“Oh. It’s you. Great, of course they sent in the annoying one.” Sarge smiled, still tugging on his restraints, disdain evident in the way he looked at her. “I guess I should just be glad they didn’t send Smiles again, the bullet holes still hurt.”
Daisy rolled her eyes, unceremoniously flopping onto the chair next to his bed, feeling the exhaustion of the recent fight seeping into her bones. “What do you know about Izel?”
“No preamble? Damn.” He scoffed, shaking his head. “What? You think just because you killed a few shirke in one go, I’m going to want to be your friend and spill my guts?”
Daisy smiled, faking sickeningly sweet as obviously as she could muster. She hated this man more than she could put into words. She hated that she had to be here. “No, but I think I’m the best you got right now. Paxton and Jaco are dead, Snowflake hates your guts. You have no team left. And if you couldn’t stop Izel with four people helping you, what makes you think you can do it on your own?”
Sarge’s jaw snapped shut, the muscle straining as he grit his teeth.
“That’s what I thought. Now talk to me. You tell us about everything and maybe we’ll let you in on finishing Izel.”
Sarge stared at her, clearly contemplating his next move, his eyes missing all the warmth that Coulson’s had held, before he gave a slight nod.
It was only because of her training that Daisy was able to hold back a sigh of relief. She didn’t think she would’ve had it in her to keep digging at it until he decided to talk. “When we were driving you told me Izel took your family. And Mack told me that when you talked to her on the radio you said she took your memories of them, of the woman you loved. And she knows your real name. Seems like you have a lot of history with her. How much do you know?”
His eyes narrowed, contempt evident in his countenance. “About her or about me ? ”
“Why don’t we start with you?”
Sarge chuckled without humor. “You’ve seen what you’re up against and you’re still obsessing about why I look like that dead Coulson guy, huh? That’s foolish of you.”
Daisy bit her tongue to stop herself from snapping at him. She wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of getting a rise out of her. “Well, you’re the one sitting in a cell, so why don’t you let me decide what’s foolish and what isn’t?”
For a second, he looked like he was about to make another snide remark, but then his shoulders sagged almost as if defeated. “I don’t know anything about myself. Just what’s happened since I woke up in one of Izel’s ships. It must’ve been more than a hundred Earth years ago now.”
Her eyes narrowed suspiciously. She wasn’t buying it. “You really expect me to believe you know nothing ?”
“I don’t care what you believe, it’s the truth.”
“Then how do you know you had a family?”
His hands clenched and unclenched as he steadily kept eye contact. “I don’t know. It’s a feeling.”
Daisy scoffed and raised an eyebrow. “A feeling? That’s all you’ve got?”
Sarge nodded, his gaze dropping from hers and onto his hospital bed. “As long as I can remember it’s been like something’s missing in me. I know how love feels—to give it and to receive it. I know I had people, and I know loved them. They were my family. Sometimes I feel like their faces are just out of reach. I can’t explain it but I know they exist.”
It was in that moment that she first felt sympathy for this impostor that was wearing Coulson’s face. She remembered what it was like to grow up knowing something was missing but not really understanding what it was, and it’d sucked. To live a hundred years like that… it would’ve been terrible. “That sounds incredibly lonely.”
He laughed, the sound mirthless and sad. “I hold on to the memory of the feeling when it gets to me. It helps.”
Daisy swallowed, an attempt at shaking off the weird emotions rising in her as she watched Sarge’s demeanor shift from defiant to defeated. “You said something about a woman you loved? Do you remember anything about her?”
“No. It’s just… different. How it feels when I think of that kind of love. When I see that kind of love. I remember how it was all about partnership and trust… and communication, but I don’t think I was too good at that part.” He paused and ran a frustrated hand over his face. “I think I had a kid too. I remember what it felt like to love someone so much your heart is just walking around outside your chest. I know I loved her enough that I would’ve burned the world down for her. I know I was so proud. I don’t know if I was good at showing it though.”
Her breath hitched, the more irrational side of her that hoped there was some part of Coulson in this man stirring at his words. Nothing about him as a person had ever made her feel like they’d been similar beyond their looks. Until now. Until she started hearing the way he talked about family. “Are they dead?”
“I don’t think so. Or at least they weren’t. I think… last time I saw them they were okay. It doesn’t feel like they were gone.” He cocked his head, meeting her eyes, his expression curious. “Did he have a family? This Coulson guy, I mean.”
Daisy froze, taken aback by the question and unsure of how to answer it, an uncomfortable silence stretching between them. Family was complicated, for all of them. “No… he didn’t.”
His brow furrowed, as if confused by her answer. “Even you don’t sound convinced of that.”
Daisy looked away, twisting her fingers in her lap. She didn’t want to have this conversation with him. He didn’t deserve to know about Coulson. But it’d been the most curiosity he’d shown about the man he was a mirror image of. She needed him to give him some motivation to want to find out why he was Coulson’s doppelgänger. “He had our team, he had May. We were— we are a family of sorts. But he didn’t have a family, not in the traditional sense anyway.”
“Oh. I thought maybe you were his—” He cut himself off abruptly, a flash of nervousness appearing on his face for a moment before he schooled his features into an impassive mask. “I thought maybe he’d had a kid too.”
She exhaled sharply, tears stinging at her eyes at the assumption. He didn’t need to finish what he was saying for her to know what he’d thought.
It had guilt churning in her gut.
Sometimes it still killed her that she hadn’t been able to verbalize what Coulson had meant to her while he was still alive. It was part of why even a year later she couldn’t bring herself to open his letter yet. Deep down she had a pretty good idea about what he’d said in it. She wasn’t unaware of how much he’d cared for her—he’d all but burned the world to the ground on multiple occasions to make sure she’d be alright. And if that hadn’t been enough, she’d overheard enough conversations between him and May to know he’d considered her as much his kid as anyone could be.
“He was the closest I ever had to a dad. I think… I was family to him too. It’s why it’s so hard that you’re here, wearing his face.” She smiled ruefully, looking up to find him staring at her again. It hurt to look at him and not see any kind of familiarity in his eyes. “You being an asshole almost makes it easier than if you were nice, at least then I can’t get my hopes up you’re really him.”
Sarge chuckled, something akin to sympathy appearing in his expression. “Sounds like he was the kind of guy that would stick with you ‘til the wheels came off.”
His words stopped Daisy cold. ‘I’m with you until the wheels come off.’ That was one of Coulson’s favorite things to say to comfort her when things got heavy and she started feeling the darkness creep in. She’d never heard anyone else say anything like that. It almost made her think… no, it was impossible. She couldn’t go there, not without reopening wounds she’d spent the past year meticulously stitching together. May had seen him die. They’d buried him. He was gone.
It was just coincidence.
She knew that.
But still the walls were closing in on her, making it harder for her to breathe. Making her heart race.
She needed to get out of there.
She took a deep breath, hoping Sarge couldn’t see how she shook as she did so, and faked a glance at her watch. Coulson’s watch. “I have to go meet with Doctor Simmons. We’ll talk more about Izel later. Thank you for talking to me.”
Without waiting for a response, Daisy stood and made her way to the door as calmly as she could, only stopping when Sarge spoke again, his voice kinder than she’d ever heard it.
“For what it’s worth, it sounds like he was lucky to have you.”
She shook her head, keeping her back to him so he couldn’t see the tears that had broken free. “I was the lucky one.”