a.n. Started before the mid-season finale, so...
"So," Daisy muttered, feeling somehow ashamed. "Mission's over. Eli's- gone."
Coulson nodded. "He has." He said softly. The hanger was empty but for them. "I guess that means you're out of here."
Daisy nodded. "Yeah. I'll just- get my bag, I guess."
"Okay." Coulson knew he couldn't ask her to stay. It wouldn't do anything. Daisy thought she had to leave them, and nothing he could do would convince her otherwise. Besides, he didn't want to force her to come back. If she ever did, it needed to be her own decision. Not something he made her do.
"Right." Daisy muttered, walking away. She didn't have much to take. With any luck she would miss the others on her way through the base.
Daisy kept her head up as she walked to the exit. She didn't need to hide. She wasn't ashamed.
Damnit. She turned. Jemma. Damnit. "Hey."
Jemma swallowed. "You're leaving?"
"I- yeah." Daisy said, trying to stay still and not squirm under her gaze. Her backpack was over her shoulder, "I told Coulson I'd help out on this mission, and it's over now, so..."
"Oh." Jemma murmured, "I'd hoped..." She shook herself. "Never mind. It was good to see you." Jemma tried to smile but it just made it look like she was about to cry. "I-" She bit the inside of her lip. "I hope I'll see you again."
Daisy stared. "Jemma-" Before she could say anything else, Jemma had hurried away.
Daisy sighed, then straightened. Good. She didn't need anyone trying to convince her to stay. It was pointless.
She was going.
"Hey." Phil's voice interrupted May's thoughts. "You okay?"
Melinda swallowed, throwing her towel in the laundry chute. "Daisy's gone." She muttered, walking back from the gym.
"Yeah." He said softly. "I know."
May stopped, sighing. "I wish I could help her." She said, hanging her head. It was dark. It was quiet. Her voice echoed down the hall.
"You have, Mel." Phil put a hand on her back and she turned ever so slightly. "She just needs some time. You of all people should understand that."
She shot him a glare, then walked away.
"Oh come on," Coulson hurried after her. "Melinda, I didn't mean- I'm just saying you should understand!"
She stopped abruptly, clenching her fists. "This is how you felt," Melinda said, "After I transferred to administration?"
Coulson stared. "I-... yeah." He said softly.
A moment later she had buried her face in his chest, wrapping her arms around him. "I'm sorry."
Phil softened, pulling her closer. "Melinda it's okay." He said, pressing a kiss to the top of her head. "It's what you needed to do. I don't blame you for that."
She relaxed into his arms and sighed softly. I love you. She thought. I love you I love you I love you. If only she could say it out loud.
Phil smirked. "I know that sigh." He teased gently.
Melinda smiled despite herself, keeping her face hidden. "No you don't."
"Uh huh." He grinned. "I've known you for decades, I know your sighs."
"I know what that means too."
"Oh shut up Phil." She finally looked up, still grinning.
She wasn't surprised to see him smiling back. The warmth in his eyes almost made her look away. "I love you so much." Phil murmured.
That did make May look away briefly, and Phil immediately panicked. "I'm sorry, was it too fast?" He asked, brushing a strand of hair from her face, "I didn't mean to- you just look so beautiful when you smile and-" Before he could say anything else Melinda interrupted with a kiss.
Phil smiled into it, winding one arm around her waist, feeling her smile too. This was all so new, but so familiar. Sneaking around at night, trying not to get caught. Just being together.
Daisy snapped out of her trance when she spotted something. She was sitting by the hanger door, willing herself to get up and go through it. She was going. She was leaving.
Holy crap, were May and Coulson making out in a hallway just after midnight?
She looked at them. They clearly couldn't see her there. Why would they? She was leaving anyway.
They looked happy together though. It was about time. For some reason seeing them like that, together and happy, made tears well up in her eyes. They deserved this. They deserved to be happy.
Daisy swallowed. She was hugging her knees to her chest, trying to calm down. She should probably say something. This was getting kind of awkward.
She didn't know what to say though. Daisy didn't have any reason to be here. She should be gone. She was going. She just... needed a minute. Her legs were numb. Daisy stretched them out a little, making enough noise that she knew they would hear.
Sure enough, the two sprang apart. May's eyes found her first. "Daisy!" She exclaimed, surprised.
Daisy should have been amused at how guilty they looked. Like they were a couple of teenagers. It was kind of cute. But she couldn't get herself to feel it, so she just sighed and quietly said, "Hey."
"Hey." Coulson said, approaching her. "What are you doing here? I thought you were leaving." He sat down.
"I am." Daisy said. "I'm gonna leave. Door's right there."
May raised an eyebrow, crouching beside her. "Are you waiting for it to open on its own?"
"No." Daisy scowled down at the ground. She knew they wouldn't ask her to stay. She couldn't anyway. She had to go. She was going. She tried to get up. She couldn't. Daisy swallowed. "Congratulations." She muttered. "I-I'm really happy for you guys."
They looked at each other over Daisy's head. "Daisy, is everything okay?" Coulson asked.
She nodded repeatedly. "Fine. I-I just... I needed a minute before I go."
"It's been hours." May said softly.
She swallowed, bowing her head. "I know." She said, feeling the tears well up. "I just need another minute."
Coulson took a risk. "Daisy," He said quietly, "Do you want to stay?"
She shook her head.
He sighed. "Because we'd all be happy to have you back."
"I can't stay."
May raised an eyebrow, noting her choice of words. "But do you want to?"
Daisy shrugged. "It doesn't matter."
"What?!" Coulson exclaimed, "Why on earth wouldn't it-" He caught the look in Melinda's eye and stopped. Right. Foster families. He sighed. "Daisy. Maybe it didn't used to matter, but it does now. We care about you, and we care about what you want." He held back from touching her, hesitating. "If, hypothetically, you did want to stay... we could help make that happen."
Daisy shook her head. She took a breath, then pushed herself to her feet. She couldn't do this. She wasn't going to pretend that she could stay, that she wanted to. She had to leave.
Daisy didn't look back to them as she hiked her bag up on her shoulder and reached for the wall panel. She knew what would happen if she did. She just had to make it through the door, then she could run as far and fast as she wanted, she could cry until her head ached and her eyes stung, but now she needed to go.
Melinda never thought that the sound of the hanger door would break her heart. She stood up slowly, trying not to lose her grip on her emotions. She at least wanted to say goodbye. She might never see Daisy again after today.
May blinked away the trace of tears in her eyes. "Daisy?" She said quietly.
Daisy stilled, her back turned. She closed her eyes briefly, trying to get a hold of herself. She wasn't sure if she'd ever heard May sound so heartbroken.
And it was all her fault.
Daisy took a shaking breath. It was all too much. She could feel everything pushing her from every direction; leave, stay, Fitz, Jemma, Mack, Robbie... Lincoln. She clenched her fists. The lights burned and the silence stung and May and Coulson were right there telling her everything could be okay if she would just let it be, and even though they all knew it couldn't be, Daisy wanted to believe them so badly.
Daisy trembled. She couldn't do this.
Daisy wasn't sure if she did something or stopped doing something, but a moment later she had turned around and thrown herself into May's arms, squeezing her so tightly that her arms shook. Or maybe that was the bottled up tears.
Melinda froze. As much as she had hoped Daisy would let go of her self-hatred and her desperation to leave them, she hadn't expected this. It wasn't until Daisy gave a wet sob that she found the will to return the hug. When her arms closed around Daisy, she trembled and relaxed, taking gasping breaths.
May caught Coulson's eye. He looked just as lost as she felt. She didn't know what to do. What to say. She knew that the wrong move would have Daisy running out that door in a second, and that scared her. A lot. Daisy's trembling only intensified with silence though, and Melinda knew she had to say something. "We're here." She murmured, the best she could think of. "We're all here for you."
Daisy said nothing, she just hung on for dear life. She didn't know what to do. She had to leave. She wanted to leave, she just didn't want to leave them all behind when she did. The tears finally started to escape, and with a hiccup, she was sobbing into May's shoulder.
Melinda's face crumpled and she pulled Daisy closer. She didn't mean to upset her. "It's okay." She murmured, even knowing that it wasn't true. "It's okay."
Daisy still didn't say anything, keeping all of her thoughts in. She couldn't tell them how much she had missed them. How much she wished she could stay. How much she loved them.
Coulson approached them slowly. He put a hand on Daisy's back. "Hey." He said softly. "You seem pretty... tired." Daisy hiccupped. "Why not just hang around for a few days. Get some rest, have a few good meals."
Melinda smirked despite everything. "Good meals?"
Daisy gave what could have been a laugh, and Coulson rolled his eyes. "Fine, adequate meals."
Daisy sniffled, wiping her eyes before she drew away. She hesitated, getting control of herself again. She turned to face Coulson. "Y-" She coughed, "You're not just trying to get me to stay?"
Coulson sighed. "Of course I want you to stay." He said, "We've missed you, all of us. We want to help you, and we can't do that if you run away." He looked down. "But, if you don't want us to help you, then I know we can't."
Melinda suddenly felt guilty.
"I want you to be ready, Daisy. I want you to be ready to come home, but I can't make you be. All I can do is try to help you survive until you are."
Daisy swallowed. "What if I don't know?" She asked. "H-how do I know?"
A hand closed on her shoulder, and Daisy turned back to look into May's soft eyes. "You won't." She said quietly. "That's the truth. You won't know if you're ready. You just have to take the leap when you need to."
Daisy bit her lip. "That's it?"
Melinda nodded. "That's it. One day you might notice that you haven't thought about it all day. Or you'll laugh at something and not hate yourself for being happy." She hesitated. "You won't wake up and feel like you used to. But I can promise that one day you'll feel okay again. Even-" She refused to look at Phil, "Happier than you thought you could be."
Daisy took a slow, deep breath, then smiled hesitantly. "I'm- seriously really happy for you guys."
Something about the way May let her hair fall around her face made Daisy want to smile. Like she was fighting a blush. Which was possibly the cutest thing in the world. She'd never really thought that May could be shy.
Coulson smiled. She might kill him for saying so, but Melinda looked kind of cute like that. "Thank you, Daisy." He said, moving around her to wrap an arm around May's shoulders. He felt her become still. He knew it was because she was resisting the urge to push him away. Melinda had never been one for showing affection in front of others, but it was just Daisy. They both loved her.
Daisy swallowed. "I-" She stopped. Her voice sounded scratchy. "I'll try." She said, looking down. "I'll stay, for a little while. I-I don't know if I can do it... but I'll try."
She looked up a moment before Coulson pulled her into a hug. "Thank you." He murmured. "I know it's hard."
Daisy hesitated. "It's hard to miss it here." She said softly. "Miss you guys."
Melinda put a hand on her shoulder. "We missed you too." She didn't know how long this would last. She didn't know if Daisy would leave in a week or a month or a day. But she hoped that Daisy would hate herself a little less than she had.
She didn't need to see Daisy making her mistakes.