Daisy couldn’t help but grin as she and her friends presented their badges to the security guard and stepped through the entrance to the music festival. She had been looking forward to it for months, and it was finally here. There was already music playing from a few different stages and a large crowd milling about in the early afternoon sun. She felt as if the energy of the place and the people was pulsing through her, filling her with joy.
“Oh, Jemma, look who it is!” she heard Fitz say excitedly next to her, and turned her head to see who he was talking about. A man was headed in their direction, a bit older than the three of them, probably nearing age forty if she had to guess, walking with the help of a wooden cane. Daisy had the fleeting thought that he wasn’t bad looking, far from it in fact. His dark hair had a touch of grey at the temples, which worked for him, she had to admit. He was wearing a blue button down shirt and dark slacks, a stark contrast to the loose, casual and flowery outfits of the crowd around them. But again, it seemed to fit him very well for some reason.
Fitz closed the distance between them and shook his hand eagerly, and Daisy bit back a laugh at his enthusiasm. “Good to see you, Mr. Sousa,” Fitz greeted him, and the man laughed.
“Fitz, you can call me Daniel, really,” he said, and then shook Jemma’s hand before turning to Daisy and offering his hand to her. “Hello. Daniel Sousa. I work with these two in the lab.”
“Daisy Johnson, nice to meet you. So you’re a science geek just like them?” Daisy joked as she took his hand, and he chuckled.
“Guilty as charged,” he said with a smile, and she was again struck with the thought of how handsome he was.
“Daniel, we were about to head over to the far stage, care to join us?” Jemma asked, and he nodded in agreement. The four of them headed in that direction, and Jemma and Fitz launched into a story about a recent scientific breakthrough they’d had, finishing each other’s sentences in the way they always did. Daniel seemed thoroughly interested, asking questions whenever he could get a word in.
Daisy tuned them out a bit and entertained herself with watching the crowds as they walked. Their scientific chatter tended to go over her head sometimes, but she was happy that her friends had someone to engage with. Fitz in particular seemed to like this guy. A few weeks ago, he had told Daisy all about a lecture that Daniel Sousa had given at the nearby science academy. Daisy couldn’t remember what the lecture was about, but Fitz had been over the moon about it and couldn’t shut up about it for three days straight.
When they were halfway across the field, Daisy stopped in her tracks.
“Shit,” Daisy said under her breath. Her friends realized she had stopped walking and came back to her, questioning looks on all of their faces.
“What is it? Are you okay?” Jemma followed her gaze through the crowd, and then let out a little gasp. “Oh no. I can’t believe he’s here.”
“Who’s here?” Daniel asked as Fitz let out a grumble.
Jemma gripped Fitz’s arm and placed her other hand on his cheek, and he visibly relaxed just a tiny bit at her touch. “Ward...I hate that guy,” Fitz muttered.
“Who is he?” Daniel directed his question to Daisy, concern in his voice as he stepped a bit closer to her.
“My ex. He’s a bit unhinged. Well, a lot unhinged. He’s just short of a lunatic, really,” Daisy explained. A moment too late, she realized her mistake in staring in his direction, as his gaze turned to her and they unexpectedly made eye contact. He smiled and then he was walking towards her.
She suddenly turned back to face Daniel, her eyes wide. “Shit, he’s coming over here. Look...I’m so sorry, I know we just met but can you just, like, pretend you’re with me for a minute? If he finds out I’m single he’ll be all over me. Please.”
Daisy was sure she sounded pathetic, begging this stranger to pretend to be her date, but to her surprise Daniel wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her in tightly to his side. “It’s going to be okay,” he assured her, looking her right in the eye. She was distracted for a moment by how nice his eyes were, and then a voice behind her brought her crashing back to reality.
“Jemma, Fitz...Skye. How are you guys? It’s been too long.” Ward stepped up to their little group full of confidence and swagger as usual, acting as if they were all long lost friends. Fitz leveled a death glare at him while Jemma averted her eyes, unwilling to even look at him.
“It’s Daisy, and you know that. And you know we don’t want to talk to you. Leave us alone, Ward,” Daisy said forcefully.
“Well, that’s not very nice. And aren’t you going to introduce me to your new friend? Hi, Grant Ward,” he introduced himself to Daniel, holding out a hand to shake. Daniel ignored it, fixing Ward with a humorless expression. After a moment, Ward dropped his hand and let out a chuckle. “Well, nice to meet you too, I guess. Skye, can we talk for a minute, in private?” He jerked his head to the side to indicate stepping away from the group.
Daniel’s arm squeezed tighter around Daisy’s waist as she gave Ward an incredulous look. “That is definitely not happening,” she scoffed.
“I’m sure your boyfriend wouldn’t mind, would he?” Ward gave Daniel a once-over as he spoke, eyes lingering on his cane.
“She said no, didn’t she? Leave her alone. Come on, let’s get out of here.” Daniel turned Daisy away and she grabbed Fitz’s arm and tugged him after her as they started walking away, Jemma hurrying along with them. Thankfully, when she glanced over her shoulder she saw Ward hadn’t followed them. Instead he was standing in the same spot, watching them depart, an unreadable expression on his face.
They made their way to the far stage, where the band was due to start playing in a few minutes, and Daisy breathed a sigh of relief when she could no longer see Ward.
“Thank you,” she said to Daniel, pulling back from him a little bit, though his hand still rested on her back. “I know that was probably so weird for you, I just...after I broke up with him, he wouldn’t leave me alone, trying to win me back. He stopped after I started dating my last boyfriend, I don’t really know why, but he did. I just couldn’t stomach the thought of him realizing that I was single again.” She shuddered at the thought.
“Hey,” Daniel said softly, his hand rubbing her back gently, comforting. “It’s okay. I’m happy to help, honestly. Can I ask though...why did he call you Skye?”
“That was my name when I first went to college, before I found my birth parents. Turned out that they had named me Daisy before they gave me up for adoption, but for some reason it had gotten changed when I entered the foster care system. Once I met them, I was so glad to know where I had come from, I changed my name. But he met me and knew me as Skye, and he refused to call me by my real name.”
Daniel nodded in understanding, then glanced over at Fitz, who was standing with Jemma a few feet away, the two of them engaged in a quiet, private conversation. “I’ve never seen Fitz seem so unhappy, didn’t even think he had it in him. This guy must be a real jerk.”
“Yeah,” Daisy nodded, “he is. We had all been friends in college, had been through so much together, and he and I started dating and then not long after that we found out he was not a good person. He had severe anger issues, he cheated on me, he stole Fitz’s car. He abandoned Jemma in a bad part of town one night. It was...bad. Really scary.” Daisy took a deep breath as she remembered. “It was even worse because we had trusted him for so long, you know? He had seemed so normal and then, just out of nowhere, he showed his true colors.”
As she explained the offenses that Ward had committed against them, Daniel listened patiently, his hand still rubbing gently on her back, his eyebrows furrowing deeper with concern as she spoke. When she had finished, he gently pulled her closer and wrapped both arms around her, and she unfolded her arms to hug him back. She could feel his heartbeat, and she focused on that for a moment, allowing the steady beat to ground her.
“It’s okay,” he whispered against her hair as they embraced. “You’re safe, don’t worry.”
She nodded against his shoulder, and they remained like that for a moment longer before pulling apart. She shook herself a little to clear her thoughts, and then said, “Anyway, thank you so much again, but don’t let me keep you. I’m sure there’s other stages you want to see, you don’t have to be stuck with us all day, really.”
“Honestly, there’s only one band I want to see, and they’re not playing until later. I wouldn’t mind sticking with you guys for a bit, if you’d let me? Would be better than wandering around alone.”
“Of course,” Daisy agreed. She felt a twinge of gratitude towards him, this nice guy who had just helped her in a tough situation without a second thought. She was sure part of the reason he wanted to stick around was to watch her back, in case Ward showed up again. But he didn’t make her feel weak, didn’t act like she needed him around, acted as if she was doing him a favor instead by letting him hang out. She was not used to people being so selfless and kind.
The crowd roared as the band began filing out onto the stage and the beginning notes of the first song filled the air. Fitz jumped up and down next to her and turned to look at her, pointing at the stage in excitement. She laughed at his enthusiasm, suddenly feeling better after the heaviness of the previous moments, and reached out to give Fitz a high five before they all turned back to the stage. Daniel remained nearby as the three of them danced and sang along through the set. She caught sight of him a few times and she had to laugh to herself a little, as he was somewhat awkwardly bopping his head in time to the music. It was clear he didn’t know the band at all, but still seemed to be enjoying himself. He’s kind of a dork, she thought to herself affectionately at one point.
After the set, Jemma turned to Daisy and said, “I know we said we were going to split up for a while after this band, but I’m a little scared to leave you alone now. Do you want to come with us?”
Daisy glanced at Daniel and he gave her a small smile and nod, and she smiled in return. “I think I’ll be alright, Daniel and I will stay together. You and Fitz go on, okay? I know how badly you want to see that band, if you go now you can make it in time.”
Jemma looked from Daisy to Daniel and back again, and smiled at her friend. “Well, alright then. Meet up with you later for the headliner?” Daisy nodded in agreement and Jemma turned to grab Fitz’s hand. Fitz waved as they took off across the field, and Daisy turned back to Daniel.
“Where to?” he asked, and she reached into her bag to pull out her festival map, checking it to confirm which stage she was headed to next.
“This way,” she said and pointed in that direction, and Daniel held out his hand to her. She hesitated for just a moment before taking it, and they walked together towards the next stage. He’s just keeping up the cover, she reminded herself, in case we see Ward. This isn’t a date.
When they arrived, Daisy spotted a grassy area where people were sitting to watch the show, and she asked Daniel if he’d like to sit down. He agreed and when they found an open spot with a good view, she pulled out a small blanket from her bag and spread it out on the ground, and they both sat down.
Daniel sat with one leg sticking straight out and let out a tiny, nearly inaudible sigh of relief as he relaxed. Daisy wondered if it was difficult for him to stand and walk for a long time with the cane, but didn’t want to press him on the matter, so she didn’t ask. Instead, she pulled a water bottle from her bag and some trail mix, and they passed the bottle between them as they snacked, talking and joking and getting to know one another. Daisy found her gaze drawn to his lips more than once and had to keep reminding herself that this wasn’t a date.
They watched the band play, lapsing into a comfortable silence as they took in the music. When the set was over, Daisy pulled out the map again and they looked at it together. It turned out the band Daniel wanted to see, a cover band playing updating versions of songs from the 1950s, was the next band set to play on this same stage, and Daisy didn’t have any preferences for any other bands to see at the moment, so they remained in their spot on the blanket. They talked for a while more, and Daisy learned that Daniel had a prosthetic leg after being injured in the army, and she told him about her childhood growing up in the foster care system.
After a while, the band started to play and they turned their attention back to the stage. Daisy thought the band was pretty good, they had an interesting sound and made the songs feel fresh and new despite being decades old. Daniel was clearly enjoying it immensely. Daisy smiled to herself when she heard him quietly singing along at one point.
Even though she was enjoying the music, Daisy felt her eyelids getting heavy after the second song. Music festivals always tired her out, between waking up early to wait in line to get in, the walking, the dancing, and being in the hot sun all day. Twice she caught herself as her head drooped in an attempt to fall asleep.
“Here, lay down,” Daniel said, noticing her sleepiness. He scooted back on the blanket to give her more room and helped guide her down, ending up with her head resting on his lap. Not a date, not a date, she told herself as she began to drift off, but she wasn’t so sure if that was still true.
When she woke up, Daisy felt a hand stroking her hair softly, and the sun was setting, giving the festival grounds a beautiful pink glow. She said a silent prayer hoping that she hadn’t drooled on Daniel in her sleep, and brought her hand up to rub at her eyes and her face, relieved to find that she hadn’t. She sat up, yawning and stretching.
“Good morning,” he joked, smiling at her and offering her the water bottle as she blinked at him.
“What time is it?” she asked after taking a sip.
“Almost time to meet Jemma and Fitz, they texted me a few minutes ago. You napped for almost an hour, woke up just in time to go see them.”
“Sorry I conked out on you, you must’ve been so bored sitting here with me,” she apologized, feeling terrible.
“I think I was right where I needed to be,” he said softly, and she looked up to meet his eyes. For a moment it felt like the entire world fell away, the festival sounds around her fading to nothing, and she thought he might kiss her. This isn’t a date, she told herself, but she knew she didn’t really believe that anymore.
Then her phone rang, making her jump and bringing her back to reality, and she turned to grab it from her bag. It was Jemma, and when she answered it, her friend immediately began rambling about the headliner band starting soon and she was going to miss it and why wasn’t she there already?
Daisy assured her she’d be there, and hung up, leaping to her feet. “We gotta go,” she said to Daniel, and offered a hand to help him up. Once they were both on their feet, she grabbed the blanket and shoved it in her bag along with the water bottle and the trail mix, and Daniel picked up his cane. They headed in the direction of the main stage and it wasn’t until they had been walking for a few minutes that Daisy realized they were holding hands, that she had taken his hand without even thinking.
They arrived at the main stage and found Jemma and Fitz, who were talking excitedly about the bands they had seen that day and didn’t stop until the headliner band came on stage and the crowd cheered and surged around them. Unsurprisingly, it seemed everyone at the festival was here to watch this band, and the crowd was very tightly packed.
Daisy felt someone press close in behind her and a hand snaked around her waist. She turned her head slightly to see Daniel holding her close. “This okay?” he asked. “Don’t want to get knocked over.” She nodded and turned her head back to the stage, but she was slightly distracted by the warm and sturdy presence behind her. Halfway through the set, she realized her own hand was resting on top of his on her abdomen. When did that happen? she thought, and she had no answer. But she didn’t move it away.
The band played several upbeat, dancey songs in a row before finally announcing that they had only a couple more songs to go, and the crowd cheered and groaned simultaneously as the next song started up. It was a slow, romantic song, and some people swayed along to the music while others held up their phone screens and waved them back and forth above their heads. Nearby, Fitz wrapped his arms around Jemma as they swayed together.
Daisy became hyper aware of Daniel’s presence behind her, and he must have felt the same because his arm around her tightened, holding her even closer. She felt his head dip down and she let out a small gasp as she felt his breath against her skin, and then her eyes fell closed as he placed a very soft kiss on her neck. Her head fell back against his shoulder, and he kissed her neck again, still achingly soft.
Daisy turned in his arms suddenly, and he seemed concerned, as if he had overstepped, done something unwelcome. Daisy reached her hand up to grip his shirt collar and leaned up to kiss him, letting him know that she wanted this, wanted him. She pulled back a little after the kiss to see his expression, to make sure this was okay, but he closed the distance between them and kissed her again, more eagerly this time, more confidently, his hand at her waist pulling her closer.
When she finally pulled back, slightly breathless, she looked up to meet his eyes and found him gazing down at her with an awestruck expression on his face. They both let out a soft laugh at the same time.
Suddenly, the crowd let out a deafening roar and Daisy turned around to see that the band was announcing their final song. She felt Daniel wrap his arm around her again and she leaned back into his embrace, threading her fingers through his where they rested against her stomach, and they remained like that through the final song and the encore, with Daniel occasionally leaning in to place a kiss on her neck. Daisy realized she had a huge smile on her face.
When the set finally wrapped up for good, Jemma and Fitz turned towards Daisy. Jemma was unable to stop her jaw from dropping at the sight in front of her before she composed herself. She elbowed Fitz and whispered something in his ear, and they shared a private smile.
“Ready to go?” Jemma asked as she approached the pair, still smiling at Daisy with a knowing look. Daisy rolled her eyes at her expression.
“Yeah, let’s get out of here,” she said as she disentangled herself from Daniel, still holding his hand as the group turned toward the exit. They hadn’t gotten far before Daisy heard a voice behind her that caused her stomach to turn and her blood run cold.
Ward was approaching them quickly, and Daisy didn’t have much time to react before his fist collided with Daniel’s face. Daniel’s hand dropped from hers as he fell to the ground.
“Ward, stop it!” Daisy yelled as he dove for another hit, and she heard Jemma screaming at her side. Daniel brought his hands up to defend himself and blocked the hit, knocking Ward off to the side. Ward picked himself up and turned around for another swing, but Daniel managed to whip his cane around and caught Ward in the leg, knocking him off balance. Ward fell in the dirt, the wind knocked out of him, and before he could get up, security guards swarmed past Daisy and pulled both men up and away from each other, dragging them away in different directions.
“Wait, stop it, it wasn’t his fault, he was defending himself!” Daisy chased after the security guards that held Daniel, but another guard held up a hand to block her way. She watched in horror as he was pulled toward the exit and guided into a police car. When did the police even get here? she thought numbly. The car door shut and the siren whooped as it drove off. Ward was herded into another car, struggling all the way, spitting curses at the guards that held him. Distantly, she heard him yelling “Skye!” right before he was pushed into the backseat of the car, and the door closed in his face before driving off.
Jemma and Fitz were next to her, she realized suddenly, each of them had an arm around her and they were talking to her. She couldn’t process what they were saying, but she allowed them to lead her out of the festival grounds, barely noticing the fact that a lot of festival attendees were staring at them as they passed. Daisy couldn’t think about anything but how awful she felt for what had happened. Daniel was such a good guy, and because of her, he had gotten hurt and arrested.
She was vaguely aware of getting into the car and driving home, becoming more aware of her surroundings as Jemma and Fitz helped her out of the car and into her apartment. Jemma wanted to stay with her, but she insisted that she was fine, that she just wanted to go to sleep, and eventually she was able to get her friends out the door with a promise that she would speak to them in the morning. She closed the door, took off her shoes and shut off the lights before dropping onto her bed without changing her clothes. Despite the fact that she’d told her friends she wanted to sleep, she lay there for a long time, wide awake, mentally beating herself up for the terrible way the night had ended.
The next morning, Daisy was startled awake by her text message alert sound, and she groaned as she rolled over to check the message. Jemma had sent three messages demanding to know that she was okay, and the last message said that she was coming over. Daisy responded quickly saying she was fine and not to come over, tossing her phone onto her bed as she sighed heavily.
She shuffled off to the bathroom and brushed her teeth, washed her face, and ran her fingers through her messy hair, not really caring at all how it looked. She returned to her room in a daze, her brain running through yesterday’s events as she grabbed a new shirt and shorts and changed her clothes without even paying attention to what she was putting on.
There was a knock on the door and she groaned. “Damn it, Jemma,” she muttered to herself as she headed towards the front door. “I told you not to come over -- “ she was saying as she pulled the door open, but her words died in her throat as she saw who was on the other side.
Daniel stood in front of her, wearing the same clothes from the day before, sporting an angry looking black eye. “Oh, I can leave if you want...Quake,” he said with a smile, eyeing her shirt. She glanced down and for the first time registered the shirt she was wearing, an old ratty t-shirt from a road trip she and Jemma had taken to California years ago. There had been a very minor earthquake while they were there, and they had been drunk and ended up buying shirts to commemorate the occasion. The shirt was so faded and worn at this point that the only visible word was “Quake”. She looked back up at him in disbelief. Was she dreaming?
“How...how are you here? Are you okay? What happened?”
“Spent the night in a holding cell,” he said, and Daisy gasped, mentally kicking herself for the millionth time, “but they let me go with a warning since it was a first offense for me.”
“Wait, are you telling me that you don’t have a criminal record?” Daisy asked, pretending to be shocked, and laughed when he gave her an exasperated look. “Who knew you were such a square?”
“Harsh, but...true. Anyway, before I left the precinct, they told me that guy Ward did have a criminal record, in fact, he was actually out on parole. And starting a fight was a violation of his parole, so...guess he’s going back to prison for a long time.”
Daisy’s jaw dropped at that. She knew Ward had anger issues, but she wasn’t expecting to hear that.
“So, you gonna invite me in, Quake?” Daniel asked, shaking her out of her stupor. Daisy rolled her eyes and stepped back to let him inside, closing the door behind him.
“What are you doing here?” Daisy said as they stepped into her living room.
“Fitz gave me your address. I hope that was okay?”
“But why are you here? I mean, you must hate me. I’m so sorry for what happened, I can’t believe he did that to you.”
Daniel leaned his cane against the wall and placed one hand on her shoulder, the other hand coming up underneath her chin, guiding her face up until her eyes had connected with his. “Daisy, that was not your fault, ” he insisted. “I promise, I am not upset with you.” Daisy nodded, but otherwise stayed still, not fully believing that he could still want her after everything. He took a deep breath and continued. “I was hoping we could keep spending time together. Yesterday was a lot of fun, you know, right up until it wasn’t anymore. You’re a lot of fun to be around, and I want to be here. I was hoping you might feel the same way, but if you don’t, that’s okay.” He dropped his hands and took a small step backward, giving her room to make the choice.
Daisy stood frozen for a moment, absorbing what he had said, and then found herself lunging forward to throw her arms around his neck and kiss him passionately. He wrapped his arms around her waist and then suddenly she felt him tumble backwards, landing on her couch with a grunt and her on top of him.
“Oh my god, I’m so sorry, are you okay?” she asked, remembering his leg and fearing that she had hurt him somehow, but then he reached up to thread his fingers through her hair and pull her down into another kiss.
He pulled back from the kiss to say, “Oh, I’m great, Quake,” with a teasing grin, and she groaned at the nickname before kissing him again.