Robbie couldn't help but find this situation kind of funny. For being such a lone wolf, Daisy sure did have a lot of people who wanted her here. For all her acting like some vigilante, he couldn't help but think she was some superpowered brat who ran away from home.
Her behaviour only built on that idea. Sitting as still as possible on her flight seat, eyes fixed on the floor. She looked like she was about to get grounded. She looked like Gabe when he'd come home over an hour later than he said he would. She looked like him after Gabe found out he'd had an accident at the shop.
He tried not to show how smug he felt. After Daisy had threatened Gabe, acting like she had nothing to lose, it was a victory to see exactly what she did have to lose.
May had entered the room briefly to give Daisy some medicine and them both some food, but had said almost nothing the entire time. Once she left, Robbie chuckled. "Never took you as the kid with overprotective parents."
Daisy twitched. "They're not my parents." She said quietly. "My parents are... gone."
Robbie grimaced. "Sorry. I know that's hard." He paused. "They care about you though. Raised you. That's family to me."
"No it's not." Daisy murmured. "And you're wrong. They don't care about me. Not anymore."
"Yeah they do. No other reason they'd be that pissed off at you."
"Maybe it's cos I screwed up and ruined everything." Like always.
Robbie rolled his eyes. "Come on. You know how many times Gabe's been pissed at me? It's not cos I messed up, it's cos I could have got hurt."
Daisy swallowed, biting down. "Maybe that's how it works for you, but it's not how it works for me, okay? So just shut up."
Robbie rolled his eyes again. "Whatever you say Quake."
Melinda didn't think anything could hurt her more than seeing the state Daisy was in after so much time hating herself, alone. Seeing the bruises on her arms, the dark circles under her eyes, how much weight she had lost. How weak she looked.
Watching the surveillance tapes with Phil, however, just about broke her heart in two.
'They don't care about me. Not anymore.'
Phil reacted first. "How could she think that?" He asked one hand touching the screen. "How- we've been looking for her."
May remained silent.
"This is all my fault." She looked at him. Phil wrung his hands. "I- if I'd done something different, if I'd just talked to her..."
"I shouldn't have been so harsh, I was just mad, and-"
"Phil." She didn't raise her voice, but something made him quiet. "Stop. Blaming herself is what got Daisy into this situation."
He swallowed, clenching his fists. "We need to talk to her."
Melinda hesitated. "Maybe you should do it." She said softly. "Both of us would make her clam up. You know how she is."
Coulson softened, putting a hand on her shoulder. "I do know how she is." He said, "And I know that she loves you."
"Don't, Phil." Her voice was stiff. "She thinks we're all angry with her. I can't-"
"Of course you can." He smiled. "I'm pretty sure you're the only one who isn't actually mad at her for leaving."
"But she thinks I am." Melinda murmured. "And she's Daisy. That's why she thinks we don't care-..." She swallowed. "Phil, I don't know what to do."
God, he just wanted to hug her. "Come on." Coulson said. "Daisy's never needed you to try to be something you're not. Just talk to her. You've been where she is. You know how she's feeling better than anyone."
Melinda chewed on her lip. "Ten minutes." She bargained. "Then you have to come help."
In the moment that Daisy looked up at May, she saw the stiffness to her gait. She was mad. Daisy knew that. They all were. She messed up everything they had, and now they hated her. She knew she deserved it, and all the pain that came with it. It just hurt to see it in person, knowing that they would never welcome her back.
Not that she wanted to come back.
May's eyes swept over Daisy's hunched form, locking with Robbie. "Agent Simmons needs to clear you for temporary access to our plane." She said, "She's waiting for you in the hanger."
Robbie raised an eyebrow, but stood and left all the same. He sensed that there wasn't much arguing with Daisy's not-mom.
Daisy kept her eyes fixed on the floor. Her stomach dropped when she heard only one set of footsteps leave. She swallowed, forcing herself to look up. She had taken down bridges and banks. She should be able to look at May.
She could. Just not her eyes. Daisy knew she wouldn't be able to take the distance and disappointment there. She knew she'd failed May, and the thought had that heavy feeling building in her chest.
She felt the weight change as May sat in the seat beside her.
"You gonna look at me?" May asked, trying not to sound too impatient.
Daisy swallowed. "What's the point?" She asked, looking up just to prove that she could. "You've already got my retinal scan on file." When she met May's eyes, something in her stopped. She didn't look angry, or hurt. She didn't look like she hated her.
Melinda sighed softly. "Have you been eating enough?" She asked. "You look thin."
Daisy bit down on her tongue. "I'm fine." She muttered. "I can manage."
"I know." May said. "I just worry."
"Don't." Daisy said forcefully. "I don't need that. Don't- don't pretend you care."
The hint of a smirk tugged at the corner of her mouth. "When have I ever pretended to care about anything?"
The joke didn't really land. "First time for everything." Daisy muttered. "I know everyone hates me. I get it. I deserve it. I just- I had to go."
"I know." Melinda murmured. "I did the same. Then Coulson dragged me out of my cubicle to fly some stupid plane for him." Daisy's eyes were so lost and scared, May just wanted to take her hand, hug her, anything to help her. She gave a tiny smile. "I'm not mad at you for leaving."
Daisy swallowed. That didn't make it any different. May still hated her. She was just being nice because she knew that they needed her, for now. "The others are." It was okay. It made it easier. It didn't hurt.
"Yeah." May said softly. "They are. They don't understand why you felt like you had to run away. But they still care about you, even though they're mad."
Daisy stilled at her choice of words. Great. May had heard. And now she was doing this because she felt sorry for her. "You don't have to lie to me."
"I'm not. You think we'd be chasing you for most of a year if we didn't want you around?"
Daisy shrugged, looking at May fully, taking in her posture, face, eyes. Everything. "You are lying." She said, "You're mad at me about something, I can hear it in your voice. You just don't want to say it. I dunno why."
Melinda went to put a hand on her shoulder, but Daisy violently shrugged it off. "Because," She murmured, "You think that me being angry at you means that I don't care about you. And that's not true. I'm angry that you think that it's okay to hurt yourself. That the only way you can do what you're doing is to push us all away. You pretend you don't matter to us so it's easier to throw your life away."
"You don't need me."
"You don't get to decide that."
"It's not a decision, it's the truth. You never needed me."
"We do need you Daisy. I need you." Melinda hesitated. "I know you don't want to hear it, but I've missed you."
Daisy clenched her fists, using the pain to hold on.
"I don't want to argue. I just need you to know that we all miss you, and we'll always- care about you."
Daisy trembled. "I don't want you to." She mumbled, hating herself for cracking enough to say it. "I don't- I..."
"I know." Melinda murmured. "Believe me. After Bahrain I pushed everyone away. My parents, Andrew, Coulson. I was punishing myself." Daisy looked away.
May sighed softly. "I know you don't think you'll ever be able to come back, but one day you'll be ready." She smiled. "Some idiot will show up and tell you he just wants you to drive the bus. And you'll think you're not ready, but you'll go anyway. You'll meet some smartass kid who never shuts up, and between the two of them, they'll make life worth living again." Daisy was trembling and Melinda smiled sardonically. "At least in my experience."
Daisy swallowed. "What if it's too late?" She asked quietly.
"It won't be." Melinda assured softly. "When you decide you want to come back to SHIELD, I promise I'll fight tooth and nail to make that happen." She hesitated. "And even if you don't want to come back to SHIELD, or can't... you'll always have a place with me."
Daisy could feel herself shaking. She was pretty sure she was about to ugly cry, and fought to keep it in.
A gentle knock on the wall made her look up, and her heart sank. Coulson.
"You two okay?" He asked quietly.
May nodded, but Daisy looked down. "You're mad at me." She said in a small voice that instantly made Coulson forget his hurt and defensiveness.
"Yeah." He said, "I'm mad that you left. I'm mad that you thought we couldn't help you, I'm mad that maybe you were right." Now he stood in front of her, and he crouched, gently taking her arm. "But I'm mostly mad that you think this is the answer." Coulson murmured, softly brushing her bruises with his thumb. "And that we couldn't stop it."
Daisy stilled at the contact. No one had touched her without causing some kind of pain since she had left. She hadn't realised how much she had missed it until now, craved it. She didn't expect how hard it was to resist hugging them both tight and never letting go.
Melinda saw something about Daisy shift. She couldn't tell if it was her face or her body language, something just changed the second Coulson took her hand. She put a hand on Daisy's shoulder and was surprised at the intensity of her trembling. "Daisy?"
She wasn't entirely sure what happened. One second she was trying to ask Daisy if she was okay, the next she had collapsed entirely into her arms. Melinda hugged her tightly, letting Daisy bury her face in her shoulder. She felt so small, so weak. Possibly because Daisy was almost entirely limp, not moving except for the shaking and her gasping breaths.
Daisy didn't know what she was doing. She didn't know what to say, how to fix this, how to make herself better. More like the person they wanted her to be. That or less the person they cared about, just to make it all easier. She couldn't do anything right.
May's arms shifted so that she could use one hand to cradle her head, fingers gently combing through Daisy's hair. She caught Coulson's eye over her shoulder. He looked just as lost as she felt.
Daisy shuddered violently, the floor shaking with her. "I-I'm sorry." She gasped, hiccuping for breath.
"I'm here." Melinda murmured, trying to help her calm down. "It'll be okay." She couldn't promise that it was okay right now. It wasn't. Daisy was a mess, everything was a mess, and there was nothing she could do to magically fix all of it. But she could promise that it would get better.
Daisy stiffened briefly when she felt another pair of arms join in on the hug, but in a moment realised that it was Coulson, and the tears finally broke free. "I-I-I can't- I-" She couldn't breathe. It was all just too much. "I d-don't know- h-how"
"Breathe." May said, "Calm down."
Daisy gasped in a breath. "Don't leave me." She rasped, so quietly that they almost didn't hear.
"Never." Coulson murmured, squeezing them both tightly. "Even if you leave us first. We'll wait for you to come home."
Daisy tried to breathe, to calm down, to control herself. She gulped in air desperately. "I don't wanna be alone."
Coulson was pretty sure his heart had broken into a thousand pieces. However, it was May who spoke. "You don't have to be. We'll always be here Daisy. No matter what." She paused, "We'll always- love you."
Phil tried not to seem outwardly surprised. He hadn't heard Melinda use that word since her divorce. Daisy trembled in his arms. "I love you too."
Huh. Two for two. He waited a moment. "I love you too, just to be clear."
Daisy made a sound that could have been a laugh and Melinda smirked. "Shut up Phil."
He grinned. "What, I'm just saying-"
"Well if you two are gonna get all touchy-feely with your girl talk then maybe I should leave."
Melinda could feel Daisy giggling softly into her shoulder. "Our girl talk is just about how we're going to hide the body when I finally murder you."
"Well that's just rude." He muttered, drawing away enough to press a kiss to the top of Daisy's head. "I mean it." He murmured. "We'll always be here. I promise."
Daisy nodded, still clinging to May. She wanted to believe that. More than anything in the world she wanted it to be true.
Maybe she could try to believe it.