Everybody thinks she is going back on the field too soon. In fact there’s a very loud three-person argument (Daisy being the fourth, silent one) in Coulson’s office when he supports her decision against May’s and Mack’s concerned advise. It’s not a pretty scene but Coulson stands by it.
And the mission hasn’t gone wrong. He didn’t really have to help but he went in with the assault team to clean up the mess and in the resulting fight Coulson’s leg was bruised. The bad leg. Which is why he’s sitting in - more like spread on - the couch, groaning, and Daisy is putting some ice cubes inside a towel.
“You don’t have to do that,” he tells her.
He knows he should have gone to the med bay, probably, but it’s such a minor thing (and he’s trying to get used to that leg not getting back to 100% ever) that he thought just resting would do the trick.
“I know I don’t have to do this,” she says sitting by his side and handing him some painkillers. She sounds annoyed at his tone.
She rolls up the fabric of his pants, exposing the bruised area around the cut. It’s been two months. Maybe it was too soon for Daisy to come back on the field but Coulson can’t help but thinking, Daisy being Daisy and given all the damage she caused while under control, that saving a couple of lives would do her good.
Maybe she thinks this would do her good too, kneeling by his side and applying the ice to his swollen shin. That’s why Coulson lets her do it, even if it makes him uncomfortable. It’s not too much of a sacrifice. But he doesn’t like the image. And he doesn’t like thinking that she sees it as a reminder, the scar, or that she feels she owes him in some way.
“Thanks, you know?” she says, focusing on the task at hand, avoiding Coulson’s eyes for now. “For letting me go on the mission, for standing up for me.”
“I didn’t know if it was too soon for you or not,” he confesses. It’s been two months and he’s sure of nothing. “I just knew undermining your confidence would be counter-productive.”
She moves the ice to one side and he can feel her fingers brushing the hair on his leg.
“You’re a good boss, you know,” she says.
Coulson presses his lips together.
“You don’t have to make it sound like it’s a surprise. Or a secret.”
Daisy smiles back.
“No, it’s just - you’re a good friend. Sometimes I forget you are a good boss too. You take care of me as an agent, that’s important.”
He feels awkward around her gratitude; he keeps thinking of all the things he should have done to stop Hive from taking over her, how he can never apologize or make it up to her, and how it stings that Daisy being Daisy she doesn’t seem to have even a shred of resentment for him, for bringing that monster back to the planet. Coulson thinks he’d feel better if he’d catch her sometime looking at him with anger or bitterness. But he never does.
“Now I get to take care of you,” Daisy adds, pressing the ice against his leg again, a soft smile insinuating on the left corner of her mouth, like she’s just happy to do so.
It doesn’t last though. Her expression darkens.
“This,” she says, drawing her index over the scar on his leg. “It will never stop hurting a bit. Will it?”
They’ve been careful around the subject of what she did under Hive’s control for the most part. Coulson knows she’s not one to wallow but rather she tries to make it up to people, to prove to herself that she is capable of good things.
That’s why Coulson doesn’t feel like lying to her.
“It will always hurt,” he tells her. Trying to sound like it’s fine with him. Which it is. Small price to pay.
“Small price to pay,” Daisy says.
“What do you mean?”
“For a moment back there,” she says and Coulson doesn’t have to ask what back there means. “You seemed happy to sacrifice your life. I know how you feel about killing Ward and starting… all that. But I’m glad it didn’t come to that.”
Not a lot of people would say that to him: I’m glad you’re alive.
And to be honest, after what happened, Coulson himself didn’t know if he would feel that way, ever. But Daisy’s words…
Yes, he’s glad too.
She wouldn’t think he’d be so restless, but maybe she should have guessed.
The arrangements had to be made in a rush, which neither of them like. The flat is bare and unwelcoming - she feels a bit bad, but the other option is for him to be looking over his shoulder until they catch this psycho - but at least it’s out of the way and discreet.
Coulson looks like he hates it, hates being pushed aside, and is about to change his mind about the whole plan and go back to the base with her.
Daisy touches his shoulder.
“You’re poison right now, you just have to lay low,” she says. He makes a grimace at poison. “Sorry.”
She leaves the groceries on the table.
“Is this necessary?” Coulson asks, a bit childish in all his impatience.
Daisy guesses is not every day the Director of SHIELD has to hide from a threat.
“You know you can’t leave, right?” she reminds him. It gives her a little thrill to be talking to him like he was a rookie agent because, after all, he once brought her to that cabin and expected her to just sit still until she learned to control her powers. Daisy knows he meant well but some sort of payback is still nice. “There are cameras and satellites outside and groups of trained assassins after you and a very pissed off bad guy.”
“So just let us protect you,” she tells him. “I’ll come back in a couple of days with more food. Use the satellite phone if you need anything.”
This time she squeezes his shoulder.
He looks kind of lonely and forlorn when she is about to leave. She feels like hugging him but she doesn’t. She has a million things on her mind and a murderer to catch and she has Coulson to protect first of all.
“I’m sorry about all this trouble,” he says, like he can’t let her go without saying something else.
When she comes back the next afternoon he’s still moping and the advances on the case are relative. He has cleaned up the place and somehow that makes it look more miserable.
She has brought beer - and good beer - to placate him a bit. And she has brought her excellent company.
“I shouldn’t be complaining, after all,” he says when they sit down on the couch. “It’s my own fault that I’m in this position.”
Daisy tilts her head.
“Hey, feel free to disagree,” Coulson chastises her.
She smiles. “You make some big gambles, sir. Some of them don’t pay off.”
Coulson takes a thoughtful sip, if sips can be thoughtful.
“You paid off.”
“So now it’s my fault?” she asks, amused. “I’m responsible for your willingness to trust people?”
He looks up at her with a goofy smile.
“Absolutely,” he says.
She smiles. She feels like doing something for him.
“Why don’t I make you some dinner?” she offers. “To make up for it.”
Coulson raises an eyebrow. She is completely offended at his lack of confidence on her cooking abilities.
“Yes, I can cook,” she argues, playfully slapping his arm. “We have you stuck here, the least I can do is prepare you dinner.”
“I’m going to make you mac n cheese,” she announced. He makes a face. “Hey, you don’t get to be picky.”
It’s about the only thing she’s confident she can make to Coulson’s standards. More or less.
But in the end he likes it. Or maybe he likes the distraction of talking to someone instead of getting all itchy because he can’t help the team right now.
It’s not exactly very domestic. The place is just a hole where he can hide. There’s nothing pretty or warm or welcoming about the flat, just functional. For a soldier. Daisy doesn’t like thinking about Coulson as a soldier.
But between the beer and the comfort food (you’re welcome) everything seems almost cozy for a moment.
She’s curious about something, though.
“When was the last time someone cooked dinner for you?” she asks Coulson as he, like a good host, puts the plates away.
“Outside missions?” he asks. He probably has some great anecdote about Director Fury making him a sandwich during a stakeout or something. Daisy is sure of that.
“Well, this is kind of a mission, but yeah.”
He thinks about it, with a slightly troubled expression like he really doesn’t remember the last time. There had to be a time - probably the last time was in a romantic context, right? The idea makes Daisy feel a bit uneasy, she doesn’t want Coulson to dig himself too deep into that.
“I’m usually the one who cooks,” he says, like he knows what Daisy is thinking.
There’s something sad about that, she thinks. He’s the superior chef, of course, and it makes sense, and rationally she knows that Coulson enjoys cooking. But - she’s not sure what she’s getting at, she just thinks someone should pamper him from time to time.
“It’s getting late,” she says, looking at the time and suddenly a bit embarrassed by her thoughts.
Coulson looks straight at her.
“You could stay here,” he says. “You’ll still be one call away from trouble.”
Wow. He must be really feeling unusual and not-Coulson to make such an offer.
“Or would that put me in even greater danger?” he asks, playing the victim who needs to be guarded by the brave SHIELD agent.
“Well, even so, I’m here to protect you,” she teases.
She feels lighter, talking to Coulson in this safe house, than she has felt in months, maybe even since before… since before all that.
“I’ll prepare the couch,” Coulson says. “It can’t be any worse than my bed.”
“That bad, uh?”
He tries to hide it but Daisy can see in his eyes how much he hates this. She would hate it too, if she were in his place.
She touches his elbow, not just to thank him for the offer.
“I’ll catch him soon,” she promises.
You’ll come home soon, she promises silently.
She hasn’t thought about home as such in a long time. Uh, she thinks, something shifting inside of her, the way she feels it as it happens. Home.
It makes sense for Daisy to have kept an eye on possible targets, especially after they knew Hive had Grant Ward’s memories. Still, it shocks him a bit. The fact that she has been keeping tabs on Audrey. Not keeping tabs… looking out for her. In a way Coulson, maybe selfishly, couldn’t.
“Are you mad I told you?” she asks him when they’re alone in his office. Her voice is full of doubt, like she really expects him to punish her for delivering the information. “I didn’t want to pry. It’s just that I thought it’d be bad if… if you didn’t know.”
Daisy is always looking for the flaw in the system. The chain of events that would precipitate Coulson to act on this without knowing. He had no intention of disturbing Audrey’s life again, but maybe Daisy thought that as long as there was a chance that he might want to...
“I can never tell her now,” he says, realizing on the spot.
“Yeah, I figured.”
Coulson gives her a questioning look.
“Well, you being you, you wouldn’t want to mess with her life now that she’s married. You’d think it’s unfair.”
He’s a bit disturbed by her spot-on assessment of his behavior, his thought process. That’s Daisy’s job after all, predict behaviors, find the exploit. It should make him this uncomfortable.
“Are you okay?” she asks, resting her hand on his wrist. She’s not one for touching too much these days - not since the whole business with Hive, and it’s understandable.
“No, it’s fine,” he repeats, because it is really. He can’t bring himself to feel much. Which might be the problem. “I figured a long time ago that it was over for me.”
“Over? What’s over?”
“The kind of things I had with Audrey. Dinners at the Richmond. Music, dancing, dates. Romance. I know I’m not getting that anymore, that’s why… it doesn’t hurt.”
It probably sounds like self-pity to Daisy, but it really is not. Which might be, in the end, the whole problem.
And Daisy decides it is a problem, and she sets out to fix it, because that’s what Daisy does.
He should have suspected.
She calls him to the garage after midnight. He’s supposed to be resting, probably, but she knows the hours he keeps.
It’s all dark except for two shafts of light and Coulson’s eyes take a moment to adjust and see that the dark shape in front of him is Lola and the light comes from her. And that Daisy is standing right there, leaning on the hood. There is a blanket thrown on the floor and some bags and a basket.
“What is this?” Coulson asks when he arrives by her side.
“It’s a midnight picnic,” she replies. “Don’t worry, I didn’t cook this time.”
He smiles, unable to tell her how much he had enjoyed her mack and cheese - and how much he thinks about it, too much in fact.
“In fact this is one of your favorites,” she points out.
Coulson looks at the bags of food; they’re from one of the best hotels in town, and the one that makes his favorite sushi.
“Sit down,” Daisy tells him. He does, his back to Lola. Daisy takes a bottle of wine from the picnic basket as it is. “Do you approve?”
He raises an eyebrow. Very good wine. But not expensive. That’s very much like Daisy. She must have done the research.
“You shouldn’t drink red wine with sushi,” he says.
Daisy’s face falls a bit, just as she was about to hand him his drink. “Oh.”
He kind of hates himself for the comment, it was meant to be jokey, but she has gone to all this trouble for… for what, exactly? He’s normally pretty good at reading her endgame but he’s a bit lost tonight.
“It’s okay,” he says, taking the glass from her hand. “Let’s break the rules.”
“Phil the rule-breaker, yes, I like that.”
As they sit down he realizes he hasn’t seen Daisy loosen up like this in a long time. He still doesn’t understand it but it’s really nice.
“Oh, before I forget,” she says, standing up all of the sudden and hurrying to Lola.
Coulson is about to ask what she’s doing when the soft music starts filling the air. The echo in the garage gives the melody a certain eerie quality.
“Very important, the music,” she comments as she sits by him again.
They finally start eating. Some of it is definitely not to Daisy’s taste - especially the tobiko - so he surrenders all his prawn-related pieces to her. They talk about the team. Not so much about the missions. Daisy talks about the bike Mack is forcing her to repair with him. They both agree he does it just so they could hang out, with Daisy having kept her distance for months after she almost killed Mack, finding it hard to look at him in the eye. But that seems to be going better now, she tells Coulson, even though she kind of resents smelling of motor oil the whole day.
It’s not like going to a fancy restaurant with a date (in some regards it’s better, because Daisy is better than any date) but Coulson has a good time (he doesn’t find himself missing Audrey as badly as he had during the day) and when they finish the food he’s surprised, and more than a little disappointed, to see it’s already over, so soon.
“Thank you, it was really good,” he tells Daisy.
“Wait, it’s not over.”
She stands up, taking a moment to gain her footing. Coulson looks down and realizes they have almost finished the whole bottle of wine. It was really good.
He looks up and sees Daisy’s hand extended towards him.
“The dancing,” she tells him.
“I can guess,” he says.
She’s so enthusiastic and sweet (and it might be wine but she looks happier than he’s seen her since… well, since before) Coulson can’t hardly resist.
He gets up and grabs her by the waist, getting easily into position, remembering he’s good at this. The last time he did it was for a mission. The time before that was in a ballroom where the ceiling looked like stars, not in a cold and dirty hangar in an underground secret spy base.
“My favorite,” he says when the next song starts.
“Yeah, you like all these sad lady singers.”
“Well, they have their reasons to be sad,” he says, feeling oddly defensive about Blossom Dearie.
“Yeah, they’re women and in the 50s, I would be sad too.”
He smiles at her flawless reasoning.
“I just like them.”
Something about a woman singing about heartbreak always appealed to him more than a man singing… about anything, really. The three exceptions being Chet Baker, Bill Withers and Joe Strummer. He tells Daisy this and she looks at him doubtful.
She is a good dancer, which surprises Coulson a bit. He imagines many things about Daisy’s life - her past, her many skills, her adventures. This, this swaying to the music softly, in perfect synch with him, like they fit, Coulson never fantasized about.
He pulls her closer as the song goes on, so close he can smell soap and cologne on her skin, like she took care getting ready for their evening. It makes Coulson feel guilty - but he’s not sure in what way. There are two explanations for his feelings and both plausible (one of them even natural, predictable) but he can’t choose. He could never choose.
“Why are you doing this?” he finally asks, almost in a whisper, too curious and yes, fascinated, by her generous gesture, by this whole idyllic set up.
“I wanted to pamper you,” she tells him.
“I know it’s not the same as a girlfriend,” she says, dropping her head for a moment. “But I wanted to take care of you like that. A nice dinner, expensive wine, dancing. I actually planned to do this on the roof, under the stars, but then I remembered maybe that wasn’t a good idea, with all the satellites and stuff.”
Thoughtful and cautious, Coulson thinks. Audrey never had to worry about international surveillance - he did and always hid that from her, he always worked very hard so that she wouldn’t really know what was going on in his head. That’s impossible with Daisy. He can’t hide a damn thing.
“The thing is - I don’t think it’s over for you. The whole thing, dates and music and romance. I wanted to prove it to you. Even if it’s just a small version of it.”
It’s not small, he wants to say.
Nothing you do could be small.
But he stays quiet, holding her closer as sign of gratitude.
When he wakes up Daisy is preparing a cleaning kit in front of him.
She smiles when she sees his eyes but she looks tired.
“A professional should do this, probably,” she says, pouring what smells like alcohol into a clean gauze. “But they are all too tired.”
Coulson remembers. The number of injuries high. It could have been worse - the team seems to operate on a lot of “it could have been worse”s. No one died and the bad guys are in jail or dead. So he guesses it was a good day. Despite waking up in a gurney like this.
His body also wakes up. He fills his own body in a moment and finds it fragile. He feels the fractured-not-broken bones, and the cuts on his face.
Daisy moves to start the patching up but Coulson turns his head away.
“It can wait until tomorrow,” he tells her. “I can wait for… Simmons, or someone else.”
He’s not sure why he is so adamant against Daisy cleaning his wounds right now. He feels his cheeks get hot. It’s embarrassment.
Daisy puts the kit down.
“I hate it when you do that,” she says.
He looks for an excuse. One that is true. “I just don’t want you to worry.”
She studies him; those big, unforgiving eyes of hers. They lock down on him and never let go.
“It’s more than that,” she says. “You don’t want me to see you when you’re… weak.”
She is right, he doesn’t like that. There’s probably some ingrained macho bullshit there, he guesses. Mainly he thinks his agents’ job is hard enough without having to worry about their Director. He is supposed to be indestructible, for them. He has rules; they are different, random, he realizes. He never begrudged Fury when he bled. He’s not sure why he tries so hard not to let anyone - especially Daisy - see his blood. Because he’s not as strong as Fury, he decides.
“You are not supposed to be taking care of me, I’m supposed-”
Daisy shakes her head, cutting him off.
“It’s not just that,” she says. “Not just injuries. You hide. You hide from me. You hide your fears and doubts. But then you want to help me with mine.”
He’s not sure what’s so wrong about that. That’s how it’s supposed to go.
“I just thought… I thought we were closer than that,” she says.
She sounds horrible.
Like she did after… after everything. After she thought she had lost everything.
It’s when he tries to lift his hand that Coulson discovers that his fingers are taped together and in a metal brace, to set the fracture straight. He suddenly forgets he had lifted his hand to touch Daisy.
“I’m sorry,” she says, her shoulders shaking a bit, her voice lighter. “It’s none of my business. I’m just exhausted.”
None of her business? This is the woman who organized a midnight picnic in the SHIELD hangar to cheer him up, because his ex-girlfriend was getting married. They…
“I want you to take care of me,” Coulson says. It takes a lot to actually form the words. Daisy was right - she often is - he had been fighting her on this.
She nods slightly. Old Daisy would be more triumphant. New Daisy is a little too shy sometimes, like she tries to take up as little space as she can - there was always that quality to her, back when she was Skye, but now it’s different, because the way Hive used her was manipulating wishes and ego and desires, so Daisy is trying to leave all those behind. It’s sad if he thinks about it and he wants to stop it, but he doesn’t know how.
She starts working on him, applying the gauze gently over the wounds.
Coulson feels the cold and then the sting of it. The pain accentuates Daisy’s carefulness and part of Coulson hates admitting it feels good, being taken care of like this.
“The team is not going to think less of you, you know,” Daisy tells him, his voice softer and more relax. “You should give us more credit than that.”
“I know,” he replies. He knows the team wouldn’t doubt him as a Director just because he got hurt. “Maybe I would think less of me…”
She shakes her head, keeps focusing on the task, but her undelivered reply is clear.
Coulson wants to explain - apologize again. He has a habit of letting Daisy down only to apologize as if that changed the past. He wants to tell her about his mother, the only person he remembers really taking care of him, and how taking care of him probably stopped her from having the life she deserved. And how he never had the chance to pay her back and take care of her. He thinks Daisy of all people would understand. Understand him.
He keeps quiet and lets her do her job.
“Simmons told me not to cover them, when I asked what to do,” she adds and it’s some sort of confession. It’s very deliberate and Coulson thinks about it, Daisy going to Jemma to figure out what she had to do with his injuries because she wanted to be the one taking care of them when he woke up.
When she finishes Coulson starts feeling better, the wounds actually beginning to heal. He lifts his hand to his cheek, not touching the cuts but pressing his fingertips against the area around them.
Daisy raises an eyebrow. “Be careful, you keep collecting scars.”
He fake-pouts at her.
“Girls won’t like me now.”
“Girls love scars, that’s why I’m telling you. You’re going to be a menace.”
“Would you? Mind the scars?” he asks, only half jokingly. He’s not sure he wants to know.
Daisy touches the back of her neck, obviously uncomfortable with the questions.
But not for the reasons Coulson first imagines.
“I have a few of my own,” she replies. “Just not the kind you can see. But those are usually more of a deal-breaker than scars like yours.”
There’s a sad finality to her words.
“It depends on the person,” he tells her.
“Would you? Be the kind of guy who don’t mind those?”
Coulson is not sure what she’s asking here, but he knows it’s important. It’s been a year since she defeated Hive and her boyfriend walked away and in the meantime Coulson admits his relationship with Daisy has changed - or rather it turned out to be different from what he had imagined.
Maybe she’s just asking for company.
Or a little faith.
He lifts his hand - fingers bandaged together so he can’t really move them - and touches his index against Daisy’s mouth. She closes her eyes for a moment.
He has to think about what he’s going to reply. He has his own baggage and Daisy’s is not one to take on lightly. Even if he’d considered it a privilege she might get hurt, if it turns out he’s inadequate for the task.
“No, I wouldn’t mind the scars.”
Sometimes he reminded her of that time when he was carving the walls at night, the way stress can build on his shoulders, show on the tips of his fingers. He looks to Daisy like when the cord of your earphones gets all tangled and you get all frustrated trying to untangle it. She tried to tell Coulson that once, you’re like my earphones and he hadn’t really gotten it.
“Sometimes I missed the times when we were criminals and we didn’t have to worry about-”
“Stupid international laws?”
He smirks. “Those, yes.”
It’s different now, the way she can read the movements of his body, intimately, and she struggles to keep that separated with what she knows of Director Coulson, her boss, in case it’s not fair to him that she mixes it up.
In this case though… she thinks it’s pretty fair and he doubts he will object.
She squeezes his shoulder for a moment, for a starter.
“They’re picking us up in a couple of hours, remember?” she says.
He narrows his eyes. He’s not getting forgetful, their schedule really is that complicated (and ever-changing).
“You wish. FBI.”
She grabs his arms and back him up against the desk.
“All these knotted muscles,” she says, lifting his hands to his chest. “What are we going to do about it?”
He gives her a curious, innocent look.
“What do you mean?”
She squeezes his shoulders again, with both hands now, massaging them. When the knots won’t give in Daisy drops her right hand, drawing a line down Coulson’s chest to his stomach, pressing the heel of her hand against his shirt.
His eyes widen when her fingers come to rest on his buckle.
“Oh I know what you mean,” he says, half-alarmed half-amused. “I don’t think-”
But his words are silenced by Daisy’s movement, quickly unbuckling him and slipping her hand down his pants.
He swallows, looking nervous. There’s always something innocent about Coulson and sex, despite his age, he always acts like everything is such a pleasant surprise to him. It makes Daisy feel kind of pervy every time she touches him, even after all this time. But pervy in a good way, she means.
“You’re too tense,” she says, sliding the palm of her hand down his length. “Let me take care of it.”
“Daisy, I…” he makes a plea, one last attempt at pretending he’s a very proper Director who would never do this in his office, much less with the door unlocked, but she they both know better.
She knows the rhythms of his body, how quickly he gets hard - especially when they are in his office, like she hasn’t noticed. She listens to his breathing become both more relaxed and more labored at the same time, feeling him exhale against her cheek as he tries to kiss her.
She strokes him hard and fast, a dirty quick thing in his office in the middle of the day, between reunions with government agencies.
“I love you, you know?” he whispers against her jaw.
Daisy presses a smile to his lips.
“That’s easy to say with my hand on your dick,” she teases.
“It’s not that,” he replies, brushing his nose against the shell of her ear.
“I sure hope not,” she says and laughs the familiar insecure laugh that means she’s not 100% certain, even she recognizes that laughter.
He moans in reply, because Daisy has twisted her hand and pressed her thumb against the tip of his cock, and the sound he is making is the best possible reply.
She doesn’t stop until she feels Coulson’s muscles turn to liquid, happy and pliable in her hand - literally in her hand. It takes him a record short time to come and he sighs happily when it’s over, Daisy wiping her fingers on his shirt obscenely.
“I love you, too, Phil, but you need to take a shower before we meet with the FBI,” she tells him.
Coulson grabs her by the hips when she tries to turn around.
“A shower sounds good,” he says, sliding his mouth against hers possessively. He sometimes gets extra affectionate after coming - Daisy thinks it’s somehow about being a good boy who appreciates what others do for him. The idea makes her smile. He twists his fingers into her hair. “And now that I’m relaxed… maybe I can take care of you…”
Daisy kisses him back. “Sounds good,” she repeats.
And he does.
Take care of her.
He does it really well.