of himself as he tongued her clit with enough determination that he might just pry a fourth out of her if he kept up what he was doing with his fingers and thumb. 

She was oversensitive enough that an ounce too much pressure would put an end to their fun, but Daniel seemed to have a knack for keeping things just shy of that, and the soft curl of his tongue was irresistible enough that she wanted more, please, and hurry the fuck up. 

He did the thumb thing, and she slapped a hand on the counter at the sharp sweetness of his touch. “Oh come on!” she protested, willing her body to give in. She hovered, right there on the precipice, until she was ready to scream out of pure frustration. 

She couldn’t say what tipped her over the edge, only that Daniel didn’t stop anything he was doing until her body finally cooperated, and she clutched at his head while she fell apart. 

Daisy sprawled out on the countertop, panting as she laughed, drawing one knee up. “Dang, Danny-boy. You’ve got game.” 

Her boyfriend collapsed on the barstool next to her with a well-deserved smile that could only be called smug. “Was that four?” 

“Yes, sweetheart, you got four.” She reached over her head to pick up the lilacs, bringing them to her nose to sniff them. 

“Damn straight, I did.” 

She rolled her head over to look at him again. “Yeah, well, that hickey is not going away anytime soon.” 

“Wait ‘til you see the one on your ass.” 

“At least I can cover that one up.” She sat up in one clean move, still holding the flowers. 

Daniel eyeballed her. “You’ve got the prettiest tits, doll.” 

Her mouth fell open. “You did not just say that.” 

“Is that offensive?” 

“I … I … yes, if you said it to someone on the street, but no if you say it to me? I think?” 

"So not much has changed. But I won't say it again if you don't like it."

Daisy darted a curious look at him. "It's okay. Just... surprising. It's not very square."

"No, but it's true." He kissed her ankle because it was the closest body part he could reach. 

She curled her toes at the zing she knew she didn’t have the energy for and sniffed her flowers again. Daniel rose, rounding the half-wall to reach the fridge, where he plucked out two water bottles. His butt was even better naked. He caught her looking when he passed one over. 

She shrugged. "I like it, okay?" She drained the bottle in one go. 

"No complaints from me." He took it back from her and refilled it from the sink tap. 

Daisy set the flowers aside long enough to steal Daniel’s shirt off the barstool where it had landed, then went back to sniffing the lilacs. She didn’t bother with the buttons. 

Having just set the water bottles back inside, he flailed for the fridge door, landing a hand on it as he ogled. “You can have my clothes anytime you want, Dais.” 

With a laugh, she slid off the counter and rummaged through the cabinets to pull out a green plastic pitcher and a pair of scissors. She filled the pitcher, snipped the flower stems like Jemma had taught, and dropped the bouquet in the water. She caught Daniel with a soft smile playing around his mouth as he tugged on his boxers.  

“Need help carrying your stuff?” She nodded at the new bags he'd left on the counter.

“Please.” 

Daisy picked up the set while Daniel scooped up the rest of the clothes by their hangers. 

“My goodness,” he said in shock at the pristine bedroom. “You — how?” 

“I can; I just usually don’t.” She opened the closet where her previously jumbled shoes neatly lined the floor on one side. Daniel’s duffel was on the other. “I don’t have much, so it’s all yours.” She set the bags on the floor and stepped out of the way. 

Daniel hung his clothes on the rail, stripping off the protective plastic covers as he did. 

When he turned around, he noticed she’d cleared the dresser and set his parents’ wooden box on the top instead. He ran a hand along the grain. “You didn’t have to do this.” 

“It was the right thing to do,” she told him. “All your stuff is in here now, except for your coat and hat. I put those in the hall closet. Now, what should I wear for dinner?” She leaned both hands behind her on the dresser so that the shirt fell open over her torso. 

Daniel swept a look over her from head to toe and back again. “I’ll wear suspenders if you wear a skirt,” he offered slyly.

Rolling her eyes at him, Daisy laughed. “Deal.” 



She chose heels and a flowy black dress that barely reached mid-thigh while Daniel retrieved his weapon to stow it properly.

Getting dressed with him in the bedroom seemed to be more intimate than the crazy sex in the kitchen, and Daisy discovered she was dry-mouthed just from watching him dress, layer by layer. She wanted to peel the suspenders off his shoulders even before he had them settled in place. 

When she reached in the closet to retrieve her leather jacket, Daniel automatically took it from her, holding it out so that she could slip into it. He pulled her hair out of the collar, too, giving her an appraising look as he shrugged into his sport coat. 

“What?” she asked, flustered by the old-fashioned gesture. She darted to the bathroom to see if something didn’t look right. 

“Nothing,” he assured her as he followed, though he furrowed his brow as he tugged the cuffs of his shirt to sit just right under his jacket. “In my time, it wasn’t uncommon to give gifts to your girlfriend. I have something for you, but I’m not sure if it’s still a thing.” 

“I don’t think there are any rules against it.” Daisy had noticed Fitzsimmons, Mack, and Yo-Yo giving each other stuff on occasion. Even Coulson had a trinket or two that she was sure were from May. 

Daniel pulled out a thin, narrow box of blue velvet from the inside pocket of his new coat. Daisy’s stomach twisted into a hard knot. She started to reach for it but stopped with her fingers inches from it. "You do it." 

He opened the box, and when she pressed her hand to her mouth, he picked up the necklace so the silvery pendant flashed in the light as it dangled.

“May I?” he asked, setting the box aside. “I think it might look nice with your dress.” 

When she nodded, he pointed to the mirror so she could watch as he brushed her hair away from her shoulders and fastened the chain around her neck. The fingernail-length pendant was made up of two stacked pyramids, one the reverse of the other. It looked amazing with her dress and jacket — not too flimsy or flashy. She hadn’t seen anything like it.  

“What is it? And why this?” she asked, brushing her fingers over the metal. 

“It’s called a double-pyramid, and it made me think of us: your timeline and mine connected in an unexpected way.” Daniel kissed her shoulder, his brown eyes meeting hers in the mirror. "This one is titanium, so it won’t break if you quake. Fitz uses titanium in your gauntlets.” He skimmed his fingers over the piece, grazing her skin where it sat over her heart. “All that aside, I thought it looked like you.” 

Daniel’s sweetness almost broke her resolve to pretend everything was okay. She nodded, swallowing the lump in her throat. “It is. It's lovely. Thank you.” 

“You’re welcome.” His shy smile didn’t help matters. 



Daisy couldn’t stop toying with pendant over dinner in the tiny walled-garden restaurant that served a fusion cuisine that probably made a dozen foodie blogs swoon. 

While they ate, Daniel told her about his errands in modern-day LA. From the way she heard his heart jump, it hadn’t been smooth sailing, though he made light of his adventures. He held her hand throughout dinner and all the way back to the house. 

After parking the T-bird in the garage, he reached for the garage door before remembering that there was an app for that. As the door dropped behind them, he held out his arm. “Care for a walk?” 

Willing to prolong the day for as long as she could, she curled her hand around his elbow. “I’d like that.” 

They strolled to the far end of the block and back again, chattering about restaurants and favorite places to eat across timelines and countries. Conversation with Daniel was never hard. 

He took her hand as they approached the front door of the house, and she glanced down as they climbed the steps. “No trouble with the new leg? I noticed you left the cane in the car.” 

“None at all. I wanted it, though, just in case I did.” Daniel reached into his pocket with his other hand, and she sensed his pulse zipping up with an erratic beat. 

The moment she saw his keys, Daisy knew what was about to happen. The step backward she took wasn’t voluntary.

Daniel tightened his grip on her hand. “I promised I would show you where I lived.” With an apologetic smile, he set his house key into the lock and turned it. 

In an automatic move, she covered his hand and pulled the key out in one motion. “No,” she protested, dragging her hands through her hair as everything she wanted crashed down around her. “Please let this be real for one more day.”  

“You knew?” Confused, Daniel reached for her hand again, but she took another step backward to dodge his touch. “Dais—” The hurt in his eyes from her evasion was unmistakable, but he held his hands up and away. 

“I — no. Yes.” She had no idea how to explain, not with her brain screaming GO at her. She babbled to give him an answer. “Today. Today I knew. I don’t get what I want. I wanted this to be real.” Go go go go go go. “I know how this works," she insisted. "Your house. Your bed. And when you get tired of my mess or my crappy cooking, or whatever, we’re done. I can’t do that anymore.” She backed up another step and thumped into the one of the porch posts. 

Her heart hurt. She pressed a fist to her chest, wishing she could make it stop. This wasn’t what she wanted at all. She rocked in place, shivering. 

“That’s not--this is your home, Daisy!” Daniel insisted forcefully. “Coulson gave it to you.” 

“It’s not. It never was. It never is.” Go go go go go go go go. She skittered down the porch steps, snatching up the backpack she’d stashed behind the bushes.

“Daisy, wait!” Footsteps on the stairs behind her turned into thumps on the grass as he followed.  

Go go go go go go go go. She darted across the lawn, trembling uncontrollably, with goosebumps on her arms as she shook with the cold. 

Daniel called out, “This is real. It doesn’t get any more real than this.” 

Go go go go go. 

“I need you to do something for me,” he blurted. 

She halted with one foot on the sidewalk, unable to take another step.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Forty-Two

 

Daisy stopped at the sidewalk, one hand white-knuckled where it gripped the strap of her backpack. 

Daniel grimaced, realizing that her hula dancer had been packed long before he got home. He’d clocked that it wasn’t on the dresser, but never dreamed Daisy was planning to run. The clean house and his records in the living room made sense now. 

He cautiously approached from one side, taking care to give her space. Still as a deer hoping to not be noticed, she kept her focus on the horizon. 

Even the convalescent hospital didn’t prepare him for seeing the woman he loved shell-shocked and frightened out of her wits because of something he'd done. His plan to break the news with a little humor had failed spectacularly, and, for once, he didn’t have a good back up. For a long moment, he wondered if letting her go was the better course of action.  

But he was in love with her, thought she might be in love with him — even if she wouldn't admit it — and desperately wanted to make this right for both of them. 

Falling back on his experience with unstable assets, Daniel kept his tone calm. “Daisy, I need you to go sit by the pool so we can work this out.” He didn’t dare ask her into the house; he was sure she would bolt if he did. 

He couldn’t imagine what it took for her to bob her head in acknowledgment and head for the gate to let herself in. 

Relieved — and that word didn’t do justice to the enormity of the feeling — Daniel gave himself ten seconds to get his head in the game and deal with the situation. He’d never expected Daisy’s next brick wall to be him, but here they were, and if he screwed this up, too, he’d lose her entirely. 

He used his key on the side door since it was the closest, stripping out of his jacket and tossing it on the counter as he walked through the kitchen. He retrieved a couple of water bottles out of the icebox and Daisy’s keys out of the ceramic dish. 

Damn. He’d missed that clue as well, thinking she’d left them in the house because he was driving. He took the time to bring up the pool lights and something soft from Daisy’s playlist, hoping the familiarity of both would create a calm atmosphere for her.

She’d gone to the far end of the pool to stand by the fence, as far from the house as she could get. 

"Hey,” he called, holding out the water. 

Daisy looked him over, as if to discern his intentions, then took the bottle. “Hey.” She settled somewhat, looking more like herself then the feral asset of minutes ago. She gave him a cool, assessing look that was as disconcerting as the panicked one from before. 

It occurred to him that she hadn’t lost control of her powers. Not only that, she’d played him the entire evening without the slightest hint she was compromised. This Daisy wasn’t sharing a damned thing with him. He’d seen enemy fortifications that weren’t as well-defended as the walls she had up. 

He sat on the edge of the pool to tug off his left sock and shoe, then rolled up his pant leg to his knee. “Feel free to join me,” he offered, dangling his foot in the water. 

“What are we doing, Sousa?” she asked in annoyance. 

“Talking. That’s what people do when they’re in love, and they need to fix something they screwed up. There’s going to be some groveling on my part,” he said lightly, “but I’m hoping you’ll be amenable to an explanation. I will admit to hoping we can blame some of this on the crazy twists and turns that come from being S.H.I.E.L.D. agents.” He swirled his foot in the water. “This is real, Daisy. This is as real as it gets. I love you. Nothing is going to change that.” 

She looked away, her hair sliding off her shoulder as she did. 

When the silence dragged out, he asked quietly, “How did you figure it out?”

“You didn’t bottom out the car on the driveway, you know where the clock is in the kitchen, and I found your record albums." Her tone was crisp, as if giving a sitrep. "The blue quilt is the one your mom made you. I found your birthdate. But that was after.” 

“After what?”

“After I saw the ledger. Jordan Enterprises.” She let out a harsh laugh. “You’re even paying the taxes and upkeep.” 

"Blame that one on Peggy,” he said delicately. “I certainly didn't have that kind of cash at the time. I guess we know what she did with the life insurance money."

Daisy still didn't look at him.

“Dais — future LA didn’t mess me up anywhere near as much as knowing I needed to be straight with you,” he told her with conviction. “Coulson gave you the house. That’s all that matters. I know what having a home means to you."

“You should have told me. Before,” she said, flatly. 

“Yes, I should have, probably before we made love,” he admitted. “This is where I’ll confess to being a selfish bastard because I didn’t want to throw another wrench into the works. Thing is, I didn't know why you didn't know. I couldn't ask Coulson until today."

Her hand went to the pendant, giving him a thread of hope.

"Did you know about his ... mom?" 

"I didn't make the connection until you mentioned his middle name yesterday, then I remembered that Coulson was a family name a couple of generations back for Peggy. I asked for her file, and S.H.I.E.L.D. gave me access this afternoon on account of who I am," he said, apologetically. 

"AC's file is redacted, and even I couldn’t hack it,” she said softly. "I tried to see if he had any family last year. I didn't get anywhere."

This was the missing piece of a plan gone terribly wrong, Daniel realized. Daisy was reeling as much from Coulson's parentage as she was the house. "Have you talked to him?"

Daisy shook her head. 

"Call him."

"No!"

That was the most honest emotion he’d heard from her yet. Daniel took a chance, moving from the deck to the chair closest to Daisy. She tracked his movements, but held her position. "I can chaperone this, too,” he offered. “Call him. Yell at him for not trusting you soon enough." He reached down to work the sock and shoe off the prosthesis, tucked the sock inside that shoe, too, and shoved them under the chair. 

He straightened up to find Daisy giving him a hard look. In frosty tones, she snapped, "In the same way I'm supposed to yell at you?"

"I know I've earned it," he agreed, setting his feet side-by-side. "I don't know Coulson's reasons." 

"I do.” She shuffled backward to put more space between them. 

"You don't agree?"

"He's … not wrong." She hitched her backpack on her shoulder, turning away again.

Taking another chance, Daniel caught her fingertips, as she had his weeks ago on the Zephyr. “Then we’ll deal with that, too. But Dais — this is your home.” 

“It’s not mine. It’s yours. Still yours. I’ve got all the papers to prove it,” she retorted, pulling her hand away. With a bright smile, she chirped, “Or I should say, you do now. They’re in the top drawer of the dresser in the second bedroom.” 

He was losing her, inch by inch. “Do you have a dollar?” he demanded. 

“I’m not buying your house for a dollar, Sousa,” she said in annoyance. 

“Yeah, I didn’t think you would.” A crazy idea popped into his head, and he went for broke because he didn’t have any cards left to play. He jerked a thumb at the pool. “Fine. There’s your lease.”

“My what?” 

“You said it yourself. ‘We’ll call it rent.’ I’m game. And now it’s a legal, binding contract. You offered. We each have something of value at stake for consideration. Me, the house; You, the pool. I’m accepting your offer. Done. You’re the tenant as long as the pool is there. You want out of the lease? You’ll have to dig it up and put it back the way it was. And it’s up to you if you’re willing to sublease a little closet space and third of a bed to me. If you’re not, I’m sure I can bunk at the S.H.I.E.L.D. office.” 

Daisy narrowed her eyes. “A third?” 

“You do sleep in the middle,” he quipped, holding her gaze as he waited for her to make the next move. 

“No. We can’t do this,” she said faintly. 

Hearing the thinnest crack in her defenses, Daniel pushed. “We are doing this because we’re not going to let this come between us,” he urged. “It’s true that I bought this house, Daisy. But you made it a home. It’s perfect.” 

She gave him an incredulous look. “I don’t know anything about making a home. I can barely put my stuff in the drawers because it means I might feel like it’s going to last. And nothing lasts. Not for me. Today is just proof of that.” 

This was his Daisy from this morning, wielding a blunt truth he’d never expected to hear. Good intel though. He leaned a little harder on that crack. 

“Then you’re going to have to find a way to break your lease. Like it or not, Daisy Johnson tangled herself in a legal contract, and I can guarantee it’s going to be a mess to clean up.” He jerked a chin at the pool. “Literally.” 

“Right,” she scoffed, sounding even more like herself. “I didn’t sign anything, so you can stop chasing butterflies.” 

Daniel raised his eyebrow, knowing he had her on this one. “Read up on contract law, sweetheart. Verbal contracts are just as legal as written ones.” 

Daisy fell silent. She searched his face as she considered what he said. 

Understanding that she needed to make her own decision about the next step, Daniel stood, reaching for her hand again and setting her keys in it. “This is the set I gave Peggy. Peggy gave them to her son, who gave them to you. Peggy would be damned proud for her granddaughter to have them.” 

With an aching heart, he kissed her fingers as he folded her hand around them, taking a deep breath to say, “I’m going inside. When you come home, Daisy, I won’t answer if you knock. You’ll have to use your key.” 

He walked away.

It was, without a shadow of a doubt, the hardest thing he’d ever done. 

 

*****

 

Daisy kept eyes on Daniel as he picked up his shoes, walked into the house, and locked the door behind him. Her fingers tingled where he’d kissed them, the keys dangling from a finger where she'd looped it in the ring. The gauzy curtains let her watch as he poured himself a splash of his bourbon, lit the fireplace, and sat on the couch across from it. 

Familiarity with his heartbeat meant she could pick out the sound of it even with the waterfall between them. She recognized the frequency as the same from when he’d stepped onto the Zephyr in ‘55, only then, she'd had no idea what a stressed out mess he was. She still wouldn’t know it to look at him as he swirled the ice in his glass. Her boyfriend could be a cagey one, and she liked that about him. 

She took his chair, perching on the edge with her backpack in her lap so she could rest her chin on it and keep an eye on him. The last dregs of panic from earlier faded, along with the heartache of the entire day, leaving weariness in its wake. 

Her boyfriend’s ultimatum was about the closest to begging she was going to get from him. If she walked away now, it would be her choice, not a panicked flight, and Daniel wouldn’t come after her. 

She was grateful — beyond grateful — that he’d found a way to break through her panic before she did something stupid. And she already knew that she’d be going through that door just as soon as she figured out how to say the things that needed to be said. 

He wouldn't remember the dozens of times she asked him for help in the time loops, but he'd found the words that brought back every single moment he'd stood by her since the day they'd met.

In spite of being yanked out of history and home, he'd asked for so little in all this time that Daisy found it impossible to deny his request — not when he'd given her so much.

Daniel Sousa was the kind of partner she needed; he’d proven that both in and out of the field. And for whatever reason, she seemed to be what he needed, too.

That didn’t mean she wasn’t going to let him sweat it out for a few more minutes. He should have told her when they got to the house that first day. They’d have to talk. Maybe even set some ground rules—

—which sounded awfully adult and mature and she wasn’t quite sure what to make of that. She hugged her backpack again as she let out a residual shudder. 

Daniel’s heartbeat spiked again. He rose, set the glass on the island, then disappeared into the back of the house. She lost the sound of him when he stepped into the shielded bedroom. 

Quelling her instinct to go after him, she concentrated on her breathing instead. 

Her phone vibrated. Once. Twice. Then continuously. She dug it out of her jacket to see what was happening, and found the team chat blowing up with everyone checking in on her — not to mention all six of them had to send her a private text as well. She wondered what Daniel said to get this kind of reaction. 

Chill, she texted to all of them. Not sure what Danny-boy told you, but I’m sitting by the pool figuring out the next step. She snapped a pic of the pool and the house and sent it to all of them as proof, too. 

She should have known it would be AC who had the nerve to actually call. “Hi, Dad,” she answered cheerfully. “My day has been just peachy. How’s yours?” 

“Are you really by the pool?” 

That was a fair question with her hacking abilities. “I am. And I’m completely freaked out at the idea of going in and talking to Sousa, but I like that idea better than hitting the road, so that’s saying something.” 

“I’d say I was sorry for putting you in this position, but I’m kind of not. It sounds like you have a handle on things.” 

“I didn’t. Earlier.” 

“But you do now?”  

“Mostly. And seriously? We are going to talk about your mom. Later,” she insisted. “But we are not talking about your mom and my boyfriend, capisce?”

Copy that,” Coulson said with a laugh. “I think we’re all in agreement on that one. Go. You’ve got this.” The line went dead before she could reply. 

Gathering her courage, she crossed the deck to the back door. Setting her key in the lock, the tumblers clicked over one by one until the latch pulled free of the frame. She dropped her backpack between the living room and front door, which also happened to be the center of all three exits. Yes, she was hedging her bets. Old habits and all that crap. 

The scent of lilacs pulled her focus. She’d left the pitcher on the counter, and the purple flowers filled the room with their sweetness. Sex with Daniel was sweet, too, and a lot of fun. 

Who was she kidding? Sex with Danny-boy was amazing. He certainly knew how to push her buttons in all the right ways. And she seriously liked having her hands on him.

She found him sitting on the corner of the bed with his phone beside him, looking through the ledger. She'd put the quilt on the bed earlier; he had it draped over his thigh.

Daisy leaned against the door frame with her arms wrapped around herself in an effort to ward off the chill that wouldn't go away. "Hey."

"Daisy." Daniel set the ledger to the side. The defeated look he gave her about destroyed her. That wasn’t something she ever wanted to see in him. “I … don’t know what else to do.” 

Five steps took her across the room to cup his face in her hands. “You’ve done enough. More than enough.” She kissed his forehead. “I want to be here. With you. But we’re not done figuring this out yet.” 

Daniel rose, anchoring her to him in an almost crushing grip. “I know. I’m sorry, Daisy. I’m so damned sorry for taking anything from you that makes you happy. You deserve—” 

“Stop.” She pressed her cheek against his shoulder. “Not here.” She had so few spaces to call her own — and this had been one of them — that she couldn’t deal with having any kind of disagreement here. “I’m going to change out of these heels and this dress, and I'll meet you by the pool. We’ll talk out there.”

“All right.” Daniel shifted his arm a little higher on her shoulders to hold her for another few seconds before letting go. His heartbeat settled somewhat, though not to its usual steady beat. 



Daisy sat cross-legged on the lounger, toying with the pendant as she waited. Extra points went to the boyfriend for charming her with it, even if she was still irritated at him.  

She dug a fingernail into her thumb to stifle a yawn. It was well after midnight, but she’d never be able to sleep without some kind of resolution. She’d changed into sweats and a t-shirt though, just to be comfortable. She kept the gauntlets on to keep from banging her knuckles. 

When Daniel appeared, he had the blue quilt in hand. He sat on the other side of the lounger, shaking it out so that one end draped over her lap. “I don’t want you to get cold,” he muttered. Then he pulled up the leg of his sweatpants high enough to doff the prosthesis and set it aside. He stripped off the liner too, draping it over the edge of the socket. 

They’d come a long way since the hotel room. 

“Is it—” she started. 

“It’s fine. It’s just time to give it a rest,” Daniel said shortly, folding the empty fabric of his pants out of the way. He lifted himself with both hands to sit so the back of the lounger gave him something to lean against. 

Daisy let it drop. It seemed Daniel was touchy, too. 

She pulled the quilt closer. Now that she knew there was no object in this house more precious to her boyfriend than this one, she smoothed it out instead of fisting her hands in it. “Did your mom make the rose quilt, too?”

“She did. It used to be on my parents’ bed.”

“Both of them are beautiful.” Daisy flipped over part of the quilt to tap on a patch. “You were tracing the stitching on this one last night. I noticed because I do that, sometimes. I’d found a couple of dates and important events on it last year. I didn’t look for others because I was afraid to find a name on it that meant the house didn’t really belong to Coulson.” 

Daniel hesitated, then sorted out the quilt and turned over a corner that he handed it to her. “You’ll need a good light to see it.” 

Daisy picked up her cell phone off the side table to examine the square with the flashlight. In a tone-on-tone blue, she found Daniel Jordan Sousa embroidered along one edge of a navy patch. 

“Mom always said she could keep me occupied for hours by sewing something new on the quilt while I was asleep.”

“Like what?”

“Animals and toys I liked when I was younger. The horse we had in Idaho. When I got older and started asking about the stars, she’d make constellations for me to find. If I was obsessed with a book, she’d put in something about it.”

“Such as?” Daisy was fascinated by the idea. 

Daniel brushed his fingers over the fabric. “The Maltese Falcon, for one. Sherlock’s magnifying glass, for another. Even when I was older, Mom still liked to hide things on it for me to find. There’s an NYU logo in violet. That one took her a while.” 

“No wonder you’re so good at looking for clues.” Daisy aimed her flashlight at another patch. When she tilted the striped fabric just right, she found a light blue frog in the corner, no bigger than her thumb. 

Daniel gave her a brief smile when she set the phone aside. “I’d had practice.” 

“There’s other stuff in the garage,” she told him. “Things I pulled off the bookshelves because I was afraid of breaking them. I sold your desk,” she said apologetically. “Lanita liked it. Maybe I can buy it back.” 

“I spent too much time at it. Having a place to exercise is better.” He scooted closer so that he could hold both of her hands. “Geez, Dais, you’re freezing again.” Daniel rearranged the quilt to cover her shoulders. He folded her hands in his, blowing on them to warm her fingers. 

“Tell me about the house,” she asked, more than a little distracted by what her boyfriend was doing. 

Daniel kissed her fingertips. “I needed a place that was easier to get around. I wasn’t a fan of the stairs in my old apartment.” 

Like she said, cagey. “Any other reasons?” she asked sweetly. 

He shot her a dark look. “You’re really good at that.” Reluctantly, he added, “I bought it after I joined S.H.I.E.L.D. I thought … maybe someone would overlook the bum leg if I had something else to show for it. It had room for kids, too.” 

“That’s messed up, Danny-boy.” Daisy pursed her lips. “So even though you aren’t into the nine-to-five, you bought a house to prove to a non-existent future wife that you could support her while you’re off making a difference? I thought you didn’t want kids?” 

“I know it’s ridiculous. And I didn’t say anything about not wanting kids. I just don’t know how I’d be there for them with the jobs we have.” Daniel gave her a frustrated look. “In my time, birth control wasn’t reliable like your IUD. There was always someone at the office having another baby they hadn’t planned on. I wanted to be ready if that happened.” 

“You and your plans,” Daisy teased. “But it’s understandable. I’ll repeat my previous declaration that women in the fifties were idiots.” 

“My plans didn’t work so well today,” Daniel acknowledged. “They didn’t work then, either. It took me a long time to realize that I wasn’t going to find someone outside of S.H.I.E.L.D. who would be right for me. I would always be torn between two worlds.” 

Daniel blew on Daisy’s hands again, and she curled the tips reflexively. “When I met you,” he continued, “I was ready to put away the past and not look back. We have a future with S.H.I.E.L.D., and I sure as hell want a future with you. Then we came here, and you were already home. It’s every dream I’ve ever wanted.” He hung his head. “But it doesn’t mean a damned thing if it’s not what you want, too.” 

Daisy freed a hand to run her fingers through the hair over Daniel's ear so he’d look up. “I’m here because you did tell me. About seventy-two hours too late, but you came clean. You were ridiculously careful not to outright lie to me.” 

“Dais—” 

She held her hand up to stop him. “I had planned to leave tonight, after you went to bed. I can’t be with someone who won’t be straight with me.”

“I know,” he said sadly. 

Daisy cupped his jaw, curving one thumb over his cheekbone. “And if the situation had been reversed, I would have done the same thing,” she admitted. “You don’t work off crappy intel if you can avoid it.” 

Daniel wrapped his hand around her wrist, giving her a quizzical look, as if he wasn’t quite sure he'd heard what she'd said. “So … I’m out of the doghouse?”

“Not quite.” 

Her boyfriend’s ridiculous notion of a lease kind of worked for her. Most of her life had been spent making handshake agreements — including with S.H.I.E.L.D. Coulson understood, and it was one of the reasons she’d joined. Whether or not those agreements worked depended on who was making them. 

Daniel Sousa wasn’t going to break a promise. That was a fact, not a hope. 

Daisy rearranged herself so she was cross-legged with her elbows resting on her knees. “Apparently," she started, "we still have a sublease to negotiate.” 

Daniel absolutely lit up with happiness as he understood what she was saying. And it was weird how his heartrate didn’t zing up into excitement, but settled into its usual steady beat — as if all was right in his world. And maybe it was. 

“We can do that.” He crossed his arms, leaning back on the lounger. “What are you offering?” 

“A third of a bed, half a closet, three drawers, space for your stuff in the living room, and shared rights to the kitchen and bathrooms. Full use of the pool, gym, and entertainment systems. Garage parking for your car.” 

“That’s generous,” he said with a smile. “What’s it going to cost me?” 

“Unlimited use of your quilt and car, allowances when your girlfriend can’t talk about her crap, a promise that when we do talk about hard stuff, it won’t be in the house. Out here is fine.” Daisy hesitated, wondering how far she could push this. 

“Is that it?”

She shook her head. “You have to keep doing what you’re doing. With the brick wall stuff, too.”

“Dais, I love you. We wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t.” 

“I know. But if you stop, I’m cancelling your sublease.” 

He grinned. “Fair. What else?”

“You seem to be pretty good at picking me back up. You have to let me do the same for you.” 

With a concerned look, he countered, “This isn’t about what I need. This is about what you need.” 

“And as I told you at the beach house, I need you to be okay,” she retorted. “So? That’s my offer.” Daisy held out her right hand. 

Daniel’s heartbeat spun up again as he reached out to take it. She thought he was going to shake on the deal. Instead, he unzipped her gauntlet, peeling it off to reveal the swollen black knuckles she'd been hiding. 

Without the extra support, pain blossomed in her hand. “Wow. Totally busted,” she ground out. 

“You’ve flinched every time I’ve touched that hand since we sat down, whereas your coverup job earlier was pretty flawless,” he said bluntly, leaning over to inspect the damage. “What’d you do?” 

“Worked the bag a couple of times today. Took some bone healing meds already, and the painkillers have clearly worn off,” she replied, hissing as he prodded gently around her knuckles. She’d broken at least two. 

“So why’d you make love with me?”

In a lame effort to avoid the question, Daisy reached for the gauntlet to work it back into place. It was incredibly painful, but she probably deserved it. 

Daniel caught her wrist to do it for her, neatly zipping it up while her hand throbbed. “Stop that,” he chided. “You don’t need to punish yourself, sweetheart, but I do need you to be honest about this.”

She curled her broken hand against her chest. “I wanted you. I wanted this to be real for a few more hours.”

Her boyfriend tucked her hair behind her ear, locking eyes with her. “What do you want, Daisy?” 

Never tell anyone what you really want. It will always be used against you, her brain reminded her. Daisy shook her head, fighting the compulsion to deflect and run. From the cold settling into her bones, she was beginning to think the constant shivering had nothing to do with freezing in space. Her backpack was only a few steps away. 

Daniel patiently waited; his heart beating steady and true in a counterpoint to the panicked urging in her head. His pretty brown eyes never shifted while she breathed it out. The compulsion faded, though the chill remained. 

At last, she was able to say, “I want this to be real.”

Without hesitation, he held out his hand for her to shake. “Is that your offer?” 

“It is,” she affirmed, setting her hand carefully in his.

With a brilliant smile that did crazy things to Daisy’s heart, Daniel dropped an expert kiss to her fingertips. “I accept.” 

She crawled right out of the quilt to land on his lap, happiness spiraling through her in dizzying swirls. “I swear, Daniel Jordan Sousa, I will quake you senseless if you break your sublease.” 

He laughed, holding her tightly and taking her with him as he leaned back on the lounger. “Never.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Forty-Three

 

Sublease Agreement: 5 hours 

An unfamiliar beeping sound roused Daniel enough to slit his eyes open. The weight on his chest and hair in his nose made him smile as he figured out where the sound came from. He kissed Daisy’s head. The sky had lightened enough that dawn couldn’t be far away. 

“We’ve gotta move, sweetheart,” he grumbled sleepily, dragging one hand up his girlfriend’s back. “Your phone’s making noises.” He yawned, hugging her close for another few seconds, reluctant to let go after the tumultuous night they'd had.

They’d been drowsing on the lounger in a failed effort to summon up the energy to go to bed. 

Daisy pushed off him, even before she was really awake, and the quilt slid off her shoulders to land in a fat puddle on his lap. She passed him his leg and liner, then retrieved her phone off the side table. 

She scowled at the beeping noise it was making while he donned his leg. “That’s a perimeter breach,” she muttered. "No one knows where we are."

Daniel stood up to settle his stump into the prosthesis, then straightened his sweatpants. “A what?” He came fully awake. 

“Inside, now,” she snapped, scooping up the quilt.  As soon as they cleared the back door, she ordered, “Hey, House? Lock up the castle.”

His mouth fell open when the lights in the house shut off, all the doors audibly locked, and the hallway wall turned into a virtual map of the property. 

“Got your weapon?” she demanded. “Front door — heat signature’s on the map.” 

He took up a position behind the half-wall separating the kitchen from the entry, pressing a slight indentation on his prosthetic ankle. A panel slid open, and he plucked out three metal pieces and three rounds out of the storage space. He needed only seconds to assemble the gun and load it.

Daisy grinned. “You are such a dork, Sousa. And you’d better not wear that thing to bed.” 

He snickered. “Are we expecting company? Newspaper? Milkman?” 

“Nope.” She adjusted her gauntlets and took up a post just inside the kitchen. “I swear I’m installing facial recognition next time, instead of just proximity alarms. ‘Cause if I have to quake, this is really gonna hurt.” 

Great. Now he had something else to worry about. 

The deadbolt lock rattled, then snicked open. 

“Who else has a key?” she hissed.

“Don’t ask me, you’re the tenant,” he shot back. 

The door opened on a large man with a colorful beanie, stylish sunglasses, and a truly excellent leather coat. He carried a tray with three cups of coffee. 

“Director Fury?” Daisy squeaked, instantly dropping her hands. 

Daniel lowered his weapon a few inches and stood, still giving cover to Daisy. 

Fury scowled at her. “You didn’t change the fucking locks? That’s like step one of buying a house.” 

She jerked her thumb over her shoulder. “His house. I’m the tenant.” 

“Really, Dais? That’s what you’re going with?” Daniel protested. But since his girlfriend had completely relaxed in the newcomer’s presence, he unchambered the bullets and rested his foot on a barstool to put away his piece. 

Fury looked on with interest. “Would somebody care to make the introductions?” he asked.

“Sousa? Director Nick Fury. Fury, Chief Daniel Sousa,” Daisy said with nods to both men as they shook hands. “How did you know we were here?” 

“Coulson, of course. He said you have a new pool.” 

“True, but why are you here?” she asked. 

“I was in the neighborhood.” Fury looked around at the security measures. “Nice work. Now, I wanna sit by the pool and drink my coffee.” 

“Hey House?” she commanded, “Take a nap.” The lights came back up and the back door audibly unlocked as the map disappeared.

Daniel scowled at Daisy. Clearly, there were things they still needed to share. 

“What?” she mouthed, giving him her innocent look. 

Fury swept a look around the living room. “What’d you do with Sousa’s vinyl?” he demanded, glaring at Daisy. 

She pointed. “It’s in the boxes, I swear.” 

“I like listening to his shit. Put it back so the next time I need to lay low, I’ve got something to do.” 

“You stayed here?” Daniel asked in surprise. 

“I did, from time to time.” Fury scowled as he cased the place — eyes stopping again on the empty bookcases. “What the fuck happened here?” 

“I redecorated.” Daisy quipped. 

Fury grumbled as he pulled a chair out by the pool. “Don’t. Sousa has better taste.” He handed Daisy her coffee as she sat. “Nice pool, though. You did good.” 

“Thanks.”

Daniel grazed his fingertips along her shoulder, taking the chair beside her. “Sir. If I may, who are you?” 

Fury passed a cup to Daniel, then leaned back in his chair so the front two legs tipped off the ground. “When Peggy Carter stepped down, I became the new director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Shit went down. I died. Thought it was better if I stayed that way.” 

“So this fiasco with HYDRA went down on your watch?” Daniel needled. 

“It did. Clearly, I trusted the wrong people.” 

That stung. “Didn’t we all,” Daniel said bitterly, sipping from his cup. “What can we do for you, Director?” 

“Just call me ‘Fury.’” He crossed his arms. “I’m here for a couple of reasons. One is to keep you two from doing something stupid. The other is because I’ve got a proposition for you.” 

Daisy exchanged an opaque look with Daniel; they’d had a long day and night already. He waited for her to take the lead. 

“Let’s start with number one,” she said.  

Fury leaned forward, looking her dead in the eyes. “Coulson told me you just learned that this was Sousa’s house. I need you to not rabbit off into the sunset. I saw your backpack," he warned. 

Daisy kept a straight face, saying lightly, “I’m still here.” 

“Good. Don’t fucking change that.” He turned to Daniel. “And I need you to not fuck up the best safe house we’ve got by selling those damn stocks. Not even to her,” he jerked a thumb at Daisy. 

Daisy snickered. Daniel shot her a quizzical look.

She crossed her legs and sat straight up, becoming the prim CIA agent. “If you sell the stock, legally of course, you’ll have to use a transfer agent and each stock will get assigned a national tracking number. Hiding the ownership gets a lot harder. All that started in the sixties. Right now, it’s the perfect safe house because the documentation is old enough to not be in the system, so the ownership can’t be traced without someone putting eyes on paperwork with that information on it. At the moment, there are only two people who know that location.” 

“Carter saw that coming, Sousa, and didn’t put your stock through probate to legally inherit it for exactly that reason.” Fury pulled a couple of credit cards and two passports out of his jacket pocket, handing one of each to Daniel. 

“Jonathan Jordan? That’s one of my covers.” Daniel noted the updated birth date and recent stamps on the new passport. The address was the same false one he’d used in ‘55. The photo was new. 

“Yeah, I know. Coulson and I borrowed it from time to time. It’s a good one. Carter dumped your life insurance and savings into a Swiss bank account back in the fifties and invested the hell out of it. We used it to pay taxes and maintenance on this house, and to run the occasional off-the-books op that S.H.I.E.L.D. didn’t need to know about. You’re a wealthy man, Mr. Jordan, with investments all over the world.” 

Daisy looked away, trying to hide her smirk. Daniel caught it anyway. “What did you do?” he asked her.  

Fury showed him a black AmEx card with the name “Jordan Enterprises” and “Caroline Jordan” underneath it. He handed it, with a passport, to Daisy. “It seems you got married a couple of years ago, Mr. Jordan. Meet your wife, Caroline. Coulson gave Johnson the password to the account so she could pay the taxes. She did a little more than that.” 

“The wedding was lovely,” Daisy simpered, taking on yet another role. “I told the bank all about it. There’s a prenup on file too.” To Daniel, she added, “You were very generous to me, Jonathan.” Then she held up the passport, shifting out of character into her usual voice, “You know, I have one of these already.” 

“Good. Now you have two,” Fury shot back. “S.H.I.E.L.D. does not know about these covers or this safe house. Keep it that way. The covers could use some updating. You know, spend a little money, have the paps snap a few pictures. That kind of thing.”

“Paps?” Daniel mouthed at his girlfriend.

“Paparazzi,” she answered. “Celebrity photographers.”  

Daniel sipped his coffee, using it to gather his thoughts. He found the married cover thing hilarious. “All right, Fury. So what’s this really about?” 

Fury raised an eyebrow. “Coulson called in a favor. I’m making damned sure that all the cards are on the table so this one,” he jerked a thumb at Daisy, “doesn’t go kiting off into the wind because she thinks she doesn’t deserve a little happiness.” He leveled a hard look at her, then turned that same look to Daniel. “I need you to not spend the next thirty years pining over letting her go, thinking it was the right thing to do. I don’t need Carter coming out of her grave to kick my ass over this.” 

“All right.” Impressed that Fury had picked up on all that, he wondered how much intel came from Peg herself, how much was Coulson, and what part was Fury being a damned good spy.

Fury glared at both of them. “Are there any more secrets you two still need to get out of the way?” 

Daisy shrugged at Daniel. “Fury spilled the beans on this,” she held up the passport and credit card, “so I’m good.” 

Daniel felt like a schoolboy being called to the front of the classroom. “I think we’ve covered it.” 

Fury drained his coffee, setting the cup down. “I do not have time for personal shit,” he muttered. 

Daniel snorted as Daisy looked away, stifling a giggle. When she had a straight face, she asked, “What’s your proposition that needs both of us?”

“Sometimes, Agent Johnson, when life hands you a perfect solution, you’ve got to take it. We know we belong to a bigger universe. You, with your joyriding friends, took a spin through it on the Zephyr. You didn’t blink, back down, or get Earth in too much trouble. I count that as a win.”

Fury leaned forward to rest his elbows on his knees and to clasp his hands together. “I need you to do it again, for real this time. We need someone to make contact with whoever is out there and start a risk assessment on them. You’re not afraid to do it, and it turns out,” he jerked a thumb at Daniel, “your Area 51 West Coast Security Chief boyfriend actually wrote the book on it. In my eye, that’s a win-win situation.”

“You want us to go into space?” Daniel asked drily, though he was excited by the prospect.  

“Is that a problem?” Fury retorted. 

Daniel shot Daisy another look. 

She leaned back in her chair. “Z1 barely made it last time, and I don’t relish hijacking other ships for fuel again. Had kind of a crappy rep there.”

“Quake’s got a rep not to be crossed, and that’s not a bad thing,” he told her. “Fitzsimmons have agreed to consult on a new Zephyr; this one will be built out for this particular op. You’ll have funding too.”

“How long is the mission?” Daniel asked.

“I’m thinking six or eight months to start. You come back here, debrief, get a little down time, then go back out again. With Fitz’s jump drive, you’ll have the freedom to come home on occasion.”  

But Daisy shook her head. “I can’t leave Kora. She needs training. Agent May can handle that to a point--”

“Kora goes with you,” Fury agreed. “You’re the only one with any hope of controlling her if she gets out of hand. Agent May thinks Kora's got the acumen to be a pilot. If she knows you’re headed out on a mission, she’ll work twice as hard to get there. I’ll send someone along to fly your spacecraft; she can keep training on the job. That should keep her on the right path.” He raised an eyebrow. “Look, I know you’re both on R&R for a couple of months. I just need to know if I can give the right people the go-ahead to build Z3.” 

“Z3? Then what is Zephyr 2?” Daisy countered. 

“Somebody else’s problem,” Fury retorted. “Fitzsimmons will want to talk this through with you. Z3 will be built for this mission, so I imagine it’s going to look a little different.” 

“Who is going to lead?” Daniel asked. 

“Both of you. Sousa, you’ll head up Z3. You’ll guide the team and keep it together, and you’ll be writing up the final assessments. Johnson, you’ll decide who we need to contact and head up the fieldwork. There’s no one better at dealing with whatever gets thrown our way, plus you have the firepower to keep your team safe. You’re also damned good at making friends. If you can make us a few in space? Earth will be all the better for it.” 

Fury waggled a finger at them. “This means you’ll be co-directors for this op. It hasn’t been done before, so don’t fuck it up. But if anyone can figure it out, it will be the two of you.” He sat up. “I’ll give you forty-eight hours to think about it. You’re cleared to talk with Kora and your former team, but no one else.” 

Daisy pursed her lips. “Is this still a S.H.I.E.L.D. op?” 

“For now.” Fury stood. Daisy and Daniel rose, too. 

“How do we get a hold of you, sir?” Daisy asked. 

“I’ll knock. And get that damned vinyl out of the box and back on the shelf before then.” Fury stalked through the house, slamming the door behind him. 

Daniel spun around to Daisy. 

She squinted, holding a hand up between them. “Oh my god, Danny-boy, stop with the puppy dog eyes. Yes, we can go to space.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Forty-Four

 

Sublease Agreement: 6 hours 

Morning sun lit up the shade covering the kitchen window. In spite of the short night’s sleep, both Daniel and Daisy were fully awake after their early morning visitor.  

Daniel made up another pot of coffee as Daisy leaned against the counter to poke at her fingers. “I should have taken the gauntlets off before I crashed,” she complained. Her fingers had swollen to a shade of purple he didn’t like the looks of at all. 

“I can help,” he offered as he pressed the button on the machine. 

“I’ve got it.” She used her teeth to unzip the left gauntlet, but when she made to pull it off, she blanched, clutching her right hand instead. “Okay, maybe I don’t,” she choked out. 

“First aid kit?” 

“My bathroom.” 

Daniel retrieved the kit from under her sink. The scent of her coconut shampoo permeated the room, making him smile -- not for the first time -- at the thought of her in his shower. Their shower. Her shower. They’d have to figure that one out. 

He returned to the kitchen to find Daisy pouring two cups of coffee one-handed and splashing cream into both of them, with just a little bit more in his than hers. Perfect. She had an ice pack in her right hand. 

“Let’s do this on the sofa,” he said. 

“Okay.” Daisy moved both cups to the other side of the island, retrieved them from the other side and set them, one at a time, on the coffee table. 

Daniel parked the first aid kid beside his cup, then sat so that he was knee-to-knee with Daisy. He finished unzipping her left gauntlet, and it came off with a little tug. Her knuckles had a nice rainbow of bruises, but when he felt his way down her bones, none of them were broken. Bruised all to hell, but not broken. “Did you ice these at all yesterday?” 

“I didn’t think about it.” She took a look for herself as she flexed her fingers to check out her range of motion. Satisfied, she stole a sip of her coffee before Daniel started in on her right hand. 

He unzipped the gauntlet. Like last night, her face crumpled as he worked the leather over her swollen fingers, but she didn’t let out a sound. As he gently felt out what needed to be taped, she buried her face against the sofa cushion. 

“We should check in with Jemma,” he told her when he finished, “but I’ve wrapped enough broken knuckles to keep them from moving until she can look at your scans.”

Daisy handed him her phone. 

"How often does this happen?" he asked as he ran the blue light over each of her hands. 

"Less than I can prove at the moment." Daisy replied. “You do know I break things, right?” That came out a little steadier, now that he wasn’t poking at her fingers. 

“That’s why they call you ‘Quake,’” he teased as he propped his knee up and rested her hand on it to keep it elevated. “I think I’ll take a first aid class. Pretty sure I could learn a few useful things.” 

“You’ll get practice with me. And seriously, they have whole paramedical courses now."

"Ah, that's what Jemma meant on the Zephyr. Are you saying that’s a good idea?”

“Given my ratio of bruises and broken bones to the number of days you’ve known me, are you saying it’s not?” Daisy asked wryly. 

He reached for the medical tape. “Not at all.”  

She examined her free hand again, though this time she seemed to be looking at the scar on her palm. “So, uh, how do you rate this freakout?” she ventured, her eyes flicking up to meet his.

Daniel shot her a sly smile as he tore a piece of tape off. “I got a new tenant, signed a sublease for a third of a bed to share with her, and I got my record collection back. Not bad, honestly. No flowers, though, so you lose a point for that.” 

“I’m sorry," she said quietly, as he wrapped tape between her fingers and around her hand. 

“Stop that,” he chided, smoothing down the edges. “In my time, they called it ‘shell shock.’ You have a different name for it now.” Daniel tore off another piece of tape to wrap her hand in a different direction. “Only difference between you and me is I’ve had nine years to live with it, and I couldn’t run when I wanted to.” He flatted the edge of the tape again and patted her hand. “How much does it still hurt?” 

“I can deal. I’ll take the bone healing stuff, though, and wear those new gauntlets Fitz made me.”

“Can you stand the itching?” he asked, closing up the kit and lifting it by the handle. 

“Maybe you can distract me.”  

“Happily.” He leaned over to kiss her on the lips. “Where will I find the gauntlets and medication?” 

“My backpack.” Daisy rolled off the sofa, coming up on her feet without using her hands. 

“Nice move,” he complimented. 

“I’m a damsel; I’m in distress. I can handle this,” she quoted as she straightened up. “We’ll watch that one later.”

“That’s a movie?”

“Animated Hercules. You’ll like it.” 

“I look forward to it.” Daniel scooped up her backpack before she could get to it, glancing at the black and white clock on the kitchen wall. It wasn’t even eight-thirty yet. 

Daisy smirked when he turned around. “That clock is one of the ways I knew this was your house,” she told him. “And you never missed a light switch.” 

Proud of her sneaky spy skills, Daniel grinned. “I’m surprised you didn’t catch on before yesterday.” 

“I wasn’t paying attention.” She kept eyes on her backpack, but didn’t say anything about Daniel carrying it as he headed for the kitchen. 

He slipped the strap over his shoulder while he plucked a bottle of water out of the icebox. “I hope I had something to do with that.” 

“Imagine me smacking you with a pillow,” she retorted. “I can carry something, you know.” 

“Yes, dear,” he teased, leading the way to the bedroom.

She ankle-tapped him, then hip-checked him into the wall to kiss him, all with her hands tucked against her chest so she wouldn’t hurt them. “Want to try that again?”

“I’m good,” he murmured against her lips. “Darling.” 

Flustered by the endearment, Daisy scowled at him as she sidled to the bedroom. “I can’t tell if you’re joking or not.” 

“Teasing, yes; joking, no. You seem to like it.” 

“I’m not sure.” 

Surprised by her uncertainty, he asked, “Why?” 

“I’ve had a lot of names." The hollow sound of her voice reminded him that this was a touchy subject. 

Contrite, he offered, “Then I’ll stick with Daisy or Dais, if you don’t mind the latter.” 

She sat on the bed, cradling her hand as she furrowed her brow. “But I like it when you do it. Why didn’t I like it when other people did?” 

“Same reason I’m okay with you calling me ‘Danny-boy’ but Deke irritated the hell out of me.” 

That made her soften. “Fair enough.” 

Daniel wasn’t going to push her boundaries any more than he had already and set her backpack beside her so she could dig through it. He also tucked the first aid kit under her sink cabinet. 

Daisy swallowed a couple of tablets, chasing it with water. She looked wan. He wasn’t sure if that was from pain or the short night’s sleep. 

He brushed her hair out of her face and held out the long gauntlet so she could slide her hand and arm into it, then repeated the move on the other side. 

She immediately scratched her elbows. “UGH, FITZ. These things are awful!” 

Daniel ran a hand under her hair to rub the back of her neck. “I need to lay down for a while and stretch. Might even take a nap. Want to join me?” 

She glanced down at her sweatpants and then gave him a tired smirk. “You’ll have to help me lose the pants."

“Of course.” He wiggled his eyebrows when he said it. 

This time, she did smack him with a pillow, one-handed. 

Daniel tugged Daisy’s pants off, shed his own, then doffed his leg. He rolled over onto his stomach to stretch the muscles on his bum leg, and Daisy curled over his back like she'd done the night before.

“I don’t know why I like this,” she murmured. “But I do.” 

“Works for me. Hey, Dais?” 

“Yeah?”

“What was with the milk thing?” 

“We’re almost out. If you forgot, it’s okay. We can pick it up later.” 

Daniel hummed in contentment. “It’s in the icebox, sweetheart. We’re good. I liked that you asked me.” 

“Just remember that when we’re on Kitsom and I tell you to pick up korflannan.” She pressed a kiss in the middle of his back, then put her head back down. If her hands were too sore to tuck under his boxers, she still found the divot in his hip through the fabric and rested her fingertips there. 

"Hey, Daniel?" she murmured.

He smiled reflexively at the sleepy question. "Yes?"

"Thank you, for not giving up on me."

"Dais, I'm not the one who came through that door. Thank you for giving me a chance to make this right."

"Yeah, you kind of fucked up."

He shuddered, not needing the reminder of how close he'd come to losing her. "I did."

"But you stopped me from fucking up too." She pressed her lips on his shoulder, where the tank top gave way to bare skin. "I need that sometimes. And I don't always listen, even to the people I trust."

"I'm glad you did." Hearing her say he'd earned her trust put a lump in his throat.

Daisy squeezed his shoulder. "We're good now, right? Everything's out there?"

"I think so."

"Okay."

Daniel waited for Daisy to continue, but her breathing grew steady and her fingertips went lax on his hip.

It seemed they'd weathered the storm together.

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Forty-Five

 

Sublease Agreement: 14 hours

Daisy tried to sneak her go bag back in the house as Daniel wired up his speakers to the record player. The albums were already back on the bookcase. She’d broken down those boxes (one-handed!) and stuffed them in the recycle bin while he alphabetized his music. 

He noticed, of course, but didn't say anything as she carried it through the kitchen and into the hallway. The rest of his boxes were half-open and scattered around the living room.

She was honestly weirded out by all the breakable stuff and retreated to the bedroom, but unpacking her clothes proved even harder than watching Daniel put his things back on the shelves. 

With grim determination, she unzipped the bag and dumped everything out on the bed. She yanked open the top drawer, which held nothing more than three shirts and a pair of gauntlets, mostly for show. 

“I’d wondered where that was,” Daniel said from the doorway. He folded his arms across his chest as he leaned against the frame.

The part of her brain not frustrated by her own insecurities snagged on his forearms long enough for her to realize she was staring. She went back to glaring at the pile. “The whole time I was on the Zephyr, I lived out of this thing. We never knew when we’d have to bail on a moment’s notice.”

“But you’d take your backpack before the go bag.” 

“All I need is my laptop and my hula dancer and I can go anywhere,” she said lightly. "You did it with less than that."

"I had S.H.I.E.L.D. and you," he reminded her. "What happens if you lose your laptop?”

The thing about living with spies is that they knew all the clever ways to manipulate a conversation. Daisy was used to having the upper hand, even with her teammates. "You never let me get away with that," she complained. 

"You don't either. And you're doing it again. Laptop?"

That same tiny part of her brain kind of loved that he cared enough to not let her get away with the deflection. The rest pouted in annoyance. “It’s happened. I’ve got a back up of all the data, of course, but it takes time to build a new unit.” She sat on the bed, pulling a shirt from the pile to refold it. One-handed. Which didn’t work at all. Irritated, she lobbed the shirt back in the pile.

“I think I’m going to need something simple,” Daniel told her. “A computer, I mean. I’ve got a report to write, and I have no idea how to do it. I'm pretty sure S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t want a handwritten report these days.” 

Daisy looked up, happy to have something else to think about. “I can put something together for you tonight. I just need to get the parts.” 

“If you don’t mind.” 

“Tell you what, I’ll go get what I need, and I’ll pick up pizza.” She rose, glancing at her pile. “I’ll do something with this when I get back.” 

"Back home, Daisy. It's okay for you to call it that.”  

“I—” Taken aback by his annoyed tone, she pressed a kiss to his lips and fled.

 

Two computer parts stores and a pizza place later, Daisy dropped her keys in the bowl. The box of supplies and the pizza went on the kitchen counter.

The living room had been cleared of all the extra boxes. Not everything had gone back on the shelves either, just a horse figurine, a baseball she’d forgotten was in one of the boxes, and a colorful glass bowl. 

Daisy couldn’t hear Daniel’s heartbeat. It was absurd the way she panicked and ran for the bedroom, even more so when she found him tucking the last of her socks in a drawer. 

“Where is all your stuff?” she blurted, her fingers going to her necklace to hold on to it. 

His mouth tilted up in a slow smile that kind of made her toes curl. “I used most of my half on the records, Dais. The rest is yours.” 

“I don’t—” she shook her head. 

“The next time we go somewhere and something catches your eye, there’s a place for it. Here.” 

We. He said it so easily, like it was a thing they did. 

When Daniel set his hands on her waist, he telegraphed every move — much as he had last night. “I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you with the house thing,” he said. 

She wasn’t sure she liked being treated with such delicacy. "Apology accepted. It really bugs you?" 

"I can deal." 

She rested her wrists on his shoulders, moving into his embrace. "I didn't ask if you can deal, I asked how much it bugs you. Scale of one to ten, with one being 'Daisy left a sock on the floor' and ten is 'Daniel left the toilet seat up in the middle of the night.'"

Daniel relaxed at her snark, enough to tuck a stray strand of her hair behind her ear. Her forehead tingled where he touched. “Maybe a six? Not a deal breaker, but I know how important it is for you to have a home. I want you to know this one is yours.”

“I wasn't kidding about using up all my luck on you. I don't know if I can do that,” she said simply. 

He gave her a sad, if resigned, look. “If you start to say it, don't stop. I'll deal with the rest.” 

"Copy that.” Daisy eyeballed him suspiciously. “Did you get me out of the house so you could get all this stuff done without me freaking out over us actually living together for real?” 

“Would I do something like that?” His eyes danced in spite of his otherwise innocent expression. 

“Yeah, you would.” 

“Did it work?”

“Maybe. I’ll let you know after we eat.”

"Okay. But I really do have a report to write."

 

Daisy soldered the motherboard of the laptop she was building while Daniel looked on. Balancing the soldering iron with a bandaged hand wasn’t fun, but she made it work. 

"I had no idea this was so complicated," he admitted.

"Most people buy something off the shelf. And S.H.I.E.L.D. will be happy to give you a computer," Daisy said absently, as she put the finishing touches on the last connection. "But I don't let anyone touch my computers. It's too easy to build in trackers or software that can be exploited." She set the iron aside and began methodically testing the board to make sure all the connections were good. She hummed in satisfaction as the board lit up. “How are your typing skills?”

“I can hold my own.”

“Good.” She delicately set the motherboard inside the laptop case and screwed it into place, then attached the new hard drive. “This circuit board is the brain of your computer.” She pointed to the motherboard, then tapped the hard drive. “This silver box is the memory. If you’ve got to cut and run? Smash it to pieces or take it with you. Even if you think you’ve erased it, you haven’t.” Daisy gave him a sly glance. “So don’t store your porn on here, Danny-boy, unless you want me to find it.” 

He crossed his arms. “Alright, now you’ve shocked me.” 

Daisy snickered as she attached the last of the ports to the motherboard. “Just saying — things got a lot racier in the seventies.” She set the keyboard and laptop cover in place, screwing both of them in, then attached the power cord to the newly built laptop and plugged in a thumb drive that would rewrite the hard drive and set it up to her specifications. 

Daniel rose from the table and went into the kitchen. 

When he came back, she set another thumb drive on the table, saying, “When the first one finishes doing its thing, we’ll put this one and your fingers to use. In about an hour, you’ll be ready to write your report. She cradled her hand against her chest, ignoring the pain. 

Her boyfriend sat beside her and took her aching hand in his, setting an ice pack on her knuckles. “We’re supposed to be resting, right?” 

Daisy rolled her eyes. “This is fun. To me, I mean. It’s what I do.” She squinted at Daniel. “What do you do for fun? Besides reading, swimming, and buying albums for your collection?” 

He laughed. “That about covers it. Or did. Now, I have all that and you. What do you do for fun?” 

“Search the message boards for bad guys? Maybe play a little Mario Cart with Mack?” 

“Mario Cart?” 

Daisy looked down at her hands. “It’s a video game, but yeah, that’s gonna have to wait.” 

“We’ve got to get you some hobbies.” 

She scoffed, switching chairs to straddle Daniel and sit on his lap. “I can think of one or two.” She leaned in to suck a dark patch onto the curve of his neck. 

“That’s not what I meant, but it’ll do for now.” 

 

Sublease Agreement: Day 2

“Did you two make a decision?” Fury asked. 

Daisy nodded. “We’re in.” 

“Good. I’ll be in touch.” He slipped his sunglasses back in place and walked down the sidewalk to his car, whistling. 

 

Sublease Agreement: Day 3

“Daisy, you’re awake.” Daniel stood in the doorway with a cup of coffee in each hand, wearing a burgundy paisley-printed dressing gown.  

She knee-walked across the bed to cup his cheeks and kiss him firmly on the mouth. “Hi.” 

“Are you being nice to me because I’m holding coffee?” 

“No. I’m not making fun of your paisley … thing … because you’re holding coffee. I’m kissing you because last night was fantastic and I’d like to do that again please. And sooner rather than later.” 

He handed over the coffee. “Is the dressing gown an old man thing now?” 

She shrugged as she sipped. “Depends on why you’re wearing it.” 

“Because I don’t have to wear pants and it's easier than fooling with pajamas in the mornings.” 

“Reasoning accepted. Can I get you a blue one?” 

“Can I have paisley on it?”

Daisy snickered. “We’ll play roshambo for it later.” 

 

Sublease Agreement: Day 5

“I like you like this. I should put a sign up by the pool. No clothes allowed. My pool. My rules.”

“Gonna be awkward when you have company,” Daniel replied mildly. 

Daisy laughed. “Good point.”

 

Sublease Agreement: Day 6

Daisy reached for the sheets to make the bed for the sixth day in a row. 

"Stop."

She looked up to find Daniel leaning on his crutches as he came back from his shower, hair still damp, and frustration clear in the line of his mouth. 

"What's wrong?"

"I know for a fact that you've made our bed more times this week than you've made yours since we left the Zephyr. You've done every chore on Lanita's list. Our home is so neat it looks like a magazine. It's not supposed to look like one all the time. We live here."

"But you like the bed made." She smoothed out the sheets and pulled the comforter over the top.

"You don't. I'm not leaving you over an unmade bed, Dais.”

While Daniel traded the crutches for his leg, she plopped onto the bed and pulled the quilt into her lap.

This is what it comes down to, right? Either she believed him or she didn't.

 

Sublease Agreement: Day 7

Daisy perched on the edge of the dining room table, leaned over, and tapped the screen to save the document Daniel was scowling at. She tipped the laptop cover shut. “You’ve been at this for hours. Give it a break.” 

“It shouldn’t be this hard to remember everything,” he complained, leaning back in the chair with a wince. He rubbed his forehead with two fingers, a sure sign of a headache. 

“You’ll get there.” 

“In my time, I would have had this report done in a couple of hours. There was one … what’s the word ... font.  A tab key and a return. This thing--” he waved at the computer, “The formatting is … complicated.” 

“It is. And you’ll get it done,” she encouraged. 

Daniel leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms over his chest. “I used to think I was pretty good at tech.” 

“You’re doing okay for an old guy,” Daisy teased. “You’ve got texting down pat.”

Though that elicited a small smile, he rubbed his forehead again. “I’ve got so much to learn.” 

“Yes, you do. But it doesn’t all have to be at once.” She reached for his hand and slid off the table. “How do you feel about going out for drinks?” 

Daniel brightened. “Are you asking me on a date?” 

“I am.” 

“What should I wear?” 

“Jeans. We’re going out to Santa Monica Pier to play skee ball and ride all the carnival rides.”

“Is cotton candy still a thing?” 

 

The ball cap and glasses she wore kept her anonymous in the crowd, and Daisy had no problem dropping cash on ridiculously priced drinks and Ferris wheel rides, especially when she got to kiss Daniel at the top. 

They wandered along the pier, ducking in and out of shops with tourist trinkets and endless t-shirts as the sun dropped low on the horizon, sending orange and purple streaks across the waves. 

A street artist had a display of watercolor and pencil sketches of the pier that were no bigger than a postcard, each matted on poster board and propped up on a tiny easel. Daisy picked one up, admiring the colors of the sunset against the sparkling lights of the pier. She set it back in place. 

“That would look nice in the living room,” Daniel said in her ear. 

She stuffed her hands in the pockets of her jacket, looking away. Though she knew how hard street artists had to hustle for each sale, she still couldn’t bring herself to buy something she might have to leave behind someday. 

Her boyfriend slipped a couple of bills out of his wallet and handed them to the artist, who happily wrapped up the sketch. Daniel tucked it under his arm. 

Once the sun dove into the water, they leaned against the rail, trading kisses until it was full dark and the Ferris wheel lights danced on the midnight waves. Daisy toyed with the curls at the back of Daniel’s head, scrunching her toes at the simmer of want threatening to flare into something inappropriate for a public place. 

“I love you,” he murmured against her lips. “And I’ve had a wonderful time.” 

Daisy shivered at his words and pressed closer, as if she could absorb Daniel’s warmth through their coats. He tugged her hood up and adjusted her collar anyway. 

The next morning, she found the watercolor sketch propped up on one of the previously empty shelves in the bookcase — the ones Daniel had said were for her things. 

 

Sublease Agreement: Day 9

When the containment panels were ready, Daisy and Daniel spent the morning shifting furniture. They scattered the smaller pieces through the house and covered the bed with plastic, just in time for Lanita's crew to stack the panels in the bedroom.

That done, Daniel jerked a thumb toward the hall bath. “Since Kora’s coming to help, how do you feel about me sharing a bathroom with you?” 

“Sure. Whatever,” Daisy said absently, moving a side table a few inches over so they could get through the hall. She eyeballed the remaining space and decided Daniel would be okay to get around it if he was on crutches. 

That night, she discovered she liked having his shaving cream and deodorant tucked in the drawers beside her things. 

Although— the first time she flushed the toilet while he was in the shower, she discovered he really did know how to say fuck. She wasn't entirely sure if it was from the freezing cold water or his discovery that she had practically non-existent personal boundaries.

 

Sublease Agreement: Day 11

Kora fell in love with the rose quilt on her bed and made Daniel go shopping with her for a rug to cover the floor panels while Lanita and Daisy put the finishing touches on the walls. Kora chose a pale green a few shades lighter than the rest of the house.

"You bring home your man and a sister? You really like this place," Lanita commented.

"The pool wasn't a big enough clue?" Daisy retorted.

"Hey, I'm not the one who was deluding myself the whole time." 

 

Sublease Agreement: Day 13

After Fitzsimmons admitted to what they'd found at Deke's company, Daisy promptly texted Mack. Deke paid you fifteen percent of his company as hush money?

I guess you found out about the video game, he texted back. 

I really, really hate the Framework.

 

Sublease Agreement: Day 16

Jemma and Daisy sat on the side of the pool, drinking margaritas in plastic cups while Alya gathered up the nerve to jump off the waterfall. Daniel treaded water in her landing zone while Fitz encouraged his daughter to take the leap. 

“He really is good with kids,” Jemma said. 

“He used to teach the little ones to swim at the YMCA,” Daisy mused. “He’s such a dork.” She rubbed at the goosebumps on her legs. 

“You’re still getting chills?” 

Daisy looked down at her bumpy skin. “You said it would be a while.”

“It’s a warm, sunny day. I'm not sure how you can be cold on a day like today.” 

“I’m cold practically all the time. Daniel keeps dumping the quilt on me the moment I sit down.” 

“Perhaps I can do a check up when we’re finished swimming.” 

“You didn’t fly all the way out here to work.”

“I can look after my sister, so deal with it.” 

Daisy rubbed at her legs again. “Daniel told you?” 

“In passing. I don’t think he knew not to.”

“It wasn’t a secret. I just — with Coulson and May coming back and finding out it was the last mission, it’s like my brain resorted everyone into family. You and Yo-Yo are my sisters, Fitz and Mack are my brothers. I called May ‘Mom’ when she came out to the beach house with Kora. I didn’t mean to, but she said she didn’t mind.” 

“I think it works. Alya certainly likes calling you ‘Auntie Daisy.’” 

“Daniel says dating me is like dating a mafia princess. One wrong move and he’ll be six feet under; do it right and he’ll be drowning in family.” 

Jemma laughed, then cheered as Alya made the brave leap into the water, where Daniel deftly lent her a hand as she bobbed up to the surface. 

Daisy aimed her phone at Fitz, who was sitting on the rocks with his fist in the air. She snapped a pic, then sent it to the team chat. 

“Oh, that’s cute, Daisy. I’ll save that one.” 

Daniel nudged Alya back to the side of the pool, where he gave her a lift and she darted around to climb the waterfall again. 

Daisy might have taken a picture of him too. Then she leaned over to Jemma and took a selfie of the two of them together. 

"How's retired life?" Daisy asked.

"We've hardly had a chance to stop. With Alya, our parents, finding a place to live, and settling Deke's affairs, it's been a lot to do. And now that the Z3 is underway, Fitz is completely distracted with ideas."

"I don't know how you're doing all that." 

"Mostly, I hand off Alya to Fitz. She makes him come up for air long enough for us to do what we need to do. But it's been nice making decisions that aren't world-ending if we make the wrong one."

"I can see that." Daisy got a little entranced by the freckles on Daniel's shoulders. "How's Alya liking Earth?"

"She's exactly like Deke and loves being outside as much as he does."

"You really think of him as your grandson." 

"I do." 

"Huh."

Jemma leaned close. "You said you have no business being anyone's mom. But you know exactly what it's like to not have one. I've seen you with Ace, Robin, and Alya. And even with Kora. You'd be fantastic. I know you aren't thinking that way, and you're a good auntie. But don't make that choice because you don't think you're enough. You are."

Daisy shivered as another chill ran through her. “Yeah, that’s enough adult conversation for one day. I’m going to play in the pool.” She pulled Jemma in with her, making her sister shriek as they hit the water.

Later, Alya fell asleep on Daisy as the five of them visited late into the night. She was reluctant to hand over her niece to Fitz, but he declared it was time to tuck her into bed. 

“Put her in Kora’s room for now,” Daisy pleaded. “Or even — you guys can crash here.” She wasn’t ready for Fitzsimmons to go. “Danny-boy makes great blueberry pancakes."

Fitz relented. "I'll be irritated with you in the morning when neither Jemma nor I have slept because of Alya's kicking."

But they stayed, the four of talking deep into the night. 

The little family left after breakfast, and Daniel held Daisy when she cried afterward. 

 

Sublease Agreement: Day 18

“What is wrong with you,” Daisy demanded. “You are seriously grumpy today.” 

“It’s stupid,” Daniel admitted, setting his hands on his hips.

“If it’s making you feel like shit, it’s not stupid. What is going on?”

“The Dodgers are playing this afternoon.” 

She blinked. “This is about baseball?” Daisy couldn't even try to hide her disbelief.

Daniel screwed his face up in frustration. “Look, I miss going to the bar with the guys and watching the game. I don’t have anyone to complain to about batting averages and bullshit calls by the umpires. Not to mention the whole thing about the Dodgers moving from Brooklyn to LA.” He pressed his fingers to his forehead. “I still can’t wrap my head around that one.” 

She snatched up the car keys and one of the burner phones she’d kept handy. “Come on.” 

“Dais, I know I’m being ridiculous.” 

“Get in the car.” 

She took him to the local dive that had at least twenty-five televisions plastered to the walls and a good third of them were tuned to the game. They sat at the bar with ten other people, all wearing Dodgers jerseys. When Daniel wrote the roster out on a paper napkin and started tracking the game on the other side of it, Daisy pulled out the burner phone and downloaded a couple of apps to give him the team’s Twitter feed, the MLB app, and a way to keep track of the game electronically — which, to be honest, she didn’t know was a thing until she saw him do it. 

Daniel got into an argument with the bartender over a pitch and was vindicated on the replay, then haggled with the guys sitting next to him as she correctly called out the next three pitches. 

Daisy sipped from her bottle and picked at the wings, amused at her boyfriend’s animated debates. For someone who kept his cool on any given day, she hadn’t seen this side of him yet. Except, maybe, that time on the Zephyr when they jumped from ‘55 to ‘73. 

The Dodgers won, but Daniel bitched the entire way home about the “new” designated hitter rule and explained in detail why it was a travesty to the sport. From what Daisy could ascertain, it was a good thing the Dodgers were in the National League and not the American League that allowed such a terrible thing.  

He ran out of steam as they walked into the house. 

“Feel better?” she asked, dropping her keys back in the ceramic dish. 

Daniel gave her a sheepish smile. “Yeah, I do.” 

She reeled him in by his suspenders for a warm kiss. He rested one hand on her ass and the other in her hair as he returned it with a lazy nibble. “Next time, Danny-boy, just say you want to catch a game and yell at the TV for a while.” 

“Yes, dear.”

 

Sublease Agreement: Day 21

“Now those are some serious threads,” Mack complimented. 

Daniel straightened his tie one more time before reaching for his dad’s watch and strapping it into place. “Thank you. You don’t look so bad yourself.”

Yo-Yo and Daisy had booted the boys into Kora’s room to get dressed. The ladies emerged from Daniel and Daisy’s room wearing short, sparkling dresses, heels, and in Daisy’s case, shimmering gold gauntlets that did nothing to hide who she was. 

“What are they doing again?” Daniel murmured to Mack. 

“Hunting for assholes who like to spike people’s drinks at the clubs for nefarious purposes.” 

“And what do we do?” 

“Sit at the table and look pretty while the ladies take care of business.” 

“We can do that.” 

 

Sublease Agreement: Day 25

Daisy loved waking up with Daniel cuddled up to her back. He'd glide his hand over her waist and down to her hips and back again while she roused. There would be a kiss to her shoulder, or maybe to the scar behind her ear, and if she hummed just right, his fingers would slide under her shirt to trail between her breasts, one thumb catching a nipple.

They'd figured out how to make love this way a few days ago, and just like the last two times, Daniel got her off with his fingers first before sliding his pretty dick inside her. At this angle, the stretch was just right, and Daniel had the leverage to fuck her with sharp thrusts that got her off in nothing flat.

He followed, fingers leaving reddened marks on her hip as he stumbled over her name in her ear.

It was a nice way to start the day.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Forty-Six

 

Sublease Agreement: Day 28

The record shop smelled slightly musty, sort of like Daisy’s van on its better days. Daniel pulled up the playlist of songs he’d saved on his phone and methodically made his way alphabetically through each genre, looking for vinyl versions of what he liked. 

Wearing a hoodie, a beanie, and a pair of glasses to keep from being recognized, Daisy flipped through the t-shirts while her boyfriend shopped. 

An increasing vibration behind her made her smile. 

“Hey, chica,” a low voice called out.

She turned around, jerking her chin at Gabe as he rolled to a stop. “Hey, Reyes.” 

“It is you.”

“How’s it going?” 

Gabe scowled at her. “What do you want?”

She held her hands up, doing a quick assessment. No bruises or shadows under his eyes. That was good. “I come in peace. Told your brother I’d look after you.” She jerked her chin at his wheelchair. “Nice wheels. When’d you get new ones?”

“Few weeks ago. Why’d you want to see me? I’ve answered your texts.”

Daisy rolled her eyes. “And now I wanted to put eyes on you. To make sure. You look good.” 

Softening, he grinned. “Are you asking me on a date?” 

She snorted. “In your dreams. How are your classes? USC, right?”

“Yeah, yeah, they’re good.” 

“You got the money? Robbie wouldn’t want you buried in student loans.”

“I got it. Between that and the yard, I’m doing okay.” He scowled again. "That black T-bird from last week was yours?” 

Daisy lifted a shoulder. “I was looking for a spare carburetor. Figured you might have one. The guy you’ve got running the place knows his stuff. Where’d you find him?” 

“Robbie set it up.” 

Daisy snorted again. “And no wonder he’s doing a good job. I would, too.” 

Gabe rolled his eyes. “He’s from the neighborhood.” 

"Sure thing.” She stuffed her hands in her pockets. “You know you can call Mack if you can’t get a hold of me, right? Robbie trusted him. You can, too.”

“Yeah, yeah, I’ve got his number. He likes to call around midterms and finals." Gabe spun his chair in a circle and backed up a couple of feet, jerking a chin at Daniel. "Who’s the square buying out the store?”

Daisy bit her lip to keep from smiling. “He’s my backup.”

You need backup?” Gabe said in disbelief.

“Mostly when I’m being stupid.” She gave him a wry smile.

He laughed in understanding. “Got it. Okay. Now you’ve seen me. We good?”

“Yeah, we good. Need a lift?”

“Naw,” he drawled. “I got my own wheels now.” He nodded toward the window, where Daisy could see a van parked in front of the record shop. 

"Cool." Out of the corner of her eye, she noted the stack of albums her boyfriend set on the counter.

Gabe chuckled. "My friend owns the place. I think your backup is his new favorite customer."

"I know. I figured it was a good match."

"You take care of yourself, chica."

Daisy raised her eyebrows. "That's not my job."

"So, don't make his any harder," Gabe retorted, jerking his head toward Daniel. With an amused smile, he rolled through the shop, giving his buddy at the counter a wave on his way out.

She sighed, rubbing her arms as she watched him go. She could only hope Robbie was doing half as well as his brother. 

Sliding a shirt off the rack, she joined Daniel at the counter. The owner’s eyes widened in recognition as he rang up their purchases and bagged them. 

“Did you find everything you wanted?” she asked her boyfriend. 

“Mostly. There’s a Fleetwood Mac album I couldn’t find.” 

Daisy plucked one of the store business cards out of its holder and turned it over, handing it to Daniel. “Jordan, why don’t you leave your phone number in case one turns up?”

Daniel rolled with her prompt. With a happy smile, he took the card, neatly wrote out the name of the album, “Jordan,” and the burner phone number she’d set up for him. He passed it to the store owner. “I’d appreciate a call if that album turns up.” 

Daisy pulled out her wallet, paying cash for all of it and slipping the owner a couple of extra bills as she did. 

The owner stuffed most of it in the register, folding the extra and tucking it in his front shirt pocket, along with the business card. “Nice doing business with you, chica,” he told her. “Gabe’s a good kid.” 

“He is.” She nodded at the owner as she picked up the bag. Daniel followed her out the door. 

He didn’t say anything until they drove a couple of blocks away. “Didn't know we were there for more than records. Does this mean I can’t go back?” Daniel sounded disappointed at the thought. 

“You’re good,” she told him. “Just keep it off the books.” 

“Not a problem. May I ask why?” 

She wrinkled her nose. “They don’t like outsiders — with good reason. I took care of some business down here. It wasn’t pretty.”

“S.H.I.E.L.D. business?” 

“Not at first.” Daisy fell silent as she remembered those days. Finally, she added, “If I start coming around, they’ll wonder what’s going down.” She sighed. “But if you bought a few albums on occasion, it would be a good thing. They know you’re with me, and maybe they’ll even call if there’s trouble they can’t handle.” 

“You like it here.” 

She nodded. “I stayed around here for a while. Brown van, not blue, when I wasn’t crashing at a motel.” She laced her fingers together and jammed them between her knees. “If somebody needs a hand, there’s usually someone there to lend it. It’s a hard place, though, for outsiders.” 

“Would you have stayed?” 

“No. My kind of trouble usually gets people killed.” She shook off her maudlin mood. “Hey, there’s an ancient diner around the corner. Pretty sure they’ll have a pastrami sandwich for my old man.” 

Daniel shot her a dirty look as he made a right turn. “Five years, Dais. I’m a mere five years older than you.” 

“Nineteen-eighteen,” she said with a fake grimace. “That makes you a hundred-something? That’s an old man by any standards.” She pointed to the big yellow sign. “There.” 

He parked the car near the back of the parking lot; away from the windows and half-hidden by a sparse stand of trees. Daisy climbed out, eyes tracking to the mural across the road. New graffiti marked the edges, but no one dared paint over it. Being here brought back hard memories — the kind that tended to drag a person down with them. 

Before they got more than a step or two away from the car, Daniel stopped her with a hand to her back, his fingers caressing her waist in a way that got her attention. “Hey, Dais?”

“Yeah?” 

“You gonna tell me about this one? Seems pretty important, since you’re keeping tabs on the kid.” 

She’d been debating how much to tell him since she’d shot Gabe a text early this morning. “I made a promise,” she admitted. 

“You? Or S.H.I.E.L.D.?” He caught her hand in his and did that dance-move thing that brought her into the circle of his arms. “I just need to know how much trouble I’m going to get in when I have your back on this.” 

“Both?” she ventured. 

Daniel studied her face. “You said you lived here. Six months off the grid, right?”

“You don’t forget anything, do you?” 

“Neither do you.” He squeezed her hand. “Look, I don’t need to know this yet. But I’d like to, when you’re ready. I can tell it’s important.” 

She winced, shaking her head a little. She slanted another look at the mural of the burning skull.  

Daniel followed her gaze, then pressed a kiss to her knuckles. “Okay. Another time then.” 

He kept his hand on her back as they found a corner booth in the diner. They both angled for the seat with the back to the wall. Daniel waited for her to slide to the inside corner. 

She did, raising her eyebrows in amusement. “This is like letting ladies go first, right?”

“I have better leverage with the leg over here,” he countered smoothly. 

Daisy laughed outright. “Sure. We’ll go with that.” But she didn’t mind when he dropped his hand on her thigh while the server set ice water on their table. Daisy plucked a menu out of its metal stand and passed it to Daniel, then pulled out her phone. 

“What are you ordering?” 

“A waffle and scrambled eggs,” she muttered as she searched for a news article. “Orange juice.” 

“Got it.” 

To her surprise, Daniel recited her order, along with a pastrami sandwich for himself. When the server left again, she set her phone in front of him.  

It was an old headline. Quake Takes Down Bank.

Daniel scrolled through the article, and the link to the one after that, and another, until he found the headline, Quake Working with S.H.I.E.L.D. "How much of this is true?" he asked. 

"All of it, or none of it, depending on your point of view."

"Your version?"

"I chased bad guys and ran into someone who wanted vengeance on them, not justice.”

"Vengeance. That's dangerous.”

“That’s one way to put it,” she said. “May caught wind of what I was doing and put Coulson and Mack on my trail. They had intel, I had intel, and … someone else had intel.” 

“How does the kid play into this?"

“Trying to keep him from being collateral damage.” 

Daniel stilled, his jaw hardening. “Does this have to do with that mural?” 

She nodded. 

“I’ve heard of the Rider. And his vengeance,” he said slowly. “There was a report out of New Mexico when I was with the S.S.R. in ‘46. Whole town had the same story, and not a lick of evidence. It was Jack’s case. Jack Thompson. The man was an ass, but he was thorough.”

“Coulson implied that S.H.I.E.L.D. already knew about the Ghost Rider.” Daisy clutched Daniel’s hand. “When the Rider is the only one who can save you, it doesn’t get scarier than that.” 

“Where is he?”

“I don’t know. Last time I saw him, he made a circle to another realm out of thin air and stepped through it. Haven’t seen him since. If Gabe has, he’s not saying. But I haven’t seen the Rider’s MO anywhere, and S.H.I.E.L.D. knows what to look for.” 

The server came back with two plates and drinks. Daisy dug into her waffle as Daniel picked up his sandwich. A couple of bites later, he asked, “Would it be easier if I read the reports?” 

“Probably. Just … if you have questions, ask me. Don’t bring it up with the team. Mack especially.” 

“Copy that.” Daniel’s tone abruptly shifted to something much lighter. “You know, your brother’s pretty protective of you, too. Threatened me even before we left the Zephyr.” 

Grateful for the change in topics, Daisy poked at her waffle with her fork. “Really? Do tell.” 

 

Sublease Agreement: Day 30

Daisy faced off with a couple of seasoned agents in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s shooting range, wearing her toughest gauntlets to test out her powers. 

Even though they used rubber bullets, Daniel stayed on the sidelines. After the beach house, he couldn’t bring himself to pull the trigger with her in his sights. He’d been the one to wake up in a cold sweat two nights running after she’d explained to him how she trained herself to stop bullets. 

She’d been using her inhuman abilities this week with increasingly tighter control, but there really wasn’t a place besides S.H.I.E.L.D. where she could let loose with anything near her real capability. Daisy wanted to know she was at full power before they flew out to the Hub to train with Kora for a couple of days and look over Z3’s latest design. 

He shouldn’t have worried. The bullets barely left the barrel before Daisy shattered them into dust. 

 

Sublease Agreement: Day 32

Daniel had the idea to set up a dozen different stations made up of all different materials to see how Kora’s powers affected each one, and a dozen more with various triggers to see which ones she could trip. Sci-Ops had entirely too much fun building out the practice field.

So many agents tried to sneak a peek at Kora and Daisy training together that Daniel pulled rank and kicked every last one of them off the grounds. Only May and Sousa stayed behind with the sisters. 

Kora took each station in turn, pushing her powers at each of the objects to see what would happen. 

As the materials reacted, Daisy looked over her shoulder at Daniel. “Maybe we should have kept one of the lab rats to write all this down.”  

He left and came back a few minutes later with his tablet. He sat on a bench and began to take notes with his electronic pencil. 

She texted him. Dork. A pretty one. Still a dork. 

Your dork, he texted back. 

At Kora’s annoyed look, Daisy tucked her phone in her jacket pocket. 

The first time Kora lost control, melting a square block of steel in seconds and sending her energies halfway across the field, Daisy absorbed the energy and redirected it into the air, where it dissipated without incident. 

Kora shook her head, flabbergasted. “You aren’t scared of anything.” 

“There’s nothing to be afraid of. I’ve got you. So let’s do it again,” Daisy told her. It occurred to her that she sounded exactly like Daniel did in her worst moments. Her gaze skidded over to him, then she returned her full attention to her sister. 

Kora went back to pushing buttons and levers to see which ones she could make move. When she discovered her powers didn’t work that way, frustration had her accidentally melting a whole station. 

Daisy kept the energy contained until it dissipated on its own. “That’s enough for today,” she decided. “We’ll try again tomorrow.” 

 

Sublease Agreement: Day 33

Daisy studied Kora speculatively. Yesterday had been a resounding success. Now that Kora knew she could really let loose with her powers and her sister would always be able to counter them, Kora was gaining a better understanding of her Inhuman abilities. 

They’d gone over the results of the tests last night with Sousa (co-director of Z3), Fitzsimmons (consulting), and two Inhumans who had joined the SciOps team in the past two years. 

Kora’s powers turned out to be a complicated force made up of life energy and electromagnetic radiation manifesting as a visible light. The life energy was the harder of the two to understand, but thankfully, Kora’s shields and May’s patient instruction gave her a better handle on that. 

Today, Daisy took her sister out to the artillery range where there was no one around for miles. She’d insisted on leaving everyone else at the base. Today could be dangerous, but the hilly terrain gave her a few ideas. 

They took turns blowing up hillocks until Kora’s control began to falter. “I’m tired,” she admitted. 

“Our powers look pretty badass, but they take a lot out of us,” Daisy told her. “Simmons did all these crazy calculations when I got my powers, and the calorie requirements are pretty insane.” 

“If you put it in front of me, I’d eat it,” Kora agreed, taking a seat on the grass. “Why don’t I need gauntlets? We both use our hands to focus our power.” 

Daisy joined her, picking up a twig to poke at the ground. “I kind of think our powers work at two different ends of the electromagnetic spectrum. I can manipulate frequencies at a lower range, like sound waves. Think of a sonic boom. That’s what I do, but I can go really big or really small. The small ones are okay, but everything else just breaks my bones.

“You’re higher up the spectrum, which is why you generate light waves when you use your powers. You operate at a much higher frequency than I do, so it doesn’t cause as much damage to yourself. It’s a tighter, cleaner transmission of power.”  

“Huh.”

“I have to be really careful not to hold in my power. I’ve done a lot of damage that way,” Daisy offered. “I haven’t seen that with you.” 

Kora wrapped her arms around her knees. “I don’t think I can. When it comes out, it goes everywhere.” 

“That’s a good thing. I think you’d burn yourself up by accident otherwise.” Daisy pursed her lips. “Water mutes your powers; we know that from yesterday. Maybe we need to find a way to put one of those water wall-thingies on Z3. I can use it like white noise; you could use it to safely discharge your powers. It would keep the humidity up in the ship, too."

“I think I like that idea.”

“Okay, one more thing and we’ll pack it in.” Daisy got to her feet, brushing off the grassy bits from her pants. “I’d like to try something.”

“What’s that?”

“Show me how you revived me.” 

Kora hesitated. “I don’t really know.” 

“Okay.” Daisy held out her hand. “Just do what you did on Z1.” 

Setting her palm against Daisy’s, Kora concentrated. A bright light appeared between their hands. 

“That tickles,” Daisy said, astonished, “but keep doing that.” She held out her left hand. While Kora held steady, Daisy made a “tube” for the energy and sent it from their joined palms to her other hand. It tickled, too. She burst out laughing as Kora froze, eyes wide. “We are going to have so much fun with this.”

 

Sublease Agreement: Day 34

Two days of training her sister in between meetings with Fitzsimmons and Sci-Ops left Daisy overtired and bouncing off the walls. She and Daniel caught another cargo flight home, though this time without the T-bird.

Daisy pulled the door to the bunks shut and locked it. She plucked the tablet out of Daniel’s hand and set it somewhere on the floor, then straddled him for the kind of kiss that made thinking impossible. 

His quiet groan spurred her on. She tugged his shirt up, dragging short nails over his waist. “Off,” she insisted. 

“Dais--” 

Frustrated, she sat up, though she didn’t move off of him. “Six hours, Daniel Sousa. I can think of a lot of things to do in six hours locked here in a bunk with you, and all of them don’t involve sleeping.”

“So can I, and if you’ll give me thirty seconds, I’ll show you.” 

“Thirty seconds for what?” she demanded out of pure annoyance.

Daniel laughed as he nudged her off his lap. He poked at the light panel in the room, and the overhead lights clicked off, leaving only a soft LED that ran around the bed. He retrieved his tablet, tapped at it, and something low and bluesy started playing. He set it on the shelf by the bunk. 

Then he pulled his tank top over his head — and guys hadn’t changed how they did that in sixty-five years, because he tugged it off by the back of the neck and dropped it on the floor just like every other guy she knew. 

Daisy needed a second or twenty just to look at his bare torso with all the pretty curls drawing a line down his stomach, only to disappear under his waistband. As she took in the music and dim lights, every last bit of twitchiness drained away, leaving anticipation in its wake. 

Daniel leaned on an elbow, smug as ever. “A little bit of romance never killed anyone, even you, Daisy Johnson.”

She had to admit Daniel had managed to make the ridiculous bunk seem like their own little sanctuary. “Okay, Sousa. You win that round.” Daisy stripped her own shirt off, and Daniel was the one who couldn’t tear his eyes away from the black lace bra. 

That’s all it took for him to dive in, hands first to cup her face, kissing and sucking on her lip, nipping at her jaw, all before he tucked one finger under the strap of her bra to slide it over her shoulder. He followed it down, laving her skin between nips that left her senses dazzled. 

She was dizzy with want, need flaring as she dug one hand into his hair. The curls tickled her palm.

They fought to strip off clothes, laughing as they knocked against the walls of the bunk. Daisy pinned Daniel’s hands over his head to keep him from touching her as she sank down over his length. He filled her with an aching sweetness that swept her right over the edge. He pulled his hands free, and she shuddered in his arms. He’d hardly moved at all. 

His low laugh bordered on sultry. “I guess you needed that, darling.” 

Daisy sat up, dragging her nails lightly along Daniel’s chest as she felt him flex inside her. “I think I did.” 

“Glad I could help. But now we’re doing this my way.” He twisted his hips and rolled so that Daisy landed on the bed beside him. 

“Oh shit.” 

He laughed outright. “Yeah, you could say that. I’ve got six hours to work with, right?” 

 

Sublease Agreement: Day 36

Daisy trailed her hands over Daniel’s body, dragging her fingertips gently through the divots on his stomach left by the shrapnel. “You know, the real miracle here is that your pretty dick didn’t take any damage.” 

“And you have no idea how grateful I am for that,” he admitted. “I guess I should be thankful it was cold that day,” he added with a straight face. 

She tried not to smile, then gave up and fell back on the bed with her hands covering her face in a fit of giggles. “You have the worst sense of humor.” 

“Yeah, but it makes you laugh.” 

 

Sublease Agreement: Day 39

"Look, if you can log onto the computer, log in to the VPN, write a letter, save it as a PDF, attach it to an email, and send it to my phone, I will wear nothing but a thong for the rest of the day," Daisy promised, flopping down on the sofa with her tablet.

Daniel retrieved his laptop and opened the lid. "How long does the letter have to be?"

"I don't care."

Forty minutes later, her phone dinged. She pursed her lips as she opened the file. 

Dearest Daisy,

Wear the purple one.

Love, 

Daniel

 

Sublease Agreement: Day 44

Wearily, Daisy shoved the covers back and sat up. She pressed a hand to the scar Malick had left on her neck. 

Lifting his head from the pillow, Daniel asked, “What’s wrong?”

“I need you to do that thing again so I can sleep.”

“Of course.” Daniel rolled over to sit up and settle in behind her. He hugged her first, wrapping his arms around hers and curling his hands around her gauntleted wrists. “I’ve got you, sweetheart.” 

She shuddered and nodded. “I know.” 

 

Sublease Agreement: Day 51

Daisy thought Daniel knew about the sacrifice Fitz had asked her to make. There had been an 82% chance that she would destroy Malick and the Chronicom ships. There had been no scenario where she didn't die, and only a 19% chance Kora could revive her. 

It was the one with the best odds Fitz had found in thousands of time streams. 

Without Kora, they might have won (27%), but there was no chance of Daisy surviving.

She found Daniel in the shower, hand braced on the wall as he wiped away tears. Fully clothed, she climbed in with him to hold him.  

He didn't ask her not to do something like that again. There wasn’t any point.

She understood what Fitz meant about one person being worth everything.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Forty-Seven

 

Sublease Agreement: Day 55

There were nights when Daniel’s steady heartbeat and even breathing weren’t enough to chase away Daisy’s thoughts long enough for her to rest. She’d been awake for most of this one. The piece of sky she could see through the window had lightened a few degrees. Dawn wasn’t far away. 

She eased out of bed to retrieve her sneakers, shorts, and a hoodie light enough to run in and still cover her gauntlets. 

Daniel lifted his head, saw what she was doing, and put his head back on the pillow. “Take your phone?” he murmured. 

“I will,” she promised. 

“I’ll have coffee for when you get back.” 

Her heart melted every time he did stuff like that. 

As she locked the front door behind her, she set her earpiece in her ear and strapped her phone and key to her arm band. She left the music off today, hoping the quiet would help her get her head clear. She hit the road, increasing her pace as she warmed up. 

They were only days away from reporting for duty at the Hub, where they would begin the process of selecting a team for the new mission. With R&R coming to an end, they’d have to close up the house for a few weeks, though they'd be back at the end of the month. Daniel was as reluctant to give up their haven as she was. 

At least she had a place to sleep in DC. After the incident at the hotel, S.H.I.E.L.D. outfitted one whole wing with containment panels, making the trips to train with Kora bearable. This time, though, she and Daniel had rented a S.H.I.E.L.D. apartment not too far from the Hub. 

The head of Housing had been chagrined to discover he didn’t have anything on the books to accommodate both of their needs. An apartment Daniel decided he’d find workable was being retrofitted for Daisy. The real trick had been to find something with both a pool and privacy. They’d been reluctant to give up either one. 

She wondered what kind of memes were going to hit the gossip boards once that intel got out. So far, their relationship status had been mostly speculative. Given that they were serving as co-directors on the next mission, the odds were evenly split on whether or not they were dating, too. All it would take is a neighbor to mention them going home together. And they would, she was sure. 

Having a safe place to sleep had played a bigger role in her recovery than she’d imagined. She had spent her whole life sleeping in fits and spurts, then crashing hard in those times she did feel safe.  

The days at the hotel and beach house had been nice, but not particularly restful. The panels and privacy here (at home, she amended in her head) gave her a fighting chance to get a decent night, but being with Daniel took things to a whole different level. No matter how bad things got, he stayed by her side, and regular sleep was a thing she kind of did now. 

Daisy didn’t count last night as a bad one either. She was safe, warm, had her boyfriend for company, and neither nightmares nor itching kept her awake. 

She turned a corner, not really paying attention to where she was going, but she was familiar enough with this area not to care. She dodged a couple of cars as she crossed the street. 

When she mentioned shielded quarters for Z3, Simmons brought up the blueprints and suggested shielding the medical bay as well. That's when Daisy discovered Fitzsimmons had designed the ship with two office/bedroom suites, one for each director. 

Daisy wasn’t sure how she felt about her friends giving her an out, just in case things didn’t work with Sousa. 

Thinking about that possibility made her stomach clench into a hard knot — hard enough that she stumbled, panting until she regained control. She righted herself and got back on pace. 

Tired of the anxiety that had kept her up, coupled with the inevitable chill that made her shiver, she determinedly blanked her mind for the next few miles. 

She found a little park in the middle of a neighborhood that she didn’t know was there and wished she’d thought to bring a water bottle. Daisy checked her phone to discover she’d been running for almost an hour and was a good eight miles from … home. (She made herself think it.) 

In the quiet of the park, she found a bench and a water fountain and took advantage of both. Morning sun broke over the houses, streaming through the trees to leave bright dappled spots over the grass and sidewalk on the ground in front of her. With no one around, she pulled the hoodie off. She left it in her lap though, covering the gauntlets. She cooled off, though her head wandered again toward all the things making her nervous.

Her phone vibrated with a text. 

Do I have time to pick up bagels?

They'd found a fantastic bagel shop three neighborhoods over a couple of weeks ago. The owner grew up in Brooklyn, where her parents ran a diner in the sixties and seventies. The daughter sold bagels made according to old family recipes. Daniel seemed to find a reason to stop in every few days. 

Daisy didn’t understand why a simple question made her stomach twist.

She tapped Daniel's number, then adjusted the comm in her ear to make sure it was on. 

“Hey, sweetheart," he greeted her. "Didn’t mean to interrupt your run.”

“You didn’t. I’m taking five in a park.” 

“Oh? Which one?” 

“I have no idea. I’m not sure it’s big enough to have a name.” Sweat evaporated off her skin, and a faint breeze made her shiver. She tugged the hoodie back on. “I’m eight miles out. You have plenty of time to get bagels.” 

He coughed. “Eight? Didn’t know you ran that far.” 

“I usually don’t, at least, not without being on a treadmill or making a loop around the neighborhood.” She rose, crossed the park to the water fountain and took another long drink, then began the long trip home. 

“Ah, want a lift?” 

There was absolutely no reason for his question to make her uneasy. She set her hand on a tree, letting the bark scrape her fingertips. “I — don’t know.” She lost her breath for a moment, but pushed off the tree and made herself walk anyway. “No. I’m good.” The silence was long enough that she knew Daniel wasn't buying it.

“Mind if I stay on the line?” 

“That would be nice," she admitted.

“Mmm. Tell me something, Daisy, while I get my leg on.”

"You want me to tell you a story?" She broke into a jog as she tried to think of something that wasn’t depressing as hell. “Okay, here goes. In those first few months I was with Coulson and the team, we came across this Chitauri helmet left from the Battle of New York. It had a virus in it that made people float in the air for a while, before they exploded.”

“You know, my stories are usually a little more inspiring,” Daniel quipped. 

"Says the man who told me the story of when he lost his leg." Cheerfully, Daisy added, "Don't worry, it gets worse.” 

“Oh good. I was hoping it would," he said drolly.

“So Jemma got infected and quarantined herself.”

“That’s definitely worse.” 

“Yeah, well, she couldn’t figure out a cure, and there’s Fitz just going nuts outside the lab. We knew she only had a couple of hours before she exploded, too, and they were under that crazy kind of pressure to invent a cure for an alien infection they'd never seen before.” Daisy stepped up her speed, settling into her usual running pace. “Fitz finally broke into the lab and shut himself in there with her.” 

"Understandable."

"You would say that."

"They work better together. And obviously, they found a cure.”

“They did. And you're missing the point of the story." 

"Which is?"

"It was the first time I understood love. I’d always wanted to believe in it, you know. You’d see couples on the street, or parents with their kids, and you’d hope, right? But Fitzsimmons, it was a thing they did. Every day. They’re the real deal. They’ve done crazy things for each other.”

“Apparently,” Daniel murmured. She could hear the car starting up. “Hang on, sweetheart, let me put my earpiece in.” He managed it without dropping the connection. She loved how he got better with tech every day. 

Daisy crossed a street, dodging cars again as she listened to him backing out of the driveway. The sound of the gear shift from reverse to drive was unmistakable. “You really do love your car.” 

“Not as much as I love you, but sure, she’s pretty swell.” 

“Swell?” She laughed. “I think that one fell out of favor about five years after it started.” 

“How would you know?” he asked, mildly.

“I read.” 

“That’s an excellent point. I’ve seen the books on your tablet.” 

This was a better story than the alien infection. Daisy deftly shifted topics. “You should have seen my van. I’d find a free library or stop by the thrift shops and buy whatever they had.” She heard the blinker click as Daniel turned a corner. “I kind of loved the end of the school year when all the kids would donate the books they’d read. I could get them for a quarter. Brave New World is still, like, the creepiest book.” 

“Huxley? That came out when I was in high school. Kids read it?” 

“Uh huh, with Hemingway, Ellison, Sinclair, Steinbeck, Orwell, Shelley,” she rattled off, thinking about the books she’d plowed through.

“What’s your favorite?” 

“Of those? Frankenstein, but I don't think I could read it now. What about you?”

“Science fiction, of course, but you know that. Norton, Bradbury, Clarke, Pohl, Asimov, Anderson, Wells." 

Daisy pulled her hoodie over her head as she crossed another street. 

"Tell me about your guilty pleasure," he prompted. "Mine was Batman.” 

“Oooh, the caped crusader. You know, that fits,” she mused. “You need to read Hush. Mack has a copy."

"Good to know."

"So, funny enough, mine is a comic book too. There’s a whole genre of Japanese comic books — manga, they’re called. There was this series, Sailor Moon. I’d go sit in a bookstore and read five or six at a time ‘cause the libraries didn’t carry them. The art is fantastic, and every time I read them I'd see something new. And the characters were pretty badass.”

“Sounds familiar. So what are those books about?” 

“Gonna make me write a paper?”

“I expect ten pages of literary critique with footnotes."

"High school dropout here."

Daniel snorted. "You aren't the first genius I've known who got bored with school and quit."

"I'm not—"

"Could you write the paper?" he interrupted.

"Maybe. With research," she agreed.

"See? So tell me about the books, and this time, I'll bribe you with a bagel. What kind do you want?” 

“Cheese. I'm starving." Daisy told Daniel about her favorite parts of the manga series she’d read in stolen moments. It took a while, but he was standing in line, and she liked his company while she made her way home.

She crossed the street to their neighborhood as he left the bakery. 

“So tell me the rest of Fitzsimmons' story,” he prompted. 

“Oh, right. Simmons locked Fitz in the lab and jumped out of the Bus so she wouldn’t explode on it. But she didn't realize they’d found a cure.”

“I take it that was the time she didn’t have a parachute,” he said under his breath. 

“Yep. My CO grabbed a parachute, jumped after her, caught her, injected her with the cure before she went kaboom, and then we had to pick them up in the middle of the ocean. Fitz yelled at her. A lot. She yelled back. Then Coulson yelled at both of them.”

“And?”

“They had faith in each other. I’d never seen anything like it. It made me believe, you know? I guess with all the awful stuff with -- everything, I’d look at them and know that love was real.” Daisy added, "Once you see what they have, it's not worth settling for less." She turned up the sidewalk and darted up the front steps of the house. "Did I beat you home?" she asked. "Ha!"

"Bagels, sweetheart, it's a worthy cause. I'll be home in ten."

She clicked the phone off, drained an entire bottle of water, and dove into the shower to wash the sweat off. 

When she breezed into the living room, she found Daniel reading a newspaper by the pool on one of the loungers. He dropped the paper down to admire her legs, then set it aside altogether as she straddled his lap. When she kissed him, he rested his hands on her hips, thumbs skimming her skin just above the waistband of her shorts. His touch sent shivers right up her spine … in a very good way.

Daisy came up for air, shoving her hair off her face. Daniel passed her a bagel and orange juice as she rearranged herself to sit between his legs.  

The juice was better than coffee, given her stupidly long run, though she muttered, "There better be java in the pot after this."

"Of course." 

Those words never failed to make her soften inside. Then she discovered the cheese bagel had eggs on it, too. "Danny-boy, are you bugging me about eating enough again?"

"Just taking care of my girl. There's a plain cheese one in the bag, if you'd rather have that."

Not only was the bagel good, the eggs made it better. She glared at him anyway as she took a big bite.

He grinned.

Half a bagel later, she set it aside when another chill wracked her body. Jemma had thoroughly checked her over last week and determined they were perfectly normal, given what Daisy had experienced.

"Come on." Daniel leaned back on the lounger, drawing her down to his chest so he could warm her with his body.

“Yeah. Okay.” She went willingly, turning her head to set her ear on his heart. His lovely heat warmed her nicely.

Daniel lazily skimmed his fingers along her spine, deftly skirting anything that might make her move. “So, if Fitzsimmons is what you want,” he asked carefully, “what does that say about us?” 

She tensed at the question. “You really want to ask that now?”

“Seems important, if we’re going to lead up a team and head out into space.” 

“Don’t—” Scared of screwing this up, she slid her arms around Daniel’s neck, inhaling his coffee-vanilla scent to get a hold of herself. 

“Don’t what?” He rubbed her back, tightening his arms around her. “I’m not picking a fight, darling. But I need to know what’s going on in your head.” He stroked her cheek with his thumb. The sweetness of it made her stomach twist, even as she leaned into his touch. 

“I don’t know.” She lost her breath, panting as her brain spiraled with fear. Everything from the last few months flashed through her mind, from the temple to the time jumps to the hotel and the beach. And here. 

"Sweetheart, you've been on edge for a couple of days now. Did we find a brick wall?” 

“No. I don’t know," she said again, shoving upward to straddle him. Her knees pressed into the cushion as she rubbed her arms and legs. Goosebumps broke out, and she folded her arms around her middle in a futile effort to stop the trembling.

"Hey, hey, Daisy, I've got you. I promise." Daniel leaned up on his elbow, worry clear as day on his face as he cupped the back of her neck. Just as they'd done dozens of times these past weeks, Daisy focused on Daniel's eyes. She searched for any sign of hesitation or doubt on his part, and found only love and compassion.

With no little shock, she finally put a finger on what she was feeling. “I am terrified." 

“Of what? The mission? We don’t have to go.” Daniel's concern only made her shiver even more.

We. Always we. “No. It’s not that at all.”

“Dais?” He sat up, eyes searching her face. 

She wanted to be here. With him. To see where they would go next. "I want this," she told him.

"I know," he assured her.

“I’m in love with you,” she blurted. 

Daniel stilled, stunned by her declaration. Then he let out a startled shout of delight, hands going to her face to kiss her soundly before clamping his arms around her in a hard hug. 

She didn’t know she was crying until he thumbed the tears off her cheeks with both hands. She curled her hands around his wrists. “I didn’t know I was going to say that.” 

He smiled, bright and sure. “I’m glad you did.”  

 

Sublease Agreement: Day 57

Three small words in a short phrase shouldn’t have had such an outsized impact, but in the past forty-eight hours, Daisy could see how badly Daniel had needed to hear them. 

For all that he’d been open and willing with her, there was something wide-eyed and innocent about the way he tracked her movements now — marveling, really, that she was still here. 

If anyone had told her that Daniel Sousa would be giddy with happiness, she wouldn’t have believed them. But the small, delighted smile he carried around told her he’d harbored doubts that he could be loved the way he wanted -- which made her pretty damned determined to do exactly that.

Saying, “I love you,” got easier, because his heartbeat danced each time she said it. 

 

Sublease Agreement: Day 58

Daisy discovered she wasn’t breaking out in goosebumps anymore. 

She sighed as she texted a note to Jemma, admitting that the chills were probably psychosomatic and had everything to do with refusing to admit she was in love with her boyfriend. 

Jemma texted back a smiley face and a thumbs up. Told you it had something to do with what you experienced.

 

Sublease Agreement: Day 59

Daniel propped his head on his elbow as he dragged his finger and thumb through Daisy’s hair again and again. In the wake of their lovemaking, she slept curled up against him, fingers resting on his scars. 

In 1955, he’d been an old man doing his best to make a difference with a life that hadn’t turned out the way he'd wanted. Happiness seemed to be a lost cause, but he'd done some good with what he had. He'd left a legacy, and that wasn't a bad thing. 

Four months -ish, a quantum leap, and six decades later, he’d fallen hard in love with Daisy — and for the wonder of it all — she loved him back. 

It wasn’t easy. Daisy was, for lack of a better word, a mess. But he’d had no illusions about what he was getting into with her. People like Daisy didn’t get that way without going through hell and back a few times, and in her case, a few more times than that. She was a brilliant, complicated puzzle, and it took all of his wits to stay by her side and to be what she needed. She would peel herself open for him with truths that made his heart ache, then she would dodge an issue for days when she had no idea what to make of it. Her expectations of him were ridiculously low.

But they could work on that.

Maybe this was an advantage of both of them being a little older. At twenty, one believes in fate and luck. At thirty, one rolls up the sleeves and gets to work. Daniel was willing to fight for her with every ounce of skill he had. And with Fitzsimmons as her goal, Daisy fought her own demons for what she wanted — which, apparently, was him.

Honestly, Daniel hadn’t expected Daisy to go all in, and he'd made himself be okay with that. It seemed that said more about him than her. Maybe Daisy wasn't the only one with low expectations.

They could work on that, too.

He wound a lock of her hair around his finger and let it slide off.

She mumbled something incoherent and wiggled closer to him, as if there was any space left between them.

Daniel grinned and dropped a kiss on her shoulder — just because he could.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Forty-Eight

 

Sublease Agreement: Day 274

They had no time to prepare for this. In one moment, they were training on Z3 with the new team. In the next, alarms sounded as a massive earthquake shook the ocean floor below them. It was S.H.I.E.L.D.’s dumb luck to have the resources and the right person close enough to possibly prevent another Christmas Day tsunami disaster.

Kora’s trainer dropped the quinjet onto Mack’s helicarrier. The ship had landed in the ocean waters well in advance of the oncoming tsunami waves. This far out from shore, they would pass beneath with a barely noticeable rise.

Director Sousa rattled off clear instructions to both the Z3 crew and the helicarrier teams working this op. Daisy listened as he lined out the safety protocols they would take, what teams he wanted in place, and where. 

She loved knowing he'd prepared for something like this. Daniel had burned hundreds of hours late at night, studying S.H.I.E.L.D.'s current structure and capabilities. He brought himself up to speed on tech with Daisy's help and science with Fitzsimmons'.

Daisy had rubbed his shoulders when he got the inevitable headache from staring at a screen too long.

He'd admirably demonstrated his readiness to lead Z3's crew. Now, Sousa snapped orders with an excellent understanding of what support the helicarrier could lend for this op.

One team inflated a large, sturdy life raft while another crew member helped Daisy into a wet suit and a life jacket. She checked the latches and zips on her gauntlets as she walked to the edge of the ship, watching the loading deck descend into the water. 

She touched her earpiece, clicking over one channel to the private one she had to Sousa. That had been her one request for this op: to have him and no one else on the line with her. As much as she liked Z3's new team, she wasn't ready to have her sister in on this. Too many things could go wrong here, and she needed the one person she was sure wouldn’t panic if that happened. "ETA?" she asked, stepping into the boat.

"Seven minutes, Agent Johnson."

Another crew member hooked her life jacket to a tether and connected it to the lifeboat. He jerked on the tether at both ends, then gave her a sharp salute.

She knelt in the middle of the boat, holding on to the straps. "Ready to launch, director."

"Launching in three-two-one," he told her. The boat slipped off the deck and into the cold ocean waters. 

Her stomach fell out from under her, but she held on tight as she oriented herself.

Without looking back at Sousa — mostly so none of the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents behind her could read her lips — she murmured, “This is gonna hurt.” 

“I know. I’ve got you.” She could hear the worry, but his calm kept her grounded. “I’m reading Fitzsimmons' in on the operation," he added. "They know what you can do better than anyone, and it will be good training for Z3’s team to see your abilities.”

She loved how he played this off as just another mission. It wasn’t, and they both knew it, but she loved him all the more for it. And she felt better with Fitzsimmons having their back. He knew that, too. 

The helicarrier rose in the air behind her, staying just above the wave action. 

Leaning over the side of the boat, Daisy plunged her hands into the cold water, reaching deep — first seeking, then finding the vibration in the floor of the earth itself. She could feel the tsunami approaching, heavier and more powerful than any wave she’d ever encountered on Earth. 

She used that vibration to create a frequency of her own, a disharmonic symphony that would break up the massive energy of the tsunami wave. She couldn’t stop it without creating another earthquake, and there was no uninhabited land mass she could pull down to block it. This would have to be pure power, and nothing like she’d ever done before. 

But they called her the Destroyer of Worlds. Surely she could do something about this. 

She breathed, centering herself in the way that May had taught. Daisy found the dissonance and let it grow, sending it further and further away. She created a five hundred mile line in the metaphorical sand and used the rhythm of the earth itself to do it. 

The waves around her began to dance as the dissonance grew, wildly rocking the raft about, but she wedged her feet into the straps at the edges and ignored the motion. She sank her mind deeper into the earth, feeling the rolling wave of the tsunami pressing against the ocean floor as it approached. 

Daniel counted down in her ear, his voice radiating confidence in her. "Five, four, three, two, one."

She fed pure power in opposite directions to create a “reef” of nothing more than vibrating energy, tall enough for her boat to find a perch on and yet still be grounded in the earth below. 

She was Daisy Johnson, an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., protecting the lives of thousands. 

The first tsunami wave smashed into her reef, shooting water a thousand feet into the air for hundreds of miles. She diverted a tiny bit of her energy to protect her and her raft from the falling water. Inside her bubble, she gasped as the wave broke, shattering into pieces as it rolled over her reef and on towards shore. 

But it would be at a fraction of the power it had before. 

She panted as she rested, draped over the side of the raft. 

"Status?" Sousa snapped through the comm.

"I'm good." She pushed up, giving a little wave over her head.

"Good to hear, sweetheart,” he said in a softer voice. “Next one is a little bigger. Three minutes out.”

“Yeah, that’s what they all say,” she quipped. 

Her boyfriend laughed softly in her ear. “Fitzsimmons tell me you took enough energy out of that last one to keep the surge to a five foot rise when it hits shore.” 

“Good job, Daisy,” she sassed. She could hear the smile in her boyfriend’s voice as he counted down again. 

When the next and most powerful wave approached, she sent her energies out once again, firming up her “reef.” The second tsunami wave smashed into it, creating a resonance of its own that echoed back through her as the wave, once again, shot high in the air for hundreds of miles. 

She felt her wrists crack, but she held on as the rest of the wave rolled through. She fell on her knees. “Sousa? How long?” she panted. 

“Four minutes, sweetheart. Looks like five total, with the two biggest in the bag.” 

“Piece of cake.” 

 

*****

 

Daniel kept his voice calm for Daisy, calling her sweetheart as the only concession to watching the love of his life protect tens of thousands of lives for no other reason than because she wanted to help. She handled the next two waves with experience now, though with draining strength. 

“Last one, Agent Johnson. Four minutes out.” 

“I get a nice warm bath after this right?” she quipped, breathing hard. 

“I’ll even put bubbles in it.” 

“That would be nice.” 

He could see her holding her forearms. He had two comm lines open, one in each ear. Daisy had one, the helicarrier and Z3 teams had the other. He muted the first so Daisy couldn’t hear him speaking. “Simmons, what are her gauntlets reading?”

“Both wrists are broken in at least three places. I don’t see how she’ll manage the next one.” 

“Copy that.” He opened the com again. “How are you holding up?” he asked Daisy. 

“Don’t ask questions you don’t want answers to.” 

“I can’t talk you out of this, right?” 

“Nope.” 

“Didn’t think so. Two minutes to contact.” 

“Copy that.” He could hear her breathing steady out as she set her hands in the water again. The surge of waves and bubbles marking the line she’d set grew wider and stronger as she fed power into it.  

“Thirty seconds. You’ve got this, sweetheart. And then we’re going home.” 

“That sounds nice. I miss our bed.” 

“Fifteen seconds.” 

“I miss our pool, too. Salt water makes my hair sticky.”

“Ten seconds.” 

“And seaweed tastes gross.”

“Four … three … two… one--” 

The wave smashed into her barrier--and then rolled right through it, curling over Daisy and taking her and the raft under the water. “Sou--” 

“Track her,” Sousa demanded. “Divers in the water now.” 

Four rescue swimmers tipped off the helicarrier and went straight into the ocean just past Daisy's dissipating barrier, each carrying a tracker that would latch onto her signal. 

“Stay with me, Daisy. There’s a team coming for you,” he assured her, though he had no idea if she was conscious enough to hear him. She’d survived being frozen in space, he reminded himself, counting the seconds. He couldn’t imagine how deep the falling water might be taking her, but as long as the tether to the life raft didn’t break, she would be okay. 

At one hundred fourteen seconds, the first diver broke the surface, signalling a thumbs up that they had Daisy. The second and third divers brought her out of the water. They’d strapped an oxygen mask to her. The last diver swam toward them with the raft in tow. 

The helicarrier dropped low enough for the waves to splash over the boat launch deck.

Sousa ordered, “Medical unit, move in for retrieval.” Another crew of four lifted Daisy out of the water and assisted the divers onto the deck.

The lead paramedic radioed in. “Agent Johnson is on board. She’s breathing, sir, heart rate is good. Transporting to medical.” 

“Copy that.” 

He asked for and received a confirmation that all the divers were on board before radioing the helicarrier pilot, “All Clear.”

“Sousa?” That was Mack, the newly appointed director of the helicarrier. “Report.” 

“Agent Johnson is on board and receiving medical attention. All crew accounted for.”

“Good job. Let her know she saved a lot of lives today. Dismissed.” 

Daniel fell in step with the medical team, keeping watch until the doctor and her team finished their triage and initial treatment. His phone lit up as news of the earthquake, the tsunami, and Daisy’s actions hit the airwaves. 

Mack's idea, he was sure. It was good press. S.H.I.E.L.D. could always use good press.

Daniel fielded texts from the rest of Daisy’s family, assuring them she was okay. 

Kora tapped on the doorway, looking wan from the press of people. He jumped up to let her in. 

“Is she okay?” she asked.

“She’ll be fine.” Daniel lifted an arm, and Kora wound around him for a hug. 

“I don’t know how you stay so calm.” She knuckled away a tear. “Daisy didn’t think twice about doing that.” 

“No.”

“And you’re okay with her practically killing herself?" Kora demanded. "That’s not even the first time this year.”

Daniel rested his chin on Kora’s head as he kept an eye on Daisy. “Am I okay with it? No. Is there any point in trying to stop her? Also, no. Am I grateful she doesn’t make me choose between thousands of people and her? Yes. Because that’s not a decision I can live with.” 

Kora pulled back, looking up in shock. “I didn't think of it that way.” 

“Daisy does. She lets me back her up, though, which means I can have whatever extraction or rescue plan in place I think she needs. It means she’ll take a life jacket, a boat, a tether, and have teams standing by to assist. Today? All those things probably saved her life. I can live with that.” 

The last medic left Daisy resting on the bed, hooked up to an IV and with her arms splinted once again. She nodded to Daniel, saying, “Agent Johnson needs to rest. This is mostly exhaustion and some pain. We’ll need to take a longer look to see if her wrists can be set without surgery, but she’ll recover fully, in any case.”

“Thank you.” 

“Yes, sir.” The medic closed the door behind her. 

Kora sat on the edge of the bed, studying Daisy. Then she set her hands gently on her sister’s arms, a soft glow appearing between them. “I think I understand.” 

She still didn’t have the patience to sit with her sister in recovery, and Daniel sent her off with the rest of Z3’s team to take advantage of dinner on the helicarrier for the night. 

With the room clear and Daisy on the mend, he pulled up a chair next to the bed. He rested a hand on her knee, dozing off as a way to come down from the adrenaline rush of the mission.

The medic interrupted once (at thirty-seven minutes into his nap) to scan Daisy's arms. She muttered about Inhuman abilities, so Kora must have confessed what she'd done. After the medic left, Daniel got a text from Simmons with a happy face and a long string of instructions.

He rested his head on the bed next to Daisy's leg. 

A twitch of her knee roused him. He checked the clock again: ninety-two minutes. 

Daisy opened her eyes, giving him a soft smile when she registered he was there. "Hey."

"Hey. You did good, sweetheart.” 

“It worked?”

“Of course it did. That’s why they call you, ‘Quake,’ right?” he teased.

That got a weary smirk and a roll of her eyes.

Daniel pointed a remote at the television tucked up in the corner of the room and flicked it on. On every news channel, there was the drone video of Daisy taking on the powerful tsunami all by herself in the middle of the ocean, along with footage of the residual, much smaller, waves breaking on the shoreline of the nearby islands. 'Quake stops tsunami, saving thousands' scrolled across the bottom of the screen.

“See?” 

Daisy gave him another faint smile. “Team?”

“All good. We’re staying put until Mack’s docs are ready to let you go.” She scowled, and he added, “I think your sister might have saved you from surgery. You did a pretty good number on your arms. Kora did something about that. Simmons was pleased with the last set of scans.” 

Daisy brightened as she came fully awake. “Did we know she could do that?”  

Daniel lifted a shoulder. “I don’t think we really know what all Kora can do. But I’ll bet we'll find out.” 

That made her smile again. Then her eyes sharpened, looking him over. "Are you okay? Is she okay?"

He rested a hand on her hip, squeezing it lightly. "Yes, and yes."

She nodded, covering a yawn with the back of a splinted hand. 

"Hey, don't do that. And you could use some more rest," he chided, gently catching her hands and setting them on her lap. 

"But I'm hungry," she whined before scowling at him. "And I'll bet you haven't eaten either."

He knew better than to lie. "I was waiting on my girlfriend," he said instead.

Daisy’s eyes softened. "You are not that charming," she insisted. She nudged the button with the hard plastic of the splint to call the medic.

He scowled at her this time for using her arms again. 

A short conversation over the com got the promise of food for both of them delivered in a half hour. Satisfied, Daisy rested her head on the pillow. "I might sleep 'til it gets here,” she admitted. 

"Sounds like a good idea," he agreed.

"You need to check on the team." 

"I could, but Elena is on board, remember? She's got them in the dining hall and is telling stories to scare them. But I will, if that's what you need me to do, because I'd rather be here."

Daisy got that faint pout of frustration that he found adorable, but wouldn’t dare admit to it. They’d been together for almost a year now, and she still struggled to tell him what she wanted. 

“You’ll stay?” she ventured.  

“Of course.” 

He loved that frustrated pout, because the smile that blossomed in the aftermath of finding out she could have what she really wanted made his heart sing every damned time. 

When Daisy’s smile turned smug, he knew he was in for a little teasing. “Didn’t you promise me a bubble bath?” she demanded. 

Daniel grinned. “I did. And I have no idea how I’m going to make that happen.” 

“Chop, chop, Danny-boy.” She lifted her splinted arms. “I'm gonna need help washing up.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Stay: Epilogue

 

Sublease Agreement: Day 730

Instead of meeting in the Framework this year, the whole team — with the sole exception of Mack — arrived en masse at Daisy and Daniel’s safe house in LA. Daisy had a corner set up in the living room with a full-sized video feed for her brother. He could see the whole crowd, and there was always someone keeping him company. At the moment, it was Bobbi and Hunter. 

Daisy rubbed the titanium ring around her thumb, a habit she’d picked up when she’d bought it eight months ago in a flea market on Cherin. It wasn’t any better than her habit of playing with her necklace, and Daniel had been the one to encourage her to leave both on the ship while they were being astro ambassadors. 

She sipped her mojito as she counted heads … May, Coulson, Fitzsimmons and Alya. Bobbi and Hunter. Mack. Yo-Yo had dragged Piper and Davis along. Kora was in the pool with Flint and another of their friends from the Academy. Daniel was out on the deck with Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes, and yes, Coulson was fanboying — goofy heart eyes and all —  all the way from the kitchen, where he’d made himself the bartender for the day. 

“You look happy,” AC announced. 

“I am,” she answered. “I didn’t know it could be like this.” 

May drifted over to lean on the island, a couple of inches closer to Coulson than was strictly necessary. “Careful, Agent Johnson, this looks awfully domestic.” 

“It’s just a party. You know we’re leaving in a month for another mission.” 

“You didn’t bring any of your crew,” May noted. 

“Not this time. We’re swapping out about half the team. Space isn’t for everyone.” Daisy kept an eye on the house party, smiling reflexively at all the happy people here. Kora and her friends clambered out of the pool, leaving the waves to settle into their usual ripples from the waterfall. 

“Can’t imagine why,” May said, rolling her eyes. “Weren’t you supposed to go back out already?”  

Daisy nodded. “We were only planning to be dirtside for a couple of months, but with all the newbies, we needed time to gel as a team.” She heard Daniel’s heartbeat change cadence. She clocked him on the patio, laughing with his old friends as they tapped bottles of beer together. She wondered what was up. 

“Daisy?” That was May, concerned. 

“Uh, everything is okay. I thought I heard something,” Daisy replied. “How’s the Academy? Have you convinced AC to teach a class or two?” 

May and Coulson traded looks that were a little more heated than Daisy really wanted to see, even if it made her happy. 

“I think I agreed to a clinic, but I was under duress, so I’m not exactly sure,” Coulson said drily. 

Daisy set her drink down to clap her hands to her ears. “I don’t need to know about mom and dad’s sex life, got it? Got it. Moving on. Hey, Mom? Have you noticed how Dad can’t stop goggling at Sousa, Rogers, and Barnes? I’m pretty sure he’s going to go find his trading cards if we aren’t careful.”

Coulson shot her a dirty look. “You put all of your childhood heroes in one room and see how you do.” 

May laughed. “Sousa seems happy to have them here.” 

“He is. It’s made things easier for all of them. You should hear them when they start talking about things they did in Brooklyn. Makes some of my stuff look positively angelic." 

"Sousa, too?"

Daisy grinned. She wasn't about to steal Daniel's thunder by retelling some of those stories. "You'll have to ask him."

Alya touched her wrist. “Auntie Daisy? I think I left my flip-flops in your room, but Mama says I can’t go in there without you.” 

Rolling her eyes at Jemma, who wrinkled her nose at the pair of them from across the living room, Daisy took her niece’s hand and walked to the bedroom. Tiny purple sandals poked out from under the bed. 

Alya pounced on them. “There they are!” She scampered down the hall, calling a thank you over her shoulder. 

Daisy idly touched her hula dancer on the dresser, then slicked on another layer of lip gloss. She swept a look around the room, trailing her fingers along the quilt that was neatly folded at the foot of their bed. 

Daniel had made it that morning; apparently the army was very good at teaching square corners, and Daisy just didn’t care enough about that kind of thing. So they compromised. She would pull the covers straight and fold up the quilt. If Daniel really wanted it to look perfect, he’d come along behind her and tuck everything in--which was only about half the time. 

The last two years had been pretty fantastic; crazy, of course, because S.H.I.E.L.D. was never boring. But having her family still together was everything. And Daniel—

She stroked the ring on her thumb and returned to the party. 

It seemed like everyone had jammed into the living room for a refill. Coulson passed out drinks, with Fitz and Hunter giving him an assist. Alya scooted right up to Bobbi, chattering away about something-biochemical-something that Daisy didn’t have a clue about. Bobbi flashed Daisy a smile and nudged her head in the slightest tilt toward the center of the room—

—where Daniel stood, surrounded by friends and family. His staccato heartbeat gave away his nerves. Barnes had a hand on Daniel’s shoulder. 

And then she knew why. She took a half-step backward, hardly aware that she did it. 

Yo-Yo was there, with a hand to the small of Daisy’s back and a reassuring smile. “I’m pretty sure that’s not what you really want to do,” she whispered. 

Daisy gave her a sharp look, then realized what she’d done. “No, it’s not.” She took the five steps to close the distance between her and her boyfriend. “All right, Danny-boy, what’s on your mind?” she demanded. 

Daniel took her hands, his pretty brown eyes sparkling now as his pulse settled into the rhythm she knew better than her own heartbeat. “I’d like to renegotiate our sublease,” he announced. 

There was a ripple of laughter in the room, because they all knew how Daniel had talked Daisy into making this work. 

“What do you want?” 

“Half a bed, instead of a third.” 

“That’s ... a lot. Is that all?” 

“Mmm, I think it will do for now.” 

Daisy’s heart thumped madly. Like that day by the pool, she already knew how this would play out. This time though, he wasn’t sweating her reaction, and she was going to enjoy the moment. “And what will I get for it?” 

Daniel went down on one knee, holding up his mom’s wedding ring. She recognized the engravings along the band. “This. I’d like to marry you, Daisy Johnson … right now.” 

“Ah, what, now?” She crossed her arms, glaring at him as she processed that whole sentence. No matter how much she thought this might be coming, her cagey boyfriend had sneaked into her blind spot. 

His eyes danced. “We both know it might be five years before we get everyone here again. And the more you think about a wedding, the more freaked out you’re going to get, and really, it’s not about the wedding, it’s about the after, and we’ve kind of been doing that all along. I’d like to make it official.” He winced. “As official as it’s going to get with an off-the-books wedding in front of all of our family and friends.” 

“You are so square. This is a ticky box you need to check, right?” she needled, with her arms still crossed. “You like to be that someone who buys a house, dates, marries, that kind of thing?”

Still on his knee, Daniel shrugged without taking his eyes off hers. “Not for everyone.” He grinned as he waited for her answer.

Did Daisy want to be tied to this sneaky dork who charmed her as much as he loved her? Of course, she did. "Okay." 

"Okay, what?" 

“Yes, I’ll marry you. Right now.” 

As the whole room exploded into cheers and clapping, Daniel scooped Daisy into a hard hug and a kiss that was definitely inappropriate for the company. She really, really didn't care.

 

Kora and Yo-Yo dragged Daisy into her sister's bedroom, where a rainbow of dresses had been stashed in the closet. 

“What color?” Kora insisted. 

“What color, what?” Daisy asked in confusion. She was fazed, for sure. 

“What color dress do you want to get married in?” 

“Ah, yellow?” 

Kora chortled as she pulled out a bold yellow sheath dress from the colorful selection. “Elena was right.” 

Yo-Yo snickered as she texted on her phone. 

“What are you doing?” Daisy asked Yo-Yo.

“Letting everyone know that you picked yellow. Kora and I won the betting pool." She laughed at something she read, then turned her phone to Daisy where a text was nothing but a string of yellow and white flowers. "Bobbi’s making your bouquet.” 

Daisy blinked, clocking on the reality that her sisters were in on Daniel's scheme. “Is this why everyone showed up?”

“No,” Yo-Yo answered, “But when it looked like we could all come, your boy floated the idea.“

“I think I’m glad he did.” 

“Me too. He's right, you know. If we give you too long to think about it, you’ll be two states over in a stolen Honda. It would take us months to find you and another month for you to end up doing this anyway, except you’d be pissed at yourself for panicking and we’d all be exhausted. This way, we skip all that and have a lot of fun. Do you have shoes for this dress?” 

Daisy sighed. “That’s … accurate.” 

“Shoes?” Yo-Yo prompted again, this time with a broad smile that lit up her whole face. 

“Mmm, white ones. In my closet.” Daisy held up the dress, studying herself in the cheval mirror. The yellow was the same color as the sweater she’d worn in Daniel’s office ages ago. “Hey, do you think Jemma can do my hair again like she did in the 50’s?” 

“Oh. That would be pretty. I’ll get your shoes and ask.” 

As soon as Yo-Yo left, Kora darted over to give Daisy a hug. “I’m really happy. For you. For all of us.”

Daisy pressed her forehead to Kora’s, grateful that her sister and Daniel adored each other. The last couple of years had been different without Coulson’s team, but Kora and Daniel had made it pretty wonderful. 

“You want this, right?” Kora pulled back to peer into Daisy’s face. “You’re happy and you’re nervous, but you don’t feel scared.” 

“I am, sort of,” Daisy told her. “But you guys know me too well. If I don’t do this now, something will happen. I don’t want that.” 

Kora laughed. “Then get dressed. Bobbi found some serious wedding night lingerie to go under this thing.”  

Daisy shimmied into a silk chemise that clung in all the right places. Jemma bustled into the room with a curling iron and pins, and Alya flounced onto the bed in a bright green party dress. May, Bobbi, and Piper squeezed into the room after Yo-Yo, and Daisy discovered they’d all sneaked cocktail dresses and pretty pantsuits into Kora’s closet. 

There was perfume and hairspray and makeup scattered everywhere. Daisy bit her lip, trying not to leak tears as they jammed into the room. 

May glared at her. “Don’t cry.” 

“Yes, ma’am.” 

May’s scowl only brightened Daisy’s mood. Jemma shooed her onto the bed to fix her hair while Bobbi freshened her makeup.

"I like your man," Bobbi told her. "Hard to beat a legend." Like Coulson, Bobbi had a little bit of hero worship for The Real Daniel Sousa, but she'd been better at covering it. Hunter had been the one to spill the beans, of course.

"He's a dork. Really."

"And Hunter isn't?" Bobbi asked slyly, as she deepened the eye shadow on Daisy's lids.

Daisy laughed. "True. Apparently, we have a type."

"They're sticky little bastards. Can't get rid of them. Believe me, I tried. I don't recommend it."

"I kind of figured that one out."

"Hold still while I do your lips. This is the good stuff, so you can kiss Sousa all you want and won't leave a mark."

As Bobbi finished, Jenna curled Daisy's hair. It wasn’t exactly the same as ‘55 -- Daisy didn’t have time to wash and tame her waves -- but it was close enough that Daniel would recognize the style. 

"There. You look gorgeous," Jemma told her, after zipping her into the yellow dress.

A wedding dress. Daisy threw herself into Jemma's arms, desperately needing a hug right this second.

"Don't cry!" the entire room chorused.

Jemma managed to give her the hug she needed without crushing the dress, and Daisy had no idea how she pulled that off. "Better?" Jemma asked, as Daisy straightened up and stepped into her heels.

She nodded. Bobbi deposited a bouquet into her hands, looking smug as she did.

“Bobbi, this is gorgeous!” Made up of white and yellow daisies with lilacs, the whole bouquet was tied with a bright red string. 

May touched the ribbon. “That was from my wedding. Now it’s yours.” 

Flabbergasted at the gesture, Daisy scolded, “If you make me cry, Mom, I will kick your ass the next time we spar.”

“You can try,” May snarked. “But don’t count on it.” She patted Daisy on the shoulder and slipped out of the room.

Daisy closed her eyes, breathing in. The scent of the lilacs sent her brain straight back to that scene on the kitchen countertop. Not only was the sex that day fantastic, but that night had been the turning point in her relationship with Daniel. They had both made mistakes these past two years — and they'd had a couple of arguments that were real doozys — but they'd found ways to work things out.

She opened her eyes to find the room empty, except for Jemma. “Hey.”

“You look beautiful.” 

Daisy looked down at her dress and flowers. “Who would have thought, right? Me?” 

Jemma laughed. “You, no. Sousa, yes. But we compromise. He waited long enough.” 

“Longer than I expected.” Glaring at her sister, Daisy asked suspiciously, “Did you send your daughter to distract me with her flip-flops so Danny-boy could stage this whole thing?”

“Would I do that?”

“Um, yeah.” 

Jemma laughed. “She did well, too. You didn’t suspect a thing.”

“Good to know I have to watch out for my niece now," Daisy grumbled, though she was proud of Alya's sneaky spy skills.

“Are you ready?” 

“I think so. Am I going to recognize the house when I come out?”

“Probably not. But that’s what happens when you give a dozen current and former S.H.I.E.L.D. agents a mission and a deadline.” Jemma kissed her cheek. “See you in a minute.” 

Daisy sat in the room alone, amused at Daniel’s way of dodging her issues — and the fact that her entire family was willing to collude with him. With a deep breath, she tugged her pendant to make sure it was in place over her dress, then rose and walked to the door. 

From the hallway, she searched out Daniel’s heartbeat with her Inhuman senses. The steady tempo calmed her, as it always did.

Nat King Cole and Natalie Cole’s Unforgettable played on the record player — another tale of two timelines coming together for a unique story. Daisy smiled, knowing Daniel had picked that one out. 

AC met her in the hall, looking good as usual in his Dolce. 

She brushed an invisible piece of lint off his lapel. “Are you giving me away?” The thought made her heart ache in a weird way. 

He gave her a knowing smile. “No. I’m just walking with you. Mostly to make sure you want to do this. It’s a little rushed.” 

Daisy lifted a shoulder. “It’s all good.” 

“Then I’m happy for you.” Coulson held out his elbow for her to take. 

 

The living room furniture had been cleared to make room. Flowers filled every surface. Someone had come up with a colorful wedding cake decorated with the same flowers as her bouquet and set it on the dining room table. Bunting and ribbon framed out Mack’s corner, where he waited with a book in hand. He’d changed into a dashing suit. 

Every one of their friends had dressed up for the occasion, making this feel a little more real. Jemma, Kora, and Yo-Yo stood for her as her sisters. Steve and Bucky stood for Daniel as his brothers. Everyone else gathered in a half-circle to watch. Fitz had a camera all set up to film the whole thing.

Daniel waited in front of Mack for Daisy to join him. Her fiancé of thirty minutes looked stunning in his dark blue suit. Someone had stuck a yellow daisy in his lapel and pinned it there. 

Daisy studied Mack, “Are you going to say the right things?” she asked him, mostly to cover her nerves.

“Nope. You are. I’m just here to keep you from forgetting your lines.” 

“I have lines?” she quipped, passing off her bouquet to Jemma as Daniel reached for her hand. “This might get dicey.”

“I have faith,” Mack rumbled. “I have faith in both of you. We all do. And that’s why we’re here.” 

Daniel looked half smug and half nervous as hell, but his heartbeat stayed steady and true as he held Daisy’s hands, with his thumbs running over her knuckles. 

Mack continued, “Love isn’t easy. It takes dedication when things get hard. It takes honesty and patience, with yourself and your loved ones. It requires respect and kindness. If we’re lucky, love sparks joy. And when it does, it’s everything we hope for.”  He looked at Daniel and Daisy in turn. “Everyone here has witnessed that joy.” 

He nodded at Daniel. “Your turn.” 

Daniel squeezed Daisy's hands. "I said to the lady sitting at my desk, 'Who the hell are you?' She had the audacity to reply, 'Who I am is on a need to know basis.’” 

She smiled at the memory. 

"Dais, I'll say again, I need to know. Because I'm so in love with you. These past two years have been fantastic, and I can’t wait for our tomorrows."

He glanced at Mack while Daisy gripped Daniel's hands hard. For the first time in ages, she shivered, just a little.

Mack nodded, and Barnes held out the ring.

Daniel took it, setting it on the tip of Daisy's third finger. "Daisy Johnson, I promise to love, honor, and cherish you for all the days of our lives.” He slid his mom’s ring onto her hand. The band was old, but the silvery borders at the top and bottom were new. They both laughed when they each had to wipe away a tear at the sight of it on her hand. 

“Titanium alloy,” Daniel murmured, rubbing his thumb over the edges, “like your necklace. Fitz did it.” 

They’d made it so she couldn’t quake her wedding ring. “Danny-boy, if you make me cry, May’s going to kick your ass,” she muttered, swallowing a lump in her throat.

“Too late, I think,” he whispered back. He took both of her hands in his again. 

“Daisy?” Mack prompted. 

She had no time to do anything but speak from her heart. She squeezed Daniel’s hands again, asking, “Did we actually agree on a revised sublease?” 

Daniel blinked, stunned speechless for a long moment. “Ah, maybe? I have a ring, you have half a bed. You agreed to marry me. But I don’t know that we … I guess we didn’t.” 

From her vantage point, Daisy could see Rogers and Barnes trying not to crack up laughing at their friend’s chagrin. They sucked at it.

“Uh huh.” She pursed her lips. “What about a ring for you? Is that in addition to half a bed? I don’t think that was part of the negotiation.”

“I don’t need one, sweetheart,” Daniel said in confusion, though he gave her a slow smile as he followed her lead. 

Happy that he’d clued in, she mock-glared at him. “If I’m wearing one, you’re wearing one.” Daisy tugged the ring off her thumb and held it up. “I saw you looking at it on Cherin.” 

Startled, he affirmed, “I did. But you seemed to like it so much, I didn't have the heart to tell you I liked it too.”

Daisy snickered, remembering how she'd made a big deal about how nicely it fit her thumb. “I couldn’t exactly sneak it onto Z3. You would have found it sooner or later.” 

“But that was months ago,” Daniel said in astonishment. "So .. you've been wearing my wedding ring this whole time?" 

She shrugged, sliding the ring back on her thumb. “I knew you’d get around to this. Eventually. So what’s it going to be? You get a ring and half a bed. I’m getting a ring and a what?” 

“I don’t know,” he said helplessly, with an adorable look of utter confusion. “What do you want?"

He would ask it that way. 

The words stuck. She couldn't say it, not here and not in front of everyone — especially since she wasn't sure at all and didn't want any promises, except maybe to talk about it someday. 

She flicked a look at Alya, though, and Daniel's eyes widened. "You want—"

"A non-cancellation clause with no expiration," she interjected.

Daniel gave her a startled, understanding smile. “I think I just agreed to that with the vows, but I’m willing to append our sub-lease for clarification, if you’ll accept that and the ring as my offer.” 

Daisy took his left hand, turning it over so she could slide the ring off her thumb and onto his finger, where it fit perfectly. "I accept." Then she held both of his hands, not needing any prompting from Mack. She kissed Daniel’s knuckles, with light dancing off both of their rings. "You said to me once that you’re not the kind of guy who gives up when things get hard. But I already knew that about you, way before I fell in love with you. I still think you’re a little bonkers for wanting to be with someone like me, but I’m really glad you do.” She swallowed hard. “I love you, Daniel Jordan Sousa. I always will," she said simply. “Spending the rest of our lives together sounds,” she nodded, “pretty nice.” 

As anxiety and happiness warred for her attention, a tiny quake rippled through Daisy. Daniel held her hands through it, then pulled her into the sweetest kiss as Mack said something about them being married now.

Daisy wasn’t listening. It was only when she and Daniel came up for air that she realized the noise of everyone clapping and cheering was deafening. 



The party didn’t end until the wee hours of the morning. Daisy and Daniel didn’t want to miss a moment with their family and friends, nor did they want to leave the house. They’d be gone soon enough for the next long mission. 

Kora shooed out the last of the party. She’d packed a go bag and was headed for the house Fitzsimmons had rented for everyone. “Don’t worry about the clean up,” she told Daisy. “We made arrangements for dinner for you guys tomorrow night. Lanita’s sending in a crew to clean up while you’re out. I’ll be back in a few days. Enjoy your honeymoon.” 

Daisy hugged her sister. “Thank you.” Kora grinned and gave Daniel a quick hug before skipping out the door and climbing into the car with her friends.

Daniel locked up as Daisy turned off all the lights. He carried his coat, she carried her shoes and her bouquet, and they walked hand-in-hand to their bedroom.

She noted her boyfr— no, her husband’s limp — and wow, that was weird —  that was surely from the long day, and she wanted nothing more than to help him shed the leg so he’d be comfortable. 

They’d no sooner cleared the doorway when Daniel tossed his coat on the bed and pressed Daisy up against the wall with his hands in her hair and a possessive kiss that made her toes dig into the floor. “I’ve been smelling those damned lilacs all day,” he said with a groan. “All I can think of is laying you out on the bed and tasting you.” 

Daisy laughed as she set her shoes on the floor and the flowers on their dresser — next to a silver bucket with a bottle of champagne chilling in it that someone had left in their room. “We can do that.” She reached for him, hooking her finger over one suspender and dragging it down his shoulder as she unfastened the buttons of his shirt with her other hand. “We can definitely do that.” 

Daniel pressed her hand flat against his chest, stopping her. “You … you’re okay with all this. Today, I mean.” 

Daisy gave him an incredulous look. “You’re asking me that now?”

“I might have missed a step,” he admitted. “Though it seems you’ve been wearing my wedding ring, and that makes me think I didn’t screw this up.” 

“Today was perfect,” she told him with a reassuring smile. “Take the win, Danny-boy.” She kissed his cheek, cupping his jaw with her hand as she did. “You read the situation right, and you got the girl who happens to be stupidly in love with you.” 

Daniel caught her hand, pressing a kiss into her scarred palm. “You’ve got the guy who is stupidly in love with you, too.” 

Because it meant everything to her, Daisy wound her arms around his neck to say as lightly as she could manage, “Out of two timelines and seven decades, what I’ve got is the one square dork who is okay with all of this.” She gave him a wry smile. “In 1976, you made a call. To stay.” 

“You made the same call in 2019,” Daniel reminded her, his whole face softening.

“I know. But that wasn’t the same thing. I didn’t really want to go."

“Daisy,” Daniel said with a low, sensuous chuckle, as he slid one hand up her spine to catch the zipper at the back of her neck, “Neither did I.”