He carries Agent Johnson outside of whatever farmhouse they came out from, wondering how on earth they’re supposed to get back to their carrier given that neither of them had a homing device. They’d all but stripped Johnson entirely, and he’d only just been brought up to speed on their mission that by the time he found his way outside, he was formulating the plan to get them out, and getting Johnson some medical attention. The barely dull pain in his leg occasionally strengthens that he knows he can’t hold her up for too long, but he doesn’t pay it much mind. Thankfully, the roar of the air behind him is the only notification he gets of the flying ship and the others on there rush out; two of them, Simmons and Deke blanch as they see the two of them; Simmon’s bolts forward to help shoulder the weight that he finds himself unwilling to let her go.
“Go in,” he shouts as much as he can without actually shouting. Johnson’s barely been hanging onto consciousness and he doesn’t want to startle her before she’s anywhere safe. The distress in Simmons’ eyes is visible as they all rush in, the sound of the loudspeaker and the man called Enoch telling them to brace themselves to go find Agent May. Simmons looks down at Johnson once they’ve all entered the ship and closed it behind him. The other man, Deke, tries to hold her while he shakes his head.
“Tell me where to go,” he orders, and the three of them snap to attention instead of milling about her like mother hens. While the concern is touching, he can feel Johnson shiver in his arms, and every minute not spent treating her is a moment she could slip away from them.
“What the hell even happened?” Deke yells as him and Simmons lead him towards the medical area. She gives orders to the man while clearing out areas and storing a kit of scalpels away.
“She said something about this happening before, Jiaying -,” he says. Simmons’ eyes widened further again, pain crossing her features. Deke hisses slightly as he stands near the foot of the table they’ll place Johnson on and straightens her legs.
“Back up,” Simmon’s accent lilts, her tone firm as the table closes around her while he sits and watches the other woman begin treating her wounds. “What did they do specifically? I need to know the extent of her injuries,” Simmons calls to him, hands moving quickly.
“Said they took spinal fluid, and blood from her. Before that, we were hit with a blast of something that kept her out cold for hours and interfered with use of her powers. She also cut part of her hand to get me a glass shard.” Simmons’ face hardens as he tells her the injuries, her hands moving efficiently to unwrap the bandages from her body and the table closes around her again. She does something and a monitor appears right above the table, floating. This kind of tech could make even Howard Stark jealous, he thinks. He is awestruck as his own eyes widen looking up. Simmons shakes her head and he can see the opening within the table to place her hands in as she does a kind of surgery on her without actually touching her. He marvels slightly - he would’ve killed for something like that when they had amputated his leg. The steady beep of the monitor is the only thing that he pays attention to. His leg smarts, the stress of what he did finally catching up to him. He sprawls as much as possible on the area he’s sitting at and watches as Simmons finishes the last of her work.
“Can you get her some clothing from her bunk?” Simmons asks as she barely looks up from her work. “It’s down the hall, first turn on the right. She has a bag.” He nods stiffly, using the movement of the plane to guide him more than putting extra stress on his leg. He sees the sparse furnishings and isn’t sure of what he expected on a flying plane, but he smiles a bit at the daisy chain he finds as he pulls out a soft black pair of pants and shirt. He hands them over to Simmons and takes his spot again, watching as she picks up Johnson and makes quick work of her clothing. He averts his gaze while she does so.
“Last chance if you want to -,” she says, as she closes the table Johnson was on and finishes tapping something. He gets the idea that she’s been increasingly frazzled and bringing in Johnson like this was another curveball she hadn’t expected. Still, he shakes his head.
“I’m where I need to be,” he says and he wonders when he put Johnson from the list of people he would listen to but be wary of, to slotting her in the same area he did with everyone he worked with in the war. Maybe it’s because she seemed that she was shouldering a weight bigger than she could bear, or maybe because he couldn’t bear to add another ghost when he had left the war a long time ago that still managed to creep up on him occasionally.
The ship jostles as they hit turbulence and Sousa holds onto the side of the… table contraption Daisy is lying on. Right in his hand is a dossier of reports of the last year that Director Mackenzie found time to type that Simmons had asked Deke to give to him before she went into another area of the carrier. It’s almost enough to wring a dry chuckle out of him that the mainstay of SHIELD is endless field reports, no matter the scenario. Still, he doesn’t look at it just yet, instead focusing on the vitals displayed in a small screen at the foot of this device Johnson’s in.
His hands are stained with Agent Johnson’s blood; he rolled up his sleeves and when he looked down, the almost pink color faded on the edges. The blood stains and he feels the sharp press of the glass shard long after she'd passed it towards him, an indentation on his palm. He doesn’t care about the stain so much as how bloody she came back, and in contrast to how tiny she looked in that cell when he was worried she would die.
It’s something he realized back in the Nevada base, she carried herself with an air of confidence that wasn’t too dissimilar to the way Peggy did - something about women knowing their worth. Daisy had put up a good front up until they dragged her back into the cell, half-dead and bloodied. He has half a mind to go back and cut Nathaniel Mallick’s throat for good measure even though he witnessed firsthand the man’s body crumple and fold under the weight of Johnson’s powers. While a neat trick in protecting her powers, he can only imagine what she went through if Mallick reacted like that.
He should move out of the area, but the gut sense within refuses to leave her side in case the worst should happen. She gave him a glass shard hidden within her own skin, for god’s sake. The least he can do is keep watch for her.
His mind drifts back to the dossier in his hand. It’s a terrible thing to do to anyone, but especially a lady. She said something about Jiaying and how this happened to them, and he wonders just how the hell a young lady like her gets caught up in something like this that she tried to soothe his concern first. Nothing in the dossier says anything about Jiaying except an offhand note about Centipede serum and Jiaying’s blood to help a dying Coulson. A sister with her specific powers, he muses, given that she said her particular skill set was genetic. But then he remembers her bravado in Nathaniel’s hell hole, and how she mentioned it was inherited. Her mother then, he decides grimly. What awful things humanity does for power.
He puts that particular folder down and looks for some older ones. It feels wrong to look in the files when she could tell him herself. They had struck up a rapport, despite her riddle-like answers. He could befriend someone like her, if she weren't too busy evading his answers with more question. There’s a book he’d seen lying around behind him, and he takes it, flipping through it absentmindedly while he tries to focus. His attention always drifts back to Johnson and her vitals, just to make sure she’ll get out of the woods.
She wakes with a jolt, leaning into her arm far harder than she should as she feels whatever painkiller make its way through her system. All she can really feel is a mixture of numbness and soreness and the angle she leans on her arm smarts a bit. Sousa stands immediately, the man deceptively spry for having a bad leg. It is only then that she realizes that she shouldn’t be feeling like this when there were needles jabbed inside of her, or that the things she's leaning on is cold plastic and metal as opposed to wood and metal and hay. She finally realizes she’s in Jemma’s medical pod and outside is Sousa standing. She could almost cry from the relief but the tears bunch up at the corners of her eyes while she tries to stand.
She blinks, the disorientation enough to send her into another blackout for the next few hours. Goddamn time traveling, she mentally curses as she leans back. She’s on the Zephyr and she’s alive - how is she alive? She turns her head to see Sousa tapping at the pod to open it for her.
“The code is 051818,” she says. Sousa barely says anything, a silent watchful guardian beside her that she almost wants to push him away and tell him to go focus on his own rest. The glass whooshes as it is hidden back into its place.
“The day the world was supposed to end,” she adds by way of explanation. Sousa, for his increasingly fraying frustration, has taken everything in surprising stride considering he had twenty years packed in two hours. He barely raises an eyebrow at her words.
“Morbid humor,” she says. “The fact that we all would’ve been screwed if we didn’t fix things then... but I’m not sure if we ended up dooming ourselves in the world’s most fucked up apocalyptic plot with time travel added for flavor,” she grimaces.
He doesn’t say anything as the pod opens and the brisk refrigerated air of the Zephyr hits her face. She shivers slightly, swinging her legs to the side when Sousa lines himself up so he can help her up.
“I-,” she begins before he places an arm around her waist and her arms over his shoulders to help her stand. Anything she was thinking of dies on her lips because her legs still feel funny, and that she’d lost her heels somewhere between the Zephyr and the torture arena they came out of. She has half a mind to almost laugh at her own annoyance that she lost a really nice pair of espadrilles that would’ve been vintage if they ever went back to their own time.
“Thank you,” she adds as he helps her stand. She directs him towards her bunk on the Zephyr because she would rather have a pair of shoes on. Sousa, to her surprise, barely says anything but she feels awkward leaving the silence between them. She wants to bring up the fact that she heard only part of his story of his leg - the pain making her blackout and focus singularly on her own injuries than anything else.
“I’m usually much cooler than this,” she responds airily, trying to take the look of concern off his face. It makes her feel weird - the fact that there is a silence between them because she doesn’t want him to pity her like she’s some broken thing, and the fact that when he does look at her, it’s under scrutiny like he can tell she just spent a year traveling space to get away from her grief. And that’s not even counting the ten other lifetimes of grief she has been carrying since she stepped out of the orphanage.
“I’ll say,” he says drily as he seats her in the place he once sat. She almost grins at him, the tone pushing them back into easy territory. She hops off him as they near her bunk, pulling up the bar that prevents sliding off the bed to use as a brace to lower herself to grab a pair of her sneakers and a pair of socks in the go back that’s tied under the bunk.
“You could have asked,” he says, watching as she lowers the bar back down into the side as she hops onto the bed. She shakes her head, blonde curl bouncing into her face as she focuses resolutely on putting on the socks. Her shoes stay on the side of her bed, the laces tied around so as to keep them from falling. She’s been too exposed for the last few hours. It’s not as bad as it used to be, the scars of her missions all over her like a map; Jemma worked miracles today but she’d been stabbed and shot at so many times, there are marks that no one needs to pay attention to.
“It’s fine, thank you, Agent Sousa,” she says, holding her own arms in her hands as she massages them and the wrists.
“I guess that makes us even, huh,” he says, still leaning against the frame of the door.
“Guess so,” she looks up, a tight smile tugging at the edges of her mouth.
“Your powers -,” he begins, as she inhales. She meant to give him an explanation further back, but in between jumping through time and HYDRA stepping on them every step of the way, it fell from her mind. “- you don’t have to answer,” he rushes quickly, “but they hurt you?”
She nods, not voicing anything further. She’d never felt more exposed or violated when whatever they had iced her with blocked her powers. It took her forever to realize the destruction she could cause could be directed, but to have them caged within her and knowing they were just out of her grasp just reminded her of Kassius and the rage of being made into someone else’s puppet. The power to use destruction for good was hers and hers alone, and no person would ever take that from her without suffering consequences. She’d been half lucid in the farmhouse, but she had felt the tremors around her instead of the extensions of herself that she could redirect as waves. Nathaniel Mallick got everything he had coming to him, but she still selfishly wishes she could have had the opportunity to break his neck when she had the chance back in 1973.
“It’s a double edged sword,” she says curling up slightly in on herself. She jolts, her back righting itself up while now the soreness at the base of her neck actually registering on her pain radar. The two of them look around the room, his eyes looking up at her bunk while she tries to see if May and the others came back. Their eyes drift towards one another, a questioning look in his eyes while she tries to school her expression into indifference.
“Come on Johnson, I could do with something to eat, and you definitely need something to eat,” he says, surprising her yet again.
“I’m fine,” she says, pulling her sneakers on and pushing herself to stand. “Don’t worry about me.”
“You are a fighter,” he says, “but you don’t have to do this alone. You went through hell back there,” he says gently. She remembers the feeling of his gentle touch on her hair and tapping her awake on her back to keep her from sinking into the murky darkness. Inappropriately, she remembers the firmness of his thighs as he pulled her head to rest on him. She wonders if he heard about half the things she had thought she muttered aloud, or the way Lincoln had crossed her thoughts, or that the thought that “I’m going to die in the exact way my mother did,” had escaped her lips. She barely nods, his hand a steady anchor as he pulls her up, pulling his arm around her waist to help her stand.
God, she was going to murder Whitehall if she ever found him if they went further back in time, just to prevent his sociopathic Nazi hands from touching anyone else. She points to the utilitarian table when Sousa heads into the kitchen and sits as she points to places in the kitchen to Sousa. Up there would be spices, in the cabinet right by the sink was all the cooking utensils. The two boxes that looked stacked were a fridge that had occasional fresh fruit and vegetables in the past but they rarely spent as much time up in the air as they did bouncing through times, and being able to grab something in whatever time period that they were in. He makes something, her attention too scattered to fully focus on whatever he takes out. There’s drowsiness and there’s the medically induced sleep Jemma had put her in that she was sure was mixing with general fatigue. She puts her head against the table and watches as he moves quickly but surely.
“You mentioned Jiaying,” he says, after an indeterminate period of time passes. She lifts her head up, her seat closer to the wall so she could have a prop to help her up. He pushes a bowl of soup towards her, smelling chicken stock and the few vegetables mixed with some pasta she wasn’t even aware they had. She could kiss him on the mouth before she remembers that she told him about Jiaying - why did she tell him about Jiaying? She takes a tentative sip of the soup - it smells divine, but she knows from past experience with her and Deke that something smelling good could also hide the fact that what they were eating was garbage.
Neither of them speak as they eat quietly, her own thoughts racing as she realized she’d told him far more than expected in two hours than anyone else. Sousa focuses on his food, and nothing else. She steels herself a bit once she’s done, the pain of what HYDRA does to people like her a constant scab she’s been forced to scratch constantly while they try for increasingly sociopathic world conquering plans. She waits for him to finish before she does, collecting her thoughts; her own appetite fades, but still she finishes her food to keep the drowsiness at bay.
“I’m an Inhuman. My mother was an Inhuman as well, she was called Jiaying. When you’re Inhuman, you go through this thing - terrigenesis - and it reveals whether you have power or you die,” her voice turns wistful when she remembers how Triplett was with her when she was exposed to the mist and how he died in the temple. “My power is tremors and earthquakes. HYDRA took a lot of experiments for them to figure out what they were doing. My mother was one of their experiments. They found out she could take other people’s lives to live longer and they opened her up like she was a lab rat. They killed her multiple times just to see what she could do.”
“Hell,” Sousa breathes.
“But that’s not something we should be worried about just yet,” she tries to laugh, but it comes off as brittle and hollow. Sousa gives her an odd stare - she remembers about her time in the orphanage and how the laughter became armor, to laugh off whatever trauma she’d undergone and she’d never gotten rid of it entirely. “I’m pretty sure if what you described is true, we’re not going to see Mallick anytime soon. These powers will break your bones if you don’t know how to handle them,” she rubs at her arms. “Thank you, seriously, once again.”
“I told you you were going home, Agent Johnson. I won’t get made a liar,” he says, picking her plate as she tries to hold her hand to stop him.
“Will you tell me the story you said you were gonna say if we got out? I think it’s only fair,” she turns, infusing lightness into her voice as she braces herself against the table to stand. She really did want to hear about Daniel Sousa hallucinogenic trip, and to know more about the man outside of how he made SHIELD into a formidable covert organization.
Sousa turns back to her, the kitchenette feeling a lot smaller than it felt earlier. She focuses all her attention on the table in an effort to collect her thoughts, gaze averted while the thrumming of her own heart rate sounds louder to herself in her own ears.
“What’s a story after stopping death for a friend of yours,” he says, holding his hand out to keep her steady. She looks up at him finally, and smiles a bit as they walk out using each other as support.