Daisy woke up in the chamber. This time, she started the cycle by pounding on the inside of the lid with far more force than necessary. She smacked the button to open the chamber and rolled out, waiting for Sousa to say his line.
“Hey. What are you doing up?” There he was, right on cue with his sleepy question.
They were in a time loop. Of course his question would be the same every time. So why was Daisy so taken aback every time?
This loop, Daisy went for a wry humor. “Well, we’re in a loop that only Coulson and I remember and we’re gradually being pulled into a time vortex that is going to unexist us. I’m up because apparently the universe hates me and wants me to die knowing that I failed the people that I love. And last loop, I almost killed everyone when I blew up the time drive.”
Daniel blinked. “What do you need me to do?”
Daisy laughed. “There’s nothing any of us can do! I’ve tried this dozens of times that I can remember, but Coulson said there were more times before that. Apparently every time I die, I forget my loops and have to start from square one!”
“Coulson seems like a good start. I’ll go get him,” Daniel offered. He put a hand on Daisy’s shoulder for a second. “Chin up, Agent Johnson. I’m always here for you.”
Daisy wanted to cry, wanted to fight someone. Daniel was always there. He always offered to do the things that would get him killed to preserve her memory of the loops. It killed her to see that happen to him.
Daisy took a second to gather herself, then went to the LMD lab to retrieve Coulson.
“Well,” Coulson said. “Now we know not to quake the time drive. This apparently results in more explosions and the early reset of the loop. Yay us.”
“Maybe Yo-Yo and her speed-”
“Tried that in loop twelve,” Coulson interrupted. “It blew her back into a wall before anyone could see she had moved.”
Another dozen ideas ping-ponged around the lab before Daisy picked up a glass sitting on the table and clutched it so hard it broke. And for the first time in many loops, she broke. “I can’t do this. I don’t know how. I don’t know why Simmons couldn’t be the one with the memory. She could fix this. I’m not Fitz, I’m not Simmons, I’m not even Deke. I can’t do this. I can’t do this.” She started repeating those four damned words.
Sousa shooed Coulson from the lab and guided Daisy to a chair. She buried her face in her hands, and he tried to speak in a soothing tone. “Daisy, it’s alright. I’m sorry that you’re the one burdened with this. But you are the strongest, most capable person I know. You are going to fix this. It may take a few loops, but you will. Don’t worry. Look at me.”
Daniel gently raised her chin so that she could see the certainty in his eyes. “Someone like you has no limit that they cannot break. This includes time loops and spacetime. I believe in you. You’re going to get us home, I know it.”
Before Daniel could blink, Daisy had jumped up from the chair and wrapped her arms around his neck, clinging to him. His arms wrapped around her waist like they belonged there. Then Daisy was kissing him, and he was convinced they had died in the last loop, because this was definitely heaven. It was over too quickly, and then she was detaching from him (literally).
“I’m sorry, that was stupid of me,” Daisy said. Before Daniel could respond, she heard the all-too-familiar whining of the time drive. The pulsing sound continued and …
Daisy woke up in the chamber.
The only thing worse than Daisy dying and resetting all of her memories was her watching her friends die and being unable to stop it. In this batch of memories, she had watched almost everyone on the team die at one point or another. Simmons had died in a lab explosion, Deke when some electrical systems fried him. Daisy could still smell the disgusting smell of singed flesh from three loops ago.
But this was so much worse. When the time drive exploded this time, Daniel pushed Daisy out of the way and took a piece of shrapnel to his chest for his trouble.
“Sousa! Sousa, no.” Daisy laid him down flat and put pressure on his wound, feeling the area slick with too much blood. Sousa coughed, and blood dribbled out of his mouth.
He coughed again and choked out, “I think you can call me Daniel at this point.” His face was pale, too pale, and he put his hand gently against Daisy’s cheek, brushing away the tears she hadn’t noticed falling. “You’ll fix this. I believe in you.”
His arm went slack and dropped to the ground, and he stopped breathing. Daisy put greater pressure on his wound. “Come on, come back. Daniel!”
Coulson came up behind Daisy, resting a hand on her shoulder. “He’s gone. But he’ll be back.”
Daisy jumped up and turned, burying herself in a hug from Coulson. “I don’t know how many more times I can do this,” she whispered.
Coulson wrapped her tighter in his arms. “We’ll do this as many times as we need to get it right.”
Daisy broke out of the hug and looked down at herself. When she spoke, her voice was flat. “Sorry I got blood all over you, but it’ll be gone in a minute anyways. What’s the next plan?” Before they could say anything more, the smoking remains of the time drive started whirring, and Daisy woke up in the chamber.
She lay silently staring up at the ceiling for a minute. That had been the hardest loop that she remembered. Something seemed broken inside her now, a piece of her that she didn’t know existed cracking under the weight of Daniel’s death, especially when he had died protecting her.
She smiled slightly when she turned her head and saw Daniel asleep in his chair like always. Daisy opened the chamber and climbed out quietly. She was going to leave Daniel out of this loop, but something compelled her to stop by his chair. Before she could overthink it, she leaned down and brushed his hair off his forehead, planting a soft kiss.
Daniel stirred. “Daisy? What are you doing up? You should be resting.”
“I haven’t been getting much of that lately.”
Daniel looked concerned, his brow furrowing. “Is something wrong? What can I do to help?” he jumped out of the chair, stretching a bit.
Daisy laughed. “Every damn time.” Before she could think more and muck things up, she closed the distance between them and planted her lips on his. Her hands ended up on his chest, simultaneously trying to keep some distance and pull him as close as possible.
She pulled back and started to apologize. “I’m sorry, I-”
It was Daniel who closed the gap this time, putting one hand on her waist and the other softly against her chin. He kissed her like he was searching for something, or like he had just found what he was looking for. When they broke apart, he rested his forehead against hers. “Don’t ever apologize for that.” He took a deep breath and a small step back, letting his hands drop to his side. “So, what’s up?”
“I was so much happier asleep,” Daniel said as things continued to explode around them.
Coulson and Daisy had settled on a plan for a couple of loops. She was going to each part of the plane to observe the exact sequence of events, and once she had everything, she was going to tell Coulson all of it so that even if she died, he remembered. She wasn’t even waking him up in case she missed something by doing that. This loop, she was also trying to have a little bit of fun where it came to her responses. “Yeah, but you looked like a dork asleep.” She stuck her tongue out at Sousa, who gave her a surprised look.
“Daisy, are you feeling ok? You really should be resting.” Sousa came over to look intently at her face for any signs of fatigue or weakness.
“I’m fine. I’m going to check on Simmons and Enoch in the lab.” She went down the hall, hearing Daniel’s footsteps behind her, just as Deke came running past to talk about circling the drain.
“What’s going on?” Daniel asked her, putting a hand on her shoulder to stop her just as they reached the stairs. “You’re acting really strangely, and I’m worried about you.”
“We’ve got bigger things to worry about. I’m fine,” Daisy insisted, turning to face him nonetheless. She wouldn’t meet his eyes.
“You’re not acting fine.” Daniel put a hand underneath her chin, raising it just a bit until she had to meet his gaze.
“I think we’re all going to die and that I’m not able to stop it, so forgive me that I’m a little bent out of shape. I’m stuck in a loop that only I can remember, and we need to get to Simmons so I can observe her this go-around and see if there are any clues to stop our inevitable non-existence.”
Daniel blinked a few times. “Well that is just peachy keen.” He let his hand fall. “Anything you need, you just let me know, alright? I’m here for you.”
Daisy slowed down for a second. There was always another loop to observe Simmons, right? “You know what? I can take a second.” She sat down on the top step and motioned for Daniel to do the same. “Every time I tell you about this, you’re there for me. Even if I’m not looking for it, you’re always making sure I’m resting and not overexerting myself and … why?”
“Honestly?” Daniel looked a little nervous as Daisy nodded. “You’re amazing. You care so much about so many things, but especially your family. You don’t take no for an answer, even when you really should. When told to pick your battles, you want to choose them all. I admire the hell out of that, and I want you to know that you always have someone in your corner. I want to be in your corner.”
He looked like he had just confessed his love, which in a way, Daisy thought he had. When Daniel stopped meeting her eyes, she reached out to push his hair back from where it had fallen over his forehead. He looked back at her with such vulnerability in his eyes, and Daisy was helpless to do anything but kiss him. It was soft and sweet, and the worst amazing idea that Daisy had ever had.
When she pulled away, she said, “I’m really glad you’re in my corner.” One of Daniel’s hands was resting against the stairs, and Daisy grabbed it and squeezed. “Thank you.”
Daniel rubbed the back of his neck with his free hand. “Um, you’re welcome. Now you said you need to see Simmons, right?”
Daisy woke up in the chamber, and the tears she had been shedding seemed to carry over from the last loop. She let out a hiccupping sob and slammed the button to open the chamber. She tumbled out less gracefully than normal, hitting the ground with her foot at a weird angle and cursing. Daniel woke up from his chair like he did every time.
“Hey, what are you doing up? You should be resting.” He got out of his chair and noticed the tears on Daisy’s face. “Hey, what’s wrong?”
She went to brush past him and he stopped her, gently turning her back towards him. “Please tell me what’s wrong. Talk to me?”
Daisy threw herself at him, wrapping her arms around his waist in a hug. Daniel instinctively wrapped his arms around her shoulders, running one of his hands up and down her back firmly to help soothe her. “Whenever you’re ready to talk, I’m here.”
They stood for a few minutes before Daisy pulled out of his embrace and went to sit on the edge of the chamber. She patted the padded surface next to her in invitation, and Daniel acquiesced.
Daisy took a deep breath and started. “We’re in a time loop, and I’m reliving the same 25 minutes over and over. Coulson and I are the only ones that remember, and the ship is being pulled into a vortex and eventually if we don’t break out, we’re all going to die.”
Daniel’s eyes were wide, but he seemed to be doing alright otherwise, so she continued. “Every time I die in the loop, I forget everything and have to start from scratch. It’s been about 85 loops since I died last, and I’ve seen everyone on the team die one by one in the loops from various catastrophes. But the worst is watching you die. You keep doing dumb things to save me and preserve my memory, but I’m not strong enough to keep doing this. I can’t keep watching you die, Sousa. It’s killing me. You’ve died in the last three loops, and I seriously feel like I’m going crazy.”
At some point, Daisy had closed her eyes, and she didn’t even open them now. If she opened her eyes, the tears she was holding back were going to fall.
“Hey, Daisy.” Sousa gently turned her face towards his using his thumb and index finger. “Look at me, please.”
Daisy opened her eyes and felt the tears fall. “I don’t get it. Why do you keep dying for me?”
There was a look of pain and tenderness in his eyes that Daisy had rarely seen before. The last time she saw this was in one of the hazy memories of them in the barn, when he had pulled the piece of glass from her hand. Daniel opened his mouth to speak and closed it again. He couldn’t find the right words to say, so he let his mouth do the talking in a different way. He leaned forward and pressed his lips to hers, hand travelling from her chin up to stroke the side of her face.
He broke away from Daisy and rested his forehead against hers. “I think that says most everything. Any questions?”
Daisy grinned and shook her head before leaning in to kiss him again. She didn’t break the kiss off, and Daniel wasn’t eager to do so either. Their mouths moved in tandem with one another, and Daisy ran her hands wherever she could reach. She started with his shoulders, running her hands along the firm muscles. She took a little break to play with his hair, running her fingers through those amazing curls she had been practically salivating over since the moment she laid eyes on him.
Daisy squeaked as Daniel broke away from her mouth to plant a trail of kisses along her jawline. When he moved to her neck, she sighed and became putty in his capable hands. When he stayed away from her mouth for too long, Daisy pouted and changed it up.
She moved so that she was straddling him, with him still sitting on the side of the machine. She kissed him deeply before doing what he had just done to her. Daniel gripped Daisy’s hips as she started kissing up and down his neck. One of his hands moved away from her hip to lay flat across her back and pull her closer to him, eager for her mouth.
It was getting hot and heavy until Daniel pulled back. “Not that I wasn’t enjoying that, because dear god I was, but didn’t you say we have a finite amount of time?”
Daisy sighed and hopped off the bed. “Yeah yeah, I know. I’m just so exhausted. Not physically, since the loop resets me back to how I feel waking up in the chamber, but mentally. I’ve been doing this for about 2 days just since I died last. Now Agent Sousa, let’s get going.” She turned to go out the door, running her fingers through her mussed-up hair. Daniel did the same, chuckling the whole way. This woman might be the death of him, but at least he was going to die a happy man.