Daisy had always had very sensationalised ideas about love.
Disney movies and most other children's movies for that matter, had made love out to be the be all end all, a once in a lifetime occurrence. She had watched the Moulin Rouge before she was old enough to know what half of the plot elements were, but she always remembered the lines about love, how it was like oxygen, how it was all anyone needed.
Love had always eluded Daisy.
She had a lot to give, and it always confused her that no one had any love for her. Family after family had sent her back to orphanages and homes. She slipped between people and places, eventually deciding that caring about these families didn't help. But it was hard when some of them seemed to love her, only to send her back not long after.
The nuns talked about God, and how much God loved them, and how they should love Him with all their hearts, because He had given them life, created them, and that they should love Him for that. Daisy had wondered, secretly, why God hadn't given her a better life. It was hard to love something that you couldn't see or talk to. Daisy wasn't even sure if God was really there.
Sister McKennis had always said that God was love, and that was the only thing that really stuck with Daisy. Maybe God didn't exist as a cosmic being, but love did – somewhere. She just couldn't find it, no matter where she went.
Once she ran away and fell in with Miles, things felt different. They never spoke about love. They talked about survival, about helping other people, but never about how they felt. Daisy liked Miles, he was passionate, and he taught her how to hack computers, something she was very proud of being able to do. Maybe that was what love was. Just two messed up people who only had each other.
Then she had managed to end up on a plane with five SHIELD agents, and love had been the last thing on her mind. All she wanted was to find out what had happened to her parents.
She liked this team though. Fitzsimmons were cute and they were friendly. Ward was tough and mean, but she thought he was well intentioned, and he had his moments. Coulson was the most extreme dad she had ever met, with his bad jokes and reprimanding looks. May was trickier – she came off as cold more often than not, but every now and then Daisy could see past it, catch the warmth in her eyes, see how she protected them all.
Slowly, gradually, Daisy's thoughts on love changed.
Love wasn't rare, it didn't have to be big and dramatic. It could be something as simple as Fitz and Simmons working in the lab. Love didn't need to be talked about, it could easily be shown, like the way Coulson would make May a cup of tea every morning, just in time for her to finish training. Love didn't have to be soft and warm, it could be May knocking her on her ass in training, and Daisy jumping up so that she could do it again.
Unfortunately, Daisy learned one lesson that she wished she would never have to. Sometimes, love wasn't true. Sometimes it wasn't enough. Sometimes, love was selfish and uncaring and possessive.
Sometimes someone you thought you loved wasn't even real, and they left. Or they lied to you. Or tried to kill you. And it hurt so badly you never wanted to love every again, because at least then you'd never need to go through that pain.
After the Iliad, Daisy wasn't sure if that lesson would ever stick.
But the first thing she did after she got out from the infirmary was go to the gym.
She didn't expect May to be there. She didn't expect May to ever talk to her again, actually.
But when she walked through the door May looked to her in greeting, not with hostility or disappointment. They began their tai chi just like they always had and Daisy almost felt like she could keep going.
She hadn't quite mastered one move though, and as usual it made her overbalance and topple to the ground. May stopped in her own routine to give her a hand back up.
Daisy took it without thinking. It felt so normal. "Thanks mo-" She cut herself off before it could completely slip out, but she could see immediately from May's face that she heard. "May." She corrected, eyes slipping downwards. "Sorry." She pulled her hand away.
"It's okay." May said. Daisy could feel her eyes burning a hole in her head. 'Mom' had felt alien in her mouth for so long, so rarely spoken, a role that had never been filled. At least not until... Daisy glanced back up, saw May's eyes were full of concern. "I'm sorry you had to go through that." She murmured.
"It's okay." Daisy was scared if she said anything else she might start crying.
Melinda imagined her own mother dying in front of her, trying to kill her, and her stomach heaved. "It doesn't have to be, Skye."
"Daisy," She corrected, "It's Daisy now. And I'm not just saying that." She trembled and finally met May's eyes, hardly able to see her through the tears in her own. "I had foster families that lasted longer than I spent with- her." She choked on the word.
"Daisy." May's voice was still soft, understanding. It almost made it worse. She was so rarely like that. "She was still your mother. It's different."
Daisy shook her head repeatedly, rubbing her eyes to try to make it stop. "It's okay, it is. I-it's okay that she's gone, cos- you're still here." Her voice was in a constant diminuendo until the last few words were barely a whisper.
Melinda felt like she had been hit by a truck. "S- Daisy, I-"
"I'm sorry." She said again, trying to stop crying because she didn't want May to feel sorry for her, she didn't want her to let her off easily for this. "I-I hit you."
"It's okay." May said with barely a pause. "I'm fine."
"You don't have to forgive me," Daisy sniffled, "I get it."
Melinda felt like her heart was breaking, so she broke through her usual distance and wrapped the girl in a hug. "I know I don't have to." She murmured as Daisy clung to her. "But I forgive you anyway. Because I want to."
Daisy mumbled something incoherent into her shoulder.
She pulled away enough to speak, but not to look at May's face. "She wasn't what I wanted her to be. I just- I want you to know that."
A hint of what could have been apprehension gripped her heart. "Why?"
"'Cos you were." Daisy whispered, and the floor trembled slightly beneath their feet.
Melinda smiled softly, pulling her closer. She didn't say anything. She didn't need to.
Daisy buried herself in the embrace, the racing emotions and crazy thoughts finally slowing to a stop in the face of this calm and quiet.
This was love too.