Touching the crystal like that was possibly one of the stupidest things Melinda had ever done in her life, but she knew she had to protect the team. Daisy was gone, sure, but the others were there. Phil was right in front of her, and the crystal was a millimetre from shattering and turning him to stone. She couldn't just let that happen.
What she hadn't expected was the crust of stone that encased her, keeping her inside. Melinda could feel her skin starting to crawl, bile rising in her throat, her heartbeat pounding in her ears, faster than she thought possible, until it became little more than a pulsating drumming. It was too much, the noise, the feeling, the blackness, something had to give.
After what could have been a few moment or could have been a few hours, something did. A crack just below her eyes, letting light stream in. "May?" Phil. He sounded so scared. "It'll be okay, I'm going to get you out of there."
May coughed. She didn't know what else to say. She was scared. What had happened to her?
More of the stone crumbled away, pieces sticking in her hair and to her skin. She tried to brush it off, but she ached all over. Especially her head. It was like people were shouting at her from all sides, accosting her with these sensations. Ones she had never felt before.
"Hey," Phil was holding out a hand. "You okay?"
She coughed again and swallowed the dryness in her throat. "I-I don't know." However when their hands touched, Phil drew away as if burned, eyes closed in pain. "Phil? What's wrong?!"
He was doubled over. "It hurts." Phil gasped. He forced himself to ignore it, looking at her.
Their eyes met, confused and scared. Melinda glanced at her hands, bringing them close to her chest. She hurt Phil. Maybe she could stop it. Maybe she could...
'I'll take your pain.'
Oh God. She stumbled back. "I'm sorry."
Phil looked so worried for her. "May, what's wrong? I'm okay, we can figure this out."
She shook her head, "No, stay away from me." When he moved towards her, stepping over the shattered cocoon on the ground, May took another step back. "Don't touch me, please."
Arms wrapped around her from behind and May couldn't help the panic seizing her heart. "Phil!"
She saw his eyes widen. "Mel-"
The next moment the world went blue and she felt as if she was falling a long way. The second her feet his solid ground, May shoved the arms off her, "Who the hell are you?!" She demanded, turning to face her captor.
She pulled up short when she saw that he had no eyes.
He seemed surprised too. "I'm Gordon, I'm... I know you."
May took a step back, ready for a fight. "I don't think we've met."
A cold anger took over the Inhuman's face. "You're that SHIELD agent. From Bahrain."
Melinda tried to ignore the panic. "A lot of SHIELD agents have been to Bahrain."
"May!" The familiar voice made her turn. May's heart leapt into her throat when she saw that it was Daisy. Safe and sound and looking so happy to see her.
Hurrying over, and that made Melinda take a step back, holding her hands out. Daisy stopped just short of her. May could tell she wanted to hug her, but she had just seen how badly that would end. Even if she had missed Daisy so much it felt like a hole in her chest.
Daisy couldn't get rid of the happiness at seeing May again, even past the confusion and worry. "What are you doing here?" She asked, looking to Gordon. "What's going on?"
Gordon scowled darkly. "She'll have to meet Jiaying."
He stalked away and Daisy looked at May. She seemed... off. "What happened?"
May swallowed. "I touched a crystal."
"What?!" Daisy cried, alarmed, then stopped. "Wait, so you're..."
"I guess." Melinda felt sick. These people knew, somehow they knew. What she was. What she had done. Did Daisy know? Just the thought had bile rising in her throat.
Daisy must have seen the upset on her face. "It'll be okay." She said softly, "These people, they can help." She reached for her, but May took a step back.
"Don't touch me." She said. "I-I'll only hurt you."
Daisy stopped. "Your powers?" When May nodded, she sighed. "Man, that sucks. Don't worry, we can figure this out." She tried for a smile. "If anyone can control this, it's you."
Melinda said nothing. Everything had happened so quickly. An hour ago she had been in the lab with Phil. Now she was on some kind of mountain range. Maybe in China somewhere. And her head felt wrong, her skin felt wrong, everything just felt wrong. She didn't want to be like this. She didn't want to be here.
An hour ago things had been okay.
"Daisy!" A voice called from the distance and both of them looked up.
Daisy smiled. "Come on, you should meet Jiaying." She gestured for May to follow, but must have noticed the apprehension on her face. "Don't worry. She's really great."
There was something Daisy wasn't telling her, but May was too distracted to ask. She didn't seem scared of her or disgusted though. So whatever it was, it wasn't Bahrain. And if she had any say in it at all, May would keep it that way. She knew that she wouldn't be able to take the way Daisy would look at her if she knew.
May's eyes flitted across the people passing, casting curious looks at her. None of them were close. That was good. No one should be near her.
Gordon stood by a cabin door, arms crossed. He nodded to the door. "Jiaying will see you." He said in a cold voice.
Daisy frowned at Gordon's tone, but didn't ask. She just followed May into the room. She was nervous. Her mom and May meeting. May was Inhuman now. She knew that she shouldn't be so excited about it, knew how terrible the transformation could be, especially at first. Yet at the same time, it was something Daisy had in common with her now. It was a connection that they shared, on top of everything they already did. Daisy couldn't help but appreciate that.
May held her head high and tried to keep from appearing tense. She knew that there wasn't much point. Whether this woman knew or not, there was nothing she could do about it.
The woman, Jiaying, she had heard Gordon say, was sitting at a desk, an open journal on the table before her. She quickly closed it on seeing the two enter.
Jiaying's eyes flittered between the two of them. "Daisy." She said in a reserved voice. "You don't need to be here for this."
Daisy looked from May to Jiaying and back again. "I-I'd like to stay." She said, "If that's okay."
Jiaying hesitated, then nodded. She gestured for May to sit. Daisy took a seat behind her, by the door.
May could feel her skin crawl. She couldn't remember the last time she had felt this on edge. Maybe it was because of these powers, she didn't know, but she didn't like it one bit.
She looked at Jiaying. She seemed in control. But, under that, she was a little unsure too.
Jiaying swallowed. "I have to say," She said, "I never thought I would see you again."
There it was again. That ice cold fear clutching her heart. "I don't remember us meeting."
"You wouldn't." Jiaying said. "As I remember, you were... distracted." She shook her head. "What happened to that little girl was the worst tragedy that our people have seen in living memory." She said, "That child. She was taken from us." Cold eyes fixed on Melinda. "By you."
There it was. "I did what I had to do." The words felt stale, they felt like lies. They were. They were the lies she told herself.
Jiaying crossed her arms. "She was one of us. And now you are too." She looked disgusted. "You have her power."
Melinda felt sick. She forced herself to remain sitting straight. "I was protecting my people."
In a blink Jiaying was on her feet. "She was a child!" She exclaimed. "And you killed her!"
May's veins filled with ice. What could she say? It was true. She was a murderer. She looked down. There was nothing she could say that would explain. Melinda had no redemption, she knew that.
"Mom!" Daisy stood too, moving between them. "Stop it, leave her alone! It wasn't her fault!"
May stared at Daisy's back, confused. Mom?
Jiaying crossed her arms and something in May stilled. Oh. "Stay out of this Daisy."
"No!" Daisy cried, defiant. "You know it wasn't her fault, it's not May's fault that she got stuck cleaning up your mess! You don't get to blame her now, she's one of us! You said that it doesn't matter who you were before, doesn't that matter?"
Jiaying had just opened her mouth to respond when she was interrupted by the scraping of a chair on the ground.
Daisy turned. "May?"
But all she saw was the door slamming behind her.
It was dark by the time Daisy found her, crouched half way down the rocky slope. "I thought you'd ran away." Daisy said softly.
May said nothing. She had thought about it. She'd wanted to. Run away from this place, from the people, run back to Phil and the others and the lie that she wasn't a monster. Why she hadn't, she wasn't sure. Maybe it was knowing that she wouldn't make it half way through the mountains like this. Maybe she knew that she didn't deserve to go back to a life that she loved.
Daisy slid down beside her. The rock was cold, but she could feel it's gentle hum. She took a breath to talk, but came up short. What could she say?
"How long have you known?"
Daisy's head shot up. The question was cracked and broken and scared and nothing like anything she had ever expected to come from May. After a moment, she sighed. "A couple of weeks." She murmured. "I- Jiaying started telling me... I didn't know what it was until she'd started." She looked down. "I'm sorry. I-I know you didn't want anyone to know."
May was silent. Daisy stopped just short of taking her hand. "Come on." She said quietly. "It's past dinner. Gordon brought food."
May shook her head. "Go." She said. "Go."
"Please Daisy." Her words were as soft as the breeze. "Just leave me."
Daisy hesitated, hand outstretched, barely an inch from May's. She sighed softly. "I'll come back." She said. "We'll get through this, I promise."
Melinda didn't watch her go. Daisy shouldn't be wasting time on her anyway. She had her mother now. Her mother. Who wasn't a murderer, who was good for Daisy, taught her to be strong, who loved her. A mother that Daisy deserved.
A foolish tear trickled down her face and May wiped it away. She had always known that she didn't deserve Daisy, or Phil, or any of them. Just because the world had taken it's time to prove her right didn't make it any less true.
She had gotten exactly what she deserved.
Daisy watched May from a distance. The sun had barely crawled over the horizon, bathing the mountainside with warm light. It did nothing to soothe Daisy's mind. She could see May, could feel her through the ground. She hadn't moved at all.
Daisy sighed. She wanted to help her. More than anything. But she didn't know how.
The sound of footsteps approaching on the rough stone path made Daisy's ears prick up, and she glanced to the side as they came to a stop. Jiaying sat beside her. "You defended her." She murmured, "Why?"
Daisy's eyes narrowed. "Look, I'm glad I have you." She said, "More than anything, but... that doesn't mean I won't argue if I think you're wrong."
Jiaying nodded. She hadn't expected any less from her daughter. "You know what she did." She murmured.
"Yeah." Daisy said softly. "Do you?" She bit her tongue to keep from snapping.
Jiaying laced her fingers together and waited.
Daisy sighed. "I've known May for years." She said. "She's not what you think she is." She wrapped her arms around herself. "She's always protected me. Even when she didn't want me around, when I got my powers and could have killed her." She shivered. "What she had to do in Bahrain... it destroyed her. And you know there was nothing else she could have done."
Jiaying looked out over the mountains. "Katya didn't do anything wrong." She whispered. "She didn't deserve what happened to her."
"Neither did May."
Jiaying smiled. Definitely her daughter.
Daisy hesitated. "May's always been there for me." She said, gnawing on the inside of her lip. "She... she trained me, she kept me safe. I- don't make me choose. I don't think I can."
"Oh Daisy." Jiaying pulled her close, resting her head atop Daisy's. "I would never do that." She sighed. "We lost you. You were alone for so long." She pressed a kiss to the top of her head. "If it weren't for people like her," She nodded towards May, "You might never have found us."
Daisy snuggled closer to her mother. She swallowed thickly. "I want to help her." She murmured. "She's always been there to help me. I just- I don't know how."
Jiaying stroked her fingers through her hair. "Sometimes people need time Daisy."
Jiaying looked down. "But, after going through the change, everyone needs to know that they aren't alone."
Daisy moved quietly to sit beside May again. It sent an ache through her when she realised it was the exact same position she had sat in the night before. "I brought breakfast." She said softly, holding out some toast and a peach.
May didn't say anything. She could feel her powers growing. Feel the thrum of emotions from Daisy, chaotic and unidentifiable.
Daisy bit the inside of her lip. "May, please." She begged. "Eat something." She looked down. "For me."
Melinda looked at her for a second, then carefully took the toast.
Daisy relaxed. "Thank you." She murmured.
May nibbled at the toast. "You can go." She said. "I'll eat."
Daisy hesitated. "But I don't want to go." She said. "I- you helped me with my powers. The least I can do is try to help you too."
"It wasn't an I owe you, Daisy." She said, blinking away the morning sun. "Go and be with your mother." Daisy being there almost made May feel worse. She had been looking for her parents for her entire life. Now Daisy had found her mother, and she was wasting time with her.
"No." Daisy said flatly. She sighed. "Look, I- I know I've been looking for her for ages, but... just because I found my mom, doesn't mean I'm just gonna stop caring about you. Any of you." She hugged her knees to her chest. "You're my family too. And I'm not gonna leave you."
Melinda bit her lip so hard that she drew blood. She didn't deserve this. She didn't deserve someone like Daisy in her life. The toast crumbled in her clenched fist, and she fought not to cry. She just wanted all of it to stop.
"It's okay." Daisy said softly, reaching out. "I'm here."
May recoiled. "No, don't touch me."
"It's okay." Daisy insisted, finally engulfing her in a hug. The wave of emotions hit Daisy like a freight train, but she held on through all the pain. She wasn't going to abandon someone she loved who needed her. Never.
Melinda tried to push Daisy away, feeling as her powers rebelled against the contact. After a moment, however, she stilled. Her powers paused, the pain met with everything coming from Daisy in that embrace. Worry, admiration, and love. So much love. The pain washed away like a leaf in a flood.
May trembled and finally brought her arms up to return the hug. She wanted to say something. She wanted to do something. She could sense a curiosity in the distance and knew that it was directed at them.
But she didn't say anything. She didn't do anything. She ignored the eyes that she knew were watching.
She just held onto Daisy like her life depended on it. She let those waves of emotion wash over her and soothe her mind, despite knowing that she didn't deserve to. Letting go was too hard.
Daisy walked a little ahead of her, glancing back frequently, as if to make sure May was still there. She probably was. May could still feel the impulse to run away into the mountains and never come back.
"It's okay." Daisy said softly. "Jiaying and Gordon are the only ones who know you."
Daisy looked at her. She hesitated. "Look, I- I don't blame you for what happened. There was nothing else you could have done."
"I could have died."
"Yeah." Daisy said softly. "And then all those agents would have too, and all that would have happened is that someone else would have had to it."
May shrugged. She didn't agree, but she wasn't going to argue. Pathetic as it was, she couldn't try to convince Daisy of her guilt.
She could feel the emotions of the other Inhumans growing stronger as they approached, like she was getting closer and closer to a fire. May took a moment to calm herself. She could do this. For Daisy if for no other reason.
So she walked with her, let people be curious, let them look. Nodded at their words of encouragement rather than scoffing like she wanted to. Greeted the people that Daisy introduced her to, and May had to try not to smirk when she met Lincoln. Not that he was amusing, but the dazzling smile on Daisy's face gave her feelings away more clearly than any superpower could read. "I thought I trained you better than that." She muttered when Lincoln walked away, and Daisy blushed.
"Shut up." She muttered, grinning bashfully.
May smiled a little and for a moment she felt like she used to. Then she saw Jiaying. She saw Daisy tense, felt her nerves.
Jiaying spoke first. "I'd like to speak to Agent May, if that's alright." She requested. At least she didn't seem as hostile as before, though May knew that that could easily change. She nodded shortly. Daisy moved to follow and Jiaying held out a hand. "Alone please, Daisy."
"I- okay." Daisy muttered, walking off in the direction that Lincoln had gone.
May followed Jiaying back to her cabin without a word. Jiaying didn't seem to want to say anything as they walked so she certainly wasn't going to.
When Jiaying closed the door to her office Melinda stayed close to it. She didn't know what Jiaying was planning to do, but she couldn't hurt Daisy's mother.
Jiaying sighed, taking a seat. "I owe you an apology, Agent May." She said, gesturing for May to sit too. "I should never have shouted like that at someone who has just turned."
May sat across from her, shrugged, and Jiaying smiled. "You don't talk much, do you?"
Melinda could see the flicker of Daisy in that smile. "No."
Jiaying laughed softly, but sobered. She took a breath. "Thank you," She said softly. "For protecting my daughter."
May nodded stiffly. "I was happy to do it." Jiaying's words shouldn't hurt, but they did. It was true, Daisy was her daughter. Not May's. She never had been, and that was... good.
Jiaying cocked her head curiously. That looked like Daisy too. "She cares about your team very much." She said. "From the moment she got here she was trying to get back."
"She seems happy to stay now."
"Yes." She agreed. "Once she realised how much we could help her here. She stayed- to keep all of you safe." Melinda sighed and Jiaying continued. "You should stay too. Powers that affect others... they can be quite the challenge."
"Daisy makes earthquakes."
"There are worse things. You know that."
Melinda swallowed, clenching her fists. She wasn't sure if she wanted to know, but she had to ask. "Was there anything you could have done for her?"
Jiaying looked down. "No." She said quietly. "I- I spent a lot of time blaming SHIELD for what happened to Katya, but... I was the one who was meant to protect her. I was the one who let her down." She sighed. "I'm sorry you had to do it."
May wove her fingers together. "I'm sorry I couldn't save her."
Jiaying shook her head. "There was nothing left of Katya to save." She murmured. "And you saved Daisy. More than once, from what she says." She bit the inside of her lip. "I'm not trying to take her from you."
"You're her mother." Melinda said. "She's been looking for you her whole life."
"She's been looking for a family, and you and your team were there for her." She took a breath. "She needs allof us. You've been her mother longer than I have."
May bristled. "I'm her Supervising Officer. That's all."
Jiaying barely restrained herself from rolling her eyes. "Well." She said, "Then as her Supervising Officer, maybe you could observe her training tomorrow morning. Daisy's been making strides with her powers, but there is still progress to be made. That way you can see how training works here, and help her improve."
May swallowed. "Maybe." If she was around. If she had the guts to see Daisy training with her real mother.
The morning air was nice. Cold enough to send a chill through her, but May knew that that would soon fade as the sun got higher in the sky.
She hung back, watching Jiaying and Daisy look over the valley. They looked comfortable, familiar. The result of a lot of practice together. May saw Daisy's shoulders move more slowly in reaction to her breathing, her calm, her control.
The control that Melinda had failed to help her develop.
The training here seemed to work though. Daisy's powers hadn't played up since May had arrived. Maybe they could help her manage her powers too. Maybe.
She felt Daisy's enthusiasm as she reached out with her powers to the mountain. She was happy, and... eager? Worried? It was difficult to tell. Then Daisy took an uncertain step back, the ground beneath them shaking, and whatever that feeling had been disappeared to be replaced by fear.
May tried to steady herself on the shaking ground, and she saw Jiaying speaking gently to Daisy, trying to help her calm down.
The tremors only got worse.
Now Daisy was shaking too.
Daisy fought to get her pulse under control, her breathing, her powers, her anything. She was losing her grip, and it wasn't good.Daisy didn't know why this was happening now, she was so excited to be training with her mom and May, to show May what she could do now, how much she had improved, and now she just felt like she was going to tear this whole place apart.
She didn't want this. She just wanted to be with the people she loved. It was hard to think anything was okay when May was keeping six feet between them at all times.
A moment later a gentle hand rested on her shoulder. "It's okay." May murmured, and the tremors began to lessen.
Daisy sighed, relaxing. She didn't know if it was because of May's powers or just because she was May, but something about her always helped Daisy feel better.
Jiaying took her hand and Daisy smiled.
They were going to be fine.