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even when I look away, I am still looking

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9:07 am

Check-in started at eight, and it's a little past nine when Daisy finally follows Coulson out of an unmarked SHIELD van into the hotel they'll be setting up shop in for the better part of a day. It's empty for the most part, sweet and small in a way that reminds her of what home might be, were she not a spy or a superhero or a vigilante or any number of other things and occupations which keep one out of a permanent residence. She takes in the decor of the lobby as Coulson checks in, admires small oil paintings surrounded in rusting gold-tinged frames and soft pink walls. Coulson thanks the woman at the desk for their room key - it's actually a key, she notices, smiling a little - and the two of them head up a set of heavily-carpeted stairs.

They come up to a large, faux-wood door and Coulson slips the key against the lock. The whole situation is a relatively quiet affair - the door slides silently along more thick carpet and their footsteps hardly sound at all as they pad inside. 

"Cute," Daisy says, and her voice sounds quiet too, the first thing to break the silence.

Coulson nods in agreement, and they fall back into easy silence, setting up equipment in preparation for the next few hours.

Daisy pulls the Do not disturb sign from the drawer and holds it up with a grin, heading back out into the hall for a minute to slide it onto the doorknob.

"See?" She says, closing the door behind her, "Peace and quiet."

 

10:21 am

She doesn't feel bored out of her mind yet, and she supposes that's good. A lot of staking out is waiting - not as glamorous as it is in the movies - and it gets old fast. There's something about the sitting and the watching that Daisy doesn't quite mind, though, when the person beside her is Coulson. He's flipping through a newspaper that was on the nightstand, but she can tell he isn't really reading it. On the front is an ad for the deli across the street, and on the back is a crossword, so Daisy doesn't think there's a lot of hard-hitting journalism to be found in there. The square below looks empty, for the most part, but she's still cautious.

Coulson seems to have noticed her nerves in the quiet. He doesn't speak, but he lays a gentle hand on her knee, an easy reach from the chair he's posted up in beside the bed she's sitting on. His touch is warm and Daisy finds herself reaching for more of it, slipping her fingers between his and flipping the whole arrangement so the back of his palm still rests on her. Coulson doesn't even look up. His one small reaction is a smile, eeking out of the corner of his mouth, lopsided and pleased.

 

10:34 am

She hadn't even realized she was shaking, not at first. Not until Coulson had stood from his perch and gotten up on the bed beside her, grounded her with a hand on each arm and a soft squeeze. It had been a man, not too far from the window, just across the street, who had thrown her. He'd been nothing, just some guy, but for a split second, Daisy had thought she saw him look up and make eye contact with her. She shivered against Coulson's fingers.

"Hey, hey. You alright?"

"I'm sorry - I really thought I'd be fine, it's just... it's just a stakeout, and I really thought I could be useful, and -"

"Hey, Daisy -"

"- I just didn't even think, I guess, about -"

"Daisy."

She trails off.

"You are helpful, alright? And I'm glad you're here. We all get a little off sometimes - better we work it out now than in the middle of a combat op, right?" She can tell Coulson is fighting to keep his voice light, and for that she is grateful. "Tell me what's wrong."

"I... I thought he noticed us. A guy, walking by. I thought he made eye contact."

"That's a good instinct," Coulson praises, "I didn't catch that. He might've. We should be on guard in case he did."

Daisy pauses, not exactly freezing but shocked out of her trembling by his praise. "Sorry, what?"

"It's important to be prepared for all angles." Coulson points out, and she tilts her head.

"I - yeah," she says, finally, "I guess so."

 

12:53 pm

They're sharing lunch - Coulson packed - and swapping increasingly bad stories about ops when she sort of forgets the rules they've unwittingly established for themselves.

"I've missed this," she says, and it takes her as long as it takes Coulson to freeze to recognize where she's gone wrong.

"Missed what?" He asks, cautiously, and Daisy may have started this but she didn't think he was going to follow through on it.

"This." She says, gesturing between the two of them, and Coulson tilts his head.

"Stakeouts?"

Oh no, he is not getting off that easy. Now, Daisy's in it for the long conversation, turning to face him on the bed and moving her remnants to the table beside her.

"No," she says, looking at him carefully, "this." For good measure, Daisy gestures again. "It's been a while since it was just us, you know."

Coulson looks like he does know. She appreciates that she can still read him, even after all this time.

"You've had... other matters to attend to." He says slowly, and Daisy tilts her head.

"...Inhuman stuff?"

He looks like he wants to say no, but the word that he says is, "Yeah."

There's something unplaceable in his eyes, and he looks away. For all Daisy thinks she can read him, these are new, untread waters. But she isn't the only one who's been holding back - he's had things too. Work, maybe, but also... Daisy doesn't even want to think her name. Suddenly, a bulb goes off in her head. The two of them like talking in circles, right?

"Well, you've had... SHIELD," she says, and the tone she places on it is the same tone with which she's been saying She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named's name for weeks.

Coulson's eyes meet hers again, sparked with interest. "...SHIELD?"

Daisy nods. "I get that I've had... inhuman stuff -" there's the tone that he's been using for Lincoln, and God, if only they could talk like normal people"- but you've had SHIELD. So what was I supposed to do?"

"Is this what we've come to, Daisy?" Coulson asks, and she wants to reach out and comfort him the way he did with her earlier - wordless, gentle, needed - but she can't, not with this conversation as an undercurrent. "Using SHIELD and Inhuman stuff as an excuse to avoid each other?"

God, they're either very bad at this or very, very good.

"I dunno," she picks at a loose thread on the comforter, "I thought SHIELD was taking up quite a bit of your time." When she chances a look back up, Coulson looks embarrassed at the notion.

"I'm sorry," he says, suddenly. "It's hard to be alone, sometimes, and... SHIELD was a bit of a reprieve from that, I guess."

"Physically." Daisy can't help but say, a stab of jealousy at the concept that She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was a comfort in any sense of the word. Coulson flinches.

"Sure." He agrees, "but sometimes we need that. I imagine you understand." There's a beat where he looks like he's worried that was too low of a blow, but she reaches for him and squeezes, gently, comfortingly.

"Yeah." She says, softly. "I do."

 

3:01 pm

It's been hours since their attempt to discuss recent romantic trysts, but Daisy still feels the wounds are open in both of them.

Coulson is sitting in the chair again, hands folded neatly away in his lap and gaze trained out the window. Daisy's foot bounces nervously against the bed skirt.

"Coulson? You know... you know you're never alone, right? I'm always here."

He doesn't look back at her, but he does make a small noise in the back of his throat, something like surprise. Then, "You either. Always."

 

4:04 pm

They hadn't been fast enough, really, because they hadn't been expecting it. Stakeouts are notoriously quiet gigs, and the concept of some weirdo bursting in through the door of the secret locale you picked to try and kill you is really more of a combat thing than a stakeout thing. Daisy digresses.

She's nursing the majority of the hits, and Coulson only has his famous split eyebrow, as well as a bruise on his cheek. He just made the call on the SAT phone not too long ago to get May and Mack to come pick up the guy, but he and Daisy have an hour and a half of staking out left, so once that's over and done with, he heads back into the room. 

Daisy forces a smile. "At least it wasn't boring," she says and watches him hide his own smile.

"Don't get too excited," he tells her, tapping a spot on the bed as he sits down on it. "The rest of it will be."

Daisy sits down in front of him, letting him assess the bruises he can see on her face and arms. His hands are careful and gentle on her face, moving it slowly and cautiously. There's one bruise across her cheekbone, mirroring the one on his, and he brushes his fingers across it. 

"We match," she says, watching as he looks at her with a sort of wonder. "Hey, hey. I'm here. And so are you. And everything's okay."

There's a moment where Daisy thinks he might kiss her, relishes in the thought, but he turns his eyes away quickly, hand still on her cheek.

"I almost don't want to see the rest." He says, quietly, and Daisy reaches for his hand on her face, takes it in her own.

"Hey," she says again, "it's alright. I'm okay." She takes their joined hands and presses his to her lips for a brief second, watching Coulson's eyes fall shut.

"I'm okay," she says again, "And I can let med take the heat on checking me out, if you need."

She sees Coulson pause, eyes trained on their joined hands, like he's considering it. Then, "No, it's - I'm not completely useless."

"Hey -"

"It was a joke, Daisy." It didn't sound like one, not really, but she lets it pass anyway, unspoken. "Turn around."

She does as he asks, trying not to wince too hard as he peels her jacket off, finding one end of the scrape she can feel cut across her shoulder blade from top to bottom. He lets out a low whistle.

"Jesus."

"Yeah."

They don't have much, but they have the first-aid kit they packed in their fake luggage - never good to get caught too unprepared. Coulson pulls the liquid stitches and anti-bacterial out, fishing for a bandage at the bottom of the box.

"How far down does it go?"

Daisy gestures with some difficulty to the midpoint of her back, just under her shoulder. "Do you need me to -" She gestures again. This time miming up-and-over as best as she can with her injuries. She watches Coulson take a step back, consider her condition holistically. 

"It'd be easier, but I don't know that you can."

"I'm a big girl. Taken off a lot of shirts in my day."

She knows what he means, though. Use of her powers left her arms in rough shape, and besides the cut they're about to tend to, she has a pretty rough bruise on the middle of her back, where she hit the windowsill, and her hands don't feel too hot either. Coulson rolls his eyes and moves in front of her, starts to curl his fingers around the hem of her shirt.

"I'm gonna be careful," he says, like she had any doubt, "but I want you to tell me if you need me to stop, alright?"

Daisy nods.

He manages to slide it carefully off of her, needing her participation only to help get her arms out of the sleeves.

"I'd return the favor if I didn't feel so crappy," Daisy starts, but backs off immediately, rolling her eyes at herself - there's a little smirk at the corner of Coulson's mouth, like he's trying to hold it in, and she grins. "Wait - would you... is that - could that be a thing?"

He's at her back now, wiping anti-bacterial gel across the scrape. It stings, but now she's a woman on a mission.

"Pipe down, patient." He says, and then, as he starts a careful line of liquid stitches, he adds, "Besides, you're busy. With inhuman stuff, remember?"

"Philip," she begins, and as steady as his liquid stitch hand remains, Daisy feels his other hand, which had been laying on her back, flinch in recognition of his full name, "you realize you just took off my shirt, right? I couldn't be any more available if I tried."

He wipes at the edges, finishing up his work, and Daisy decides to press her luck a little further.

"Besides, don't you have SHIELD stuff?"

"Jesus, Daisy."

It hurts to turn around, but now that the stitches have sealed her up, the motion is easier. "None of that was a no."

"No," Coulson says very slowly, "it wasn't. Are we - is this actually happening?"

And that's what does it, in the end, what pushes Daisy to lean over and kiss him. "I don't know," she says when they pull apart. "I'll pinch you if you pinch me."

She lets out a little surprised gasp when he does actually pinch her, fingers closing in on the unbruised skin just above her hip.

"Yep," she says, working her fingers between the buttons of his shirt to find skin of her own to pinch, "definitely real."

She hears him let out a little breath of surprise and grins.

"In that case," he murmurs, grinning himself, and then he kisses her again.

"See?" Daisy teases. "Definitely not boring."