Coulson stared blankly at the computer screen. "Huh."
May waited for a response. She knew the risks of giving him this information. She knew it was selfish to give it, knowing the damage it could do, just to earn his trust back. He wanted to know this though, and he wasn't some helpless child who she had to protect. She couldn't let him die again either. She couldn't lose him.
May waited for him to respond, to say something. She didn't know if Phil would forgive her, but she had nowhere else to go at this point. If he forgave her then that would be nice, but all she was hoping for at this point was that he would let her do her job, not exclude her from missions because he was angry. She refused to hope for more than that when it would only hurt more. She could do impersonal if she had to. It was hard, but if it was the only way to protect Phil and the others then she would do it.
Coulson was still silent and unmoving, looking at the black computer screen. He hadn't said anything to her since he had entered the room, over fifteen minutes ago.
May swallowed, then sighed softly and walked to the door. He was still angry. She could understand that, but she wasn't going to grovel. She felt tears of frustration building up and bit them back. Why couldn't he understand? She didn't come onto this plane because Fury told her to, she did it because if she didn't Fury would have chosen someone else. Someone who might actually be willing to kill him if necessary. She couldn't go through losing him again.
When her hand closed around the door handle and turned it, Phil said, "Wait. Where are you going?"
It seemed he had woken up from whatever stupor he was in. "Outside." She said softly, not turning around. She couldn't take the anger and accusation.
Melinda heard him stand up and tensed, one hand still on the doorknob, but didn't move. "Are you going to leave again?"
"Are you going to make me?" The response slipped out against her will, bitter and hurt.
Coulson's footsteps stopped just shy of her. "Look at me." He said gently.
Melinda's hand tightened on the doorknob, all the frustration and pain of the last week building up inside of her. Phil wanted to talk. He wanted to apologise or yell at her or something, and she couldn't do that right now, she just couldn't.
She didn't move. Phil felt tears well up behind his eyes and swallowed, trying to keep himself under control. He was so upset about May lying to protect him that he didn't notice, or didn't care, that he was driving her away. Maybe permanently. That was his biggest fear right now, that he had irreparably damaged their friendship, that he had lashed out and she had retreated into herself, never to return.
"I can't do this again Phil." She said softly, tense all over, holding herself together through sheer force of will.
Coulson was silent for a while. He couldn't either. Melinda May was his rock, and he was hers. But the reason they balanced each other so well was their differences as much as their similarities. Of course they had argued before, but never like this. "I know." His voice was thick. "I-I'm sorry."
"Me too." She hoped to God that it was enough. She hadn't slept for days, so her usual iron grip was slipping. May pulled the door open a crack, testing, seeing if he would let her go.
Coulson put one hand on her shoulder, but she shied away from the touch. "Let's make a deal." He said softly, hoping against hope that he hadn't ruined everything they had.
May sighed and finally let go of the door. "What?" She said.
Phil was surprised to see tears behind her eyes as well, though he knew she would be damned if she ever let them fall. He shrugged. "You promise not to leave again and I'll promise to stop being an ass?"
In any other situation she might have smiled and teased him about whether he knew how. "You know I can't promise that."
Phil looked down for a moment. Of course she couldn't, that wasn't a realistic thing to ask. "Promise to tell me you're going, and when you'll be back?" And to come back.
May nodded. Coulson would never say it, but when she was open and vulnerable like this she reminded him a lot of Skye. The two were quite similar in essence. Skye had wiped tears from her eyes when he corrected her assumption that May was dead. "Okay."
He tried to smile and held out his hand. "Shake on it?"
She did, but her usually steady hand was weak and shaky. It hurt so much to lose him like that, for him to look right through her, throw back how much she cared in her face, treat her like the soldier she pretended to be. The ache in her chest grew and May clenched her fists to hold it together.
Phil bit the inside of his lip. "I missed you." He said softly. "Can I-"
He was interrupted by Melinda embracing him tightly, burying her head in his shoulder. He would swear that she was trembling.
It took Phil a moment to get over the surprise, but he quickly reciprocated. "I'm so glad you're back."
"I wouldn't have left if I knew about Ward."
"I know." They fit together perfectly, and he squeezed his eyes shut to stave off tears. "I'm so sorry."
"You said that already."
"I know." Phil held her tighter. He was never letting her go. "But I shot you." And he had hurt her in so many other ways. He had taken every ounce of understanding they had and thrown it back at her. Fallen back on saying things he knew would sting. Lies. Lies that he knew she believed about herself. "I'm sorry."
Melinda drew a slightly unsteady breath. "You're my best friend Phil." So much easier to say than the other thing, and so true. "And it was an icer. I- well, I might have deserved that."
"No." He drew away, if only to look her in the eye. "You didn't. All you did was try to keep me safe. That's what you always do." She looked down and it made him somehow feel even worse. "Please, don't do this to yourself."
May sighed. "I can't stop." She muttered. "I-" She couldn't say it. Couldn't tell him why she deserved everything that happened to her, because then he would withdraw. He would be disgusted, hate her, and May knew she deserved it, but she couldn't lose him. Not now, not ever. She needed to keep Phil alive.
"Bahrain wasn't your fault." Her hands clenched and Phil knew that he was right in his reading of her.
"You don't know that." May muttered evasively.
He put a hand on her shoulder. "I know you." He murmured. "I know that you're good, caring, and you try to protect everyone," He smiled kindly, "And you feel like it's your fault when you can't."
She shrank away from his touch. "Phil, please. Don't do this now."
Coulson was on the verge of arguing, pushing, but then he noticed the way she was holding herself. The slight droopiness of her eyes, the tiniest slump of her shoulders. "Okay." He said. "But only because you're exhausted."
May tried to glare, but the lack of venom only proved his point. Phil smiled a little. "I told you, I know you." He said, and she rolled her eyes. There wasn't much point in arguing given that she felt dead on her feet.
Phil brightened, "Oh," He said, turning to search his things, "I brought..." He held up a duffel bag triumphantly. "You left some things behind at the base."
May's brow furrowed. He had brought it? The spare clothes that he knew she hadn't valued enough to take when she left. Not knowing if she was even coming back. She stared at him and Phil shrugged awkwardly. "I said I hoped you'd come back." He muttered.
May softened slightly and took the duffel. "Thank you." The clothes she had taken were all dirty now.
Phil smiled in that hopeful way of his. "I'm glad you're back."
Melinda gave her own tiny grin. "Me too." She murmured, then glanced to the door.
"The others are fine." He said. "A little shaken up about Ward, but... they're okay." May nodded. "You could go see them." He suggested, and she shook her head.
"No." She said quietly. "Not now."
Wow. "You're really tired, huh?"
May shrugged. There wasn't much point in arguing. Phil nodded to the bathroom. "The shower's yours if you want it."
She shook her head. "I just need to sleep."
"Okay. Well if you wanna change-" Phil broke off suddenly, whirling his back to her and May started pulling off her shirt.
He could hear the tired amusement in her voice. "It's not like you haven't seen it before."
Coulson reddened. "It's called being respectful." He said, but he couldn't help the grin. May was teasing him, and that was some kind of proof things would be okay between them.
She scoffed and he smiled. "Speaking of being chivalrous," He said, "I can sleep on the couch."
"Shut up." May said flatly. "We've done a lot more than share a bed and you know it."
Phil shrugged. He was mostly just giving her an opportunity to get some petty revenge if she wanted to. "I missed you." He said again. "I always miss you when you're not on mission with me."
There was a moment of silence, then May said, "You can turn around now."
He did so, not surprised that she had ignored what he said. They both knew that she wasn't good with words.
Coulson could never resist noting how cute May looked in his old shirt. She maintained that it was hers, even though it was ill-fitting and from his academy. He didn't mind though. She looked so tiny in only it and leggings.
That said, he was pretty sure if she knew what he was thinking, he would find himself getting punched, so Phil ruffled through his bag for a spare shirt. "I'll be right out." He said, "Get some sleep, I'll be quiet."
Phil caught the eye roll, but let it slide. Melinda was a notoriously light sleeper. He hoped he wouldn't wake her. She deserved some rest.
When he returned from brushing his teeth and changing his clothes, Coulson found that May had curled up on her side, bundling most of the blankets with her. He held back a chuckle. She was so cute. Carefully, he approached, sliding into the bed beside her. Melinda shifted a little, making a slight noise in her throat, and he did his best to calm her. "It's okay," He murmured. "Just me."
Coulson was surprised that that calmed her. After everything he had done to her lately he wouldn't have been surprised if she had unconsciously punched him in the throat. Seeing the gentle smile that coloured her face as she slept emboldened him, and Phil pressed a quick kiss to the top of her head. "I'm so sorry." He whispered, then turned off the lamp. The steady flow of May's breathing helped him drift off to sleep more easily than he could remember doing in a long time.
It was a sign of exactly how tired Phil was that it was the sunlight that woke him up. That said, the fact that he still woke up before his partner spoke further volumes. The more surprising part was how May was sleeping. Or more accurately, where she was sleeping.
She lay on her side, one arm thrown over his chest, her head nestled in the crook of his neck. Phil smiled, keeping his breathing steady so as not to wake her. She looked so peaceful. Beautiful.
He wasn't entirely sure how May would react to waking up in this position though. She was always so skittish about physical contact. He didn't want to make her uncomfortable, especially when Phil knew how relaxed Melinda would have to be to unconsciously cuddle up to him like that. Still. Maybe she needed this right now, after everything they had had fallen apart. Phil certainly knew that he needed it.
Phil noted her beginning to stir, and closed his eyes, levelling out his breathing. He didn't want to embarrass her.
Melinda blinked her eyes open slowly, luxuriously. She couldn't remember the last time she had slept so well. It only took her a moment to realise that the thing her head was resting on wasn't a pillow. She shifted, looking.
May smiled, looking at him. It was probably a good thing that she had woken first. He wouldn't let her hear the end of it if he knew she had snuggled up to him like a child. She should pull away though, before he woke up. She should pull away now.
This was so nice though. Phil's breathing, his warmth, just being close to him. She had missed it. Ached for it in some subtle way that she hadn't even noticed. After several seconds of trying to force herself to move away from him, May gave up. It was too peaceful, too tempting. Phil could mock her for the rest of her life for it, for now she would savour the rare intimacy. Melinda sighed against him contentedly. She would probably regret this some day. Some day.
She froze when his arm wrapped around her, holding her against him. May bit her lip. "Phil?"
"It's okay." He murmured, breath brushing her face. "I won't tell anyone." Please Melinda, Phil thought, Just let yourself have this.
The assurance eased her mind, and May relaxed a little. She wanted to say something. She wanted to say a lot of things, but instead she let the silence reign and held Phil close. That was all either of them really needed, after all.