The most unusual part of this entire scenario he’s been set in is how much he feels the need to make sure Daisy Johnson is okay. He made a promise, and despite their brief whirlwind tumultuous acquaintanceship, he’s not one to break it. Even if he did make said promise to a beautiful and mysterious woman who didn’t tell him the whole story, who was ten times more powerful than he was, he wasn’t about to be made a liar. Johnson’s a fighter, but she’s not indestructible, and whatever they had done to her, it was enough to turn the usual stressed expression on Simmons’ face into a snarl when he recounted what he’d made it to the Zephyr.
He’s heard of men doing terrible things in pursuit of the super serum, knows the way power makes monsters of men, but what they’d done to Daisy was ghastly torture. He still hears Nathaniel Malick’s voice in his head, looking so damn pleased with himself as he dropped Daisy onto the floor as if she were nothing more than a dead weight. If only he had a gun, he mused. He wonders that now, if he could find a way to get off the ship to find the man and end him. The thought of Daisy not waking up worries him more than anything else, and guilt washes over him thinking of the worst case scenario. It wouldn’t be right if he came aboard just for them to lose an agent like that, and even though he’s rooting for her, to think that something she couldn’t recover from feels contradictory to the way he feels in his bones that she’s stronger than she looks. So, staying by Daisy’s side feels as right as breathing is.
He tells her everything and nothing as he watches after her- tells her about the war, and Peggy and Rose, Dotty and Whitney and the other extraordinary women he’s met. Even if some of them had less than honorable intentions, he’d seen enough to know better than to underestimate someone on the basis on sex. Daisy, however, is unquantifiable and yet the instinct to trust her overwhelms every other thought he has.
“You’d have liked Peggy,” Sousa tells her from outside. He’d moved closer to her, simply to see if he could see if she would wake up earlier than the chamber. There is nothing but the hum of the healing chamber and pressurized air all around him. Despite everything, Daisy Johnson has been a grounding force since he’d set foot in the Zephyr. It feels wrong to just leave her even if she’s been asleep the whole time. He knows what it’s like to deal with a trauma and come to in an unfamiliar place alone. She stirs in her sleep, legs twitching but otherwise nothing. The color returns back to her slowly, but the shade of the same sunkissed brown return to her skin sets him at ease. He’d never seen someone so alive and sparkling. Jemma’s vivid recollection of what had been done to Jiaying is enough to unnerve him, quietly aware that the only thing that kept Johnson from a similar fate was his own involvement that wasn’t even intentional.
When she wakes, he’s in another section of the Zephyr getting something to eat. The whoosh of the pod opening is all he gets before he abandons the food to go back to see her. Daisy’s holding onto the edge, his hands and feet moving towards her just to keep her disorientation from swaying and stumbling off the table like a newborn colt
“Oh,” he hears a muffled sound from his shirt before she pulls herself back. “Sousa?” His arms moved around her waist just as hers went around his shoulders, blinking owlishly at him. He’s struck with how her eyes look so sad and tired in this moment, eyes drifting down to the bandage by her neck as he takes care not to squeeze her too much.
“Hey, you should be resting,” he says gently. She shakes her head, using him as leverage to stand. There’s something disconcerting about her speed at which she tries to get up - this woman is used to working through pain, even if it did almost kill her.
“What’s the status on the mission? When are we?” She looks like she’s trying to peer outside into the hallways. “Can you pass me that gauze?” She turns back to him. His mouth opens and closes as she looks around the room, takes stock of everything and barely notices her own sustained injuries. He can’t do anything but grab the gauze and trail after.
“We’re in 1983, we’re trying to find Deke and the Director,” he replies. As he moves to pass to her, he notes when the exhaustion hits once the spike of adrenaline has passed with a death grip she has on the doorway, and the blinking to consciousness is enough to make him rescind the gauze. She stands and tries to walk away from him, but he knows and she knows that she still needs more time in the chamber. He gently pulls her back as much as possible to sit down. Breaking the news that the Director has been lost in time isn’t something he should do especially quickly, given how tight knit this team seems to be. He definitely shouldn't break the news without making sure she was seated given Johnson's closeness with the Director. She looks at him with urgency.
“Mack? What about his parents?”
“Those Chronicom things got to them first,” he responds.
“Dammit,” she hisses under her breath. “Let me see if I can go help the others.”
“Daisy, no, there’s still issues with the time drive,” he says. “They still haven’t even been able to pinpoint where in time.”
“All the more reason I should go, we need every advantage we can” she says, pulling herself together as much as she can. It’s heartbreaking, really, he knows what it’s like to be powerless and not stop what has passed but this transcends everything he knows. She needs to recuperate and she’s doing her best to act as if she wasn't cut open and didn’t have a piece of her hand cut just to give him a weapon to escape.
He wonders if this is a particular type of retribution - to be the balancing force when faced with women who have been on death’s doorstep act as if they're right as rain. Hell, even Peggy and the rebar makes him shudder when he remembers, knows the way some of his own men stayed down over less. Or maybe it’s punishment for his own hell bent nature to return to the war when he’d lost his leg. In any case, his goal is to make sure Daisy’s doesn't injure herself before she can even finish her healing from this.
“We don’t have time for this,” she disentangles herself from him. She seems to have found her footing, but she still uses the movement of the plane to move from place to place, gripping onto the wall as she tries to walk out.
“Daisy, you’re still not okay, Jemma told me that the healing chamber needs to finish work after whatever Malick did to you, was what happened to Jiaying. And she didn’t even make it out alive,” he says, putting as much of the ‘chief voice’ tone Rose said he got in Los Angeles.
Daisy turns, her annoyance palpable from ten feet away. She tilts her head at him, a question in the daggers she stares at him.
“Simmons told me after you told me about Jiaying and then you passed out in my arms again.”
“You don’t understand, we need to be out there looking for them and getting them back here, we’ve only got so much time left,” she says, holding her side. She barely restrains a hiss as a bump sends her shoulder back into the wall out to the hall.
“You can’t do anything for them if you’re half dead,” he continues. “Johnson, this is an order,” he says firmly. She looks at him, like she wants to fight as he pointedly looks at the grip on the wall, and the way she holds herself together. Begrudgingly, she nods. There’s an iron strength to her. He’s known of brave men whose bravery masks bravado and hubris. And there’s men who are brave when the need arises, but she’s fearless. Stronger than anything. Daisy’s bravery is her armor and it’s her weakness - the moment he had his back turned when he was supposed to be watching her back, and her reaction was to immediately put herself forward when Malick got the drop on them is a perfect example. He looks at her and uses the postponed reaction to walks forward, not fast, but enough to let her know she can turn away his help if she wanted to.
He helps her back towards a seat he sat in, careful to make sure she doesn’t bump into anything. The wraps around her wrists need to be changed and he sits her where he sat, making sure that she could always turn away.
“I’m sorry,” she swallows thickly. The two of them don’t say anything more - they both know.
“You don’t need to be sorry,” he replies. When he’s certain she won’t try to walk away from him or towards the cockpit, he goes back towards the gauze he held and brings it to her. There’s an ointment for pain relief right beside it that he grabs. She’s rubbing at her wrists as she peels off, the wrist looking a hell of a lot smaller than earlier and bruises surrounding it. It’s a miracle she could even hold onto anything with that much pain. He's actually more shocked at the fact that she had a mean right hook back in '55 when her arms look so fragile, like bird bones. He takes one glance at it before he works on applying treatment while she rubs at her other hand. Neither of them speak; he’s focused on helping her recover while Daisy tilts her head to the side, quiet and pensive.
In 55, her presence was blooming. Here, there’s no sparkle in her eyes and she looks not dissimilar to a trampled bouquet of her namesake. She’s exhausted and weak, and this Daisy Johnson looks both far younger and older as the events reach her. Once he’s certain that the wrist is wrapped enough that it won’t come apart, he moves to the other.
“It’s part of the whole shaking the earth thing,” she says. He hums in response, making sure to not press on a bruise on the other arm as he brings it closer. He remembers reading from the Rogers’ file that the serum enhanced everything, giving him super everything and endurance. Somehow, he feels that’s not the case with Daisy and her gifts.
“On a good day, the earth and I move in harmony with my control of earth’s seismic waves and I use myself as a vessel,” she continues. His hands falter on the gauze on her left wrist, looking up as she looks directly at him. “On a bad day, when I can’t control it, the earth uses me and it hurts like hell. It.... gets triggered by pain when I'm not in control.”
“That seems like a particularly bad tradeoff,” he says, for lack of anything else he could say. She simply stares back at him, a soft inhale leaving her that sounds a lot like laughter. He’s struck with the thought that diamonds are created under extreme pressure to create something perfect - but she’s not a diamond, she’s still human in spite of her gifts. He wonders if she knows that though, if that's the reason why she insists on pushing herself.
“Thank you,” she says, once he’s done. He leans back against the pod as she opens her mouth. She looks away, blinking rapidly. Whatever she needs to say, she can do it later. He's already got her to allow him to bandage, he wonders if he can talk her back into resting. She exhales slowly, hands slowly flexing against her knee.
“I promised I’d bring you back, didn’t I? It wouldn’t be good if I just abandoned you just because I got here,” he chuckles, trying to ground her back. His own stomach makes a gurgling noise, forgetting what he’d left in the kitchen. She makes a noise that sounds suspiciously a lot like laughter as he looks sheepishly at her while her gaze trails back to him. “Hungry?” He asks, extending a hand to her.
“Yeah,” she replies. He feels something bloom deep within his chest as she places her hand in his, allowing him to help her stand.